Alyssa Sellers


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Ready to Write

2014 Rose Fest and  more 116

When I was leaving full-time professional ministry for the second time I read Fahrenheit 451 for the first time. A speech given at the end of the novel pretty much summed up what I felt about my existence at that moment (I’d say spoilers but it’s on you, this bad boy’s been around for decades):

“Now, let’s get on upstream,” said Granger. “And hold onto one thought: You’re not important. You’re not anything. Someday the load we’re carrying with us may help someone. But even when we had the books on hand, a long time ago, we didn’t use what we got out of them. We went right on insulting the dead. We went right on spiting in the graves of all the poor ones who died before us. We’re going to meet a lot of lonely people in the next week and the next month and the next year. And when they ask us what we’re doing you can say, we’re remembering. That’s where we’ll win out in the long run. And someday we’ll remember so much that we’ll build the biggest goddamn steamshovel in history and dig the biggest grave of all time and shove war in and cover it up. Come on now, we’re going to go build a mirror factory first and put out nothing but mirrors for the next year and take a long look in them.”*

I’d written a memoir about surviving physical and emotional hurricanes and had secured representation by a reputable Christian literary agency and hoped that it would only be a matter of time before my manuscript was published.   Continue reading


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Single in the Summer is the Worst

single in the summer squareBeing single in the summer is the worst.

Sure, the Christmas/New Year combo could vie for the title of Worst Season to be Single. What with the constant barrage of songs telling you that Christmas just ain’t Christmas without the one you love and all the parties you have to attend solo with the faces of other happy families reminding you that you are a family of one.

Stealthy summer wins because of its tricky sneak-attack of sadness.

At first, the physical freedom from outerwear mixed with extended hours of daylight provides a certain kind of euphoria. Soon, however, you discover you have a tad too much time.

In the dead of winter, it’s dark all the time and you have no place you need to go so you feel no guilt staying in on a Saturday night watching an entire season of some show on Netflix. But in the summer, the sunny outside world beckons with promises of road trips, camping adventures, ball games of all sorts, hikes to majestic views, naps in lush meadows, seaside rambles, and so forth, you know what I’m talking about, you feel me. Continue reading


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Defining Faith and Becoming Dependent

faith: verbThe largest app on my phone is the Merriam-Webster dictionary. It takes up a ton of space, but I absolutely love it. I use it all the time because I’m a word nerd. This is one the things I’ve begun admitting to myself.

I love words. I love everything about them; what they mean, how they are used, where they come from and sometimes, because of this love, I fall down the rabbit hole.  Like when I discovered argy-bargy is a synonym for altercation. It’s British. It comes from argle-bargle under which M-W states: reduplication of Scots & English argle, alteration of argue . Isn’t this exciting?!

Somehow I got to here because I looked up the word faith.  The current definition of faith is listed as a noun; as if faith is something you own.

I think faith is a verb; it is only real if it is active. Continue reading


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Translating Thanks

TranslationWe don’t have enough words to express gratitude in the English language.

About five weeks ago I severely sprained my right shoulder and have been unable to use that arm effectively since. This means I have been in pain, out of work and, consequently, pay.

As a single woman, this could be an overwhelmingly frightening experience.

However, during this time I have experienced an incredible amount of generosity. A wonderful menagerie of friends have taken me to visit urgent care, physical therapy, and the emergency room, provided me with lunch, dinner and brunch, washed my dishes, swept my floors, vacuumed my rugs, listened to my rambles, taken me on random low-key adventures, and occasionally allowed me to convalesce in their air conditioned abodes. These people have extended kindness and love in beautiful, practical, and necessary ways and I am immensely grateful.

I have struggled to express my gratitude accurately; saying thank you doesn’t seem like enough. Continue reading


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Sing, Sing A Song

Elvis Thumb War ~ Nashville, Tenn. ~ September 2010

I often speak in sounds effects and song lyrics so for my first 12 months as a blogger all of my entry titles were song lyrics that continued to play in my head as I wrote my entries. To celebrate my success of one year of semi-consistently blogging, I’m listing out all of the songs and artists to which they refer.  Yep, I’m THAT kind of nerd.

