$366 + $120 = everything.

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I run this really cool company called Dot. It’s named after my grandmother (that’s the first thing people usually ask), and we sell school supplies and fund education for kids around the world. I came up with the concept in college, developed it during an internship at my college church in my first year after graduation, and launched it late last summer, just in time for the “back to school” rush. It’s been a whirlwind and a learning experience; each day I know a little more about business and giving and loving people than I did the day before, and I really love it a lot.

In entrepreneurship, there’s a lot of hurry up and wait. A lot of times when you don’t see the fruit of your labor for a while. Where you work really hard and wonder if any of it actually matters, and then you wait six months and you know somehow exactly why that happened–and then sometimes you never know. I think that’s probably true about a lot more than just entrepreneurship, but I’ve been learning about entrepreneurship lately so that’s what it’s about to me.

The past few weeks, as the year has wound down and I’ve gotten more convinced of my need to have everything straightened out business-wise before the end of the year (and more anxious about my lack of business skills), I’ve been buying things that we needed and paying other things off, trying to get everything settled before New Years, and one thing that was certainly settling was our Dot bank account. It wasn’t super concerning because Christmas sales would make things up (and really I’m still a little excited every time we get an order), but my desire is to make Dot my full-time gig in February/March, and as our bank account kept going down, I was starting to get a little worried about that potential. Questioning if some opportunities coming up in the next year that would require me to quit my job were really the right thing to be chasing or if I needed to stay in the safe zone of getting a for-sure-bi-weekly paycheck for a little while longer.

Tonight, I went back to the church where I spent so much time developing Dot last year and shared our vision with the middle school ministry. It was rewarding and ridiculously fun (and it made me feel like middle schoolers today are a heck of a lot cuter than I ever was in middle school. What happened to poofy hair, glasses, and braces? But anyway…). It costs $365 for a child to go to school with our partners in Mexico and Tanzania, and the kids were generous with their purchases and donations, so I knew we would be able to send at least one child to school from tonight. All this, and the back-of-the-mind nagging about finances, was in my mind as I got home and began to count the money in the donations jar.

$20, $40, $60, $80, $100. I did this three times. And then another $60. And then a spare $5. And then a $1. $366 donated. Which is $1 more than $365, the amount it costs to send a kid to school. And for some reason, I don’t think in any way that was a coincidence. Because with that $1, He somehow showed my anxious mind that He would provide. Not just enough for the things I wanted to do–sending one kid in Matamoros to school–but just even more than that. Which is what my heart needed. And then I moved my computer (which was sitting on a disorganized pile that is my room/Dot HQ) and saw the envelope that had been handed to my sister as she stood at the table with product tonight by a middle school girl that wanted a journal and to give a donation, please. And when I saw that, I laughed. Because the money in the envelope had not been included in my calculations. And that little girl had given $120. By. Herself. Enough for three months of school. And God reminded me that He doesn’t just give us $1. He gives us $1 in the exact moment we need it and then pours down $120 when we recognize the blessing we had in the $1.

And this may not make sense to anyone else. It may seem like a silly over exaggeration of a coincidence, but it was enough for me tonight. It was enough to remind me that He cares, because tonight, a group of 200+ middle school kids got together and their donations and purchases will be enough to send two kids to school in Mexico, and the words that I told them about “making a difference in their little decisions” ring true. Because two kids will don uniforms and have a bookbag full of school supplies they might not otherwise have, because of that group of kids. And that’s cool. So freaking cool.

So thanks Pinelake Middle School Ministry and Jesus, for reminding this little girl that He is generous and able to provide when we walk in the things He’s calling us to. Thanks for being the “hands and feet” (clap, clap. stomp, stomp.) of Jesus tonight.

Go do those things. You won’t regret it.

–Hallie.

The first year.

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Almost six months into the second year, and I needed to write this. Before I could write anything else, to get this one out. I’ve been trying for a while, but today it happened and it could be better but I’m good with it just being. –H.

Saying “your first year out of college is really hard” to a person in their senior year is like telling a senior in high school that “freshman year will be so much fun”. They get it. They hear it over and over, in fact. But they still find themselves completely unsure of what to do when mom and dad pull away from campus and they’re really left all alone. They eventually figure it out, and probably have a little too much fun in the meantime, but they walk away, typically, without better words to explain the phenomena they’ve just experienced. You’ll hear them say to new high school grads “freshman year is so much fun.”

