Daily Devotional: The Woman at the Well

On most days, I delve into the Scriptures in some form. Sometimes, I follow a devotional from shereadstruth.com; other times I just pick passages from the Bible to read. On certain days, the passages really speak to me, or I find them pertinent to my life right now. When those passages come up, I usually journal and reflect about it, but then I thought, why don’t I share my thoughts with you all? Perhaps you would like to read these verses and reflect on them as well.

Currently, I am gearing up to go to Royal Family Kids Camp, a camp for abused and neglected foster children. In order to prepare my heart for the week, I am praying through the Bible verses that will with shared with the kids at camp. The passage that spoke to me recently was the Woman at the Well/ The Samaritan Woman. If you aren’t familiar with that story, it can be found in John 4: 4-42. After reading these verses, I had three main takeaways that can help me grow closer to God, as well as help my campers get to know God.

Jesus Breaks Stereotypes

Jesus amazes me because he spread the Gospel to anyone–from lepers, to adulterers, to women. He knew the people who needed his love the most, and he didn’t let anyone stop him from doing that, even if it was outside the cultural norms of the time. In this case, Jesus talks to a Samaritan woman. One, most Jews wanted nothing to do with Samaritans (why, I’m not quite sure). Two, during this era, most men didn’t speak to women, especially not in public. The fact that Jesus took time to have a genuine conversation with this woman demonstrates how his love has no boundaries. He wants everyone to believe that he is the Messiah and that God is their Heavenly Father. For my kids at camp, they might not think that Jesus could ever love a foster child, but I want to show them that their thoughts are wrong. Jesus is unconventional. He wants everyone to drink his “living water”.

You Don’t Have to be Perfect for God to Use You

Many of the campers that we encounter have no hope and no self esteem. At such young ages, they are brainwashed into thinking that there is no bright future for them, that they aren’t important, and that they aren’t valued. These lies constantly bombard these children’s minds, but Jesus eradicates all of this false information. You do not need to be perfect in order to have a bright future and for God to use you for a greater good. The woman in this passage has had five husbands. She clearly did not have the ideal life, but she believed that Jesus was the Messiah. She was able to use her encounter to testify to other members of the community, making them believers as well. I want my campers to know (and anyone who reads this to know) that if they are willing to obey God, He will use them for something great no matter how broken or unqualified they feel.

Jesus is the Only Thing that Satisfies

I think it’s ingrained in our human nature to constantly be searching for something– searching for more money, more happiness, a better job, a bigger house, a better relationship, etc. I fall into this trap too. I make idols of what I believe will truly satisfy me. I work insanely hard at school so that I can get a good career and become financially stable. Others may make idols of relationships or material goods. The campers at Royal Family come from unstable backgrounds. As a result, they might turn to gangs, drugs, alcohol, or abusive relationships in order to feel “happy”. The moral of this passage is clear, though. Jesus is the only thing that will ever quench our thirst. If we fix our eyes on the things of this world, we will always be thirsty. Jesus is the only thing that will truly satisfy.

I’m sure there is so much more to say about this passage, but these were the main points that I felt God was telling me from this passage. What are your thoughts on the passage? I would love to know in the comments!

Lots of love,

Hannah

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The Science of Happiness?

Monday I actually had a day off! Crazy, I know. I didn’t even get any calls asking me to come into work–a miracle. That means I had the whole day to myself. I could do whatever I wanted to. One of the things that I genuinely love to do, but never have time to do is cook/bake. I decided to make a One-Pot Chickpea Curry for dinner and healthy-ish lemon bars for dessert (Both were delicious by the way!) Anyways, while I was at the grocery store getting my ingredients, I was mesmerized by the magazine stand. Time had a special edition out called, you guessed it, The Science of Happiness. I’m a total nerd and love anything related to psychology, so I knew that this was going to be my afternoon read.

