Running Away

I remember the first time I tried running away.

I was just a kid and my sisters and I were messing around in the car ride back from dinner. Our parents got annoyed with us for not listening to them so they dropped us off about a quarter mile from our house and told us to walk back. I was so mad I didn’t want to go home. I told my sisters I wasn’t going home with them and that I was going to live with my neighbors down the street. Obviously that wasn’t going to happen, but I truly did want to run away at the the time. I didn’t want to have to talk with my parents when we got back and so I tried to run. My sisters ran after me and literally picked me up and carried me home.

That was the first time I tried to run away, and recently I’ve realized that I still struggle with this tendency to run from issues. Instead of physically running away, I’ve built up walls that have allowed me to hide from truly dealing with deeper issues. Similar to the story of when I was a kid, putting in the work to admit you were wrong and actually talking through things is scary. It’s much more appealing to run somewhere you can start over and not have to worry about disappointing people.

If my sisters weren’t there to bring me back, I must say it would have been interesting to see where I would have ended up and how long I would have lasted on my own. It’s funny to think about, but at the same time such a lesson to learn from. My sisters loved and cared about me enough to put in the work to bring me home.

They knew where I needed to go and they put in the work to get me there. That is what accountability is.

I realized that I struggle with accountability. There’s this fear I have when people share things with me. I’ve had all sorts of people open up to me about significant struggles. I feel as though in the past year or so I’ve had friends and people close to me share just about everything; eating disorders, suicide attempts, sexual abuse, rape, alcohol addiction, depression, sex and anxiety. You name it, I’m sure I’ve heard it. I am able to listen, I am able to give advice, however accountability is something I just don’t know how to do. Unlike my sisters, I don’t have the strength to carry people where they need to go. I live with regrets of letting so many people run away, and also myself. So I run.

I have always told myself that I don’t take on the weight that others carry, however I’m realizing I was wrong. I do carry people’s problems, and this has hurt me in the past. Therefore, my solution has been these walls. These walls have been put up so that I won’t have to be there. I listen and give good advice, but I don’t stay long enough to hold people accountable. I have a tendency to withdraw because I know I don’t have the power to fix them and I know I can’t handle the pain. So I run.

I’m realizing that my fear from accountability is wrong. I can’t continue to use the excuse that it’s not important. I can’t let the discouragement of my past prevent me from looking for accountability. If I don’t learn how to look to people for help, as well as being there to support others, I will miss out on what God has.

It’s true, I don’t have the power to fix people. It’s true, people don’t have the power to fix me. However, I am in the wrong to underestimate the power of God to do great things through accountability. It’s time to learn how to tear down walls without fearing what may be behind them. It’s time to be there and ask for God’s strength to help carry people because I know I can’t on my own. It’s time to develop a heart to love. I need to learn how to love how He loves.

Love does not run away.

It’s time to let God truly work in these relationships. It’s time to say no to excuses and yes to the work ahead. No more isolation, no more fear, no more excuses.

Running away is never the answer.

Unexpected Love

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This past year I’ve been on the pursuit of love. Not a romantic one, but the world’s most intimate one: a love for the Lord.

I remember last year being so bitter towards love and the idea of it. Surrounded by a community that places such a high emphasis on dating and marriage, I felt insignificant and as though I couldn’t be single and happy. My bitterness played a role in my worship as well. I questioned whether or not I could even worship God truthfully because I questioned whether or not I truly loved him. The words I was singing felt like lies and I had to take a large step back from the community in order to find myself and work through my thoughts. I was incapable of loving God because of my struggle to love myself.

I was so broken. I was going through my quarter life crisis. I was 20 and questioning everything. Everything I valued felt like it was being taken away. I had no clear vision as to where I was going. More than willing to drop out of school, I felt a call to missions and felt like I wasn’t living my life to the fullest. I remember sitting with my roommate and ranting to her about how I knew I needed to be doing more with my life, but didn’t know what that was. I was believing lies about myself and she listened to all of it, bless her heart. She was there for me during one of my lowest points. I wanted to just move on but had no Idea how.

