Hello, friends.

Hello friends! I'm going to use this first post to introduce myself 
and talk a little bit about why I have decided to join the world of 
blogging. My name is Haley and I just recently turned eighteen years old. I am about to enter my first semester of college and begin my 
journey of becoming a high school math teacher. Why math? Because 
explaining math to those who don't "get" it is my passion. Why high 
school? Because I want to touch the lives of as many teenagers as I 
possibly can. I have a very unique and interesting story, which you 
will all learn about as we continue on this blogging journey 
together. I recently came across a quote in an instagram bio that
 inspired me so much. It said "we all have a story; we choose how 
it's lived". Which is so true! We have all have had crappy things 
happen to us, but it doesn't mean we have to spend the rest of our 
lives dwelling in it. One main reason for my sudden interest in 
blogging is that I am in the works of writing a book about my
life, but that won't be finished for a while and I feel as if I need 
to start sharing bits and pieces now. You see, my friends, I want to change lives. I want help people just like me realize that they
 aren't alone in this scary, yet beautiful world. I am going to be 
completely honest in my posts because I simply don't see the point in sugar-coating things anymore. Some of my posts will be emotionally 
draining, some will be humorous, and some (hopefully all) will be 
uplifting to everyone that reads them. So, please bear with me as 
I figure this whole blogging thing out because I promise you won't 
regret taking time out of your day to read the words I am writing. 
Make sure to keep an eye out for my first actual blog which will be
 about how I found a way to become whole again after feeling broken. 
Also, please always feel free to comment or contact me because I am 
here for you and I will not judge you. Have a beautiful night friends

                                           Yours truly,
                                                 Haley

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Parallel Universe

Do you ever feel like you’re living a life that isn’t your own? You wake up and go about your day completing the tasks of your daily life. Whether you’re heading to work or school, or perhaps taking your kids to school… something just feels wrong. When I’m driving to wherever my destination is for that day, I find myself wondering if this truly is my life. I’ve asked myself this question a lot since my dad passed away and my mom was incarcerated. For the first few years I would wake up in the morning and have a few seconds of peace before the realization of what my reality is would set in. It has gotten easier as the years have gone by to accept the fact that I did not get to have my parents while growing up. Anyone who lives (or lived) with someone other than a parent will understand when I say no matter how amazing the person is who took on raising you, life still isn’t the same. My grandparents are such amazing people. When they were supposed to be starting retirement, they took on caring for an eight and twelve year old. They gave us (and still do) everything we needed and love us unconditionally. But at the end of the day my heart still yearns for the comfort of my mom or dad. It’s been six years and I still often wonder if this truly is my life. I often feel like I’m trapped in quicksand and I can’t get to where I’m supposed to be going. Am I supposed to be going to college and working full time? Or am I supposed to be using my days to make a difference in the lives of others in another country? I struggle with stretching my comfort zone and doing things that are out of my normal routine. What I’m doing with my life is comfortable. Becoming a math teacher is comfortable. But what if I’m supposed to go to Africa and be a math teacher there? Now that’s not comfortable. God calls us to do things out of our comfort zone in order to fully live His purpose for our lives. Before you were born God knew exactly what your life would look like. He chose you to live the life you’ve been given. No one else is living a life like yours, and you are the only one who can use it to change the lives of others. My friends, if you feel as if you’re living in a parallel universe, and you feel as if your life is not your own, make it your own and pray that God will show you what you’re supposed to be doing. Because if you feel as if something is wrong, then odds are something is.

Yours Truly,

Haley

Brokenness Aside

You take brokenness aside
And make it beautiful

Salutations beautiful friends. I am currently supposed to be tackling my mound of homework, but I threw caution to the wind and decided to dust off my blogging skills.

Tonight I decided I wanted to embark on a journey with all of you. This journey is called reality. Imagine we are all in a nice comfy van together getting ready for this eye opening  adventure when all of a sudden the radio turns on and plays a song called “Brokenness Aside” by All Sons & Daughters. Yes friends, that is a hint for you to all listen to this beautiful song right this second. Like right now. As my math professor would say, let’s “unpack” this song together.

