Love Well

Well, it has been a really long time since I last wrote here. Since April my words have found a home in other spaces. In East Asia, my words belonged in a black journal that I carried around everywhere or, when I wanted to share my experiences, on the small postcards that I gave to my friends. It was strange to not document my experiences. Before I left I could not imagine what it would be like for people to not know my thoughts or experiences.

When I returned to the States, I stopped writing in my little black journal. With a thesis to tackle, and essays to write, my words lived in my computer or scribbled down on a nearby napkin. My words also made there way into other people’s homes in the form of thank you notes, and, believe it or not, my words even sat on other people’s couches as they traveled through the air!

And so, out of all of the places my words could live, I am writing here because I think it is important that this blog is their home.

Because I live off-campus this semester, I frequent the bus. I know the many faces of the 656 bus drivers. While most of them are kind (although a few are a bit sassy), sometimes I am fortunate enough to hop on the bus with the sweetest bus driver. And this is why: at every stop, she smiles and tells people to have a wonderful day.

For anyone who rides the bus (or has ever taken a crowded, smelly bus) this is out of the norm. For the most part, people don’t look at one another. They don’t talk to one another. And they most certainly don’t encourage one another.

But she does. At every stop, on every day, she loves people well.

Today I found the courage to tell her thank you. Before my stop I slowly made my way to the front of the bus to encourage her. When I did, her reply was simple and genuine: “I love people.”

Her response was so simple and so profound. So easy and yet so hard to execute.

I wish I valued people more than feeling comfortable. I wish I loved without expecting anything in return. I wish I made my stupid, mundane tasks exciting and joy-filled because I looked less at the task in front of me and more at the people surrounding me.

At one of the stops today, after encouraging everyone who was leaving, she talked to a family that was sitting on the bus bench, waiting for another bus. When the father saw she was stopping (not knowing others would be getting off the bus), he gently put his hand up to inform her he would not be getting on. And when she started to speak to him, he did it again.

I am sure he did not expect to be treated with kindness and conversation. And why would she? She has her job to do. She has to transport people to and from places. She has a schedule to maintain.

To me, her job is so much more. She isn’t just a bus driver. She is a friend. An encourager. A person that turns bad days into good ones, or at least hopeless days into hopeful ones.

I wish we did that more. Will you join me in loving people well?

xx,
Hannah

 

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Waves

We created oceans with waves,
and I know that doesn’t make sense, for sounds to come
before vibrations and light before the rising sun,
but everything was seismic to us.

When I think of the first time I saw
you I can’t see past the sand particles sitting
on your right cheek. Each grain
held onto the curvature

of your face and before I knew it I was
buried knee deep, flipping and flapping
my arms like a child awkwardly astounded
that you were made up of atoms

and particles that were smaller and of more
abundance than God’s poetic dirt
stuck to your sunscreen skin.

I felt big when I was with you.
Not domineering or powerful, not overbear-
ing or oppressive – just important.

Yet if anything I should have felt small.
Your ocean heart constantly
brought in a tide that forced me to swallow
my salty pride and listen to a sea of

whispers that could only be heard
when I stopped picking up seashells and
pressing them to my ear. There
were other things I needed to hear, something

different than a back-and-forth
reflection of waves inside of my head.

And so little by little, wave on wave, you taught
me how to use my hands. With shovels and shells we built
castles out of worn down rock, making the
defeated strong and sturdy again.

I felt taller when I was with you,
and I know I said smaller, however this
statement is just as true because tides
eventually knock down tyrants’

castles and the strong waves knocked me down
too. But every fall into the sea
left me with more seaweed between my toes,

salt dried to my skin, and another chance
for my legs to walk to shore
and stand again.

To think that I thought the oceans
carried the blue waves and then pushed
them, telling them where to go;
what to do; who to be.