My self-worth was so low that I felt like my life was not worth living anymore. I remember telling my roommate I didn’t feel capable of being loved. The words she said to me that night, “Halle, that is a lie,” have stuck with me.

Those words, “That is a Lie” have done more for me than I can even begin to explain. I remember just looking at her and having this crazy moment and realizing how right she was. Yet, it was a lie I was believing. That short phrase was the beginning to my freedom. It didn’t happen over night, but that was one of the major turning points in my life. I started doing more self-reflection and going through and pointing out the lies I was believing, and I was believing a lot of them.

I had this journal from that semester filled with some harsh thoughts and lies. I remember looking back through it and pointing out the lies that I was buying into about myself. I decided it was time to stop ignoring these lies and stop letting them have power over me. It is crazy how God was working during that semester. God gave me time to do this necessary reflecting. I was diagnosed with mono and it gave me a lot of free time. That was how I started getting into writing and sharing what God has been teaching me through this blog.

I made the commitment to go a year without dating. I made the commitment to God to remain single until October 1st, 2014. It was time to rethink singleness. Over a year has passed now and, well, I’m still single. But there is a night and day difference between who I am and who I was last year.

I remember praying passionately for God to reveal to me His love. I knew it was there, I just didn’t know it personally. You know? I told God to help me to live my life to the fullest, willing to go wherever He’d send me. God revealed to me that my ministry was here this whole time.

This year He has called me to be a freshmen RA. There’s a lot more to the story, but basically God has been overwhelming me this year with love through these girls. For example, on my birthday my girls surprised me by filling my room with 72 balloons! Each of them had something thoughtful written on it and or hershey kisses inside. I have never felt so loved in my life. I am blessed beyond I deserve and I have had nights where I fall asleep with tears of joy because I just don’t know what I ever did to deserve any of it. God has not only blessed me with an awesome floor of girls, but also a great RA staff, teammates, professors and friends. He has revealed to me that there is value in every day and in these relationships. I am experiencing a freedom and joy in my life that I have never experienced before.

My bitterness toward love was a personal bitterness I held because I didn’t know how to love myself. I didn’t see any value in who I was and I felt like I was failing everyone, especially God. I felt like he was calling me to do big things, yet I felt like I wasn’t doing anything significant. That was a lie. I wasn’t failing anyone. It was a time in my life where God was calling me to be still.

I am still always processing this past year, but one thing that has been clear to me is that God is showing me love in unexpected ways. I’ve been having a hard time accepting all these blessings and affirmations because I am still trying to replace these lies I have about myself. It’s a process that takes time, but for the first time in my life I am learning that I am capable of being loved.

A Tragic Wakeup Call

Last night was when I found out Zack had committed suicide. Although I wasn’t close with him, my heart just breaks at the thought of it. To think that he left this world with pain and sadness, he let darkness take over. I can’t even believe it.

He was in my youth group at church, and I never really knew him but what if I had? What if I would have taken the time to get to know him? Would I have been friends with him? Would his life have been different? What if someone would have reached out to him? Would that have saved his life? I can’t help but wonder why God didn’t put someone in his life to stop this from happening. Why did God let this happen? Why didn’t anyone see this coming? Did anyone see this coming?

I can’t help but feel heartbroken for those people in his life that were close to him. Especially his girlfriend. I hope and pray that she will somehow grow closer to God through this situation. I don’t understand why God let this happen. A natural response is to get mad, angry at God but all we can do is trust that He will somehow use this for good. I just don’t see it now, but to someone maybe it does make sense.

Based on Facebook, a lot of people are being affected. There are tons of posts, and I hope and pray that others out there are praying too. I called my mom to tell her the news, she’s good friends with his mom and she’s with her today. Does his mom blame herself? I hope not, pray not. Does his girlfriend? I just can’t even imagine. I didn’t know him all that well but his death has affected me.

I can’t stop reflecting on how I’m living my life so obliviously.

Do I do a god job showing other that they are loved?

