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

Live Big.

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I’ve been quiet here, but life has been loud.

In the past month, I’ve finished college, taken a trip to celebrate with friends, graduated, moved out of my first home and hugged the best roommate in the world goodbye, moved back into my parents’ home for the summer, spent time with my family and Ocean Springs friends, celebrated a bachelorette party for one of my best friends marrying another of my best friends!!, and finally started my summer job hanging out with the fantastic kids of First Presbyterian Church of Ocean Springs.

I’ve spent the past three weeks recognizing the duality of my life over the past four years, the two worlds I’ve lived in, sometimes seemingly unaware of their ridiculous and huge differences. Coming home, and with a psychology degree at that, has been quite an experience. My move back to Jackson in the fall to intern with Pinelake Church throws an even bigger wrench into my examination of my worlds.

I live an exemplification of 1 Corinthians 10:23. I live the “Everything is acceptable,” in Ocean Springs. I live, “but not everything beneficial,” when I head north on Hwy49. I love my life. I am continually challenged. God continually comes through. He took me away from home four years ago to draw me near to Him. He’s brought me back to seemingly break the barriers I’ve built against the world. He’s continually reminding me that it is people, not rules, that I must love.

The world, faced with God in control, is a bright and busy place. My fear is wiped away because He has already conquered it all. The worst that can happen is also what I pray for daily. In the words of Paul, “To live is Christ, but to die is gain.” With that mindset, the world is conquerable. The deep heart understanding that the worst thing that could possibly happen would mean the beginning of eternity in heaven with Christ flings open every dark locked door, closed because of fear and uncertainty. With Christ as my guide, I am incapable of failure. Anything that looks like failure is really just a redirection of my path. He is in control and I am not. The world is His creation, and because I am His child, the world becomes my playground. Love is the energy that propels us forward in this world. Jesus is our guide, Savior, and redeemer.

I realize a lot of this probably doesn’t make a whole lot of sense or seem to connect without being inside my brain. This post is actually the culmination of a lot of different smaller, and probably better well written, half-posts stuck in my drafts somewhere, but I was unable to finish any one thought. Sometimes, I’ve found it’s better to get something out and done with rather than waiting to create some sort of perfection. And hence, this post. Hope it meant something to someone. 

Live big because Jesus did.

Hallie.

Remembering Christmas.

Written at Christmas and stuck in my drafts, I found this today.
It’s funny how I have to learn the same lessons again and again.
I guess this is kind of an explanation of sorts of this post.
Here you go. 

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I have a conversation with a good friend, and he asks what I fear most.
My honest answer is “disappointing God”, but it goes out of my mouth peppered
with a remark about how my theology is somehow screwed up.
Laced with an apology of sorts because I know that’s not how I’m supposed to feel.
But I say it from the heart because I find myself where my relationship with God always seems to suffer:
in the busyness.

The past few weeks have been hectic to say the very least.

Exams were followed by a few days home, full of unpacking and packing.
Then Baton Rouge for Hannah’s graduation and home again
only to leave for a whirlwind trip of gift giving and party throwing in Belize.
We touched down at Gulfport “International”  just in time for church services and running into old friends and Christmas eve with family.

All wonderful, but I’m left on Christmas Eve while the family goes to the 5 o’clock service.
Left at home because my brain has shut down and sleep is the best form of worship I am able to offer. Somehow just as acceptable as lifting my hands high and bowing my head low in reverence of that baby boy, born in a manger 2,000 years ago.

Through sleep, I’m revitalized and enjoy an evening of celebration with family
and end the night at that white clapboard church on Ocean Avenue.
The one I love so much.
The service is different from any Christmas Eve service that I’ve ever attended before.
The room less than half full, no choir except the voices that stand to sing in the pews and
the angel echoes that seem to fill the high ceilings of that beautiful church.

As much as I love the packed house that has come with all the Christmas Eves of my past,
I have a feeling that it’s not a coincidence that I missed that service earlier.
Not just a happenstance that it’s just me and my mom,
along with just fifty other people, now here in the late and emptied church.
Because it’s always in the quiet that God reminds me of His love.
It’s in the stillness that I’ve been needing so desperately that He holds me close.

Because the past few weeks have been exciting and fun and exhilarating.
But some dreams have slipped away, and fears work so desperately to take their place in my mind.
Fears that whatever I do won’t be enough. And that I’ll never be so-and-so.
And that I won’t amount to much at all.
That God won’t come through because He seems ever-so-silent in an ever-so-scary world.
It’s in the busy that I’ve sacrificed my time with God
and then once again been reminded how desperately my need is for Him.

So I tell my friend that I’m fearful of disappointing God,
but as I think more, I realize that my fear is unfounded because
what I’m really afraid of is God disappointing me,
and that’s only possible if I seek the wrong things. If I seek the wrong gods.
Because my God is one who is incapable of disappointing.
One who gives good gifts to the ones that serve Him.
One that forgives and supplies and loves.

Oh, how He loves.

My God is the one who came to earth through a virgin and died on a cross.
The one who endured the unthinkable so he could forgive the unthinkable.
I can’t think of a better Christmas than one spent in thanksgiving of the life He lived
so that we would never die.

–Hallie

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I am a cynic in the worst way.

I have turned off tv shows, clicked away from websites, and changed the topic of conversations.

I have burnt bridges or refused to build them in the first place.

I have avoided the burning in my chest.
The one that pushes me to limbs unstable to walk on.
Pushes me to where He is.

I have held on to things that needed to be let go and pushed away the ones that I desperately needed to hold.

I am a cynic in the worst way.

In my mind, I have painted beautiful pictures of life, relationships, and laughter.
I have thought wonderful thoughts and run towards them abandoning all else.

