Hungry Haley

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Thoughts on Devastation and God

Faith, Life, ThoughtsHaley Hansen1 Comment

If there’s one thing that has really slowed me down this week, it’s my inability to understand how the God I’ve known my whole life can allow such terrible devastation as the fires happening throughout California right now. Just two weeks ago, I felt so passionate - so “on fire”, if you will - in my restored relationship with Him after quite some time. And then these fires erupted, and with them intense fear, and hundreds of thousands of homes have been lost along with several dozen lives. God, I do not understand.

It’s only been a week, but it’s felt like a month, at least. I’ve spent time praying, both alone and with friends. I’ve spent lots of time reading updates on the fires, watching videos and looking at pictures. My friends and family have asked why in the world I do that, when each time I do I end up even more heartbroken. Reading updates brings me a little bit of peace by knowing the containment percentage, how fast the fires are traveling, and what type of terrain + weather combination is fueling the flames. Watching videos and looking at pictures is the hardest part, but doing so is normalizing this situation in my mind. In the safest way possible, it’s me “facing my fear”.

Thoughts on Devastation and God

This morning - the one morning I have free to spend however I want each week - I picked up Timothy Keller’s The Reason for God and turned to the chapter in which he discusses suffering. Here, he starts by pointing out that evil, pain, suffering, devastation, etc. are not evidence against God. Just because we may not see a purpose in the situation immediately does not mean that one does not exist. Which leads me to my next question: okay, so even there is a purpose, God, why put your people - who desire you, love you, serve you - through such terrible pain and suffering?

He brings up the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis. Joseph endured great pain and suffering from the hands of his own brothers - imprisonment and slavery - and yet God uses Joseph to heal broken relationships within the family, to protect them from foreign dangers and help Israel develop as God had planned, and to provide wisdom for the famine spreading through the land (read more here). Through such trial, Joseph’s character was refined and he learned to lean solely on God for strength, protection, and guidance, shaping him into “a powerful agent for social justice and spiritual healing.” (Keller, 24).

Now think, Haley. How many times in your life have you gone through something painful? I can name off a few, though nothing compared to what Joseph endured. Through each trial, I questioned God - His purpose and sometimes even His existence - and each time, I came out of the trial knowing, loving, and trusting Him more than I ever had.

As I think about these fires and the devastation they’ve caused, the questions and uneasiness they’ve raised are stronger than ever. People are losing homes, family members, and their own lives and at an astonishing 250,000+ acres combined in the burns, I struggled to understand how the God I’ve known, loved, and trusted my whole life could watch that. He hears my prayers and those from the millions of others around the world who are also praying, and yet the fires continue.

As Jesus lay on the cross, too, God heard his cries. “On the cross, he went beyond even the worst human suffering and experienced cosmic rejection and pain that exceeds ours as infinitely as his knowledge and power exceeds ours”, Keller writes (30). The Bible tells us that Jesus came to rescue us from our sins and to show us the unconditional, immense love of God and eternal life with Him. “He had to pay for our sins so that someday he can end evil and suffering without ending us,” says Keller.

Thoughts on Devastation and God

Though that puts our pain and suffering into perspective, it doesn’t answer our questions (or, at least, the ones I have). What it does provide us is a promise of His love in how He took on our pain and suffering so that we wouldn’t need to. Sure, we still experience pain and suffering in our lives, but we can do so knowing that God loves us, knowing that we are not suffering alone, knowing that we can rest in our hope, faith, and love for God.

People are losing homes, family members, and lives. We cannot afford to - nor will we - lose God in this. He is with us. If this is the end of California, then we can hope in eternal life with Christ in Heaven. If this is not the end, then we can be faithful in His promise to bring good in time.

3 Inspirational Bible Verses

FaithHaley HansenComment

My ambitious self had intended to share ten inspirational Bible verses, not just three. But the more in depth I dove on each verse, the more I heard God reminding me that these are His words, and they deserve such attention, and maybe ten verses all at once is too much. Soooo, welcome to the first post of a new series in which I share some inspirational Bible verses in chunks of three every month! There is no theme weaving these verses together - they are just some of the ones I've noted over the past year or so and have really impacted me in various ways.  

Oh, and just a fair warning - you're about to see quite a few majestic sunset pictures from my recent trip to Tahoe. You're welcome. 

 beanie from  Love Your Melon . 

beanie from Love Your Melon

For the Lord gave us this command when he said,
’I have made you a light to the Gentiles, to bring salvation to the farthest corners of the earth.’
When the Gentiles heard this, they were very glad and thanked the Lord for his message; and all who were chosen for eternal life became believers. So the Lord’s message spread throughout that region.
— Acts 13:47-49, NLT

In this excerpt from the book of Acts (New Testament), the Holy Spirit has called Barnabas and Saul (a.k.a Paul)  - two of the teachers and prophets at the church in Antioch (which, fun fact, is where Jesus' disciples were first called "Christians" and Paul's starting point on his missionary journey) - to be sent out from Antioch for ministry to various cities. As Paul preaches at the Antioch of Pisidia, the Jews and Gentiles both respond positively, so Paul continued his message on the next Sabbath. When an entire crowd came to listen, the Jews envied such attention on Paul's message and opposed it. Some scholars say this opposition was fueled by Jewish desire to maintain separation between them and the Gentiles. Paul and Barnabas continued their work, and despite the Jewish opposition, Gentiles accepted Jesus into their hearts and found salvation through Him, and the Gospel continued spreading throughout the region. 

FAITH: 3 Inspirational Bible Verses

ENCOURAGEMENT: When my Pastor took us through the book of Acts, I found only a few sections discouraging. The entire book tells of Paul and other disciples and prophets spreading God's message over a vast land and array of people, especially nonbelievers like the Gentiles. To hear that two people - Paul and Barnabas - followed the Holy Spirit's calling to a city unknown to them to teach a message written on their hearts to a population of which half would harshly reject it is encouraging in and of itself. To continue reading and discover that, through their persistence and pursuit of God, the Gentiles grew to love Jesus and see him as their Savior... wow.

To me, this message speaks to days when I feel less than motivated, less than influential, less than powerful in how God has designed and equipped me. In the comfort of small(ish)-town San Luis Obispo, surrounded by rich friendships and tight-knit community, I want to be bold like Paul and Barnabas were, as they stepped out of their comfort zone to share their hearts for Jesus. 

‘And this is my covenant with them,’ says the Lord. ‘My spirit will not leave them, and neither will these words I have given you. They will be on your lips and on the lips of your children and your children’s children forever. I, the Lord, have spoken!’
— Isaiah 59:21, NLT
FAITH: 3 Inspirational Bible Verses

The book of Isaiah (Old Testament) is written before Jesus' coming by the prophet Isaiah as the Assyrian King Tiglath-Pileser III works to expand his kingdom into Israel and Judah. Instead of fighting against this, Judah sides with Assyria and the expansion continues into Northern Israel, only making Judah (just south of Israel) vulnerable to Assyrian conquer. Isaiah comes to warn Judah of this sin, but also a vessel of God's message that restoration will come with repentance of sin. The theme of judgement followed by salvation weaves throughout this book Jerusalem was once a united land, but under the reign of King Solomon, was divided into Israel and Judah. Both lands contained people of God because of their previous rulers (before division) - King David and then his son, King Solomon. 

At this point in the passage, God is speaking through the prophet Isaiah, as he does several times throughout the book, to tell the people of Israel and Judah of the coming Redeemer - Jesus Christ (though God doesn't use that name yet). This Redeemer will come to rescue only those who turn away from their sins and recognize God as, well, God. The people of these lands struggle with idolatry of things like fine jewels and material goods, individual achievements and power, and therefore don't see God as God, but rather these other worldly idols as worthy of worship.

FAITH: 3 Inspirational Bible Verses

ENCOURAGEMENT: Here, God promises that his Spirit will come and will remain in those who accept and embrace them as truth. "My Spirit will not leave them..." and neither will this promise. I found comfort and hope in these words as I, too, struggled with the sin of idolatry: my eating disorder, pursuit of romantic relationships, pre-occupation with social media, etc. Many times, I felt like a false Christian, like I wasn't actually at the point in my relationship with God that I thought I was. But, these words opened my eyes to the fact that I am and always have been a child of God. I always will be because I have accepted Jesus as Savior. 

Though our thoughts and actions can feel clouded and controlled by worldly desires, if we know, love, and pursue Jesus, we can trust that his Spirit resides in our hearts and will protect us from sin (John 15:4, Romans 8:26-27). 

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made His light shine in our hearts to give us the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
— 2 Corinthians 4:4-6, NLT

Paul writes the book of 2 Corinthians as a sort of "sequel" to the book of 1 Corinthians, in which he reaches out to the church of Corinth for ministry purposes. The second book came about as he was concerned that his first letter - the first book - didn't accomplish its intended purpose. And that's right about where these verses come in. 

Once a passionate persecutor of Jesus, Paul (also known as Saul) met Jesus after the resurrection and became filled with the Holy Spirit, leading him on his journey throughout the lands to spread the Gospel (Acts 9). Now, Paul instructs that, as Christians, we are not preaching our own stories or our own interpretations of God's word. We serve (or should serve) as vessels of the Gospel. 

Satan is who is being referred to as "the god of this age". Paul's recognition of Satan's power highlights its reality - he is of no equivalence to God, of course, but can still blind the minds of those who do not keep theirs focused on and filled with God. Only the non-believers are susceptible to such blindness by Satan. When Paul met Jesus in Acts 9, "... something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again..." (v. 18). Paul is a reminder that "Satan's work of blinding is great, but God's work of bringing light is greater" (BLB).

FAITH: 3 Inspirational Bible Verses

ENCOURAGEMENT: Reading these verses brings heavy conviction on me, I must say. When Paul emphasizes the importance of centering our messages on Christ, not ourselves, I can't help but think of all the times I've done the opposite (unintentionally so, but still). Even when intentions are whole-heartedly to share about Christ, we can sometimes lose sight/focus by Satan's attempt at blinding us from Christ. Because Paul's humble heart was fixed on God and his sole purpose in this letter was spreading the Gospel, he kept his message clear and his focus on point. 

It's important to not let conviction become guilt, because like fear, guilt can inhibit worship. Take this message as inspiration to seek God, to pursue the furthering of His kingdom like Paul did - humbly and whole-heartedly. 

I hope you enjoyed this post and found something(s) inspirational to leave with. Three more verses coming next month! 

Becoming a Real Person

Life, Thoughts, Faith, HealthHaley Hansen6 Comments

*as if I weren't one before?* 

THOUGHTS: Becoming a Real Person

No no, that's not what I mean here. I exist and I have for the last 21.5 years, but I think I finally understand the distinction between existing and living. So much in my life and in my body and in my mind has changed in the last year, sculpting me into who I am right now (don't we just love cliche lines?), and I can't help but share both the trials and the triumphs. 

