for husband-hunting: part one {+ an apology}.

I have never been one of those girls.
You know, the ones who incessantly pray for, speak of, and entertain thoughts about their future husbands. I’ve never been the type to slyly slip him my phone number on a receipt or napkin.

As a matter of fact, I came to a place where I was one hundred and fifty percent fine with never being married. I’m independent to the core, and suppose I can attribute that to a lot of things, including being raised by a hard-working, single-mom. We were the Little Women of our neighborhood.

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Kitchen sink has a clog?
Crawl into the cabinet below and fix it.

Light bulb burned-out way up in the rafters?
Find a 20-foot ladder and climb it.

Patronized by the general contractor you hired to finish mom’s basement?
“Buh-bye!”, and then finish it yourself.

Now, before you go thinking I’m some femi-nazi, let me assure you, I’m not.
But that was my reality, and in a lot of ways, it still is.

Last April, self-sufficient to the core, through freezing rain and drenched everything, I fully loaded my entire Jeep within an hour. Climbing on top of it to strap huge Rubbermade containers full of my belongings down to the roof, I prayed they wouldn’t budge during my 15 hour trek to Georgia as the guys who live next-door gawked, knowing better than to ask if they could help.

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And then when said Jeep broke down due to some crazy belt coming loose 20 miles outside of Nashville at about midnight in the middle of a tornado warning, it was all I could do to steer it safely off the highway since my power steering had kindly died. So naturally, when a middle-aged Tennessee gentleman pulled over and positioned himself beneath the hood of my smoking vehicle, instantaneously shouting above the wind in a deep southern draw, “Heeyyyy, I found your problem, ma’aaam!”, I knew God was about to knock me straight onto my knees in enormous, humbling ways.

Through many of the ministries I’ve been a part of, and through moving to the south, where chivalry is very-much still alive, God’s using men to teach me things about His own heart.

Yeah, I said it.
I’m taking notes from men, and I’m doing so willingly.

He’s showing me it’s okay to ask for help from men, depend on them, even.  It’s okay to let a man offer to move all of my stuff to a new house without having to pay him in beer & baked goods for life; just a simple, “Thanks!” will suffice. It’s okay to pray for a man, and yes, dare I say it, even  sometimes with one.  It’s okay to have legitimate brothers in Christ who I love and admire purely and learn from on a daily basis.

And maybe, shocking as it was to me, and as my dear friend Hope boldy points out, it’s okay to desire a companion, someone to do life with, to be equally yoked with, to grow weary and hopeful and old and more into Heaven with.

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Yes, what God’s shown me lately is that it’s not only okay, but He’s planted that innate desire deep within me. He’s also gently revealed the root issue of all of my fears in this whole debacle.

Just like in John 4, when Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well and calls her out on being the “Desperate Housewife” of her time, thirsting for things that cannot fully satisfy or quench her thirst, He’s calling out the same in me. “Yeah, I know the guy you’re with now is not your husband. You’ve actually been married five times,” Jesus points out to her. And He’s saying the same to me.

Finally, fully, the woman realizes she is known, and can stop seeking the approval and affections of man. She can worship freely, in spirit and truth, because the one who knows her deeper than her marrow dwells among her, in her, even, and He calls Himself the Christ.

Although I’ve never actually been married through the church and written consent of covenant, I’ve come to realize the ridiculous number of “husbands” I’ve had throughout the years, relationships where I’ve been emotionally, unequally yoked to men in many unhealthy ways.

I’ve lusted after a man because he supposedly loves Jesus and music and traveling and has a beard and wears plaid, and oh my gosh, we’re clearly MEANT to BE!

I’ve practiced my signature with his surname attached to mine.

I’ve written story upon story in my heart and mind: He and I are walking through the woods hand in hand, looking at the trees and the sky, talking about what our house will look like, which countries we’ll adopt from, and the names we’ll give our children. And then he surprises me with a Burnese Mountain puppy, and I get all weepy, and he lays the {plaid} blanket he’s been carrying on the crunchy ground and we sit down upon it to watch the sunset, followed by his heartfelt proposal, & happily-ever-after-amen!

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{Ladies, I know you know what I’m talking about, here.
Men, this actually happens, so someone had to tell you.}

So herein lies an apology that is long-overdue.
To those of you who talk about it loudly and often, I want to tell you I’m sorry.

We are one in the same. I’m no different than you; I’m more like the woman at the well than I’d dare admit, and I’ve obviously entertained the same thoughts in my own heart and mind countless times. And maybe that’s the most dangerous thing of all, because these thoughts have been kept in the dark, unaddressed and avoided.

Many of you have celebration stories, or little miracles you’re living in because of God’s faithfulness to you in finding the man who made it all worthwhile.

Don’t let me squander your beautiful, God-written story.
And as I work on heaving my junk out into the Light, will you accept my apology?

{…to be continued tomorrow morning.}

for forgiveness.

To err is human, to forgive is divine.
Forgiveness is love practiced among people who love poorly. It sets us free without wanting anything in return.
Forgiveness unleashed joy.  It brings peace.  It washes the slate clean.  It sets all the highest values of love in motion.  In a sense, forgiveness is Christianity at its highest level.
Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong. 

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GIRL, PLEASE.
i used to laugh in the face of people who said phrases like these.

i would roll my eyes, let out the loud, heavy sigh, and try extra hard to make sure the sour look on my face was wasn’t too noticeable.

if given the option, i would’ve said, “whelp, no thanks. i don’t need any sort of divine juju in my life. & actually, i doooo want something in return. & that high-level Christianity is not for the faint of heart, and i’m pretty faint, so…i’ll just stay right here where i’m comfortable, then, because i am weak-sauce, alright?!”

