Deeper Still

Man oh man. What a beautiful life. This week so far has been full of one-year-old heads covered with blond curls; playing Uno on my six-year-old’s bed; coffee; jokes about asthma (hey, you laugh or you cry, right?); Anthem Lights (my newest music obsession); crashing the forensics class that I’m not even taking just because I wanted to watch their cool documentary (and we drank more coffee, which is always a plus); quiet evenings home alone reading my anthropology textbook and eating Jellie Bellies; trying to figure out how to get IMovie on our computer so I can edit my skills video (help, anybody?!). Basically, just all the good stuff.

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One thing I did this week was start looking at the VBS materials. Last year I stepped into the role of teaching music at my church’s VBS along with a couple of other teenagers. Generally, whenever I first hear the VBS music or the songs for our children’s Christmas musical, I think they’re cheesy and lame and could never top last year. But before I know it, they’ve grown on me and I’m obsessed with them (well, and then sick of them. Right now I’m in the obsessive stage, though, so it’s all good). One of this year’s songs is called “Deeper Still.” These are the lyrics:

Below the surface, beneath the waves

Where I was searching, to find my way

You found me

In quiet waters, You called my name

You showed me mercy, You showed me grace

You found me, Jesus, You found me.

In the deep, in the deep

Your love is breathing life back into me

Now that I know how mercy feels, I want to go deeper still

Below the surface, I’m finding truth

A greater purpose, I never knew til You found me

Gosh, how good is that?! This song basically describes my life. It reminds me of “In Over My Head” by Bethel Music, another song that has really impacted me. I was drowning in sin, shame, stress, just generally life without Christ. It was absolutely terrifying in those depths. Then He found me, and everything changed. With Him by my side, the depths are different. The valleys are still valleys, but somehow they don’t seem like it. Now I want to be in those deep places that previously scared me, because I feel the greatest mercy in those times and places. VBS is gonna be good, y’all. Get hyped.

I don’t really know what’s going on these days. There’s a lot of change, but it’s not necessarily bad, which is funny because I used to abhor all change. But I hear Him whisper, I am doing a new thing, and I like it. I journal every day, and lately I’ve been reading back through my entries from last summer and fall. So much has changed, but most of it is for the better. God has put together so many beautiful puzzle pieces in the last ten months. That’s a whole other blog post, though.

Lots of questions are circulating right now. I wanted a job this summer, something part-time working with kids where my schedule could be flexible. But so far, nothing is really coming up. I have a lot of other things going on this summer–a mission trip to Colombia, VBS, and college softball camps, as well as my mom working more–which is why I wanted a flexible job. I’m getting a sneaking suspicion, though, that maybe this summer might instead turn out to be a time when I die to self and hang around the house to help out my family (in other words–no job). Spend some time with my brother, since I’ll be out of the house in a year and a half. (WHAT) Perhaps I’m meant to–dare I say it–relax? Rest? I tend to be a workaholic (except I’m also super lazy, so there’s that. I should be looking at Spanish homework right now, but this sounded like more fun. Thus, here I am). Maybe I need some time to recharge. But I’m still digging in my heels, because I want to continue to have a steady job this summer and I need to be around kids. (No, that wasn’t dramatic. They exhaust me and exasperate me, but I love them so so incredibly much. And I just noticed how many parentheses are in this post. A couple of days ago, I wrote something in parentheses and my six-year-old asked me what parentheses are. It must be a sign: cut them out, Hailey. Just do away with them.)

To sum it up (I’m easily distracted. Aaand here we go again), I’m praying about the whole summer job scenario, and we’ll see what happens. That’s one theme I’ve noticed throughout my journals. There were several big things I was praying for very specifically last summer, and now I’m in the throes of the results, and it’s even better than I thought it would be. Keep praying: it works.

I know a greater purpose, and I want to go deeper still.

“Deeper Still” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWk37fPO_3o

Where do I find God?

Lately, I haven’t been feeling God as much in my quiet time. I don’t know if this is because it’s six in the morning and I’m still half-asleep, or because I’m thinking about everything I have to do that day, or I get distracted by my phone or a book. But it’s this rut that I’ve been stuck in and couldn’t seem to shake for quite a while.

So this morning, I did something different. I still read my Bible at six when I got up, but at 7:30 I made coffee and took it outside. Just coffee–no books, no Bible, no phone. I took a journal with me, but ended up not using it. I sat in the quiet morning for thirty minutes and just talked to God. I have to admit, I haven’t really been holding up my end of the conversation lately, so we had a lot to catch up on. I told Him about how the little things are killing me lately, like having patience with a few certain people. And then I reassured Him that I still have the same old bigger worries; they haven’t left. But He already knew that, even if I forgot He knew.

