Home Sweet Home

I’m home! Well, I’m back on campus, so it’s like my second home. Words cannot describe how happy I am to be back. I just love every aspect of college– the independence, the classes, my job, my friends, and so much more. This year, I am living in a suite with seven other girls. There’s a living area, a bathroom, four bedrooms, and get this, there is air conditioning! That truly is a blessing.

My friend Kelly and I arrived on campus early for our job training. We are both coordinators for ALIVE. The goal of ALIVE is to build community and to help students explore more about their passions, callings, and spirituality. Every week, we will work in teams to put on programs in the residence halls. Our programs might be socials, activity-based, or deep discussions, and the topics vary depending on what sparks interest in our participants. I worked with ALIVE last year as an apprentice in the honors dorm, and I am ecstatic to continue ministering in the honors dorm this year.

Training week was long and intensive. Even though we had to sit through many long talks, we still had tons of time for team bonding. We went mini golfing, visited the farmer’s market, had a lip-sync battle (which I rocked by the way), etc. The people that I work with are some of the coolest individuals I know. Not only are they a kind, outgoing, and diverse group of individuals, but they are also incredibly grounded in their faith. They are such a wonderful support group for me, and I can’t wait to spend a whole year working with them.

By friday, all of my friends were moved in! I’ve missed them all immensely. We spent our night playing “Girl Talk,” a board game created probably in the 90’s for preteen girls. It’s basically a lame version of truth or dare. If you complete the tasks, you can earn points that eventually help you gain cards that reveal your future– information about your marriage, children, and career. Failure to complete the truths/dares results in you putting a “zit sticker” on your face. Needless to say, this game is hilarious and will produce much laughter and memories among us.

I start my classes on Monday, and I couldn’t be happier. What can I say, I am a nerd, and I love being one. My schedule is full, but that’s how I like it. I just have a feeling that this year will be great. I’m hoping to grow more as an individual, to deepen the relationships that I have established with my friends, and to more wholeheartedly follow God’s will for me. This year, I really want to give my life to God. I need to hand over any anxieties I have about school and work, and just trust that God is in control.

Heavenly Father, bless this upcoming school year. Give me the tools I need to succeed the best I can. Help me to be brave–to step out in faith and to be more confident in myself and in my abilities. Whenever I am stressed, help me remember to lean on you. You are my strength, Lord. Please continue to reveal your plan for me this year, Lord. My future is still fuzzy, but I trust that you will reveal this plan to me one day at a time. That being said, allow me to listen to what you are calling me to do. It’s your will, Lord, not mine. Each day, transform my heart and mind. Help me to be more compassionate, patient, and selfless. Walk with me, Lord, each day, and help me become the best version of myself. I need you, and I love you. Thank you for this opportunity to attend college for another year. It is such a blessing, and I will take advantage of every opportunity that you present me with.  Amen.

I’m so happy to be back at college. I’m looking forward to all of the memories that will be made 🙂

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This is me and some of my amazing coworkers/friends from ALIVE 🙂

 

Lots of love,
Hannah

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Tapping Into God’s Unconditional Love–RFKC 2016

This week, I was a counselor at Royal Family Kids Camp, and it was challenging, heartbreaking, and life-changing. Since this was my third year being involved with RFK, I thought I knew what I was getting myself into, but I was clearly wrong. Leading up to camp, I kept praying that God would allow me to give 100% to my camper, and He honored that. I have never been so exhausted, yet filled with joy. The team that I worked with, those praying for me, and God’s strength gave me the ability to get through this week. By the end of this week, I left with a better understanding of the unconditional love that God has for all of us.

