10 Observations About Canada You’ll Find Interesting

  1. Lots of ketchup flavored food items

    Can someone explain to me why there are Ketchup Lays and Pringles? That just sounds nasty, but hey: To each their own.

  2. Only 1 brand of pretzel in the small towns we visited (Banff & Jasper)

    In light of the numerous ketchup flavored foods, this one surprised us. Shout out to the Old Dutch brand for fueling our pretzel cravings while in Canada.

  3. But the honey flavored Oikos that’s in Canada is DELISH!

    There are only a few brands of greek yogurt in the Canadian groceries we visited. And yet, what Canada lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality. The Oikos honey flavored greek yogurt was so good! It’s a shame it’s not available here in the U.S!

  4. No police officers, like anywhere! I think we saw two  officers the entire 12 days!

    Working Theory: Most Canadians are too kind to flagrantly break laws, and the police force is too kind to set speed traps and write unnecessary tickets. You rock, Canadian Mounties!

  5. Kraft Peanut Butter?

    One of my favorite foods is greek yogurt. One of my other favorites is peanut butter. I was surprised to find only three brands of the delicious delicacy. The stores had a natural organic brand, a local brand and Kraft. Now, I know that large companies are a conglomerate of businesses, but I still think its odd that the people who made mac n’cheese famous, also make nut butter. It was good, nontheless.

  6. Everything is in Kilometers

    This one is a no brainer, but interesting nonetheless. But driving the unpopulated road from Calgary to Banff to Jasper, we realized that the speed limit is pretty relative. Some cars go 40kmh, taking in the scenery, and some go 140kmh. I would recommend somewhere in the middle.

  7. It’s true: Canadians are super nice!

    Seriously! In America we have signs like: “No smoking” and “Customers Only.” In Canada, they add a “please” and “thank you” on to every sign and instruction. Thank you, Canada. I feel treasured and I feel respected.

  8. Canada still has the Guide Channel

    Remember that channel that scrolled all the television programming? Remember when something distracted you and you missed your favorite channel, so you had to wait for it to scroll all the way through again? Well Canadians still enjoy that pleasure. And to be honest: On the rare occasions that we did turn on the T.V., that Guide Channel was an awesome reference. Can we resurrect that in the U.S.?

  9. Bathrooms are called Washrooms

    Canadians are all about their good manners and cleanliness, which is why they call bathrooms “washrooms.” It sounds polite and it implies you disinfect after doing your business. It’s a win win!

  10. Telephone booths everywhere!

    I’ve heard the same is true in Europe, and it makes sense because what if you lose your phone or didn’t purchase international cell service? With tourists everywhere, a phone booth is a nice reassurance. Plus, it harkens back to the good ole’ days when technology wasn’t intrusive and you could make eye contact with people on the street.


There you have it: Ten awesome things I noticed about the Canadian way of life while traveling to Banff and Jasper National Parks. And what didn’t make the list? Well, the nature, for starters. But I’ve covered that in some other posts, so get started with my Day 1 account of Banff National Park. And if the Canadian Rockies aren’t on your bucket list: Get your butt up north, pronto!


Banff Day 1: C-Level Cirque and Johnston

Oh Canada. I still don’t know your national anthem, but I’m head over heels for your country. And I can’t believe it’s been a month since I reveled in your majestic landscape. There’s far too much to share in one blog post, so I’m breaking it down into multiple posts so I can give you all the good stuff in hopes that you’ll add Banff and Jasper to your travel list.

We took off on July 22. Matt, my mom and I. After a quick layover in Toronto, we flew Air Canada to Calgary. Let me tell you: Air Canada is the best! Let’s put it this way: I had a bunch of writing to get done on the flight. Instead, I played interactive games with Matt on the seat back entertainment system (Whoever was in seat 22A was rockin’ those trivia questions!). Then I watched an incredible Spanish T.V. show that is brand new. So if you’re into Spanish shows (or not), check out “Sé Quien Eres.” It’s intense!

fullsizeoutput_df7From Calgary, we took a short drive to Banff National Park. Despite my 3:15 a.m. alarm clock, I didn’t feel tired yet. We checked into the “humble” Red Carpet Inn– strangely devoid of red carpet– and wandered around the small town. Downtown Banff is so cute! It’s a little like Aspen in the sense that it has luxury brands and expensive restaurants. While it dazzles the high-end traveler, it also pleased us. There were neat little shops and restaurants, and parks everywhere.