It wasn't a switch that flipped overnight, but rather a l o n g road of twists and turns and ins and outs and lots of falls, followed by a faithful pick-up every time (thanks, God). You can call it "growth", I guess, but that seems to simplify this whole thing and eliminate the need for and excitement of writing this post. 

One of my favorite one-liners lately - and my friends will agree - is "The last time I had (insert certain "unhealthy" or non-vegan food here) was...", and while it mainly applies to food, it just as much applies to simply living. Each step along this road (remember, it's not a flip-the-switch thing) led me a bit farther from my incomplete understanding of "living" and that much closer to finally, well, living

THOUGHTS: Becoming a Real Person

This post isn't meant to be a guide to living because I'm certainly no expert, nor a piece of my autobiography because you get enough of that here already. I just want to talk about what I've changed, why I've changed it (if a reason exists), and how life feels now after the change. I want to expose this and hopefully encourage you, if any of this feels familiar, to seek help. And we're taking this allllllllll the way back, people, so buckle up. 

When it comes to food...

My last couple years of high school through my first year or two of college - what feels like ages ago now - were tied up by food. Tied up. Food was a nagging reminder that I needed to exercise to "burn it off"; food was a steering wheel that determined the majority of each day's schedule; food was the mental and physical enemy I needed to always conquer. That was during the heat of my eating disorder, which didn't last longer than my first two years of college. But, for the years it did last, it stole a lot from me - late-night donut runs, brunch dates, pizza-and-a-movie nights, and pursuit of my passion. Notice the pattern there? Everything revolved around food. Whether I was simply restricting or because I chose veganism, I couldn't win the battle against food no matter how hard I tried or how much of a victory I thought I may have accomplished. Even when those donuts and pizzas did happen, nagging reminders of the next day's workout and meal plan took up too much space in my mind, preventing me from storing any sort of cherished recollection about the donuts and pizzas and - most importantly - moments with loved ones. I sharpened my "fake it 'til you make it" skill pretty dang well. 

Every food that entered my body was either savored because I knew it was the last I'd be getting for a while, despite any possible hunger cues to tell me otherwise or hated afterwards because of the nutrition facts. 

Now, I'm just eating. An awareness of nutrition advises my daily choices, but it doesn't determine them, nor does it inhibit my Friday night plans to eat nachos. A passion for cooking and (mostly) baking brings me SO MUCH joy - like, S O M U C H - but cake for dinner doesn't force me into negative thoughts and a two-hour gym-session the next day. An understanding of the importance eating plants and saving animals motivates me to find sustainable sources, but it doesn't deter me from that once-a-week pulled pork sandwich. 

THOUGHTS: Becoming a Real Person

When it comes to exercise...

I woke myself up six out of seven mornings a week, bright and early, for whatever workout I had planned - a long run, intense HIIT or strength-training workout. For fear of feeling like I should maybe take a rest day, I ignored any and all body signals (i.e. sore muscles, achey joints, etc.). On vacations, I skipped breakfast invitations with my dad (discovering new diners and sitting at the counter is his favorite) because I needed to somehow utilize whatever I could to get the most efficient workout. With friends, I couldn't just sit and enjoy movies and snacks because I didn't think I was burning enough calories to "earn" the snacks. In high school, I stayed after track practice for an extra hour or so to run. More running after running. My coaches and teammates just laughed and said, "you're crazy!" or commended my fitness. That was not fitness. 

Even after the heat of my eating disorder, exercise was all about calorie-burn. Long walks in the morning to just get outside and breathe fresh oxygen? Ha, yeah right. Yoga to just stretch? Never. And any workout that didn't last 30 minutes at the very least "didn't count" in my book. 

Now, a desire to just move my body helps me squeeze in a workout everyday, but it doesn't scold me when my workout "isn't long/intense enough". An exercise "high", if you will, keeps me going back to the gym every couple days, but it doesn't screw up my sleep or take precedent over school, relationships, and me-time. Plus, I don't ever want to be so consumed by exercise that a size 2 and toned muscles become the most interesting, intriguing thing about me. 

When it comes to emotions...

I cherished only the happy thoughts. Everything else I tried to suppress and eliminate via exercise and control of my eating and body shape. Somehow, that worked for a few years... until God opened my eyes and answered my prayers for humility in ways I unconsciously didn't want Him to. First, it was a heart-breaking look in the mirror, realizing how far I'd let my eating disorder take me. Then, it was a terrifying loss of control as my body, a year later, began holding onto weight (probably in a miraculous survival mechanism). Yet, despite the overwhelming fear and discomfort, I somehow found peace in it - peace in the fact that I knew God's hands were at work saving me. 

THOUGHTS: Becoming a Real Person

Aside from physical matters, I've learned to... well, just feel. Instead of trying to burn off uncomfortable emotions like calories on the treadmill, I started to ask God about them and just release them to Him.

I started to understand that I won't always be able to control the way I feel - to shut my mind up, to "turn my frown upside down", if you will. I understand, now, that I won't always understand. Sometimes, I will have to continue breathing and functioning and going about life, resting in God, even when life feels like a horribly tight pairs of jeans you don't know if you'll ever squeeze out of. I'm feeling it all - from sadness, disappointment, and insecurity to joy, excitement, and strength - and I'm growing with each breath taken.

Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.
— Romans 12:12

Life doesn't always have to be "but's" - find places to squeeze in some "and's". Baking a big wonderful chocolate cake AND taking a rest day. Feeling uncomfortable AND joyful, trusting God's hands.  

THOUGHTS: Becoming a Real Person
COPY CODE SNIPPET

Career Change

Faith, Life, ThoughtsHaley Hansen6 Comments

The career conflict has come to an end. For the past few months, I didn't even really know the battle between Registered Dietitian, RD, and, well, let's just generalize the other career option as blogger (it will be mixed with other things) existed. Since hindsight usually offers the best vision, I can see now that I was trying to suppress this internal battle for reasons I will now explain. 

Going into the Nutrition major (I switched from Journalism halfway through my second year at Cal Poly SLO), I had zero intention of pursuing the RD credential. What I really wanted to do, I wasn't quite sure, but I knew that nutrition counseling was not it. However, as I dove deeper into the major, I learned that an RD does more than just tell people what they can and can't eat and while working in a hospital. Suddenly, the career sounded appealing to me. Not only that, but it also sounded more financially stable than my complex blogger career. And if that weren't enough, God seemed to bring me friends who are pursuing the same career - Emilie, JJ, Connie, Winnie, Alayna, and probably more who I can't think of at the moment.

 Sunrise in Avila Beach (I had been awake for three hours already).

Sunrise in Avila Beach (I had been awake for three hours already).

So, for the past nine-ish months, I've had my eyes somewhat - emphasis on somewhat - set on becoming an RD. With that would come two years of graduate school and one year of interning, post-undergrad. And with that came some heavy guilt + concern, the two emotions I'd been suppressing until only now - I should add that I will be graduating two quarters late from Cal Poly, a result of switching my major late in the game + not being on top of class scheduling (if I can offer any advice on this subject, it's to UTILIZE ADVISORS/COUNSELORS, people *cough cough college students*). Graduating two quarters late means two more terms of tuition (thank you, Mom and Dad for still supporting me) and seven more months spent in school - in other words, less money for grad school and less time to find an internship. 

The pressure of finding the right grad school and internship (and, of course, being accepted into both) kind of choked me. I felt that an RD was the best option - read: most stable income, most opportune career to make an impact/help people - so I had little to no choice but to pursue it. My mom, a vessel of God's voice here, has been questioning my choice. "Are you suuuuuure you want to become an RD, Haley?", she'd ask. I'd respond, "Yes, mom. The industry needs non-diet dietitians, it's a stable career, and I want to do it." 

 Saturday morning farmers market in SLO.

Saturday morning farmers market in SLO.

But I felt like a robot. Those words were about 90% "I-need-to-do-this" and 10% "I-actually-want-to-do-this". 

I lived at home this summer with my parents, and when summer classes fell through, I decided to blog full-time as my "job". When I made that decision, I had never made more than $9 from Hungry Haley, which I was okay with because I didn't see it becoming my career (that was to be filled by an RD credential... in, like, six years). Blogging full-time, I spent hours brainstorming recipes, cooking them, photographing them, and writing about them.

I. Loved. Every. Minute. It posed more challenges than I expected (in terms of income, creativity, and planning), but I. Still. Loved. Every. Minute. 

Passion can't be ignored, but can it be second to a career? Yes. Do I want it to be? No. I don't have a passion for nutrition therapy like I do for cooking + writing. I don't want to think about food in terms of what the nutrient density is like I do in terms of how it can be incorporated into a breakfast dish or a dessert dish or something totally different that maybe no one has done before. 

  Luna Red  happy hour: 2 berry lemonades, 1 red sangria (for me, duh). Plus bread!

Luna Red happy hour: 2 berry lemonades, 1 red sangria (for me, duh). Plus bread!

This is not to give a bad name AT ALL to the Nutrition program at Cal Poly - I love this major and am so happy that I chose it. BUT the strong emphasis on the RD path being the seemingly best choice, an emphasis that of late began to feel like pressure, deserves mention. To choose a path other than the RD path - probably the most populated one - feels "against the grain", but I guess that's kind of how I do things. It also feels most certainly like a challenge, which has been a theme these past few months and you can bet your heiney's best jeans that I'm up for it. 

For example, transitioning out of a vegan diet and into a (I don't want to say "normal" because, let's be honest, no one knows what that is) diet of, well, whatever I want was the challenge of the summer, and following God's calling in that definitely felt "against the grain" - the grain being the brand I'd built, which included heavy amounts of vegan food. Through it, I had to trust that God wouldn't let me fall, whatever falling would've looked like. Of course, He did not let me fall - I've never felt better, physically, spiritually, emotionally. Just as I did not want to say anything bad about Cal Poly's Nutrition program, nor do I want to say anything bad about the vegan lifestyle. BUT the pressure to stay vegan upon going vegan deserves mention, as do the negativity and sometimes extremely rude, non-supportive comments about eating animal products (sustainably raised, whenever possible). 

  Cowboy Cookie  ice cream bowl: chocolate chip cookie + HUGE scoop of fudge ice cream.

Cowboy Cookie ice cream bowl: chocolate chip cookie + HUGE scoop of fudge ice cream.

Just as I trusted God then, I trust Him now. Do I know exactly what I want to pursue in this "blogger" career? No. I do know, however, that I want to dive deep into my community, wherever that be (please be SLO, please be SLO, please be SLO) and explore it's bountiful pantry, if you will. I do know that I want to make an impact, which I didn't think I could on this career path. How wrong I was in that thinking. I'm not tooting my own horn, but I know God has used this blog to touch more than one person. Why not continue that? By following Him first and foremost, the number of lives touched can only multiply. 

I want to show my readers that healing through food is possible even when food is the enemy (i.e. an eating disorder). "It's more than food" - a.k.a. my motto - rings true in every situation, yet food is powerful and significant and worthy of adoration and enjoyment. I LOVE food and honesty with myself in that has provided much of the healing I've needed to experience. 