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but then, the craziest thing happened.

i’m talking bat-shit crazy, okay?

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do you remember when i recently confessed to having a knock-down, drag out fight with God?
well, what i failed to mention is that a big portion of that fight was about a guy from my past, who damaged my heart nearly beyond recognition. very long story very short, we were best friends for three years, fell deeply in love, and were intentionally speaking of marriage. i was loved and accepted into his family; they adored me & i forfeited my niece’s first Christmas and my grandma’s last Christmas to be with them. but as soon as i boarded my flight back home, kissing & hugging him until “next time”, all of that was actually history.

literally overnight, he was gone, with no explanation as to why.
i received no closure, and no response to my letters and phone calls and emails.
it was all for not.

as the days pressed on, it felt like all of the air had been sucked from beneath my sternum, pulled out from between each of my ribs, and tossed out with the garbage. it felt like the following weeks and months and years that passed were spent on a figurative hampster wheel, spinning and running and putting all of my hope & effort into moving forward, only to find i was still standing in the exact same place.

as i traveled the world, the people i’d meet and the littlest moments or scenes would remind me of him. my sweet grandma Ellie, who loved him and asked of him often, passed away…and he never bothered to respond about that either. it was like he haunted me, yet in the same instant, was so far gone and could not care any less.

heart-broken doesn’t really do it justice.
a part of me died.

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fast foward to a few weeks ago, when i had that fight with God.

i told him how sick i was of replaying events in my head and heart, how i’d cut this soul-tie too many times but it just kept flaring back up like poison ivy on a hot summer day. i begged for closure, logical answers, anything to just be able to move forward with my life, to one day step into a marriage with little/no baggage and with a healthy conscience. i declared that i was worth so much more, and my identity was in Christ, but this heartache had skewed my belief system so much. i pleaded his Holy Spirit to gently convict this guy who wounded me so much, and through sobs, i repented of how angry and bitter i still was, shouting, “i just want to be free from this!”

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well, frick.
when God moves, He moves swiftly.
only two weeks after my quite literal snotty debacle with the Father, i awoke to an email on my phone from the very person i hadn’t heard from in nearly three years.

first, i saw his name.
then, i blinked a few times, trying to wake myself up, knowing i was only imagining things.
i glanced back, saw it again, and read the first few lines.
next, i fell out of my bed.
literally.
my heart raced, and i began to pace around my room.

the email read, “I told you I’d never leave you, and I broke that promise. I’m disgusted with myself. I’m so sorry, Suzy. Please forgive me. I could never contemplate what I did to you.”

i chucked my phone across the room, not in anger, but in utter disbelief, holding my hands over my entire face.
could this really be happening?

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i cannot tell you how or why or when the Holy Spirit will move.
but i do know His children move Him to act.
as i read the words on my phone’s sceen, i felt an actual weight lifted off of me, & thrown deep into the sea.

believe me; part of me thinks this is all crazy-talk, too.
but God heard my cry for help, and he truly is near to our broken-hearted, hot mess selves.

when and if the day finally came, i was convinced i’d make this guy gravel at my feet, begging for forgiveness and mercy, looking up at me with his sad, puppy-dog eyes, whole-heartedly apologetic and offering me all of the answers i’d always thought i needed.

so for the life of me, i cannot understand how it was so easy to forgive him in that moment, without any hesitation at all.
BUT IT WAS.

the instant i read his words, my spirit knew what it had to do.
it had to finally & fully let go, and it did. effortlessly.
and i was freed. at peace. breathing again.
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friends, it’s not always this easy. {& let’s face it, the last three years have proven that for me.} i wish i could tell you it always works like this; i wish it was like swift clockwork, where forgiveness was the most efficient act of obedience and holiness in the Kingdom, like second-nature to each of us. i wish God would extend to us the strength it takes to free ourselves and others each and every time we need to.

but it’s not that simple.

sometimes we’ll beg God for answers and mercy and healing, and yet we may never receive those things. his economy and timing are completely and utterly whack to me, and yet i fully trust Him to do what is to my best interest. he often steps back and asks us to do the unthinkable because he forgave us first, and knows how hard and good and beautiful it actually is.

i believe he wants us to experience this freedom organically, without loot in our pockets and ill-motives in hand, but in the purest, most abundant of ways. he wants freedoms for the captives, and he wants to remind us about the atonement for our own sins.

God is consistent and he knows what we need and when we need it. so it’s not without a great cost that Jesus is present and active in our lives, ever reminding us of the cross, and how we must leave things there at his feet {which he’s watched my futile attempts at for years now}.

so here’s the BOTTOM LINE:
you are forgiven your inexcusables by him.
you are freed by him.

now, forgive.
{which may mean learning to accept an apology you never actually got.}

for new life & a new lens.

when i think back on my childhood, she was famously a part of it.
she is two years older than me, and about a foot taller. always the head of her class, i don’t blame her for never wanting to translate much of anything to layman’s terms for me to understand.

her name is Beth, & she seemed to love life.

she loved to help her mom with anything, help plan events and outings, and always had a hilarious, witty comment or remark to whatever topic was being discussed. unlike some sarcasm, hers was a true gift that kept on giving.

she liked shenanigans, & probably could’ve figured out the cure to AIDS, all while listening to her dad and brother jam on the banjo & harmonica in their wood paneled basement in Ulysses, Kansas.

she had the thickest, golden blonde hair that she’d wash up-side-down in the kitchen sink, and a smile that could light up a room. she was beautiful, but unassuming about it.

i have a favorite photograph of us: it’s from Easter, circa 1990. she was probably six, and so I was probably four, and we were rocking our matching, heavily floral white dresses like champs; oh, were they something to behold. i swear, you could only get away with such dresses in that era. her mom, my sweet aunt Tricia, had proudly sewn them. {bless.her.heart.}

our mothers, sisters and also about two years apart in age, stood behind us with their hands on our shoulders, beaming proudly toward the photographer. we stood before my grandma’s house, a butter yellow, ranch-style gem that has anchored Avalon street for the last 63 years. that’s the house that grew them-up, the home they were proud to bring their daughters back to for any holiday or family gathering. i was missing a few teeth, which made for a cheesy, adorable grin, and i look back on my short, blonde hair and wonder how i pulled off such a “do” with my round face, which consisted of about 90% cheek.

i loved those days, simpler and brighter, filled with mischievous fun.