I always have a song stuck in my head, and this morning it’s “You Make Me Brave” by Amanda Cook and Bethel Music.

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I sat and whispered the lyrics under my breath, like a prayer. Make me brave. Make me brave. Make me brave. And God was so there, more so than I’ve felt for many mornings, and it was a beautiful thing. And now I’m in here writing this blog post, because when God does something cool you want to shout it from the rooftops and let everybody know that you have such a good, good Father.

Another trend I’ve noticed lately is that God shows up most tangibly when I least expect Him. Often, I try to schedule my times with God. Maybe that was my whole problem with my quiet time. Hey, God–this is your time slot. 6:00-6:30 A.M. Talk to me then, because I’m busy the rest of the day.

I used to feel Him most during these mornings in my room, doing homework or laundry or reading, eating Jellie Bellies, listening to I Am They or Rend Collective with the sunrise coming in my bay windows. He’s still there, I know, but it’s a different kind of there. It’s kind of a quiet, comforting there instead of an exploding-with-joy there. And now something new is happening, something different but not bad: it’s in the moments of chaos later in the day that He shows up most tangibly. When there’s yelling and tears (not mine; I can deal with mine, but I hate other people’s); when I think I’m dying of asthma; when I’m looking at colleges and getting really excited and worried. It’s a funny thing, and it’s made me realize: first, I can’t put God in a box. He will show up how He wants to because He is the Lord of the universe. Second, He’s in everything. Literally everything. It’s not just during my quiet time in the morning–He’s always, always, always around. And finally, He’s especially in the moments I need Him. Before, I didn’t really feel Him in the chaos. It was just, well, chaos. And it’s still chaos. But somewhere, somehow, in the middle of it–He shows up. He arrives. Or, more likely, He was there along, and I just didn’t know how to look for Him.

So I don’t really know how God is going to show up today. We had a great visit this morning, but I want more. I want to feel Him all day every day no matter what I’m doing. I know it’s my problem, not His; He’ll be there. I just have to look. And I think that takes a special kind of bravery, like I was praying for this morning. I want to be tuned in to God’s voice, but if I am, then there may be a moment today when I feel nudged by the Holy Spirit to do something I don’t really want to do. But He’ll be with me, so we’ve gone in a circle, back to where we started. He’s there for the whole circle.

Make me brave.

 

Day 50 #100daysofjoy

As many of you know, I’ve been doing the 100 Happy Days challenge on Instagram (www.100happydays.com). However, I changed it to #100daysofjoy because happiness is circumstantial, whereas joy is an attitude of the heart no matter the situation. I’d rather have joy.

I know some people have misgivings about the true purpose of this public challenge–an article from thoughtcatalog.com cites the challenge’s “narcissism and banality”–but I had two very specific reasons for wanting to do it on Instagram versus just keeping a private list. First of all, people can keep me accountable. If it gets to be ten at night and I haven’t posted, someone can say–hey, where’s the picture? Did you remember to look for God in the little things today? Also, seeing other people’s challenges really encouraged me, and I wanted mine to do that for others. A few people have told me how much my pictures have inspired or encouraged them, which completely made my day.

Today is day 50 of my challenge, and I’ve compiled a brief list of what God has taught me so far through #100daysofjoy.

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1) Joy is not always easy.

I’ll admit that I didn’t put much thought into deciding to do this challenge. On March 3 I was really happy. 100 days of joy? Sure, I can do that. No problem. There was an initial honeymoon period of two or three weeks when it was new and exciting and fun. But then things changed. I was busy, worried, and annoyed. Many days, I was not exactly overflowing with joy. But commitment means doing what you said you were going to do even when the mood you said it in has left you, and I was committed to this 100 days of joy challenge. So here I am at day 50. Finding joy every day may not be easy, but to quote Bethany Hamilton–I don’t need easy, I just need possible.

2) Joy is a conscious choice.

True, joy is an attitude of the heart no matter the circumstances. But when circumstances get rough, I don’t just automatically still feel joyful; I need to take a step back and remind myself of the attitude I need to have. Last weekend (I’ve been running into examples of joy everywhere lately), my team lost all three pool play games and then the single elimination bracket game in our tournament. After the final game, when we moved our stuff out of the dugout, we happened to set up right next to the team that had just beaten us twice in a row. I could hear their coach talking very seriously about everything they needed to work on (which couldn’t have been that much, considering they’d outscored us by approximately thirty runs that day) as the girls just sat there. They were top seed and got to continue playing for the championship, but their faces looked like they were going to a funeral. Meanwhile, my team–who had gotten blown out of the water all day–was joking around, laughing hysterically, and generally having the time of our lives. I’m sure any passerby would have thought that we’d won and the other team was headed home. Joy is a choice. If you’re not feeling it, paste a smile on your face and fake it till you make it. Believe me, it works. And sometimes you don’t even have to fake it–sometimes, like last Saturday, God just gives it to you in such an abundance that you step back and say, wow, is this even real life? I’m a very competitive person, but honestly, I was so incredibly excited to be back on the field after ten months out with an injury that I didn’t even really get upset that we lost the tournament. Joy, joy, joy.

