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. 

Advertisements

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.

Life: Backwards and Forwards.

life-can-only-be-understood-backwards-but-must-be-lived-forward

How ever true and deep does that quote feel in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing and the Sandy Hook tragedy and the Aurora Colorado shooting and… and… and…

It feels like I’m living on edge lately. Knowing the next tragedy is right around the corner. Feeling like it’s personal tragedy that’s coming. Wondering Worrying about the future. Knowing our country can’t handle the state it’s in for too much longer.

We’re too broken, too crushed, too divided, too sad.
We’ve raised a generation of people unable to deal with the world around them. Individuals that resort to violence because they see no other way of getting their demons out.
And this is absolutely no excuse for the horrible tragedies that were caused by people and have rocked our country again and again. Absolutely not a suggestion that the pain that has been caused by these people is not real and alive and burning like a bonfire on a cold night.

But it makes you wonder, you know, when three national tragedies have occurred since last July when I sat in the breakfast room of a Georgia hotel at the end of a long week of praising Jesus with High Schoolers and heard on the news the sheer terror in a movie theater thousands of miles away. It makes you wonder where we’ve gone wrong. Makes you wonder where we’re headed.

And I refuse to be an apologist, with words that stick like a bandaid when your wound is full of gangrene and what you really need is an amputation.
What you really need is to be cared for. To be loved.
And all the words in the world and the conspiracy theories and “positive thoughts” don’t mean much to the mom who lost her son just minutes after he hugged his father on his best-day-gone-so-very-wrong.
And it doesn’t matter so much who did it if we can’t stop it from happening again.
Because the pain will keep on coming if we’ve lost the strength to defeat evil.

And a day, for sure, is coming that Jesus will destroy the evil in the world, once and for all.
A day is coming where loneliness and hatred and fear and just straight Satan will no longer cause the devastation that flashes across Twitter and burns straight into our hearts.
A day is coming where we will no longer be afraid.
Where the only thing to fear will be not knowing Jesus.
And I assure you that will be something to fear.

But what about today?
The day after. The day before.
When America is again in shock, wondering how this could happen in the home of the Brave.
Wondering what it will take to get back to normal.
What it will take to feel secure again.
Because the list of places we can feel safe is getting smaller and smaller.
And kids sit with anxiety in classrooms where their attention is less on the subject and more on the possibilities.
And I don’t go to the movies as much anymore because I know I’ll continuously glance at the door below that glowing Exit sign, trying to convince myself that I’m in Clinton, Mississippi and things like that just don’t happen here.
But noone ever thinks it’ll happen to them.
Rare is the day that any regular person wakes up and thinks, “Today, I will make national headlines,” or “Today is the one that will change my history.”

“Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.”

And today that means I’m praying for those affected by the Boston Marathon bombing.
Today, it means I’m hugging my dad a little tighter and planning more time at home.
Today, it means I’m soaking up memories with my best friends who will soon be dispersed across the south.
Today, it means I’m reflecting and loving and understanding.
I’m praising Jesus for the now because I can’t control my tomorrow.
It means I’ll be scared but not defeated.
Anxious but overcoming.
Holding onto the one who holds it all.

–Hallie

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

Travel.

travel

If I could give you just one piece of advice, it would be to travel.
If I could tell you one thing, beyond the story of Jesus and His great love for you, it would be to get out of your comfort zone.
It would be to go. Beyond where you’ve been. To places you’ve only heard of. To places you’ve only dreamed of. The ones you first saw in that third grade textbook.
I would tell you to leave. Leave where you’re comfortable. Take that first tiny step. Go ahead. Right now.
Leave your job. Leave your home. Leave your city.
Give up your comfort. Spend all your money. Abandon your lifestyle. Live in a tent under the stars. If that’s what it takes.
Get away. Watch your feet land on a new piece of earth, a thousand miles away or just down the street.
Let your mind spin and your head hurt and the tears flow.
Let your assumptions shatter as you meet the contradictions of your whole way of thinking, your entire way of life.
Travel. Next door or to the next continent. But do it. Now.
Tell your story. Ask people what makes them who they are.
And when you ask, listen. Really listen.
Put the iPhone away. The world will wait. Your life is more than the Instagrammed pictures you’re known for. The person in front of you has a story, and they want to share it right here and now. It could change your life, if you’re listening.
Open your ears. Open your eyes. Breathe in, and recognize who you are. Recognize who they are. A creation of the One who only makes perfection. A product of sin. A product of love.
Travel. To know what makes you feel alive. To strip away your comfort. The things that keep you where you are. The things that keep you from clarity.
Travel. To know love. To know life. To know that America isn’t all there is. But to know that America isn’t all bad either. Travel to understand your blessings. Travel to understand your God.
Travel far and wide. Get real and see life get messy. Travel where you want to go. Travel where you’d rather stay away from. But whatever you do, travel. 

–Hallie