Downtown Banff, featuring a beautiful double rainbow after a 15 minute downpour. This was the only time it rained during the whole trip!

The next morning, we popped out of bed and headed to C-Level Cirque. around 9 a.m. I’d advise hikers get going by 9:30 or so. We saw so many people coming up, on our way back down. To beat the rush: Start your hike by 9 a.m. C-Level Cirque was a modest first hike, and a pretty one at that. Since July is bear season, we were armed with bear spray and plenty of conversation topics. The key is to make noise so you don’t surprise a bear. As we unpacked the car, I looked at the girl parked next to us. With a kayak atop her car and dirt on her boots, I knew she was an experienced hiker. It turns out, Jackie is a Math teacher who spends her summers traveling all over the world. We all began chatting and — much to my delight– Jackie decided to hike with us. “I want to be like Jackie,” I raved to my mom. “She’s everything I want to be…. just take out the Math.”

fullsizeoutput_e1cTogether, we hiked up through the wooded portion of the trail, dotted with abandoned mine shafts and the occasional stream. After about 45 minutes, we emerged from the woods and the trail turned to rock. This was the steepest part of the hike– often requiring a hands and knees approach. We climbed right past a beautiful blue lake,missing it completely on the way up. But we soon were high enough to see the lake, and a lot more! There was an impeccable view of the Bow River and multiple lakes. By this point, we were higher up than snow, but the temperature was a comfortable 60 degrees or so– not cold, as long as we kept moving.”

After roughly two hours, we crested the ridge and reached the end of the trail. Now Jackie, in all her awesomeness, scrambled up the scree to get an even better view, but that was about as high as you could go. No matter, it was gorgeous! Like I said: We had a view of the river, some lakes, and the mountain range ambling off to our left.


We completed the hike in about 3:45 minutes and exchanged contact info with Jackie before setting off to see Johnston Canyon. Me, oblivious to that fact that I had just lost my mom’s GoPro in the parking lot, took a much needed nap. One longhorn sheep sighting later, we pulled into the parking lot at Johnston Canyon. We structured our days in Canada so that our big hike was in the morning and in the afternoon, we visited the more “touristy” spots or, if you’re Matt: Napped.



Johnston Canyon was crazy! There were so many cars buzzing in and out of that parking lot. That being said, I was really pleased with the signage, facilities and information. Plus, this hike was totally handicap accessible. While hikers like myself tend to gripe about paved trails, I’m really glad that Canada’s National Parks Service has made some of the key destinations more accessible. Wheelchairs and strollers could easily traverse the path, and it was pretty short too (about in hour if you do the full thing).

By the time we traded our parking spot with an ever-grateful group of tourists, we made the short drive back to town. We ended the day with a short jaunt around town and a strategy planning session for the next day. I’m pretty sure I was asleep by 9. Given the two hour time difference, we all turned in early.

The second day began with a quick run and breakfast, followed by one of my favorite hikes of the trip! But Day 1 was pretty incredible in its own right!

Day 2 Blog Post: COMING SOON

The Semester That Wasn’t Supposed to Happen

This is the semester that wasn’t supposed to happen. It was my worst nightmare, a fate that loomed over me until the harsh December day when the doctor told me to pack up my things and head home. Then it became all too real. And let me tell ya: Humbling doesn’t begin to describe the what it’s like to take a medical leave of absence from college in order to get treatment for a mental illness. Humiliating is more like it.

But I put college on hold and began investing 30+ hours a week in intensive treatment. Rather, I was forced to put college on hold. I kinda blew through all my other options. Ah, the grace of God: more abundant than even the most monumental screw-ups.