Royal Family for us staff began on Sunday. After attending church, we drove to the campsite, unloaded, and decorated our cabins in order to fit this year’s Olympic theme. That evening, I finally found out who my camper was going to be. I pretty much only knew her name and that she was 9, none of her temperaments (for the safety and confidentiality of my camper, I’m only going to refer to her as “my camper”). I knew I was going in blind, but that didn’t matter to me. I was just so excited for Monday to come so that I could finally meet her. That night we all walked over to the lake in order to pray and do a devotional. In the midst of this beautiful nature, everyone could feel God’s presence. While at the lake, one of our staff members decided to be baptized, which was amazing. I have never seen a baptism like this. It was beautiful just seeing him declare his life to Christ while having his new RFK family there to support him. What was even cooler was that later a random woman saw us gathered on the beach and asked if she could be baptized. If that wasn’t a God moment, I don’t know what is. So we had two baptisms that evening. That night, I went to sleep knowing that this is God’s camp. He is orchestrating this whole thing. I knew that he had hand picked my camper, and I was so excited to finally meet her.

On Monday as the coach bus rolled in, we all stood outside with posters with each of the campers names on them in order to welcome our 24 precious princes and princesses. Each child had varying emotions as they stepped off of the bus–excitement, a little bit of fear, maybe nothing at all. When my camper walked off the bus, I was filled with such joy! I just couldn’t wait to get to know this precious girl! What I didn’t know was that behind that beautiful face was a girl with a broken heart.

Even though the week was filled with fun events, such as Grandma’s Tea Party, Everybody’s Birthday Party, and the Variety show, she struggled throughout the entire week. My camper loved being the center of attention and being in control. When she couldn’t have her ways, she ran around or ran away. So the whole week, I was on high alert because if I turned away for one minute, she could have been out the door running somewhere else. In addition, pretty much everyday, she had some sort of of meltdown over something small– she wasn’t picked to dance on stage, someone else took her spot, etc. These weren’t the real reasons for the meltdowns. In actuality, she was dealing with past heartbreaks. She hasn’t seen her birth parents in three years, and she yearns for them, even though they must have done something terrible enough to get her taken out of that family in the first place. What probably intensified her behaviors was the fact that she and three of her other siblings are currently up for adoption at the end of this month. You think that adoption would be a good thing– finally a being taken out of foster care and being placed into a stable home, hopefully. However, I think that to my camper, adoption means never seeing her birth parents again.

Most of the week was exhausting. My camper looked so downtrodden. She constantly told me how she didn’t like this camp, and she tried to hide any emotion whatsoever. God gave we such unwavering patience with her, though. He gave me the strength to just be there for her. And the thing is by day two, I had so much love for my camper. It didn’t matter that she was constantly wandering away, acting sassy, or having a meltdown. I was her rock, and I owe that all to God. The beautiful thing was that behind her act, I could tell that she really cared for me too. She would always be asking, “Where’s my counselor?,” and she would ask me to race her up the rock wall or to dance the Whip and Nae Nae with her at the talent show. My favorite moments with her, though, were when we were at the lake. That girl loved to swim; I think it was therapeutic for her. Together, we would swim “all over the world”– to Florida, Illinois, Australia even. She also loved using her goggles to grab sand at the bottom of the lake. We would look at the sand together and find all sorts of neat rocks and shells. In the water, she would open up, not about her past, but about her interests and school and just normal things.

Friday, when we were back at church, was the hardest part for me. It was beautiful to see my camper singing the songs she learned at camp up onstage. Normally she is hogging the stage for attention, but that afternoon, she was just singing and dancing next to her best friend that she made at camp. What made it worse was when I saw a couple of tears escape her eyes during the closing ceremony. That was confirmation to me that she actually cared about me too. Saying goodbye was the hardest. I thought that her future parents were going to pick her and her siblings up, but some random lady that the girls didn’t even know picked them up instead. That made me so upset because I wanted to meet the people that were planning on adopting her just to see if they seemed loving and safe. I guess we don’t always get what we want. Eventually, my camper and I said our final goodbyes. Tears were shed by both of us, and I just kept telling her how much I loved her and how I would be praying for her. Then just like that, she was gone.

