Geaux.

I am an LSU Tiger through and through. Pride rises in my heart at the sight of an LSU bumper sticker. Anyone wearing LSU gear is automatically an ally. I bleed purple and gold.

You might have heard about the ever-increasing tension between LSU and Alabama. I, being the Tiger that I am, have been trained for the past four years to hate all things Crimson. I have many loved ones from back home that love Alabama. I just pretend they don’t.

That said, I help lead worship for the Refuge, a wonderful college ministry at LSU. Refuge Band was invited to lead worship at a retreat for a college ministry at Alabama. Last weekend, we packed all our stuff in a trailer, hopped in a big old Yukon and made the long trek into enemy territory.

As we pulled in to the city, our drummer leaned out the window and belted “GEAUX TIGERS!!!” at the top of his lungs. As much as I don’t like Alabama, I was ashamed. We were those Tigers. Even still, there was crimson everywhere I looked. Clearly I needed to be on guard at all times.

Last weekend, I sang and played piano for a group of college kids that I didn’t know from a school that I’ve been trained to despise. But every wall of division in my heart melted to the floor as I saw their hands raised in worship and their hearts lost in the presence of God.

I got the honor to sit with a few of them and listen to their stories. I soon discovered that I was in a room full of brothers and sisters whose lives have been changed by the same Jesus who turned my own world completely upside down. It was humbling to say the least.

I will never root for Alabama.

But there is an added sweetness to my understanding that I am part of a beautiful story written by a beautiful God, who ransoms hearts from every tribe and nation and tongue and university.

Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all and is in all. Put on then as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience.
Colossians 3:11-12

Grace and peace

Hope

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Twinkle.

I have a stuffed bunny that was given to me on the morning of my third Easter. I remember waking up and discovering the little white fluff ball nestled among the candies and chocolates in my basket. ‘Twas the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

I named him Twinkle.

I snuggled with him at night. I would wrap my arms around him as I fell asleep. He fit perfectly under my chin.

I took him along for show-and-tell in Ms. Anderson’s first grade class.

His arms were tied together with a little string, and my little wrist fit between his arms. So I would wear him as a bracelet and pretend to ice skate with him around the living room. I cried the day the string broke.

Nineteen years later, and he is still mine. His coat is weirdly yellow and matted. His nose was lost in a gruesome dog fight. His left ear is hanging by a thread. But I still love him.

There is nothing about Twinkle that is valuable. He wouldn’t even be worth 25 cents at a garage sale. But I would sell him for nothing less than a billion dollars because he is irreplaceable in my heart.

God doesn’t love us because we are valuable. We are valuable because God loves us. Everything about us flows from that.

Grace and peace,
Hope

four years in ten minutes

God changed my life when I came to college. It’s impossible to adequately sum it all up in one little post. But I really wanted to share a little of the journey that God has taken me on so far.

You see, I came into college a very broken and insecure person. I thought God was more like my boss. I worked for my reward, for peace with God. And if I failed to do the work, I would certainly be fired, cast away, rejected. And let me tell you, my work was never enough. And I hated myself for it. I couldn’t do enough good in the world to get God to accept me. And so I was a constant failure. I was never satisfied because I felt like God was never satisfied. I cried a lot.

I finished my last college class yesterday. This chapter of my life is finally coming to a close. Four years. Four years of joy, love, anger, confusion, sorrow, pain, friendship. There were several times throughout those four years where I decided that my time here was done and I could finally move on. It makes me laugh every time I think about those times. Mostly because I know God laughs at those times too.

You know why these past four years have been the most transformational time of my life? Well, its partly because that’s just the nature of college. It’s fast-paced and furious. You are constantly meeting new people and learning new things that challenge everything you’ve ever believed about yourself, about others, about the world, about Jesus. And it forces you to decide what you really believe.

I decided to believe Jesus, and it changed me to the core. And that might be the most simple and least profound thing you’ve heard all day. But hear me out. I thought I knew all the right answers when I moved to Baton Rouge four years ago. I knew that God loved me. I knew that Jesus died in my place. But deep down I refused to believe it.