I’ve shared my story before. That’s not what this post is about. This is about the aftermath. The fact is: I knew I’d made the right choice to take the semester off. But that didn’t erase the shame I had regarding that decision. Because of my medical leave, I’d no longer graduate with my peers in May of 2017. I’d be a December grad (cue the dreary music).

A winter graduation isn’t a big deal, but I quickly grew irritated with the dialogue surrounding it:

Person: Are you excited to graduate in May?!
Me: I’m actually graduating in December, so I still have a semester left.
Person: Oh! That’s totally fine, I remember ________ (fill in name) took longer than 4yrs to graduate…..
Me: Actually, I took a medical leave of absence my sophomore year. So, yeah….

Most people let the conversation awkwardly die there, but a few will ask why I took the semester off and that is hard for me to share- especially with strangers. I love to tell of what God has done in my life, yes. But… I’m also ashamed that I’ve taken a different path than I intended.

And that’s hard.

But it dawns on me that if I had somehow finished my sophomore year, everything would be different. I would have, for a while, avoided the fracture of my own facade. I would’ve kept clinging to my social and athletic status as the markers of my worth. Oh how sweet it is that I fell and began to see the grace of God. As the Psalmist David once sang to the Lord: “Better is one day in Your courts than a thousand elsewhere (Psalm 84:10).”

I’d rather be in the presence and freedom of the Lord– no matter how embarrassing or difficult the route–  than cruising down the highway in my own broken direction. Where I wanted to keep suffering, God wanted to heal. That medical leave was the first step in my healing.

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So the moral of the story is this: God works amazing things when it seems like the world is falling apart. I am, right now, healthy and pursuing 100% freedom. I’ve never experienced life to the extent that I am right now, and I will never forget the grace God showed when He pulled me out of school and began my healing. That’s our God!

If you’re in a hard place right now: Cling to the promises of the Lord. He will never leave you and He is always working for your eternal good and His glory. And friends, never forget to recognize the Lord’s goodness when it smacks you in the face! It might be months or years down the road, but you will reach a place where your heart is overflowing with gratitude for the same trials that gutted all you were. In the meantime: Journal, write and pray. Keep record of it all, so you can reflect back and see God’s love for you through these stages in life.

I want to end with this:

January 17, 2015
I thought I’d be back at school by now, back at Butler and thriving at the start of my fourth semester in college.  But that’s not at all what has happened and I’ve made the difficult decision to take the semester off so I can focus on my recovery and truly get free from anorexia.  I never anticipated this becoming my journey.  Yet, I know that God can bring healing from all circumstances and to all people—even me. 
It’s tough because today is Stephanie’s birthday and I feel like I was the worst roommate ever….part of me wonders how (and why) she put up with me for as long as she did. 
That’s not why I’m writing tonight though.  Lord, I am really struggling this evening.  I am having such a hard time letting go… I want to obey you but I  am so torn by the lies and temptations of the devil… A part of me still desires the skin and bones that anorexia provided. The control. But I know that in order to be the confident and free Hannah, the one who can live life and run with Your joy, I have to let go of that control.  I am going to be hurt, taken advantage of and probably abandoned.  But You, Oh God, will never leave or forsake me… I need not be afraid of what others can do to me because You are my rock. Help me to see myself as beautiful, but even when I can’t yet see that: Let me fix my eyes on You and trust that You are in this and I will never regret choosing You.”


God always redeems.





Sometimes I get crazy-discouraged.

Sometimes I get so frustrated at the world (or myself) that sit in my squalor and I let the negativity wash over me: “You aren’t good enough.  You’ll never have friends.  You will never find love.  You are such a loser.  No one likes spending time with you.”

And I attempt to shut it out, to evade reality and slip into the presence of the Lord.  It is there that I am unbridled by fear and sin and pride.  It is there that I am refreshed and renewed.

See, I wanted to write a post today about discouragement.  So here I am.  And it’s not sounding at all like I thought it would.  As a Christian, it is so incredibly easy to belittle the feeling of discouragement.  I mean, people around the world are sick and dying and being murdered. Here? “Well, I’m pretty safe and secure, but I do feel pretty bummed out.”  See how that sounds? It’s safe to say that a lot of us bottle up those feelings and give up on achieving godly confidence.