I truly believe that God matched my camper and me together. Even though I have a huge heart, I am emotionally strong, and I think that allowed me to be so consistent and composed around my camper. My camper has shown me how to love and persevere way beyond what I thought I could do. That little girl–who is so brave, smart, caring, helpful, and charismatic– now will forever have a piece of my heart. I just have to trust God that He will keep her safe and that He will use her to do amazing things. I could go on and on about camp, but this post is already so long. Camp was amazing and life-changing. It challenged me probably more than I’ve ever been challenged, but I had a great group of people to support me along the way. I pray that I will be able to keep attending Royal Family Kids Camps for many years to come.

Lots of love,
Hannah

Swim, Bike, Run–Triathlon Fun

As some of you may know, I’m really into health and fitness. I just love feeling strong and confident in the body that God has given me. One of the ways that I have started challenging myself is by signing up for races. I’ve done 5k’s in the past, but my first real race was the Trial Assail half marathon in Nashotah during September of my senior year. I had such a blast training for the half, and it felt amazing crossing the finish line, especially since I am not the best runner. This year, I decided to sign up for the Lake Country Triathlon for a few reasons. One, I’ve been wanting to do a triathlon for a few years, but didn’t have the guts to actually sign up. Two, I wanted to push myself physically. Triathlons require so much endurance, and I thought the race would be an amazing challenge! I’m proud to say that found a training program, stuck with it, and finished this race with no flat tires or broken bones 🙂

 The Arrival

My alarm rang this morning bright and early at 4:40am. I actually got about 7 ½ hours of sleep since I went to bed before 9pm. Considering I got about 6 ½ hours of sleep when I worked over the summer, I felt great when I woke up! My mom, dad, and I left for the race at about 5:30 am. Once I got to the beach, I got my race chip and my body markings. Then I set up my bike in the transition area. After that, I just hung out with my parents until the race began.

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Swim 0.25 miles

The race began at 7am, the first segment being the swim. I was the last wave, so I didn’t go until 7:40 am. Right around 7, it unfortunately began to rain–first a sprinkle, then a pretty solid downpour. So there I stood on the beach with only a suit on in the rain. By the end, my fingers were blue. On the bright side, the water felt nice and warm in comparison 😉

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My wave (wave 13)–females 35 and under

I never thought that the swim would be a challenge, but man was I wrong. First of all, I had a hard time getting my momentum going. In the swimming pool, I could push off of the side to start propelling myself foreward. Here, I just had to start swimming. Plus, the rain made the water really choppy, so it was hard to get going anywhere. I really struggled to keep my breathing under control, and I was swallowing a lot of water. I was terrified that I was going to drown. I decided to flip onto my back and just float for a few seconds. Then I did a mix of backstroke and breaststroke for probably half of the swim. After that, I was calm enough to finish the swim by doing freestyle. Normally I love water, but today I have never been so happy to be on dry land.

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Mass chaos in the water. See anyone floundering? Yeah, one of those people was me. 

Bike 15.75 miles

Everything after the swim was easy peasy. The bike ride was a very scenic route through Oconomowoc. There were a few hills, but where I live there are tons of hills, so I was prepared. I finished way earlier than expected, even with my slow mountain bike that has thick, heavy tires–not really the most aerodynamic bike ever. My parents didn’t even have time to snap a photo of me as I finished because they thought I was going to be a lot slower.

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Me as I started my bike journey.

Run 3.1 miles

After I finished biking, I dropped off my bike in the transition zone and headed back on the course. I almost started running with my helmet still on, but a nice volunteer kindly stopped me so I didn’t make a fool of myself. The running course was super flat. I didn’t have any music, but hearing the cheers from the volunteers and the spectators were enough motivation for me.

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So not my best running picture ever, but I don’t care because at this point, I was about 100 feet from the finish line!

The Finish

I finished around 9:30 am; my official time was 1:50:12. I had no goal other than to finish, and I am so proud that I did that! I have been training for this triathlon for two months; I’m so glad that all of my hard work and determination paid off!!

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Done! Now where’s my victory ice cream ? (I did have victory ice cream just to clarify 🙂 )

 

I think I am hooked on races now. I just love how you have to push yourself both during the training and during the race. Plus, I love how races are an individual sport. The only person I am up against is myself. I am constantly amazed at all that my body can do, and for that, I am so grateful. Today wasn’t perfect, but I will will always remember this event in my life.