“Will your grace run out
If I let you down
‘Cause all I know
Is how to run”

This is so me. I run from all of my problems. I keep myself busy, busy, busy so I don’t have to think. Anxiety creeping in? Time to clean my room. Worrying about that essay due on Friday? Let’s switch back and forth between Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook for an unacceptable amount of time before I convince myself it’s acceptable to push it off another night. I run and run and run until I am basically tripping over my own feet falling face first into the ground, and the whole time God is watching me from Heaven waiting to shower me in grace when I finally come to my senses and allow myself to stop.  I find so much comfort in the fact that His grace will never run out, even when I let Him down. God will never be mad at me, and He will never be mad at you either.

“‘Cause I am a sinner
If it’s not one thing it’s another
Caught up in words
Tangled in lies”
“Caught up in words, tangled in lies” oh my goodness this hits too close to home. I am so quick to get caught up in gossip. I want to know anything and everything that is going on. I get tangled in my own lies and the lies of those around me. The truth does set us free. It may be rough at first, but what is even more rough is remembering the lies you have told so that you know how to keep them going. “If it’s not one thing it’s another” this is so very true. We think we’re in the safe zone when we finally escape one temptation/ sin, and then another one comes along faster than we can say farewell to the first one.

“Will You call me child
When I tell you lies
‘Cause all I know
Is how to cry”

I am not a crier. I wish I could cry easily just for the emotional relief it brings, but I have tear ducts of steel. I’ve had the same counselor for three years and she has seen me cry once. Literally. I can talk about the most deep, personal aspects of my life and not shed a tear. However, when a lady at work criticizes my cookie baking skills the tears start flowing. This is called the iceberg scenario, and boy do I have some massive icebergs. The iceberg scenario is when I burry all of my feelings and emotions deep inside. Then something minuscule happens and it tips my iceberg over, and BAM everything that was once underneath the water rises to the surface. Although I don’t technically know how to cry, I do know how feel sadness. Revelation 21:4 says “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” I am holding this so close to my heart. In means of eternity, Heaven is not far away, and I cannot wait to leave the awful feelings this world “gifts” us with behind.

“But You are a Savior
And You take brokenness aside
And make it beautiful
Beautiful”

I am a broken human. God sweeps up all my broken pieces and puts them aside, and makes my heart beautiful. We are broken people living in a broken world. We are not hopeless. God makes beauty from the ashes. Every single day people are experiencing tragedy. This is not how God intended the world to be when He created it. That is why He sent His son to save it, to save us. In the midst of sadness and pain it may feel like you are drowning, but God has been waiting to throw out His life raft and save you. All you have to do is look to Him.

Yours Truly,

Haley

Pouring From an Empty Cup

“You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.”

This season of life is very busy for me. I work four days a week (nine hours a day), go to school on the three days that I’m not working, babysit two nights a week, volunteer at church on Sundays, and I recently became a leader at youth group on Wednesdays. Yes, I am constantly on the go trying to juggle homework, the gym, and my sanity. But guess what? I wouldn’t change a thing. I often reminisce on the days of being able to sleep past 6:30am and try to remember what it was like to wake up and think “what should I do today?”. However, my friends, I am exactly where I am supposed to be. Before college started I began to pray that God would take control of my life and use it for His purpose and for His glory. It was after I began praying that prayer that my life became the craziness that it is now. I believe that God is/ is going to use me in each of the areas of my life. I see so many different people throughout the week. So many people that need help, that need love, that need Jesus.  My days are the most jam packed that they have ever been, but they are also the most fulfilling.

My junior year of high school is when I started to intentionally look for work. For the first part of junior year I babysat two days during the week, and then for the second half I tutored three days during the week. Within a few months of tutoring I quickly began to feel “burnt out”. I loved tutoring and I grew attached to the kids I was tutoring, but I wasn’t happy. I decided that I just couldn’t live life constantly dreading Tuesday-Thursday. Stepping down from tutoring them was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I don’t like disappointing people or saying no, but I felt it was the best thing to do for myself. My cup was just about empty and I couldn’t pour from an empty cup. I thought that quitting tutoring three days a week would help me fill my cup up again. However, I was wrong.

Rest does not keep our cups full. Taking a break or going on vacation doesn’t either. The only way to ensure that our cups stay full, and ready to pour out into the lives of others, is by living our lives for Jesus. He keeps our cups full. Matthew 11:28 says, “Come to me and I will give you rest.” I do agree with the quote “you can’t pour from an empty cup”, but I now have a new understanding on how to fill my cup.