Some people are harder to love than others, but God loves us all and it is our job to show His love. To let it shine through us. I wonder if there is anyone in my life who is suffering inside just like Zack was. There probably are. They do a great job at hiding it, and you would never know until it’s too late. Just like now, it is too late for Zack. I want God to use me, now, to open my eyes to the people around me and to see where people need loving. No one should go through life feeling unloved. I need to do a better job. I have been failing. It’s so easy to be caught up in you own problems, or you own life, and it’s easy to ignore others around you who are dealing with problems 100 times more serious.

It was interesting scrolling through Facebook and Twitter. Among all of the posts about Zack, I would see posts about how people are stressed about homework or that they are “so hungry” and all sorts of dumb small problems and here we have someone who took his own life because he didn’t see the purpose of  life. He let darkness win. What is the purpose of life, then? Zack just died. His life ended but life here moves on. People that knew him are affected but others simply say, “that sucks” and continue on with their lives. We can’t stop the world from moving on. It’s always moving. Even when my life ends, life beyond mine keeps living. To take another moment and reflect isn’t a bad thing to do. Sitting here and reevaluating life is necessary.

This has been a tragic wakeup call.

Let God use this for God. Let Him change my heart, mind and actions. Life is bigger than you and me. Life is bigger than my problems, grades, friendships. God is life. God comes first. That’s where I need to start. It shouldn’t take a tragic death to realize that, but it has been a wakeup call.”

This was from my journal, written the day after Zack’s suicide. He passed away two years ago and to this day, I can tell you that this has made an enormous impact on my life. The drive and desire to live my life with a purpose, I believe, comes from this tragic death because it really put life into perspective for me. It’s really sad that sometimes it takes a death or something tragic for someone to realize the importance of God and life.

After his death, I became depressed and really hard on myself. Life kept flying by and as time went on, less and less was heard about Zack. It’s a harsh reality when you realize that your life is very small and insignificant compared to this large, fast-paced world. I can tell you right now that since his death, many people have been impacted and Maybe there are many people out there who can relate to this story, maybe there are many out there who are struggling with the death of a friend, loved one, or even just an acquaintance.

My hope and prayer for anyone out there who is suffering is that they will not turn away from God or become bitter with Him. I hope they can evaluate life and how they are living it. We can’t blame ourselves for a tragic death like this one, but rather we need to look forward and think about how we can be living life in a way that reflects God and his purpose for us to love Him and love those around us.

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Rethinking Singleness

Love seems to be the center of everything, doesn’t it?

“Love is all you need” according to everything. Society tells us that we need to be in a relationship in order to be happy. We need to get married and have a family in order to live a life to the fullest. Getting married and raising a family is something I would love to do someday if it is God’s plan for my life. However, I feel as though having that be the focus of my life at this age is not healthy.

In college, so many people are dating or on the hunt to “find the one.” People are settling into relationships that are unhealthy, but the thought of another breakup would be too devastating to go through. It’s also easy to encounter couples who have been together for so many years that they practically feel married. It doesn’t matter how unhappy they are, they feel as though they can’t move on from all those years. I’m surrounded by all sorts of relationships. Not all of them are bad, but not all of them are good. And what’s sad is that not many single people are content with the status of being single. Even Christians aren’t content with being single.

Do we forget that God is love?

Isn’t it weird that so many sermons are about marriage and relationships? Where are the single people preaching about how awesome it is to be fully in love with God, yet single? I feel like we don’t hear about the positives of being single enough. How many times do you hear singles moping around about the fact that nobody likes them and that they are never going to find someone who loves them? Why does that have to define the quality one’s life? It’s foolish to believe and hope that one relationship will fix everything one day.

I think that this focus is way off. You see, it’s not about finding the right person. Actually, it’s about becoming the right person! When we are single we can work on being the person that the person we’re looking for is looking for. When I went through this breakup, rather than letting it get me down and hating myself, it got me thinking. How easy it is to let one relationship mess with someone’s life. We have to choose whether we want it to make us or break us. I was believing lies about the necessity of being in a relationship. I realized that the single life is totally underestimated! Now, I’m not saying that I want to be single my entire life, but at the same time being single isn’t as bad and lonely as people make it out to be. I believe that this time in my life is unique and provides opportunities that I won’t always be able to have once I’m in a serious, committed relationship and or married. When you are single and independent it is a time to cherish rather than loathe! I think it’s time to rethink singleness.

