Sunday, November 19, 2017

Why Your Relationship with God is the Greatest Gift


Going to university terrified me.

I had done well in community college classes. I had chosen a school 20 minutes from home. I had amazing friends at my home church. And I was scared.

High school was tough for me, especially in terms of friendships. I was worried I would carry those problems into college. I've had crippling anxiety because of school before. I was worried that perfectionism would steal my joy.

Every morning, I wake up a little earlier than I have to, and I spend time with God.

How little I appreciated this habit before college. I read my Bible consistently long before I moved into my dorm. I listened to worship music. It was really good. But while I was at Gateway Student Conference in July, I heard God say to me, "this will be one of the hardest seasons of your life, but it won't be the same as other hard times. This time, you know I'm with you."

I know this couldn't be a time I neglected my relationship with God. So many things--friends, school, sleep--good things--would provide distractions. But if I let my time with the Lord slip, everything else would slip too. I would slip.

Why is dedicated time with God so important? My Old Testament (AKA my adopted grandpa) talked in class one day about personal time with God. He said that your one-on-one time with the Lord is the single indicator of how your relationship with the Lord is going. Not corporate worship, not a journal full of sermon notes, not the Bible verses you post on social media. Without personal time with Christ, the relationship is shallow.

One thing that changed my perspective on this was learning about the presence of God in the Old Testament.

Once a year, on the day of atonement, the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies. There, he would meet with God. Simple enough, right? Well, there's a list as long as the arm of someone who has long arms. Every detail of that day had to be followed through or the high priest wouldn't be able to go into the Holy of Holies. He bathed seven times during that day. Because the presence of God was so strong, the guy could possibly die. Since the people absolutely could not go into the Holy of Holies on any other day or without all the ceremony, they tied a rope to his ankle before he went in so they could drag him out.

The presence of God was limited because the people's sins seperated them from God. They were spiritually dead--apart from Yahweh. This went on for centuries. From the tabernacle to the temple, there were dozens of rules concerning entering the presence of God. Separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies was an inch-thick, 60x30 curtain that went from floor to ceiling so no one accidentally tripped into the breathtaking presence of God.

When Jesus died on the cross, that veil tore down the middle from floor to ceiling (Matthew 27:51)

The veil that a single person would be incapable of tearing, the veil that separated sinful man from the presence of the Lord, the veil that represented our death, was torn down the middle.

Jesus died and rose again because He loves you. He tore the veil because He wants a relationship with you. That's it. That's all He wants from you. John 3:16 doesn't say, "For God so wanted some slaves," or "For God so wanted some people to look good," or "For God so wanted to shame people..."

John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."

What I've learned through this semester is that intentional, set-aside time with the Lord is precious. It isn't a mark on a check-list of how to be a good Christian. It isn't an obligation we drag through to seem spiritual. It isn't a ritual with no meaning. It's a relationship.

Jesus so desperately wanted a relationship with you that He took your death. He lived a perfect life and was killed for it. But His resurrection raises you to life. Nothing you've done made you deserve His love. Nothing you can do will take away that love (Romans 8:38-2). 

We do not have to cleanse ourselves to go into the presence of God; His presence cleans us. He takes our brokenness, our shame, our fears. His presence is literally with us. I cannot fathom anything greater than the gift of having a relationship with God. And let me repeat that it is a gift. We cannot earn that relationship. It's the most lopsided relationship. He loves us more than we can even imagine.

I can climb the mountains of this season because I know who is climbing beside me. I can eat a feast in the presence of my fears because I know who prepared the table. I can find peace and hope because I know He lives.

Because Jesus lives, we are welcomed into the presence of God without fear. Since we have this hope, we are very bold (2 Corinthians 3:12). This hope is an anchor for the soul, steadfast and secure, because Jesus went through the veil for us (Hebrews 6:19-20).

Your relationship with God should be your first priority because it's God's first priority. We can have absolutely nothing greater than a relationship with Christ Jesus.

|| "Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord." -Philippians 3:8a ||

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

How to be the One Who has it All Together

Going to college for the first time brings a lot of changes. Many of those changes are amazing! However, there is one thing that should never change: how put together you are. With so many new people around you, you don't want to give the impression that your life isn't perfect. "Hadley," you may ask, "How do I make sure everyone thinks I have it all together?" I'm afraid this is no simple task, but here are a few tips to get you started.

