Loved well.

She realized, one day, that she had forgotten how to live.
In the hustle and bustle, forgotten what it meant to enjoy conversation over a meal instead of seeing food as the gas that kept her body-vehicle moving.

And in that moment, she chose to not hold at a distance the things the world held dear.

She chose to embrace and to try to understand.
To enjoy the creation her Creator had perfectly put together.
She chose to believe that she was such a creation.
She chose to love instead of hate, even when hate seemed to be the prescribed “love”.
To drink deep the moments that fly by.
To dance to the drum of a slightly different beat.
To edge closer and closer to the Artist of the night.
To edge closer and closer to the reason for her creation.

She chose to dance.
Each day and night. Into the dark and into the light.
She chose to embrace.
When it was easier to let go. To push away.
The laughter and pain. The troubles and joy.
She chose to love.
Like she had been loved.
Because, oh, had she been loved well.

On anxiety and wrestling down monsters.

In eleventh grade, I got nauseous every Thursday.

Like clockwork, I could tell the day of the week by the lump in my throat and the queasiness of my stomach. My teachers had decided that Thursdays were test days, and it was the first year of my life, and maybe the last time too, that I worried about my abilities to do well on each and every test.

Halfway through the first semester, I had started to dread Thursdays, which would bring the lump and the queasiness a day early, and then I dreaded Wednesdays. And it never quite went away until after school on Fridays but then there were lots of social interactions that came with the weekends, and high school was just not my place, and I did my best to be actively against the underage drinking that got most kids through it, and so the lump and the queasiness was there on the weekends too. Sunday would come around and I may get a day off from the mind-racing but typically there were meetings for that high school sorority I just “had to” be a part of—and now I kind of agree with a commercial I saw recently where a guy said that women in groups is typically a bad thing, that they couldn’t ever pull off Oceans Eleven because two of them would have to keep stopping to talk about the other nine—and so there was anxiety on Sundays too.

And eleventh grade came and went, and at the end we burned all the pages of work that had caused the queasiness and the lump, and I thanked the heavens that it was all over… for the time being anyway.

Anxiety. It’s this silent wrecking ball that dangles its crushing force above my head when life gets overwhelming.

And sometimes, like ninth grade and Katrina and losing best friends because I couldn’t be civil when all the mess was up in my head and sophomore year of college when the world ran too fast and all the commitments became exhausting, I have believed the lies that rule my mind and I have let them wreck my world.

After Katrina, I starting seeing a counselor for the first time—which, by the way, if you ever tell me you have any type of problem, I’ll probably suggest a counselor. They’re lifesavers and best friends and moms and—best of all—they’re impartial. And everyone needs a good one for the times that the waves get high. And she told my mom that I wasn’t depressed but I was anxious. A year and a half later—after a long period of denial on my part—I started taking anxiety medicine. It got me through that junior year of grade anxiety and test anxiety and social anxiety and all the other anxieties wrapped into one, and that summer I went off to work at YoungLife camp and finally felt free once again. I stopped needing the medicine because there wasn’t anything to be anxious about, and senior year was a breeze compared to junior and the medicine got tossed out when it expired unused. And somewhere in there, I believed my fight with anxiety was over.

But what noone told me—or I never really “heard”—was that anxiety is a lifelong battle. And so when life got hard sophomore year and senior year and my first year out of college, I blamed it on the people around me or on God or my poor decision making abilities, not on anxiety.

Just recently I’ve been learning that the fight is on-going and it is daily. I’ve been learning that I get to control my walk with anxiety if I make it a priority. If I give it to Jesus. And I don’t want to hyper-spiritualize it. Because giving it to Jesus looks less like simply handing it over in my mind and a lot more like WWE with KLove in the background. It’s listening to Christian music when all day CNN at the office has made me question the world.

It’s reading my Bible when I do not want to. Going to the truth in scripture when my to-do list is a thousand items long and everything inside me tells me that it would be checking off items that would make me less anxious, not sitting seemingly idle and reading a book—even one that I know has life-changing power. It’s being in community and asking hard questions and giving hard answers when the questions are asked of me. It’s having people and sending quick text messages in the midst of the storm and then sometimes it’s laying in a hammock in our front yard and reading a book because “why not?”. Recognizing what I’m doing with Dot is good and great and wonderful, and I’m so thankful to be a part of it, but recognizing it’s not meant to be my entire life. Because then I’m back to eleventh grade when school and acing the social world was my life and that caused anxiety Wednesday to Sunday, and I simply don’t have time for that anymore.