For me, being single hasn’t been viewed as a positive thing until recently. I’ve dealt with low self-esteem and had very negative thoughts about my body image and appearance. I’ve hated myself to the point where sometimes I’d wish I wasn’t even alive. Sometimes I still have these thoughts come back to haunt me however, I’m learning to recognize them as lies.

In this time of my life, my happiness isn’t coming from the affirmation of some guy. But rather, it comes from the confidence in knowing that there is a God who loves me and is jealous for me and has a plan for my life. He is crazy about me. He always has been and always will be. So when I have those dark thoughts, I am able to fight the battles within myself by turning to Him and listening to the truth. My self worth does not come from whether or not I am in a relationship. For once in my life, I am finding self-worth and confidence in myself as a single individual. I can honestly say that I like being single and this is a good place for me to be. I’ve come a long way in my life. In this time, I’m choosing to focus on God. I’ve actually decided to give Him this year, as weird as that sounds. I made a commitment to God that I’m not going to date for an entire year. With the thoughts of other guys, it has been so distracting in my faith and so by taking myself “off the market” I have been able to rethink dating. The first couple months were spent getting over my ex, but now it’s shifting into the pursuit of my love for God. I’m investing my time in Him and have started falling in love with Him, for real! I’ve always loved Him, but I can’t say I’ve always been in love with Him.

I’m about three months into this commitment and it has been life-changing. When you are single, you have more freedom. I’m not saying that people in relationships have no freedom, however they have more of an emotional and time commitment. Now, with this freedom you can choose what you want to do with it. For instance, because I am single I have the ability to leave the country for four months without the stress of having a long-distance relationship to worry about. Right now nothing is holding me back from this adventure ahead of me.

Also, I have more time to focus on myself. Like what I said earlier, I am working on becoming the right person; a better person. I can focus on myself not in a selfish way but in a necessary way. I have learned some things about myself and have been also seeing areas in my life that I need to be working on. I have also seen guys in a different way. Rather than seeing a guy as a someone I would potentially date or my “future husband”, I see them as a friend, a brother, or just a normal person.

My standards have gone up as well. Because of being hurt by guys in the past, I have put an emphasis on getting to know someone really well and building a quality friendship before starting a relationship with a guy. I know that it’s going to take awhile before I can trust another guy again. There are some other personal standards that I am reevaluating and sticking to, but all I can say is that the next guy I date has a lot to live up to.

Taking myself “off of the market”, viewing guys differently and re-evaluating my standards have made me excited for the future and optimistic. Because I am building this confidence in being single and setting my standards high, I can be confident that I won’t settle for just any relationship and in the midst of being single I can truly be happy. Even if it is for a lifetime of singleness, it’s a beautiful thing to know that I am loved and that will never change. 

Worship Beyond the Songs

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This past summer I really put a lot of thought into worship. For me, worship had become a routine. The same songs, the same words, over and over and over again. It felt so empty. I felt like something was wrong. Something was wrong with me. Not just me, but also the people around me. Do we really mean these words that we are singing? Do we really believe that God is who we are saying He is? I feel like worship has become a time where people just slip into the routine and all of a sudden it is time to “praise God.” Yet, we don’t take the time to think about Him or spend time with Him outside of the worship service. I feel like I look around at the people worshiping and think to myself, “Do they even know who Jesus is?” I look at the lives around me worshiping this God and I don’t see the reflection in their lives. I didn’t see it in my own life either. Do I even know who Jesus is? What sets me apart from these people? I’m here too. Singing the same songs. Doing the same worship.