But I want to share something with you that the Lord showed me today: Having peace is not the same as giving up.  It’s radically different, and radically better! The Bible tells us to surrender to Christ, but never to the pressures of this world. That means drawing near to the Prince of Peace who is greater than any pressure or pain of the world around us.

It’s easier said than done, but you can begin to have peace over your situation with small steps. When you feel the sadness crashing over you, rebuke it in the name of God. Speak scripture to yourself. Remind yourself (out loud!) that you have peace in Christ, and because He is Lord over your life, you don’t need to worry about the outcome of your situation. He is for you!

The Creator and God of the universe deeply loves you.  And as wise old David said: He is our helper (Psalm 12:10) and our deliverer (Psalm 18:2). Let that knowledge drive you toward the cross and away from discouragement. 

In every area of my life, I’ve seen that the Lord is faithful. But that doesn’t mean I remember it all the time. Reading scripture; praying with other believers and singing songs of praise, are all great reminders. The Lord your God is for you, my friend. So do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged (Joshua 1:9). He brings joy and renewal to the weary, and He will lead you through whatever discouragement you may be going through right now.



A Courageous 2017: Courage to Choose God when Life Gets Busy!

Hello lovely readers! Sorry I’ve abandoned you the past two months. I feel mildly bad about that, but then I remember that most of you have probably been just as busy as I’ve been. And that’s what I want to talk about today: Busyness, and it’s BFF, stress.

This summer has been a whirlwind so far, with two (three-ish) jobs that leave little time for my other endeavors such as sleep, food and occasional interaction with other human beings. To make matters worse, I’m incredibly indecisive. So when I get home, I vacillate between napping, reading and hanging with my family. I can’t decide what to do, and I feel guilt no matter what I choose, because I know I’m missing something!

I know, I know. Those of you 25+ are probably snickering right now. This, this stress and busyness and missing out on things, is adulthood.

But I, at the ripe old age of twenty-two, am very bad at handling this. For starters, I’ve been learning the important difference between self-care and lack of self control.

When I’m covered in kid snot and the sweat of a twelve hour day, the last thing I want to do, many nights, is read my Bible. This has been an honest struggle for me lately! And there’s a fine line between giving myself grace, and being lax in my time with the Lord.

But, after a month of experience, here’s what I can tell you:

  1. Choosing to dawdle on your phone instead of maximizing time, will bite you in the butt.

  2. You will feel & function better on the days you spend QUALITY time with God.

  3. Sometimes, you’ll need to sleep instead. And that’s okay. God loves to give us rest!

  4. The busier you are, the more appealing the world seems.

  5. You can spend time with God anywhere and everywhere you go- for real!

Prioritizing faith during stressful seasons of life, is difficult. In fact, I’ve done a pretty crappy job of it lately. But His Word says there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. So what do we do? We run our race with endurance. That means memorizing Bible verses while waiting for meetings, and turning off the TV fifteen minutes earlier. It means giving ourselves grace when we mess up, and receiving the Lord’s forgiveness that never fails.


Guys, I’m far from an expert on this. But I want you to know that if you’re in a similar boat right now, take a deep breath! God is right there with you in the stress, and He seeks to teach you something in this season. Don’t miss out on it. Press in and keep that Bible opened. I promise you, His Kingdom has a lot more to offer than this world.


Ps. I will be blogging more often now that I’ve gotten in a better routine. So hang tight for some encouraging posts, devotionals, running route reviews and more! 🙂

Lazarus’ Hope

It wasn’t even light out yet, but he gingerly grabbed his tunic and tiptoed from the house. Lazarus was eager to see Jesus, eager to experience the day. Besides, his sisters had all but hovered over him since the previous morning. He chuckled just thinking of it, their faces when he’d walked out of that grave. It was like some marvelous dream.

