22 things I learned in 2016, my 21st year of life

I’m not sure how to preface a post such as this.  Let’s face it: The more time we spend on earth, the more we realize we don’t really know.  Enjoy this sporadic list of things I didn’t know/know very well until this past year.  I’m turning 22 in a few weeks, so I kept the list to 22 things.  Enjoy! And comment below if you can relate or have wisdom to share.

  1. You can’t put foil in the microwave.
  2. You can choose to have joy even when life isn’t pure bliss.  That doesn’t mean you are are okay with it.
  3. It is possible to truly love a body that isn’t what society (or the running world) deems perfect.
  4. When you “grow up,” your siblings become an incredible nuisance, your best friends or both 🙂
  5. If you shut friends out when you are hurting, it denies you both one of the most beautiful aspects of friendship: Bonding through adversity.
  6. You will rarely regret spending a few hours to read a book.  You will, on the other hand, regret spending a few hours, watching mindless television on Netflix.
  7. To be twenty-one and never have been kissed is not something to be embarrassed about.  It is something my future husband will highly value.
  8. Going off #7: I don’t need to find that dude!  Seriously, I obsessed over that for so long.  It was so distracting and anxiety provoking.  Instead, I can make the decision to redirect my heart.  I can cling to the Lord and enjoy this season of my life!
  9. Going off #8: The aforementioned statement is not always easy.  Actually, it can be really hard.  And that’s okay.  That’s human.
  10. When running is stripped away: I do not crumble.  This was such a difficult year for me with injuries, but each one drew me nearer to the Lord, further breaking the tie between running and my worth.  With every injury, I found greater peace and contentment.
  11.  I am slightly allergic to cats.
  12. I actually don’t hate cats.  But I’ll never get one.
  13. (I learned) How to change spark-plugs in a car.
  14. Jennifer Aniston and Sandra Bullock are not the same person.  That sounds incredibly stupid to say, but I had no clue.
  15. I learned that an orange is called an orange because it’s orange.  It makes sense now, but I never connected the two.
  16. Being a semi-adult is stressful and expensive.  But Jesus always provides.
  17. Tracking the prophetical words/pictures the Lord gives, is a fantastic way to see His faithfulness over time.  I started a Prophetical Journal this year! Woo!
  18. You can always find a gift on Amazon.com. You might waste three hours looking for the perfect one, but it’s there.
  19. (I learned) How to make my mom’s amazing vegetable soup!  Now I’m kinda-sorta a cook.
  20. Brokenness is not to be despised, but cherished.  Jesus was broken for us, and through His brokenness came the redemption of humanity.
  21. Going out to eat with friends is fun.  After years of anorexia, it is still a bit scary, but it gets easier and more enjoyable every time.  And it’s absolutely worth it.
  22. The Lord has me right where I need to be.

 

Love,

Hannah

 

 

A Courageous 2017

Everyone goes somewhere when they are afraid.  When I was little, it was the depths of my walk in closet.  Outfitted with pillows, blankets and candy; it felt more like today’s tiny houses on HGTV.  And in that tiny house, I could shut out everything that brought tears to my eyes.  At least, that’s what I thought.  But even my rope-pulley candy system wasn’t enough to hold back the floodgates of divorce and death in my family.  So the doors of my closet, and my heart, became increasingly closed.

I started this blog back in 2013 with the goal of documenting all blessings the Lord has given me.  However, it has grown into a project of spiritual growth like I’d never expected.  Amidst the articles about running and travel, I weaved in yearly-themes that the Lord highlighted for me.  After a Grateful 2013, I was led to pursue a Presence Filled 2014.  I wanted more of God and less of me.  With His presence giving me strength, I endured through the most difficult and rewarding year of my life.  So when 2015 rolled around, I felt a resounding urge to declare it the year of Freedom. In all honesty, when I reflect back on that initial proclamation, I laugh at my own naivety.  Did I really think the freedom would come without cost?  Without pain?  Without sacrifice?

I learned that year that freedom requires all those things, and I wasn’t always willing to give them.  As the year rolled on- and I rolled out excuses- I began to hate my chains more and more.  And freedom came in blissful shards of brokenness, as my facade dripped away.  So much so, that I was awestruck by the faithfulness of the Lord- which then became my driving theme for 2016.  I saw it as my chance to draw nearer to Him and break from the last of the chains that had held me.