The problem was that I also refused to believe that I didn’t believe it. Good Christians are supposed to have all their shit together, right? I couldn’t possibly tell God that I didn’t believe Him! So instead of being honest with my doubts and fears, I hid them behind more piles of good Christian work.

I cried more nights that I could possibly count. I knew that I wasn’t good enough for God. After what seemed like thousands of tear-filled conversations with God, He spoke deep into my heart when I read Romans 4 about how Abraham was “fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised”, and that was the faith that saved him. God challenged me to take Him at His word. To believe that I could be with Him and talk with Him and learn from Him and laugh with Him and be fully accepted and loved, no matter what I had or hadn’t done because Jesus literally BOUGHT our righteousness for us, paid it in full. He bought for me the peace with God that I could never afford, that I had been desperately searching for.

Does that make sense to anyone out there? We get to enjoy God. Fo’ free! It’s a constant relationship, moment by moment. Think about your best friend. Your relationship has been cultivated probably over several years. You have that depth of friendship because you have shared your lives together. You’ve had deep conversations, silly conversations, you spend time together, you laugh together, you’ve survived some awful fights, you weep together, and sometimes you don’t say anything at all. But every moment together serves to sweeten and deepen the friendship, no matter how trivial or painful the moment may be.

Clearly, I didn’t have that kind of relationship with Jesus when I came to college. But God is patient with us and gives us grace to believe really wrong things about Him. As I finally shared my fears and my hopes and my hurts with Him, He began to show me His heart. That He would never reject me, He would never leave me, He would never give up on me, and He would never fail me. He is faithful and true.

When I realized that God the Just was satisfied to look on Jesus and pardon me, it freed me to be satisfied with Jesus too. And it changed me through and through.

Share your life with Jesus. Take Him at His word. Prepare to be amazed.

Grace and peace,
Hope

Birthday Bash, Monster Mash

Fifteen years ago, I spent Halloween night at a family friend’s house. All I remember is a girl dressing up in a green M&Ms costume, knocking on the door and begging us for candy. Cannibal! What a strange holiday.

The reason I was at their house was because my parents were at the hospital. My mom was on her way to being not pregnant anymore. Some few hours later on Novemeber 1, my sweet sister Olivia was born. She is the most uniquely minded individual that I know. She is very strange. She loves to read. She is freakishly dramatic. She makes me laugh. She is stubborn. She is is creative. She is beautiful.

There are many memories that I could share with you. But in the interest of time (and not boring you with billions of stories that you probably don’t really care about), I’ll keep it to a minimum.

Olivia and I used to share a room. We had bunk beds, the kind with a twin on top of a double. I, being older and wiser, got the bottom bunk. I quickly learned that this may not have been the wisest of moves.

One night, she wanted to stay up late reading. I wanted to go to sleep. I asked her to turn her light off. She said she would if I would get her a flashlight. Sneaky little booger. I went in to my parents room and grabbed the only one I could find: a mag light. I’m pretty sure those suckers weigh equal to a small planet. That night, I slept diagonally with my head sticking out from beneath her bunk.

At approximately 4am, I awoke very suddenly to what I believed was someone punching me in the face. My brother needs to get a life. My stomach lurched thinking someone was in my room as I sat up to find a light being cast on the wall opposite me. After I was finally able to calm down, I saw the mag light on the floor, battery almost dead.

I had a black eye for two weeks.

There was another night where I woke up to a steady pitter patter on my bed. I rolled over in a whirl to discover a pant-less little Olivia standing on my bed, peeing. OLIVIA!!! GO PEE IN YOUR OWN BED! The bathroom is a mere five steps across the hall. Apparently, it’s more time-efficient to take off your pants and go pee on someone else’s bed.

I have been peed on, thrown up on, and given black eyes because of that child on the top bunk. Yet something in my twisted brain wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Happy Birthday Olivia! I love you!

And So It Goes

I had the privilege of witnessing some beautiful things during my shifts as a delivery driver.