1. Don't cry

Maybe you are completely lost in your math class, and even though everyone else understands, you can't figure out what's going on. Perhaps your best friend posted on her story a video of her having the time of her life with a big group you weren't included. There's a chance you're having a terrible time figuring out financial aids and loans and feel like you're going to be in debt for there rest of your life. However, crying is not okay. Hold it back and deal with your problems on your own. If you ask for help, others will realize you don't have it all together.

2. Wake up early

By waking up early, you will have time to brush your teeth, shower, choose a cute OOTD, start your Keurig, and post a highlighted verse with an adorable coffee mug to your Instagram story. Don't forget concealer to hide the bags under your eyes from staying up late to study! If you sleep in too late, you won't have time to get your bun to reach the correct level of messiness. Too messy a bun, too messy a life.

3. Take the back stairs

If you take the front stairs, everyone will see that you are out of breath and out of shape when you get to the third floor. If you go up the backstairs, you can catch your breath and fix your hair. Take a drink from your sticker-covered water bottle and get your "I can't wait to ace this test!" face on.

4. Don't study in your room

Studying in your room may lead to your roommate(s) walking in and seeing you stressed out over a paper. Don't let this be you! Find a quiet corner of the library, maybe that one place that smells weird so no one will see your distress. Get that paper done and tell your hall-mates it was a breeze! This is especially important if it's is one of your major classes; you don't want anyone to think you would second-guess a life-altering decision.

5. Work out when the gym is almost empty

This way, fewer people will see you fumble with the exercise equipment and realize you forgot your water bottle. Remember, it's okay to almost pass out on the elliptical machine as long as you get that gym time! Additionally, when you see people on the walking trail going faster than you or even running, remember that you could do better and should probably strain yourself to get rid of the ice-cream you ate last night because that guy rejected you.

6. Maintain your social medias

You need to remember to take pictures any time you hang out with someone and, even if you've only known the person in the photo for a week, let everyone who follows that this person is your best friend. Be sure to retweet the occasionally relatable college student post, but be careful. Too many retweeted lighthearted jokes about falling behind may lead people to believe you are falling apart. Also, if you don't post often enough, people won't be able to see all the crazy fun you're having. Always remember: a empty feed is an empty life!

7. Never tell anyone what's going on in your life

Let's say a friend or mentor asks how college is going. Be ready to assure them that everything is fantastic. You're making more friends than can fit in one Facebook album, you've got all your tests and assignments under control, and you're so ready to go home and see your family over the upcoming break. Be sure not to mention any crippling anxiety, feelings of helplessness, or fear of not being able to reach the expectations of others. Your friends want to be there for you, but you should only ever be there for them. After all, you are the put-together perfect one.

Always remember: there are countless people looking to you, and you don't want to let them down. Keep any struggle contained and controlled so others won't think you aren't perfect.

Good luck everyone! And remember to stay perfect!


(p.s. I hope you realize this is satire. No one has everything together. See my last post for some non-satirical advice.)

Friday, September 29, 2017

Fully Known, Fully Loved


I read a lot about being a freshman in college before I went to college. I have several Pinterest boards dedicated the topic and, while I felt prepared for tough classes and gross caf food, I did not feel prepared to make friends.

Last month, I moved into Dallas Baptist University. I'm only 20 minutes away from home. I go to the same church I've been going to since I was 9. In a lot of ways, it doesn't feel like a huge change. However, if you've gone to university or if you ever talked to someone who attended college, you know that maybe the biggest change happening is internal.

Meeting new people terrifies me. And college is filled with new people. New people who don't know me, don't know people who know me, haven't heard things about me, only know me from stalking my Instagram.

A reason why meeting new people is so frightening to me is trust. For the first several weeks of university, I was paralyzingly anxious because I didn't believe I could trust anyone. Too many high school experiences told me I was bad at choosing the right people to trust.

