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

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Scarred: my redemption story.

sunrise

More than anything, this one is for my parents and my people. God is good. All the time. 

My life began in September of 1991 and just a few months later, I was marked with a scar and a story that has distinguished my neck and parts of my life for the past 22 years. I was just over a year old, in the walking-and-into-everything phase, when I grabbed a pot of very-hot-water and forever changed the composition of my then-very-little frame.

For those of you who don’t know the story, I was at my babysitter’s house (the most wonderful woman in the world, still to this day) when my curiosity overcame any sense, and I toddled to the stove in a brief moment of freedom from the ever-prying eyes of the adult world. I grabbed the handle to a pot of boiling tea-water and it poured all over me. I was rushed to the hospital where we spent the next few weeks with skin grafts and burn dressings and riding from treatment to treatment in a little red Radio Flyer. Those are the things I remember if I remember anything at all. (At this point, most of my recollection comes from pictures of the event, not the actual thing.) I ended up with about an adult hand worth of then-pink, now-white scarring on my neck and around my collar bone. It was a traumatic time in the life of my family and left me timid of pain and extreme heat. Other than that, we came out of the whole situation pretty scotch-free and, with it being so early on in my history, have rarely called it to mind other than when kids at school would question the scar. 

Lately, though, I’ve been thinking a lot about life and growing up and adulthood and the weight that you carry when you step even just into being responsible for yourself, much less a family or a house or a business. I’ve been thinking about parenting—not because that’s something I’m about to walk into, far from it, but starting a business is somehow a little like being a parent and it’s got me thinking about how it all works out—and my focus multiple times has come to that moment when my parents rushed into that hospital with their 1 ½ year old, burned up and down by boiling water poured across my tiny body.It’s only recently that it has become something I think about often. Only recently because I’ve realized its significance in my life. You see, for a long time, I focused on the medical facts. The boiling water, the little fingers, the shaving my baby head—which may explain the weird desire I have to one day shave my head and see what’s under there—the skin graft… the specific details of what happened medically. But as I’ve become an adult over the past year, I’ve realized the complexity of the whole ordeal. The love that was poured out. The people who would have come around. The story I had before I could even know it. The story I’ve been told a thousand times. The story that’s hitting my heart big and bold recently.

You see, I was only a year old when a church of a thousand came together to pray for the specific healing of a sweet baby girl of a young Physical Therapist and Financial Planner. I was only a year old when my parent’s small group met us at the hospital before we were even able to get there. In a day and time before cell phones, the phone trees had worked and the people who cared were there and they loved hard and fast. I was only a year old when I was the object of the kind of viral prayer that would be blowing up Facebook if it had been 2014 instead of 1992.

And I can’t imagine the weight of the whole situation. I hope I never have to feel the weight. But I think I was given something beautiful in that moment. I think my parents were given something that only comes in tragedy.

They were given a real picture of how much they were loved, and I am again, years later, when I think about all that I’ve heard about those moments. Before they could even make it to the hospital there was a waiting room full of people praying. Full of people that loved them. Full of people who dropped everything to get on their knees and hold my parents in their arms while doctors shaved and cut and their little girl’s body was forever reminded of her own propensity to wander. Through the heartache they were comforted with the kind of love that comes only through the struggle, only through the striving.

Twenty-one years away from that moment and I’m learning through it today. Twenty-one years away and I am realizing the power of God. Not mean and manipulative to strike down an innocent child but loving and long-suffering for the sake of His children. The kind that allows something to happen to a child so that years later she can point to it as a turning point. A turning point that occurred even before she was old enough to turn without wobbling on her two little legs.

My scars are reminders of that day. My scars are reminders of His faithfulness to heal. Because I have no lasting consequences of that burning water minus the light marks that grace the skin beneath my face, and I think He put them where He did because He knew I’d be a little bit vain. Knew I’d spend my fair share of time in the mirror. Knew I’d try to look like everyone else, try to cover up and hide what I saw as my brokeness for years. And I think he gave them to me on my neck to set me apart somehow. In a way that only we can understand—Him and I—because for so very long I wanted to be set apart and yet fully a part of it all. And He gave me that. Set apart through my scar and yet fully a part of the kingdom He proved through His healing. Set apart through the daily reminder and yet fully a part of the love that tangibly healed a tiny body and consequently and years later has healed my broken mind time and time again. I think He knew. And the Calvinist in me would chance it to say that I think He even planned it like this.

Because He had great plans that needed a little trauma to build a solid foundation. Because I needed to be able to point back to His faithfulness. Because I needed to be able to say I couldn’t do it without him and to daily run my hands over my neck is the kind of reminder he had in mind.

Praying you find redemption in your scars.

–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

Welcome to Dot — School Supplies Changing Lives.

dotproductsIf you ever wonder about the heart of humanity, start an organization that helps the marginalized. You will quickly realize that good reigns. In the tiny corners. If you take the time to look. Good reigns. In the moments when you need it most. Good reigns. If you ever wonder where all the good people are, create an opportunity for people to step outside themselves to change the world for others. Make it relevant and simple. Make it profound. You will be amazed, grateful, and forever changed.

Last week, on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, I announced the launch of Dot Products, a school supply company set on changing lives through education. I’ll tell you the story of how Dot came to be one day soon, but today I want to tell you the story you have written this week alone.

In the past week, you have funded an entire year of education for a child in Mexico through your purchases and donations.

Already you have shared and liked and commented. You have blown up social media. 450 and counting of you on Facebook alone. Thousands of people have been told about Dot. Thousands. Orders are coming in from people I don’t know. People who wouldn’t know about Dot if not for you. People who are going to change the world for a child in a developing country because of their purchase and donation. I couldn’t be more proud. I couldn’t be more humbled.

And our busiest season of the year is coming up soon. Kids are headed back to school and we want to help them do it in style and with a greater purpose. For those of you in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama, consider hosting a Dot Party at your home or church for your favorite students. You invite your friends and provide snacks and drinks–as fancy or chill as you’d like. We’ll bring the supplies, the stories, and the chance to change the world through your everyday purchases. We had our first party this past weekend, and it was a blast–and it quickly turned into a pencil packing party! We ate, drank, laughed, and talked about Dot partners and how, together, we’re changing the world. One at a time.

Follow along on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to see how you can get involved and make a difference!

–Hallie

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.

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. 

New beginnings.

As you may have noticed, my summer sabbatical lasted most of fall. With the new life adventure I’ve begun as a college graduate, it’s time for a change of pace, a change of place. This little space has been so good, but sometimes you just need to start over, you know?
Find me writing words about my “real-world” life at halliedarphin.wordpress.com

–Hallie