Once I passed a couple of girls hula hooping rings of fire in their front lawn. Practice makes perfect, ladies!

One time I was parked behind an SUV at a red light. All I could see was the silhouette of the Driver and his passenger Lady Friend. I watched as he raised his arm and Lady Friend leaned in for a whiff. Then they traded. Lady Friend raised her arm as Driver went in for a whiff. The light turned green. And on goes the circle of life.

The people were what really made it an experience. It was always interesting to deliver to a student athelte. Or a real life “marijuana activist”. Or a forty-year-old bachelor. Or a foreigner. Or an ex-classmate. Or a cute boy. Or a cat lady.

Grace and peace,
Hope

Viva La Vida

There were many “moments” that took place throughout my two-week stay in Kenya. Moments that impacted me for whatever reason. Moments that I never want to forget. Some were more “Jesus-y” than others, but each left its mark on me through and through.

The town of Naivasha sits on a beautiful lake surrounded by rolling hills with larger mountains draped across the background. Driving back to the house from the orphanage, we took a detour through a large flower farm. My absolute favorite thing to do whenever we were on the move was to crack open a window (see the About Moi page) and let the wind whip across my face as I bury my iPod deep into my ears. A momentary retreat into my own little world. That right there is a recipe for moments. Nothing burns a memory into your brain like music.

Anyway, I had my eyes locked on the sun setting beyond mountainous horizon as we were driving across the hills. We hit a clear patch along the road where there were suddenly millions of things to see. I asked Lisa (our boss missionary/hostess/driver) to back up for a second on the dirt road so I could take a couple photos.

As I was snapping the mountains to the left, a herd of gazelle leapt across the dirt road just ahead of us. I heard some of the other passengers gasp, so I whirled my head around to behold a bundle of zebras grazing just off to the right. The majority of folks in the car were photographers, so we of course jumped out to snag a better view.

We spent a good ten minutes chasing zebras, avoiding zebra shookie doo, and enjoying the view as dusk set in. When we got back to the car, Lisa asked if we wanted to ride on the roof. Heck to the yes. We climbed up and settled in the best that we could and we went merrily on our way, singing a verse in Swahili of the song that my sweet girl at House of Hope orphanage taught us. We are laughing in the light of God, we are laughing in the light of God.

The crosswind was freezing. The sky was beautiful. The hills were quiet. My heart was full.

Riding with the windows down has forever been ruined for me.

Grace and peace,
Hope

A Toast

The toaster in our kitchen makes the whole house reek of melting plastic. It’s absolutely awful. I don’t know what’s down there and I don’t care enough to find out. (That’s what she said.) Thus, I was forced to devise a backup plan. Buttered toast is one of my favorite foods. I’m a simple girl. So I broil my bread in the oven for a few minutes on each side. Browned to perfection every time.

One day, my dear friend Jessica was coming to pick me up to hang out for the afternoon. I was late getting home from school so I was in a rush for lunch. I figured I’d just make something to bring with me in the car. A salad would do just fine. Some spinach, some carrots, a boiled egg, topped with balsamic vinaigrette. Nice one, Hope! The only thing missing was my famous buttered toast. I had some time before Jess was supposed to pull up.

I tossed the bread in the oven and threw the salad together as I eagerly awaited for that familiar crispy golden brown to invade my bread. I was gathering my things in my room in the back of the house when I heard Jess honking in the driveway. Gotta go! I grabbed my stuff and headed out, beautiful salad in hand.

It was only two hours later that I realized I had left the toast broiling in the oven. I called my roommate in a panic, praying that I was NOT that girl who burned the house down. She said she took it out when she smelled something burning. What a relief. It’s too early in the lease to be that girl. Turns out, I made something very special that day.

Baby toast!

It’s still resting on a napkin atop the microwave. I think I’ll keep it forever. Somehow, this poor raisin of an oat has found a home in my heart.

My roommates think it smelled like something died. I don’t know what they are talking about. Smells like toasted marshmallows to me!