Post Title: Song Title: Artist

  1. Express Yourself: Express Yourself: Madonna
  2. Ch-Ch-Changes: Changes: David Bowie
  3. The Shot Heard ‘Round the World: The Shot Heard ‘Round the World: Bob Dorough for School House Rocks 1976
  4. Dream On: Dream On: Areosmith
  5. Blame It On The Rain: Blame It On The Rain: Diane Warren for Millie Vanilli 1989
  6. Seasons Of Love: Seasons Of Love: Jonathan Larson for the musical Rent
  7. So This Is Christmas: So This Is Christmas: John Lenon
  8. Christmas Time Is Here: Christmas Time Is Here: Vince Guaraldi Trio for A Charlie Brown Christmas
  9. It’s Not Easy Being Green: Bein’ Green: Joe Raposo for Kermit the Frog (Jim Henson) 1970
  10. What You Waiting For: What You Waiting For: Gwen Stefani
  11. I Say A Little Prayer: I Say A Little Prayer: Burt Bacharach &Hal David for Dionne Warwick
  12. Would I Lie to You: Would I Lie to You: Eurythmics
  13. Let Your Colors Burst: Firework: Katy Perry. (You can judge me. I’m OK with it.)
  14. Fascinating Rhythm: Fascinating Rhythm: George Gershwin & Ira Gershwin
  15. Little Things: Little Things: Good Charlotte & Little Things: Bush. (My mind shuffled back and forth between the two.)
  16. A Time to Dance, A Time to Mourn: Turn! Turn! Turn!: The Byrds
  17. Time Is On Your Side: Time Is On My Side: Rolling Stones. (This is a testament to how I sometimes mishear and/or misquote lyrics. And how for the entry, I liked my version better.)
  18. Time Is Wastin’, Time Is Walking: Time: Hootie & The Blowfish
  19. They Say the Neon Lights are Bright on Broadway: On Broadway: George Benson
  20. Life is What Happens to You While You’re Busy Making Other Plans: Beautiful Boy: John Lenon
  21. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough: Ain’t No Mountain High Enough: Nickolas Ashford & Valerie Simpson for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell 1966
  22. I Sing Because I’m Free: His Eye Is on the Sparrow: Charles H. Gabriel & Civilla D. Martin 1905
  23. Hazy Shade Of Winter: Hazy Shade Of Winter: Simon & Garfunkle
  24. Let The Sun Shine In: Curtain Call –Let The Sun Shine In: Cast of Hair
  25. All You Need Is Love: All You Need Is Love: The Beatles
  26. The Weather Outside Is Frightful: Let it Snow: Jule Styne  & Sammy Cahn

Going forward, some titles may be song lyrics it the description fits. Like today. The Carpenters.


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They Say the Neon Lights are Bright on Broadway

Look, Ma, a Tony!

Summer may be officially three days away, but in my world it starts when I view the Tony Awards show. It was live on Sunday night and I missed all but the last 10 minutes, but, thanks to CBS.com, I don’t have to live lost in a time vortex.

The Tony’s are my most favorite awards show. And I like me some award shows. I suppose, I like qualifying things; putting things in categories and ranking them. Even within an award show. Here are my favorites of the night:

Most Adorable Couple:
Hugh Jackman and his wife, Deborra-Lee Furness, when he received a special Tony Award for his extraordinary contributions to the Broadway community. Watch it, it’s precious.

Most Inspiring Moment:
“When I was around 5-years-old running around telling everyone I wanted to write Broadway shows, it didn’t really occur to me that it would take 56 years to actually accomplish that, but it was worth the wait. Look, Ma, a Tony!”
—     Jack Feldman, Lyricist of Newsies, in his Tony acceptance speech for Best Original Score

Most Articulate Explanation of Theater:
“There are those rare people who can look at the world and see things that the rest of us don’t see until they show us: these are the writers. There are those special few who can take that vision and turn it back into a world: these are the directors, designers. There are fearless beings who live in that world and show us who we are: these are our actors. There are dedicated people who know why that world matters so very much: crew, theater staff, producers, investors, managers, marketers. And then there are the people who step forward and say, “Show me this world. Open me. Change me.”: these are our audiences. And when all of these people come together and say, “Yes,” there is theater.”
—     Jordan Roth, Producer of Clybourne Park, in his Tony acceptance speech for Best Play
 
Best Explanation of My Life:
The Opening Number featuring Neil Patrick Harris
“What if life were more like theater?
What if everywhere you went you heard a band? And then apropos of nothing there were crazy dance routines.”

Let me stop you right here, NPH. I can answer this, because this is the world I inhabit and it’s…wait for it…legendary. On Sunday a friend said to me, “You are the only person I know who comes out of the bathroom singing and dancing.” That’s probably true considering that for most of my childhood I got ridiculed for this involuntary trait. But, friends, as an adult, it is a fairly fabulous way to live. When you think about it, what’s the alternative? Take it away, Neil.

“No, life is bleak and brutal and we carry from the cradle
 the awareness that it is futile and invariably fatal.
We muddle without respite through the sadness and confusion,
or we huddle in the cesspit of our madness and delusion.”

“What if life were more like theater?
Life wouldn’t suck so much.”

