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

Prodigal.

Image

“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.

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

Image

source

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

Then come back home.

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

extra 329

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.

2012.

2012.
You have been a year. You have been a weird year.


You have entwined into my being a true understanding that if it’s not eternal, it’s not of much worth.
You have taught me the power of patience.
You have taught me to live and love life in situations that I don’t love.
You have taught me to be wrong, oh so wrong, and to admit it graciously and repetitively.
You have taught me to speak. Boldly.
You have taught me fearlessness in the midst of great fear.
You have taught me to get out of situations that aren’t right. To chase ones that are. To let go. To let God.
You have once again reminded me how powerful He is.
You have changed me in ways I didn’t want to be changed.
You have grown me beyond where I wanted to grow.
Made me accept and forgive beyond what I was willing.
You have shown me joy. Of children and adults.
You have shown me love. Beyond my wildest dreams.
You have loved me well. In conversations and in actions.
You have taught me to sit back. To let go. To give up.
You have reminded me of Mary. So many times.
Giving up all the craziness of life to do what was “better”. Even when that made no sense to anyone but me.

You have taught me how to fail.
I have lost a school-wide election, ended a relationship, and have no real plans after May.
You taught me to lose. That it isn’t about being the best. That it’s more about love than I’d like to imagine.
Plans are made perfect in the last moment so we can learn to depend on God in each one.
You have taught me that being like Christ is always better than being right.
You have taught me to cling to Jesus. With everything I am.
You have surprised me over and over again and reminded me just how much more I still have to learn.

You have been a year.
A year of growth and dealing with the pains of not yet being “there”, but being good with whatever “there” is today.
Thanks 2012. I owe you.

–Hallie

Messy.

source

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.