At the heart, I couldn't trust myself. I looked at my track record and determined my discernment had failed one too many times.

One Monday night, I lost it. That afternoon, I had gone with my mom to pick out new glasses. We also bought groceries.

I was walking up the hill from Freshman parking and realized I had walked up a hundred million stairs and forgotten my groceries. With a less than perky attitude, I trudged down the bricks, got my groceries and walked back up the stairs. When I got back into my pod, I realized I left my cans of beans.

After four weeks of being fairly emotionally stable, I started crying over two cans of beans. One thing I've learned in 18 years of life is crying is very rarely caused by just one thing. As I questioned why I was crying over beans, I came back to the issue of trust issues.

I had been home all afternoon, where I was safe and secure. Then I drove up a couple highways to a place that felt unsafe and insecure. I was sobbing because I didn't feel known or loved. I was angry and bitter and hardened because of all the friendships that had broken me before. What had I done wrong? What was wrong with me?

Shame made me hide. I hadn't been good enough in the past, so I buried anything I saw as insufficient. I stuck everything I didn't like about myself--sin, likes, dislikes, personality traits--in a box and shoved it behind my dresser.

Some friends of mine who graduated from DBU have a saying "fully known and fully loved." That phrase came to mind while I was crying about my beans.

For the next week, I kept thinking about those words. I never knew five words could be so hard, so challenging. I had to decide. I could live in shame and fear, or I could live in truth and love.

That shame was so easy to fall into, the fear easy to hide behind. As long as I wasn't seen, I wasn't betrayed. Easy wasn't fun, though. Easy wasn't fulfilling. Easy was burning me from the inside out. So I took those five words--fully known and fully loved--and slowly started living them.

On Monday, I got new glasses and I am not exaggerating when I say I do not look like the same person.

After more than two years of wearing the same pair of glasses every single day, I got new frames. Y'all, my vision is bad. I can't go a day without my glasses on. So the dark purple frames I got right before my 16th birthday sat on my nose every single day. I couldn't imagine myself without those glasses. They were as much a part of my face as my eyebrows.

My new frames are clear and big. It seems like a small difference, just a different color. Let me tell you, they are not the same.

I look in the mirror, and the first thing I see is my face. For years, all I could see looking in the mirror were the thick, dark frames shading my eyes. Most of the people I know now have only known me in those glasses. I hid behind those frames, defining myself by my poor vision, my inability to see clearly.

Fully seen, fully known, fully loved. You cannot experience the love of others if you don't put down your mask and come as you are. I've kept myself from having deep friendships because I've been petrified by the idea that all my past hurts were caused by something intrinsically wrong with me. That fear hindered every current relationship.

Grace follows honesty. Honesty requires courage. So here I am, in my dorm way past my usual bedtime, writing a blogpost about how scared I am and fragile my confidence is. I'm so far from perfect, from a life figured out. I think, though, these glasses brought a little more clarity.

So I'm taking the risk. I'm being a little bit braver. I'm choosing to trust. I'm choosing to be fully known that I may be fully loved.

also, I became a hipster. whoops.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

When You Can't Keep Going

A few weeks ago, I climbed up a mountain.

Okay, so it wasn't a technical "mountain," and it wasn't exactly "climbing," but it felt close enough. We hiked up a hill.

It was the last day of our mission trip to Ireland. For the previous five days, we had spent our time and energy playing with and loving kids who desperately needed it. I got weird looks from people when I told them I was going to Ireland for a mission trip--isn't Ireland already a mostly Christian country? According to statistics and the teaching in the schools, yes. Ireland is mostly Catholic/Christian. But going there, I saw people, especially the children I spent time with, dry and in need of Jesus' real grace and truth.

On Saturday night, after the "Big Day Out" put on by the church we partnered with, our trip leader Matthew told us he, and anyone else who wanted to come, was going to get up and walk up this hill we had seen on the beach.





To hike up the mountain and have time to get ready for church later that morning, we had to leave at 7:00AM. Normally, getting up that early isn't a big deal. But we had been getting up early every day, fighting through jet lag every day, playing and dancing and talking to kids every day. And y'all, hiking was not my thing. 

