Friday, April 6, 2018

I love Jesus, but I cuss a little

When I was in the depths of depression and anxiety, swearing was a habit. I managed to curb it around my family, adults, and anyone I cared enough not to offend, but unpleasant words I will not repeat here would tumble out around my friends regularly. We all swore. It wasn't "cool" – it was a casual expression of the deep-seated despair we felt. When I began receiving the care that, looking back, saved my life, I felt the need to swear slip away. I no longer felt like the world was crashing around me and therefore didn't need to express my emotions so strongly.
I have the opportunity and blessing to talk to many teenagers who are currently experiencing the same emotions I experienced several years ago. When they swear, I understand and don't ask them to stop. Words have a purpose and oftentimes, the words teenagers seem to casually throw around are chosen intentionally to demonstrate the feelings they do not know how to otherwise express. I never want to limit how a person feels they can convey themselves to me, especially when we are discussing something as serious as emotions.
However, to ignore the Scripture's words for the sake of “expression” would be a mistake. In Ephesians 4, Paul says that “That, however, [sin] is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (emphasis added)
It's hard to miss that message. Paul doesn’t beat around the bush when he tells new Christians to put aside the old ways and step into the new, glorious light of salvation. While letting the occasional swear word slip to demonstrate passion to a close sister in Christ isn’t damning, it’s important to remember that our lives are our witness. “Saved by grace” doesn’t mean much if your words consistently fail to uplift those around you.
James continues this message in his book, instructing, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (emphasis added)
Again, not that hard to follow. James’s point is pretty clear – so why is it so much harder to follow? Arguments could be made for peer pressure, societal norms, or simply habit. But the truth lies much deeper than the surface.
We simply do not prioritize the Word of God above the word of man.
The words coming out of our mouths are more important to us than the words from God. We may study the Bible and pretend to treat it as holy, but Deuteronomy says that, “…He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.” (8:3) When you speak, how much of what you say reflects the heart of God? How much is idle talk that serves very little kingdom purpose? Until we are truly humbled in our understanding of God’s presence in our lives and the very essence of what He has done for us, we will never truly grasp the role of our words as reflections of His goodness.
The tee shirt from which I took the title of today’s blog post – “I love Jesus but I cuss a little” – is well meaning, but it misses the point. To love Jesus is to consistently work towards the holiness our perfect God demands.

Love,
Hannah

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Hands Free Life by Rachel Macy Stafford

I stumbled upon her work during a random trip to Books-A-Million. Browsing the clearance section, I saw a book with a pretty cover and decided to read the synopsis on the back. The words "a life of significance" caught my attention and I purchased the book.

Although my depression makes my attention span shorter than it used to be and I barely finished a book in the entirety of 2017, I read Hands Free Life in a little over a week. I would share my favorite parts with you but then I'd end up retyping the whole book, so here is the sentence that stuck with me the most my first time reading (and I'm sure I will reread Rachel Macy Stafford's words many times over).

"...when you have the most important things in life - like love, faith, and family - there is nothing you own that you can't give away."

How many times have I clung to material possessions, forgetting that my foundation is not in things, but in lasting sources of peace?

In addition to encouraging selfless giving, Stafford urges readers to slow down to consider the beauty around them and gives practical steps toward protecting sacred relationships within the home. I'm just a nineteen year old living at home with her parents and younger sister, but I was immediately inspired to spend more time listening, investing, and appreciating those who share my home. It would be easy to use Stafford's examples of her daughters and make excuses for my own situation because I am not a parent, but something in the book left no room for loopholes. "This is your life," Stafford seems to say with every sentence. "You have to live it to the fullest every single day." And while that may seem daunting, she fills the pages with honesty, exposing her own vulnerability for the sake of connection and hope for growth.

Her vulnerability also struck a cord in me. I've tried to be open in order to show others that they are not alone in their struggles, but the fear of ridicule and gossip has stopped me from sharing too much about my inner world. Reading Stafford's stories about repenting for her mistakes, tearfully asking her children for forgiveness, and then sharing those failures with groups of listeners in order to provide hope and encouragement showed me that my stories are nearly useless if they are not told. I may have seen great progress in my heart, but how much good does it do if I keep it hidden? Transparency is the only hope for community.

The small biography on the back of the book refers to Rachel Macy Stafford's methods as "non-intimidating" and I have to agree. When you're too overwhelmed to read theology or older Christian authors, Stafford's honesty, compassion, and encouragement are the perfect soul balm. She doesn't scold. She merely offers a hand and asks you to join her journey towards a life of significance.

Love,
Hannah

Sunday, February 4, 2018

to him....to you...

Dear friend,

I want to give you something.

I want to give you the courage to hope. I want to give you something that will cling to you as much as you cling to it. I want to give you something so unshakable, you won’t be able to convince yourself you don’t believe it.

When it feels like you're running out – of options, time, money, strength, anything – I want you to know that one person always has your back.