To all the future RD's out there, DO YO' THANG. This diet-consumed world needs to know the beauty and power of Intuitive Eating - please let God use your knowledge and your gifts to bless those under the influence of toxic cyclic dieting. Teach them how to love their bodies for what they are made to be. 

I will be over here cooking my favorite foods and foods new to me, writing about them and how much I love them. Each of us is woven together as an individual with unique passions and desires and skills. I have God to thank, most of all, for everything, but specifically here for introducing me to Intuitive Eating and, as a result, the idea of intuitive living. It's a lifelong journey (not to be cliche), but at least it's one I get to travel with Him and pursue the passion He has designed for me. 

:)

 Sunset in Shell Beach, CA. Probably my favorite night-time thing... ever. 

Sunset in Shell Beach, CA. Probably my favorite night-time thing... ever. 

Food + Social Situations (Both Sides)

Faith, Life, ThoughtsHaley Hansen4 Comments

Because I just dug my spoon into one of the most mesmerizing ice cream sandwiches e v e r. And I did it alllllll by myself. 

 oatmeal cookies + carrot cake ice cream from Batch, aka my new favorite ice cream shop in SLO (or maybe favorite ice cream shop ever).

oatmeal cookies + carrot cake ice cream from Batch, aka my new favorite ice cream shop in SLO (or maybe favorite ice cream shop ever).

So, let's talk about the interaction between food and social situations, because if you have even the slightest bit of a social life (hint: we all do), the interaction is most certainly there. For me, food determined a) whether or not I'd attend the social situation, b) what I'd be doing/eating at the social situation, c) how I would "make up for" whatever I "unhealthy" food I ate, etc. Food had control. If all the menu offered was pizza laden with cheese or french fries and wings or the like, or if the vacation didn't provide me some sort of gym/workout space and the time to workout, you can bet your best ice cream sandwich I would be reluctant at best to attend the event. 

I sigh as I write this and admit it to myself yet again. 

One of the reasons I stepped out the vegan diet was because I felt I was lightly damaging my social life. Nothing against the vegan diet, but - long story short - right now, I want to pour more energy into friendships and time with family than I do into my vegan diet. God is pushing me towards a passion for relationships more than for the environment and "health". And that. is. okay. 

 pizza from Blast 825 - fresh mozzarella + veggies + basil.

pizza from Blast 825 - fresh mozzarella + veggies + basil.

For five years, I've held some sort of restriction(s) around food that have inhibited my ability to soak up every last bit of enjoyment of social situations, specifically (but not limited to) those involving food. An example: I skipped sleepovers with my best friends in high school because I wanted to avoid the late-night snacks and run 10 miles in the morning. That's just one of many. I used to back out of social situations at (almost) all costs if I sensed, in any way, an interference with my "rules" regarding what I do/don't eat and my exercise routine. 

Again, a sigh. 

 yoga-urt with Connie (@constancelyeating) + Winnie (@winniesbalance_).

yoga-urt with Connie (@constancelyeating) + Winnie (@winniesbalance_).

Now, I'm working towards opening myself up to social situations also at (almost) all costs. You could say I'm doing so in an attempt to make up for what I've missed out on for five years: that slice of cheesy pizza, those french fries, that late-night donut, all in the cherished presence of loved ones (of course, in a balanced, not binging fashion). From what I've thus far experienced, I'm not sure if there is anything better than what most social situations involving food + loved ones offer. 

Exuberant joy. Unconditional self-love. Stomach-aching laughter and cheek-cramping smiles. Oh, and heart + soul + mind-satisfying food. 

Here's to social eating! 

 bourbon (left) + cocoa (right) cookies from Brown Butter Cookie Co. 

bourbon (left) + cocoa (right) cookies from Brown Butter Cookie Co. 

And now, here's to still eating that pizza or those fries or that donut (or, more applicably today, that ice cream cookie sandwich), when it's just you, sans the social situation. An example: my bff and I had loose plans today to split an ice cream cookie sandwich from our favorite local shop in the middle of the hot Friday afternoon, but when the time rolled out, she just simply wasn't craving it anymore. No biggie, not at all. However, do I still want it? A big chunk of the joy that comes from the interaction of food + social situations is the person(s) with whom it is all shared, especially when that person is your best friend. 

But, as an introvert, sometimes I'm okay with spending time alone versus with others, even my best friend. And with that, I bit into my oatmeal cookie + carrot cake ice cream sandwich and I think I saw and felt a glimpse of heaven. Okay, maybe it wasn't heaven, but it surely was close. 

I guess it was a glimpse of food freedom + true self-love + peaceful balance. I loved it, for lack of better words. Loved every minute walking around downtown as the single woman God made me. Loved every bite of that rich, creamy, sweet ice cream and the buttery, chewy cookie. 

Every. Damn. Minute. 

Since the minute I read these verses, I've wanted to share them...

‘Don’t you understand yet?’ Jesus asked. ‘Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. But the words you speak come from the heart - that’s what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.’
— Matthew 15:16-20, NLT

That excerpt, specifically, relates more to my transition out of a vegan diet, which you can read about here. Bottom line, I found it SO encouraging. 

So go ahead. Eat your food with joy, and drink your wine with a happy heart, for God approves of this!
— Ecclesiastes 9:7, NLT
 tradition with my bff - pack dinner, head to secret spot in Pismo, watch the sunset + laugh + chat. it's fantastic. 

tradition with my bff - pack dinner, head to secret spot in Pismo, watch the sunset + laugh + chat. it's fantastic. 

This specific verse touches my heart today. Yes, God certainly is gearing my heart towards embracing the interaction of food + social situations, but He is also still helping me enjoy food itself, and with myself (that food being my ice cream sandwich today). God loves to see us join together in the happiness of community, but He also loves purely to see your individual smile and mine.

So, here's to food enjoyed around a table or on a picnic blanket or on the living room couch. And here's also to food enjoyed at a table for one or walking solo down the street or wherever it may be.

:) 

Hello , World!

Imperfect and Perfectly Loved

Life, Faith, HealthHaley Hansen1 Comment

If there's one thing I might always get wrong about my faith...

... it's the fact that I'm imperfect. While such a statement may sound quite big-headed of me, it's completely true and it deserves a post here because it's also complicated. 

 didn't even bring my Bible. just wrote. cried. wrote some more. then cried and smiled. 

didn't even bring my Bible. just wrote. cried. wrote some more. then cried and smiled. 

What I am NOT saying here is that I think I am perfect. I wouldn't have committed this thing called "life" to Jesus if I thought myself perfect and equipped and strong enough to handle it on my own, you know? What I AM saying is that I expect myself to be perfect. And since my baptism last year, I've battled thoughts that tell me I should be "all clean" and "free of sin" now that I've given it to God. 

Like, these types of things...

  • those eating-disorder-thoughts - you know the ones. How much fat is in that? Did you look at the menu before you made dinner plans? No workout today? You better not eat that ice cream. 
  • those self-comparison joy-suckers - maybe you know these, too. Cool - her legs in those shorts make mine look like poorly stuffed Italian sausages. She got an A in that class, and I barely squeezed by with a C? There go my chances of landing an internship. 
  • (my personal "favorite", which really just means the one I most frequently find myself dancing with) those idolatrous traps - okay, these are undeniable. I can't stop thinking about him. Ugh, I need like three glasses of wine tonight. 

You feel me? And by the way, by no means am I proclaiming myself sin-free and perfect here. I'm doing the opposite, but you have to keep reading to find out more. 

So, this tidal wave of feelings hit me tonight. The wave had been building and building for I-don't-even-know-how-long and tonight it crashed on me. Was it coincidental that I found myself next to the beach? Ehh, debatable. 

 a random little bench in a breath-taking neighborhood nestled along the Pismo Beach coast.

a random little bench in a breath-taking neighborhood nestled along the Pismo Beach coast.

It was one of those weeks during which this event kicked it off on the wrong foot, then I tripped over that, and then this other thing bit me in the butt, and so on and so forth. Needless to say, by mid-afternoon today - heck, even midnight last night - I was pretty much a tearful mess (who had gotten dressed up and made it out with her girls for a night of fun) running out off the dance floor because I just couldn't. Thankfully, my best friend was on my comfy bed at home, waiting for me to come stain her shirt with my tears. What a keeper. 

My point: I broke. Throughout the entire week and weeks prior, I'd been wondering with frustration and flecks of guilt as to why I can't get my mind off this, that, and the other thing, and back onto Jesus. Haley, where is the faith you used to hold so close to your heart? To where have your eyes diverted? What's inhibiting you from refocusing? Get your sh!t together. 

Haha, my sh!t's all over the place, dude. And I realized that tonight, hopped in my car, drove myself to the beach to escape any and all responsibilities for at least a half-hour, and immerse my every last bit of energy and emotion into God. Best decision I've made in... a l o n g time. 

I sat and stared at the waves as I let my own waves crash upon themselves in my eyes. Lord, I desire you. I've committed my life to you. But WHY can't I focus on you, worship no one but you, and always find my peace/joy/trust in you? Why do I mess up so much? 

Well, it's because I'm imperfect. And I'm here, on this public park bench (as passersby politely assume I'm all good), wiping my own tears yet smiling at the same time as I realize that, as utterly imperfect as I am, I am even more so perfectly loved. And that's why I'm here. 

I may never - no, I will never - reach a point of smooth sailing, during which fears don't creep in and lies don't sound truthful and people don't become my idols. I am human and I am imperfect. I may also never - no, I will never - fall out of the arms of the perfectly loving Savior, for whom not even Shakespeare's words would come close to doing justice.

I am human and I am imperfect and yet I am perfectly loved. 

You might be wondering if any of this applies to you, eh? IT DOES :) I never want to end a blog post, especially a more personal one like this, without providing you some proof and resources where you can see for yourself that this is true. I explored some blogs and whatnot, and found this from Bible Study Tools. One of my biggest takeaways from reading it: "Unconditional love does not mean that God loves everything we do, but rather His love is so intense that He loves every sinner, no matter how vile and despicable he or she may be in they eyes of humanity, so much that He provides a way for them to find love, life, and holiness (John 3:16)". 

The post introduced me to this verse, which I hadn't read until now...

... he saved us not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sings, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.
— Titus 3:5, NLT

Oh, and if you didn't know this, the book of Isaiah is probably one of my favorites of the entire Bible. So, I will always provide you with verses from there. Just sayin'. I read through it last year and still find myself breathless at many of God's words...

... Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands...
— Isaiah 49:15-16, NLT

One more, and beware - this one will get you. 

But He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed...
— Isaiah 53:5-6, NLT

And I leave you with this - a quote from one of my favorite books, Idols of the Heart: 

The struggle against the sin in our heart is precious because by it we learn what a great price the Lord Jesus has paid. It is in this struggle that we learn to trust Him and to distrust ourselves, to hate sin and love holiness, to cultivate humility and to long for heaven. And in the midst of it all, we’ll learn the joy of obedience and the happiness that is found only in loving God.
— Elyse Fitzpatrick

Accepting and Embracing

Life, Faith, HealthHaley Hansen10 Comments

Emphasis on the "and". Keep that in mind. 

