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.”

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God always redeems.

Love,

Hannah

 

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Discouragement

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.

Love,

Hannah

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.

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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.

Love,
Hannah

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. 

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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.

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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?!

Love,

Hannah

Dear Younger Me,

Dear Younger Me,
You’re huddled in your closet, gripping your stuffed bunny rabbit, trying to tune out the world. You have no clue what is going on or what’s to come. And for the latter, I am glad.

Dear younger me, you want to be so strong. You detest the brokenness that’s seeping out from your little heart. But I want you to know it’s okay to be broken. And it’s okay to admit you’re scared and need a hug. A seven-year-old is never meant to carry the weight of perfection. No human on earth can bear that boulder.

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Dear younger me, middle school is a train wreck for a lot of people. You aren’t the only one trying to discern who you are, while simultaneously spending all your money on Hollister sweatshirts. But what’s branded across on your chest isn’t nearly as important as what’s branded on your heart. And you, child, have a beautiful heart, washed by the blood of the Lamb. So when those girls tell you, you can’t sit with them, it doesn’t mean a thing about who you are. And when families fracture to the third degree and you’re left scrambling to pick up the pieces, I want you to know: It’s not your job to fix it all.

Dear younger me, I want you to know that as scary as it is, letting the world see your imperfection is a stunning strength. Because Friday nights aren’t supposed to be spent doing crunches and crying alone. They’re meant to be lived, with friends, with Jesus, with transparency. You don’t have to spend years in the cage of anorexia and anxiety. And Hannah, you don’t want to. It’ll break your heart.

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Dear younger me, you’re huddled in your closet, gripping your chest and trying to stifle the agony that comes in waves. Because a smile only hides so much. Because you hate your body. You hate what you’ve done and you hate where you’re going. I know. I also know that someday, you won’t grimace at the thought of eating a bagel. Someday, you’ll remember the mean words that high school girls said about your body, and they will no longer make you bitter. There is a Light. You may have to go through hospitals and therapists and failure to get there, but the good Lord will carry you through.  Your heart rate will rise, and so will your weight. And you’ll start to breathe again.

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Oh younger me, I wish I could save you from the pain that’s coming your way. I wish with all my heart. And yet, I know that the pain and the heartache will stack, moment by moment, to form the foundation upon which you will stand. And with Christ as the Cornerstone, you will emerge and it will be the sweetest freedom you’ve ever tasted. You’ll run and eat and explore the world, and fear will have no dominion over you.  In fact, the most bizarre thing will happen. There will be frequent occasions in which you’ll be doing something monotonous- silly, even- and you’ll suddenly be overwhelmed by tears. You’ll excuse yourself from the church service or classroom or wherever you started making a scene, and you’ll find somewhere private. And there, you’ll let you heart burst within you. You’ll cry for the little girl who once thought she could carry it all, and you’ll cry in disbelief at the goodness of the Lord. You’ll cry because you didn’t deserve it, but somehow: Life has found you.

As my man Clive (C.S Lewis) once said, “there are far greater things ahead than any we leave behind.” So let the tears dry and the dust settle, and then: Fight on. Younger me, you and I are not those who shrink back into perdition, but those who persevere to saving of our soul (Hebrews 10:39). And as you persevere, you’re going to realize: It’s all been worth it.

Love,

(Older) Hannah

Getting saturated with Scripture

Last night, we were talking at Athletes in Action about how we can let the Word of God truly impact our lives today. Now, my little disclaimer is that I’m far from perfect.  Sometimes my time in the Bible isn’t the quality or quantity I’d like it to be. But we are all imperfectly striving for more of Jesus, and some of you can probably relate. I’m betting I’m not the only one who tends to value worldly junk over the Bible at times.

See, we humans are a lot like clay (Fun fact: Jesus was using that metaphor long before I thought of it. Just check out Isaiah 64:8). We conform to the environment we are in. So if we are living it up with vulgar movies, disrespectful friends and hateful co-workers, we will easily get pulled into likeminded behaviors. While we’re able to control some of those external factors, we can’t control them all. So we must counteract them! The best way to do so is to get the Word of God deeply rooted in us so that we conform to His will instead of the will of the world or ourselves. So ,without further ado, here are five quick ways to live a more Scripture-focused life:

1. Just read it!

This is the simplest way to become more like Christ, but it’s not always the easiest. The Bible is far more valuable than any Bible study or commentary, but it is easy to let it collect dust if we set our priorities on homework and friends and television, just name your vice. So try to establish a morning or bedtime routine that includes some time in the Word. And the more you read it, the more you will want to read it. That’s my money back guarantee!

2. Memorize scripture (Scripture Typer App)

imgres.jpgMemorizing scripture is so incredibly rewarding! It may seem daunting, but trust me: Your mind will soak it up once you get going. You can opt for the old-fashioned method of using notecards, or you can go hi-tech and use a phone app. I find both helpful, but have really benefitted form the FRE
Scripture Typer App, as of late. It’s free and fun, and allows you to practice scripture in those small breaks throughout the day.

3. Sing it

This might not appeal to everyone, but I believe we were created to worship, so it is beneficial for everyone. That’s why I’m willing to look like a fool cycling to class while singing every day. Whether it’s singing straight scripture- which I love- or singing Christian songs, singing is a proven way to absorb truths. And in case you didn’t know: The Psalms were written as songs. I like to sing the Psalms especially, trying to discern how David might have written them to sound. So, in a sense, I’m singing with David to the Lord. Pretty cool, right? Also, if you’re into Spotify: I’ve got a stellar playlist of hymns, so you should check that out HERE.

4. Make it the wallpaper on your phone

Here you go, this is a super quick way to bring the Bible to your attention throughout the day. Set a scripture as the background on your phone and/or computer. Once you’ve either memorized it or started to ignore it, change it to a new picture! I’ve also set my computer’s “idle” screen to a passage of scripture, which is really fun when I’m in the front of class and my computer goes to sleep. Everyone gets to read the verse! It’s a win win!

5. Use scripture as the password for online logins

My dad first gave me this idea when I started at Butler and the annoying security system began forcing me to change my password every six months. He suggested I start using scripture verses that I’m memorizing. It meets the weird character requirements (unless you choose a short-titled book like Acts) and is an awesome way to memorize a verse!

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There are just a few quick ideas that came to my head, but I want to know: What do you find effective in keeping the Word of God central in your life or memorizing it? Comment below so we can benefit from your wisdom! Together: Let’s be a people who pursue the Lord, unrelenting and steadfast. Let’s love the Word.

Love,

Hannah

(Scroll down for some neat scripture wallpapers)

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