Some days, it all gets a little too heavy.

palm wind

A few years ago, during the intense week that followed the Boston Marathon Bombing, I wrote about the heaviness and pain in the world. I wrote about the Aurora Shooting and Sandy Hook and the Boston bombing all in one and summed it up that the world needed Jesus and one day it would make sense. I summed it up so nicely. 

And today, I believe those same things. I believe that Jesus is the redeemer. That He is coming back and that all of the tragedy we see in the world is a consequence of sin. I believe it maybe even more than I did when I keyed those words on a page on my Macbook Pro. And I’m a thousand times eternally grateful that we won’t always live here. That there’s a better place waiting. That the weight won’t be heavy anymore.

But sometimes, I stumble into a real glimpse of the pain that there is walking all over our world. It happens on the most seemingly innocuous days. When life is trotting along and things are going pretty good in my world, I get slapped in the face with the reality of sin and evil all around. Get reminded that it’s probably not going away anytime soon, without the second coming of our King, anyway.

I had dinner last week with the founder of one of our Dot partners, and he told me the story of Congo. The long and exhausting history of one group after another taking over and claiming a people group as their own. Claiming people as their property. And he told me his perspective of how the world had responded. And his perspective marred by the memories of gunshots and bombings and fleeing as far as his family could go until they couldn’t go any further and they just came home. And I realized, with my Coach purse in my hands and my Lucky jeans on my legs, that I didn’t know what it was to face that kind of suffering. That maybe no upper-middle class American really did. And the weight of that is heavy.

Nine years ago last month, my family lost our home in the worst natural disaster America had seen in a very long time. We went to Destin for the weekend and ended up staying almost two weeks and came home and everything was different. The city that I had finally fell in love with was different. The friends and people and world. It was all different and I was 15 and the world was supposed to be good. I had been promised it would be good. But it wasn’t good in those days. And we lived in something like twelve different places that first few months after “the storm”. She wasn’t known as anything else, and though we don’t talk about her as much as we once did, she changed our hearts as much as she did our homes. And school didn’t reopen for a month and in that time people were scattered across the country, some with lost jobs and shaken nerves not returning, settling somewhere that they could feel a little more safe somehow. Knowing the coast would somehow never be the same.

It’s been nine years since that time, and a lot of life in between. High school and college and graduations and weddings and lives even have come and gone. And life is good in so many ways. But life is also hard some days. Because we no longer live in a world where everything is going to be alright. We no longer have the illusion that people are generally good and things work out always. It’s simply not true. And some days it all gets a little too heavy.

In the midst of that reality, I’m learning what it looks like to take each moment for what it is. I’m learning to live in community and love a little bit deeper. I’m learning that the deeper your knowledge of the evil in the world is, the deeper your understanding of your need of a Savior becomes. The more you begin to appreciate His redemption. The more desperate you are to see His Kingdom come. The harder you’re willing to work to bring it to Earth today.

The other day, in a fit of dreaming about what could be, I wrote down a list of just my favorite Jackson-area girls. I stopped at thirty—thirty actual girls that I do life with on a semi-regular basis/have had coffee/dinner with over the past year—and there were probably fifteen that have come to mind since. Two years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to count five. Not because they weren’t there—they have always been exactly where I’ve needed them—but my eyes weren’t open to the beautiful grace that God has given me in the people that He has surrounded me with. My eyes were tightly shut because they were simply afraid of seeing the pain. And there is a lot of pain in each of those relationships. I think if you’re in relationship with anyone, there’s always a sharing of pain. But the more you share, the less there is on one individual. The less weight you find on your own shoulders.

At the end of my life, I think I’ll be more thankful for the painful moments than the sweet ones. I think I’ll be more of a person because I’ve experienced lost. And I know that more and more as I get the chance to interact with our Dot partners all over the world. Because the men that run our two organizations have been through the ringer. One an orphan, one a refugee. They have the story that attests to the saving grace of Jesus and they depend on Him before anything else. Not because they choose to, but because it’s absolutely required to keep on living. Most days lately, I want to live more like that.

–Hallie

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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

Welcome to Dot — School Supplies Changing Lives.

dotproductsIf you ever wonder about the heart of humanity, start an organization that helps the marginalized. You will quickly realize that good reigns. In the tiny corners. If you take the time to look. Good reigns. In the moments when you need it most. Good reigns. If you ever wonder where all the good people are, create an opportunity for people to step outside themselves to change the world for others. Make it relevant and simple. Make it profound. You will be amazed, grateful, and forever changed.