Lazarus walked among the tall trees, enjoying the breeze that whistled through the branches, through his hair. He was breathing in the beauty of it all when Aaron came sprinting up the hillside. “Lazarus!” He yelled in a panicky voice, striding to Lazarus’ side. Not stopping to catch his breathe, Aaron grasped his friend by the shoulders. “You must flee, my friend! I came as straight as I heard the rumors! They…they want to execute you!” Lazarus gave him a sharp look. “They?” “Yes,” Aaron gasped: “The chief priests! They’ve got their minds set on it. Oh Lazarus, you must escape!” Having delivered the news, Aaron stared into his neighbor’s eyes. How peculiar. Lazarus didn’t look upset. He didn’t look terrified. In fact, he looked pretty darn relaxed. “What’s the matter with you?! Didn’t you my news?” Aaron asked. And Lazarus began to laugh. Laugh of all things! “Aaron, didn’t you hear my news? I was dead. Rotting in the tomb for four days, and then Jesus came and raised me back to life. I can’t see how this is all that frightening.” He beckoned to Aaron with a smile, “Come along. I’m going to see Jesus.”

The men found the Savior at the water’s edge, watching the sunrise. Orchestrating it into being. “Rabbi,” Lazarus called. Jesus turned and embraced Lazarus. “My friend, how is the new day treating you?” The three men chatted as the world around them morphed into day. “Come with me,” Jesus then said. “Let us go into the city. I’m in need of a small donkey.”

“Oh how beautiful it was,” Mary related to her aunt over supper. “Wasn’t it, Lazarus?” Her brother nodded emphatically, wondering how many had come to worship Jesus on that morning. Right, well it was nearly a week past that day and the palm branches had long since been cleaned from the streets. But was Lazarus the only one who noticed the subtle change in the atmosphere? The lengthy meetings and closed doors. What were the chief priests up to? Interrupting his thoughts, Martha walked in with a jar of fresh water, setting it carefully by the door. “Jesus is gathering the twelve in a house near the garden tonight,” she said with haste. “I saw them on my way back from the well. Something is going on, something truly is going on. His face was stricken with such pain, I hardly recognized him.” The instant the word escaped her mouth, Aaron darted through the door, once again looking gravely concerned. Mary caught the glint of a tear in his eye. “They are going to crucify Him,” he declared, his voice breaking. “The crowds are already stirring, and I’ve heard whispers that they paid Judas off to do it!” His eyes search those of his friends, longing for some hope. Something. But the women all looked aghast, tears welling in their eyes. Lazarus had heard the Messiah speak of this moment, just like the others had. But now that it was staring him in the face, Lazarus didn’t know what to do. Yet, he knew he had to be there.

The fire created an eerie shadow on the courtyard walls, and Lazarus grimaced as he stood in the cold black night. It had taken him far too long to reach Jesus, and now he had to listen in agony as they jested and judged Him. On his walk, Lazarus had given a lot of thought to this turn of events, trying to reconcile the goodness of his Messiah and the hatred that was laid upon Him. How could they despise the Man who had given Lazarus a chance to truly live?

The question haunted him, lodging itself in his brain as the night when on and he followed Jesus from one trial to the next. Before he knew it, the sun was rising and the people were declaring “Give us Barabbas!” And their vile spit flew through the air, as Jesus looked out at the crowd. And Lazarus’ heart burst at the sight of his Savior, whose flesh was shredded and seeping with blood. Oh, but if Lazarus had known what was coming. If he would have known how bad it would get. The way they would beat Jesus beyond recognition, the way His eyes would radiate love even as they stripped Him bare as an animal for the world to see. And then, watching the Savior of the world stumble up the hill, Lazarus crumbled to the ground. The weight of sin crushed his very being as he saw the grace of the Lord. And Lazarus wept.

Somehow, Lazarus  kept breathing that day. It was as if his body was dying with Jesus. Dying with the One who had brought him back to life. But he pulled his weeping sisters from Golgotha and kept breathing. Once they were home, he tried to sleep. But it was fruitless. His mind continued to recollect the events of the past day. And he kept remembering how different life was just over a week ago. Or rather, how different non-life was.