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since that photo was taken, life happened.
Beth and her family moved back out to majestic Wyoming, and we grew up and apart.

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i remember the last time we were together, though.  they were back in my hometown sometime during my adolescent years for Grandma’s birthday, having driven their old Chevy suburban all the way here from Rawlins. she & her brother Thomas met my lousy high school boyfriend, who had to rescue us in the early hours of morning from my broken down Jeep, which i managed to pull onto the shoulder as it spewed oil all over 50 highway outside of Lee’s Summit. the whole time, she was laughing and remarking from the back seat. i think her take on the situation kept me smiling, or at least sane.

since that incident filled with hilarity, life kept happening.
we tried to maintain a hearty pen-pal relationship, but inevitably, the letters stopped being sent from both ends.

Beth started taking some college classes, and moved around a bit for jobs and a boyfriend.
she seemed settled and fulfilled.

then, a hard blow.
her sweet mama, my aunt Tricia, passed away from cancer, only months after our sweet Gram Ellie had also passed.
i think it finally became clear to Beth and me that life, beautiful as it often is, can also be a serious, hellacious bitch.

i should’ve reached out more than i did. i should’ve done a lot of things differently.
i’ve always struggled to articulate the words that so easily fall onto a page, so instead of trying, i carried on with my own life events and new career in the women’s fashion industry post college graduation. instead of saving my money to make the trek out to Wyoming, i spent it mostly on apparel to look the part in the role i was trying so desperately to play.

i didn’t forget, but i didn’t quite remember, either.
i just kept moving.

since then, i wish i could say with more certainty that her life was full of adventure and amazing, deep relationships that left her fulfilled and pointed toward the Father.

but i’m just not sure.

Beth struggled in ways i’m still not fully aware of.
her struggles were different than my own, and i often felt ill-equipped to offer guidance or support.
instead, i’d pray, and hope she knew of my love from afar.

as i prepared to leave for The World Race, she and her dad were some of my faithful supporters.
i still remember seeing their names in my support account next to the amount they’d pledged to give.
i beamed, but remember feeling unworthy and yet so loved by their generosity.
who was i to receive when i’d given so little?

she taught me so much about Grace, & i’m not even sure she knew it.

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yesterday would’ve been our Gram Ellie’s 94th birthday. i still have fond memories of Beth & i laughing hysterically, doubled-over, holding our stomachs, at some of the things Ellie would say; the way she’d turn the TV volume up to unspeakable decibels when a baseball game was on, and we’d plug our ears and grimace; the way she’d get rosy cheeks as she drank wine & flirted with our waiters at restaurants; the way she’d pop peppermints in her mouth and suck on them until their sugar coated her throat, and then she’d begin lovingly interrogating you about life.

and that is why i’m confident that Gram Ellie, in all of her Glory and newness, would’ve declared yesterday a good day to party in Heaven.

we were all praying for Beth’s healing and a fresh start here on this earth, with new health and a new vigor for life.

just like i prayed healing for my friend’s little brother, Julius, in Bukembe, Kenya two summers ago, i was instead quickly shocked to learn of his sudden death. i sat at his funeral, unable to dance or sing with his African family, confused and broken by it all.

but i’m beginning to learn God answers us in His own way. He heals, but it may not look like our boxed-in idea of healing. it may instead look like new life, in a new body, with no more tears or pain ever again, and it may come abruptly, in ways we may never fully understand.

He is faithful, and He heard my prayer yesterday morning, the same prayer I’ve been praying for months now:
“heal her, Jesus, and minister to her heart in sweet, new ways from her hospital bed. show her your mercies are new each morning, and remind her that you haven’t left or forsaken her.”

So He did.

He called Beth Home, for the most precious reunion with her sweet mama & Gram Ellie, and to party like the rockstars they each are in their own ways.

i will miss her deeply, and my heart is still reeling.
but i now understand the ridiculous beauty of yesterday’s sky and sunset as i was driving home from Georgia.
it was the three of them, painting and carrying on, splashing wine & popping peppermints, and sharing it with the rest of us.

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i desperately want to teleport myself to Wyoming to offer my hugs and songs and tears, to pray over the home they all once shared. i want to open the cabinet above their stove, pull out aunt Tricia’s old recipe book, and cook meals for days in her old apron. i want to sit and play the banjo and harmonica with her dad and brother, and know that i know that i know Beth hears us, sees us, and is dancing as she sees life through a new Lens, having defeated death because Jesus did first.

for fighting with God.

Do you ever have those days where you feel like you are living outside of yourself?

You know, when it’s as if you have some super-natural power to peer into all of your nooks and crannies and wonder how  you’ve been operating this way for this long?  It feels like the crevices of your heart need their filter changed in order to trap and keep out all of the impurities, but you stand back, spectating as particles are somehow making their way through to your soul, and you want to nudge a passerby and exclaim, “are you seeing this shit?!”

