Love the Gift

First things first: the blog got a makeover! I’m so pleased with this clean new interface. There are three new pages at the top (there’s an expandable menu if you’re on mobile): About Me, Contact Me, and Writing Portfolio. That last one is pretty empty at the moment, but I have several things in the works, including a story I sold that will be published next week. Make sure to check those pages out!

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The past few weeks have been up and down. Lots of stress, but lots of good times. A few weeks ago I was at an old friend’s house for a bonfire with some other old friends, and I was thinking how cool it is to grow up (well–sometimes). Here are these people that I remember hanging out with in middle school doing dumb things, teasing each other, goofing off in class. And now–we’ve grown up. We’re going into the Marine Corps, or we’re getting ready for college, or we’re bypassing college to jumpstart our careers, and we’re going to change the world–all of us. I know it.

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God has been teaching me a lot lately–big things and little things. I’m finding that I want a raw faith; something bare. Something stripped down of everything unnecessary… I want to pare away all the excess. Just Jesus. I’m seeing that I take the littlest things and obsess over them, and I can’t make myself stop, as much as I want to. I’m realizing that I love Jesus more than life itself.

A couple of weeks ago, I was having some troubles with joy and contentment. I really prayed about it; one day, the power randomly went out right when I got up, and I had my Bible time by flashlight. It was fun. It started out as a typical morning, a good day–working on my marine biology study guide and listening to Ben Rector while I cleaned the kitchen. The power eventually came back on, and I was making cookies for someone’s birthday at church. Long story short, I pulled a big bowl of hot butter out of the microwave too quickly and spilled it all over myself and the kitchen. As I tried to mop up the slippery floor, the words kept repeating themselves in my head–this is it. This is it. How are you going to handle this? Here’s your golden opportunity to have the joy you’ve been praying for. There was one other phrase, too: what a typical Wednesday! Yep, it was a Wednesday. Hump day. I was able to laugh about the butter and not let it ruin my day (PSA to everyone who ate the cookies in choir: I started over with new butter) but it made me think. Why do we personify the days the way we do? We complain about every day of the week except Friday or Saturday. Well, we complain about those, too–we say they’re over too quickly.

To give another example, my family had a mini-vacation last weekend. We were all off work on Friday, so we took the day and went for a hike. We drove through the mountains for hours, stopped at cute farmer’s markets and general stores, and hiked 4.6 miles to a beautiful summit. Then we came home for gluten-free pizza and our new favorite TV show, Expedition Unknown. I don’t remember the last time I had a day without a to-do list; I definitely didn’t want to go back to “real life,” even after just one day off. But here’s my challenge to all of us: let’s be grateful for each and every day of the week. Let’s throw out the endless memes complaining that it’s Monday and we have to go back to work or school. Instead, let’s be excited about the prospect of a fresh start and the fact that we get to go back to the place God has put us. Let’s stop assuming that because it’s Hump Day, everything will go badly. Instead, let’s have a cheerful mindset and make it be a great day.

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I recently read two beautiful quotes that I’m in love with:

“I want a life that sizzles and pops and makes me laugh out loud. And I don’t want to get to the end, or to tomorrow, even, and realize that my life is a collection of meetings and pop cans and errands and receipts and dirty dishes. I want to eat cold tangerines and sing out loud in the car with the windows open and wear pink shoes and stay up all night laughing and paint my walls the exact color of the sky right now. I want to sleep hard on clean white sheets and throw parties and eat ripe tomatoes and read books so good they make me jump up and down, and I want my everyday to make God belly laugh, glad that He gave life to someone who loves the gift.”

–Shauna Niequist

“I am wired by nature to love the same toys that the world loves. I start to fit in. I start to love what others love. I start to call earth ‘home.’ Before you know it, I am calling luxuries ‘needs’ and using my money just the way unbelievers do. I begin to forget the war. I don’t think much about people perishing. Missions and unreached people drop out of my mind. I stop dreaming about the triumphs of grace. I sink into a secular mindset that looks first to what man can do, not what God can do. It is a terrible sickness. And I thank God for those who have forced me again and again toward a wartime mindset.”