Being a college grad is the opposite of fun, at first anyway. You realize you know absolutely nothing, and this time mom and dad drive away it’s a little less exciting and a little more terrifying. Over the course of the year, you figure it out, typically with a few more tears than the years previous, and at the end of the year, you chalk it up to the first year out of college and celebrate the beginning of a new season, one in which you actually might know a little bit of what you’re doing.

My first year out of college came and went just like that. It was messy and hard and overwhelming, and I look back and realize it was 75% all up in my head. I worked for a wonderful church that was going through a lot of transition, and sometimes I got stuck in the cracks of transition. And it was just what I needed. It was the first time in my life that I wasn’t a superstar. The first time that I didn’t own the world and feel competent to run it with my bare hands.

I learned a lot about who I was and who I wasn’t. I began to understand my desire for autonomy as a personal need–the way in which I was created to fill my place in the world–instead of an inability to submit to authority, something I haven’t quite figured all the way out yet. I learned about submission and seasons and what it looks like to be fully alive in a situation you don’t like. (I learned from failure on that last one.)

Actually, I learned from failure a lot that year. I learned what it was to be just alright at something and that be enough. To depend on God and for God not to come through in the way you thought He would–with miracles and lightning bolts–but to see His movement just the same. I learned that, in some seasons, my fingers can’t type in this space because my brain can’t process in a way that would work itself out onto a screen without phone calls from a worried mom and questioning hearts from those on the edges.

I learned to embrace, however, that I am a writer. That it’s a part of me. Not just something I choose because I enjoy it, but the way in which I best process. I learned even more that I’m a planner. Of events and situations and businesses. That I thrive on it all. Because Dot was created in that first year. Really created. She went from a developed idea in a classroom to a line of products I could hold in my hand in that year. She became tangible and overwhelmingly good in that year.

I don’t have answers for you first-years. Other than to say it does kind of suck, and it will get better. I don’t have answers other than to say that you aren’t crazy, and then sometimes you really are, and that’s okay too. That there’s a plan in it all, and you’ve got to walk it out, and even the really scary parts that you’re not sure could end up good, ever, they’ll be good somehow too. Somehow, you’ll be thankful. So that’s the first year. And the blocks that stacked together to make the second one that much sweeter.

’til next time.
–Hallie

Why Community Matters: On puzzle pieces and finding friendship in late night Kroger runs.

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It always happens this exact same way.

There’s something I need to talk to someone about. The something is very specific. It’s a situation with a person or an event that I’m not quite sure how to deal with. It nags my mind almost constantly for a week or so–sometimes longer–and I just can’t quite figure it all out. I want resolution. I think and “pray” about it a lot. There is no resolution. There is no movement. I sit and dwell and “wait”.

And somewhere in my heart I know that God clearly is saying, in the way he unaudibly says things, “tell your community about this”.

But I think He must be saying, “think more about this on your own and try to figure it out and look for signs and…. DON’T TELL ANYONE. THEY WON’T UNDERSTAND AND YOU NEED TO FIGURE IT ALL OUT ON YOUR OWN.”

God looks lovingly down and actively whispers the answer as I, once again (remember, I said this “always happens the exact same way”. That means this isn’t my first rodeo, kiddo.) run in circles when the straight path is clearly in front of me. I email random people that don’t know me—because that totally makes more sense than telling the ones that LOVE ME for the CRAZY that I am, but whatever. I look for guidance in blogs and books and even the Bible—sometimes I get desperate and actually turn to things that are healthy for me.

At the back of my mind, I know I should “tell my community about this” whatever that means. But I come up with excuses, like I don’t feel like I actually have friends—which is total BS (excuse my abbreviations)—or they’re too busy or blah, blah, blah, and I RUN IN LOTS OF CRAZY CIRCLES and feel like nothing is ever going to be resolved. I feel like I’m always going to be sitting on the tarmac waiting to take off—which is the WORST because I love flying and I love getting to where we’re going and waiting on the tarmac is the EXACT opposite of both of those.

Pause. I have a tendency toward drama. My friends and family know this, but I need you all to know this. Because my mom worries about me and the things I share on the internet. And I need her to know that we ALL acknowledge that I’m being a little bit silly and overdramatic. But people love drama. That’s why reality TV exists. So there’s my disclaimer, Mom. Don’t drive up to Jackson with tissues. Unpause.

