Friend, Press into the Pain

I woke up with a nasty headache. The kind that originates from a pulled neck muscle overnight and claws its way slowly up behind my eyeball.

I tried to be nice to it, gentle, so that it would let loose, but ibuprofen, an ice-pack, and a scorching soak in the tub did little to relieve my agony.

The only thing that seemed to help was pressing and working the muscle as hard as I could, kneading the pain point back and forth between my fingers. It was not a one-and-done massage either. I had to keep repeating this action until my fingers cramped and my nerve endings could hardly take it anymore.

Pressing into the pain was not relaxing or enjoyable. It hurt.

But it reminded me of something.

How often there is emotional pain in my life that I need to press into in order to get relief. Ignoring it doesn’t work. Neither does bubble-wrapping it and hiding it in a dark box somewhere.

Denial is really just prolonged, chronic disillusion that festers and rots my insides. Mentally and physically. There is no salvation in that.

I only get relief from my emotional pain when I peel away the protective layers over it, grip it, examine it, and even press on it.

It hurts. It is excruciating actually. The acute pain leaves no more room for denial.

I have encountered many emotional injuries along my life’s path that I tried to ignore, until the fractures were so compounded that I didn’t know where the first originated.

I was just a walking pile of brokenness.

I had to stop walking. Stop ignoring.

Stop bubble-wrapping the pain and deal with it.

Friends, I wish I could tell you that pressing on the pain brings quick relief. It doesn’t. It takes much kneading, so much so that your soul will be bruised and your cries will have no more tears to expel.

But oh my goodness, it will be worth it.

Once you’ve walked through that pain, once you’ve stared long and hard at it, once you’ve found the source and pressed on it with as much force as you can muster, you will ever so slowly begin to heal.

That is the place redemption is found.

One day you will look back on it and that pain you ignored for so long, well, that pain will make you smile.

Because that will be the thing that ultimately leads to your transformation.

A changed life.


-Faith in the Mess by Melissa Neeb

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An Unexpected Angel

The moment I walked through the double doors of a local church for my first Celebrate Recovery meeting, I was greeted by an angel.

Not a wispy, transparent one. An angel in the flesh.

She smiled huge and squeezed my neck in a giant hug, like we were long-lost best friends. I felt seen, welcomed, instantly loved. I was tethered to her warmth and authenticity, bound to her in some inexplicable, anointed way.

God aligned our lives perfectly. We met at the exact point in time that He designed: the exact century, decade, year, minute, and moment that He needed to fulfill His purpose.

And to fill a deep well in me that was achingly dry.

She showed me how to be emotionally present, how to work through past trauma with grace and forgiveness, how to be strong at my weakest points, how to always show up, how to truly listen to people’s pain and give freely of myself.

She showed up for me in a thousand ways, sporting her “Y’all Need Jesus” shirt and a grin that could melt the Arctic. She radiated light from every pore.

No wonder she was my angel.

God had a purpose for us; plans we never could’ve concocted in our wildest dreams. Plans that a pandemic and a move to another state couldn’t interrupt. The miles couldn’t dislodge us, wouldn’t break our soul connection.

God’s plans and partnerships cannot be thwarted. He is so good.

I didn’t expect to walk into that church and find a living, breathing angel. Sometimes God answers our prayers bigger and bolder than we even dare to ask. He sure did for me that day.

Even as we are separated physically, my angel Krista is never far from me.

Because the best angels are always

only a heart whisper away.

Melissa neeb

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Ghosts of New Year’s Past

It used to be so different.

My two best friends and I would spend hours getting ready. We shimmied into barely-there sequined tops and sprayed ourselves with glitter from an aerosol can. As we strapped on our high heels that would have our feet screaming by the end of the night, Missy Elliott’s “Get Ur Freak On” was blaring on the radio.

We headed out into the MN cold, leaving our coats in the car, shuffling as swiftly as we could along the glassy sidewalks. We were relieved to dart inside the bellowing warmth of the bars. We precariously teeter-tottered between shivering cold and red-faced sweaty for the rest of the night.

We waited in line for drinks. Waited in line for the bathroom. Waiedt for a pool table. Waited for a regular table. Waited for midnight.

By the stroke of midnight, many of us couples would be arguing, fueled by tequila shots and carousel rounds of jealousy. It always ended the same. Our wide, lipsticked grins and raucous antics of 10 pm were vignetted with the arguments and turmoil that was inevitable for the start of the new year. A fistful of drinks always did that.

The extremes of those nights were evident beneath the layers of makeup and wild camera poses. The pain rippled silently, powerfully, under the surface.

Those drunken New Years are held in stark contrast against the easy smiles we wore in the years following both my husband and I getting sober. There is a softness to our later grins. They are simplified. Laid gently across our face by the certainty of the knowledge that there will be no fights later–no drama, no tears.

Just a good night’s sleep and no hangover in the morning.

Now that’s a good NEW year.

-Melissa Neeb

My Word of the Year: 2021

I spent too many years being afraid. Afraid to break out the box others had put me in. Afraid to dream big. Afraid to be bold. Afraid to say what I wanted. Afraid to be who I was at my core and stop fighting against the steady current of other people’s expectations and limitations for me.

No more.

No more making myself small to fit inside someone else’s idea of who I should be. No more asking permission. No more whispering small, timid prayers in the quiet recesses of my mind.

I will ask God for the impossible.

I will hustle and sweat and burn as brightly as I can.

I will throw open the door of welcome for things outside of my comfort zone .

I will allow God to cast away the boulders in my path instead of shrugging in resignation and building a house behind them. They will not obscure my view of the summit.

I will get there. THIS mountaintop is mine.

I will not apologize for wanting what I want. I will not extinguish my yearnings with a ready excuse. I will not put my hand over my own mouth.

Today I align myself with God’s TRUE purpose for my life, confident that with Him guiding my steps, I cannot fall.

I will not fail.

This year, I will be bold. Persistent. Dogged. Fierce. Vulnerable. Raw.

My Word of the Year:


-Melissa Neeb

Faith in the Mess

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