As I sit down to write this, it’s Valentine’s Day 2018. I was scrolling my Facebook notifications and came across this post from February 14, 2009.

Backstory:

We often tease in my family about how little I got in trouble growing up. This is not to say that I was a perfect kid, because I certainly was not, but I was much more scared about getting in trouble than tempted with the enjoyment of doing something wrong. Here was the line. . .and there was Haley, 20 feet behind it! I was the kid who grew up in church. I went to children’s church and Sunday school. I was the one who tried to talk to my friends about Jesus and invite them to youth group. I prayed every night and tried to represent Jesus as best I could. I was the classic “do all the right things and say all the right things” kind of kid.

I had one dream growing up: to attend the University of Florida! Having no connections to the school, I chose it in kindergarten because of a radio station bet my mom was involved with. (This was back in her country radio days.) For my entire academic career, UF was the school I worked toward. Throughout high school, I walked the halls saying things like ,“When I go to Florida. . .” or “When I get in.” Not “if,” but “when.” Not at all arrogant, right?

So February 13, 2009 came. I had applied to UF with an impressive high school transcript and a great SAT score. Everything was looking great, and all I had to do now was wait for their positive reply. I refreshed the computer, and to my disbelief I found a big, ugly, “We regret to inform you…” Devastated doesn’t even begin to describe my emotions that night. I felt like everything I had worked for and wanted my whole life – up to that point – had been taken away. To be very honest, I was mad at God. I remember going through each stage of grief with Him.

“God, you know this was the only thing I’ve ever wanted. Why would you not give this to me?”

“God, please! I’ll do anything if you let my appeal get through!”

These kinds of complaints went on and on and on in my prayers. Eventually, I even came to the point where I said—and I’m cringing as I write this—“You knew how important this was to me and you didn’t give it to me. I don’t want a relationship with you anymore.”  We swap pain for anger because it’s easier for a while.

Clearly, part of me saw God as my spiritual Santa Claus.

I realize now that getting into UF was an idol in my life. I felt like I needed to perform academically to be successful, and getting into the toughest school in our state was a way to measure how great I was. As the shy, overweight, insecure teenager I had been, getting into the toughest school in our state was a way for me to feel valued, like I was finally worthy of a great thing.

So, we filed an appeal. My mom and I skipped work and school one day and drove to Gainesville to try to talk to an administrator. My mom, who typically wouldn’t take personal liberties to this degree, even asked her Gainesville listeners if anyone knew of a way in for me. My desperation became my mom’s desperation and she so badly wanted to “fix” it for me. It just made no sense! My academic record was flawless. My test scores were high enough. My community service excelled. None of it helped. Not only did the door stay closed, but I’m pretty sure it was dead-bolted, with a brick wall built in front of it. The answer was very clearly “No.” God was allowing my dreams to be shattered, and in the process, shattering some of my false ideas about Him.

As it turned out (fortunately) God is not who I thought He was. He didn’t reject me, even though I had at my low point rejected Him. He pursued me hard, so that not even a year later I found myself sitting at a Passion conference in January 2010. Over three days, the messages and songs softened and healed my heart. I knew God was pulling me back to Him. And from that moment on, I never looked back.

For the next few years, the days around Valentine’s Day used to be so hard for me. Accepting God’s different plan for my life and seeing His goodness in drawing me back didn’t fully remove the sting. I still felt anger, resentment, embarrassment, rejection—all the things I thought I should be past, but wasn’t. It wasn’t until another Passion conference in 2015 that I felt like God was asking me to fully release it to Him, and by then I was finally ready to be obedient.

Now that I’ve come through this experience and graduated college (not UF – Go Bulls!), the thing I still think about is what I wish I could tell my 18 year old self, the very thing I’m now trying to tell my high school Young Life friends who are dealing with their own similar struggles.

Looking back to the devastated teenage Haley, I wish I could tell her about the God who is planning remarkable things for her life, things better than she could ever dream up herself!

I wish I could tell her that her value and worth is not even remotely based on the college she attends or where she ends up in her class.

I wish I could tell her that God loves her far more than she’ll ever comprehend.

I wish I could tell her that before she even knew what rejection was, she was chosen by God.

I wish I could tell her that God is not about crushing our emotions, dreams and goals. If it is a “no,” … it’s because there is a greater “yes!”

Postscript

I know that compared to the stories so many people carry, not getting into my first-choice college isn’t a “real” problem. It’s entirely a first world thing. But February 13 came and went this year, and I didn’t even think twice about it. That date doesn’t hang like a weight around my neck anymore. The lessons God taught me and the outpouring of grace and love He showed me, have changed me into a person that sees God for who is He is and loves God because He’s God. He’s my creator. His strength is made perfect in my weakness. His plans truly are good, and better than we can imagine.

USF Homecoming 2017

27 comments

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How I want my 17 year old sister to read this! She’s much more likely to watch Haley share this story. Please encourage Haley to do a YouTube video sharing this transformational experience. I know it would encourage many young people. Especially ones like my sister who won’t voluntarily read anything longer than a text message.

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We don’t have any YouTube videos right now, but we did talk about it on The Morning Cruise this morning, if you think she’ll listen to some of it. You can have her listen to it here: http://florida.thejoyfm.com/morning-cruise/home/2018/03/02/we-regret-to-inform-you-a-blog-post-from-haley/

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💔❤️💓💗💖

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Thank you for sharing and using this pain as a way to let other be hopeful in our amazing God. Even when we are angry or upset he is there like a good father listening and preparing something so much better! This is coming at a time where I am struggling with my own accomplishments not happening in my time and having to turn to God for strength and my value in him!