But I have stopped short of the prize because it was hard.
Because there was something in the way.
Something that I refused to hold as my ebenezer.
Something I refused to even see if God would be faithful in overcoming.

I have run from God.
Over and over again.

Run from His people because of unmet needs.
Run from His Church because His people weren’t exactly who I thought He told them to be.
Run from myself when I didn’t live up to my own expections.

I am a cynic in the worst way.

I have let my hurts spill into my interactions with others.
I have turned away from a responsibility to love and care for others because those “others” hurt me in ways they didn’t even understand.
They didn’t even know.

I have met three girls with hugs and love and given a knowing half smile to the fourth.
Eyes going dark, I refused to show her my light.
Because I wanted her to see the consequences of her conversations.
I wanted her to know that it wasn’t okay.
I wanted her to hurt.

This wasn’t years ago. This wasn’t even in high school.
I am a senior in college and still my brat face comes out to play sometimes.
The twelve year old girl comes out in the worst way when I feel something is unfair.
When someone else gets the long straw and I’m stuck in the rain.

I am a cynic in the worst way.

I speak beautiful words about redemption and grace and love and Jesus, but I run to my flesh when the going gets tough.

Today, I am broken for my inability to love, and tomorrow, maybe, I’ll find myself face to face with her.
The choice to love or leave on the line.
And I pray I will love.

But love will have to flow from Jesus, because I am a cynic in the worst way.

Today I’m thankful for community.
For responsibility and accountability.
I’m thankful for the ones who call me out when my words and my actions don’t align.
I’m thankful that God is gracious to forgive, and each morning His mercies are new.

Because I wouldn’t be who I am without the ones who’ve walked beside me.
Would be who I am without a Jesus that forgives and pursues.
Wouldn’t be who I am without the friends who’ve called me into relationship.
Without the ones that have heard my emotions overflow all over this city, from the dorms to our cars to our now homes.
I wouldn’t be the same.
I wouldn’t understand grace and truth and perserverance.

They have been Jesus to the worst cynic.
They have shown Him to the one who has tried over and over to run away.

He has begun to melt the heart of the cynic in the worst way.
And that has been the best thing.

–Hallie

Back to the Third World

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How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
Isaiah 52:7

After a full week of exams and papers and then Hannah’s graduation today, we’re headed to Belize tomorrow. I feel so unprepared for this trip mentally, but so ready to spend some intentional time with Jesus and His people.

Pray this week for doors to open. For kids without parents to feel love. For police men and women to feel appreciated. For American eyes to be open. And for all of our focus to be on the only thing that matters: Jesus.

Also, I got to be a tiny part of another trip that’s going to be happening over break! Be praying for two Mississippi girls, Kristin and Leah, as they travel to Rafiki (my African home)!! They leave on the 15th (tomorrow!) and will be at the village for three weeks! Pray for safety in travel and health while they’re there. Pray that they get to love on those kiddos and the full-time staff at Rafiki well. Pray that God works in mighty ways in their hearts as He always does when we go outside of our comfort zone and into His awesome world! Pray that being away from home for Christmas will be a blessing and not a hindrance to experiencing all that God has for them.

Love first and always,
Hallie.

Enough For Today.

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I want to empty out my brain. Throw everything away and start fresh again.
Get rid of the preconceptions and useless facts.
Get rid of the emotions and ties that keep me bound to where I am. The stereotypes that won’t allow me beyond the walls around me.
I want Jesus.
All of Him. Everyday. Nothing more. Nothing less.
I want to create. To build, in the most feminine sense of the word. To make beauty.
I want beauty. Not to be beautiful. I don’t think that would satisfy that deep desire.
But to embody it, that would be right. To embody beauty in all I do.
In all my thoughts and words and actions.
I want to take pictures. Of everything around me. Even the trivial. To remember. But not stay stagnant.
I want to be thankful. For all that I have been given.
Because I’ve been given so much.
I want a new beginning. Of sorts. But maybe keep a little of the old. Or a lot.
The laughter and joy in friendships. The excitement of everyday miracles. Even a little of the pain.
Because, although I hate to admit it, it’s made me who I am.
I want to write. A book. Words with meaning.
And some without much, but that encompass the beauty that I hope to grasp.
Because sometimes it’s enough to just be. Sometimes all we need is a little bit of lovely.
Without all the junk. Just to dance. To celebrate each moment.
Because we’re alive. And living is enough for today.

–Hallie

Daddy.

My dad is the best man I know.
He is fun and loving.

He is strong, and he speaks truth.

He’s the kind of man I hope to marry one day.

He’s a fixer. He’s the one I call when my car has trouble, my bank account is low, and I don’t know what to get Mom for mother’s day.

He’s the nicest of our family. My dad sees the best in people.
When the rest of us turn to cynicsm, my dad shows us the light.
He defends those unable to defend themselves.
He points out the good when I try to focus on darkness.

My dad is typically a peace keeper, pointing out the good in every situation.

He’s happy-go-lucky, joyful and fun.

But when it comes to defending his family, my dad is tough.
He acts with wisdom and an understanding of justice.
He rarely gets angry (actually, I can only recall seeing him angry once), but when he does, his anger is righteous.

My dad has always been a picture of Christ in my life. A constant support at all times. He loves our family, friends, community, and even those that aren’t easy to love with a love that is beyond himself. He serves with his whole self and cares very little about self-promotion. My dad loves better than anyone I know. He’s the one who gives our family support but never calls attention to himself.

My dad is the best man I know. (Well, my grandpa is pretty awesome too.)
As the best husband, father, friend, businessman, and community supporter.
He wears many hats, but my favorite is his role as Dad in my life.

Thank you for being the best dad I could ever ask for.

I love you,
Hallie