I now know it takes the small
to make the big:

One wave
can make a sea.

xx, Hannah

 

A Love Letter for the Lonely

To the maker who kissed
the stars with His celestial
breath and placed the cosmos
at my fingertips;

The farmer who took
the dirt from underneath His moon-
slivered nail and planted
me near the living streams that
water me with grace;

The carpenter who carried
the cross, the work of His worn hands,
and carved a vessel into
my chest so that my ribs
were a home, a temple
for his holiness to dwell;

The father who sat
me on His knee, wept
when I ran to the depths of darkness
and rejoiced in song
when I returned:

I am sorry for crying for “lover.”

I have rooted myself in man’s
every word like it is food I need for
nourishment, the manna
I need to give thanks.

I have believed the serpent’s
lie that you: maker; farmer; carpenter;
father, did not love me
when you ran to my rescue
as they ran nails into your palm.

I have clung to the sin
that forced Your lungs to cling
to Your ribs for air,
Your lips to cling to
Your last breath, and Your last breath
to cling onto life so
You could say – “it is finished.”

This is from your bride that
has eloped with the dark, your
dwelling place that has boarded
up her doors, your flower
that has rooted herself among
the sharp death cries of the rock,
the one who has believed your
love was not enough.

This is from the one who is yours.

From the body that has buried
within her the rich soil of your hand
where flowers of life
will bloom;

The temple that holds
your grace that is as vast
and incomprehensible
as the universe
that was made to house the stars;

The daughter made
in the image of the Father.

This is an account
of my broken Hallelujah
that proclaims praises to a faithful
Father who has sown a seed of
righteousness in the dirty soil
and watered me with grace.

But more than a handwritten letter
to you, this is a reminder to me –
there is no lover who will love me
better than when you placed the heavens
in my hand, when you called me

Yours.

My God, my Maker,
my Farmer, my Carpenter,
my Father, my Bridegroom;
your love is more than enough for me.

xx, Hannah

Loving Well: The Hard Kind of Love

On the second or third page of the scrapbook my mom made for me, there is a picture of a black and white sonogram; an inside look of a soon to be crying, breathing, and in-all-color baby. Still inside my mom’s belly, I would soon be grasping the hand that held me so gently in the womb. Alongside the photo my mom writes that, (this is me paraphrasing), the moment she knew that she was having a baby she loved me the most she has ever loved something. Every time I read the tidy cursive next to the messy photo of me that was incapable of showing my long, dark eyelashes (like my dad’s,) my rosy cheeks (like my mom’s,) and my one-of-a-kind silliness (both of my mom and dad,) I am reminded that before my mom knew anything about me, she loved me.

It is natural to be enamored with something that is a product of you. Before my mom knew what I was going be praised for, or more importantly, what I was going to need grace for, she was willing to give up her time, energy, and dreams for me. Whether it is a result of your love, your labor, or your like, it is normal to be passionate about something that is of you. And, (just to clarify), that is not a bad thing. In fact, loving something or someone well is one of the most important things Christ tells us to do, “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great (most important, principal) and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). Loving people is a critical part of being a Christian. However, when Jesus instructs us to “love [our] neighbors as [we] love [ourselves]” He does not mean love your neighbor that is like yourself.

Recently I have realized that I excel at loving people who are like me. If I am thinking of one of my Christian friends, I am quick to shoot them encouragement. If one of my friends is going on a mission trip, I have no hesitation in supporting them through money. If one of the girls in my bible study is having a hard week, I am faithful to take time out of my schedule for a coffee date. When it comes to loving those who love Jesus, I am wonderful at loving them well. And as I mentioned previously, loving people with excellence is to be praised. As Christians, we are called to be the body of Christ, which means praying for one another, encouraging one another, and being vulnerable with another. Like my mom loved (and does love me) because I am a product of her, it is just as beautiful to love someone because we are of the same flesh: brothers and sisters in Christ.