–John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life

The big question in my mind for a week or two has been this: can these quotes co-exist? Can they merge? They present two completely different pictures to me. Today I’m in America; at this very moment, actually, I’m sitting in Panera Bread drinking a green smoothie and working on scholarship essays. I just got done with a voiceover session, where I was able to figure out my microphone problems and get some artistic direction. Later I have work and practice. They’re all good things; I’m enjoying my day, and I hope I’m glorifying God through it. But like John Piper said–I forget. I can go a whole day–longer, probably–and not even think about the unreached people groups, especially the one specific one I love so much. I can get so caught up in my luxury and in serving Jesus from cushy coffee shop chairs, that I forget that sometimes I’m called to spread the Kingdom in tougher ways. Are cold tangerines and pink shoes the luxuries that John Piper is talking about? Nothing is wrong with tangerines and shoes; but what if I put them above everything? What if I’d rather sit in America and eat tangerines when people in third-world countries have never heard the name of Jesus?

I don’t really know how to explain this; I’ve just been thinking about these two quotes a lot lately. Either way I am glorifying God with my life, but many days the Shauna Niequist quote sounds more appealing than the John Piper one. Sometimes, frankly, I just don’t want to have a war-time mindset–I just want to enjoy my good books and clean white sheets.

Here’s my proposition. I want to “love the gift” of eternal life that God has given me by sharing it with others. I want to make Him belly laugh with the joy, grace, and gentle humor I have in serving everywhere I can. I don’t want to forget the war; I don’t want missions and unreached people to drop out of my mind. I want a life that sizzles and pops and makes me laugh out loud, yes, but I want it to be centered around loving others with everything in me. Then, and only then, I think I will have the best of both worlds.

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Things I’m Learning this Autumn

The fair is fun, but not worth the fourteen hours of recovery time that it required.

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I love watching littles play baseball.

I am beyond excited to go back to Colombia in April. APRIL!!!

The plural of “octopus” is “octopuses”–not “octopi.” (Long story, inside joke.)

I didn’t think I ever would say this, but I just discovered “Brand New” and I’m actually suddenly in love with Ben Rector’s music. Rend Collective also has some amazing new stuff out.

Late-night runs for Mexican (even non-authentic Mexican) with teammates after practice are always a good idea.

I’m completely in love with the sky.

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Virtually everything I do has a selfish motive. God, help me die to self and make my motives pure.

There’s a species of tapeworm that lives inside a sperm whale and can reach lengths of up to 50 feet. (Sorry–I know that’s probably not what you came here for. But I think marine biology is interesting.)

I want to be more of a “there you are!” person than a “here I am!” person.

A diet that doesn’t include gluten, wheat, processed foods, or refined sugars isn’t as hard as you might think.

Amy Carmichael was an AMAZING missionary and woman of God.

Sometimes you need to drop what you’re doing, even if you think it’s important–like homework–and listen to a friend who wants to talk. Because that’s important-er.

Pro tip: if you’ve gone two weeks with no caffeine or sugar, don’t get a medium caramel latte from Panera Bread at eight P.M. Just–don’t.

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Dance parties in the kitchen with Joshua while we’re supposed to be doing the dishes are my favorite thing ever and I’m going to miss them so much next year.

It’s so easy to forget the sense of urgency there needs to be in reaching the world for Christ.

I have so many wonderful people in my life.

Writing is a hard job, but I’m addicted.

Planning future adventures is exciting.

Sometimes, a quiet Sunday morning at home to recover from a busy week that took a major toll on your body is just what you need.

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A letter to little girls.

(listen to this while you read this)

A letter to all my little girls from church and softball and work, and to all the other girls all over the world–little and big–who have ever looked up to a “big girl.”

Dear little girl,

You know those big girls you like to hang around? The ones you like to talk to, and sit on their laps–or maybe you can only bring yourself to admire them from afar? The tall girls with pointe shoes that you see in the parking lot as you leave ballet class, or the ones who help in your class at school, or the ones on stage at your church? Guess what: they’re not perfect. Really; I promise. I should know, because I am one of those big girls. Maybe you know me. Maybe you have sat on my lap before, or I’m on stage at your church. Or maybe you have no idea who I am. But I have a few things I need to tell you.

So first of all, I’m not perfect. And it’s okay. My hair is normally messy. I get bad grades sometimes. When I play softball, I strike out sometimes. I’m not always nice to everybody. I will never be perfect; I will always fall short of the standard Jesus has set for me.