Even if you don't see it, you're leaving a miraculous trail of love behind you. The waves you leave in your wake are smiles, laughter, warm fuzzy feelings, butterflies, and pure happiness. You cannot see the love you spread simply by being yourself, but it is tangible in the lives of others.

And that's worth more than any internship, career, or paycheck.

When you’re struggling to make a decision, I want you to remember what is truly important in life. I want you to hold onto the courage that makes you you. I want you to cling to the hope that life is going to be an extraordinary journey no matter which path you choose.

I know you're going to do something so incredible, it will surpass any dreams or expectations you could hope to fulfill.


I'm just praying you see it because that is the only part I cannot guarantee. I want you to notice the smiles you leave behind. I want you to see the beauty that surrounds you and recognize your part in it. I want you to cherish the role you have played and know you lived life to the absolute fullest.

Love,
Hannah

2.4.18

TW: suicide, self harm, eating disorders (nothing graphic, just mentions)

When I read or hear about someone dying by suicide, an eating disorder, or any mental health related cause, I am overwhelmed by sadness and a feeling I haven't been able to name until today.

Sadness, yes, because death is so painfully inevitable for everyone but yet still so raw and unexpected. And for many mental health related deaths, perhaps preventable. I'm what they call a Highly Sensitive Person, which means I feel things extremely deeply anyway but being so intimately connected with a community makes a death within that community so much more painful. I appreciate this about myself, even when it makes my life difficult.

The other emotion is guilt.

Sometimes I feel like depression is a limited illness. It can only affect so many people before it's existence in the world runs out. If I had been the one struggling, maybe I could have gotten help or at least clung to hope. Please don't misunderstand - I'm not blaming them or saying I'm stronger. I just wish it had hit me instead of them and that maybe I would have had a chance at beating it. At the very least, the Gospel could have been shared at my funeral and I would go to Heaven. Instead, I am left wondering about the people I've never met.

I wish depression would run out. I wish suicide would stop hurting people I care about. And truly, I care about everyone. I wish eating disorders would go screw off and self harm was an entity I could push off a cliff.

I hate mental illnesses. What I can do doesn't seem like enough. And I don't have answers.

I know they will start in my sadness though. And maybe even my guilt.

Love,

Hannah

Friday, February 2, 2018

2.2.2018

I told the girl who checked me out at Hot Topic that I liked her hair.

What I really wanted to say was, "I appreciate the confidence you exude by having your hair dyed in such an unusual way. That confidence is rare, so even though your hairstyle isn't my taste, I love your bravery."

Isn't that what such a huge part of life? Being confident in what you desire to be, who you really are, so that you are free to live outside the constraints of society's expectations?

I recently watched a TedTalk entitled, "The power of vulnerability" by Dr. Brene Brown, available here. In the talk, Dr. Brown shares how being vulnerable and allowing yourself to be unapologetically yourself is the key to happiness. From a Christian worldview, the "key to happiness" is highly debated, but the point still stands. Vulnerable people are happier people.

Your first step toward vulnerability maybe be going to a therapist or a friend and telling them you need professional help. It may be wearing an outfit you want to rock but are afraid to. In my eyes, these situations are of equal importance because everyone's journey is different and our paths to happiness are going to be as well.

My own therapist told me to "forget the word 'should'." I try to edit it out of my vocabulary as much as possible now. Who is to say I "should" be in school right now, I "should" look a certain way, or I "should" be better at something? I am who I am. I am learning how to accept me as an entire package, not someone I get to pick apart and take what I like, leaving the bad behind. I was created the way I am for a reason. Yes, there will always be room for growth.

But growth takes vulnerability. And vulnerability brings joy.

~Hannah

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

9.26.17

I'll be honest... long distance relationships can suck. I'm thankful for technology but nothing can replace the actual presence of someone, especially someone you love. Too often we post only the sunshine on social media and never the rain clouds. No one wants to be a downer, but I think too often it stems from a fear of being honest. Here's my honest - LDRs can suck! Yes, we Skype, call, text, and write letters. I still have a countdown until he comes home for break. And yes, I get intensely jealous when I see girls with their significant others, even though I'm very happy for them. I have to remind myself that all our paths are different and being away from each other is actually a freedom not everyone has - we can focus on our maturation and preparation without as much immediate pressure. But if I'm honest, I still miss my best friend.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

black lives matter

I am a feminist. I understand that for many, this equates to man-hating. By definition, it is fighting for equality. I am quite used to people disagreeing with me on the basis that feminism has come to equal hate. I don't even disagree with them, although I try to respectfully educate them.

This is how I feel about the Black Lives Matter movement. I agree with the basis, not what it has come to. If you support it and want to have a logical discussion about it, I am more than willing to talk about it. Really. But the second it becomes about burning buildings and killing others, it has lost my support. Such is the same with any other movement.

I do not support radical feminism because it degrades men. And I do not support BLM because it is often, not always, about degrading whites and police officers. I cannot support a movement which calls for the death of others.

If your BLM is about protecting blacks, count me in.
If it's about killing whites or police officers, or prioritizing blacks over whites, count me out.

It's that simple.

Love,
Hannah
<3