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3) What brings me joy.

If joy is an attitude of the heart no matter the circumstances, then technically everything should give me joy; I should never not have joy (ha, it’s going to take me longer than 50 days to accomplish that). But some things make me smile a bit more than others. Many of my 50 pictures so far have been of kids. There are quite a few of ball fields, several of me with friends, and a few of my desk (taking aesthetically pleasing pictures of my homework is how I psych myself up to do it). Little things make me smile–cutting avocados for lunch, messages from old and new friends, the sound of a ball hitting a glove, that great feeling of wearing flip-flops again for the first time since last summer. I also think I’ve grown a lot more accomplished at finding joy in the not-so-great parts of life. I understand now, when faced with a trying or sad situation, how to take a step back and say–this is bad, but it’s not the end of the world. I’m going to keep my head up and smile while I wait to see what God’s going to teach me from this.

4) My life is really amazing.

I have so much to be grateful for; it’s ridiculous how blessed I am. Take yesterday, for example. I got up in my nice house, freely read one of my many copies of the Bible, and took medicine that my family was easily able to obtain. I joked around with my brother doing tee work in the garage and then took a hot shower. I played with babies, went to math class with my best friend, got a cute haircut, went to work (read: sat on the sunny patio, ate Doritos, and watched kids run around), and went to see the Winter Jam behind-the-scenes movie with another of my best friends. My parents told me they loved me and I went to sleep in a warm bed. Yesterday wasn’t absolutely perfect, of course, but it was pretty awesome.

Up above I mentioned the little moments–the everyday things that don’t seem extraordinarily special at the time. Riding home with my dad listening to the Braves game with the windows down. Lying in bed journaling in the morning. Waiting at the bus stop. For the past several months, I’ve been so busy that I think I’ve forgotten to stop and appreciate the little moments. This challenge has helped me notice them again. Day-to-day life can be so special if we slow down and choose joy.

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5) Joy is absolutely, entirely, incredibly worth it.

Some days it’s a struggle to have joy. My smiley Instagram post takes up one moment of the day. For many of the other moments, my mood isn’t really that great. But when I choose joy–when I paste that fake smile on my face and growl with gritted teeth, God, I REALLY need You to help me find some joy, because I am sure not feeling it right now–it comes. And it’s so amazing, y’all. I mean, who wouldn’t want to have joy? Who wouldn’t want to smile and laugh with pure and unadulterated joy every moment of the day just because life is beautiful? Now that I’ve tasted it, there’s no going back. It’s a fight to have joy, but I am determined to win because it is so very worth it. If I keep fighting the little battles every day, maybe soon I’ll win the war.

 

If you want to jump in on the last half of my #100daysofjoy challenge, click the link on the sidebar and head over to my Instagram @haileyh412.

Vulnerable Friendships

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship and friends. What I want in a friend has changed over the years. When I was little, I just wanted someone who would play the games I wanted to play. In my tween years, I desperately wanted a friend who was as obsessed with classical piano as I was. My perspective on friendship has shifted drastically over the last few months, though. Now it’s more than games–I want my friendships to be deep and vulnerable and real.

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Vulnerability. Isn’t it funny how we’re positive others have it all together—look at her fashion sense, and her good grades, and how she’s so confident in her faith. If only I had her life!—when, often, they’re looking at us and thinking the same things? I used to want people, even my good friends, to think my life was perfect, but recently I’ve developed a new philosophy: being vulnerable and sharing your heart. Hey, I’m a mess. Hey, so am I! Let’s be messes together. Sure, I like to have fun and joke around with my friends, but I’ve realized that that’s not the only thing friends are for. Sometimes you need someone to laugh with; other times you need someone to share in your tears. I no longer want to just go have a good time and pretend everything is okay. I want my friends to tell me if they’re hurting so that I can pray for them, and I want to know that they’ll reciprocate this for me. Lately my friendships are maturing and deepening and I absolutely think that this is why.