Show I’m Most Excited About Seeing When it Comes to Portland in Two Years:
“Once”and not just because it won Best Musical. I will see it because I had been living in Portland for around four years when the original movie came out and felt this town claim it as its anthem, as if it were really about us. Because, I went to the sold-out concert that Glen and Marketa held at the Keller, the largest audience for whom they had ever played. And, yes, in part because Glen said, “Hi, lovely day isn’t it?” in and ADORABLE accent to me and my three friends at the corner of SW 3rd and Clay on his walk to the backstage door with Marketa. Because in that moment, I knew that Portland was becoming something close to home. Oh, yeah, also because the music is wonderful.

Most Interesting Coincidence with My Life:
The multiple musicals featuring the music of brothers George and Ira Gershwin. Recently, I’ve been revisiting my love of this musical duo. (There will be more on this in a later post. Stay tuned.) Turns out, the Broadway Community has too. The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess won for Best Revival of a Musical and the new musical Nice Work If You Can Get It was also a winner.


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Fascinating Rhythm

A few nights ago I video chatted with my brother and his family. My four-year-old niece, Claire, cracks me up. Over the past year, every time we video chat she says, “Auntie Lys, turn into to an apple.” Every time I reply with, “I’m sorry, Claire, I can’t turn into an apple.” To which she replies, “Well, what can you turn into?”

There was a twist during this chat because earlier Claire asked if I was fascinating. “Well, I like to think so,” I replied. “Are you fascinating, Claire?”

 “No,” she giggled, “what does it mean?”

“Well, it means that you are interesting and people want to know more about you.”

Claire & Macie ~ September 2011

So when Claire asked me what I can turn into, I said, “I can’t really turn into anything. All I can be is me, but I’m fascinating.”

“You are beautiful, Auntie Lys. You are beautiful and bright.”

“Thank you very much. Claire, you are a beautiful, bright and very fascinating girl and I love you very much.”

Children repeat what they are told. I am incredibly thankful that my niece is being told that she is beautiful and bright and funny and fascinating, and, perhaps most importantly, that she is loved.

How different would we be if we were constantly affirmed with the words of who we really are? And, even more so, if we believed them?


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Let Your Colors Burst

It is winter and I’ve been thinking about light, or more so, the lack of it. I celebrate the season of Epiphany. It’s the season that begins on Christmas day and ends on Ash Wednesday. Celebrating this season means, among other things, I feel no guilt about leaving my Christmas tree up until after the New Year.  One of my favorite authors, Lauren Winner, wrote a little more eloquently about this season:
Lima, Peru ~ August 2009

“Epiphany is a season of Light. After we have packed away the Christmas lights with which we strung our trees, we find the church calendar giving us still more time and space to consider Jesus, the Light of the World, and to consider the way that we might get our own lights out from under all those bushels, and manifest Jesus to the world.” Copyright © 2006 Lauren F. Winner. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. This article was published on Boundless.org on January 6, 2012.



I was walking out of Powell’s Books one day last year and checked out the quotable cards. I always gaze longingly at the twirling rack that displays these cards when I visit. For two reasons, one: I really love words and typeface, and two because I love twirling, both my person and things.  I stopped the rack abruptly in mid-twirl when I read, “You are the light of the world.-Matthew-“. My first thought was, “Well that’s wrong.  I’m not the light of the world, Jesus is. He said so in the book of Matthew.”

When I got home I looked up this verse. I was correct, Matthew didn’t say it, Jesus did and Matthew quotes Jesus. And after proving my correctness and feeling all kinds of validation, I was blindsided with the truth of that quote. Jesus says to his followers that they are the light of the world. Jesus, THE great light for all people says that I, Alyssa, am the light of the world. A.Maze.Ing.

I am here to be light – bringing out the God-colors of the world. I am here to be light. I am here to be light. I need to keep saying this to myself as I struggle through this dark winter. I am here to be light.
I am here.

“You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world.” ~ Jesus
Matthew 5:14 The Message


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Would I Lie to You

Mephistopheles

I saw Portland Opera’s production of Faust in 2006 and it sort of changed my life. In the story Faust sells his soul to Mephistopheles (Satan) for youth. Faust in his new youth sees, lusts for and has sex with young Marguerite. This one night stand results in a baby. Marguerite’s brother returns from war and finds his sister dishonored. He loses a duel with Faust and with his final breath curses Marguerite. Completely destroyed she runs to the church for forgiveness and refuge, but Mephistopheles trails behind her, and employs a chorus of demons to drive her into insanity by telling her she is damned. In this state she murders her baby. 
 