To everyone that is feeling as if life is ringing you out dry, I have some advice for you. Take a step back and evaluate your life because maybe some things are too much to handle. Start to ask God to show you what is truly important. Ask Him to help you find rest.

I want to end this blog by saying that I do realize that rest is important for our minds and bodies. But, I have found so much peace by realizing that God put me on this earth to be a difference maker (listen to the song Difference Maker by NEEDTOBREATHE), and if that involves me being constantly on the go then I am going to do that with a big smile and a heart full of joy.

Yours Truly,

Haley

 

A Different Happy Ending

“One thing I like about Pixar films is how the happy ending isn’t always what you think it’ll be. The toys don’t go with Andy to college, Gusteau’s restaurant gets closed down, Mike and Sully get kicked out of the university, Carl never gets Ellie to Paradise Falls. But they find out that what they wanted isn’t necessarily what they needed, and I like the fact that kids get to learn that life doesn’t always turn out the way they dreamed and that’s okay.” -Unknown

Each of us have an idea in our minds of how we want our lives to pan out. We have all created the perfect happy ending. For a young girl it might be becoming a professional actress, for a teenage boy it might be making it to the big leagues, for a young adult it might be falling in love and starting a family, and for a more maturely aged person it might be retiring blissfully on an island. However in real life, sadly, there is a very good chance that the perfect picture we have created may not become our reality.

There are a lot of people in this world whose idea of a happy ending isn’t really so unrealistic.  Most of us just want to live a life that brings us joy, but what we need to realize is that what might bring us joy might not be the perfect picture we have created in our minds. Life is a whirlwind. When I think of life in general I imagine myself in a tornado going full speed ahead with God above it reaching his hand out to save me. For so long I allowed myself to stay in the eye of the tornado, but I finally realized that it was time to grab His hand and let Him pull me out. Don’t get me wrong, I still get caught in the tornado, but now I look for God’s help to pull me to safety. I’m going to paint a picture in your minds to help you better understand the point I’m trying to get across. Imagine yourself walking down the street when all of a sudden you get swooped up into a whirlwind tossing you around like a sack of potatoes. When it’s finally over everything has been changed and switched around, but eventually life gets back to normal. You realize that although it is different from before, it’s still possible for you to find joy in your life. We all get swept up into whirlwinds and have our lives completely rearranged. And although our lives in the aftermath of the storm may be drastically different than the life we had pictured for ourselves, it is still possible to be happy.

Wednesday, August 16th, will be the six-year anniversary of my dad going home to heaven. Six years ago twelve-year-old Haley had a very different idea of how her life would go. My mom was so excited for me to be starting middle school. She would also always talk about high school and all of the exciting things that came with it such as Prom. Two days before my first day of middle school she was taken away. She didn’t get to watch me go through middle school or high school. She didn’t get to go Homecoming or Prom dress shopping with me. She didn’t get to help me through the tough decisions or hold me after a boy broke my heart. Did twelve year old me ever even think that this would be my reality? Not even close. One random night that summer my dad gave me advice about boys. I wish with all my heart that I could remember what he had said, but at the time I didn’t think that it would be the only time I would get boy advice from him. I never imagined that he wouldn’t get to meet my future boyfriends, or that he wouldn’t get to walk me down the aisle at my wedding. You see, although my life is completely different from anything I had imagined six years ago, I am happy. I have found joy within myself, the people around me, and most importantly Jesus. I have been so blessed by so many amazing human beings that I have crossed paths with. I have a wonderfully loving family, friends with hearts of gold, and a partner in crime who has had my back since I was three. I’m not going to lie, at times it is still hard for me to accept that this is my reality, but I find peace in knowing that God has me in the palm of his hand. I came across a Bible verse the other day that stood out to me. Ecclesiastes 3:15 says “What is happening now has happened before, and what will happen in the future has happened before, because God makes the same things happen over and over again.” To me this means that nothing that happens to us is too much for God to handle. It’s happened before, and it will happen again. He’s a pro at taking care of us, He’s got us in the palm of His hand.