However, while I am thorough in loving those who are of my love, labor, and like, I am weak when it comes to embracing those who are different from me. Because I often love those who are like me, I have convinced myself that I do not need to love others outside of my reach. I have twisted the greatest commandment and twisted the reach of my arm so that I do not have to talk to others or help others that having different dreams and beliefs than I do. I have been content with my Christian walk when really I should be a taking leap forward to reach other people who will not naturally reach for me.

Loving people who are not of the same like as us is hard. Because I have loved the body of Christ so well, I have become blinded to the messy, unconditional sort of love that Jesus calls us to. Starting today, it is my goal to go out of my way and love others that I would often pass without thought. If you have found yourself in the same place that I am in, I encourage you to be intentional in loving others in simple ways. It is as simple as a smile, a have-a-great-day, or even I-love-your-vest. Let’s love people well.

xx, Hannah

P.S. You can love me well by holding me accountable.

Loving Well

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This year I have been so blessed to live in a community of girls that pursue and love the Lord. Even more so, I have been blessed to have my roommates faithfully love me and get to experience loving them in return. While I was convinced I knew what loving someone looked like, I am convinced I was wrong. The more that I get to selflessly receive and give love I have realized that —

Love is getting down on the floor with your friend to hold their hand as they cry. Love is getting late night pancakes after drawn out sobs in the shower. Love is writing notes and sending texts of encouragement. Love is praying with one another. Love is saying ‘I miss you.’ Love is hurting because the one you love is hurting. Love is late night talks that forget about homework and focus on healing. Love is being honest with one another. Love is being vulnerable about present hurt and future concerns. Love is baking cookies at inconvenient times for others just because. Love is keeping one another accountable in their walk with the Lord. Love is honoring opinions. Love is writing songs and reading poems about heartbreak. Love is laughter that hurts. Love is ‘I’m Glad You are Home’ hugs. Love is making lists about all the things you love about someone. Love is telling someone that it is okay to cry. Love is crying with them.

You see, my dear friends, you can love others without being in love. Take the love that you could have for one significant other and share it with a multitude of people: send a text to your mom and tell her you love her; write an encouraging letter to your friend that is having a rough week; make dinner for your roommates; let your brother know you are proud of him; genuinely ask a stranger how their day is. We all have the desire to love someone — use that desire to love as many people as you can because loving others deeply is loving well.

xx, Hannah

P.S. I turn twenty in less than a month! I can’t believe it. EEK — what to do when I am not a teen?

Run, Daughter, Run

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I hit the ground running. From the first tender step into my father’s arms to the second clumsy step into the body of a hardwood floor I learned the art of running: step, fall, step, stride. As silly as it is to say I knew how to run before I knew how to walk it is true. I did not walk to the candy store, I ran. I would not pause for a boys kiss, I jolted forward (bumping noses and foreheads). I was not still at the thought of the future, I writhed.

For being so disciplined in caution I have ran, jolted, and writhed at breakneck speeds towards (or away) from my desires, wants, and dreams. It is what I have been taught to do. Yet I look at my tired feet and wonder, why am I running? And perhaps the more important question: who am I running to?

Recently I read the Parable of the Lost Son (Luke 15:11-32). Here is a special-speed-summary-from-me-to-you: there is a father who splits his inheritance between his youngest and oldest son. The younger son squanders his wealth. Once rich, now poor, the younger son has a job as a servant working with pigs (can you believe it pigs – and the son, despite starving, doesn’t even get to eat the slop – yuck). Realizing he would have a better life if he returned to his father, the son goes back to his father willing to work as a servant: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired man.” (Luke 15:18). Yet when the father sees the son he is not ashamed or angry. Instead, the father runs to the son and kisses him. And can you believe it? The father throws the son a celebration. But despite the feel-good return, the oldest son is left feeling forgotten and angry. “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him.” (Luke 15:29-30). But (and this is super cool) the father replies: “My son, you are always with me and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found. (Luke 15:31-32).

