Some days, it all gets a little too heavy.

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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

Prodigal.

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“But while he was still a long way off,
his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him;
he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”

Luke 15:16

‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.
But we had to celebrate and be glad,
because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again;
he was lost and is found.’”

Luke 15:31-32

I have been the prodigal son.
I have the heart of the angry brother.

I have needed the love of the Father.
I have received it over and over.

I have walked away from relationship, full with the Father’s possessions.
I have returned starving and tattered, begging for compassion.

I have stayed out of a sense of duty, growing in pride and bitterness.
I have shut doors in the faces of those “undeserving” of my love.
I have misunderstood the spirit of God.
I have tied up a shattered heart with strings of bitterness and malice;
I hoped they’d make it whole.

He has cut the chords that choke.
I have a heart healed, not just repaired.
I was lost, and I am now found.

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

Home. Again.

(a continuation [or update, really] from this post.)

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2. Home this week has been my Smash journal with words and pictures and paper stuck together. A nice little compilation of my life lately.
It’s been a couple good conversations with a long lost friend.
It’s been being alone and realizing how good it is to sit at our savior’s feet.
It’s been slowing down.
Home has been work and running to the post office and writing papers and assignments an hour before they’re due.
Home is answered prayers and 10:30 p.m. phone calls.
It has been cute boys in class and Pinterest crafts on a Friday night.
It’s sleeping on the couch until noon and laundry and cleaning and still not being done.
Home has been a morning with 125+ special needs kids at a carnival and the incredible professor who made it happen.
Home was making cookies on Wednesday and praying for a hurting friend.
Home has been good and wild and calm. It’s been exciting and peaceful and consistent and erratic.
It’s been realizing that the world isn’t what I expect it to be, that it won’t ever be, and that’s perfectly alright.
Home is processing and two weeks away from social media and realizing an addiction to other people’s lives.
Home is the reminder of who God is and who I am. It’s loving the lost and losing the pride.
It’s imperfection that makes it perfect and love that makes it worthwhile.

I hope you have a home like mine.

–Hallie

Messy.

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A few months ago, there was a day that I was feeling particularly close with God.
I’d just spent a few weeks at Christian camps with middle and high schoolers, and I was on top of the world.
I had the freedom of the summer and the joy of Jesus, and out of that came a bunch of words spilled all over this little piece of my heart on the world wide web.
(That’s how it normally happens, in case you’re wondering, absolutely nothing for a month, and then my fingers can’t help but type. I’m forever chasing inspiration. It’s like a cat, coming and going as it pleases. No care for schedules or emotions. Persistent at all the wrong moments. But enough about my writing process {and my feelings towards cats}.)
I pressed publish and tweeted a link, hoping probably more for a little praise or acknowledgement, a reference to the pride I so often struggle to keep at bay, than to really help someone like I say this place is supposed to do, to really bring glory to the God I say I write for, the one I claim to love so dearly.
I went on with my day, and a few hours later heard my phone ring, alerting me to a text message from an old friend, one who I don’t talk to often, but when his name pops into my inbox, I’m always certain there’ll be a good conversation to follow.
It was a sweet little text, one basically summed up by “I read the blog, and you seem to have it all together.” Kind of a “I want what you have” message. But not in the jealous sense of the words. In the Jesus sense of the words. We talked for a while about life and direction, what it meant to be a Christian, and what we would have to give up or change to get there.
It was a good conversation. One that I cherished not for what I gave but who I saw this person becoming.
It’s fun sometimes to see God work at a distance. It’s fun sometimes to be complimented for how God has worked in your life, acknowledging that it’s nothing you could control. It’s fun to try in all the ways you know how to make sure the glory goes to Him, but also it’s nice to know that someone else thinks you’re on the right track because there’s a moment almost everyday that I wonder.

Well, fast forward almost three months to today. And it’s been a couple hard weeks.
The kind that when you stop at the end of each week, you look to the next week and just know it will get better. Because another thing falling apart just seems ridiculous and mean.
And then you get to next week and a part of life that was going just fine a few days before crumbles in your hand. The part that you held onto, knowing you could fall back on it if the rest of the world fell apart, that part fades away too.
And you’re left with Jesus. And you realize He’s enough.