This magazine was chock-full of research on how we can tweak our physical, mental, and spiritual lives to become happier individuals. Many of the authors argue that a key aspect of happiness depends on one’s state of mindfulness. Mindfulness is essentially being present in the current moment.In this day and age, mindfulness is something that many of us lack. In fact, studies have shown that adults feel present only 50% of the time, meaning that we are focused only half of our lives. We are so busy multitasking or thinking towards the future that we forget to relish today and to accomplish today’s tasks to the best of our ability. While multitasking may seem productive, it actually distracts us further from the present and makes it more difficult to produce quality work. The urge to multitask instead of focus on mindfulness is intensified by technology. Right now, on my computer, I can listen to music, work on this blog, watch for incoming emails, and check social media. That’s sensory overload. One article hits the nail right on the head by stating, “our devices allow us to be many places at once– but at the cost of being unable to fully inhabit the place where we actually want to be.”

That quote is so true, it’s unsettling. I myself don’t realize how consumed I am by technology. It prevents me from finding joy in the simplicity of the day. Honestly, if I’m ever bored or alone, I grab for my phone. It’s my safety net at all times. Does it make me happy, though?

The clear answer is no. It does the opposite. It steals precious time that I could be devoting to the things that do make me happy. One of the challenges that many of the articles suggest is doing a digital detox in order to strengthen one’s mindfulness. That might mean not checking your phone before a certain time, or not checking your emails on the weekends, etc. For me, I’ve noticed that I always start and end my day by checking social media, and I want that to change. I’ve decided to try to not use social media–email, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc– during the two hours after I wake up and during the two hours before I go to bed. That way I can start and end my day by reading, praying, exercising, or doing anything that relaxes and connects me to the present moment.

This morning I gave it a go, and it was surprisingly easy. I woke up around 6am and ate breakfast. While sipping on my coffee, I finished reading this magazine. Then I decided to go swim at my gym. Afterwards, I did some yoga outside in my backyard, since it was warm and sunny! It was a nice change compared to doing yoga in my dark, cold basement. By the time all of this was done, more than two hours had passed since waking up. I really had no urge to check in with other people online whatsoever. I felt refreshed being able to wake up and focus on my personal wellness. For me especially, I know that I need to strengthen my mindfulness. You all know how work can wreck me emotionally, and I let stress overtake me. Learning to be mindful and intentionally taking time for myself will help me to recharge and face stress with a newfound strength.

I highly recommend this magazine to anyone who is fascinated with psychology, science, or wellness. I learned a lot of pertinent information that I could apply to my life to help me be more mindful, and hopefully more joyful. If you feel up to it, please join me in a digital detox too! I would love to see how this detox allows a variety of people to be more present, and I would be interested to know if individuals felt that this mindfulness is adding more happiness to their lives.

Lots of love,

Hannah

All the Feels

Saturday was one of the strangest days that I have ever experienced. My emotions ranged from happy to stressed to angry to completely exhausted. It was a day or normalcy, then catastrophe, then redemption. Through it all, I was reminded of God’s faithfulness, kindness, and mercy.

The day began at 5am because I had to be at work at 6:30am. I work as a CNA at a nursing home, so my job is to basically provide cares for my residents. The shift actually went by relatively easily. The only issue I had was dealing with a woman whose dementia has severely progressed. Now she is physically and verbally abusive to the staff and sometimes the residents. We are doing our best to keep her safe and calm; it is truly heart-breaking to see someone so drastically different because of her mental state.

Then 2pm rolled around. I was ready to leave like normal at 2:30, but the pm staff was short AGAIN, so the supervisors asked if I could stay at all. Let’s be real here. No part of me wanted to stay. What I wanted to do was go swim at my gym and then go out to dinner with my family. They clearly saw my hesitation, but they still kept begging me to stay. So being me, I agreed to stay until 5pm. I finished my shift, but once I got in my car, I was filled with spite and anger. I couldn’t believe that I changed my plans again for work. Yes, I was still able to go to dinner with my family later, but now I didn’t get the chance to swim, and that was something that I was looking forward to doing.