Here are some realizations I had while reading this parable:

* The father is faithful and loving to the youngest and the oldest son.
* When the son tells the father that he is unworthy to be his son – and deserves the title of servant – it is a form of repentance.
* After the youngest son’s repentance, the father does not dwell on the wrongs (or sins) the youngest son has committed, but instead he celebrates that the youngest son has returned.
* The focus of the parable is less about the son running away from the father. Instead, the parable is about the son changing his direction to run toward the father and, as we see, the father running towards the son.

You see, when the youngest son runs back to the father saying, “I have sinned against heaven and you. I am no longer worthy […]” the son experiences repentance. But in the son’s repentance – the turning away from his sin and the turning back to his Father – the Father rejoices. In the same way, Jesus celebrates when we return to Him after running towards our selfish dreams, ambitions, and desires.  While we much expect Jesus to say, ‘look at all the wrong you have done (or even the time you have wasted) since you have been gone from me,’ He says ‘let us celebrate, the one I love has returned!’

I look at this parable and I realize that my greatest flaw is not that I am running towards my dreams or desires. Rather in the sin that I encounter because of my selfish dreams or desires, I am running away from my Father. My self-induced guilt and shame has forced me to be a servant for the pigs – so unworthy that my starving self won’t even allow myself to partake in the slop.

Yet, in my guilt and shame there is Jesus. He is fervently awaiting my return. He is preparing a celebration. He is rejoicing at my repentance. And when I run to Him, I find that He was running to me all along (I was just running in the wrong direction).

xx, Hannah

P.S. I am thankful that God celebrates and delights in both the youngest and oldest son. Even though I am often in the Adidas of the youngest son, how comforting is it to know that He delights in our return and in our stay. (Yes, I did try to make a running joke by saying Adidas. And yes, I know it wasn’t funny at all).

 

Cherry Pie

Hello to my fellow angsty teens (and not so angsty teens). I’ve been MIA for awhile, but as this post suggests – I am back! This morning I was reading my devotional on She Reads Truth that focused on Lamentations 3:16-26. After reading it (I highly encourage that you read it right now,) I felt inclined to write a poem. Whereas I sometimes struggle putting my thoughts into words this poem came easily to me. Here it is:

He has made
a cherry
pie in my honor.
Years ago, He
set the crust
in advance.

A labor
of flour and tears
kneaded
with tired hands
so that today,
on my
day of mourning,

I can find
the golden
crust of joy
hidden beneath
the sweet
cherries of His
love.

He has cut
me a slice. Much
greater
than the measly
1/8 I had requested

and when I say
“that is enough”
He gives me
more. And more.
And more.

A reminder
of the pain, He
endured
when He
scorched His
hand at the edge
of the oven.

When He
made this pie
with the last
cherries in His
orchard. When He
cut His
slice – a large portion –
and gave it to
me.

I am reminded
of His
goodness. And when
I eat –

I am full.

The other night I was feeling a bit down, but as I read Lamentations 3:16-26, and specifically Lamentations 3:22-24, I am reminded that the sadness and loneliness I feel is met with the portion Jesus so lovingly gave me at the cross. When I am in despair, He has filled me with joy and gladness. Before I ever took a breath He had given me His grace that would last for the first hour of my life, the first minute of my day, and each and every morning.

I wonder how many times I am satisfied with a small piece of the Lord’s goodness. I wonder how often I take His mercies, His grace, His joy as an optional slice of dessert. Certainly, Jesus’ selfless death on the cross was so much more than an indulgence or an option. His sacrifice was a gift. And when we are needing something to give us hope, or joy, or peace, He gives us more than we could ever imagine. All we have to do is accept it.

I hope that my revelation this morning is one that resonates with me (and you,) each and every morning.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” [Lamentations 3:22-24]

 

xx – Hannah

P.S. Sorry I made you hungry for cherry pie. Also, sorry if you thought this post was just about cherry pie. It’s not.