But I wanted to hike up that hill. I wanted to see that cross, see the ocean, the view of the town we'd served. I was certain that God had something for me at the top of that cliff.

So I woke up at six. I got up, got ready. And we went downstairs.

The walk to the hill was about 15 minutes long. The hike to the top, we had learned from locals, took about 30 minutes. No big deal. The whole walk would take about an hour.

Rain drizzled as we walked down the beach. The sunrise was soft on the Irish ocean. When we reached the hill, the rain stopped. I was feeling confident. The slope wasn't too bad, and we'd walked up a lot of hills during the week. I could see the cross at the top, could hardly wait to reach that peak.

Then we went off the road onto the actual trail. There were paved stairs, seemed simple enough. Hard because stairs, but also easy to climb. Then the stairs ended and I began struggling.

Soon enough, the rest of the group was far ahead. The path was lined with rocks, and it was uphill the entire time. Among the trees there was no breeze and a lot of sweat. My backpack felt as though it were filled with bricks.

Along with the excess hill climbing, I was hot from shame. I was the only one lagging behind. I couldn't even see the others anymore. One person stayed behind with me--Trey, another of the trip leaders. 

Every muscle burned. I almost slipped on dirt made slick from the earlier drizzle. Beneath the trees, there was no sight of the top. There were only more slopes, more rocks, more trees. Fifteen minutes in, I didn't think I could make it all the way up. I tried to imagine the walk down 

I began repeating Bible verses and every worship song related to mountains. One song played on repeat in my head: For the Lord is, He is able; He is faithful, higher than the mountains that I face.

Trey gave me his extra water and told me what he did when hiking.

You can't focus on the peak, on the ultimate goal, the end of the struggle. You pick a spot, somewhere in your eyesight. You make it there, take a deep breath, drink some water, and choose a new spot.

I kept going. At every stop, I didn't believe I could make it up, to the next tree. We came out of the woods, but hadn't yet reached the top. Now I could see the peak again, but it seemed more impossible now. The others had already almost made it. I was close to stopping, accepting this spot as good enough. 

But I made it this far. I could make it to that long grass over there, reach the end of the burnt trees.

The cold elevated air made my throat sting. I repeated the words of that song in my head over and over. All those songs about going over and moving mountains were becoming a whole lot more relatable. 

The very top of the hill was elevated from the clearing by a steeper slope. The cross, the view, the fruit of my breath aching effort was separated by 30+ feet of an almost 90° angle wall of rocks.

When Trey and I reached the base of the final cliff, Matt came back to us.

"There's no easy way up there," he said.

No hidden short cut on the other side, no ladder, no stairs. Just rocks.

I took a few deep breaths, drank some more water. Every inch of my legs was in pain. If someone had told me my calves had literally been set on fire, I would've believed him.

I could've turned around, looked at the view and accepted the beauty that was already there. But I knew, I was so positive the top would be worth it. God had something for me. I wasn't going to quit and take the easy way out.

I put on foot on the first rock, took Matt's hand, and stepped up. First to that solid ledge, then to another. My lungs were icy, my heart pounding louder, begging me to stop here, walk back down. I kept going, with Matt in front of me and Trey behind me. 

"Almost there," Matt told me.

Each step was tentative and full of thought. Everything in me was clenched, strained to keep going, keep going, keep going. Every time I reached with my hand, stood on a ledge, stepped with my foot, I couldn't believe I would be able to do it again.

His grace is sufficient for me, for his power is made perfect in weakness. 

With altitude and wind and breathlessness fighting against my lungs, I reached the top. My heart still pounded. Trey and Matt left me alone and I stood. There was the cross, so much greater than when I'd seen it from the shore three days that week. It wasn't too twigs tied together with twine. It was stone. Steady, unshaken, stone.

I cried. The freezing wind bit at my hot tears. I made it. Despite wanting to turn back with every step, I kept going. When I couldn't see the top, couldn't see the cross, I kept going. When I felt small and weak because I couldn't keep up with the others, I kept going. When all of my insecurities whispered in the pounding of my heart, I kept going.

God didn't just have something for me a the top. He had so much for me in every painstaking step.