It all just felt so meaningless and pointless. The part that gets me most is that as soon as the worship service is over, everyone just leaves and goes on with their lives and no one actually has conversations about how they experience God. The praise ends as soon as the songs end. It feels like no one praises God unless there’s a song to sing to. To me, it felt cheap. It felt like we were getting it wrong. The worst part was that it kept me from being able to worship. After awhile I just couldn’t get myself to sing the songs. I believe that God deserves more than just empty words being sung just simply because everyone else is singing them. I had to take the time to separate myself from the crowd and actually think about what I’m doing. I left my freshman year torn over worship. I went up to work at a bible camp over the sumer and this is what I wrote one day as I was reflecting on things:

Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God- This is your spiritual act of worship.” I read that and thought: Okay, this is talking about worship being more than the songs that we sing in church. Actually, It has nothing to do with the songs at all. It’s our lives. But, living our lives as a sacrifice? How am I supposed to do that? I don’t have anything figured out but maybe I’m starting to get there.  I’m thinking, How can I live my life as a sacrifice? It’s so weird to think about. Then again, didn’t Jesus do just that? Maybe I’ve been making this worship thing way more complicated than it needs to be. Jesus Lived his life as an example for us. Yet, I haven’t taken the time to actually think about it or even read about it. I’ve just been going along with things. Even all summer, I haven’t been taking the time I need to be to spend time with God. It has taken me awhile to realize that. I love having those quiet times in the morning and during my free time, but it doesn’t stop there. I can be praying throughout the day, whether it be in my head or just to myself when I’m walking somewhere. I’ve been doing that more lately and I’ve noticed God more.

The other night, my campers were all in bed and I had to walk over to the building. All the lights around were out and as I was walking I saw the stars and they were beautiful. I always love seeing the stars, especially up north. Anyway, I asked God to reveal himself to me. Immediately, the biggest shooting star I’ve ever seen shot across the sky. It was like a sparkler. I’ve seen shooting stars before, but none like that. It was almost in slow motion. It was as if God really wanted me to see it. I was almost in tears. It took my breath away. I thought it was pretty cool, but if you think about it, stuff like this happens all the time. God is always present and had I not been praying or talking to God, would I have been able to recognize it as Him trying to reveal Himself to me or would I have just walked right by and thought of it as just a cool shooting star?

Ive been missing prayer. I’m always asking for things and praying selfishly, but I need to be praying for more than just what I want. I need to be praying for others and also moments. Unless I’m talking with God constantly, I’m not going to realize Him all the time. He is always there! But how often do I see it? Now, worship can be a powerful thing but it has turned into something I’ve settled for: something to just to check off the list. I’ve been conforming. Romans 12 continues on and in verse 2 (a very common verse) it says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world (The pattern of just singing maybe?), But be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” So how do I transform? By renewing my mind? How do I do that? Well, I don’t have all the answers but God does and I’m praying He’ll renew my mind.

Maybe I shouldn’t stop there. I’ve been really lazy. So what happens if I ask God to renew my mind?Do I just expect it to happen? Maybe. Or maybe there’s more because maybe God expects something out of us. And that’s a relationship with Him. What’s that? Well, maybe that’s what I need to be working on. I need to be building this relationship with Him by constantly praying. See? It all comes back to that! And by being in prayer, maybe my mind will be renewed. Maybe my life will be lived out differently, more like Christ who was the perfect example of a sacrifice. This leads us back to worship. Worship is a spiritual act on how we live our our lives. It’s not just the songs! So I’m working on breaking free from that pattern of just singing. How do I do that? Maybe it connects back to prayer. Do I show up and just sing and that’s it? OR, am I putting thought and prayer into it? Worship is about praising God, but what am I praising Him for if I’m not recognizing Him in my life?

If my life is empty, then so will my worship be. Empty. So what am I going to do? Not tomorrow, but today. Well, I’m going to keep reminding myself about sacrifice; and what does that mean? Well it means it’s not about me. So how am I going to live that out? Well, I’m going to start by thinking about how I can be putting others first. How can I be serving them? I don’t want to serve in a way where I’m seeking recognition, but in a way to be a living sacrifice: to be serving as an act of worship. James 2:14 says faith without action is basically dead. “What good is it my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such a faith save him?”

