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

The First Year.

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—
A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Over the past year, I’ve seen and experienced a lot of transition.
Friends have graduated college and started new jobs or professional school or graduate school or moved halfway around the country or halfway around the world. Friends have stayed put and gone to school or worked part time jobs or babysat.
Friends have gotten big boy and girl jobs which they loved and thrived in or hated and eventually quit. Friends have gotten married or broken up with the person they thought they might marry. Friends have stayed single or started new relationships.

And I think I can speak for my class when I say that we’ve all struggled somewhat to adjust to this new post-college world we’ve found ourselves in.

There have been days where we’ve gotten exactly what we hoped and prayed for and days that we’ve sat on the couch in tears for hours because it felt like nothing was ever going to go our way again. And sometimes those days were in the same week and sometimes those both occurred in the same hour.

This year alone, I’ve talked to more people that didn’t believe or think exactly what I believed and thought than in the past five or six or seven years of my life. And in a thousand ways, God has confirmed who He is, and in a thousand ways, God has confirmed how wrong I have been.

I’ve been wrong about plans and structure and what it means to live a happy life. I’ve been wrong about religious acts and church worship and what it means to be in relationship with the One who created this whole crazy world we’re living in. I’ve been wrong about what it is to be an adult and wrong about who I want to be and what it really looks like to love.

I’ve learned more about love than ever before this year. (And it’s the first year in six years that I wasn’t in a dating relationship at any point.) I’ve learned that love really is the answer and it really does win, but there’s a thousand different ways people try to express it and they aren’t always love.

I’ve learned that being an adult is hard, but I’ve been set up to thrive and empowered in a thousand ways. I’ve learned to be thankful, to God and all the people around because the world spins too fast to pretend like you have it all together most days. I’ve learned that self awareness is so important because you’l never be able to conquer the world on your own and you’ll make a big hot mess if you don’t acknowledge it and try instead. And my life has been the same and a thousand times different than I expected in a thousand beautiful and terrible ways.

I learned that writing is my best form of processing because my mind moves too fast and I need things in ink to remember that’s how I once felt, even when “once” was fifteen minutes ago. And sometimes there is a season where all the writing needs to be kept private and you tuck them deep down inside somewhere and pray that God allows you to share again sometime soon.

I learned to depend. That joy comes from somewhere deep inside of me that I do not control myself but that I get to choose the controller. I learned to take friends and status and family and accomplishment off the throne, no longer giving any of those things the ability to control me, and giving that control directly to the one who saves my life everyday if I simply ask.

And I’m a thousand times thankful for the lessons. A thousand times thankful for this year. A thousand times thankful for the pulled together and the mess.

And that’s that. What I learned in the first year of adult life minus a thousand lessons because who really has time for all the things that come out of the first year–which I’m praying is one of the harder years as I’ve heard people say it is, but thanking the One who made it what it was because it is the fire that leaves gold refined.

You are so incredibly loved.

–Hallie

P.s. I’m writing back here again now.
Because sometimes you admit that your plan wasn’t the best and you just want to come home.
And Sweet Tea Stories feels like home. 

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.

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.

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.

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