Sometimes life can look a lot like hot apple cider, and new friends, and dance parties, and deep heart talks on long road trips across our beautiful country.  As a matter of fact, that’s what my life has looked like lately.  God recently blessed me with the most beautiful autumn in the mountains of West Virginia and North Carolina as I traveled for work, and as an autumn enthusiast, I couldn’t be more thankful.

But other times, life can look a lot like terminal illness and utter disappointments, and having to forfeit things we were SO looking forward to and living in fear, and financial hardships and really lingering, painful heartaches;  you know, the true muck & mire that is honestly just a part of life.

Some of my new friends, who also happen to be writers, have been really honest about life lately.  They’ve written about things like how finding your significant other is sometimes really ugly and difficult and anything but surefire.  They’ve addressed the reality that our lives have gotten so entangled in Pinterest-inspired homes and parties, and fluffy Instagram impressions that we try to make one another believe in, that we’ve forgotten to be real and take in the glimmering moments God offers us so often.

I know I’m guilty of that, and quite honestly, I’ve become cynical and hardened toward the mere thought of relationships.

But through their transparency in writing about some of these more difficult, every day moments and how life is rarely as it seems, I’ve been deeply encouraged to be really real with myself, and even more real with God.

I’ve been trying to stifle the things I thought were so petty for a while now.
These are things I was sure I had gotten over, or didn’t really care much about, or was too prideful to admit that I cared about.

Boy, does the enemy have a way of shutting us up and making us believe we’re fine, when we’re really a volcano about to erupt.

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It was Saturday night, and I was having some alone time.  Sure enough, as soon as I quietly let a few, slivered words out, what followed seemed to seep out slowly at first, until I began spewing tears and snot all over my favorite blanket, and flailing my arms dramatically all over the five foot radius around me while chucking books across the room.

I love books.  Books are a friend.  I don’t normally chuck books.

Nonetheless, I had a knock-down, drag-out screaming match with God, and as my cries spilled out, I couldn’t help but realize I was in such a safe place.  I could feel His strength, and it was strong enough to handle me.

It was like the more I cried and confessed my anger, bitterness, confusion, and defeat, the more I was greeted with open arms.  I could feel Him nodding and patting my back, like any good parent would do to their hurting child who was vomiting everywhere, reassuring them that it’s okay–to just let it out.

And He wasn’t even plugging His nose, or getting queasy at my mess;  firm and steadfast, He took it.

By the time it was all over, I was exasperated and out of breath.

It felt like days had passed.
But I could hardly believe the freedom that reigned in that place.

The Holy Spirit was ushered in swiftly through my cries, and I felt like I had all of the minions in the world holding my hair back, giving me the words when I thought I’d used them all up.  He was such a helper in beckoning me to let go.

I sat for a moment, stunned at what had just gone down.

Now, I’m not necessarily suggesting you practice doing this hot-mess ritual in the same way I did.
And yet that’s exactly what I’m suggesting.

Ask God if there are things that have been pent up and needing to be released.

Because often times we’re not even aware of these until the volcano is doing its thing, violently.
Often times, we believe the lie that we’re supposed to bind up our mess in the cutest paper packaging and tie it up with bows so the world can’t guess what’s really underneath.

Stop it.
Don’t feel the need to ask permission to let it out.
Just do it.

It may not be pretty.
You may not even feel better right away.
But I whole-heartedly believe it’s what needed to happen for me to be sitting where I am now, confronting my broken parts and free.
And I believe the same for you.

What are the things you need to fight with God about?
What is keeping you from believing He is able to handle your mess? 

for twenty sevens.

it’s simple, really.

i’ve had a desire to set goals and actually keep them.
to make hard changes and feel & see the results of them.
and by being held accountable to the stretch & strenuous nature that are inevitable in the process, i still know i will succeed. after all, God says to “be still & know.”

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here’s what’s happening:

1. by my 27th birthday, which also happens to be my GOLDEN BIRTHDAY on December 27th, i want to have lost 27 pounds. traveling the nations and coming back to the states and moving to a new state and a total lack of consistency in routine and food has resulted in additional weight i didn’t ever see coming {until i tried to put on my favorite pants, and they ripped, & i boohooed for about an hour. no joke.}

i plan to do this by cutting out gluten, dairy, and sugar {except for one treat per week}, exercising daily either at the gym, by doing Insanity workout videos, going on runs/walks, or by my own Pinterest moderations, and drinking tons of water + getting 8 hours of sleep per night. with my busy travel schedule for work, this seems impossible, but we all know that’s a lie, amiright? satan get behind me, {& feel free to watch as i slim down, casting out your lies one at a time}!

2. by my 27th birthday, i want to have paid off 27% of my debt, which is $690.

i plan to do this by getting a second, part-time job, and using that income solely to pay down my debt. i believe this is a biblical principle, and it’s one that i’ve needed to be more intentional about incorporating for a while now. i don’t believe in asking for my supporters to pay off my debt, but instead believe it’s solely my responsibility to rid of. yet again, with my busy travel schedule for work, i’m not even sure i can maintain a part-time job; heck! who would hire me? i ask that you join me in prayer for finding the best, most understanding employer possible for this a-typical situation, one that will work with me and be flexible.

