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

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

The Mississippi Gulf Coast: A Tribute

I grew up in a place where the world moves just a little bit slower and the air always smells of salt and heat. A place where “Gone fishing” is an acceptable reason for closing a business because it’s understood that sometimes the only thing you can do is get on a boat and head to Horn. I’m from a place where wind-blown, dirty hair and sandy skin is indicative of a day of the best therapy you can imagine.

It’s New Orleans mixed with Fairhope and Mayberry and a tiny bit of Jackson that we wring out each year at Mardi Gras. It’s getting the question “Why don’t you sound like you’re from Mississippi?” and having to explain that the coast isn’t quite what you hear about the south. It’s spending weekends on the water, longing for summer no matter what time of the year it is.

It’s bringing new people home, that first semester of college or when you’ve been gone thirty-something years. The understanding that everyone you know would be just a little bit better after eating a Tato-Nut. It’s the strength of community you find in the midst of tragedy. Strength that comes with rebuilt homes and lives every half-a-century. It’s feeling tragedy deep and hard and understanding that it’s not you against the world but that you’ve got a tribe behind you in your darkest moments. It’s being there for people, through prayers and fundraisers and tears.

It’s a love of the water that gets in your blood. Not even the people or memories quite draw you home like the need to feel sand beneath your toes and feel the tingling of skin drawn warm and red after a day in the sun. It’s turning on country music as soon as you hit I10 and the wind that rushes through your hair as you ride that boat or jet ski further and further from land.

It’s the smile that comes over your face when people not from the coast talk about the dirty water and lack of waves. It’s the understanding that there is really something much more precious beyond the beaches. Something that you miss out on when you simply throw your towel out and bake in the sun in Destin or Gulf Shores. That our waterways are what makes us special. The bayous and rivers. The islands and sandbars. Neighborhoods that might look like anywhere else in America but hold secrets in their backyards like a warm watery Narnia yearning to be explored.

It’s something about coming home for festivals, crawfish boils and your little brother’s high school homecoming, driving first down the beach before turning the car toward the neighborhoods—because somehow the sand and saltwater is just as much home as the buildings ever will be.

It’s a lifestyle, not just a location. Filled with loving people well through food and entertainment. It’s where your parents are and, if you’re lucky, your grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles. It’s the most beautiful place in the world and the place you’d never move back to—until you’re thirty-five with kids. It’s unlocked front doors and riding your bike to the farmer’s market downtown. It’s festivals every weekend and crawfish boils all spring. It’s small town life with the big town amenities just far enough away across bridges and down interstates.

It’s big trucks that pull boats and convertibles for little ladies with deep tans. It’s taking time. To smell the saltwater and laugh with old friends. It’s the secret gem at the bottom of that landmass between Louisiana and Alabama. The beautiful set of towns just down Hwy 49 from Hattiesburg and Jackson. Just east of New Orleans.

It’s Ocean Springs and Biloxi and Gulfport and Pascagoula. It’s the Mississippi Gulf Coast and it’s home no matter where the postman brings my mail.

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.

Right Now.

chudphoto.files.wordpress.com:2012:03:summer-dave-003
Drinking water, in an attempt to get all fit and healthy.
Feeling on the brink of something cool.
Appreciating good people in so many areas of my life.
Reading Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie.
Craving some answers. Come on, God.
Watching a little too much Hulu. Thank you social networking break.
Going a million miles a minute.
Laughing at the goodness of my God.
Eating about the 300th pb&j of this year.
Dreaming big and bold and exciting.
Waiting on God to open and shut doors.
Planning as if it depended on me.
Praying because it depends on Him.
Sleeping better now that I’m home from the weekend. Hotel beds are not fun.
Missing my sister.
Wearing what’s clean. I’m pretty sure some of my laundry has been in the dirty clothes bin for a month. Don’t judge.
Working. And really enjoying my job a whole lot.
Getting ready for this new phase of life to start.
Loving this season of potential.
Acknowledging my inability to be invested in many different areas well.
Enjoying a few more months of college.
Thankful for the past four years.

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