Some days, I do want shallowness. I want to talk for hours about trivial things and exchange lighthearted, carefree banter. I want friends that I can text because I need help picking out an outfit. But most days, I want so much more. I desire deep, real conversations about matters of eternal importance. I want friends that I can text because I’m being tempted and I need prayer. I’m learning that it’s easy to make acquaintances, but that I want to be choosy about which of these relationships I will allow to deepen into an actual friendship. At this point in my life, I have many friends, but only a few of these friendships are really deep and beautiful. I’m completely 100% okay with that. I’m the type of person who would rather have a few good friends than a crowd of mediocre ones.

At the same time that I’m searching for real friendships, though, I’m realizing more than ever that I still need to be friends with girls who don’t fit my newest description of the ideal friend. I can’t hold someone at arm’s length and refuse to be friends with them just because they only talk about makeup and don’t text me Bible verses. I absolutely still need to show them love. Then again, like I said above, I want to be careful about the friends I surround myself with. I want strong Christians to be my closest friends and build me up to help me minister to my other friends and acquaintances.

There’s a lot on my mind and heart today. I have a lot of softball this week and I’m worried about my health. I found out this morning that my friend’s family is in a bad situation. SATs are looming, as always. I should probably stop writing now or else this post will never end.

The sun just came out and I’m sitting here listening to Bethel Music, and suddenly things don’t seem quite so bad. For many years I was kind of upset that I didn’t have a “best friend”–you know, that one person that you’re with so much that you can finish each other’s sentences. But I’ve gotten over that. I do have many beautiful friendships that I’m so grateful for. I also have the ultimate Friend who will never fail me. He knows me so completely and loves me still. I hope I can be that kind of friend to the people in my life.

A Strange and Beautiful Juxtaposition

Now all I know is grace.

I saw this quote on Pinterest a few weeks ago, and as I was trying to think of a blog name, it popped back into my head. What a perfect description of my life–all I know is grace. How could I name my blog anything else?

Blogging. If you can’t tell yet (you will soon), I have basically no clue what I’m doing here. I’m a 17-year-old junior from North Georgia and am passionate about music, sports, reading, writing, and kids. I work as a nanny five days a week, I’m dual enrolled at a local college, and I play travel softball. In the future, my hopes/plans are to play college softball, get a degree in I-don’t-know-what (probably something to do with writing), be a missionary in the US working with kids through sports, and be a foster parent. I fluctuate between never wanting to leave home and having intense senioritis. I journal every day, and I plan for this blog to be an extension of those journal entries, documenting how God is working in my life. Being seventeen is pretty cool, I think; lots of responsibility, but not so much that I have to pay for the roof over my head and the food I eat. What with my job, and college classes, and new friends—I am learning so many new things and making so many special relationships and it just feels like the world is opening up to me.

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I’m in an incredible season of life these days, one that I’ve really never experienced before. You know that feeling when you’ve been out in the heat, maybe lacing up your Nikes and going for a long run, without any water? And then you finally get home, or come to a water fountain, and you’re so thirsty that you just gulp and gulp and physically cannot stop drinking and it’s the best thing you’ve ever tasted? That’s where I am with God right now, and it’s a beautiful thing. There’s a line in the song “We Dance” by Steffany Gretzinger (which—by the way—is basically the most amazing song I’ve ever heard, and you should definitely go Youtube it right after you finish this post) that says, “And I breathe you in / Like I’ve never breathed till now.” What a perfect description. It’s a special feeling, friends. All of a sudden, I’m just feeling Him in every part of life. Like, overnight—I can’t stop thinking about Him. He’s in everything, and it is SO. GOOD. After the drought comes rain.

Here’s the funny thing, though: I’m also in a really, really hard season of life. I’m constantly worrying about health problems and school and life in general. I feel physically lousy, I’m incredibly busy, and basically there’s so much pressing in on me that I just want to curl up in a ball and cry at least once a day. At the exact same time I feel life opening up to me, growing fuller by the moment, I feel it closing in. It’s getting so much more amazing, yet so much harder. And it makes me pause and think—maybe one season isn’t possible without the other. Perhaps the pain and the beauty are a package deal. So much worry, and yet so much peace. It’s a strange and beautiful juxtaposition that I don’t understand, but I’m so grateful to be a part of.

Blogging. I have a feeling this site will consist of many unorganized ramblings, but I don’t mind if you don’t. For a long time, I wanted my social media and my personal journals and my everything to be perfect, but I’ve finally realized that everything is not perfect. My life is kind of a mess some (read—most) days. So, fair warning: it might not always be pretty. But it’ll be real, and if it encourages you at all, it will be worth it. I’m glad you’re along for this crazy beautiful ride we call life. Stay tuned.

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