Anyways, when I got home, I was spewing with negativity. I knew that this would probably carry over to dinner, but I still wanted to try to have a good night with my family since I never get to see them. That was a bad idea. Even though we had plans to go to a really cool artisanal pizza place and then get frozen yogurt afterwards, I couldn’t shake this bad attitude. This caused everyone around me to get in an awful mood as well. I felt like I was stuck in a positive feedback loop–where the more I fixated on the day, more and more hurtful comments were being said. Now, I wasn’t just angry about work, I was finding ways to attack my parents as well, even though they deserved none of that.

Eventually, I realized how awful and hurtful I was being. I was so exhausted and ashamed that I just started crying right there in the restaurant. First of all, that’s embarrassing. It gets worse,though. I was just so upset that I had let work use me and push me to my limits that I kept crying, so much so that I ended up hyperventilating… in the restaurant…with other people around. I felt terrible.

Luckily, my mom was able to get me to stop having this panic attack. It was like she was able to set aside everything I had said to her in order to help calm me down. In the car, my family was able to comfort me in a way that I did not deserve. They constantly forgive me and love me even when I am at my worst. It made me realize once again how God has blessed me. I couldn’t ask for more loving and supportive parents. I just wish I didn’t have to completely break down for me to acknowledge how much they mean to me.

I was blown away by the love and mercy that my parents showed me. It reminded me that God’s love and mercy is even greater than what I have just received. It’s so comforting to know that even when we screw up, God will still show us mercy. Jesus died for all of our sins–past, present, and future. There is nothing that we can do to make God stop loving us.

With all of that in mind, I was able to calm down, eat a butt-load of frozen yogurt, and enjoy my time at the frozen yogurt shop with my family. Even after my meltdown, our family outing ended on a high note. I realized that I need to grow a backbone and say no to working outside of my scheduled shifts if it is going to send me into a spiral of anger. I can’t be everyone’s “go to girl” all the time. Most importantly, I was reassured that God and my family will always love me–on the good days and on the bad ones. For that, I am eternally grateful.

Lots of love,
Hannah

Make Moments Matter

God has really being reminding me lately that life is short, sometimes drastically shorter than we can ever prepare for. Earlier this year, God showed me this when a boy I went to high school with passed away unexpectedly. I wasn’t good friends with him, but we had three classes together senior year. It’s still weird knowing that he isn’t here anymore. Just a few days ago, two guys who went to my college drowned after powerful waves knocked them off of a pier. That really shook me. Again, I didn’t personally know them, but when you go to a small school, tragedies like this impact everyone.

I can’t quite wrap my head around the whole thing. Both the boy from high school and the two guys from my college would have never expected their lives to be so short. It’s incredibly easy to just assume that we will wake up each morning, be safe during the day, and continue to live at least into our 80’s. God has been challenging me, though, to change this mindset.

To be honest, I’m so future focused that I assume I’ll graduate college, get married, have kids, find my dream job, and so on. I’m not guaranteed any of that, though. The fact of the matter is, this world is full of sickness, war, violence, and freak accidents. I might not get tomorrow, so I need to truly be thankful for everyone and everything in my life and make today matter.

Since theses deaths have occurred, I’ve tried to be more conscientious about the blessings that God has given me. I have a loving supportive family, I have wonderful friends, I get the opportunity to go to my dream school, I am healthy, I live in a safe area, I have so much freedom… the list goes on and on. My goal is to intentionally thank God EVERYDAY or these gifts because they are, well…gifts. I didn’t do anything to earn them. I need to be more proactive about showing this gratitude to God and to those that I love. I need to be better at telling my parents and friends that I love them, and that I value the relationships that we have formed. I can’t takes these precious people for granted.

The other message that God is showing me is to make moments matter. I don’t believe God makes mistakes when he takes the life away from someone. I think that some people’s lives are shorter than others depending on what God’s plan for them is. I need to make each day count because I don’t know if I will get another one. So what does that mean? I think for me, I need to focus on how I can more fully live the life that God called me to live. After all, the only reason we are on this earth is to glorify Him and to do His will. I need to take another look at each part of my day and see who I can love, serve, encourage, etc. How can I make someone’s day a little brighter? How can I spread God’s love to those around me? I want to focus on making small choices to act more like Christ. I have to transform the way I think and act now because I might not be guaranteed a later time in life to fix my ways.