So, my friends, remember this: wherever life takes you, you will always have a happy ending as long as you have Jesus at the center of your life. We all need to ditch the picture perfect lives we have created in our minds and grab ahold of our realities. I’m going to end this blog with one of my favorite verses. Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” It is so true. God’s plan for our lives is so much better than anything we could ever create for ourselves. When it comes time for you to get caught in the whirlwind, just remember that it will be okay, and don’t forget to look up and grab ahold of God’s hand.

Yours Truly,

Haley

Stormy Weather

What if instead of flakes, snow fell all at once? Like six inches of snow just plummeted to the earth in one thick blanket setting off car alarms and knocking people over, but that was it. That was the storm.

In life we all experience our own type of storm. Some of us experience occasional showers of rain while others experience full-blown hurricanes that destroy everything in their path. However, no matter how insignificant a person’s “storm” may seem to you, it still changes their life significantly. As humans, we tend to compare our own hardships to the hardships of the people around us. Our selfish nature drives us to want to be the center of attention, to be the biggest victim. Some of us may not admit it, and in fact as you’re reading this you may be thinking to yourself “that’s not me”, but I can guarantee that at one point in your life you were just like the rest of us. Sometimes we even envy a person when they are expressing the rough things going on in their life because my goodness we would trade our problems for their problems in a heartbeat. I struggled with this a lot in high school. Hearing my friends, and even random kids around me, complain about their parents would always sadden my heart because I would give anything to have my parents here with me. It was hard for me to show empathy when girls acted as if their world was ending because their boyfriend broke up with them due to the fact that my life would be so much easier if a boy was my biggest problem.

When I was fifteen I went to a camp called Comfort Zone. It’s an opportunity for kids who have lost a parent to find community amongst each other. It was such a refreshing experience for me because up until that point I had been trying to deal with the pain of (technically) losing both of my parents at the same time. But that weekend at camp made me focus solely on the loss of my dad. As weird as it sounds, it was actually calming to just be the girl who lost her dad. I was in a group made up of about ten fifteen and sixteen year olds and we were each paired with an adult. Throughout those three days we took turns sharing our tragedies and doing healing activities. It’s hard to explain how strangely wonderful it was that all of us kids were there because we had one awful thing in common. We all had very different stories and some wounds were fresher than others, but on some level we all understood each other’s pain. I was one of the last ones to share my story. I’m going to be completely honest and say that while I was listening to the other kid’s stories I would think to myself that theirs didn’t even compare to mine. Everyone except me still had one parent fully present in their lives. When it came time for me to share, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. All of the adults rushed to comfort me and express their love and support. At the time I loved being the center of attention, but now that I look back I am ashamed of that. My story isn’t any more heartbreaking than theirs and I didn’t deserve to receive more attention than they did.

Every single human being on this planet has experienced tragedy. Whether the worst thing that happened to them was losing a pet, or losing their whole family, their pain is still valid. Back to what I said before about girls acting as if their world was ending because a boy broke their heart: I realize now that is their storm, and it does in fact feel like their world is ending. We do not get to rate people’s pain and decide whether or not they’re overreacting because we simply aren’t them. We are the only ones who know what it’s like to feel what we’re feeling. So next time your coworker/ friend/ relative is venting about their problems that seem minuscule to you, and you’re just praying that they shut up before you completely lose your mind, take a walk in their shoes. Because I promise you that if you were them, it would seem like a big deal to you too.

Let’s talk about the quote at the beginning of my post. If you could choose between having the snow fall gradually over time or plummeting down to your life all at once, which would you choose? In the first option, bad things would happen gradually building up to the main event, but allowing you to have some time to process in between. In the second option it just hits you all at once and you’re left emotionally raw, but at least it’s over. Personally, I would choose the second option. I think that having the tragedy hit you like a ton of bricks would be less painful than continuously scratching off the scab that’s formed over your heart over time.