—Hallie

(I’m starting this new thing where I write everyday, partly wrestling down the anxiety monster, partly because I really love writing. So if you’re subscribed, prepare to get more emails in your inbox. I’m also trying this new thing where I don’t apologize for things that don’t need apologies, so instead of saying “Sorry!” for the emails and posts, I’ll say “I hope you enjoy them!”.)

Psalm 96:1-6

“Sing a new song to the Lord! 
Let the whole earth sing to the Lord!
Sing to the Lord; praise his name. 
Each day proclaim the good news that he saves.
Publish his glorious deeds among the nations,

Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.
Great is the Lord! He is most worth of praise!
He is to be feared above all gods.
The gods of the other nations are mere idols,
but the Lord made the heavens!
Honor and majesty surround him;
strength and beauty fill his sanctuary.”
–Psalm 96:1-6

Truly, I have found it to be that He is good and glorious. 
Truly, I have found it to be that His works are worthy of our praise.

Over the past three real years of living life with God, I have seen miracles happen, and I have seen moments where it felt like God didn’t do enough. Moments of great, incredible joy, and equal moments of complete brokeness and pain. 
And yet He is. He is good. He is working. He is relevant and alive. He reigns in the highest highs and the lowest lows. He desires to pull us from the wreckage. He desires to hear us call out His name above all other names. He is our saving grace. 

Some days the world gets dirty and scary and I hear stories of bombings and war and lost children and hurting communities. I walk beside people who are hurting and I beg God to give us wisdom to say the right thing. To not make the situation worse. To not use my tongue against myself. And sometimes He tells me to be quiet. Sometimes He tells me not to speak at all. And those are the hardest moments. Usually. Because I have a thousand words that seem like they would help. A thousand words that I am sure they need to hear. But I’m learning lately the difference between what I think someone needs to hear and what they really need. My propensity to wander down paths where good does not live comes mostly in my thought and speech life. Mostly in the words that surround my world. 

And I’m learning to come back to Jesus. Learning that my world can be turned around when I do. That He can redeem anything if I take the time to give it to Him. And it looks, most days, like putting my phone down when it seems like every other post makes me cringe with jealousy or judgement. And the word I’m clinging to lately is Joy. Replacing the other words that the enemy likes to crack over my head.

Joy, in the moments where God tangibly provides. 
In the past two months, the sales and donations of my little brainchild have raised enough money to send THREE kids to school this year! 

Joy, in the moments where nothing seems to go the way I’m trying to make it go.
In the past week, we haven’t had a single sale. 

Joy, to believe there truly is a “hope and a future” in Christ. 
Around the world, people are aching. Over war and death and conflict. And it’s effecting my own backyard. It’s effecting my hometown and my current home. It’s real and tangible and it hurts. 

Joy, to see His redemption come. 
I get the chance–through Dot–to be a tiny part of the redeeming work of a country who has gone through pain like I could never imagine. On Sunday, I had dinner with the president of our Congo partner. He told me the story of his country, and it broke my heart and made me rethink the “struggle” I believe I’ve faced sometimes. Pain is pain, and mine is legitimate. But there is bigger things if I open my heart and eyes to the world around. 

And I’m looking to find joy in all the nooks and crannies of my life. Looking expectantly for it to arrive. Rejoicing when it does. Rejoicing when He shows up. Hoping to be a small voice that points to love and joy and peace in the midst of the turmoil all around. Hoping to exemplify the words of Psalm 96:3. 

–Hallie

Scarred: my redemption story.

sunrise

More than anything, this one is for my parents and my people. God is good. All the time. 

My life began in September of 1991 and just a few months later, I was marked with a scar and a story that has distinguished my neck and parts of my life for the past 22 years. I was just over a year old, in the walking-and-into-everything phase, when I grabbed a pot of very-hot-water and forever changed the composition of my then-very-little frame.