3. by my 27th birthday, i need to have 27 people who have pledged to support me with $27 per month for the next year.

this one is interesting, because i haven’t wanted to fundraise since i came to work in Georgia as a “non-tradish” missionary. i’ve dreaded it, to be completely honest. some of you still have questions. some of you couldn’t care any less. but i’d love to take the time to explain more about why i’m here, why i feel that it’s where God’s called me, and how, in many ways, i actually believe it’s part of my “promised land”. in order to do what i do, i have to support-raise part of my salary. that’s just the realistic truth. i’ve tried to live off of my monthly stipend, and while it’s possible, it’s not logical. 27 people joining my support team with a reasonable donation of only $27 per month would mean my income would increase by about $730 per month, which is $8,748 for the year. This would put me in the bracket of what a college graduate should actually be making. There are so many other things i hope to be doing with my life & time, including supporting other missionaries with my finances & going back to a few of the countries i ministered in last year, to continue the work i started there.  Simply put, I need your help to do these things.

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i’m boldly asking for you to pray about this partnership, and what it could really mean for the nations, as well as how it could really help a sista out. amen?

thank you for taking the time to read over these 3 huge goals of mine.
like i said, i can’t think this stuff up on my own; they really did come straight from God Himself.
and because He has such great ideas, He told me to document the journey, being candid about triumphs and stumbling blocks, hash-tagging my life away with #27by27 ! {keep an eye out for that on facebook, & instagram: @suzyhachey.}

if you think we don’t serve a relevant, hipster King, i beg to differ.

i’ve literally never made a big fuss over any of my birthdays, but He seemed to think I needed to do otherwise this year, really celebrating the life He’s given, the gifts He’s given, and the ways He’s already provided.

cheers to that.

{message me privately for to schedule a time to find out more information at suzyhachey@adventures.org }

for new Septembers.

the greatest salesman couldn’t have sold me on this.

the idea that all things considered, my heart would actually move forward & press on.

no, i would’ve held up my hand, seemingly telling you to save your words, mr. salesman, because my heart had never hurt so profoundly, and you’d be full of shit to convince me that the best was yet to come.

i don’t speak of this much any more, but i was stagnant. i was livid. i was ignored and dismissed by the person who had become my best friend, my dearest companion, a true comrade i was choosing to do the rest of my days with. what we had was crumpled-up and tossed into the waste-basket, never to be addressed again. i wanted to get lost, because that was easier than actually figuring out how to let it all go.

a new friend recently told me about a study he’d read, proving that our brains react to being ignored in the same way they react to physical pain being inflicted, with the release of the same chemicals, and the same urgency for defense & protection. well geeze, does that ever resonate. {maybe i should take time to study the human brain more often.}

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as Christians, we’re not often very honest about our deepest woundings. nonetheless, i feel it’s time to be transparent about the thing: following Christ is the hardest freaking thing we’ll ever outwardly & inwardly decide to do.

such high standards beckoning us.
so much prayer & obedience required of us.
& for what? all too often, a broken heart in us.

that’s the simple, honest truth, my friends, and most of us don’t like to talk about it.

Life is hard ...
but it is a big deal. pain is not polka dots and bows. 
it’s messy, it means something, and it’s real.

that’s the thing about pain; it demands to be felt (1), with the brevity and honest-to-goodness side-stitches that leave you doubling-over, out of breath, almost unable to keep running. pain is often seen translated into the crosses we are to carry, the kind-of-heart-sick-stuff that makes us want to throw-in-the-towel for good.

but Jesus never promised peachy. He promised war.

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as I was driving home from this last leg of my summer recruiting tour on Labor Day, in the passenger seat of our large, over-packed van, feet stretched up onto the warm, sunny dashboard, i gazed out the window at all of the corn-fields & sunflowers darting past me. it was in that moment of stillness where i was confronted by this new reality: i’m more at rest than i’ve ever been. i feel at home wherever i am, with strangers who become fast friends, with beds made-up of mats, & bags that are the mark of my gypsy self.

why? because He’s brought me through the valley, and His presence is where i now make my roots.

in that messy van i often call home, Mumford & Son’s lyrics blared through the speakers, declaring the truth about how i’ve been on my knees, looking up for so long, feeling completely out of luck. but i’ve gotten over so many hills with the Grace that’s in my heart, with flowers in my hair, and the profound peace that Love did not come to break my heart, but to dismiss my fears of it all (2). I have this lyric posted about 27 times on this board, but thats just because its so beautiful

i heard Jesus say, “& because of all of that pain, just look where I’ve brought you.”

“…umm, a corn-field in Iowa??”, I thought.

“no. not just here. everywhere. My Kingdom. to My children who needed a hand to hold & a song sung over them & a home built to shelter them. you brought them a glimpse of Me, a glimpse of Heaven.”

i nearly burst into tears, as this truth was nearly too much to bear.
why did He choose to use bitter & doubled-over in pain, ready-to-quit, little old me?
i couldn’t fathom it.

__________

but here’s what i concluded: had i chosen to make my bed there in Seattle, i’d be biking my ass off and working menial jobs just to make ends meet in one of the nation’s most expensive cities. i would’ve made roots with a person i cherished so deeply, & yet i would’ve forfeited the chance for Kingdom come. my heart would’ve slowly died bit by bit, day by day. the dreary rain would’ve consumed me. i would’ve kept striving for this man’s love & affection, a one-sided pursuit. i would’ve eventually deflated.

i would’ve given up part of my portion, the beautiful faces of the Nations. 

no, i wouldn’t have had the chance to fall head-over-heals in love with God’s children, learning two of the countries i am to adopt from. i wouldn’t have become a true adventurer, abandoning things of this world. i wouldn’t have conquered fears. i wouldn’t have worshiped freely. i wouldn’t have a family comprised of forty-something people who i know i can call at the-drop-of-a-hat to cry with, pray with, laugh with, be my truest self with.

the infinite joy that has come with the pain of the last two years confronted me like a head-on collision in that van this Labor Day. exactly two years ago, i chose to drive east, head-strong, and not willing to turn around or sacrifice any more of myself or my heart for someone with a false invitation, someone who was only pretending & trying to convince himself.