In the final act Marguerite is in jail and Faust comes back to rescue her from execution by asking her to join him and Mephistopheles. As Faust and Mephistopheles try to convince her to flee with them, she sees Mephistopheles for the demon he is and cries out to God, giving herself to him and asking to be carried to heaven. As she is executed Mephistopheles yells, “Judged!” Immediately an angelic choir gloriously resounds, “Saved!” The scrim is lifted and the truth of salvation is shown.

Throughout the entire jail scene a scrim had been between the audience and the actors. Scrims are a tool of the theater. They are used to aid in suspending disbelief. When lit from the front, the scrim looks like a solid wall. If it is lit from behind, it is transparent and the audience is unaware that it exists at all. They have no idea they are missing something. They see the stage and the scene with the actors in costume and the set decorated. Motion happens, lines are spoken, all seems normal. And then it happens, the scrim is lifted, and you see the truth behind it. Imperfections and details of the actors, their costumes, and their surroundings that you never noticed before are suddenly blindingly obvious.

I was looking at life through a scrim. I was moving in my own jail, being accused by Satan. I was being told that I was alone, isolated, that no one else was as insecure or as insignificant as me. I was being told a lie. When the chorus of angels broke out in song from the balcony, it was as if God had sent them down for me. It was as if truth was falling on me with every note of the finale. The truth is I was not alone in my life or in my insecurity.


There is a good chance that Portlanders are insecure to the highest degree. It could be because we are a self proclaimed city of geeks. I mean, we have the largest independent bookstore, our library has the busiest circulation for a city its size and the metro area houses offices of the likes of Intel, Tektronix and other technology marvels. I’m pretty sure that in high school most of us did not sit at the cool table.

But here, now, we have made a new geek-chic cool table and yet, we are still not quite sure we should be sitting at it. We think that this could be a “Carrie” moment and any second, any false move, could end with pig’s blood all over us.

Somehow in the depths of my depression Satan’s lies had temporarily obscured God’s truth. I am loved by God, I am worthwhile. No one has it all together; no one. I think God had been slowly pulling up the scrim for awhile. I think my time with him and with wonderful, supportive Jesus loving friends had gotten me closer to the point where it could be lifted completely.

I now saw the world differently. Like the way a three-year-old sees her closet in the daylight as opposed to night. The coat is not a monster anymore, it is just a coat. That commuter isn’t judging me; he is covered in a scrim being accused by Satan, judging himself.

Portland Opera’s production of Madame Butterfly open this Friday at the Keller Auditorium. Check it: http://www.portlandopera.org/operas/2011-2012/madame-butterfly


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Blame It On The Rain

I speak in sound effects and song lyrics. Sound effects are hard to convey in writing so, today, I choose song lyrics.

Portland was smacked by its first big storm of the season yesterday. It’s been windy, rainy and slightly chilly so most people with any sense stay inside except for when venturing out is absolutely necessary. Needless to say, I went for a walk along the Willamette River this morning. I needed some movement, some nature and some God. I pressed play on my Season of Singing playlist and after some Kanye West and Ben Folds, The Weepies began to play “Painting by Chagall” as a train rumbled alongside the East Bank Esplanade.

Thunder rumbles in the distance, a quiet intensity
I am willful, your insistence is tugging at the best of me

Sometimes rain that’s needed falls…

Coincidence? Possibly. I mean I did make the playlist and it does rain constantly in Portland. Although, we get little to no thunder, so a train is as close as I am likely to get and the song starting as a train rolls by, well…

I am humbled in this city
There seems to be an endless sea of people like us
Wakeful dreamers, I pass them on the sunlit streets
In our rooms filled with laughter
We make hope from every small disaster

I created this playlist toward the end of March when I was creating the proposal for my book; a memoir about holding onto hope in the midst all sorts of disasters. With the book and proposal nearly finished I felt the winter was over and now it was my season of singing. It’s the end of November and my book is still a Word document on my laptop but there has been lots of singing and laughter over the past nine months. The playlist flows into Lenka’s “Everything’s Okay” as I near the Morrison Bridge.

Sometimes I need a little sunshine
And sometimes I need you

The Esplanade is one of my favorite places in the city but I didn’t step foot on it for the first six years I lived in Portland. Sometimes the things we will love are within reach, we just haven’t embraced them yet. Fear kept me from embracing the joy that is the East Bank. Fear isn’t from God, hope is.

Keep giving me hope for a better day
Keep giving me love to find a way
Through this messy life I made for myself
Heaven knows I need a little

Hope for a better day
A little love to find a way
Through this heaviness I feel
I just need someone to say, everything’s okay

And then the crowd resounds with:
Everything’s okay!

Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.
1 Corinthians 13:13 The Message.