For those of you who don’t know the story, I was at my babysitter’s house (the most wonderful woman in the world, still to this day) when my curiosity overcame any sense, and I toddled to the stove in a brief moment of freedom from the ever-prying eyes of the adult world. I grabbed the handle to a pot of boiling tea-water and it poured all over me. I was rushed to the hospital where we spent the next few weeks with skin grafts and burn dressings and riding from treatment to treatment in a little red Radio Flyer. Those are the things I remember if I remember anything at all. (At this point, most of my recollection comes from pictures of the event, not the actual thing.) I ended up with about an adult hand worth of then-pink, now-white scarring on my neck and around my collar bone. It was a traumatic time in the life of my family and left me timid of pain and extreme heat. Other than that, we came out of the whole situation pretty scotch-free and, with it being so early on in my history, have rarely called it to mind other than when kids at school would question the scar. 

Lately, though, I’ve been thinking a lot about life and growing up and adulthood and the weight that you carry when you step even just into being responsible for yourself, much less a family or a house or a business. I’ve been thinking about parenting—not because that’s something I’m about to walk into, far from it, but starting a business is somehow a little like being a parent and it’s got me thinking about how it all works out—and my focus multiple times has come to that moment when my parents rushed into that hospital with their 1 ½ year old, burned up and down by boiling water poured across my tiny body.It’s only recently that it has become something I think about often. Only recently because I’ve realized its significance in my life. You see, for a long time, I focused on the medical facts. The boiling water, the little fingers, the shaving my baby head—which may explain the weird desire I have to one day shave my head and see what’s under there—the skin graft… the specific details of what happened medically. But as I’ve become an adult over the past year, I’ve realized the complexity of the whole ordeal. The love that was poured out. The people who would have come around. The story I had before I could even know it. The story I’ve been told a thousand times. The story that’s hitting my heart big and bold recently.

You see, I was only a year old when a church of a thousand came together to pray for the specific healing of a sweet baby girl of a young Physical Therapist and Financial Planner. I was only a year old when my parent’s small group met us at the hospital before we were even able to get there. In a day and time before cell phones, the phone trees had worked and the people who cared were there and they loved hard and fast. I was only a year old when I was the object of the kind of viral prayer that would be blowing up Facebook if it had been 2014 instead of 1992.

And I can’t imagine the weight of the whole situation. I hope I never have to feel the weight. But I think I was given something beautiful in that moment. I think my parents were given something that only comes in tragedy.

They were given a real picture of how much they were loved, and I am again, years later, when I think about all that I’ve heard about those moments. Before they could even make it to the hospital there was a waiting room full of people praying. Full of people that loved them. Full of people who dropped everything to get on their knees and hold my parents in their arms while doctors shaved and cut and their little girl’s body was forever reminded of her own propensity to wander. Through the heartache they were comforted with the kind of love that comes only through the struggle, only through the striving.

Twenty-one years away from that moment and I’m learning through it today. Twenty-one years away and I am realizing the power of God. Not mean and manipulative to strike down an innocent child but loving and long-suffering for the sake of His children. The kind that allows something to happen to a child so that years later she can point to it as a turning point. A turning point that occurred even before she was old enough to turn without wobbling on her two little legs.

My scars are reminders of that day. My scars are reminders of His faithfulness to heal. Because I have no lasting consequences of that burning water minus the light marks that grace the skin beneath my face, and I think He put them where He did because He knew I’d be a little bit vain. Knew I’d spend my fair share of time in the mirror. Knew I’d try to look like everyone else, try to cover up and hide what I saw as my brokeness for years. And I think he gave them to me on my neck to set me apart somehow. In a way that only we can understand—Him and I—because for so very long I wanted to be set apart and yet fully a part of it all. And He gave me that. Set apart through my scar and yet fully a part of the kingdom He proved through His healing. Set apart through the daily reminder and yet fully a part of the love that tangibly healed a tiny body and consequently and years later has healed my broken mind time and time again. I think He knew. And the Calvinist in me would chance it to say that I think He even planned it like this.

Because He had great plans that needed a little trauma to build a solid foundation. Because I needed to be able to point back to His faithfulness. Because I needed to be able to say I couldn’t do it without him and to daily run my hands over my neck is the kind of reminder he had in mind.

Praying you find redemption in your scars.