So why then, am I not completely free?  Why do tendrils of the control and perfectionism still choke the very breath I long to give the Lord?  I chalked it up to laziness, not wanting to put forth the effort.  But as I prayed this past week, I came to the realization that laziness has nothing to do with it.  It’s fear.  Just like a six year-old hiding in the corner, I am closing my own doors because I am so afraid.

I was deliberating between a handful of words for this year, but God kept bringing me back to this one.  “But Lord,” I said, “I really feel like this is the year of pursuing you, of throwing off everything else and search of greater intimacy with you.”  He responded: “And what do you need to throw off?”

Fear.

Fear of losing control.  Fear of what people think.  Fear of dying along.  Fear of not being beautiful.  Fear of being too much, and yet: Not enough.

It has entrenched itself into every facet of my life, and I’m just not cool with that anymore.  What’s more: Neither is the King.  So this is my year of throwing off fear and grabbing ahold of courage.  A year of running whole-heartedly towards Christ.  I invite you to join me as we dare to live out a year of courage and conviction, for the cause of Christ.

image-1Love,

Hannah

 

 

New Year’s resolutions we can all get behind

  1. Eat more chocolate. 
    Why yes, I can do that. I accept the challenge. Chocolate chips, chocolate protein bars, chocolate pancakes…..
  2. Google more questions. 
    You know that feeling when you’re in the middle of something and a strange query pops into your head? And you want to search the answer, but you tell yourself “later,” and end up forgetting. In 2017:  You have permission to stop whatever you’re doing and satisfy that strange curiosity. “What is a pumelo?” “How long does a capybara live?” The questions must be answered!
  3. Buy an ornament for the special moments this year
    Vacations, gatherings and achievements deserve an ornament of their own. Don’t forget about that just because it’s July and you’re hiking the Appalachian Trail. TIP: Key chains make excellent ornaments.
  4.  Play on more playgrounds. 
    “I’m an adult” is NOT a valid excuse for refusing to go on a swing set. That’s silliness! Did you suddenly stop liking playgrounds because you turned 18? Heck no!
  5. Wear onesie pajamas more often!
    What is more fun and comfy than the heavenly-ordained matchup of pajama and slipper?  And why have we, as adults, abandoned the onesie when it offers nothing but warmth and love? I declare 2017 the year of onesie.  Follow me if you want to have an awesome year.
  6. Throw away that ugly _____ from grandma.
    Yes, that _______ (doll, painting, sculpture, etc.) is from your great aunt or your great grandma. But you have held on to way too much of that stuff because you feel to guilty about throwing it! Here’s an idea: Take a picture of the less important childhood/old stuff and throw it out! Great Aunt Tina’s memory is what’s important, not the creepy clown doll she gave you for your 5th birthday.
  7. Buy a good pair of jeans.
    Seriously: Find a pair of jeans that make you feel positive and pretty.  Find a pair of jeans that make you feel like a supermodel, and wear-the-heck out of them this year.

Two years, two days and an ocean of gratitude

 

I don’t talk about anorexia very much anymore.  And I don’t think about it as much, either.  But this time of year, I cannot help but come to a freezing halt.  In the midst of the holiday joy and peaceful silent nights, I feel a broken ache rise from deep within me, and an incredible gratitude for the daily moments I now enjoy.  The frosty windowpanes, the dark nights, the warm tea by the fireplace; it gives me perspective, reminding me how far the Lord has brought me from Christmastimes before.

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On December 26, 2014, I begrudgingly scraped off my car windows in the dark and headed to The Center for Balanced Living, to start the partial hospitalization program for anorexia nervosa.  Even as I write this, I can feel my own terror– and shame– on that dark morning.  I’d argued with my my parents about it, begged them to let me wait.  But, thankfully, they hadn’t obliged.  Thankfully, December 26 was the day I began to finally let go (RELATED: Let’s Talk About Eating Disorders).

It was all a blur at first: The names, the schedule, the skills.  But by the second week, I was cautiously advancing, letting the Lord take over.  And I remember New Year’s Day.  After lunch, we all bundled up and went outside.  We walked through the woods and into a clearing.  We stood in the silence, and the reverberating beauty of nature muffled the fear in my heart.  “This,” Dr. Hill said, “is the start of a new year for you.  Let this be your best year yet.”  In that moment, her words were far from cliché.  They resonated with me, like flickering avenues of light in my heart.  Before that Christmas, I had little hope that my life would ever be marked by freedom.  I had faint recollections of such a reality, but I was merely a child.  I hadn’t a clue how to function without an eating disorder, without the barriers of control.

