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.

Thanks. Again.

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In one of those yuck moods that warrants a thankfulness post. See this if you don’t know what I mean.

I’m thankful for this blog.
I’m thankful that I’ve written in such a public forum and for the impact it’s had in my life and others’ lives over the past two years.
I’m thankful for Africa and how God got me there.
I’m thankful I have a record of some of the highlights of my trip.
I’m thankful for coming home. And the rough transition it was.
I’m thankful that I couldn’t immediately mesh into old ways, and I’m somehow thankful for the struggle I felt in 2012.
I’m thankful that God pushed me, seemingly against my will and sensibilities, into a psychology major.
I’m thankful that I somehow better understand people and each of our intricacies and similarities now.
I’m thankful that He never gave up on me.

Thankful that so many people have never given up on me.
Thankful to have the most incredible support system.
For parents who encourage the impossible and love the unforgivable.
For two churches who have changed my life.
Thankful for one that I ran as fast as I could from, the same one God has pursued me through over and over again.
Thankful for one that I ran quickly to, the one that I’ve pursued and quit time and time again.
Thankful for a new opportunity to learn and grow and pursue Him next year.

I’m thankful for friendships.
With people like a guy friend who teared up (in the most manly way) because our friendship has meant something good in his life.
And girl friends with bright futures, ones that have held me in hard times, sisters (metaphorically and literally) that have my heart pulled across state lines and sometimes time zones.
I’m thankful for new relationships and breakups. Because they both teach us something crazy about ourselves. Thankful for reconciliation and friendships. Thankful that it all really does work out in the end.
Thankful for awkward silences and silly faces. For being the big sister that I’ve always wanted to be and that hopefully she needs.
Thankful for my family of constant cheerleaders. The ones that think I’m fantastic even when my life feels like it’s falling apart. Thankful for the ones that will love me no matter what. Even more thankful because I know now not everyone has that in their lives.

I’m thankful.

Thankful for you. For whoever you’ve been. For whoever you’ll one day be.

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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

Finding Peace.

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Peace.
What does it even mean to have peace?
To be calm and have a sense that everything is going to work out, even if the world is crazy around.
To sit quietly and listen to calming music.
To walk a little slower because is what you’re rushing to really important enough to get you frazzled?
To know that today might be a hard day, but tomorrow is a new one.
To look around and love the ones around you and love them well.
To speak the truth. And then sometimes not speak at all.
I’ve been learning lately to soak in peace, and not just when the world is perfect.
It’s an overwhelming sense of God working in all things.

It’s a focus on the Creator instead of the created.
It comes through piano music while studying, and taking a few minutes to walk home instead of drive. It’s the simple hymns sung by the choir.
It’s the Christmas spirit. Really beginning to understand it.
The waiting of advent. The striving for something you know you need so desperately.
And then on Christmas morning, that thing, that precious little baby boy, being sent into the world in such an unexpected yet truly wonderful perfection of prophecy.
I’m learning to live in the expectation. I’m learning to live in the perfection.
I’m learning to live in the mystery.

Merry Early Christmas.
–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

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

It’s been a few discouraging weeks, so time again for a thankfulness post. (Or ten.)
Instead of doing one big one, I’m going to start an ongoing list of thanks, of sorts.
Think One Thousand Gifts. (And if you haven’t read the book, go get it today.)

1. Home. And its ever changing definition.


Home this week has been my Lawson Street house and a couple hours each day where my head hit the pillow for far too few Z’s. Home is sing-a-longs with Kristen when we’re both too tired to function and a quick dinner with Linda’s spaghetti sauce–frozen and sent 200 miles because she knows there will be days like these. Home is the three hours between Clinton and Ocean Springs in my trusty Saturn. It’s blaring T-Swift, who I should be over but it’s still just not a roadtrip without her. Home is the brown sectional at my parent’s Pine Drive house and not replacing Say Yes to the Dress with the boy shows because they love me. Home is that white clapboard church on Ocean Avenue that you can still see the beach from, reminders of a storm that changed everything. Home is a hug from an old friend’s mom. Home is blue and grey and everything from license plates to cross country bags monogrammed with that OS symbol. Home is the people who understand why Krispy Kreme is sacreligious–those  who have waited outside that little yellow building for a donut and cried when a little girl an entire town prayed for went home to be with Jesus. Home is reminders that everything is not perfect, but that Jesus is there. Home is hard work and being the best and the little brother’s cross country team coming home with four trophies from the weekend meet to prove it. Home is love. Home is where I found Jesus this week.

I hope you have found a home like mine.

–Hallie