When I think about the things - the events, the mistakes, the issues, maybe even the people - I accept and the things - the experiences, the successes, the surprises, and the loved ones - I embrace, I sometimes think I should replace the word "and" with "versus" because there's a difference between the two. Right? There are some things in my life I just accept and move along with, and some things I embrace and kiss and squeeze and cherish. 

Two different things. Right? 

Not always. 

As life has done its thing throughout the past six or seven months, two dense clouds have fogged up a chunk of my brain. Not to the point of interfering with my daily functioning, but just enough to... well, cause "weather changes" (if you will) that hinder my thoughts. Both of these clouds have everything to do with this topic of "accepting and embracing".

1) Weight gain. 

Truthfully, I didn't think I'd be writing this. Ever. I didn't think I'd ever struggle with weight or body image ever again. That was two years ago, when two years prior to that, "accepting and embracing" was just not something I did. Heck, if I had done that, life as I know it now would probably be very different (but we won't get into that because how do I even know/who even cares/that involves a lot of thinking and it could be its own blog post). My eating disorder began because I refused to accept and embrace. I swore to myself I would change my eating habits and my outward appearance. And I did. And I maintained that weight - and the consequential nagging need to always portray "perfection" - for somewhere around a year or two...

... Which brings us here. I'm not going to sugarcoat anything - I've gained weight. I've tried to forget about it, ignore mirrors, etc. to pretend it hasn't happened, but it has. My first little taste of acceptance of weight gain did not taste good. I practically (and theoretically) gagged. No! I have NOT gained weight and I will not. I've worked too hard to get where I am, I feel good both physically and emotionally and this weight gain isn't necessary. 

Those thoughts intruded, unwelcomed I knew, yet I let them hang out and direct my actions. Unlike the last time they barged into my life - four years ago - this time, no change in my physical appearance happened. I didn't lose weight like I wanted to and I felt even worse because of it. 

Thankfully, I have a life that distracts me from such potentially destructive thoughts, and as life has gone on over the past few months, those thoughts have lost some of their energy. In other words, this is the "acceptance" part. I didn't necessarily welcome the extra weight, but I did turn my attention away, to more pressing priorities like school, blogging, family, friends, etc. However, this was not without the personal promise to return to these thoughts and eliminate the weight. 

A C C E P T.

If I could identify the "turning point", I would explain it in all of its glorious detail, but I can't think of one. So, something just clicked in my brain, I guess. That click probably hit the '"embrace" button. 

Finally, I began seeing the image - not just the body, but the person, the beauty - in the mirror looking back at me. FINALLY. The "click" reminded me that, my lower weight left me with more stress about food and what I was eating or not eating and the fact that I was damaging my body than my higher weight did about just weighing more and having a bit (emphasis - A BIT) of extra tummy cushion ever will. Like, wow. Duh. 

 E M B R A C E. 

Finally, I've reached a weight that doesn't leave my stomach growling, my knees aching, and my stress levels through the roof around one of life's pleasures I absolutely adore - F O O D. I'm at a weight that's about 8-10 pounds heavier than what I wanted a year ago and a jean size 2 sizes wider than before, but who. really. cares. 

I can go out to eat with friends without needing to analyze the menu beforehand and plan out what I'd order according to what's left in my calorie intake for the day (though I still look at the menu to get pumped for F O O D). I can dig a spoon into my favorite peanut butter at any hour of the night and enjoy it, even if it's 11 PM and I'm going to bed soon. I can drool over vegan double chocolate brownies that may not be low-carb or low-sugar or whole-grain and made with simple ingredients. 

I can embrace my body. 

 me, making love to one of Minimalist Baker's  lentil sloppy joe's  in my favorite class EVER. 

me, making love to one of Minimalist Baker's lentil sloppy joe's in my favorite class EVER. 

I. 

CAN. 

My advice to you, you ask? 

The amazing woman behind the Food Psych podcast - Christy Harrison - reminded me that everything good and valuable and worthwhile, like my period, healthy joints, hydrated skin, strong hair and nails, etc., have only come with the addition of extra weight. So, I can have a thin figure that I may see as and that I hope others may see as "desirable", OR I can have actual health, a physique that isn't pain when forced to workout, a body that fits. 

What does that look like for you? 

Some of my favorite inspirations: Kylie, Christy, Robyn, and Alexis

2) Faith. 

This one is harder to put into words, and quite honestly, I haven't wanted to try for a long time. But, last Sunday as I went through the usual motions of church, Psalm 8 was presented and I will be forever thankful for it (and every other Bible verse, of course, but this one particularly): 

When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
— Psalm 8:3-4, NLT

And here I am, concerned about keeping up with Instagram posts, ace-ing my psych midterm, prepping pecans for pecan milk (not to discredit its deliciousness), and comparatively useless, fleeting obsessions more than I am motivated to open my Bible, even to ask the Lord why these idolatrous thoughts are again taking over. 

As you can see, much of this has had to do with idols - the things and people and practices I prioritize before my God. Been there, done that. And I must say, I'm really not cool with hanging out here for much longer. What a perfect depiction of God's mercy and grace that He would present me with this verse amidst perhaps one of the deepest dives I've taken into this cyclic world of idolatry. 

A C C E P T. I recognize that I have fallen off track. I see the things/people/etc that have contributed to my distraction. I am here, and it is okay. I am human, and I am imperfect.

The book of Isaiah will probably be my forever-favorite of anything, and as I read through my summary/what I learned from it, I'm reminded yet again the simple blessing it is to have a relationship with God. Heck, I can even consider this uncomfortable confusing place a blessing. 

E M B R A C E. I thank God for this place. I thank God for the fact that my faith isn't stagnant or boring, but rather always challenging me and pulling me closer to Him. I am still imperfect and will always be, but I embrace the God who has always embraced me. 

Am I completely comfortable yet? No. I'm still trying to figure out my faith, and as I said before, that's one of the benefits of a challenging faith - it pushes you into growth and pulls you toward the Creator of it. Part of me didn't even know if I wanted or needed to share this, but I did share it because doing so is an important part of my faith. I wouldn't have recovered from my eating disorder had I not leaned on the Lord (and part of my current struggle with food is because I haven't been leaning on Him - duh, Haley), and the majority of this blog is about me, my recovery, and my life walking as close as I can behind God. So, sharing this would only make sense. 

Ahhhh. So, I hope that has made some sort of sense. I wouldn't have written it if I didn't think anyone else could relate or gain something from it. If you've made it this far, thank you. Your support and dedication to my blog means almost as much as the blog itself! 

Can you relate? Is there anything I can help with or you can help me with? Leave a comment down below! 

When God Says "No"

Faith, Life, HealthHaley Hansen1 Comment

Because God does say "no". 

During the years of my eating disorder, I didn't allow the Lord much control in my life. Despite His constant reminders via loved ones and my own body, I refused to gain weight and learn to depend on Him, rather than my appearance. To say that the Lord said "yes" or agreed to my stubbornness would be wrong. He could see the damage I was causing to the body He gave me and He could hear my all my thoughts towards food, my body, and others (a fact that still sends chills down my spine). 

Recently, I opened up about still struggling with lingering effects of my eating disorder. To name just a few - perhaps the most prominent - self-comparison, unnecessary stress over food, and idolization of people, followers, exercise, and myself. Simply opening up about those things brought me closer to Him, allowing Him to help me push those things farther and farther away and pull Him closer. However, one more weakness barged in, uninvited, a week or two ago and I've been wrestling it out the door of my mind ever since...

Running. And tied to it, my selfish desire for the slim figure for which I ran unbelievable amounts of miles each week in high school. I've laced up my shoes maybe three times in the past ten months. Three times. In ten months. For a devoted distance runner, the aching knees and piercing shin splints must be practically fatal to force one to throw away running shoes for good. For me, I cringe to admit that they were, but a weakness in my heart teamed up with the aches and pains to throwing them out my only option.

I remember jogging home, breathless and hot and sweaty, deaf to everything but the sound of my patterned heartbeat and heavy recovery breaths. I remember collapsing onto the floor, wiping sweat from my face, chugging a ginormous glass of ice cold water, stretching out my legs and calming my breath. I remember feeling, as cliche as it sounds, absolutely invincible after every run.

That was a year ago. 

Now, I remember barely reaching my warm-up distance and already coaching myself through the aches and pains. I remember unexpected tears pushed out by the sore muscles, the throbbing knees, and the confused, broken heart. I remember the prayer, Lord, WHY can't I run anymore? Have I gained too much weight? Am I... fat? Will I never be able to run again? Seriously??

That was two months ago. And my (brand new) running shoes are left buried beneath my converse, flip flops, cross-trainers, and a thin layer of dust on my shoe rack. I like them there, though, because I can't see them as easily. When I do see them, my mind becomes a malfunctioning reel of the 12-month-old happy running times, interrupted by the fairly new bitter ones.

Of course, just because I can't lace up one of my favorite pairs of shoes doesn't mean I've given up exercise. HIIT, swimming, cycling, and weight training have kept me in shape, but my shape isn't as slim as it used to be. In all honesty, this might be one of the hardest leaps I've had to take throughout recovery. Gaining the initial chunk of weight during high school challenged me to let go of control and to listen to my loving family friends. And I did it. 

So, why am I gaining more weight? Better yet, why am I still struggling to accept that this weight gain is healthy? 

Because I haven't been listening to God's insisting "no". 

  • "NO" to my desire for control - I'm a control-freak. I always have been, but I know that with the Lord's help, I won't always be. 
  • "NO" to my idolization of running - I found such peace in the rhythmic pattern of my shoes against the pavement, but I gave it more time than I did to God. 
  • "NO" to my self-comparison with others - I fueled up for each run by pushing myself to chase after something. Sometimes it was a better PR, and sometimes it was a smaller jean size and motivation to burn off that bite of chocolate I'd eaten the night before. 

Can you think back to a time when your parents didn't allow you to have/buy/do something? You were so upset in the moment, unable to understand how they could be this unfair. Maybe you wondered, in the heat of the moment, if they even loved you. And here you are now, looking back, (hopefully) so grateful for their "no" at that time. For whatever it was, it probably saved you. 

God finally stamped His foot down and said "no" - "enough" - to my running and the sin laced within my shoes. His "no" was firm and powerful and loud. It came in the form of throbbing knees and aching shins. Ouch. But I see His sweet grace in saving me from further bodily damage and, eventually, drifting farther away from Him in my idolization of running + obsession with my appearance. 

His "no" was hard to accept. I felt like it had broken my heart. I often found myself looking in the mirror, wishing for those flat runner's abs, the toned hamstrings, the thinner waist. That's when the Holy Spirit intervened to remind me that, through all of this...

