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

On anxiety and wrestling down monsters.

In eleventh grade, I got nauseous every Thursday.

Like clockwork, I could tell the day of the week by the lump in my throat and the queasiness of my stomach. My teachers had decided that Thursdays were test days, and it was the first year of my life, and maybe the last time too, that I worried about my abilities to do well on each and every test.

Halfway through the first semester, I had started to dread Thursdays, which would bring the lump and the queasiness a day early, and then I dreaded Wednesdays. And it never quite went away until after school on Fridays but then there were lots of social interactions that came with the weekends, and high school was just not my place, and I did my best to be actively against the underage drinking that got most kids through it, and so the lump and the queasiness was there on the weekends too. Sunday would come around and I may get a day off from the mind-racing but typically there were meetings for that high school sorority I just “had to” be a part of—and now I kind of agree with a commercial I saw recently where a guy said that women in groups is typically a bad thing, that they couldn’t ever pull off Oceans Eleven because two of them would have to keep stopping to talk about the other nine—and so there was anxiety on Sundays too.

And eleventh grade came and went, and at the end we burned all the pages of work that had caused the queasiness and the lump, and I thanked the heavens that it was all over… for the time being anyway.

Anxiety. It’s this silent wrecking ball that dangles its crushing force above my head when life gets overwhelming.

And sometimes, like ninth grade and Katrina and losing best friends because I couldn’t be civil when all the mess was up in my head and sophomore year of college when the world ran too fast and all the commitments became exhausting, I have believed the lies that rule my mind and I have let them wreck my world.

After Katrina, I starting seeing a counselor for the first time—which, by the way, if you ever tell me you have any type of problem, I’ll probably suggest a counselor. They’re lifesavers and best friends and moms and—best of all—they’re impartial. And everyone needs a good one for the times that the waves get high. And she told my mom that I wasn’t depressed but I was anxious. A year and a half later—after a long period of denial on my part—I started taking anxiety medicine. It got me through that junior year of grade anxiety and test anxiety and social anxiety and all the other anxieties wrapped into one, and that summer I went off to work at YoungLife camp and finally felt free once again. I stopped needing the medicine because there wasn’t anything to be anxious about, and senior year was a breeze compared to junior and the medicine got tossed out when it expired unused. And somewhere in there, I believed my fight with anxiety was over.

But what noone told me—or I never really “heard”—was that anxiety is a lifelong battle. And so when life got hard sophomore year and senior year and my first year out of college, I blamed it on the people around me or on God or my poor decision making abilities, not on anxiety.

Just recently I’ve been learning that the fight is on-going and it is daily. I’ve been learning that I get to control my walk with anxiety if I make it a priority. If I give it to Jesus. And I don’t want to hyper-spiritualize it. Because giving it to Jesus looks less like simply handing it over in my mind and a lot more like WWE with KLove in the background. It’s listening to Christian music when all day CNN at the office has made me question the world.

It’s reading my Bible when I do not want to. Going to the truth in scripture when my to-do list is a thousand items long and everything inside me tells me that it would be checking off items that would make me less anxious, not sitting seemingly idle and reading a book—even one that I know has life-changing power. It’s being in community and asking hard questions and giving hard answers when the questions are asked of me. It’s having people and sending quick text messages in the midst of the storm and then sometimes it’s laying in a hammock in our front yard and reading a book because “why not?”. Recognizing what I’m doing with Dot is good and great and wonderful, and I’m so thankful to be a part of it, but recognizing it’s not meant to be my entire life. Because then I’m back to eleventh grade when school and acing the social world was my life and that caused anxiety Wednesday to Sunday, and I simply don’t have time for that anymore.

—Hallie

(I’m starting this new thing where I write everyday, partly wrestling down the anxiety monster, partly because I really love writing. So if you’re subscribed, prepare to get more emails in your inbox. I’m also trying this new thing where I don’t apologize for things that don’t need apologies, so instead of saying “Sorry!” for the emails and posts, I’ll say “I hope you enjoy them!”.)