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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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

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

Jesus is enough.

I realized Jesus was enough on a Wednesday over a busy Christmas break.

I realized He was enough after a long hard semester of trying to do things right. 
Trying to be good enough.

I realized Jesus was enough when I didn’t go to Christmas eve service with my family this year.
(Sick and recovering from finals and a crazy busy December, I stayed home, sleeping through the Christmas cantata that has come to be a marker of the holiday season.
Later that night, though, my mom and I made it to the “almost” midnight service.)

I realized He was enough in that pew in my jeans with dog hair on my sweater.
When, for the first time ever, Christmas Eve wasn’t the biggest church day of the year.
When it wasn’t about the 40 member choir or the standing-room only service.
When I heard “Mary Did You Know” echo through that beautiful white building that has seen so much of my life.
I realized it with tears in my eyes. 

He was enough when the Christmas trip wasn’t the one that saved me.
When the plans didn’t fall into place like I had hoped.
I realized He was enough when life went on.
When new dreams began to surface.
Ones that fit who He had created me to be.
At least for now. 

Sometimes, life seems to be exactly what we’ve dreamed of. It feels like a movie and we’re the character everyone wants to win. Sometimes, we get lucky, and God agrees that whatever we’re asking for is actually what is best for us. Best for His kingdom. Those are the easy days.

But my favorite days are different. My favorite days are the ones when everything falls apart so something much bigger can fall together. My favorite days come after months of tears and  pain. They come when victory is tangibly sweeter because it’s been fought for. Because it’s been tough.

My favorite days are the ones when life comes together in a way opposite of which you had prayed and hoped for.
They are the days, years from now, that you look back on and say “Oh, now I understand.”
It’s when you understand that things had to go a certain way in order for life to wind up exactly how it was supposed to be, whatever that means.
You appreciate what you have and what you’ve had because you can see the fingerprints of the One who has been working it all out.
And He gets the glory and that’s a really good thing because you’ve never known how to handle compliments and congratulations and you’d for sure mess it up if it was yours.

These are my favorite days. These are when I realize, again and again, that Jesus really is enough.

–Hallie

Then come back home.

A continuation of sorts of my Travel post. Read that first.

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Travel. All day long. All year if that’s what it takes. Travel far and wide.
Soak up all you can. See the sights. Talk to the people. Love where you are.
Travel. Across the country. Across the world. But, for sure, across your mind.
Recognize that God has made you to be exactly who you are. And there’s no need to cover any of that up.
Travel so you know the world. Travel so you know yourself.

And then, come back home.

Return to where you belong. Return for your family. Return for the love.
Return for the hot tears that stream down your face when you see your brother and sister for the first time in three months.
Return for the hugs. The ones that remind you what you have. The ones that make you hold on tight.
Return for the Diet Coke and the jeans and being known. Return because you are loved. Return for rest.
Return with the understanding that you aren’t the same, but neither is where you’re returning to.
Return because coming home brings its own adventure. Return because God has a lesson to teach you where it all began.
Return and trust. That he’s still holding you when things seem boring and life is “normal”.
Return and remember that life isn’t about always being entertained or excited. It’s about being faithful.
Return and remember you’ve still got a purpose. Return but never forget.
Return and get ready. Because your life isn’t over. It has just begun.