home

Mount Rainier in my rear-view mirror, tears puddling in my eyes, and pedal to the metal, i headed toward the direction of my bountiful, abundant destiny.

since then, my heart has prevailed through more deep pains and let-downs. i’ve experienced some of the greatest triumphs & victories. i’ve taken back what the enemy has stolen (3), marching onward toward the finish line with sass in my step & gumption in my voice.

it’s been a domino effect of sorts: the pain produced movement from my stagnancy. & that movement gave me the chance to take the road less-traveled which has bettered me. & in that chance, i found strength in my pain. & in that strength born from pain, i made the conscious choice to prevail, despite the once crippling hurt & confusion that plagued me. & because of that choice, i’ve been on the craziest of journeys, experienced new loves, & am working toward something that i actually care about.

it may seem cliche, but when we finally stop laboring away all of our days and learn to rest in the fullness of the Only One who matters, Septembers begin to look different because we are different.

What have you chosen to walk {or literally drive} away from?
How has that decision made you better, more whole, more alive?

for two takes.

this time around has been different. peaceful, even.

the city is bustling with summer past-times: street-musicians, food-trucks, parks filled with people, and a cool breeze.

Chicago has always been one of my favorite places, but after being here two weeks ago in the scorching heat and stagnant/non-existant air, it wasn’t somewhere I longed to come back to until at least 40 degrees had dissipated.

but like i said, this time around has been different.
{for the love of yoga pants, the temperature’s even been a bit chilly!}

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my days have been spent in a 1930’s brown-stone, three-story home, converted to a duplex, and now lived in by a lovely couple who has welcomed us in with open arms. their kitchen has the best light streaming in, and the old wooden, squeaky floors and french doors and skeleton key-holes tell of a better time, where kids could run around outside barefoot all day, only to come inside for dinner after a lot of mud-pie-making & fire-fly-catching shenanigans.

these two amazing & hospitable friends, married 5 years this August, are missionaries here, in the worst neighborhood in Chicago, known as Austin, or the “West-side”. they’re shining Jesus’ light so stinking bright in a neighborhood where  murders and drug-deals are the norm. they’re the minority, and they refuse to pack-up and leave based on any darkness: God called them here, so they have nothing to prove; it’s simply whatever He’s got planned through them. through His provision, He also protects & preserves us, they say.

i believe that.
He’s shown me that.

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and because God is so cute, of course they have a 3-month-old Yorkie puppy rightfully named “Peanut”, and a Ninja Fruit blender, and built-in-shelves with lots of books, so all is well with my soul. i’ve been sitting in their bay-window area, looking out over Lorel street, praying for the people who waltz it. i’ve made eye-contact with the drug-dealers and gang-bangers while smiling, and i’ve sat on the front stoop, asking for good conversations.

{mom, if you’re reading this, well…keep reading.}

in as little as six weeks, my job will  have taken me all over the northeastern region of this beautiful country with a team of two other amazing human beings and wonderful other hosts and hostesses who offer up their homes and pull-out sofas and pantries and toilets.

i can’t make this stuff up: we lived at a place called “Strawberry Island” in the middle of an old strawberry field in rural Minnesota only last week, deep within a huge patch of trees {hence the island}, where you wouldn’t know a home existed…if you didn’t actually know a home existed there.

today, though, being the city sass that i sometimes i am, i deemed the perfect day to venture off alone, into a much safer neighborhood known as Wicker Park.

*{okay, let’s be honest: i had a store credit at this terrible place where i decided to purchase a pair of shoes the last time we were in town. long-story-short: said shoes did nothing good for my feet but leave blisters accompanied by cursing.

i can feel you asking, “but suzy, didn’t you get your money back?”

well, no, kind sir. just a stinkin’ store credit.
so i had to go back because this store does not exist outside of the Windy-City, and there were fifty nine dollars with my name on them, you guys.

also, wedding season is upon us, so dilemmas like these are a great excuse for a new dress. also, i wear my clothes for years, even with holes and safety pins and double-sided tape, and only purchase clothing i LOVE that FITS WELL. also, the fact that i made it out of working in the fashion industry alive is a miracle in and of itself. also, dresses are some of my favorite things ever. so…judge ye not!}*

after finding my miracle dress with my stupid store-credit that had-to-be-used-or-else-forfitted, i decided to stick around for a while, so i paid my parking meter & patted my big ‘ol 15 passenger van on the tush.

onto the next stop.

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Allegiance Bakery.
maker of things known as the blueberry cream cheese blob that stole my heart.
or macaroon, if you’re fancy.
which is french for “petite miniature sandwhich le sugarrr”, when translated by me.

{yeah, so although my allegiance is to Heaven alone, Allegiance Bakery is a close second. it could take the cake. it’s the cream on top of the cream-of-the-crop. all puns intended, you guys. feel free to forget the fact that i’m beginning clean eating/The Paleo Diet come August, & so i must get in all the sugar & dairy & gluten i can, while i can, you know, because that’s a good idea…}

anyway. i won’t tell you what other baked goods i purchased to ration throughout my week & leave as sweet surprises for new friends (a key-lime & almond tart, a german chocolate cupcake, & an oatmeal-cran-chocolate-toffee cookie planet), but i will tell you that once my little feet hit some unseen territory, they could wander for days and ask all of the locals the best places to try and jump at the sight of a vintage store or lead me to sign a lease at any given moment.

to a place like this.

