on sitting down and slowing down by Haley Russell

haley danielle

Something caught me by surprise today. It was a nasty thing, a product of our broken world. It grabbed me around the neck and forced the air out of me and left me sad and unsure. You see, every day, I leave school around 4. I love talking to students, but some days, I'm just ready to zip out of there because, you know, I've been standing and talking to people for, like, twenty-five thousand hours. And so, when a student asked me to hang out for a bit after school a few days ago, I flew in and out of the classrooms, finishing things up, not really listening. I shrugged: Whatever it was, could wait. Today, though, I finally stopped. We sat together and I heard her loud and clear. Some terrible things had happened in her life. 

Her story is not mine to tell, but as she was speaking of families ripping apart, painful disappointments, and raw wounds, my voice caught in my throat. I hurt for her, and I felt guilt rise from the pit of my stomach: I'd been too busy to see her for a whole week and this had been going on. This was what was pressing. And she'd waited, patient, and kind. She'd still hugged me, told me she'd catch me another time. She still told me she loved me, and gave me more grace when I allowed my busyness to take the driver's seat. I'd been around, sure. I'd been scratching papers with red pens and clicking away at emails rather than slowing down.

I hadn't stopped to listen. 

I was (am) heartbroken. Instead of doing my job (because teachers sign up for our jobs to educate, sure, but everyone knows we're in it for the kids), I'd allowed other, small things to get in the way of a conversation I should've been having. Instead of sitting down and slowing down, I waved my hand and swore I'd have time later.

Sister, maybe today is your later. Maybe today is the day you need to sit down, slow down, grab a drink and really listen. One of the biggest things teaching has taught me is that we're all carrying a lot of junk. People (read: teenagers) often seem frustrating until you know their full story. Every time I'm annoyed a kid is acting out, I almost always find out something is always going on at home. Something is going on with their health, their parents, or their siblings. Every. Single. Time. And, for some reason, I continue to learn this lesson -- giving more grace and opening my ears a little more. All it takes is sitting down and slowing down. Invite that friend to coffee. Buy hers. Don't say a lot. Just listen. Just be.

You are not to busy, and nor am I. 

I hope you have the greatest weekend ever. 

walking with you,

on shame + lies by Haley Russell

when shame lies

Shame is a bully and grace is a shield. 

Ann Voskamp wrote these words a few days ago and my heart found so much rest. 

You see, my heart needed the rest. For years, I have battled with self worth, identity crises, and choosing to see the grace so freely given to us. I've fallen asleep hating myself, who I am, and the poor decisions I've made. 

Another one of my heroes, Jackie Hill Perry, tweeted the other day: "The devil will tell you a lie while using your own voice." How can that be? How can my voice sound so like the devil's that I believe it? Not only do I believe it, I mark it on my soul. Brand myself with the lies that I am not good enough, too much, second best. I am damaged goods, broken pieces. These are the words the devil -- in my own voice -- so often whispers to an already broken heart. 

But, shame is a bully and grace is a shield. 

But how do we remember this? In the darkest of days when the world slides away and, more than anything, you want to crawl out of your own skin and hide away somewhere for a while, how do we remember grace's protection? 

In teaching, I hardly ever ask my students to memorize passages of literature. I hated doing it as a student and I don't necessarily see the value of it now. For many years, I viewed scripture in the same way. But more and more, I've seen my error. Nearly every day, I find myself in Ephesians 1. It covers a multitude of sins. It's words have become my heart's song. And, unintentionally, I've written them on my heart. Through tears and anguish, the Lord has lovingly erased the lies the devil tells me in my own voice to replace them with who He is and what that means for me. 

I am a child of God. 
I am redeemed. 
I am His beloved. 
I am made in His (perfect) image.

And, more than that: 

God is not surprised by my faults. 
He is not surprised by my failures. 
He is not tired of me. 
He is not exhausted by my tears and questions.  

Though the road is winding and rocky (and you've forgotten your best hiking shoes), rest in Ephesians 1. Like David, bring your tears and heartbreak to the Lord. Like Paul, remember that though you are the chief of sinners, you are more loved and covered in grace than you ever dared imagine. 

If you are lost, find a seat and open your eyeballs. Let those words be an ointment to your wounds. Your wounds are not too deep, nor too wide. They are welcome here. 

Shame is a bully. 

Grace is a shield.  

walking with you,

on sideways glancing + confidence by Haley Russell

The other day, in the grocery store, I saw a woman with a baby. I'm 25 and not married, so babies are so not in my plans right now. But, I saw this sweet woman, probably my age or a few years older, floating down the aisle. Her baby was sitting in the little seat calmly and was dressed beautifully. She'd bought one of those little drape things that go over the metal so your kid doesn't get Ebola or whatever the disease of the day is. I looked at her, and then I looked quickly back at the soup. Trying to avoid her eye, or really anyone's eye, I thought about my unwashed hair. I considered my face, which hadn't seen makeup in about a week. I thought about my teacher outfit -- the one I wear to be comfortable (leggings, a comfy dress/tunic, and Vans). My eyeballs seemed to also be upset and started to leak. 

I looked sideways. 

Man, I do this all the time. And it's so frustrating. I know Grocery Lady (who probably has an awesome name like Grace) has her fair share of problems. I know, too, that I didn't see the dark spaces in her day. But as I was looking extra hard at the soup, I began to think of all the times that insecurity turned into hate. I remember, as a teenager, hating the girls who'd somehow made it through high school without blemishes (I mean, how is that even possible?). I remember feeling my blood boil as a young adult at the thought of a woman marrying her college boyfriend and buying a sweet little house. But, Grocery Lady made me think differently. 

I know I'll probably never stop sideways glancing. I have an Instagram account, for heaven's sake. So, instead, I promised myself in the soup aisle that I would stop pitting Grocery Lady's awesome qualities against my bad ones. I would stop, right then and there, with the comparison game. Because, quite honestly, that's what the world wants from us. And I'm not going to give it to them anymore. Instead, I'm going to smile really big and hope my happiness translates into, "You're doing awesome and I'm proud of you!" Because that's really all we need to hear from each other. 

If you find yourself looking sideways, sister, just know you're not alone. And remember, just because your hair may be unwashed or your dude hasn't called today, or your boss is the literal worst, doesn't mean Grocery Lady's remembering to shower somehow makes her a better woman. We're in this together. Let's link arms and do this thing the right way. 

walking with you,