Next: I am not grown-up just because I have keys on a lanyard, and I act confident, and I coach first base on your softball team. Guess what: most days, I probably have less of a clue about life than you do. Even though, to your little eyes, I might look like I have it all together–I absolutely don’t. Although you might not believe it, chances are we have a lot of the same worries. Well, except for one: I worry that I’m not setting a good enough example for you. That maybe I’m failing a little too much. But then I remember–I’m not perfect, and it’s okay. I’ll just be present for you, and it will be enough.

So that’s me. Now let’s talk about you. I know a lot of little girls, and I love every one of you. I love the little girls who give me big hugs and who are good listeners and pleasant to be around, and I love the little firecrackers that tend to talk in class a bit more than they should and don’t sit in my lap because they are too busy running around taking care of things. Whichever one you are, chances are that at some point you will be insecure about your personality. I want you to know this: you are never not enough for the grace of God, and you are never too much for the grace of God. Read that again. Let it sink in. And I know, I know I know I know, that that is something that is easy to write and read, but so much harder to believe and put into practice. But, please–believe it.

I know lots of older girls, too. I have friends in middle school. One of these friends used to act differently around me than anyone else. She would flip her hair and talk about her boyfriend, her makeup. It made me sad in a deep way that I can’t really explain. Dear girl who is in a rush to grow up and have something in common with the “big girls:” don’t rush. Slow down. Please don’t worry about boyfriends and makeup–just stay close to Jesus.

I have friends in high school and college. High schoolers–does it feel surreal to be in this position? Can you pinpoint the exact moment when you slipped from little girl to big girl, or was it a slow transition? Doesn’t it feel funny to be the older one now–to have little girls shyly coming up to you, and to be the babysitter instead of the one being babysat? We have a responsibility now, we high school girls and college girls. All girls, really. I don’t care how young you are or how many little girls you think you don’t know–somebody is always watching you, even if it’s just a stranger behind you in the checkout line. It’s a serious responsibility; I have some journals from when I was about ten in which I wrote everything I observed the teenage girls at my church wearing, doing, and saying. Everything. Then four or five years later, a little girl I know was trying on a blue jean skirt. She said, “I look just like my friend Hailey!” I remember being so glad she said it about a blue jean skirt and not something else. It’s a big responsibility. But now you know–you don’t have to perfect for them. You just have to be present.

Also, fellow big girls–haven’t you noticed? Jesus has been your most constant and real Friend. People will come in and out of your life, but at the end of the day, He’ll always be there. It’s something you hear in Sunday School, but it never became real to me until recently.

So here’s what I want to say. To all my little girls–I am not perfect. I do not have it all together. I will fail you. One day I might not be in your life anymore, but you’ll always have Jesus, and I hope you and I will spend eternity together in heaven.

To my sweet little girls who are worried about hair and makeup and clothes: truth is, you all are already beautiful, whether or not you’re wearing mascara.

Dear girl who is a perfectionist and feels like you have to work to earn the grace of God: you don’t. He will take you exactly as you are.

Dear girl who feels like you never measure up, like you’re never good enough: His grace has covered you and that is all you need.

Dear girl who feels like you’re too wild for God, that He can’t help you or He doesn’t want too: you’re wrong. He still loves you.

Dear girl who thinks you’re annoying me, or who is too shy to come talk to me, or who is afraid if you talk in class I won’t like you anymore: you are never annoying me. Please talk to me. I will still like you. I’ve talked in class a few times myself; remember, I’m not perfect. You and I have a lot in common, probably more than you think.

If you missed the link at the top of this, go listen to Handpainted by Cozi Zuehlsdorff. It expresses everything I want to say to you so beautifully.

In your smile, I’ll be honest

Perfect love was all I saw

That one flower, that grows tallest

Is just one inch closer to God

Pretty daisy, let His promises

Shine on you like stars

Those things that make you you, He planned every single one

Painted on the canvas, took two steps back and smiled

[your name]’s done

I love being your “big girl.” It’s my favorite thing in the world. I’ve been sitting here working on this post and listening to Handpainted for a while, thinking about just how much I love it, and how much I want you to know the things I’ve told you here. You are so very heavy on my heart tonight, little girl. You needed to read this, I can feel it.

One day you’ll be the big girl. I know you’ll be a good one; not because of anything I’ve said to you, but because of Jesus. The only way I could ever be any kind of a good big girl to you is because of Jesus. That’s the bottom line–Jesus–and it’s the biggest thing I want to tell you. Keep your eyes on Him, and everything else will fall into place.

Love,

Hailey