So in that moment, I whispered what little hope I had, and I offered it to God.  And I closed my eyes.  I promised I’d never forget that moment.  And I haven’t.  In memory of that Hannah, I keep December 26 as my own little holiday.  Like the Israelites claiming the Promised Land, I have set up this memorial stone so I do not forget the radical goodness of the Lord.

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As soon as we wave goodbye to Christmas, conversations have already turned to losing weight and eating healthy and all kinds of resolutions for 2017.  Frankly, I hate it.  At the same time though: I get it.  I understand that glimmer of hope that we can somehow reach these enormous goals with a little New Year’s magic.  We get so focused on the future and its endless opportunities, that we forget to look back for perspective.

We have to look back to move forward.  Otherwise, we get so doggedly focused on the next steps that we miss the memorial stones.  We miss the chances to glorify the Lord for the steps we have already taken.  This year, I challenge you to let God decide what resolutions and goals you should strive to reach. As I found out multiple years in a row- there’s little point in setting goals on your own.  They turn out to be the wrong goals or too difficult to stick to without the Lord (RELATED: The timeline of God’s goodness in your life).  So why not let Him direct you in the first place?  When I finally surrendered my goals of control and seclusion, I heard His whisper of freedom on that chilly New Year’s Day.

img_6655I share my story with this encouragement: Remember what the Lord has done.  Remember the pain and sorrow He has carried you through, the joy and blessing He has showered upon you.  Remember the ways He has brought you nearer to His side.  And with that in mind: Ask Him how He wants you to approach the new year.  One year, one memorial stone at a time: We will grow in gratitude and godliness and we will be more awestruck than ever before.

(RELATED: An Awestruck 2016).

Love,

Hannah


 

 

 

Gratitude in all things

It’s almost Thanksgiving and lately, that spirit of gratitude is shining forth everywhere you look!  The average American is excitedly breaking out his (or her) winter coat for this first time.  He’s thrilled with the presidential election results- although he wishes both candidates could be in office, they’re so great.  As far as he can tell, America is getting along swimmingly!  So much so, that he recently canceled his Netflix subscription because, why spend so much time in the world of sitcoms when there are beautiful people to meet and awesome conferences at work he wants to attend…ok…catch my sarcasm?

img_6495The truth is, for a country that’s only four days away from Thanksgiving, we seem awfully preoccupied with negative news and Christmas shopping and complaining about the weather.  In reality, I’m probably the worst offender when it comes to weather complaints… (but I live in the midwest, so can you really blame me?)  Apart from that, I feel like I’m a generally grateful person.  That’s why, the past few weeks, I’ve had the worst time deciding what to write for my next blog post.  Every Thanksgiving-focused idea I thought of was redundant and overdone.  Besides, I reckoned there really wasn’t much to this “thankfulness” stuff.  What’s a girl to say other than “think about all your blessings and enjoy the turkey!”

Then, I got my answer.

Last week, the chronic tightness in my calf became worse and my opposite foot began to ache as well.  That made for some painful runs and a heck-of-a-lot of rehab and ice cupping.  Suddenly, thrown off of equilibrium.  And I was cranky to say the least!  In that irritation and pain, I realized that I wasn’t as much of an expert on gratitude as I would like to think.

The Bible says we are to “Count it all joy” when we face trials of various kinds  (James 1:2).”  And my buddy Paul says we should rejoice in our trials because trials are used to deepen our faith and test our character (Romans 5:3).  Well, that’s great.  It sounds super spiritual and exciting.  But I think many of us have missed the message here.

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How many of us can truly say we are joyful when life doesn’t go our way?  Hardly!  We’re typically angry and bitter and self-absorbed.  All in all,  we tend to substitute “joy” for “tolerance.”  That illness?  We’ll get through it.  The job loss?  Just grit your teeth and start interviewing.  Yes, we tolerate our trials.  Why?  Because we’re pretty sure the awful times can’t last forever if we just put our head down and march on.

But is that really faith?  Is that really gratitude?

To enter into real grateful, we must look from an eternal perspective.  See, when we choose gratitude, we’re essentially saying: “Come what may, the Lord will use this to draw me nearer to Him.”  With that mindset, whether the outcome is what we would like or not, we cannot lose.  In the words of Ryan Hall: “If we have thankful hearts, we are untouchable.”