Lots of love,

Hannah

 

Life Update: Future of this Blog and the Upcoming School Year

Hello everyone! Today, I am coming at you all with a casual life update–important events coming up, move-in day, plans for the school year, etc. First of all, my triathlon is on SATURDAY. What? I don’t know how time got away from me so quickly. I know that I can physically complete the triathlon, but I’m worried about the things that I can’t control. What if I get punched in the face while swimming? What if I can’t find my bike in the transition area? How many people are there going to be? What if my bike brakes? I’m just praying that everything runs smoothly, and that I stay safe throughout the entire race. The following day, I will be at Royal Family Kids Camp! I barely have had time to think about camp, but I am so excited to go and to meet my camper 🙂 You can read a letter that I wrote to my camper here.

In 12 days, I move into college for my sophomore year!!!!!! I am beyond excited. I move in a week early due to training for my on-campus job, which basically organizes weekly programs centered around faith and vocation. I can’t wait to see my team again and to meet the new freshmen joining our team. I also am so excited to see all of my friends again. My little trip to Appleton (read my post about it here) was just a little reminder of how much I have missed these awesome ladies. My friends and I will be living in a service learning dorm together. My suite in particular will be working with the YMCA’s youth programs throughout the year.

In addition to doing service, I will be involved in many extracurriculars. I will be a TRIPS leader, which leads a mission trip over winter/spring break to address various social justice issues. I am also planning on being a chemistry tutor and doing research with my previous biology professor. He studies flatworms, specifically their protonephridia, which has similar functions to our kidneys. I am genuinely interested in my classes this semester as well. I will be taking Genetics, Organic Chemistry, Physics, and Theology. I am least looking forward to Physics, but I don’t think it will be that bad to be honest.

So you are probably wondering how I am going to keep blogging with all of the stuff that I will be involved with this semester. I am wondering the exact same thing. As of right now, I can usually post at least two times a week. During the school year, however, I think I will try to post every 1-2 weeks, since I probably will only have time to write on the weekends.

That’s a quick life update for you all. I have tons of packing to do for Royal Family and for college. My room is a mess, but eventually it will get sorted out. This is such an exciting time, though. I have high hopes for this year. I think it will be filled to the brim with new experiences and memories. I cannot wait!

Lots of love,

Hannah

Reuniting with Friends

It’s almost the end of summer, and I realized that I hadn’t seen any of my college friends. None of them. Granted, most of them live about 2 or more hours away from me, but still, not seeing them was driving me crazy. It was like summer made me take a 180– instead of seeing my friends 24/7, I didn’t get to see them at all. However, one of my friends offered to have a sleepover/reunion at her house, so I immediately jumped on board.

Thursday afternoon, I drove on up to Appleton to pick up two of my friends, and then we continued up towards Green Bay to our friend’s house. When we finally got there, I was overwhelmed with joy. I would have never have imagined that I would have missed my friends so much; we have only known each other for one year after all. Even after one year, though, we have such a strong friendship because we lived on the same floor, we were in the same Honor’s classes, and we value the same things. We spent the night touring my friend’s amazing farm filled with gardens and animals, eating delicious food, and talking endlessly about our summers and about how excited we are for next year!

On Friday, we ventured back down to Appleton. Before we got there, though, we stopped at Frogg’s ice cream shop for some incredible soft serve ice cream. I got a twist cone dipped in chocolate, and it was heavenly. I looked like a mess with all the melting ice cream dripping on me, but I didn’t care. I was in my happy place. Afterwards, my friends helped me experience thrifting. I only walked away with one item, but I’m hooked on the idea. Since I’m pretty frugal, this seems like the perfect way to keep getting new clothes for my wardrobe without spending all of my paychecks. Later we walked through Lawrence University’s campus and ended up at Copper Rock, which sells amazing (expensive) coffee. Mile of Music was also simultaneously occurring, so we got to listen to some new bands too. For dinner, we ate at Basil Cafe, which is a cute Thai restaurant. I learned how to properly use chopsticks while eating my mixture of vegetables and tofu in a peanut sauce. I love ethnic food–any type. The spices that were in my meal were so refreshing compared to what I typically eat at home. It was a great choice for dinner 🙂

