Wednesday, August 22

((Guest Post)) Embrace Whimsy by Hailey Altom

I am so honored to share this guest post with you from my lifelong best friend, Hailey. We met when we were 2 years old, and we've been through it all. From Hailey chopping my bangs off when we were 3 to me bossing her around all the time to being separated by the ocean when her family moved to Europe, to finally being reunited and graduating high school together to Hailey being my maid of honor, we've had quite the roller coaster ride of a friendship, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. We got together when I was home in Oklahoma last week, and as we were catching up and she was telling me about her life lately, the Lord was speaking to my heart and telling me i had to get her to share her story. She is an awesome woman, and I know her story will encourage you and amaze you. Enjoy reading, and feel free to leave comments for her below!
I have spent most of my life building up a box; a false sense of security box planted on the front porch of life. This summer, God shredded that box and kicked me through that door into the whimsical world of life.
This summer presented heartbreak, more heartbreak, and failure.  The troubles I faced this summer are not unique, and I would be silly to pretend they were. But I would also have to say that facing divorce, my first break up, and failing at an exam I’d spent a year preparing for really did rock me to my core.  I was completely lost and literally desperate for help.
Sensing my desperation, one friend spoke life from Ecclesiastes, reminding me “there is a time to mourn and a time to dance.” And unfortunately, I was in a time where I truly needed to mourn. I was just a bottle of pent up emotions. And probably not just hurts from this summer, but issues that had been building my whole life. And it rolled out in this gigantic wave.  It was the beginning of a beautiful healing.
Bless my poor roommate, she saw it ALL. Thankfully God placed me with a wise, kind-hearted, communication-driven, and frank woman of God. She could relate to my troubles immediately and gave wisdom that I felt came from the mouth of God.  She quickly recommended I dive into the Word and some good books.
That’s where Blue Like Jazz and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years come along. It’s hard to explain until you read both of these, but I can say with conviction that they changed my life. After devouring these must-reads together, my roommate and I decided to set an impossible goal. In our minds that tend to limit God and ourselves we threw around well-meaning ideas like running a 5k, or spending less money on ourselves and donating it somewhere cool. Not that those aren’t “good enough”, it’s just that God had something else in store. He wanted us to tell a story with our lives.
The very next day, after having this epiphany about living a story worth telling, I randomly went with Kelsey (the awesome roommate) to her church.  Here I met a guy who told us all about his cycling team and how they were training for some sort of bike marathon that raised money for Multiple Sclerosis. We were instantly intrigued because this combined both of our tiny baby goals into something soooo much greater. And oh yeah of course we had to be like Donald Miller and do some crazy long bike-ride. Duh.
We had this moment in the car where we just got PUMPED. We both knew then and there that this is what we were supposed to do. It’s seriously like this was calling us. However, I cannot go on without emphasizing how completely out of our element this whole thing was. Completing a bike marathon was entirely outside the tame, and almost non-existent fitness land we lived in. Yet somehow we made a pact right there that we would at least TRY. Even if we could only do 30 miles (which seriously sounded OUTRAGEOUS at the time) we needed this. We could not let this summer turn into a time to mope, settle, and complain. We had to get out there and live a little (or a lot), even if it meant failure. We needed a new normal.
 Our exciting moment was quickly toned down as we did some research and discovered that this was no 50-mile ride, it was instead 150 miles. Say what?!  Plot twist!
Despite our initial overwhelming fear moment, the bikes beckoned us.  We joined “Rollin with the Homies” (our cycling team) and we started training almost immediately. It was amazing to see the progress. We would have NEVER called ourselves athletic and yet here we were knocking down goals like 25 miles, then 27, then 30, then the big FIFTY. This happened in a matter of 5 Saturday trainings. A huge part of that was joining a team that truly cared about us. Instead of racing off in competition they stayed back to encourage and challenge the newbies. They displayed great patience. We were blown away, not just by our progress, but how the lessons in biking transcended into our daily lives. We learned to push through those walls that try to scare you and limit you, when on the other side are freedom and pure joy.
And indeed it is a pure joy to ride. My new friend and inspiring teammate, Savannah, put it well when she told me she feels closest to God when she’s riding. I’d have to agree. Everyone has their own place with God, and it overwhelms me with joy to have found mine.
Riding has truly shown me the creativity of God in how He was able to use a BIKE to restore me. I have a long way to go, but WOW am I enjoying the journey. Seriously everyday has become this treasure box waiting to be opened. Of course not every moment is perfect, but I had unknowingly limited God in an extreme way. I almost thought we were supposed to settle. Just be ok with how your life is. But NOOOOO, He loves to bless us and just love on us and help us live bigger stories that ultimately point to Him and His magnificent glory. What an amazing feeling.  And the best part is when God tells a good story with your own life, you have no choice but to share it with others. It’s not this 7-point sermon that tells you how to witness that makes you want to tell others about God, it’s experiencing Him move radically in your own life.
I will never be able to properly convey the joy He brings. This really and truly should have been my worst summer. But instead He used the dark chapters to strengthen my dependency on Him. And what story is worth reading that doesn’t have some major conflict?  
And after you mourn, you get to DANCE! Those hard times turn out to be almost beautiful in the way they shape your life.

So get out there, live, and embrace whimsy!

P.S. My ultimate goal in doing this bike marathon is to raise $500. This goes to support a tremendous cause. If you would like to help those in the fight against Multiple Sclerosis and help fund research to cure this disease please donate at: , click on my name and help me reach my goal. Thanks so much J

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