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So what does gratitude in trial look like?  It’s teary smiles and journaled prayers.  Gratitude during trial is getting down on our knees, proclaiming the Lord’s  faithfulness to our own doubting ears.  It doesn’t mean we have to love what we are going through, but we can genuinely love the outcome it will bring.  And we are assured, as followers of Christ, that it will be good!  Like a mother enduring the birth of a child, we can confidently say “this is worth it!”

Before you revel in the goodness of family and food this holiday, is there something you need to release to the Lord?  Is there a trial you are merely tolerating?  I know there was for me.  But instead of burying the fear under other gratitudes, we can proclaim joy over every aspect of life.  For God is in everything.  And God is oh so good, friends.  If you’re like me, it’ll take frequent effort on your part.  But as we embrace the joys of tribulation, we will reap more and more of the spiritual harvest.  No wonder Paul said what he did!  Trial produces friction in our lives, spurring us on in faith.  So with tears and pain and brokenness: Let us give thanks for ALL things.

Love,

Hannah

Hope for the Mediocre Ones

Ninety-nine percent of the world lives in a state of, to be blunt: mediocrity.  We are in the bad-but-not-worst and good-but-not-best kind of land.  Because, let’s face it: There is always someone faster, smarter, taller and wealthier.  There is always someone more muscular, more accomplished and more advanced. And while little Joey once thought he was the best soccer player in the world, somewhere along the way, he was informed that his chances of playing in the World Cup were slim to none.

For the Ronaldos and Beckhams, crushing inadequacy is suspended for the short term and dreams come true. But where does that leave the rest of us?  We, the teachers and accountants and writers and salespeople.  How do we deal with the feeling of being “not enough?” Oh, we train and we try. We cheat and we lie. Sometimes we settle and sometimes we give up. All in all: We adjust our goals and carry on. I’d argue that, done in a healthy way, there’s nothing wrong with that. But the tendency is either to go all in to achieve what we think we “should” or check out and coast through life on money, good grades, good looks and our own control and satisfaction.

Here’s a refreshing thought: There’s one area where you and I aren’t inadequate. One area where we are on equal playing ground with Stephen Hawking, Michael Phelps and Kate Middleton.

Here it is: We are maximumly loved by God!

The Bible says that God showed His love for us by sending His son to die for sinful humanity  (Romans 5:8).  Because of that love, we are no longer under the law, but under grace (Romans 6), and that means that nothing we do or don’t do can change the way the Lord so deeply treasures us.  See, it’s not about us.  Not at all.  But God, being who He is, desires to bless us and love us and restore us to the unity that sin so stealthily strangled from our grasp.  The Word says the Lord is in your midst and rejoicing over you (Zephaniah 3:17).  He is not partial, no matter who you are what success you have, or haven’t, found in life (Job 34:19).  How seriously awesome is that?  And how difficult to truly grasp in our finite minds.  For all we know is conditional love, it has ingrained itself into our brains and become the definition of love.

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But what if you didn’t have to be good enough?  What if your talents and mediocrities and failures all painted a picture of a glorious Savior who can- and will- be magnified through your life?  Friends, that’s the truth!

Did you ever read the story about Punchinello? As Max Lucado tells it, Punchinello lived in a village with other small wooden people, the Wemmicks.  Each one was different with different talents.  But poor Punchinello felt that he had no gift, no worth.  Finally, he meets Eli the woodmaker and he comes to realize that he is special after all.  The reason isn’t because he is talented or good-looking, but because the woodmaker who created him, says so.  “You are mine,” he tells Punchinello. “That’s why you matter to me.” (Read an online version of the story HERE)

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Woah.  Kinda deep for a kids book, don’t you think?  It used to be my favorite as a child, and maybe that’s because I felt liberated by the notion that I didn’t have to live up to perfection’s standards that pressed in on me from every side.  The same is true for you.

So while it may be hard to hold onto in the midst of financial crises and exams and the struggles of this life, remember today that You are in the hands of a mighty Creator who treasures every bit of who you are.  He is working in us to make us into the men and women who will be most satisfied in Him.  That may or may not mean you’ll get that award/promotion/record/first place.  But in all things: Your worth is secure and His love for you will never change.  Ever.

Love,

Hannah