–Hallie

To the lover of the third world.

delight yourself Hey girl,

You, yes you. You, who has spent more than your fair share of time this week staring at pictures of sweet brown kids who lie on ratty beds halfway around the world. You, whose bank account is dwindling because there’s always another t-shirt to buy for someone else to get on a plane or another organization to support. You, who’ve felt the hot tears burn your cheeks as you make deals with God to allow you to be a part of what He’s doing because He certainly needs you more there than here. You, who begs God every night and tries to convince everyone else around during the day.

You. I know you all too well. I know that your school work has become disinteresting and you feel guilty every time you write a check for another formal or t-shirt or dinner out with friends—because, “shouldn’t that money go to someone who needs it more than you?” I know what it feels like when all of your most viewed sites are splattered with pictures of dark babies wearing worn tattered clothing and how much you would give to just be the one that God allows to fix it all. Just to be a part of the solution, you realize, is your call. But you feel stuck where you are and all you can do is blow up Instagram and Facebook every Thursday with #tbt to the faces and places in which you tangibly saw your part in the kingdom.

I know what it feels like to be you. I know how hard it is. When you feel stuck where you are because college is the next step after high school and you’re afraid that a job and husband and babies and a white picket fence will be the next step after college and somewhere in the midst of it all your dreams will fade. (Disclaimer: Husband and babies and America and white picket fences are not bad. They are wonderful and good. But it doesn’t feel like that sometimes. It doesn’t feel like that could be the good plan.)

I know what it’s like to be there. I know what it’s like to feel and then to not feel anything at all some days. I know what it’s like to repress the desire to jump on that plane because you’ve pounded on every door you could, brought a battering ram to some, and yet they stayed as firmly shut as if you were a tiny wind.

I know what it feels like to think that you heard it wrong. To question because you were quite sure He said “go!” but you’ve tried everything and you’re only hearing all the no’s. I know what it’s like to question it all. To doubt everything. Because He doesn’t show up like you think He’s supposed to. Because it was all so clear for a day or week or month and then, all of a sudden, the faucet is turned off and you hear nothing. And you start to wonder if you’re going to end up like the shriveled up plants you gave up watering when your life became so focused on everywhere but here.
You. I know it’s hard. Almost impossible some days.
But I want to let you know, He’s there.

And I wish, years ago, when I was you, someone would have told me these things. Although I’m sure they did but it’s hard to pay attention when there are literally children around the world dying from starvation tonight and you’re hearing God really speak for the first time.

I want to tell you that He loves you. Not that He needs you or wants you or anything else. He could take care of all of the junk. And HE WILL. But I want you to know that you’re loved. More than anything in the world. Sit and let that soak in. Before you pull out your pictures or find yourself on your knees asking when. He’s on your team. I promise you.

And maybe He has a different plan than the one you’ve been asking. Maybe the best answers are the ones that you don’t see coming. Today, know that you are loved and know that it is enough. Then, know that His promises are true. That you’ve got a hope and a future and it’s bright, baby girl.

It’s so bright. But the struggles are real and the struggles are true. And you need the struggles. Every single one. Like Moses and Abraham and Esther and Sara and Ruth. Like Corrie Ten Boom and Katie Davis and Mother Theresa. The struggles are what make the good times so sweet. They are the places where God makes you who He needs you to be. So just wait. And breathe. And enjoy the walk when it’s a walk and run fast when it seems that you’re supposed to jog. But always remember that you’re loved. Always remember that He’s enough no matter where you are. No matter how little you seem to be doing. In the waiting, He is there.

My advice for you is this. Lean in. To where you are now. To who you are becoming. Lean in. To friendships and coffee dates. To that boy you may be avoiding because he would mess up all the plans. Lean in. Because you don’t have the map and you don’t know who He wants you to be. Lean in because holding on may mean giving up a bigger plan than you’ve ever imagined. Let go. Of all the ways you’re manipulating. Of the late night brainstorming of how you can make your plans work out. Start praying. That your heart would become more like His. Start evaluating your motives and ideas. Give yourself grace. Get to know your family. Learn to ask hard questions. Learn to ask any question at all. And to ask them often. Of your family, your friends, the world. Of yourself. Learn to not be right. Learn to question everything. He’ll catch you, I promise, and you’ll be more who He needs you to be at the end of it. Lean in and let go. He’s never failed before and He won’t start now.

–Hallie