Figuring out how to act in the midst of tragedy, and how to react once it’s over, are both very confusing. When we experience painfully awful things our first instincts are to cry, lash out, and question. This past Sunday at church we had a guest pastor named Dakota Baker. One thing he said that stuck out to me was, “in the middle of a storm we tend to focus on what is happening around us, and while doing so we forget everything we have heard”. This means that while we are going through pretty crappy stuff we tend to only see the bad happening around us, which creates emotional chaos. When instead we should be remembering all of the things we have heard about how to deal with disaster. Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding”. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”. Lastly, Romans 8:38-39 tells us, “Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”. When we are battling through our storms we need to cling to these words and remember what they mean because the asnwer as to what we are supposed to do lies within them. One of the hardest parts is figuring out how we are supposed to react/ continue living once the storm has ended and we are left to pick up the pieces of our lives. The movie “Collateral Beauty” is a beautiful example. My favorite scene is when an older lady tells a young mom who just lost her daughter to remember to look for the collateral beauty in life. To me, looking for the collateral beauty in life means searching for the good things that come as a result of something awful. My friends, there is beauty all around us you just have to open your eyes to see it and open your heart to feel it.

I want you to remember two things. The first thing is that each of us humans truly are living in our own little worlds. Which means that what ruins someone’s world could be very different from what would ruin yours. So do not degrade someone else’s pain just because you don’t feel like it is a big enough deal. We are all human beings trying to fight off the unkind things of this world while searching for joy at the same time, and we just quite simply need to love each other. The second thing is no storm is too big for God to handle. We just need to lean into Him and look to Him for rest and comfort. God gives us a rainbow after each rainstorm as a promise that He will never flood the earth again, and He gives us a rainbow after each storm in our own lives as well. My friends, He will never flood your life with tragedy. No matter how truly awful and hopeless life may seem, you just have to search for the collateral beauty because I promise you if you look hard enough you will find it.

Yours truly,

Haley

I am sweetly broken.

If you have not heard the song “Sweetly Broken” by Jeremy Riddle, please take a moment to go listen to it. It’s an amazing song that has so much meaning. The chorus says “I am sweetly broken, wholly surrendered”. To me, this means that I am taking my broken, earthly self and surrendering my life to Jesus. Something about the phrase “Sweetly Broken” just makes so much sense to me as I reflect on my life. I am going to be painfully honest about my emotional struggles over the last few years because I believe that in order for God to use my story to change lives I need to tell the complete truth.

On August 16, 2011 I lost both of my parents and everything I ever knew changed drastically. My dad went to heaven, and my mom was wrongfully accused of being involved in his murder and was sent to prison. I am going to save the details of this part of my life story for a different day because it isn’t the main focus of my post.

For two years I would wake up in the morning and have thirty seconds of peace. Thirty seconds where I would be under the misinterpretation that everything was okay. Then it would hit me that the life I was waking up to was not the one I wanted, and I would be filled with such an intense sadness that I can’t even find the words to explain it. I was the queen of fake smiles. My counselor always tells me I need to take off my mask, but after a while pretending becomes normal. I know without a doubt that I am not the only one who feels this way. Making everything seem okay is much easier than telling people what’s wrong when they can’t understand what you’re going through.

