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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Scary Things

A little over a year ago my best friend and I were babysitting a group of kids that we watched every week. The oldest girl of the group, an eight year old, was playing on the swing set with one of the younger boys. The adventurous young girl was telling the boy about how she had fallen from the top of the swing set a few weeks earlier. When the boy asked if she had cried, her response left me speechless. She said, “No. Because when you’re older there’s less pain because you’ve already been through the scary things.” I could not believe that had just come out of the mouth of an eight year old. I wrote it down word for word in my notes so that I could remember it forever.

My mom’s “pre-trial” took place around November 2011. I put pre-trial in quotes because it wasn’t the real thing since her actual trial didn’t occur until 2015. I was sitting at my grandparent’s dinning room table with my aunt and brother. Everyone else was at the court hearing. We had KFC for lunch and we had saved a piece for my mom because our hopeful hearts thought that a miracle would occur and they would let her go during the pre-trial. I remember my aunt telling me how sorry she was that we were having to go through this at such a young age. I told her, “Well, at least it means I’ll have an easy adulthood.” Mind you I was barely 12 years old when I said this. In my mind I thought that since I had already gone through enough traumatic events for a lifetime, that meant smooth sailing from there on out. Young me would soon realize I was very wrong.

I recently watched the movie The Shack and my eyes were opened to so much revelation. I never believed that God chose to make bad things happen to us, but part of me questioned why He didn’t stop it. Some people say that God gives trials to test our faith. However, I always wondered why God had to give me such a big one. After watching The Shack I truly understood the answer to my question. Tragedy happens because of mankind’s choices and sin. God does not cause bad things to happen to us. But instead He brings “incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies”. If you are apprehensive as to why bad things happen, you need to watch or read The Shack. I gained so much understanding from it.

I also came to the understanding that we aren’t each given one hard thing to overcome and then we are good to go. Some of us will face bump after bump. Whereas others will go through life with maybe only one flat tire. In my opinion, pain does not get easier as you face more tragedies in life, but instead you have a better understanding on how to deal with it. There is still so much truth behind the little girl’s quote. For example, when I was younger I thought that the dark was very scary, but as I got older I realized that as soon as I turned on the lights the darkness went away. We do become braver as we grow older and the scary things start to become less scary.

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.” God knows exactly what is going to happen in our lives. What may seem like a ton of giant potholes in our path of life, are truly just chapters in our stories. Friends, we must grow through what we go through. There will be less pain after we go through scary things because we will have overcome them.

Yours Truly,

Haley

Change is Good

Hello, friends! It has been awhile since I have written, but I’m back! A few blog posts ago I wrote about how busy my life was and how I enjoyed it. Well, long story short I stopped enjoying it.

Let me give you a quick refresher of what my life looked like in 2017: I was going to school three days a week, working four days a week, leading youth on Wednesday’s, and babysitting two nights a week. When January came I decided that I needed to slow down. So I stepped back from babysitting twice a week, which was hard because it is something I had done with my best friend since we were juniors in high school. But it was time for me to close that chapter of my life. About a month ago my aunt asked me if I would like to come on staff at church part time and help with some of the children’s ministry tasks. I was apprehensive about adding 8 more hours of work to my week when I was already working 32 hours, but I felt like God was telling me to accept the position. So I did! And I absolutely love it. Lastly, two weeks ago I put my two week notice in at my job that I have had for almost two years (that’s a long time for a youngin like me). Thursday of this week is my last day. I won’t go into detail as to why I chose to leave, but it was a very hard decision for me. This job consumed most of my life and for me to choose to leave was extremely difficult. I prayed for a sign as to what I should do and God showed me it was time for me to go. So friends as you can see I’ve made some major changes. As of next week my weekly routine will be going to school two days a week (with two online classes on top of that), leading the 9th&10th grade girls at youth group on Wednesday’s, and working alongside my aunt in the children’s ministry at church. I have been actively looking for a job, but I feel like I need to take a small break and allow myself to breathe. I am so excited for this new season of life.

Change is always something I have struggled with. And when it comes to me making the change I am really hard on myself. I hate disappointing people so when I decide to take a step back from something, I contemplate it for weeks before I am sure it’s the right thing to do. When change comes out of nowhere it definitely freaks me out. I am a planner. Down to almost every minute of every day. The funny thing is I don’t like to make plans set in stone because then I have anxiety about the plan changing. So although I’m a major planner, I’m also a non-planner. It’s also super hard for me to be laid back when it comes to plans. If you ask my best friend she will definitely agree. Like I said, I plan every minute of every day.

One verse that I try to keep up front in my mind is Philippians 4:6 which says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” When change comes our way it’s important to remember that there is no need to be anxious because God’s got us. It’s hard to live in the unknown, but nothing is unknown to God. This post is shorter than usual, but I wanted to give you a quick recap on what is happening in my life. I am going to spend my new free time (what is free time??) blogging much more! So have a beautiful night, friends!

