Moving to haleytodd.com!

I moved out of my freshman dorm yesterday, and with that transition, it’s time for another one. Basically Hermione is moving to haleytodd.com!

Thank you for reading for the past three years and 100 posts—it means so much to me! I’m so excited about a fresh site and can’t wait to start posting there soon. Basically Hermione has been an incredibly fun learning experience, and I’m excited to see what God has in store for this new blog. I hope you’ll check it out at haleytodd.com! Thank you!

Lots of love,

Haley

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The Freshman Fifteen, Part IX

January 11, 2017: Stoked with a Side of Grace

The first time I felt insecure after the Great Self-Hatred Battle of Sophomore Year, I pretty much flipped. I thought God brought me through this already. I thought He conquered this demon. I thought we closed out this chapter of the story and moved on to something that made me feel more like a hero.

But it seems that what I thought was a page or a chapter – feelings of insecurity, shame, and inadequacy – might very well be a theme in the whole dang thing. I hope and pray that I will never hate myself again the way I did back then. I hope and pray that God will keep me from that. Yet, I still find myself caught by the dreams and expectations I don’t live up to.

Why wasn’t this a one-and-done battle? Why is it starting to look like a war? Why do I keep going around in circles back to the point of not feeling good enough?

Grace, grace, grace. There is grace to be found here.

I think God uses my frequent struggle against insecurity to force me to rely on Him. I actually think most obstacles or burdens we can’t handle on our own are meant to serve that purpose. It’s a reminder that living in my own finite, meager capabilities isn’t sufficient, because when I try that, I end up weak and weary with embarrassment over all I could not be or do.

I’m reading Isaiah right now, and chapter 52 verses 2-3 caught my eye recently.

“Shake off your dust; rise up, sit enthroned, Jerusalem. Free yourself from the chains on your neck, Daughter Zion, now a captive. For this is what the Lord says: ‘You were sold for nothing, and without money you will be redeemed.'”

In Jesus, God has forgiven me for every single failure of mine to hit the target. Every time I’ve fallen short of the perfect standard is wiped away. Grace has removed all my wrongs and less-than-rights. But sometimes, I still live in them, or at least in their aftermath.

I believe our actions have consequences, but I also believe Jesus took away the worst of the consequences for sin, including shame. When I think that I’m not good enough because I should’ve said something nicer or I wish I hadn’t been afraid to do something bold and outgoing, I’m leaning into lies.

Jesus has made me enough.

When He took my sin on the cross and replaced it with new life out of the grave, He made me enough. Any voice claiming otherwise is that of a liar directly out of the pits of hell.

I don’t usually live like that, though. Usually, I let insecurity creep in around the edges until I’m completely surrounded. I place superhuman expectations on myself and then stew in feelings of inadequacy when I can’t meet them. It’s a fight I have seen many times before, but fall back into time and time again. Then comes more shame, and so goes the cycle.

But it’s a fight God has already won and a cycle He has made unnecessary. He has already declared me enough and set me free from shame.

So what am I to do when I’m feeling less than enough for the millionth time?

In the words of Isaiah, shake off my dust. Rise up. Free myself from the chains on my neck, the ones I put back on after Jesus died to take them off. There is a difference in being set free and living in freedom. I don’t live in freedom all the time, but I am free. Grace did that. And grace picks me up when I fall back into the trap of shame. Grace carries me back into the freedom she gave.

Why do I still struggle with insecurity after all this? I forget that I’m free and lean into the lie that I’m not enough. And my gracious God redeems every moment I spend walking away from His freedom. He leverages it all for His good purpose. He continues, in all of this, to teach me grace. And that might be the most gracious thing of all.

I’m so excited for this semester. I have a great schedule, classes I’m really looking forward to, and a group fitness pass at the gym all ready to go. I have God-given friends who easily slipped back into our old routine after a month apart. I have emotional and spiritual energy all stored up from Passion conference and time at home. And yet, while I’m stoked for this semester, I know it will not be perfect. I know I will not be perfect, but I don’t want to try to be. This semester, my aim is grace, and that’s what makes me most excited.

“Where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” (Romans 5:20b)

(“The Freshman Fifteen” is a year-long blogging project posting every fifteen days of my freshman year of college. Follow along for life updates, deep thoughts, and everything in between.)

Be a Honey-Roaster

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Last night, I went to a partay. So Worth Loving, a company I’ve followed/been in love with for a couple years, opened their first retail space, and I went to the celebration with my mom, sister, aunt, and friend. It began as many SWL events do: lots of people, so much cuteness, photo booths, saying hi to the staff, obsessing over the new products on sale. As the night went on, my friend and I met a few new people and talked with them for a while about ENOs, crazy roommates, and life. Though the weather was a little chilly, we stood on the back patio and just marveled at the beauty of this community. So Worth Loving is one of the safest places I have found, where you can literally just walk up to strangers and talk. I’m so, so grateful for that.

And I was even more grateful after we had a honey-roast.

Y’all, it was kind of cray. As my friend and I talked to the girls we had met, we noticed a group of about twenty twentysomethings standing in a circle and clapping every once in a while. They noticed our confused glances and invited us to join, explaining that they were having a honey-roast. In case you don’t know, “roasts” are basically when a bunch of people make fun of someone and say mean things about that person. They might be joking, and they might not. But this was a “honey-roast,” so instead of being rude and critical, someone would stand in the middle of the circle and three or four people would say really nice things about them. It was full of truth, bravery, and depth. The whole point was just making people feel valued, loved, seen, and known. How cool is that?