As ninth grade was coming to an end I started to realize that I needed help. I couldn’t deal with my feelings on my own. I wasn’t really feeling like myself anymore. I finally worked up the courage to ask my grandma if I could get medication to help with what I was feeling. We scheduled me a doctor’s appointment for the middle of June. I got progressively worse in the weeks leading up to it. It was like I was living on the outside looking in. I stopped smiling and laughing altogether, and even my best friend started to notice. I kept saying that everything was going to be okay once I went to the doctor. Finally the day of my appointment came and I remember breaking down crying in the waiting room because I was just so relieved to have help so close. When my pediatrician told me that the best she could do was refer me to a psychiatrist, I was overcome with disappointment. Another two weeks of waiting. Then my appointment with the psychiatrist came and relief had arrived. She diagnosed me with depression, anxiety, and PTSD and put me on Zoloft. She also advised me to write down everything I was feeling whether it was good or bad. I started my medication the weekend before my fifteenth birthday. For three days I was so extremely happy. The dark clouds had been lifted and I was just so full of life and hope. I can still remember the feeling of being on cloud 9. Then the rush had ended and I returned to a more numb version of the person I was before. The depression was still there, I was just numb to the feeling of sadness. It made me very lethargic and I would spend my afternoons napping. I was starting to become even less like myself. I listened to what the psychiatrist said and I wrote my thoughts down each night. They were awful, but it did actually make me feel better to get them out on paper. Sometimes at night I would hold all of the pills in the palm of my hand and imagine myself swallowing them all and ending the pain. Then I hit rock bottom. It was the night of July 26, 2014. I was laying in bed when I started to get these bad thoughts. The next thing I know I got the scissors out of the drawer of my nightstand. As I stood underneath the light of my closet I cut my left arm thirteen times. I remember thinking that it didn’t hurt enough so I rubbed my arm with lotion so I could feel some sort of pain. The next morning I went to church and I didn’t even try to hide it. I was crying out for help. My little brother was the only one who noticed. He asked me “what’s up with your arm?” I replied with, “nothing”. That afternoon we went to my cousin’s birthday party so I wore a long sleeve shirt just in case.  The featured picture of this blog post is the picture my cousin and me at her party. I look perfectly happy, right? You would never guess why I was wearing a long sleeve shirt in the middle of summer. That right there my friends is an example of how good I perfected my act. That night I decided I had to tell my best friend because I knew she would find out when she saw. So I went into her room and told her I needed to talk to her out front (by the way my best friend is also my neighbor). I rolled up my sleeve and showed her my arm and right away she told me we needed to tell my grandma. She took me back over to my house and I showed my grandma. She was an emotional wreck. She took all the scissors out of my room and just hugged me. I was so numb that I didn’t completely understand what I had done. We then went to my psychiatrist and she changed my prescription to Prozac. It still wasn’t working the way I had wanted it to. I would daydream about checking myself into a psychiatric hospital because I just wanted a break. I started researching the one in Loma Linda to see what it would be like. One night I was laying in the grass out front and my best friend asked me what I was thinking about. I asked her if her and her family would come visit me if I checked myself in. After confiding in her dad, he told me that I did not belong in a place like that. He made sure that I got back in counseling with a psychologist not psychiatrist, and he helped me sign up for Comfort Zone which is a camp for kids who have lost a parent. I decided to quit taking my medication cold turkey because I didn’t like the person it was turning me into. I began counseling once a week which helped a lot. I slowly started to feel a little better as the weeks went on. My depression would still come back in waves, but it wasn’t constant anymore. Twelfth grade is when it returned with a vengeance. I could tell that it was coming back but I really didn’t want to go back on medication so I just tried to distract myself with school and work. I prayed for it to go away and it eventually did. Of course I feel an intense sadness from time to time, but as I learned in psychology there’s a big difference between feeling very sad for a few days and being clinically depressed.

Sunday July 9, 2017 is when I found the answer I had been looking for. My friends, do you know what was missing from my life in that time of depression? The answer is Jesus. Yes I went to church, but I did not have a relationship with our Savior. In fact, it wasn’t until this past month that I truly gave my whole entire life to God. This past year I started to get my relationship with Him back on track, but I still hadn’t fully released the reigns yet. For the month of July I am reading a chapter of Proverbs a day. I was actually reading chapter eight on July 9th because I was a day behind. I was sitting in a chair at the nail shop when I read these verses: Proverbs 8:35-36 “Those who find me find life… but those who fail to find me harm themselves; all who hate me love death”. A light bulb went off in my head right then and there. I had failed to find the Lord and I ended up harming myself. My friends, it says right there clear as day that those who find Him find life. That’s it. It’s as simple as that. All the sadness and pain ends when you find Jesus because those are worldly feelings, and He is not of this world. Of course we will still feel the not-so-joyful emotions such as anger, grief, and sorrow because we are human, but we find hope in Jesus. We find life in Jesus. And if I had realized this three years ago around this time then I would have saved myself a lot of pain, but then I also wouldn’t have this amazing story to tell. I feel as if I was sweetly broken in order to change not only my life, but the lives of those around me. In fact, I want to get “Sweetly Broken” tattooed on my left arm as a reminder that because of Jesus I am whole again. Friends, my heart has never been so full of love and joy than it is right now and that is all because of Him. I want to shout from the rooftops that Jesus loves YOU. No matter how awful life may seem right now, He will make it better. I hit rock bottom and made it back because of Him, and you can too. On Sunday at church my Uncle Chris said, “There is no heart He can’t heal. There is no life that Jesus cannot restore. It’s what He does. Your job is to surrender and invite Him into every area of your life.” My friends, we’ve all been sweetly broken, now let’s work on that wholly surrendered part. As we celebrate my cousin again this Friday I will be able to re-create this picture, and this time when I smile it will be a real smile.