  • I'm working out and sweating and losing my breath and seeing muscle in places it hadn't been.
  • I'm lifting more and swimming longer and cycling faster. 
  • I'm varying my workouts and regaining my period. Did you hear that? I'm regaining my period. 

When I typed "when God says 'no'" into my search bar (because what else would a millenial do?), Google led me to 2 Samuel 22, "David's Song of Praise". Just like several times throughout the book of Isaiah, this chapter brought me to tears. King David sang this song to God upon His saving him from the wrath of his enemies. 

He's snatched me from the arms of my enemy and promised me a new life of assured beauty in His eyes, of unwavering love in His arms. 

The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. He is my refuge, my savior...
— 2 Samuel 22:1, NLT
The waves of death overwhelmed me, bu tin my distress I cried out to the Lord; yes, I cried to my God for help. He heard me from His sanctuary; my cry reached His ears.
— 2 Samuel 22:5-7, NLT
He reached down from heaven and rescued me; He drew me out of deep waters... He led me to a place of safety; He rescued me because He delights in me.
— 2 Samuel 22:17-20, NLT

Maybe His "no" to running was His latching His arms around me before I eventually lost myself so deeply in my sin and ran out of His arms. I do miss running, but I don't miss stressing over not having my period, or icing my knees and shins late into the night, or constantly pushing myself to run farther to look like this or that. 

God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to Him for protection. For who is God except the Lord? Who but our God is a solid rock?
— 2 Samuel 22:31-32, NLT

Thank you for reading. My prayer is that the Lord continues to work vulnerability into my everyday life so that you know you're not alone in your struggles. Eating disorders capture too many, and I can't imagine holding my struggles within, not allowing anyone to see how the Lord pull me out of such a tight grip. There IS hope. Recovery IS possible. God IS powerful and mighty and faithful. 

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below or send me an email :) 

What I've Learned From the Book of Isaiah

Faith, LifeHaley Hansen1 Comment

I began reading through Isaiah a few weeks before school ended (my second year, that is) and only recently finished. In the time between the first chapter and the last, I studied for and finished final exams/my sophomore year, traveled to and explored England with my family, (almost officially) moved out of home and into my new apartment in SLO, searched for and finally found not only one, but two, jobs, and am now soaking up the last month of summer and preparing for the start of my third year at Cal Poly. 

Why Isaiah? Well, quite honestly, no specific reasoning motivated me to start this book of God's word, other than simply wanting to understand more of Him. Now that I look back - after finishing the book, studying chapters over and over again, and listening to/reading through commentaries on it - I can clearly see it's relevance (not that any book of the Bible is irrelevant), specifically in the past six months or so of my life. Maybe you're new to my blog, or maybe you've followed me since I began, in which case you probably know my story. If the former is your case, click here to catch up. To summarize, I suffered through an eating disorder for about three years - beginning with minor anorexia, then spiraling into severe orthorexia. Recovery for me came in waves, which is the best way to describe when and how I fully recovered. I wish I could explain this down to it's core, but all I can say is the Holy Spirit moved in me so greatly during the last months of my sophomore year, encouraging me to be re-baptized and showing me more clearly than ever before the fullness of completely surrendering to, faithfully walking hand-in-hand with, and whole-heartedly living for my God. On May 22nd, I was washed by the most cleansing wave of all. While I still come across some lingering struggles with regards to food, physical appearance, and all that an eating disorder convinces us is of utmost importance, I no longer feel consumed and controlled by them. I no longer give in to that sin. 

Isaiah. Isaiah showed me the eating disorder that Israel went through. Now, it wasn't the same as mine, but the sin of idolization lies at the root of both.

Summary

Israel rebelled against God by worshipping things of this world - silver and gold, kings and rulers, and prideful self-glorification. Through visions of Isaiah (a prophet, son of Amoz), God lays out His plans for rebellious Jerusalem and Judah. Constantly, repeatedly, He warns the people about consequences of their sin and promises them of His salvation, if only they will surrender their idols and worship Him as King. Isaiah shares His encounter with the Lord, when he whole-heartedly, fearfully, obediently and passionately surrendered his life to the One who saved him. He stands as a faithful messenger for the Lord, bringing to the rebellious people Good News of Jesus' coming and God's rule. Just when I began to find comfort in these promises, however, the Lord shook me awake with words of anger and promises to destroy all idolaters and hypocrites. His anger is not forever, nor is it ultimately characteristic of Him, thankfully. The book of Isaiah holds a promise of Jesus, son of David's coming and with it life-giving words of hope. The Lord wants to open His people's eyes to all they've been missing, and to provide for them stability strong enough and worthy enough of all hope, faith, and praise - Jesus. Despite Israel's sin, God promises not to abandon the city. He is faithful in protecting it, if only the people will recognize Him and repent from their sin of idolization, and even addresses Israel as His servant. So faithful and so loving is He that He sends his son, Jesus the Messiah, and commissions him to declare His promise of everlasting love and salvation. The Lord tells of Jesus' purpose, and through him, how He will display God's mercy and grace. One last time, He warns against sin and offers encouragement and hope in that His arm is never too weak to save. Only are we weak enough to allow our sin to separate us from Him, and yet He still offers His son as Savior, Jesus the Messiah. The last few chapters of Isaiah burst with the Good News as he prays for Jerusalem's final salvation and continued faith in the Lord. His word paint heart-warming pictures of His gracious arms reaching down to a once-rebellious people to lift them up in salvation and honor, all for His glory. 

Application

Throughout my eating disorder (and even sometimes today), I sinned by worshipping my outward appearance, by believing the lies magazines and TV and society told me about size and beauty, and by living in fear of food instead of my God. The heart of my eating disorder longed for the Lord, but even though I'd called myself a Christian for years, I denied God because I feared that His plan wouldn't match mine. I wanted full control of my life - the life God blessed me with - but I was damaging my body, probably even shortening this precious life without knowing it. In my heart, I heard Him warning me of judgment, yet I refused to listen. In my heart, I felt His promise of restoration and salvation, yet I still refused to listen. I searched for comfort and affirmation in family and friends, but found nothing everlasting. Towards the end of this past school year (my second one at Cal Poly) I remember a few nights spent crying on my bedroom floor, overwhelmed by loneliness, purposelessness, and emptiness. Confused. Discouraged. Crying out to the Lord, I finally felt His arms wrap around me when I re-dedicated my life to Him through baptism. I no longer felt my worth tied to my blog, or my beauty dependent on my size. I no longer saw God as controlling, selfish, and frightening. He showed Himself to me as the forgiving, gracious Father He is and pulled me out of the consuming eating disorder. I sought Him wholeheartedly, and He appeared. I repented, and He forgave.

Outstanding Points

  • Chapters 1-6 reminded me most of the worst times throughout those years. Blatantly, they laid out before me conviction of my sin and practically slapped me in the face with guilt. Reading God's own word about His anger and disappointment in a people who had committed the same sin I had been for so long left me feeling crushed and hopeless, though I'd been in successful recovery for months. Not knowing how the story would end but sure of the fact that Israel and I have much in common, I didn't know if I'd end up saved by God's gracious hands or defeated by His powerful wrath. It wasn't until He spoke some of the richest words yet at the conclusion of chapter 6 that I saw signs of a "happily ever after" ending, more clearly than ever before, His gracious hands working in my life just as He promised for Israel...
...But as a terebinth or oak tree leavers a stump when it is cut down, so Israel’s stump will be a holy seed.
— Isaiah 6:13, NLT

Whatever it was inside my eating disorder that cut me down, the Lord's hand took it over and made me a holy seed. Whatever it was inside your deepest struggle that crushed you, His hand wants to make you a holy seed, as well. His purpose in your suffering isn't to defeat you or kill you, but rather to use you as servants to glorify His holy name. You will become a holy seed of God's Good News! You will be made new by the Spirit, as He promises in Ephesians 2. 

  • Chapter 37 tells of King Hezekiah's reaction to the king of Assyria's threats. King Hezekiah first instinct was not to respond directly to the king of Assyria. It was not to turn to his allies and his people for advice. It was to look to the Lord in prayer and ask for peace. I wondered how three-year-suffering would have been different, had I made prayer my first instinct. I wondered if my suffering would have even continued for as long as it did, had I humbled myself enough to bring my fears to the Lord, first and foremost. 
After Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it, he went up tot he Lord’s Temple and spread it out before the Lord. And Hezekiah prayed this prayer before the Lord: ‘O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, God of Israel, you are enthroned between the mighty cherubim! You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth. You alone cerated the heavens and the earth. Bend down, O lord, and listen! Open your eyes, O Lord, and see!... Now, O lord our God, rescue us from his power; then all the kingdoms of the earth will know that you alone, O Lord, are God.’
— Isaiah 37:14-20, NLT
  • Chapter 59 answered one of the biggest questions I've held regarding God's love for us - if He loves us so much, then why does He allow bad things to happen? Why do I sometimes feel so far away from him? At the time I read this chapter, I was searching endlessly and for a job and feeling overcome with the stress of it all. It seemed as though God had backed away from me a little bit, as though He pulled His comforting hand out of my life. However, it is not the Lord who backs away or ignores us in these times, but rather it is our sin that causes us to feel distant from Him. Overwhelmingly moved by this realization, I couldn't keep it inside my own heart and I just had to share it - read it all here

My biggest take-away:

  • Well, I'm never really able to pick just one thing (if you're a close friend/family member, you know that all too well) of anything, but I guess what blew me away throughout Isaiah was how familiar it all sounded in comparison to my life. Each verse, each command and promise and word from the Lord walked me through my eating disorder. From the very beginning, three years ago - feeling ugly and unworthy - through to the very end, only a few months ago - feeling beautiful and cherished by the One who chose me - Isaiah painted it all, and finished it off with accents and sparkles and shimmers of God's grace. 
  • Idolization truly does lie at the heart of sin. Israel worshipped itself, along with treasures of this world and self-proclaimed kings and rulers, and I worshipped my own appearance, along with lies told by social media and self-proclaimed kings and rulers of today. The Lord clearly pointed this out to me through one of my favorite books, Idols of the Heart, by Elyse Fitzpatrick, and again through the book of Isaiah. 

My favorite verses:

‘Come now, let’s settle this,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool. If you will only obey me, you will have plenty to eat. But if you turn away and refuse to listen, you will be devoured by the sword of your enemies. I, the Lord, have spoken!’
— Isaiah 1:18, NLT
Then I heard the Lord asking, ‘Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?’ I said, ‘Here I am. Send me.’ And He said, ‘Yes, go and say to this people:
’Listen carefully, but do not understand. Watch closely, but learn nothing.’
Harden the hearts of these people. Plug their ears and shut their eyes. That way, they will not see with their eyes, nor hear with their ears, nor understand with their hearts and turn to me for healing.’
— Isaiah 6:8-10, NLT
You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!
— Isaiah 26:3, NLT
The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.
— Isaiah 40:8, NLT
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.
— Isaiah 40:31, NLT
‘But as for you, Israel my servant... I have called you back from the ends of the earth, saying, ‘You are my servant.’ For I have chosen you and will not throw you away. Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged,for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.’
— Isaiah 41:8-10, NLT
I have refined you, but not as silver is refined. Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering.
— Isaiah 48:10, NLT
‘Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands.’
— Isaiah 49:15-16, NLT
But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.
— Isaiah 53:5-6, NLT

Thank you for reading, and I encourage you to delve into the book of Isaiah. If you've gone through something similar to an eating disorder, this book brings comfort beyond belief. Comfort I wish I'd known existed in the heat of my worst few years. But, all in all, God's word stands and is the same yesterday, today, and forever :) thanks, God, for speaking to me. 