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keys. gimme.

oh, the whimsy! any place with ivy and brick and white-washed wood and lots of windows and a front porch {a stoop will suffice} is a place for me. this is a place where many a neighborhood-block-party would go down, my friends. this is a place where i’d plant a garden and lock-up my bike on the black iron fence and talk to any & all passersby.

honestly, though, i’ve lived and stayed in so many strange and beautiful places around the world, all of which provided shelter, a basic necessity, that places like this one seem so…unnecessary.

macaroons & iced soy chais seem like luxury. field greens tossed in balsamic instead of some other fattening liquid seems like gluttony in disguise. my constantly chipped and breaking nails seem so petty, you $9 Biotin supplement, you.

do you ever struggle with these thoughts, too?

what it is God is asking us to spend our time and gifts and money on.
the types of homes we should care to live in.
the different past-times and collections occupying our thoughts.
the things we should be teaching our children & sweet mixed-baby nieces.

i’m not suggesting that any of the above are wrong. in fact, life to the full {which, if you’ve read much of my blog, you know i’m passionate about} can look like having some of these desires and using them to bless others along the way.

but here’s the thing:

i’m definitely not great at defending His causes based on the way i answer to my wants. my desires have long-since lined up with His, and Chicago is convicting me of that. and my wandering feet are showing me that i’m not lost, but found in Him regardless of where He allows me to venture off to. 

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as i was reading in His word just this morning, I realized a profoundly simple thing He’s asking of us. He’s asking us to learn the discipline of staying awaketo keep watch and look for the things prophesied by our fathers, knowing how to respond, or if to respond at all.

He’s reminding us how He’s entrusted us with little so we can be entrusted with much, because time is fleeting and there is much left to do.

{um, can we just sit in that for a moment, please?}

take two!
this time, from a different perspective & lens & backdrop.
not so when i leave this world He’ll say, “that’s a wrap, Suz!”
but instead, so He’ll say, “now, where were we, Daughter?”, as a continuum of the conversation we’ve been having for years.

sometimes we need a second glance at the same place we’ve ventured to many times before in order to gain new insight.

So, I think that’s what this stop has been all about.

for futility.

sometimes when i don’t know where to start, i toil & spin in no real direction at all.
i’ve pointed my boat north, headed toward home, but it seems to just funnel around in circles.

canoe

add to this the fact that all of the expensive pieces of machinery i own are breaking at the same time. (you got it: my jeep, my laptop, my cell phone) and the dying of other things like my favorite pair of pants, my sweet “gladiator-esque” sandals purchased in Cambodia, along with my beloved orchid plant which requires very little water or care, & you have a woman of utter defeat.

i know these are just earthly things.
but it seems to all happen at once, doesn’t it?
or as the saying goes, “when it rains, it pours.” 

usually when it pours, i’m the one running out to dance barefoot through the puddles.
i’m the one marveling at how small i feel amongst thousands of raindrops.

but the rain falling lately has seemed cold and an unlikely place to dance.
the droplets are the kind i want to shield myself from with the world’s largest umbrella-poncho hybrid.

i feel so vulnerable to whatever could happen next, walking in a lot of fear.
i feel trapped by all there is to do at work.
i feel my personal “to-do” list growing by the minute.
i’ve been slapped up-side-the-head with the reality that i haven’t been a good sister.
or friend.
or a Daughter walking in peace and truth.

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{this is my idea of peace.}

instead, i’ve found it hard to catch my breath, and this can only point to one profound truth:

when we allow our work to define us and create a false identity, viewing it as something that establishes and increases our reputation alone, we will experience the deep pains of futility, and this will result in despair. 

that may sound so “Debbie Downer”, but that’s as real as it gets.

our work should be purposeful, and viewed as something that exists solely for a Glory higher than ours and a purpose greater than our comfort, so we can, even in the midst of futility, experience true joy.

if we look back to Genesis 2, when God was working to create us, we see Him as a gardener. we’ve since seen him pruning and feeding and healing us, and telling us to mirror and reflect Him in our lives (which consist of work).

so we should be asking ourselves how we can be better gardeners in the Kingdom.


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{photo by Amanda Carr}

instead of asking that question, though, i’ve been instinctively trying to fix things on my own.
i’ve made work my mistress, while crowning myself a king.
i’ve convinced myself that if i finally had money, i wouldn’t actually need it.
i’ve neglected to thank Him for the things He has actually provided.

but these are just flawed ways of trying to cope with a broken system.
only God can break in with the person and work of His son to fix our broken things.
only He can defeat our defeat.
Jesus sets us free to have fullness, and gives us freedom to fail.

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and isn’t it scary to think that left to ourselves,
our work will be forgotten when we’re gone?

so i’ve decided here and now to stop spinning, and to just sit in the thing.
i’ve decided work & worship go hand-in-hand.
it’s time to do the kind of work that matters and has a focus and will leave a lasting impact.
& it’s time to exude gratitude.

i need to join hands with other like-hearted people.
we need to ask God what our true gifts consist of,
& how we can best use them to serve others.

so, whose in?
&
how can we hold one another accountable in this?

for the road.

I’m sitting in a Corner Bakery near downtown Atlanta as I write this. It’s Saturday morning, and while it’s cool{ish} outside, it’s muggy and feels like it could {but should} rain any minute.

I forgot my umbrella, and I’m completely okay with that.
I don’t know how the women here do it, but I’ve given up on taming the mane.