And then, typically in a moment that I’m a little bit grumpy and a lot frustrated and kind of just over the world—and usually God too—a friend steps in.

Always. This is how it always happens.

And I usually almost say no to whatever situation it is that they are inviting me to, because being alone seems like it would feel a lot better than being around people, but I don’t—because I’m a good human being/have major FOMO. And at some point in the conversation, it turns to the thing that I’ve been needing to talk to someone about and I spill all the guts and wait anxiously for my friend to tell me I’m crazy.

But they don’t. They never do.

They point out the truths in my words and they point out the lies. And they usually say one very specific thing that they have no idea will have the impact it does and it’s the one tiny piece that I’ve been needing to complete the puzzle that’s been jumbled all over my mind. The one piece I couldn’t figure out on my own. The reason that God has been saying “tell your community”.

And with it all on the table, I’m able to piece it together. Able to process the things I couldn’t process. Able to step lightly over the hurdles that felt like mountains just two days before.

And I’m realizing lately that community might not always look like a group of best friends that you do everything with. Your community might be all over the country and “getting together” may look like Skype dates or late night last minute runs to Kroger because someone needs lemons and why not make a Kroger run into a friend-date. It may look differently than it’s ever looked before, and that’s good, because right now life looks differently than it’s ever looked before.

But I need them. Community. People. The ones with the puzzle pieces I don’t have. The ones with the words I haven’t yet thought of. The ones that God calls me to tell the things that I can’t quite figure out on my own. We each need those people. We each need the puzzle pieces they hold and the strong hands that help us put it all back together when we can’t do it on our own.

Find your people. Reach out and hold them tight. Tell them your stories. Tell them the crazies. Let them fill in the puzzle pieces you’ve been running after.

–Hallie

Wrote this last year in a busy, crazy, whirlwind season of ministry. Stumbled upon it today and realized how incredibly good God is and how He works in the long term. Couldn’t have today as it is without yesterday as it was.

Sometimes I get angry with God for not showing up when I expect.

And then He blows my mind with His goodness,
And I remember how little I am and how good he is.

Today I worked ten hours. Minus about thirty minutes at lunch in which I ran home and grabbed my phone charger for the dead phone sitting in my purse since our devotional time at nine this morning.

I’m doing things I love so ten hours flashes fast.
But it was, for sure, a full day of emails and phone calls, meetings and spreadsheets, that ended with sitting in on marital counseling, right before I clocked out and walked thirty steps into a prayer time and our Wednesday evening service.

Our Wednesday service has become a time of prayer.
A time that I look forward to each week, and I walked into the room with a full head and a desiring heart.
But it was one of those days where you sit in the wrong spot and have disjointed conversations and you’re tense and cold and somehow prayer feels more like you’re talking to the ceiling than to the Creator of the Universe.
(And let me know if I’m the only one who sometimes has those days.)

And I got a little grumpy with God.
A little annoyed when the sermon didn’t just rock my world and the notes that I took were rewriting Bible verses that fell on my cold deaf ears.
Because I’m just starting to learn that ministry isn’t just about Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. It isn’t about the service but instead the relationships that come in between. But the stubborn girl inside of me hasn’t grasped it yet, and I just wanted God to speak somehow tonight. But God always has a different plan than the one I dream up, and somehow His is always ridiculously better.

When the invitation (a Baptist tradition this Presby-Tist has grown to love) came, I walked down as a hesitant first time decision counselor, standing against the wall less expectant than I should have been. But I was placed to pray in a group with a girl just my age, excited because she had just understood knowing Jesus for the first time, and further conversation led to the realization that she was a dear friend of a friend of mine. Which led to a text message shot across a parking lot into the next town where my friend read my words with excitement and picked up the phone to hear more about our time. And it turned out that the “harvest is great” where she now studies, close to our college town but far from anything resembling our college experience.

And tonight I got to talk about the bizarreness of half-grown-up life where things are so close to being the same and yet so separate in worlds and understanding. It made me excited because it proves that there is potential, and the sermon about Joy that I was annoyed with rings loudly in my ears because I realize for the first time that I have a perspective that not all hold, and yet I want to share it with all. I have the potential to be a reckoning force in the world for my Savior if I just shoot the text messages and sit in the Kroger parking lots and laugh when people need laughter and speak wisdom when all they have are a pile of misunderstandings.

