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April 27, 2016, 12:00 PM

My Story


by Haley MaKenna Hardman

 

          My name is Haley MaKenna Hardman. I am seventeen years old, and I live in Paris, Texas. Just like every human out there, I have a story. Unlike every human, my story is my own. No one can write my story for me or tell it exactly right- sometimes I think I can't even tell it right. I used to think that my life was not very exciting, or even story-like, but God has reminded me that every life that He has created on this earth has a story to tell that brings glory to His name if we would only open up our mouths and share it. So, here it goes...

          In 1998, I was born to incredible parents whose names are Jennifer Mann and Sean Hardman. They loved me (and still love me) with an immense love that can only be shared between a parent and a kid. They raised me in church...literally- I think we might've lived there at one point. Every time the doors were open, we were there helping wherever help was needed. When I was four years old, we lived in a small town called Tishomingo in Oklahoma. I remember hopping up on the kitchen counter one night when my mom was cooking dinner, and telling her that I wanted Jesus to live in my heart. She asked me questions, led me in a prayer, and explained some things to me, and the following Sunday, I marched straight up to the pastor and told him that I'd like to be baptized. He took me in his office and asked me a few questions- I don't exactly remember what they were- and when we came out, he agreed with me...I needed to be baptized. At that point, I loved God and I believed He was real. He was fascinating to me as He still is. Everything that I learned about Him at that age was happy. That's something that I love about my childhood: I remember it being so very happy.

          Of course, childhood doesn't last very long. Eventually we start to notice things that we think maybe we shouldn't, or hear a few choice words through a closed bedroom door that we think maybe we should've blocked out, but we try and ignore it for as long as possible. When something seems to explode in your face, it's hard to ignore it though. I remember the night that the word, "divorce" became more than a threat at our home in Stratford, Texas. I was trying to watch, "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," and I remember thinking to myself, "What have we gotten into?" I was nearly eight at the time, and I don't really remember much of the months that followed- I actually don't remember my eighth or ninth birthday at all. My mom moved to McLean where her parents and grandma lived, and my dad stayed in Stratford for a few months and then he moved back to Amarillo. During those times, you don't expect God to be leading you- it's like you’re just drifting through life and you just hope that you'll find your way back eventually- but He is guiding you and He's even protecting you.

          There have been soo many things that God has protected me from, and even more that I probably have no idea about, over the years, but I remember Him shielding me while I dealt with all of the mess of my family's divorce more so than any other time. One night, I was lying in bed after discovering something not so great, and I remember literally crying out to God and asking Him to hold me until I fell asleep. I'm not even kidding, I felt big strong arms hold me until I fell asleep, and a peace that passed all understanding folded itself into me. I knew in that moment that I could entrust myself to God because He saw me for who I really was- just a girl.

          Time went on. We moved, and moved again, and moved again, and moved again. None of it was easy, but I wouldn't take a second of it back. About four years after my parents divorced, my mom married an amazing guy from Paris, Texas named Grant Mann after we had moved to McKinney, Texas because of job opportunities and a chance at a fresh start. Through their marriage, I gained a step-dad (whom I call Grantdad), an older sister, two younger brothers, a third grandma, a second uncle, and a whole bunch of cousins. As a family, we were introduced to the Holy Spirit and a whole new world opened up before our very eyes. God became more real to me day after day. I mean, when God provides everything needed for a family of six for eleven months with only a teacher's salary and plane tickets to pay for every other weekend so that I could fly to my dad's, there is nothing you can do but believe in Him and watch Him do His thing. For eleven months, my mom didn't have a job, and so instead of working all day long, she would apply for jobs, and then study the Word until Grant and I got home. Then, she would tell us about everything she had learned, and we would basically have a little church service in our living room floor every night. Her hunger for God's Word spiked a hunger in me for God all together, and I honestly don't even know exactly what happened, but my life got turned upside down- in a glorious way.

          Before all of this happened, I wanted- in some odd, twisted way- to be rebellious. I hung out with a bad group of kids, and I spoke the way that they spoke, and I acted like I had done things that I didn't even know how to do. I think they saw through my facade, because I never once was offered the drugs they were doing and I never once got invited to a party. When God started pulling on me, I got really involved in my youth group, actually read the Bible and prayed it too! I memorized scripture and wrote down my thoughts about them (those thoughts later turned to blogs). I started seeing visions and having dreams of a ministry that I knew I was supposed to be a part of. I was no longer drifting through life...God showed me that He had me right where He wanted me, and I was called to do great things to bring glory to His name. People from that group of rebellious kids started calling me in the middle of the night because they were thinking of killing themselves- I don't even know how some of them got my number, but I'm glad they did. They would pull me around corners in school, and just bawl on my shoulder, because I showed them a love that they had never known before- a love that was offered to them every single day by the One who created them. As we all grew closer to God, we would get together, and instead of talking about the latest party, or who was selling what drug, we would talk about what God was doing in our lives, and we would build each other up. It was the first time that I ever saw God move like that and I'll never forget it.

          About two years into my mom and Grant's marriage, God let us know that we'd be moving to Paris soon (Paris, Texas that is). I think we were all hesitant at first. We had made our home in McKinney...I had friends, Grant had a job, and we went to an awesome church. But, when God says to go, it's really kind of hard to run away from Him (hello...Jonah got swallowed by a big fish trying to run away from God, and we definitely did not want to get in that kind of a mess). We had been looking for houses between McKinney and Paris because Grant's kids still lived in Paris, but after God gave us this revelation, it really did make sense just to go all the way there. During that move, I decided to homeschool. I wanted to spend more time doing what I knew I was supposed to do, and honestly, moving at my own pace was so much easier for me because my pace is fast and furious. I was able to get done with about a week’s worth of school in a twenty-four hour period, and then I was able to help out in the church or do some more digging in the Word, or write, or just have fun with my family and friends without having to worry about homework or projects. During this time, my relationship with God was growing by leaps and bounds while my social skills were failing at the same rate. Contrary to popular belief, I am very socially awkward- sarcasm included heavily. I had to rely on church for my social outlet because I obviously was not getting one at school, so I got as involved as I possibly could and I tried really hard.

          I'm sure you've gathered this, but I've lived in lots of places, and I've been to many different schools, but I have never ever felt as at home as I do in Paris, Texas at Paris Church of God. One of the very first things that our pastor told my family was that this was a safe place, and that could not be truer. I'm not trying to make this into a commercial for Paris Church of God, I'm really not, but God has blessed my family and me with the people there. He truly has. Being able to grow here, develop myself, my relationship with God, and my ministry has meant more to me than I could ever ask for. As of right now, I am attending Paris Junior College, and I am studying to be a writer of some sort. I'm just a girl, and I've made plenty of hefty mistakes, but my God is a merciful God and He continues to guide my path and I am so very grateful for Him and the love that He has for me.

          So, that concludes the magnificent story of Haley MaKenna Hardman and the hand of God that has guided her and protected her all of her life. I count it as a blessing to have a story like this. I would never say that my life was easy for one second and I honestly thank God for that. If my life would've been easy, I know beyond a shadow of doubt that I would not have clung to Him as I have, and then I wouldn't know Him like I do and I wouldn't be who I am. Even through all of the defining moments, God has a way of defining us by the way He created us, and not by what we've done or where we've been and I think that's what I love most about His grace. That is what my story is all about: God's wonderful, wonderful grace.

 

-Haley MaKenna Hardman


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