It’s been that kind of month. Which is good and beautiful because Jesus really is enough.
And there’s incredible peace in that.
But there’s also a lot of mess all around, needing to be picked up, dealt with, or thrown away.
And today I had lunch with a girl friend to deal with the pieces, decide what to salvage and decide what to dump.
And in planning for this lunch, praying about how to deal with the situation, I started planning my words carefully, picking pieces of the story to tell, only the ones relevant to this particular situation, leaving out the parts that might give her a little too much insight into life lately. For the sake of those involved, but also for my sake.
Because if I gave too much, she could think I was weak or less than or, my biggest fear, wrong. And I’ve been struggling against those thoughts. And as we talked, I gave a little more than I planned to.
Told a little bit outside of our immediate situation because I realized without it, the situation didn’t make sense and the context was necessary.
And I shared more of my heart than I planned. More of the hurt than I wanted to give. Was a little more vulnerable than my strong outer layer would let me be.
And out of that, she said these words, “Hallie, sometimes it’s okay to be defeated.” And words that I almost just brushed off, I let sink in. Because they were exactly what I was longing to hear.
That sometimes it’s okay to be defeated. Sometimes it’s okay not to have a clue what’s going on. Sometimes it’s okay to cry. Sometimes it’s okay to be frustrated. Sometimes it’s okay to feel pain. To really feel it. Not to make a good story out of it, yet. Or to point to how Jesus is redeeming it. But to just acknowledge that life is hard. That it is messy. And that sometimes, you wish it wasn’t. And not to complain or whine or be pitied. But to be real. To break out of the “good life” box and to embrace the bittersweet.

And as I sat at that table and poured out my little heart, my old friend walked by. The friend I don’t see often. The one with the text message.
We smiled, waved, and went on with our days, but, just for a moment, my mind wandered.
And I couldn’t help but want to share my life with this friend right now. Couldn’t help but want to show them that I don’t have it all together.
That life is complex and there are days when I really do have my cute face on and life somehow is working out in my favor. There are good days.
But just as often, I find myself at the bottom of a pit that I’ve run into, scurrying from one thing to another until messy is the only word that accurately describes my situations.
And on those days I am just a funny look away from falling at the face of my savior, crying out to the one who holds me no matter what. The one who takes my messy little life and redeems it. But the one who also just sits with me in the mess of it all, looks around and accepts me, laughing or crying.

One Is Silver and The Other Gold: A Friendship Narrative

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I wrote this a few months ago and just found it in my drafts. It seems everytime I read my drafts, God reminds me of the same lessons He has to teach me a thousand times before I get it. Enjoy. 

I sit and have coffee with a freshman girl today, and I fall in love with her spirit and love for the Lord.
I look back at my life and know that I was not where she is when I was her age, just over two years ago.
But I am somehow thankful that the path God takes each of us on is our own.
We talk and laugh and share.
We sip coffees (or in my case water) and tell bits and pieces of our stories.
We give each other a part of our hearts in this time together, sharing bits I wouldn’t hand out to any stranger, but to a sister, instead.
And not just a biological or tribe (MC’s version of a sorority, I feel like I explain that daily.) sister.
But a sister in that she’s one of those people that just gets you in a way that you can’t work out overtime.
It’s either there or it’s not, and we find that it’s there.

And now it’s late at night, hours after I swore to my roommate that I was going to bed.
But I just can’t get this idea of friendship out of my mind.
Because it’s one I’ve been chewing on for days if not weeks.
And today was a day of focus on many friendships.
Skyping with three of my favorite people, two across the sea in Spain and one sitting next to me.
Girls that together know more about me than I know about myself.
And the old roommate who I still call roommate and probably always will no matter if we live in the same room or 8,000 miles apart.
And there’s comfortability in these relationships. The friendships that you can jump right back into after months or maybe even years of being apart and yet it seems as if not even a day has passed.

And there’s the newer friendships. The ones that come from listening to His small whispers and stepping outside of comfort zones and pouring into another’s life. The people that come into your life and you just know will be around for a while. The easy friendships.

And then there are the hard ones. The ones you’d rather avoid. The girls that I say I’d love to love, but we both know we’d rather keep the other at a distance. And sometimes it’s because we challenge each other to be better than we are willing to be. And sometimes it’s because of past hurts we’d rather not dig up. Anger we’d rather let simply go back to the deep recesses of our minds. And sometimes that’s the best way. But sometimes the thing that He calls us to do is the same thing that hurts the most.

Because He didn’t just tell us to love those that are easy to love. But to love all. To serve everyone.

Because Jesus was hurt. He went through everything we have gone through and will go through. And He is walking next to us, holding our hands as we step through the mess that our own actions have created. He cleans up the mess of our own hearts and takes all of our junk and chunks it right out the window.

And in the areas of our lives where insecurities have made a cozy little home, the areas we won’t let others into because we don’t want them to realize just how messy we are, He doesn’t cover the mess. He gets rid of it. And it’s a process, and, in most cases, it’s lifelong. But He wants to do this.

Because He wants His people to come together. He wants relationships to thrive and futures to be secured in His love.

And the friendships that we counted as over, the relationships that we just knew we had no interest in cultivating, He brings those to life. The people we’ve written out of our lives, He writes back on our hearts. And in the moment when you least expect it, He sets to work His perfect plan and allows grace and redemption to shine through the ones that love Him and are willing to allow their lives to be more than just about their own glory.

–Hallie