I thank God that He comes through even when I’ve given up. That he lets me go to the valley so I recognize the greatness of the heavens once again. That the valleys are much higher than they could be. That he’s allowing me to be a part of other people seeing the holy in their day to day. That he’s allowing me to be a small part of bringing his everlasting Kingdom to this earth.

–Hallie

Loved well.

She realized, one day, that she had forgotten how to live.
In the hustle and bustle, forgotten what it meant to enjoy conversation over a meal instead of seeing food as the gas that kept her body-vehicle moving.

And in that moment, she chose to not hold at a distance the things the world held dear.

She chose to embrace and to try to understand.
To enjoy the creation her Creator had perfectly put together.
She chose to believe that she was such a creation.
She chose to love instead of hate, even when hate seemed to be the prescribed “love”.
To drink deep the moments that fly by.
To dance to the drum of a slightly different beat.
To edge closer and closer to the Artist of the night.
To edge closer and closer to the reason for her creation.

She chose to dance.
Each day and night. Into the dark and into the light.
She chose to embrace.
When it was easier to let go. To push away.
The laughter and pain. The troubles and joy.
She chose to love.
Like she had been loved.
Because, oh, had she been loved well.

Psalm 96:1-6

“Sing a new song to the Lord! 
Let the whole earth sing to the Lord!
Sing to the Lord; praise his name. 
Each day proclaim the good news that he saves.
Publish his glorious deeds among the nations,

Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.
Great is the Lord! He is most worth of praise!
He is to be feared above all gods.
The gods of the other nations are mere idols,
but the Lord made the heavens!
Honor and majesty surround him;
strength and beauty fill his sanctuary.”
–Psalm 96:1-6

Truly, I have found it to be that He is good and glorious. 
Truly, I have found it to be that His works are worthy of our praise.

Over the past three real years of living life with God, I have seen miracles happen, and I have seen moments where it felt like God didn’t do enough. Moments of great, incredible joy, and equal moments of complete brokeness and pain. 
And yet He is. He is good. He is working. He is relevant and alive. He reigns in the highest highs and the lowest lows. He desires to pull us from the wreckage. He desires to hear us call out His name above all other names. He is our saving grace. 

Some days the world gets dirty and scary and I hear stories of bombings and war and lost children and hurting communities. I walk beside people who are hurting and I beg God to give us wisdom to say the right thing. To not make the situation worse. To not use my tongue against myself. And sometimes He tells me to be quiet. Sometimes He tells me not to speak at all. And those are the hardest moments. Usually. Because I have a thousand words that seem like they would help. A thousand words that I am sure they need to hear. But I’m learning lately the difference between what I think someone needs to hear and what they really need. My propensity to wander down paths where good does not live comes mostly in my thought and speech life. Mostly in the words that surround my world. 

And I’m learning to come back to Jesus. Learning that my world can be turned around when I do. That He can redeem anything if I take the time to give it to Him. And it looks, most days, like putting my phone down when it seems like every other post makes me cringe with jealousy or judgement. And the word I’m clinging to lately is Joy. Replacing the other words that the enemy likes to crack over my head.

Joy, in the moments where God tangibly provides. 
In the past two months, the sales and donations of my little brainchild have raised enough money to send THREE kids to school this year! 

Joy, in the moments where nothing seems to go the way I’m trying to make it go.
In the past week, we haven’t had a single sale. 

Joy, to believe there truly is a “hope and a future” in Christ. 
Around the world, people are aching. Over war and death and conflict. And it’s effecting my own backyard. It’s effecting my hometown and my current home. It’s real and tangible and it hurts. 

Joy, to see His redemption come. 
I get the chance–through Dot–to be a tiny part of the redeeming work of a country who has gone through pain like I could never imagine. On Sunday, I had dinner with the president of our Congo partner. He told me the story of his country, and it broke my heart and made me rethink the “struggle” I believe I’ve faced sometimes. Pain is pain, and mine is legitimate. But there is bigger things if I open my heart and eyes to the world around. 

And I’m looking to find joy in all the nooks and crannies of my life. Looking expectantly for it to arrive. Rejoicing when it does. Rejoicing when He shows up. Hoping to be a small voice that points to love and joy and peace in the midst of the turmoil all around. Hoping to exemplify the words of Psalm 96:3. 

–Hallie

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