That’s when Lazarus realize that in his grief, in his love for Jesus, he had forgotten who Jesus really was. Jesus was the Messiah! He was the One who walked into Lazarus’ dark grave and emerged with life. And as sleep gradually overtook him, Lazarus reached the end of his tears. His heart calmed and his mind went back to that day when his eyes fluttered open and saw the passion of Jesus, his healer. Yes, Jesus had done this before. He had walked into the dark grave and emerged with life. Surely, he could do it again.


Why end the story here? Why stop when the resurrection is the climax of the story? Well, I really wanted to focus on Lazarus, and how his life fit into Jesus’ crucifixion. As the book of John recounts, Lazarus was raised from the dead by Jesus, which acted as the catalyst for His crucification. The chief priests and Pharisees began to plot Jesus’ death, as well as Lazarus’. And this really caused me to wonder how Lazarus reacted and felt during Jesus’ trials and death. Many aspects of this account are fictionalized, but we do know that Lazarus was with Jesus in the week leading up to His death and that Lazarus was close friends with Jesus. Hopefully this gives you further insight into the love of Jesus and the faith of His followers. 


A Courageous 2017: Can we stop planning for the next disaster?

Last week, I received news of a great opportunity! It was something I’d applied for, however I’d mostly forgotten about it because I thought my chances were slim. And I certainly didn’t want to get my hopes up for nothing. Anyway, I got the news and was instantly thrilled!

It wasn’t until that evening that the fear set it. “This is my second big break already this year,” I divulged to God. The lights were out, my alarm clock was set, and I was suddenly having trouble sleeping. “Oh man,” I moaned- no longer talking to God- “That means I’m about to hit a storm again soon….”

About to fall.

See, I’ve lived a privileged life, but it’s far from smooth. If you’ve read my blog at all, you know I’ve wrestled with a lot of stuff, stuff that God has graciously used to grow my faith. That being said: It hasn’t exactly been “enjoyable.” And after each difficult season, I’ve grown a little more accustomed to living in the storm. There’s a routine to it all: Grab the Bible, batten down the hatches and brace for impact.

P.C- http://www.ledfordservices.com

However, the storm shelter is no place to live. As a competitive runner, I’ve learned that it’s easy to hide behind circumstance or injury, use them to avoid getting exposed in a race. But what good is the training, if your results are hindered by fear. And what good are the blessings of God, if our enjoyment is hindered by fear?

Knowing that (and still feeling terrified), I let myself sit with it. And I asked: “What if tomorrow comes, and I’m ordered into a battle again? What if I break my expensive computer or get another stress fracture or have a family member die? Part of me thinks I’d be more at ease of one of those random bad things happened. The storm shelter, though stifling, is a place I know well. And when things are going bad enough, there’s a sense of safety knowing it can’t get much worse.

But life isn’t meant to be lived in the storm shelter, and I have grown weary of fearful living. Weary enough to change? I don’t know, but I hope so. I’ve written about this topic before, and I’ve seen personal growth, but it’s still such a hard area for me! And as I sat pondering my fear, I realized that I’d just finished rereading the book of Job. Seriously: What a trooper! Albeit imperfectly, Job walked through gut-wrenching disaster and gave glory to God. But what about afterward? Do you think he was in fear that God would allow his earthly treasures to be stripped away again? I wonder if he was afraid of receiving the good things, just like me.

Life isn’t meant to be lived in the storm shelter

Whether or not he was, I can’t be sure. But I can see that his interaction with the Lord showed a great level of humility. After his great trial, Job knew that God was both powerful and good. Maybe, just maybe, that released him to peace.

And maybe, just maybe, that realization can liberate us as well. For, as Job learned: God can use every circumstance to draw us nearer to Him. To bring good. So whether success or heartache, life or death, come our way: It will be good and He will be with us. And what then, is there to fear?

Can we dare to breathe in the raw joy of success, relax in it a little and thank God by enjoying His blessings? Surely such an action takes practice, and time, but I encourage you to begin making headway. I encourage you to trust Him enough to let your guard down and stop planning for the next disaster. He will be with you then, just as He is now.

Job 19:25- I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand on the earth.

He wins in the end, guys. He wins and we conquer with Him. And knocks the wind right out of fear; fear of what will or will not happen, doesn’t really matter in light of His majesty. How crazy awesome is that?!