I thank God for reminding me that life is short, but it’s also an incredible gift. Sometimes, our visions for the future don’t match what God has in store for us. I need to trust whatever God has planned for me, strive to live more like Christ today, and never take anything for granted. It’s a crazy wake up call, but I needed it. I hope that this will inspire you to make today count too. Tell your loved ones how much you care about them. Make someone smile. Spread kindness and joy. Make moments matter.

Lots of love,
Hannah

Dear Camper,

Dear camper,

I cannot believe that Royal Family Kids Camp is one month away! I’m so grateful that you are one of the 24 campers who get to be a part of this new camp. Please know I have been praying for you, and I can’t wait to finally meet you in person!

Camp is only one week long. I know that one week of fun-filled memories cannot fix a lifetime of brokenness. I don’t know your scars and your past pains. I won’t pretend that I understand what you are going through because I have never lived through neglect and abuse. What I will do is make sure that camp is everything you want it to be. We will laugh, and smile, and cherish the new experiences that we have together. There is so much to do here at camp. Swim, fish, explore, craft. We can do whatever you want because this is your week!

I just want you know that I’m not a perfect counselor. I’m only 19, and I lack a lot of wisdom that other counselors may have. That being said, though, God qualifies the called. I feel so strongly called to be your counselor, so I know that He will give me the tools I need so that I can be the best counselor that I can be.

This camp is not about me. It is about you 100%. From the second you step off of that bus, you will see me cheering for you. This week at camp, I am giving all of my love, support, and encouragement to you. Whatever you need–whether it’s a role model, a friend, a hug, or a smile– I will try to provide it for you.

I pray that by the end of this week, you receive a spark of hope. You don’t have to live in fear because there is a God who loves you. He created you with a special purpose. I hope that camp shows you how precious you are. If no one has ever told you that, let me say it again. You are VALUED. You are UNIQUE. You are LOVED. You can overcome any challenge that comes your way because God is on your side.

Camp will be life-changing because I get the chance to spend it with you. See you in a month. I’m counting down the days 🙂

 

Lots of love,
Hannah

“You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;  you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, so that mere earthly mortals will never again strike terror.” Psalm 10:17-18

Alaskan Adventure

Every year, my family takes a vacation; however, now my brother and I are both graduated from high school. Since we will be moving farther away and our schedules will continue to get busier, our family probably won’t have the ability to go on a big family vacation any more. As sort of a last family vacation, we decided to go on an Alaskan Cruise with Princess Cruise lines. Our trip went from Seattle to Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Victoria (British Columbia), back to Seattle. The vacation wasn’t perfect by any means– it was cloudy, gloomy, and cold most of the time; we didn’t see much wildlife; some of our tours were WAY overpriced; and there were hiccups with the communication and service on the cruise. Despite the problems, though, our vacation was filled with new experiences and memories. I’d love to share some of my favorite moments with you!

Seattle, WA

I loved Seattle! We were there before and after our cruise. Before our cruise left, we mostly explored Pike Place Market, which is a fish market meets farmer’s market. There was so much local food and so many vendors selling amazing food. I wish I was hungrier because I would have loved to sample more of it! That day, we also went to the Gum Wall near the market. I don’t know how this wall started, but it is literally an alley whose walls are covered in gum. It makes for a cool picture.

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After our cruise, we spent time near the space needle in Seattle. First we ate lunch at Mantra Thai Restaurant, and it was amazing. For around $10, you can get a large meal that is delicious. I had their pumpkin curry, and it was life changing.  Afterwards, we walked around the Olympic Sculpture Park, and then walked over a mile uphill to Molly Moon’s Ice Cream– another life changing food experience. Molly Moon’s is a local ice cream company in Seattle that makes unique ice cream creations. I sampled flavors such as Honey Lavender, Melted Chocolate, Stumptown Coffee, and Balsamic Strawberry. I decided to go with the last two, but they all tasted wonderful.