FAITH: Isaiah 59 - Sin & Separation

Faith, LifeHaley Hansen2 Comments

I've been slowly reading through the book of Isaiah for the past two months and each chapter makes me want to write a whole blog post, buuuuut 66 blog posts? Maybe someday. For now, I want to focus on the chapter I dove into this morning - Isaiah 59, "Warning against Sin". 

Before I began this particular book, my discipleship leader introduced me to a Bible commentary app - "BLB" (it's the blue one in the app store & totally free, too) - and I've been using it to help analyze each chapter of Isaiah so far. It provides tons of answers to pretty much any question regarding the Bible (in every version) and other helpful tools I don't even know about yet, but I mainly use it for the in-depth commentary by other pastors on each verse. 

Anyway, I had barely finished the second verse of chapter 59 this morning when I just had to open up the app (click here), in search of some clarification. 

Listen! The Lord’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is His ear too deaf to hear you call. It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, He has turned away and will not listen anymore.
— Isaiah 59:1-2, NLT

Whoa... I thought, rather speechless. Oh, and this isn't the first time Isaiah has left me with nothing to say but "whoa", but I'm elaborating here because it's what I read this morning and answers a question I've always wrestled with in regards to God's role in our lives as Christians. 

Summarizing the verse in my head, I came up with this: Okay, so if God does not lose power or concern for us, despite our sins, then why do bad things happen? And if it's my sins that separate me from God, then where does that famous chunk in the book of Romans, assuring us that "nothing can ever separate us from God's love" (chapter 8, verses 31-39), come into play? This is where the BLB app had my back. I tapped any verse in Isaiah 59 and then "Commentaries", and chose David Guzik's study guide, The Reality Check. Let's get started, shall we? 

So, put yourself in the shoes of one of God's people in this verse. Better yet, just think back to a time when you've suffered, or seen/heard terrible news, or wondered where in the world God's hand is in this trial - that's where God's people are in this verse. Side note: isn't it cool that we can relate to people from this long ago? Blows my mind every time. Anyway, back on track. Isaiah the prophet assures the people that God has not lost any power or concern for them. Verse 2 explains that sin is the culprit, as it almost always is. Sin is what separates us from God. Now, don't let your mind wrestle too hard with this verse and the ones in Romans 8:31-39, yet, because I'll tie them all together for you. 

David Guzik organizes his explanation into 4 parts, which I'll re-explain in my own words. Sin separates me from God in terms of: 

  1. My fellowship with Him - "fellowship" is another word for "companionship". It's basically a relationship. For example, (PS I've never cheated on anyone or had thoughts about another guy while in a relationship, but I feel this is a closely related example) if I have a boyfriend, but I see another guy who I maybe grow interested in, the attention I devote towards my boyfriend now flows over to this new guy. In other words, my fellowship with my boyfriend loses its richness because of my sinful desires. Guzik says, "...at the point of our sin, we no longer think alike with God." Does He divide His heart amongst His children? Somehow, He doesn't. The book of Isaiah boasts several verses that tell of God's love for each of His children, but this one stands out to me: "See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands..." (Isaiah 49:16). When I sin, I separate myself from Him because I allow desires of my own flesh to consume attention I could otherwise be devoting to the Lord.  
  2. Receiving His blessings - When I am distracted by other things - usually stress - I inhibit myself from seeing the blessings of God. Under stress, I instinctually turn inward for strength and place heavy pressure on myself to accomplish whatever it is that needs to be done, despite the fact that I may not be able to every single time. My mind is clouded and overwhelmed and forgets that it doesn't need to, and can't, figure things out on its own. Matthew 13:13 describes it perfectly: "...For they look, but they don't really see. They hear, but they don't really listen or understand." I know in my heart that I should and can totally depend on God, but I'm buried beneath stress (or sin or whatever it may be) and struggle to surface myself. 
  3. The benefits of His love - Don't get ahead of yourself and think that God ever stops loving you because that's just frighteningly false. Remember, Romans 8:31-39 promise that nothing is powerful enough to wedge between me/you and God. However, sin can still tease me with the alluring temptations of its own proposed benefits. For example, I've fallen into the trap social media sneakily sets up - I've searched for confidence and attention in likes, comments, and followers. I've chased after companies in hopes of partnerships and collaborations. Aside from social media, I've longed for relationships selfishly to feel more loved and beautiful. I've turned to food and exercise to shrink myself into the size society told me was "perfect". These desires told me they could satisfy my every need and answer all my questions, and I believed them, until one day I realized I'd been emptied more than ever before. 
  4. His protection - here's the big one. When God sees how misled I am, He does reach down to help lift me out of the state I'm in, but it's not always a smooth ride. God speaks to the stubborn Israelites in Isaiah 48 and says, "I have refined you, but not as silver is refined. Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering." The furnace of suffering, huh? Ouch. I thought, when I read that verse. But the more I let it run through my mind, I couldn't deny it's truth and God's right in doing so. Guzik agrees in his commentary: "We should remember that we are not at the center of the universe, but God is. Everything He does and allows furthers His eternal purpose." The Lord allows trials to mold us into the individual He originally designed us to be and to serve for Him here on this earth, making those trials the prime opportunity for us to draw closer to Him, to understand Him more and more. Isaiah 49 says, "Sing for joy, O heavens! Rejoice, O earth! Burst into song, O mountains! For the Lord has comforted His people and will have compassion on them in their suffering." 

My summer thus far has been all over the place - moving out, traveling to England, moving in (temporarily) and moving out again, moving in aaaagain and all the while searching for a job. After a few exhausting weeks of applying to everywhere and anywhere, I couldn't push out feelings of discouragement any longer. I stayed faithful that God would provide something somehow, but I wasn't rejoicing in the sole blessing of the Holy Spirit. Instead, point number three took over and I lost sight of how bountiful God's love is. Workouts, treats, nights out with friends, movies, and beach days are exciting and fun and definitely helpful in distracting me from the stress of having to "adult", but they never satisfy my heart's deepest need, the one for which only God's love has the fulfillment. 

If any of this seems heavy and unconvincing of God's love, verses 16-21 come to the rescue...

He was amazed to see that no one intervened to help the oppressed. So He himself stepped in to save them with his strong arm... ‘The Redeemer will come to Jerusalem to buy back those in Israel who have turned from their sins... And this is my covenant with them... My spirit will not leave them, and neither will these words I have given you. They will be on your lips and on the lips of your children and your children’s children forever. I, the Lord, have spoken!’
— Isaiah 59:16-21, NLT

I hope this has helped in some way - reading through Isaiah and elaborating on it like I have here has definitely provided explanation for me in terms of God's provision in my life. If you liked this post and were able to take something away from it, and maybe if you have suggestions for another post, leave a comment down below or send me an email. 

Thank you for reading, and my prayer is that God will continue to use me as a lamp, Him serving as the lightbulb, to help you :)

FAITH: Biblical Womanhood {+ thoughts about "Girl Defined"}

Faith, LifeHaley Hansen2 Comments

About three weeks ago, I dove into the book Girl Defined by Kristen Clark and Bethany Baird. After reading (and l o v i n g) Idols of the Heart by Elyse Fitzpatrick, my hopes for similar spiritual realizations and impacts while reading this book were high, but not much of the material has "hit" me as hard as anything Fitzpatrick said did. That is, until I finished Chapter 6 - "Modern Chic, Meet Biblical Womanhood". Here, Clark and Baird present their interpretations (after much prayer, discussion, and studying) of God's intention in his design of the female:

  1. Help
  2. Produce Life 
  3. Nurture Relationships 

As I flipped page after page of this chapter, I kept asking myself, How am I living out each of these aspects? If you haven't read the book, I recommend doing so, mainly for this chapter and the one following it. I just want to share my thoughts on Clark and Baird's "Three Pillars of Biblical Womanhood", ways I do apply them already and new ways I can begin to do so. My hope is that this will provide you, as a reader, some inspiration and motivation to a) invite God into your life, if you haven't done so already, and b) grow closer to Him by asking Him to show you ways in which you can apply these pillars to your own life. 

First, let me say "thank you" to these authors for sharing stories about their own lives throughout this book. You've both opened my eyes to different and new aspects of Christianity to which I hadn't given much thought before! I'm so grateful that God has blessed you with this passion to reach out to women like me (and maybe even some unlike me?) - I know I definitely need to hear much of what this book has to say :) 

  1. HELP - After God created Adam, He decided that he shouldn't be alone, that he should have a companion ("a helper fit for him", as Genesis 2:18 writes). That's when Eve arrives at the scene, designed by God, complementary to Adam - "complementary" meaning that Eve would supply the needs and qualities Adam could not. 

    How am I a "helper"? My first (almost instinctual) answer to this question was work. Though I don't have a job at this moment, I'm in the application process and will hopefully soon enter the actual hiring process after some interviews this week. Nonetheless, God designed us all, whether male or female, to work. I've questioned how qualified a job at, say, a pizza place is when it comes to satisfying that idea of work, but it all boils down to how I represent Christ in the workplace, in any place, for that matter. I can be a helper in this time of my life (single, without kids, still supported by my parents) by working. While earning money for that work is definitely one of my priorities, I pray that God will shift my focus from the paycheck to simply serving others and bringing about a positive light wherever I work. 

    Proverbs 31:10-31 paints a picture of what God sees as a noble, working woman (it uses the word "wife", but can apply to single women, as well). Specifically, verses 13-24 speak clearly to what a hard working woman, desiring to help others looks like. Open up your bible or find the scripture here.

    How can I better help others? A paycheck is important to me because it will allow me to start to repay my parents for all their support - paying my rent, buying me a car, providing some spending money here and there, etc. However, I recognize that not all work I do needs to be or even should be motivated by money. For example, each week, I volunteer at the Downtown SLO Farmers' Market. Though a position with the SLO Downtown Association after college would be amazing, I volunteer because the night of The Market is my favorite night of the week - I can't contain my passion and excitement towards serving this community that welcomed me in two years ago, when I began college at Cal Poly. San Luis Obispo boasts several other opportunities to involve myself in this community, a few of which include serving food at the homeless shelter, participating in beach clean-up days, and helping maintain the church I attend every Sunday. 
  2. PRODUCE LIFE - Ahhhh this could be a tough one, considering I'm a) not dating anyone, b) not having sex before marriage even if I were to date, and c) still waiting for my body to reset my period to a hopefully regular, monthly schedule. In other words, I'm not in any position to even think about having kids right now. So how do I live out this aspect of Godly womanhood? Thankfully, Clark and Baird took into account girls in positions similar to mine by discussing how we can produce life in two ways - physically and spiritually. Physically? Obvious, but not in the cards at the moment. Spiritually? Sounds like a fit, but I had to research a little more in order to grasp it fully. 