Yours Truly,

Haley

Guard Your Heart

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” -Proverbs 4:23

Being teenage girls, we get told to “guard our hearts”. Usually when our mothers/friends/mentors give us this piece of advice they are referring to us guarding our hearts from a boy. I don’t know about you, but I am completely clueless as to how I am supposed to protect my heart from falling for someone. I don’t believe that there is even a way to consciously stop ourselves from it. When we meet a boy who says all the right things that make our hearts melt and our cheeks blush, it’s basically game over. And this, friends, is why I don’t believe that the phrase “guard your heart” falls into the romance category. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it”. To me, this verse is telling us that our actions come from what is going on in our hearts. So if a person’s actions consist of hateful things then they definitely have some hatred going on in their hearts. On the other hand, if a person’s actions are full of love and compassion, then that is what their heart is full of. Yes, a person could be pretending to be loving and compassionate, but the truth that is lying underneath the act they are putting on will shine through eventually. We must guard our hearts from the evil things of this world. We must protect it from falling into sinful traps. As humans, we are surrounded by negative people saying negative things. For the most part we can surround ourselves with positive, uplifting people, but it’s almost impossible to stay away from negativity completely. It’s super easy to hop on the negative band wagon and join in on the gossiping and complaining, and that is where the guarding our hearts comes into play. I am guilty of falling into the trap of gossiping. I am going to be completely honest with you, one of my favorite things to do is sit with my friends and catch up on the latest and greatest. I even text my best friends saying “did you see what SHE posted?!”. We are all so quick to judge one another when in reality God is the ultimate judge. Friends, we need to guard our hearts from the unkind things that are happening around us. I have started to try to become better at stopping myself from judging those around me. My theory is that if I start by no longer saying my judge-mental thoughts out loud, then slowly the thoughts themselves with disappear as well. I mean yes I’m only human so I will slip up sometimes, but I truly want my heart to only be full of love and joy. Okay, time to get deep. I’m going to share with you why this is so important to me. When I was eight years old we found out that my dad was having an affair. This caused me to become very protective of my mom and shut my dad out. My heart turned very hard and I spent years being nothing but mean to him. I would purposely turn on the lights in the morning while he was still sleeping, I would push him away every time he would try to hug me, and I would constantly make mean comments towards him. He would always ask me where his sweet Haley went. He ended up putting me in counseling for a few months because he thought I had anger issues. There would be times when I would be nice and show love towards him, but then I would feel as if I was betraying my mom. My heart started to soften as the years went on. When I was eleven he took my little brother and I to Washington DC and New York which caused us to bond and start to restore our relationship. The following summer he took us to Hawaii which is where the grudge I had held all those years faded completely. It was our last night in Hawaii and my dad and I were sitting on the beach while my brother played in the water. He told me that he had officially stopped the affair months ago, and that he had gotten his life right with Jesus. That is the day that my dad and I became friends. A month later my dad went to heaven. I wasted so much precious time being angry. The thing is I don’t look back on that time of my life with regret, instead I use it as a reminder of how I want to live my life now. I don’t want to have a hard heart full of anger and sadness. I want it to be overflowing with love. My uncle, Pastor Chris Norman, preached an amazing message today. He spoke about how God doesn’t care about how we are perceived on the outside, but instead how we truly are on the inside. I want God to look at my heart and be proud of me. I know I am not the only one out there who has/had a broken relationship with a parent. In fact, maybe my story is very similar to yours. I am going to give you a piece of advice. Forgive them. You aren’t hurting them by holding onto that hatred, you’re only hurting yourself. Forgiving them is not justifying what they did, it’s simply freeing yourself from all that hurt you’ve been bottling up. I miss my dad every second of every day, and I know without a doubt that if he was here today we would be the best of friends. I realize now that we all have sinned. To us humans some sins are much bigger than others, but to God sin is sin. So, my friends, I urge you one last time to ask God to soften your hearts and give you the ability to have a good, healthy relationship with your parents. And for those of you who are like me and have lost that parent, it’s not too late to forgive them. As I close out this blog I want to remind you all to guard your hearts. And not from that cute boy, but from the things in this world that will try to break in and turn your beautiful, loving heart into one full of hate, jealousy, and sadness. Goodnight, friends.

Yours truly,

Haley