Yours Truly,

Haley

All the Hard Things

Exodus 14:14 “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

As humans we are really good about painting a happy life. We post pictures of ourselves smiling with our friends/ loved ones, pictures from our latest adventure, and pictures of something exciting that happened to us. All of these things are good, and most pictures do showcase the moment they captured. However, what about all of the thoughts and feelings those beautiful smiles hide? Today I’m going to be real; today I am going to share with you my “hard things”.

The tornado that hit my life six years and four months ago placed me into two categories. I am now a child who has a deceased parent, and a child who has an incarcerated parent. Today, I’m going to talk about what it’s like to be a child who has an incarcerated parent.

There’s a grief process for when you lose a loved one, but I believe there should be a grief process for when a loved one gets incarcerated as well. The day my mom was arrested was the second most awful day of my life. My mom is the best mom in the whole entire world. She is kind, loving, generous, strong, brave, and every other good attribute you can think of. My childhood consisted of trips to Disney, Sea World, Knotts, and Lego Land. My house was full of different types of animals, from ferrets to fish. And our hearts were full of love. But you see, my childhood wasn’t amazing because of the places we went or the things we had, it was amazing because I am now full of these wonderful memories which I cling to with everything I’ve got.

My mom was so excited for me to venture into middle school and then on to high school to experience the fun and memorable times that growing up brings with it. She was arrested two days before my first day of middle school. At the time we thought she would be getting released that weekend because we couldn’t find a logical reason as to why they would keep her for a crime she didn’t commit. However, that weekend came and passed. I remember the first time visiting my mom. The visits in county consisted of talking on the phone while looking at each other through glass for thirty minutes. Now imagine having to split that time between four people. Imagine telling your eight year old brother his time was up because it’s your turn to talk to your mom. Leaving after visits is always the hardest. Walking back to the car and leaving my mom behind feels so very wrong. Those first few years we were so optimistic. Although milestones, such as my first dance, came and left I knew everything would be okay once my mom came home. I would day dream about her sitting on my bed and me brushing her hair. The hope of her coming home soon made the hard things easier. Not being able to pick up the phone and call my mom when I wanted to tell her something was so hard to get used to. Goodness, getting used to not being able to walk down the hall and tell my mom something was awful. Every single day of my life my mom was there loving me and taking care of me, and then one day she’s just not. One of the worst feelings is when I miss a call from her. The fifteen minutes I could’ve had to talk to her slips between my fingertips and I just imagine her on the other side of the phone walking back to her room wondering what I was doing. It’s so, so hard. Four years later, during my sophomore year of high school, the trial finally got started and it felt like the end was almost near. She was going to come home. The trial was rough, but we didn’t lose hope. I mean how could they convict her for something she didn’t do? The trial lasted about two grueling months, but it was going to be worth it in the end. I was making plans for what we were going to do once she got home. Closing arguments had finished and it was now time for jury deliberations. After just four hours the jury had come to a decision. I was in fourth period when I got the text that the verdict was in. I couldn’t breathe, I was in a state of panic and didn’t know what to think. My best friend had to talk for me as we waited in the office to get picked up to go to the court house. I was reading Bible verses on my phone looking for a sign as to what was about to come. On the car ride down we were silent. My aunt was already there and texted us to tell us the judge wasn’t going to wait, and that she would let us know what happened. A single worded text with an emoticon changed my life forever. The text read, “guilty :(“. At first it was like a blow to the chest, and then I burst out in tears and kept saying “no” over and over again. It couldn’t be true. The one strand of hope I held onto so tightly was ripped away. That was the most awful day of my life. Two months later she was sentenced to 26 years to life.

Visiting in a state prison is much better in comparison to county. We get to spend the whole day with her talking and playing games. We get to hug her, and walk around. However, instead of 45 minutes away, she’s five hours away. Now that I am eighteen I can visit her on my own which I am excited about because I get to be able to spend time with her with all her attention on me.

Some days I miss her so much that my heart truly aches. All I want is to hear her laugh, and have her hug me. At night when I lay in my comfy bed watching Netflix and scrolling through Instagram, I can’t help but think about my mom sleeping on her cold hard bed in a room she shares with about six other people. As I look around my room and see all the unnecessary things I’ve come to love and find comfort from, I think about how fast it could all be ripped away.

One of the hardest parts is noticing how sad it makes my mom when she realizes how much she is truly missing out on. It breaks my heart when I can hear how sad her voice sounds on the other end of the phone. I have always been very protective over her, and now that I can’t do that anymore it hurts. It is all just so hard. If someone would’ve told me that this would be my life, I would’ve cried at the thought. If I could have back all of the things I took for granted, it would be like a dream come true. Seeing my mom every day, texting her, going places with her, just simply being with her. My heart will never be whole again. When she does come home, when I’m in my mid thirties, she will restore some of the missing pieces. And the rest will be restored when I see my dad again in heaven.

I did not share this aspect of my life to find pity, but to shine a light on how much of an impact incarnation of a love one has on people. I am often asked how I am so “normal” and how I seem so content. My answer is God. Exodus 14:14 says, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” God is fighting for my peace, He is fighting for my mom’s peace, and He’s fighting for your peace. I find my joy through the fact that I will never walk alone a day in my life. My friends, no matter where we go, and no matter what happens to us, God will fight for us.

Yours Truly,

Haley

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