It felt new and familiar all at the same time. It felt like family and friends. It felt amazing, encouraging, and uplifting. It felt like the kind of thing I want to do for the rest of my life. The SWL family is this beautiful intersection of a message and a community, and that’s never been more evident to me than last night. It’s not about a shirt: it’s about love. There was love on that back patio last night.

So, inspired by friends new and old last night, here’s my challenge to you and to me today: One person. Just pick one person that you are going to honey-roast the heck out of. Tell them face to face or pick up the phone and call them. Let them know how much they mean to you. Let them know your favorite thing about them. Remind them of who they are and where they’re heading. And then head into this week (knowing that you’re amazing and are going to kick butt at all of the things) intent to be a honey-roaster. It requires bravery and boldness, but it’s going to be so worth it.

Just imagine that world. A world full of people who aren’t afraid to say the things on their mind and in their heart. A world full of encouragers and truth-tellers. A world full of the kindest honesty. I truly do believe that together, we can make this crazy world we live in look a lot like a honey-roast. It starts with you, and your one person, and me and my one person, today. As cheesy as it sounds… let’s be honey-roasters, y’all.

December 3

I haven’t talked about this much before.

At least, not on here. It’s a big part of my story, and telling it always feels like reaching claws down into my heart and pulling out this big tangled web of hurt, pain, and hope. But it’s worth it and important to tell.

December 3, 2013.

For at least a month or so, I had been up to my neck in loneliness, insecurity, hopelessness, and hatred of who I was. I didn’t believe in myself, that I could handle the day I was going through or the days down the road or whatever life would throw at me next. Comparing myself to others devolved into an addiction: she was prettier, she was more thoughtful, she was more helpful, she was better. Everything fueled the belief that I was not good enough, and my heartbreak deepened with every waking moment.

On the afternoon of December 3rd, my school had a Quidditch match. This sounds like a ridiculous turn in the story, but I have a penchant for taking things way too seriously. I, Harry Potter nerd that I am, obviously joined the Quidditch club, which pretty much consisted of two athletic people and a bunch of other nerds, at its founding earlier that year. We played another school that afternoon, who pretty much brought their entire track team in Quidditch uniforms.

Needless to say, it didn’t go well. We lost… badly. Like, so badly I’m laughing as I write this, even though it’s the memory of one of the most painful evenings of my life. In the final match, I was Seeker, which basically involved a lot of running after someone dressed as a Golden Snitch. In front of everyone – fans (if you can believe it), parents, teachers, friends, both teams – I sprinted, got so out of breath, was obviously nowhere near as good as the other high school’s track star, and did not catch the Snitch. The catching of the Snitch actually took place in the stands where all the “fans” were sitting, so it was maximum exposure of my failure. The bottom line: I wasn’t good enough. Not at Quidditch, and evidently, not at life.

I don’t know why this particular humiliation was what cracked me, but it did. There are a few other very specific memories I have of this time – messing up the drums as the praise band played “Pompeii” by Bastille, driving to school and pretending I didn’t exist to numb myself to the pain – but I don’t know if I’ll ever remember feeling broken as much as I did on December 3rd.

I cried. I’m a crier, so this probably surprises absolutely no one, but I cried: at the school, on the way home as I ignored any words of encouragement from my dad and sister, and once I got home.

I sat with my back against my bedroom wall and sobbed, asking one single question: Why can’t I just give up?

(This is the part of the story where my throat closes up and my fingers start shaking, btdubs.)

Somehow, giving up – on life, on myself, on the future, on something better – was never an option. No matter how much I hated myself and my life, how inferior I felt to everyone around me, how lifeless each day seemed… I knew I couldn’t just give up. In the back of my mind, shoved into a small, dusty corner, Hope sat. I’m not usually a fan of random capitalization of important, spiritual words, because you get Sentences that Look like This, but this Hope demands it. Even when I wanted to give up, something inside me wouldn’t. It wouldn’t let me go, no matter how much the darkness tried to take me. I believe that everyone has that Hope inside of them, regardless of any factor, any flaw, any fault. Two years ago today, it was the voice of Hope – my Creator, my Savior, the Lover of my soul – that told me I wasn’t done yet.


December 3, 2015.

This December 3rd, I am celebrating a whole lot. I am packing for Young Life camp this weekend. I am dancing in a victory that I did not win myself. I am walking in the light because the darkness did not overcome me.

Two years ago, I kept going. I held on tightly even though at times, I didn’t know what I was holding on to. Hope grabbed me and propelled me and finally pushed me into the light of freedom. I learned my value. I learned to believe in myself. I learned that I have worth because my Creator says I do, not because of my words, actions, shortcomings, or successes. I learned that I am loved and worthy of it. You are loved and worthy of it, and there’s nothing you can do to change that. I’m enough. You’re enough. Hope is an anchor for my soul, firm and secure. I refuse to stop seeking, exploring, or adventuring. There are still days when I wonder: am I back where I was before? Was it all for nothing? Days when the lies penetrate my mind, when insecurity keeps me quiet, when stress overwhelms me. But I push through those days and find resilience in Someone bigger with a bigger plan. I have found something better in the life I was made to live and the path I was made to walk.

Two years later, I am (to quote Jamie Tworkowski) “a living, breathing, screaming invitation to believe better things.” If anyone is in the same spot as me two years ago: Those better things are real. They’re there. They’re waiting.

Hold on. Hope.

Happy December 3rd.