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That ended my short road trip to the Fox Valley Area. I’m so grateful for meeting these amazing ladies this year at school, and I cannot wait to live with them next year! Each of them are so kind, intelligent, thoughtful, and quirky. There really is nothing better than spending quality time with these wonderful friends. This was just a taste of the joy and laughter that I will experience again once I am on campus. Only 15 more days until move in, but who’s counting 😉

Lots of love,
Hannah

My Health Journey– A Shift from Being Skinny to Feeling Strong

We live in one warped society. Instead of being grateful for the bodies that allow most of us to run, dance, and skip, we stare at our bodies in the mirror and criticize every last imperfection. Yes, there has been a recent surge in body positivity, but many of us are still brainwashed into thinking that our bodies aren’t good enough. This negativity begins as early as elementary school for some children. I think most people go through a stage in their lives where they are insecure about how they look. For me, those insecurities started in middle school. I always felt a little on the heavier side, especially compared to some of the shorter, more petite girls in my class. However, each year as I get older, I realize more and more how much I love my body. I’ve hit bumps along the way, but I’ve realized that I don’t want to be skinny. Skinny to me means weak. I want to feel strong and energized. This is what health means to me now–fueling my body correctly, challenging it, and being proud of all things that I can do with the body that God has blessed me with.

This vision I have of health took a long time to develop. When I was in middle school, I could care less about health, fitness, and nutrition. My mom tried to feed the family healthy meals, but that was about it. I did sports recreationally, but I was not into physically exerting myself. I mean, I would cry when we had to run the mile for gym class. Cry. I just hated running that far (plus I was always one of the slowest people in my class, so that didn’t help anything.) Like I said, in middle school, I was taller and bigger than a lot of the girls in my class, so I didn’t have a lot of self esteem. It wasn’t anything detrimental; I just wasn’t as loving towards my body as I am now.

In high school, my attitude towards health changed. In health class, we had to set a health goal, so I decided that I wanted to run the Make-A-Wish 5k for my neighbor’s team. I found a training schedule, and I actually ran the whole thing. That was such a huge accomplishment for me–going from zero running to being able to run 3.1 miles. In addition, I became very conscientious about the food that I was putting in my body. I really wanted to eat fresh produce, lean proteins, and not a lot of sweets. I was fascinated by the nutrients in food (and still am interested), and I loved learning how to properly portion what I eat. This was also around the time where I found out that I was lactose intolerant, so I was adjusting my diet to not include dairy. It turns out that I got a little too carried away with limiting portion sizes; I ended up not fueling my body correctly. I was on dance team during this time, and I had long practices nearly every day. It turned out that I wasn’t eating enough. So around my sophomore/ junior year, I actually had to gain about 15 pounds. I actually found this to be quite difficult. It sounds fun at first, but having to constantly eat food even when you are already full is tough. It took quite a few months for me to gain the weight that I needed to.

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One of my dance team pictures. I think I am on the left in the far back.

After I had gained that weight back, I realized that for me, I didn’t need to be so conscious about my food. Yes, it is good to be aware of the food that I am eating, but I didn’t need to always measure out portion sizes or look at the calorie count. What I did need to focus on is how my body feels. I think this is the key concept that leads to body confidence– a shift from how your body looks to how your body feels. I started focusing on eating the foods that made me feel energized, but I never limit myself. Heck, anyone can attest that I eat ice cream (usually dairy free) about every other day. In addition, I started doing workouts that I loved. For me, I love variety, so I vary up my workouts all the time–running, swimming, cycling, Zumba, yoga, etc. The final thing that I have stopped doing is weighing myself. I found that if I weighed myself regularly, I would get obsessed with a number. This number doesn’t tell you how fit you are. For instance, people who starts building muscle are typically fitter than they once were, but more times than not, they end up gaining weight because muscle is more dense than fat. Tracking weight cannot be the only way to track your fitness; that’s why I stopped tracking it at all.