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The last thing we did that afternoon was visit the Chihuly Blown Glass exhibit. Wow, his work was mind-blowing. All of it was over-the-top both in size and complexity. This is an art exhibit that you cannot miss. Even my brother, who hates museums and art, was blown away (haha blown away… blown glass… I’m so puny) by this exhibit.

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Juneau, Alaska

This was our second stop on the cruise. Even though it was cloudy, we had an awesome day of exploration. We spent our time at the famous Mendenhall Glacier, which is this huge glacier located next to this thundering waterfall. The scenery was breathtaking. After taking about a 2 mi round trip hike to get a closer view of the glacier, we took another 3.5 mile hike in the forest around the glacier. Alaska is so green! I felt like I was in Jurassic Park the whole time. It was a lot of uphill climbing, but luckily my whole family survived–even my 63-year-old dad who thinks he is in great shape even though he has lived a sedentary lifestyle since the beginning of time.

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Skagway, Alaska

Skagway was my favorite stop on the cruise. Get this, it was sunny and warm all day! On this day we went on a helicopter ride to Meade Glacier.First of all, I was right next to the pilot (which is the best seat in my opinion). Second of all, mountains look 10x more majestic from 5000 feet in the air. Thirdly, we got to be on top of a glacier, which I will probably never do again. I also got to sample glacial water which is pretty much the cleanest, purest water I will ever drink–even more pure than purified drinking water that you can buy at the store. Another fun fact is that glaciers appear blue in real life because the ice absorbs every wavelength of light except for the blue wavelengths. Science is too cool.

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Skagway also has a very cute downtown area filled with shops and restaurants. If our meals weren’t already included on our cruise, I would have loved to eat here (they had coffee shops, ice cream, bakeries, sit-down restaurants, and more). I personally felt that this downtown had a lot more charm compared to other typical tourist downtowns.

So there you have it– my favorite moments from this trip. I could never ever live in Alaska, but I’m glad I got to see some of this vast, beautiful state. If I were to go back some day, I would love to go more inland to visit Denali National Park and other popular places. This may have been our last family vacation, but this isn’t the last travel experience for me. I will see the world one way or another 🙂

 

Lots of love,

Hannah

What is Important in My Life?

Recently, I’ve been pondering the things/people that I value most in life. If I could create a list right now, I think an accurate ranking would look something like this:

  1. God
  2. Family
  3. Close Friends
  4. Myself
  5. School
  6. Work

Theoretically in a perfect world, I would be fully surrendered to God. I would live courageously, serving whoever and wherever I am called to serve. My relationships with others would come before myself and any other objects because at the end of the day, we remember the memories that we had with those we love, not the things that we have acquired over the years. After focusing on others, I would prioritize myself because I realize that it’s important to be spiritually, emotionally, and physically well. Finally school and work, my sources of achievement would be last on my list of most valuable aspects of my life. While they are useful in helping me attain experience and wisdom, they aren’t as important the relationships that I have with God and with others.

But let’s be real here.

It’s so easy to let other things consume your time. Soon, the very things/people that are most “valuable” in your life hardly are a part of your day. Just look at a typical summer day for me.

6am: wake up, eat breakfast, watch TV, go on phone

7am: do my Bible plan/journal for 15 minutes

8am: do chores or random errands

9am: workout

10am: shower, watch TV, go on phone

11am: eat lunch, watch TV, go on phone

12pm: nap, read, go on phone

1pm: get motivation to go to work

2pm: drive to work

3pm-11pm: work, work, work, work, work

11pm: maybe say, “hi,” to my dad before I go and eat a snack

12am: hopefully I’m sound asleep

The things that are most important to me should take up most of my time, right? So I should have plenty of time with God and with the people I love. What do I do instead? Work a ton and mindlessly waste time via TV or my phone. During the school year, my schedule would pretty much be the same, but instead of 8 hours of work, I probably would have 8 hours worth of school work.

God, who is number one in my life, only gets about 15-30 minutes of my day. My family hardly gets any time at all. There are some days where I don’t talk to them for more than 5 minutes because our schedules conflict that much. When I do talk to them, I’m usually angry because I’m hungry or tired from work. Some days I see my friends, and other days I do not. Recently, though, I’ve found it hard to make time for my friends because I’m exhausted.