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Thank you so much for sharing. I have struggled so much when God has clearly told me “NO!” about something in my life. I have tried to reason with God that “I would be able to serve You better Lord if you just give me what I ask for…” I just have to listen to that still, small voice that tells me that “I know the plans I have for you!” Beautiful story.

Jennifer

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I used to be the queen of bargaining with God! Like I could ever plan something better than he could! He definitely had to teach me to relinquish control. Haha Thanks for reading!

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Thank you for sharing. One of my best friends died of lung cancer on November 30, just 15 days after her 50th birthday. She has two daughters, both adopted from China that are only 14 and 16. Talk about being mad at God. I am struggling with the whole idea of “why?!” Why did he take her so young? Why didn’t he leave her here to continue the AMAZING work she was doing? WHYYYYYYY would he take her from her girls who need theor mama? Why? I am hoping that he gives me peace as I try to trust him again… Your blog post was hopeful. ❤️

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Wow I’m so sorry Kim! What you and your friend’s family are going through is so much greater than my simple not getting accepted to a college. It feels so unfair and the pain of loss is so great that I’m sure it feels unbearable. But hear me say this: God has not forgotten you or your friend’s family and none of this has taken Him by surprise. And your friend is already home. She’s healed and whole and in the place we’re all trying to get to. Of course that doesn’t take away any of the pain you feel here on earth, but God is still good and He will bring beauty.

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Beautiful, honest, inspiring……that’s what you are. Thanks for sharing. I know a lot of people will be moved and motivated,

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Thank you!!

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Thank you so much for sharing your story! This is exactly what I needed to read and understand right now! And I just LOVE the words you wrote “If it is a “no,” … it’s because there is a greater “yes!” Wow!!! God is so good!

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I’m glad it was so timely for you! Thanks for reading!

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Haley, you are an amazing young woman. I am so proud of you!!

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Thank you Aunt B!

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Haley,
Thank you so much for sharing this story!! Amazing perspective and truth!!! God is so good and sometimes no means protection, something better is coming or is used just to draw us closer to Him. Keep sharing your heart and I want to share this with my 13 yr old Haley so she can see what God can do when we surrender to Him and confident in His love for us!!!

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Yes please share! I hope it will encourage them!

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I am 53 and the struggle is REAL!! Young lady stay strong in your faith. God will knock our socks off if we/me allow Him to! I love no only means a BETTER YES! I will be snagging that line for sure! Thank you for being real, raw and honest. Your young lifers have a true jewel in you.

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Thank you Kathy! I just hope this piece can encourage some of them!

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Love it! Thank you for sharing, Haley! Although our stories are different, I can completely relate. I struggle with this often and through God’s Word, prayer, and testimonies like yours, He continues to offer reassurance that “He’s got this, too! And He always has.” Thanks again!
Blessings,
Chad

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Yes amen!!

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Thank you for sharing! I was Salutatorian of my high school, grew up a as a gator girl, and was denied freshman admissions at UF. I later transferred to UF and now work as an Academic Advisor at UF and am also in grad school at UF! My rejection as a freshman has given me the opportunity to share with other overly qualified, talented students who didn’t receive admission to understand that this is simply a detour, not a roadblock and to keep following their dreams! I believe your story will touch many students who are feeling the same way we did at 18!

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I’m impressed that you still pursued them even when you were initially rejected! It sounds like God has you in that place though so you can be there for incoming kids who are exactly on our position. Thanks for reading!

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Hayley,

Thank you for sharing your story. Very relatable! It’s also refreshing for people to share stories of struggling experiences in especially in today’s society. Social media makes it seem as if everyone had a perfect life.

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Totally agree! We’re all about showing the good and the ugly here on social media!

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Haley,
I heard you Fri. morning & I teared up on the way to work. I have worked in a hospital for 12 years & feel like the “carrot has been dangled in front of me” numerous times. Because of my work ethic & personal character I always step up to the plate, and on occasion without even being asked. Every time I get ready to grab the carrot, it gets snatched away & has happened so many times, I have lost count. I have reported this last incident to leadership and HR because of how poorly it was handled, however I heard what you said about being disobedient to GOD & I am praying for his guidance. I have never read the Bible, only some verses here & there, but I do try to attend church somewhat regularly around my work schedule & my kids activities. I need the guidance to help me handle my problems & to guide my family, particularly my kids because of their “mild special needs”. At the moment, I have absolutely nothing I want to say to my boss but your comments on Fri. are at least letting me look for what GOD has planned because I know there is something better & all of these rejections I keep getting at this institution are “training” for what He has in store. Thanks for sharing!

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Thanks for sharing your story. I’m going to share your story with my son. He is 17 ans a senior this year. I’m trying to help him understand that sometimes is not what we want , but what God has in store for us, and that waht God have for us is better than what we were asking. Your story just came at the right time. God bless you and your family.

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Haley,
Thank you for sharing this. Young girls need to hear this, but so do us “older” girls. God IS Good! And His ways are better than our ways. Sometimes getting sucked into the world and all that we think that we “need” we lose focus on what God wants for us. Sometimes we think it’s what God wants until a door shuts and we don’t understand it. I feel like I keep going through this time and time again, even into my 40’s.
Thanks for being so transparent and sharing your story. So thankful you are involved with young people and pouring into them God’s love. You are beautiful. Love hearing you on the JoyFM when you share your story or funny things about your family. Thanks for being willing to be part of this ministry! You are a blessing to all of us!

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