The hike wasn't easy. It was one of the hardest physical, mental, and emotional things I'd ever done. But I made it. I saw the cross, and from the point, saw the ocean for miles and miles, saw Ireland in a way I never imagined, looked down and saw exactly how far I'd come. If I wouldn't have had someone walking beside me and behind me, I know without a doubt I could not have walked all the way up that hill. If I had walked up there to take cool pictures for Instagram, I would've quit halfway through.

The view was beautiful. The stone cross was incredible. But the hike? The hike was everything, every ounce of strength I didn't know I had, every shortcoming made perfect in grace.

Less than a month ago, I would've never said hiking was anywhere near something on my to-do list, but that climb made me realize that the hike, and most journeys in life, aren't about your strength. They're about endurance and perseverance. 

And for me, they're about courage--every step a little more brave.

|| "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." 2 Corinthians 12:9 ||






Sunday, March 26, 2017

When You Weren't Invited

Dear friend,
You weren't invited. You weren't noticed. You weren't chosen.

It's past midnight and you're scrolling through Instagram, seeing the fun photos and exciting captions. And you weren't there. 

Why? You wonder. After all your effort and time spent, they overlooked you. And the lies seep in. You're not funny enough. Not pretty enough. Not fashionable or thin or curvy or good enough. The friends you thought were your best stop responding, stop speaking.

But friend, this is not who you are. I've met Rejection a few times, and he's not a nice guy. He weasels his way in and replaces your expectations with disappointment and pain. He steals joy and brings down weeks.

When this bully walks into your life, there are a few things you must remember:

1. You are accepted.

Darling, there is a love, a friend, who will always accept you. Yes, you've heard it before. He may not seem like enough now, but when you but your hand in His, Jesus will be with you where you go because that's where true love goes. He doesn't give His heart in pieces because he is faithful even when we are not.

|| I took you from the ends of the earth,
    from its farthest corners I called you.
I said, ‘You are my servant’;
    I have chosen you and have not rejected you. - Isaiah 41:9 ||


2. You don't have to be "enough."

No, not everyone will like you. You won't be everyone's best friend. And that's okay. There are and will be people who place unfair, unreal expectations on you and that's stupid. Who you are, who you really are, is who you're made to be. You will never meet everyone's expectation of enough. But you are not in competition with any one else. You are your own kind of enough that no one else is because someone else's enough-ness does not change yours.

3. They weren't trying to hurt you.

Those people who rejected you? They've been rejected too. There's a 99.9% chance they didn't mean to exclude you. They weren't trying to point out your flaws or make you feel bad. From what I know about other people--they're battling the same things as you. Their fight may look different, and you probably can't see it, but it's there. People are just people. It doesn't matter how exciting their Snapchat stories and Instagram posts are.

4. You can rise above it.

Don't let rejection define you. Instead of focusing on the loss, focus on the new. Growth happens in the breaking. I'm not telling you to get revenge or become a passive-aggressive subtweet-er or block them on every social media. I'm telling you that you can move on. Move on from the hurt into a new day. And yes, there will come a time when you hurt again but it's not because something is wrong with you. It's because life hurts sometimes. Don't let yourself get caught in the hurt. Keep living. Keep trusting God.


There isn't an easy answer to rejection. It hurts. But if no one else has told you, and even if they have, let me tell you: you're beautiful. You're lovable. You're unique. You're needed. You're wanted. You will be okay.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

The Lost Girl of Astor Street Clue Hunt #17 - Book Review

4.7/5 Stars

The Lost Girl of Astor Street by Stephanie Morrill

Tornado sirens went off while I was reading the Lost Girl of Astor Street. My first thought was that I’d have to keep reading in the bathroom safe area.

This book had me at the edge of my seat even before Lydia went missing. From Piper to Mr. LeVine, each character came alive within the first words they spoke. I was enveloped in the 1920s, not with flashy name dropping but with living, breathing people who showed me around without showing off.

The Plot
****
The primary plot is the mystery of Lydia LeVine’s disappearance. Piper refuses to be useless to the investigation, gradually doing more and more to aid the officers involved. But the mystery isn’t the only thread pulled through the novel. Plot lines surrounding Piper’s family, friends, and enemies work together like players in a jazz band.