What I’m learning more and more about myself is that I idolize work/school even though I value my relationships with God, family, and friends. I get so distracted by feeling busy, productive, and focused that I loose sight of what is really important to me. What happens when the time your spend doing things doesn’t align with what you consider important? Well, I become a nasty version of myself. I become stressed, tired, and burnt out because I don’t dedicate time to the things that fill me up. I don’t want to be consumed by trivial matters. I want to focus on the things that are important in my life and truly make time for those things.

This is a wake-up call for me. I want to live a full life. I want to live a life that God calls me to live, one where I wake up every day and commit to doing whatever God wants me to do. I want to have close relationships with my family because I’m lucky enough to have two parents and a brother who love and support me. Not everyone has that, and I’ve seen first hand how lack of family damages a child. If that means I have to turn down the intensity on school and work, then so be it. At the end of the day, I’m not going to remember the grade I got in Biochemistry or how many hours I was a CNA. I’m going to remember how I felt during each stage of my life. I hope that I can be overfilled with joy through the good and the bad. That only comes when my ranking of important things/people actually takes precedence in my life.

So I challenge you, what do you value the most in life? Chart out a typical week and see how much time you actually allot to those things. It’s eye-opening. I pray that we can stop being blinded by trivial matters and instead start focusing on those that are most precious to us.

Lots of love,
Hannah

We’re Halfway There

I just realized that 2016 is halfway over. I’m 19 and a half now, which means my teenage years are almost over. I truly cannot believe how fast this year has gone. Each year seems to fly by at faster and faster rates, but I’m truly loving this stage of my life. I thought it would be fun to reflect on some of my favorite moments with you from the first half of 2016, as well as share some upcoming events that I am excited for.

Reflections:

1.New Year’s Resolutions: I don’t practice yoga everyday; however, I do stretch most days. I haven’t tried any non-dairy ice cream recipes, but I have eaten my fair share of Ben and Jerry’s non-dairy pints of ice cream 😉 I did find one tea that I like. It’s the Yogi Kombucha Green Tea. Other than that, I don’t really like tea. As far as surrendering more to the Lord, well that’s a constant work in progress. I’m headed in the right direction, though. Overall, most of my resolutions are a flop, but I’m okay with that haha.

2. College: I LOVE college! I loved my classes and professors and friends. One of my favorite memories from 2016 was walking with my friends to El Presidente, a Mexican restaurant, for dinner and then walking to get frozen yogurt afterwards. My fro-yo was free so that was an extra bonus. When we don’t go out to eat, my friends and I love to watch movies, especially random documentaries on Netflix 🙂

IMG_22523. Work: I started a new adventure as a CNA this past January. It’s been a bumpy ride. It’s a lot of physical, hard work, but I love the relationships that I get to form with my residents. Some of them are such sweethearts. Their smiles and funny comments really brighten my day! Plus, I love being able to get experience in the medical field at such a young age.

Upcoming Events:

1.ALASKAN CRUISE!!!: I’m leaving TODAY!!!. I am beyond excited for this family vacation. Pictures will be coming soon.

2.Sprint Triathlon: This August I am doing my first sprint triathlon because I think it would be really fun. I’ve started training for it, and so far things have gone well. I’m confident that I will be able to at least finish the race. I may not be fast, but that doesn’t matter to me.

3.Royal Family Kids Camp: The day after the triathlon, I’m going to be a counselor for a camper at Royal Family Kids Camp! I am so excited to be a part of this wonderful mission for the third year in a row. I have such a passion for serving abused and neglected foster children, and I can’t wait to see how God uses me during this week of camp.

4. College Round 2: I am ready to go back to school! I can’t wait to start school shopping and to pack up again. I just love my campus and I really want to see my friends again. I do have a heavy course load (Physics, Organic Chemistry, Genetics, and Honors Theology), but I’ll make it work 🙂

That’s all for now. I have to go bike and run for my triathlon training, and later I will be on a plane to Seattle. What an exciting day 🙂

Lots of love,

Hannah