Welcome to Ryley Writes, a collection of thoughts, stories, and work from deep in the heart of Texas.


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You know what's been on my mind a lot lately? Hemming.

Not the sewing kind. My only experience with that kind of hemming was in 4th grade, when I was in the midst of a brief but serious stint in Girl Scouts.

Our troop often tackled specific badges together, and one of those was the sewing badge. In order to get it, we each had to hem our own matching troop skort. (A skort, for the uninitiated/non-90s babies, is a skirt with shorts built into it. Yes, you read that right. Fashion AND function. Ladies, if ever you start to believe you can't have it all, you just look back on the glorious early 2000s and stay strong.)

So anyway, I tried my very best and I tanked the badge.

One of the troop moms had to rip out all of my failure stitches and re-hem it for me, so that in addition to having one less badge on my vest than everyone else I wouldn't ALSO be the only loser without a matching skort, which would obviously have been devastating.

That — and the fact that, you know, I'm now an inch shy of six feet tall — was the end of hemming as a part of my life.

It also has nothing to do with this blog post. I just wanted to tell you that story.

No, the reason this post is titled "hem" and the reason the word has been on my mind is because of one of my favorite verses, Psalm 139:5 — "You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me."

I've always loved the verse for its sweetness. How comforting is it to think that as I move along in life, often feeling like I'm more or less flailing, the God of the universe has his hands cupped around me, guiding and guarding me along the way?

On an everyday level, though, I'd never seriously considered the ways God would surround me like that. It seemed like a solely spiritual concept, not necessarily a practical one.

Just recently, I was talking to someone about one of my favorite things: mentorship. Both of us value deeply the older (whether by a few years or many) people in our lives who pour into us, and love getting to pour into younger people in turn. As we discussed the impact both mentoring and being mentored has had on our lives, I happened to rattle off the phrase "those before me and those behind," and suddenly, it was like a mental lightbulb went off.

Those before and those behind me? Gee, that sounds familiar.

Why the connection of one of my favorite verses to one of my favorite parts of life in general had never dawned on me until that moment, I don't know, but it makes total sense.

In the older people — especially women — in my life, I'm hemmed in from before. People who have already walked the path I'm headed down and know its highs and lows have the wisdom to guide me; to warn me when I'm moving too quickly or prod me when I'm tempted to stop or retreat. Whether they're just a few steps or a hundred miles ahead, they can speak truth into my battles and give encouragement I can trust through their own experiences. I need that so bad.

The younger people in my life, on the other hand, hem me in from behind. I'm held accountable by my leadership in the lives of the kids of youth groups I've served in, the life group of 8th grade girls I currently lead, the individual high school girls I have the privilege of discipling one-on-one. My words and actions are under their scrutiny, and I take that seriously. When I find myself in tough situations, I'm called up by the knowledge that I'm setting an example, and I want it to be a good one, a God-honoring one. I want to live a life that reflects my hopes for how they'll live theirs.

And rarely do I feel so certain of the Lord's hand upon me than when I look at the friends he's put in my life. I have the best ones, and it amazes me. Especially when, at every change of city and season, I've been secretly sure that this time they wouldn't exist. I know God's faithfulness through my friends.

You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.

Until recently, I'd never considered that Psalm 139:5 in real life could look a lot like the faces of the people I love. Now it's hard to see it any other way.

Part of me is tempted to draw a really elaborate analogy here about what a beautiful skort God has made out of my life, but I will refrain, because that would just be tacky. But I am really thankful that he hems me in behind and before in such a very real way, and with such very sweet people. I'm never more convinced that Jesus does, indeed, love me than when I think about all the people I get to call mine.

Who hems you?

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High-Five Friday: February 24