    How can I spiritually produce life? Well, if you don't know me very well, I have this thing called a "blog" and it's what you're reading right now. It's that URL you typed in order to end up here. I also have an Instagram account, and it's following has increased beyond what I ever imagined. At first, a large audience seemed attractive simply because I felt popular and skilled doing what I love, but praise the Lord that the Holy Spirit quickly changed my heart, showing me the amount of influence and space for God's glory this following allowed. Matthew 5 reminded me that I am a light for this world, for those around me, so I should be constantly making sure that my actions represent His love and glorify Him, not myself. 

    Aside from my blog, speaking in more personal terms, I can spiritually produce life on a more local scale by connecting with both Christians and non-Christians. I can't be effective in sharing the Gospel if I stick close to only those who have already heard it's Good News. By spending quality time with, actually hanging out and getting to know, non-Christians (just like Jesus did in Matthew 9) I can ask God for courage, strength, and wisdom to share with others the abundance of His amazing, everlasting love. 

    Singleness should not and will not prevent me from living out God's plan for my life right now or in the future. I don't know if I'll be able to have children in five or ten years, but I do know that opportunities to spiritually produce life are plentiful, especially in my current situation. Thank you, God, for that :) 
  3. NURTURE RELATIONSHIPS - Clark and Baird emphasize that God created Eve for Adam, making women "highly relational beings". We are meant for connection and relationship with others, and God wants us to ensure that each of our relationships points toward Him and glorifies Him. 

    How can I nurture relationships? Well, like I said before, I can't nurture a romantic relationship if I don't have one, but thankfully, God has blessed me with plenty of friendships (friends who know and love Him and others who don't), opportunities to put this pillar into practice. 

    I'm currently jobless, and have spent the past few days (aside from my time spent desperately job-hunting) just relaxing at home, at the beach, etc. Don't get me wrong - I've loved almost every minute of it. But I use the word "almost" specifically because I do get lonely and I do, at times, feel kind of like a big, bored lump on the couch. Last night, that feeling overwhelmed me as I tried to comfort myself in reading my bible and rereading a chapter of Idols of the Heart. At the same time, I was trying to make sure I had plans for today (the 4th of July) so I didn't end up like I was feeling then. My friend invited me on a morning-hike with her, but it conflicted with the plans I made (with myself...) to workout. I figured my choices were: a) skip the workout and just hike, b) skip the hike and try to make other plans with her later on in the day, or c) wake up early, workout, then go on the hike. Feeling ambitious, I went with Plan C. Yes - I'm exhausted and my knees hurt a little bit, but I could not be more thankful I did both. Working out in the morning is one of my favorite ways to start the day, I don't know why, but it just is and I struggle to give that up. Maybe I don't even need to give it up, but that's another discussion for another time. Anyway, I ended up finishing my workout before I thought I would and used my extra ten minutes to read a chapter from Isaiah - chapter 43, which tells of God's graciousness in saving Israel and promising to provide forgiveness and prosperity to those who believe in, follow, and love Him wholeheartedly. In other words, it was e x a c t l y what I needed to hear (or read, I guess). 

    While my friend and I were hiking, I found myself constantly out of breath - yes, I was tired from my early-morning workout, but I also realized how much I couldn't shut myself up. I haven't talked this much or with such spunk and excitement in a long time, and I think it's because I've felt lonely lately and have craved nothing more than just pure, genuine interaction. I'm an introvert - I re-energize in my alone-time - but I know now how important in my life relationships are, and I know that God is preparing me in this moment, if it's in His will, for a romantic relationship that is centered around Him.

    To better nurture current and future relationships in my life, I'm praying for courage to bring God into conversations. I'm praying for maturity to represent Godliness in the previous two ways. I'm praying for strength to resist giving into gossip and other temptations. I'm praying for wisdom to always use the right words. I'm praying for humility to let God shine His light, instead of me striving to glorify anything of myself. 

If you've gotten this far (please tell me you have actually read and not just skimmed), thank you for reading! Seriously, your presence and dedication do mean a lot to me, so I appreciate that :) I also want to encourage you to research both of the books I mentioned - Girl Defined by Kristen Clark and Bethany Baird and Idols of the Heart by Elyse Fitzpatrick. God has used these authors and their words to teach me so much about Himself and pull me in close to Him, especially during times when I've needed it more than I even knew. 

I hope that I've provided something useful here and that you'll pray with me that God continues to use me and this blog for His glory, not my own. Please please please don't hesitate to ask any questions - leave them below or send me an email. I love hearing from you and would love even more to offer help or advice or just a presence in any way possible. 

Again, thank you for reading :) 

FAITH: Over and Over, Overwhelmed

Faith, Life, HealthHaley HansenComment
Peter replied, ‘Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’
— Acts 2:38

I am redeemed. I am made new. I am born again. I am perfect in His eyes, though I am so broken in this world. I am in need, and I am provided for. I am no longer consumed by the sin that I may still commit. 

I have been saved, set free, and I continue to be molded and shaped and sharpened by the hands of Christ living in my fragile heart. 

Those truths bring tears to my eyes even years after I gave my life to Christ for the first time. I was in fifth grade and didn’t understand much of what a life following my Savior looked like, but I gave Him my life because the words my church leaders used to describe that life sounded pretty darn sweet. Despite my incomplete understanding, I still pursued Christ. 

In tenth grade, my church held a baptism ceremony and the time felt right for me to participate, as my way of demonstrating a slightly more complete understanding of Christ's sacrifice for me and my desire for His presence throughout other areas of my life. My best friend at the time and I were dunked together and it was an awesome experience, but looking back, I realize my confidence and happiness stemmed, in part, out of affirmation from my family, church leaders, and peers. 

Not many people know that, so I've been asked why, as a now devout Christian, I'm getting re-baptized. Answering that question is easy when I'm answering to Christ because I know that he sees my heart and its flaws and its sparkles and its desires and its overwhelmed slur of gratitude, but no one else has eyes for that. So, to answer that question for you, I'm getting re-baptized because I've taken a million of my own steps this way and that way and everywhere else in between since tenth grade. I've lead myself to the peaks of superficially, instantly satisfying "high's" and I've tumbled down to empty, lonely, dangerously terrifying "low's". I've damaged my body, and I've failed to show it the precious love Christ has shown me. 

As I stood in front of the supportive crowd of family and friends today, I thought about my walk with Christ and tried my best to squeeze everything into two or three sentences. Though I didn't actually share (the crowd swelled as each minute passed and my nerves went along with it) with everyone, here's something along the lines of what I would've said, had the fear of public speaking not overwhelmed me and the tears of joy not choked me: 

"Hi, I'm Haley! I'm just so excited to be here today. To make a long story short - umm, I've wrestled with an eating disorder for the past three years, and for anyone who has themselves or knows someone else who has, you can understand me when I say I was searching for something that I still can't pin down. The tinier the size I shrunk into, the heavier the weight crushing me felt, the more intense the pressure became to find whatever it was I'd been searching for. I exhausted myself and couldn't run away from God and towards this selfish desire for something unidentifiable any longer. So, here I am. I'm saying YES to God and promising to never jump out of His arms - the arms that lifted the burdensome weight from my shoulders and cradled me, comforted me, and assured me that I'm the most beautiful version of the woman He'd drawn of me long before my parents ever conceived me. Here I am, promising Christ my whole heart for my whole life. I've learned not to trust myself, so I'm placing my life into His mighty hands and embracing the tears and rapid-beating heart as I watch them gently, safely close together." 

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to His cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.
— Galations 5:24-25

But, like I said, the crowd was overwhelming and this baptism isn't about my sharing my story with them. It's about me admitting my weaknesses to Christ, letting Him wash me clean of my sins, and saying "I do" to His invitation to eternally hold His mighty hands. 

I walked towards the water, squeezing the arm of one of my best friends who decided at the last minute to be re-baptized, too. We braced ourselves for the cold water, but my heart beat and palms sweat and throat swelled for another reason. These butterflies were butterflies on steroids - the kind I imagine to invade my stomach on my wedding day. I use that analogy lightly, though, because I hope that nothing ever feels this good. I spotted a pair of men with open arms, ready to dunk someone, so I treaded through the freezing cold water towards them. I think they asked my name and introduced themselves, but it's all a blur now. They grabbed my hands and placed one of theirs on each of my shoulders, giving me some directions and praying over me. A few sobs made themselves heard and pulled the corners of my lips into a smile as I sent whispers of grateful excitement up to God. One of the men contribute the last words I can remember hearing before I plugged my nose and felt the piercing shock of the cold water, full of the Holy Spirit's unmistakable presence, "... in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit!" 

I came up, caught my breath and ran to one of my best friends, who embraced me in her arms with a warm towel. She didn't let me go as she told me how proud she was, and I let out a few more tears and "thank you's", unable to really form any complete sentences. 

That was the best moment of my entire life. 

I saw a few hundred people today, some familiar faces and some I couldn't recognize, yet I felt no presence stronger than God's. I submerged myself in who-knows-how-cold-water, yet I'd cleanse myself like that for Christ a million and one more times. 

You will show me the way of life, granting you the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.
— Psalms 16:11

My prayer now is that Christ will work in the hearts of those maybe considering baptism or re-baptism, that maybe He'll use some of these words in some way, shape, or form. If you're considering baptism, I'm praying for you and the Holy Spirit is, too. For some, it's a leap of faith, trusting God's will. For others, it's an act of repentance, saying "no" to himself and "yes" to God. For others still, it's both A and B. It's all of the above. 

It's breath-taking and heart-pounding. It's too good for words, so seek the experience for yourself :) 

I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God!
For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation
and draped me in a robe of righteousness.
I am like a bridegroom dressed for his wedding
or a bride with her jewels.
— Isaiah 61:10

FAITH: Happiness - where is it?

Faith, Life, HealthHaley HansenComment

You know those picture captions that read, "ASFDKDHFHASDIFSDFHBVIRTYSNCSFNEIRUGH...." or something like that? Very few things in this world make me feel that way: 1) food - I don't know what kind specifically, but I know that I'll marry the man who can consistently put that food on the table and 2) God. The second one is by far the most important, so clearly there is no specific order to that short list. 

Anyway, "ASFDKDHFHASDIFSDFHBVIRTYSNCSFNEIRUGH...." is the only word (or is it words?) I've been able to conjure up this week. All of my life's favorite distractions and their mothers and grandmothers have been doing their annoying job for the past week or two - I haven't been wholly, genuinely focused on the Lord and I credit that to school, homework, work, and finding pleasure, security, confidence, etc. in my circumstances and blessings. While the happiness that blooms from realizing how blessed I am is totally acceptable and worthy of praise, it's not the happiness I should find my peace in. 