I almost sat outside to people-watch, but the pigeons run rampant, and the onset of humidity is enough to drain what little energy I have. This makes me dread the summer so much, but it’s a good thing God knows me so much better than I know myself, because He knew moving down here when I did would be the perfect time to slowly transition into the Southern (nearly equatorial) weather at its finest. Instead of the usual, it’s been cool & rainy, much like the Pacific Northwest, my favorite part of the country, with lush, green coniferous trees and full-to-the-brim lakes everywhere you look. {I’ve kayaked twice now, thankyouverymuch.} And!! During the hottest part of summer, I’ll be up north in places like New Hampshire and up-state New York! He just knew…

I’m drinking an iced vanilla latte, fully unaware of my surroundings. Brooke Frasier and Alexi Murdoch are singing in my ears, and I’m reading a review/intro. of a book by Jack Kerouac about some adventurous, fictitious characters being on the road, coincidentally called “On The Road”.

The majority of this summer will consist of being on the road, so this book is befitting, & I think I should own it and scribble down my thoughts in it, don’t you? I never thought I’d have a job where I get to travel so much and talk to tons of people, but I do, and it’s hard to fathom what that will fully entail, especially for the introvert that I am {well, in terms of how I refuel: alone time}.

This book review says Kerouac was “committed to the aspirational elements of the story, even as the events that inspired those elements had either collapsed or been made to seem suddenly fragile again. He writes the “why” of the road, not the road itself.”

This made me think.
What am I currently doing that is helping me commit to writing a better story?

& so I asked God.
He answered: “You’re finally trusting me. And it’s good.”

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It’s true that just in my moving to Georgia, I can see how the Lord brings His children full-circle. You see, this is the very place I accepted Him into my heart nearly 10 years ago, up in the mountains, a little north of where I’m living now.

I remember promises He spoke into me then, & promises He’s spoken since, all of which are graven on my heart. I’ll never forget them, because when I start to, He reminds me. I slowly see those promises being brought to light, and I’m on the verge of the prophetic coming to pass. I feel like a little kid on Christmas eve…losing sleep over the greatness to come.

It’s beautiful, the way He meets us in our longings and expectations and says,
Remember that promise I made you? You’re in the midst of it.

Yet, sometimes my heart collapses, and I become suddenly fragile again. Yes, there are tears & worries & anxiousness, oh my; those three notoriously hang out together, and I have to speak them off of me and out of my life on a daily basis in true authority.

Still, I’m learning how to trust in spite of my flesh.
And it’s refreshing.

Of course, I know there are things I need. I need a reliable car. {I’m proud to say I’ve only had one vehicle for the last 11 years, and I’d run it into the ground if I could}. I need people to join my support team and really buy into why I’m here, choosing the life of a missionary, only from a different angle. I need investors to help start up a business that’s currently in the works. I need a new cell-phone service provider so I can stop shouting, “CAN YOU HEAR ME NOOOWW?!” as I galavant to the top of hills and hold my phone up-side-down out my car window to try to get better service. I need sustenance and more time to myself to read and vitamins and a solid community of people who I can be super real & ugly with.

But even as I share this with you, He already knows what I need.
Every last bit.

And He confronts me with my unnecessary wants and simply asks, “Really?“, not in a condemning way, but as a Husband who observes the credit card statement and sighs, because He knows his lady can do better.

So here’s what I’m tethered to right now:
What He promised is what He gave.


{Read that again, and preach it to yourself as often as you need to.}

And He’ll continue to give, even as I hit the road and meet people all over the place this summer. Even as I sweat buckets loading and unloading my work van and working 14 hour days. Even as I camp under the stars or on a stranger’s floor. He’ll give abundantly.

This is the road.

{to be continued…}

for new.

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Start with the grand idea of a legit mid-country road-trip with the ease of cruise-control and great music and yummy snacks and story telling and fun pit-stops in cool cities like Nashville.

ImageNow properly reduce that to traveling from freezing temperatures to 80 degree humidity, a broken engine belt and AAA tow {thanks for saving my life every time!}, dodging severe weather and tornados, 7 hours of torrential downpour, hitting the breaks, peering through the windshield into the pitch black night, praying fervently OUT LOUD and declaring your vehicle will be victorious, miscalculations {supposed to only take 4.5 hours} and wrong directions {following a complete stranger for miles because he drives the same car as the friend you were supposed to be following}, and mastering how to stomach your lunch on the winding, mountainous roads of Tennessee & Georgia whilst not hitting any trees or opossum or hillbillies, and you have yourself the true story of what this past Wednesday & Thursday looked like for me.

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If it weren’t for my faithful co-pilot, Rachel, & homemade trail-mix…
…I’m quite sure I would’ve gone certifiably insane.

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But the good news is I’ve made it to my new home in Georgia, and I couldn’t love it more. It’s only my second full day here, and I’ve already explored, visited World Race friends, conquered the kinda creepy Wal Mart at midnight, taken pictures of the lake, indulged in some local grub, and settled into my new bedroom in the backwoods with Winslow the dog and Stella the cat and the sweet family I’m living with for a while. {By the way, if you still don’t know why I’m here, check out the “Donate” tab to learn more about my new job with Adventures in Missions.}


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I’m so blessed, and really excited to start work on Monday, as I fully enter into this new season of life. Something tells me it’s going to be unrefined and messy, yet beautiful and fulfilling, much like my World Race was, yet unique to a new era. {“same same, but different”, as we Thailand travelers like to call it.}

I’m learning to love the scenic route {not just because one is forced to take it EVERYWHERE here} but because it seems that the road less traveled is the one that will change us for the better.

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& so I’ll leave you with this:

“I went back into the rain, a new man with a new desire and renewed strength. As I write this my race isn’t over. I don’t know how long it will last. God alone knows. But this much I do know: if you’re reading this your race isn’t over either. God will restore us and refresh us along the way. He will provide moments of nourishment and rest, but he wants me and he wants you, to be able to continue to run. To be able to do any good work. We need to continue…to keep going –
even in the rain, no matter how dark it gets, and finish this race. Christian, keep running.