The twists and turns caught me off guard, exactly as a mystery should, and yet were set up so well beforehand. I laughed, I cried. There were moments I wanted to throw the book across the room but couldn’t because I was reading on my laptop. I loved it. The only issue I had with the plot was that, towards the end, it slowed down before speeding up a little too quickly. Things could’ve taken a little more time to wrap up.

The Characters
*****
Oh. My. Gosh. The characters were my absolute favorite part. Stephanie Morrill is a master of characters. Each one, major and minor, spoke and acted like people. Everyone was a person, with their own goals and motivations. Piper was the spunky, strong lead. Detective Cassano foiled and fit with her in the perfect way. All of Piper’s relationships with everyone Personalities and backgrounds were established without jarring info dumps. I rooted for the heroes and understood the antagonists.

The Setting
*****
Lost Girl didn’t take place in the 20s because it’s a fun time, and it didn’t take place in Chicago because it’s an interesting city. 1924 Chicago was part of the plot, the true home of the characters. Social class, mobsters, locations, and even fashion painted the picture without becoming overwhelming and distracting. It was perfect.

I’m in love with this book. So much so, that even though I got a free ARC on my computer, I pre-ordered a hard copy so I can force it into my friends’ hands and make them read it.



I received a free copy of this book. The review is mine entirely.


Everyone


Clue 1: Stephanie Morrill
Clue 2: Some Books Are
Clue 3: Gabriella Slade
Clue 4: Page by Page, Book by Book
Clue 5: Pens and Scrolls
Clue 6: Singing Librarian Books
Clue 7: Heather Manning
Clue 8: Annie Louise Twitchell
Clue 9: Noveling Novelties
Clue 10: Kaitee Hart
Clue 11: Classics and Craziness
Clue 12: Zerina Blossom
Clue 13: Rebecca Morgan
Clue 14: Keturah's Korner
Clue 15: That Book Gal
Clue 16: Anna Schaeffer
Clue 17: Hadley Grace
Clue 18: Lydia Howe
Clue 19: Ramblings by Bethany
Clue 20: Matilda Sjöholm
Clue 21: Lydia Carns
Clue 22: Broken Birdsong
Clue 23 & Clue 24: The Ink Loft
Clue 25: Roseanna M. White

Monday, January 23, 2017

New Season

This is my last semester of high school.

Last year, I was desperate to get out of high school. My junior year was, in a word, terrible. There were good moments. It got better towards the end. But I was miserable for a significant portion of my 11th grade year.

My sophomore year, I saw my high school career ending a whole lot differently. I imaged a graduation ceremony with my friends, staying in touch and even as close friends with several of my current high school friends. Now, I'm not good friends with most of the people I was friends with that year.

Six months ago looks much different than right now. I had no idea what the semester would look like. I didn't know who my friends would be, what dual credit classes I would take, or when I would get my license. I didn't know I would get a smart phone, a job, and a two hour drive to debate club. I had no vision for the rest of the year or the next.

I spent the fall semester figuring things out.

I found myself doing something I dreamed of since I was twelve and getting paid for it.

I found myself with stress and pressure and learning to deal with it.

I found myself making friends with just the people I needed and feeling included again.

I found myself preparing for a new season.

That's what senior year is all about, right? Getting ready, planning, figuring things out. What I've figured out? God knows what's best.

Trusting God doesn't mean knowing what's happening next. Trusting God is believing that whatever happens, God knows what's happening next. He isn't surprised by that heart break, that disappointment, that choice. He knows you, He knows what's best for you. And for me.

I'm still figuring things out. Which was my excuse for blogging like, never. So for the sake of figuring things out, I'm going to put some things on this blog I wouldn't have before (like the occasional book review, or photography experiment). Basically, I'm going to blog every week I can with whatever I want to post. (You probably don't care, but I feel like it'd be weird if I started posting different stuff with no warning.) 

New seasons are scary, but they're also super exciting. Yeah, I'm nervous. I'm getting ready to go to university, and I don't know how that's going to treat me. But I'm not scared.