That happiness comes from someONE, not someTHING(S), and that lesson has been a recurring theme in my walk with God lately. 

My bible study leader is a spectacular human and photocopied chapter 5 of Idols of the Heart for us to study this week. As the three of us dove in on Monday morning - listening to the sound of pouring rain, might I add - I felt the Holy Spirit sort through the files in my brain and pull out the least important, most worldly thoughts and distractions so that I could wholly focus on what was in our study for the day. Thank you, Holy Spirit. How'd you know I needed that cleaned out? 

Just four short paragraphs in and I was already pulling out my highlighter and basically taking note of everything. The first sentence that really caught my eye read, "They understood that ultimate joy was to be found only in obeying the living God," which was referring to this excerpt from Daniel...

O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O King. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O King, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.
— Daniel 3:16-18

To me, that spoke about unwavering trust in God's plan and whole-hearted joy in the fact that He is, well, He is God. 

A paragraph or two later, it brought up David's words, "Because your loving kindness is better than my life, my lips will praise you" (Psalm 63:3). I was taken aback when the book asked me, "Is God's steadfast love and mercy really sweeter to me than life?" Stunned at my inability to immediately, without a doubt confirm that, yes it is sweeter than life, I couldn't do anything else besides just highlight the question. 

Nothing is better than knowing God. There is no pleasure greater than worshipping Him. Nothing is sweeter than His love. My happiness is found in Him alone.
— Saint Augustine

AAAHHHHHHHHHH come on, Haley. Those were my thoughts, as I recalled my most common reasons for giving thanks: this life, my family, my friends, my community, CRU, my job and internship, and the list goes on, but so many things on that list begin with "my". Why isn't the FIRST thing on that list just God in and of Himself? Not the fact that He sent His son for me, or because He has blessed me with such an abundant surrounding of Christ-followers, but because He loves me and is, well, He is Him. Yes, there is joy in loving family and friends, in the opportunity  to work and earn money, and in San Luis Obispo and all of its beauty, but the heartiest, juiciest, most sustainable source of everlasting joy is found in one person and one person only. 

And that joy blooms and multiplies and flourishes in fulfilling God's will for our individual lives. A few paragraphs later, I had to pull out my highlighter again as I read and re-read and re-read this excerpt from the book, "Delighting to do God's will means turning from the deception that joy lies outside obedient fellowship with Him. We need to consistently disbelieve the imaginations that appear sweeter than God's lovingkindness."

Yes. Perfect. 10/10, beautifully phrased. But that's like knowing you have fresh, organic broccoli and tomatoes and carrots and brown rice that require just a little bit of cooking, while staring at a batch of double-chocolate chip cookies, or pumpkin pie, or a gigantic, homemade muffin (my ultimate weakness). The former are nutritious and wholesome and full of life and rewarding, while the latter are sugary and delicious and tempting and... temporarily satisfying. T e m p o r a r i l y. S a t i s f y i n g.

This morning, I opened my bible to Psalms 29...

Honor the Lord, you heavenly beings; honor the Lord for His glory and strength. Honor the Lord for the glory of His name. Worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness.
— Psalm 29:1-2

Worship God because He is God, above all. Not because He gave me family and friends and Cal Poly and work and money and food, but whole-heartedly, because HE IS GOD. 

And suddenly, loneliness and desire for a boyfriend, worry and the need to schedule the upcoming week, fear and the stress of getting the right classes and graduating on time and finding a job and finding "the one" and building a family and blah blah blah, all of that just dissolves. I feel like I've rooted myself deep in God's soil, and I'll go deeper and deeper so that nothing and no one can pull me out. 

And THAT is where joy lies :) 

FAITH: Living Near to God

Faith, Health, LifeHaley HansenComment

Father, just pull me in close to You. Wrap me up in Your arms and don't ever let me squeeze my way out. My deepest desire, underneath the the most worldly ones that cloud my mind everyday, is to feel Your presence as if it were my backpack, or my shirt, or my earrings. I want nothing to stand between You and me. 

This weekend, Cru hosted its annual Fall Retreat. I could go on and on, writing pages about the friendships I developed, the new faces I met, the beautiful beach-side weather, and how I found vegan options everywhere we went, but I can do that anytime. What's most important here is the paragraph in Italics above - that was my prayer before and during Fall Retreat, but it's transformed since then.

The theme of this weekend was road-tripping with the Lord. One question the speaker repeatedly asked was, "Who do you follow?" with an emphasis on who and not what. At first, I thought, I follow Jesus, duh, but as I stepped back from my ego I realized that sometimes I don't. Sometimes, I follow my parents' suggestions, or a vegan-vlogger on Instagram, or my best friends when I don't know what to do or when I can't hear God's answer to my prayers. "Trace the master," the speaker said, as I sunk into my realization. When I was a kid and didn't know how to color, I traced the outline of another picture. Do I trace God's word and His teachings when I feel lost? Does my life paint a picture of my faith in my Father who saved me? 

When I couldn't bring myself to answer these questions, I prayed those words above, begging God to pull me in and strap me in tight. In Exodus 33:14, the Lord tells Moses that He is with him everywhere. 

The Lord replied, ‘I will personally go with you, Moses, and I will give you rest - everything will be fine for you.’
— Exodus 33:14, NLT

The Lord is always with me. The Lord is always with me. The Lord is always with me. Then why do I not feel Him go through those dry spells when I can't feel God there with me? God showed me His answer to that by directing me to Philippians 4:8-9...

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your eyes on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you have learned and received from me - everything you heard form me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
— Philippians 4:8-9

...and I was like, "Ohhhhhh, gotcha." I hadn't been tracing God. I'd been tracing my parents, my favorite bloggers/vloggers, my best friends (no matter how in love with God they may be), and myself. I know that there is no right or wrong way to pray, but I think God was waiting for me to realize that I am the one who needs to draw closer to Him, not Him to me. When I gave my life to Christ, God pulled me in, but as distractions and "to-do's" come about, I let them squeeze in between that heavenly embrace. 

God never disappears completely. He never takes the exit ramp when road-tripping with me. The only time I can't see Him is when I forget to use my windshield wipers to de-fog - when my mind is juggling school, midterms, work, friendships, family, boys, myself, and blah blah blah. While those are all important to a certain extent, by giving them too much attention I inflate my ego, fog my windshield, and involuntarily release myself a little more from that heavenly embrace. 

I want to be aware of my surroundings - my family, best friends, favorite bloggers, schoolwork, etc. - but my deepest desire is to be so intertwined/absorbed/wrapped up in God's presence that my surroundings remain surroundings rather than examples/tracers/too-powerful-distractions. My goal is for my life to paint a picture of God's beautiful love, grace, and mercy. It doesn't have to be pretty, because that might signify too much focus on the opinion of my surroundings. 

I'm not a perfect artist - in fact, I'm not even really an artist according to the world's definition. I am a student holding a pencil, tracing God's image. God is in the car with me on my life's road-trip, and He wants me to (as cliche as this may be) sit back and enjoy the ride. :) 

So Father, this is me taking your hand, buckling myself in to the passenger seat, picking up the pencil, ready to follow you, to trace your steps. As these worldly wants and "needs" cloud my mind, help me de-fog. Honk the horn if You have to. YOU are my deepest desire and my most vital necessity. YOU are the warmest, most comforting and rejuvenating embrace, and I want to live, rest, eat, breathe in Your arms. Thank you for always welcoming me back in :) 

FAITH: Running My Race

Faith, Life, HealthHaley HansenComment

On the track, the popularity and usage of this verse is equivalent to that of Philippians 4:13. To me, it's overused and placed in the wrong context, so it's never been one of those key verses I keep in the back of my mind. I've also had trouble understanding what "race" God is talking about, but He made everything clear to me this morning in church. 

By "us", God is pointing to each of us in His kingdom as individuals. Read it as though God is talking to YOU - not "us", not your bible study, not your family. Just you. Run the race God has set for ME. Okay, but what race? In Jeremiah 29:11, God assures us that He has a plan for our lives, and that plan is this race He's referring to in Hebrews. 

I'll be the first to admit that finding community in Christ was not only the highlight of my freshman year, but also the very blessing that equipped me with everything and more I needed to thrive. BUT alone time, quiet time, one-on-one time with God is absolutely essential. Establishing, maintaining, and prioritizing that relationship first is the foundation for eternal life with Him - it's the beginning of the race and the endorphins that fuel endurance throughout. 

When the pastor dove deeper into this verse, God reminded me of habits like comparison, jealousy, and pride.... yeah, guilty. They seem almost impossible to avoid - magazines practically advertise the powers of photoshop more than clothing, cars, homes, etc., and the constant encouragement to buy more, do more, be more doesn't leave us alone. While giving in to those habits is easy, it's also like trying to run another person's race, and no matter how hard we push or how fast we run, we can't win someone else's race. 

God has already written my story and your story - He did so even before we were born - and He wants us to spend our lives with Him, reading that story. Be the main character; embrace every personality, every beauty mark, every imperfection - God smiles when we thank Him like that. 

I haven't been able to think about much else besides this topic today (except the fries I'm baking right now - I hope heaven smells like this), and I can hear God whispering to me about how it applies to my eating habits. Lately, I've bee fascinated by veganism and experimenting with it. Eating purely fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts/beans/seeds seems to bring so much energy to those who adopt that lifestyle. If hundreds of other people love it, and I already eat similarly, why wouldn't I love it, too? 

Long story and lots of descriptive bodily functions short, it hasn't been working. I'm constantly hungry, tired in the afternoon, and bloated all day. No matter what any Insta-famous vegan says, the amount of sugar I feed my body in eating that much fruit just doesn't seem quite right. Oh, and, um, Greek yogurt? My bestie. Avocado + toast + fried egg = my favorite math equation. 

That's just me - those are some of the qualities God blessed me with. I love animals and I will never put animal flesh in my mouth again, but I don't think I was designed for a completely vegan diet. I feel energized, hydrated, satisfied, and healthy on a simple vegetarian diet. Whatever works for the HCLF vegans works for them, but not all of it works for me.

However, comparison, a little jealousy, and selfish pride still get the best of me. Sometimes I wish I could eat eight bowls of banana "ice cream", a farm-full of sweet potatoes, and bread to feed the 5,000, too. I long for the clear skin associated with veganism, and I cheer (sometimes rather loudly) for myself when I see ten new followers on my Instagram profile, but those concerns only slow me down in my race. Constantly craning my neck to check the pace of runners behind me or next to me pushes me farther behind. 

Replace those thoughts with gratitude, with a little self-love and positivity. Respect yourself and appreciate and embrace your character in God's story for you. Run your race to see Him at the finish line. As with all marathons, your muscles will ache, your throat will burn, and your mind might let some discouragement in every once in a while, but God's words are here to rejuvenate you every single day. He wants nothing more than to help you run your best race ever. 

God's pretty cool, huh?