This whole time I’ve had this faith, but I’ve stopped living it out. I’ve been living it out, sure, but not in the right way because my heart hasn’t been there. Nobody would be able to tell that by looking at me, but I know it’s not there. So I’m starting to realize that and make the changes. I’ve got to stop focusing on who I want to be and focus on who I am. A really thought-provoking quote I heard was, “God is much more interested in who you ARE rather than who you want to be.” I’ve got to be focusing on today. Not just think about it once, but all day long. I gotta keep thinking to myself: Love God, love others. I have to do so by remembering: It’s not about me. It’s time to serve. Live as a sacrifice. It’s time to worship.

I will I worship beyond the songs! Right now. In every moment of every day.

Now, you can see I’ve put a lot of thought into worship. I can tell you right now that I’ve come a long way since I wrote that note. God has revealed Himself in so many ways, it’s just a matter of recognizing Him more. It’s so easy to miss if you’re not going out of your way for Him. Living as a sacrifice is by no means easy, but it’s worth it. Since last summer, I’ve been praying about everything. I’ve seen God answer more prayer in the last 4 months than I think I’ve ever seen in my life. If someone told me that I had to go a week without praying, I would not be able to do it. Heck, I don’t think I could go a day. I’ve been so dependent on Him and He has continued to challenge me all the time. I still fail each and every day. I am never going to be that person to put on a face and say that everything is just fine and dandy when in reality, it’s not. We have to be willing to be honest about where we’re at.  In the past I have lied to myself about where I’m at, but I’m so done with that. That has never gotten me anywhere. So, I’m actively seeking Him out and have been going out of my way to get to know Him. Not because I have to but because I want to. We shouldn’t force our relationship with God. That never works and He deserves more than that. It truly does take a change of heart and the renewing of the mind through prayer. I can honestly say that my relationship with Him is growing. Right now, I have a desire to actually know Him: to fall in love with Him. I love God, but am I in love with God?

To be completely honest, I don’t know if I’m in love with God. But that’s where I hope to be.

I hope to get to a place where I can be in love with Him. Some people might think I’m crazy for admitting that. How could someone who is a Christian say that they are not in love with God? I can say that because I am willing to admit where I am in my faith. I can tell you right now that, one day when I get there, when I can say I’m in love with God it will be because I actually mean it. I won’t say I’m in love with Him just because everyone else does and that we need to be in love with Him. I want to be in love with Him. God deserves my heart. Not empty words. What does being in love look like? When someone is in love, they always think about that person. They get excited about the thought of that person. They crave time with them and could spend hours at a time talking with them. When people are in love, they know that person better than anyone. They are the most important person in his or her life. Their face lights up when someone brings up the name of the one they’re in love with. They can’t help but smile when they talk about them. I want to know God fully and love Him for who He is. I want to actually know Him. He’s always been there for me and I’ve had faith for many years, but for the first time in my life I am seeking to fall in love with Him. I’m not there yet. It’s a process. It takes time and patience and investment to get there. I’m willing to be honest with where I’m at.

My point is, I feel like I’m surrounded by people who don’t do that enough. What needs to happen is we need to be more real about our faith, and real if we even have a faith. We need to actually be vulnerable with one another. More importantly, we need to be honest with ourselves as well. God knows our hearts and He knows if we really mean what we say. When we are singing songs of worship, He is fully aware whether or not we actually mean those words coming out of our mouths. I have learned to worship more authentically. I have learned to worship in new ways: ways beyond just singing. Yes, it’s okay to go to worship services and sing. However, it is crucial to think about where your heart is when you are worshiping Him. You don’t have to go to a worship service to worship God. Worship Him through your life: through acts of serving and putting other people ahead of yourself. Worshiping doesn’t start and end with the songs, otherwise the songs mean nothing and you might as well just not even sing. Let your life sing for you. I challenge anyone who is reading this to take the time to think about where your heart actually is.  Do you worship with the way you live your life? Do you worship beyond the songs? Be real.