Last week, on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, I announced the launch of Dot Products, a school supply company set on changing lives through education. I’ll tell you the story of how Dot came to be one day soon, but today I want to tell you the story you have written this week alone.

In the past week, you have funded an entire year of education for a child in Mexico through your purchases and donations.

Already you have shared and liked and commented. You have blown up social media. 450 and counting of you on Facebook alone. Thousands of people have been told about Dot. Thousands. Orders are coming in from people I don’t know. People who wouldn’t know about Dot if not for you. People who are going to change the world for a child in a developing country because of their purchase and donation. I couldn’t be more proud. I couldn’t be more humbled.

And our busiest season of the year is coming up soon. Kids are headed back to school and we want to help them do it in style and with a greater purpose. For those of you in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama, consider hosting a Dot Party at your home or church for your favorite students. You invite your friends and provide snacks and drinks–as fancy or chill as you’d like. We’ll bring the supplies, the stories, and the chance to change the world through your everyday purchases. We had our first party this past weekend, and it was a blast–and it quickly turned into a pencil packing party! We ate, drank, laughed, and talked about Dot partners and how, together, we’re changing the world. One at a time.

Follow along on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to see how you can get involved and make a difference!

–Hallie

The First Year.

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—
A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Over the past year, I’ve seen and experienced a lot of transition.
Friends have graduated college and started new jobs or professional school or graduate school or moved halfway around the country or halfway around the world. Friends have stayed put and gone to school or worked part time jobs or babysat.
Friends have gotten big boy and girl jobs which they loved and thrived in or hated and eventually quit. Friends have gotten married or broken up with the person they thought they might marry. Friends have stayed single or started new relationships.

And I think I can speak for my class when I say that we’ve all struggled somewhat to adjust to this new post-college world we’ve found ourselves in.

There have been days where we’ve gotten exactly what we hoped and prayed for and days that we’ve sat on the couch in tears for hours because it felt like nothing was ever going to go our way again. And sometimes those days were in the same week and sometimes those both occurred in the same hour.

This year alone, I’ve talked to more people that didn’t believe or think exactly what I believed and thought than in the past five or six or seven years of my life. And in a thousand ways, God has confirmed who He is, and in a thousand ways, God has confirmed how wrong I have been.

I’ve been wrong about plans and structure and what it means to live a happy life. I’ve been wrong about religious acts and church worship and what it means to be in relationship with the One who created this whole crazy world we’re living in. I’ve been wrong about what it is to be an adult and wrong about who I want to be and what it really looks like to love.

I’ve learned more about love than ever before this year. (And it’s the first year in six years that I wasn’t in a dating relationship at any point.) I’ve learned that love really is the answer and it really does win, but there’s a thousand different ways people try to express it and they aren’t always love.

I’ve learned that being an adult is hard, but I’ve been set up to thrive and empowered in a thousand ways. I’ve learned to be thankful, to God and all the people around because the world spins too fast to pretend like you have it all together most days. I’ve learned that self awareness is so important because you’l never be able to conquer the world on your own and you’ll make a big hot mess if you don’t acknowledge it and try instead. And my life has been the same and a thousand times different than I expected in a thousand beautiful and terrible ways.

I learned that writing is my best form of processing because my mind moves too fast and I need things in ink to remember that’s how I once felt, even when “once” was fifteen minutes ago. And sometimes there is a season where all the writing needs to be kept private and you tuck them deep down inside somewhere and pray that God allows you to share again sometime soon.

I learned to depend. That joy comes from somewhere deep inside of me that I do not control myself but that I get to choose the controller. I learned to take friends and status and family and accomplishment off the throne, no longer giving any of those things the ability to control me, and giving that control directly to the one who saves my life everyday if I simply ask.

And I’m a thousand times thankful for the lessons. A thousand times thankful for this year. A thousand times thankful for the pulled together and the mess.

And that’s that. What I learned in the first year of adult life minus a thousand lessons because who really has time for all the things that come out of the first year–which I’m praying is one of the harder years as I’ve heard people say it is, but thanking the One who made it what it was because it is the fire that leaves gold refined.

You are so incredibly loved.

–Hallie

P.s. I’m writing back here again now.
Because sometimes you admit that your plan wasn’t the best and you just want to come home.
And Sweet Tea Stories feels like home.