HELLO FROM THE OTHER SIDE.

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Yes, add me to the long list of cliché bloggers who’ve written “hey again” posts titled after Adele lyrics.

It’s been over a year since I wrote on this space, and what a year it’s been. I served my beloved university this past summer as a parent counselor for Camp War Eagle, our orientation program. I traveled to Colorado, Germany, Austria, and India (not all at once). I very randomly made the switch to a plant-based diet. At my mom’s insistence, I finally invested in some curtains for my bedroom.

But most importantly, I hiked to the other side.

Many of you may know how hard my freshman year of college hit me. I didn’t just get knocked down, I was pushed off a cliff and beaten with a baseball bat once I fell to the bottom. For almost all of 2017 and 2018, I was fighting tooth and nail to escape that pit. I was crying and questioning and some days barely breathing. It was slowwwwww, sometimes steady and sure, sometimes not, progress. Then, as 2018 drew to a close and 2019 came closer, there was a change. Something clicked, and I realized: I had made it to the other side of this struggle. After two years of really, really hard work, I could finally wake up and say, “If this is how I feel every day for the rest of my life, I’ll be OK.”

I wish I had the words to express what a precious, precious gift it is to be here. For the first time in two years, I can truthfully say I’m in a good place. The only way I can think of to describe it is to say glory to God and leave it at that.

I all but stopped writing for the past couple years because the Internet just wasn’t a safe or healthy place for me to be authentic. I needed to process things away from the comparison, perfectionism, and vitriol of the screen. But now that I’m in a healthy place of growth and not a panicked one of drowning, the words are flowing again. Ooh man, am I excited about them. I can’t wait to share all I’ve learned in the year since I blogged last. For now, though, I’m going to say goodbye with a hello. Hello from the other side, everyone—there sure is a lot of light over here.

THE TWELVE DAYS OF LOVE LETTER WRITING.

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year! First of all, it’s Christmastime, so the holiday tunes, yummy food, and pretty lights have got me feeling all sorts of festive. Be Rich, my church’s annual giving campaign, just wrapped up with amazing results. Aaaand… it’s the Twelve Days of Love Letter Writing with More Love Letters!

The World Needs More Love Letters is a fab organization that writes love letters to people all over the world. Anyone can request a letter bundle for a loved one who’s going through a tough time—illness, loss, breakup, or just down in the dumps and needing some encouragement. Then, people can view those requests on the More Love Letters website and write an uplifting note to them. The person who requested the bundle gathers all the letters and gives them to the bundle recipient in one huge outpouring of love.

Since its founding by Hannah Brencher in 2011, The World Needs More Love Letters has celebrated the holidays with 12 days of 12 letter requests. The Twelve Days of Love Letter Writing is one of my favorite things about the holiday season! I love taking a break from studying for finals to write a word of encouragement to people who need it (and sometimes, the notes I write for others are exactly what I needed to hear myself.) It’s a great way to dig in to what the holidays should be about: giving love to others without expecting anything in return. In a time that often becomes more stressful than joyful, we need to remember that people need us. We have the incredible opportunity to be there for one another. The Twelve Days of Love Letter Writing is one way to do just that.

The Twelve Days campaign started on Monday, and a new letter request will be published on the More Love Letters blog every day until next Friday. If you’re looking for a way to spread some holiday cheer, look no further! You can write a letter to one of the requests or go cray-cray and submit a note to all 12 bundles. All letters should be postmarked by December 20, 2017.

Today’s request is for students at REAL School. This one is close to my heart because I’m a student, I love working with kids and families, and I believe in the importance of education. I’m encourage all of my readers to write one note to the following request:

REAL school serves middle school students who require structured therapeutic school-based supports and are at-risk in the areas of academic achievement as well as emotional and behavioral development. Most are dealing with challenges at home and in the community—trauma, abuse, violence—as well as mental health disorders. They and their families oftentimes lack access to effective resources and lack exposure to people outside of their communities, city, and the world around them. Research shows that these types of disconnections lead to ongoing struggles: incarceration, homelessness, a lower lifetime earning potential, chronic difficulty getting and keeping a job, living in extreme poverty, lack of health insurance, substance abuse, and chronic depression.

Our students (we currently have six boys in the program, ages 12-14) are resilient, vibrant, creative, outspoken, musical, funny, caring, curious, resourceful, athletic, and often, overlooked. They love to rap, dance, play sports, do arts and crafts, and learn about others. They deserve to feel appreciated and supported. They deserve unconditional positive regard. And, most of all, they deserve to feel connected with others.

I’d love to share letters of encouragement and motivation, of overcoming tough times, and of different life experiences (cultures, cities, people) with our students as well as our amazing REAL School staff members.

Please address all letters to “Dear Students” and mail them to the following address:

Students of REAL School

c/o Elizabeth L.

12 S. Stafford Avenue Apt. A

Richmond, VA 23220

USA

Let’s brighten one another’s lives this holiday season! If you’re interested in learning more about The World Needs More Love Letters, you can check out their website, like them on Facebook, and follow them on twitter and Instagram.

HIYA.

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Hiya, and welcome to haleytodd.com!

I am so excited to be launching this space! This site will be the new home for my writing. It’s clean, fresh, and fun, and I can’t wait for God to fill it with words. Thanks for checking it out!

I’ll be writing mostly about my relationship with Jesus and what God’s up to in my life, with some posts about books and music mixed in. If you’d like to receive post updates, scroll down a little and click the “Follow” button. If you somehow stumbled here and don’t know who I am, check out my About page.

Thank you so much for reading—it means the world. I’ll start posting soon. Lots of love!