Right now in my life, I feel strong. I’m so proud of the fact that I ran my first 5K in high school, and I’m even prouder of the fact that senior year, I ran a half marathon. I’m no size 0. I have stretch marks, knocked-knees, and other imperfections, but that has never gotten in the way of my goals. God has given me a body that allows me to stay active and to challenge myself. Our bodies truly are a blessing. Think of all the people in this world who cannot move the way they want to–due to sickness, a bad accident, violence, etc. I think we all need to remember that it is a gift to have a functioning body, no matter what it looks like. Furthermore, God created us individually in His image. If we constantly criticize ourselves in front of the mirror, aren’t we criticizing God’s work? I fully believe that God created us exactly how He wanted us, so we need to start treating our bodies with a little love and respect. That is why I will choose to embrace my body with all its imperfections, and I will view health based on how I feel on the inside, not on my exterior appearance.

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Me after running my half marathon. Shout out to my awesome friends who came to support me 🙂

I challenge you to think about how your body feels right now? What do you love about it? What has your body allowed you to do? Take some time to genuinely be grateful for the gifts that you have been given!

Lots of love,

Hannah

 

A Day in the Windy City

After our semi-disastrous family outing for pizza and ice cream (you can read about it here), I realized how much I truly need my family. Even though I am independent by nature, I still yearn for quality time with my parents. The other day, it just so happened that both my mom and I had a day off of work–Praise God!! As a treat, we decided to take a day trip to Chicago. It was a laid-back, spur of the moment decision, and I absolutely loved every moment of it!

The Train Ride

Instead of driving to Chicago and dealing with all of the traffic, we decided to take the train. I think taking the train is a bonus adventure. It’s a mode of transportation that I don’t get to use very often, so it made my day that much more exciting. The train was packed because it was the first day of Lollapalooza, but we still found seats. I loved how the train gave my mom and I 90 minutes to just talk about whatever we wanted. I never get time to do that.

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The Parks

After getting off of the train, we attempted to go to Grant Park. That’s where Lollapalooza was being held, though, so we couldn’t get in. Instead, we made our way over to Millennium Park where we watched cute children splash in the water and took pictures by the famous Cloud Gate. We continued our walk through Maggie Daley Park, and then headed towards Navy Pier.

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Navy Pier

At Navy Pier, we decided to take a 30 minute “extreme thrill boat ride”. It pretty much was this big boat that did donuts in the water. It was sunny, I got refreshingly wet, and I had a blast watching my mom’s hair get all messed up from the wind and the waves 🙂

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Food

My favorite part of going anywhere is eating good food! For lunch, we stumbled upon Kanela Breakfast Club– a local, organic, greek-inspired restaurant. I had a hipster “Citrus Kick juice,” made with orange, lemon, apple, ginger, and cayenne pepper. For the meal, I had avocado toast with chickpeas and sriracha sauce on top, along with a side salad. My mom had lemon blueberry pancakes. We definitely enjoyed ourselves. Later, we had to stop at the Ghirardelli chocolate shop for ice cream because we both love chocolate!! I got a scoop of cookie dough ice cream, and my mom bought me some chocolate-covered espresso beans for later (my absolute favorite treat!).

Shopping

Finally, we did a little shopping at Water Tower Place. We mainly went to Francesca’s where I got a dress and some cute booties. After shopping, we headed back to the train station. It was raining and we didn’t have any umbrellas. Even though I was cold, I thought it was hilarious because my mom’s hair got even more messed up 🙂

My Thoughts on the Day as a Whole

Our day in Chicago was one of the best days that I have had in a long time. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment with my mom. Because we are so similar in personality (very type A), we tend to butt heads at times. Today gave me hope that we can get along and have fun together. I want nothing more than to have a close relationship with her. I love her so much, and I pray that as I get older, our bond can continue to grow even stronger.

That’s another day in my life for you all! I hope you enjoyed it. Definitely check out Chicago if you can. There’s so much to see, do, and eat 😉

Lots of love,
Hannah