Plant the Seed, Water, and Wait

A few short days ago, I returned from my fourth Royal Family Kids Camp, a camp for abused and neglected foster children. These children were exhausting, but also charming, silly, kind, and filled to the brim with a desire to be loved unconditionally. This year, my campers were as sweet as can be. My first camper and I bonded the most through hairstyle creations. She loved to do hair, and despite the fact that I had to walk around with ridiculous buns on my head or with a unicorn braid standing straight up, I loved watching her be so gentle with my hair. I think that giving her a motherly, nurturing role and allowing her to use positive touch was extremely healing for her. My other camper was more shy, but her guard came down when we went swimming. Nothing is sweeter than hearing pure, genuine laughter from a little girl. In the pool, her smile was contagious, and we had a blast playing catch with a beach ball or swimming for various diving sticks.

My two girls were extremely appreciative of this week. I received cute letters and pictures thanking me for camp and for being their counselor. I could clearly see how a week of unconditional love and undivided attention for these girls could be life-changing. However, that is not always the case with each camper. Sometimes, you give out every last drop of love and patience to your campers, and you barely see their hardened shells crack. Many times a camper will move placements throughout the year, so you never get to see them again—never knowing if all of your efforts even made a difference. That is why I believe Royal Family is one of the hardest mission trips I have ever been on. We work relentlessly throughout this week at camp, but may never see how that work transforms the lives of our campers. At other mission trips, it might be easier to feel like you made a difference. For instance, if you built a house or served food at a homeless shelter, the effects of your work are more tangible. Here at camp, we must be completely dependent on God to carry out the efforts made at camp. During this week, we plant a seed in each of these campers through messages of God’s power, strength, and love. Just by giving of our time, we hope to show our campers that they are valuable, that people care about them, and that God will turn their painful pasts into something beautiful.

My work at camp is done for the year, but God is just getting started. I may never see how God is transforming the lives of my girls and all of the campers, but I trust in the plans that he has for them. While even typing those words seems so cheesy, I can’t believe that God would allow these children to suffer physical, sexual, emotional abuse or neglect while other people, like me, have lived with families who love and care for them. I can’t imagine such an unjust God. Therefore, I have to trust that God will use their pain for good because I believe that God has intentions to use every person he places on Earth. For now, I’ll be praying for all the campers that came to Royal Family over the course of the year—asking that God continues to show love to these children and that they can find a safe home where they can prosper and grow.

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Lots of love,

Hannah

The Cusp of Change

The first few weeks of summer have been a whirlwind of events. I went to Scotland, I am preparing for Royal Family Kids Camp (see my posts about them here and here), the MCAT, my study abroad experience for this fall, and to top it off I’m trying to squeeze in some work and volunteering. I just realized that my early 20’s will be flooded with change, more than I’ve ever experienced. As a person who is comfortable with consistency and routine, all of these upcoming life events are completely overwhelming to me. I think God is using this point in my life to challenge me: Am I going to rely on self-sufficiency or trust in God?

While my inner self feels a need to exert my independence and take control of this period of change, I know that I need to work through this cognitive dissonance and rely on God to lead me through this season. At this point in my life, I don’t really view God as this all-controlling being. I think God allows us to use our free will to make decisions about our lives. However, when making these decisions especially in these new situations, I don’t want to ignore God—I hope that I can recognize God walking through life with me. It’s so easy for me to outline my future: I want to study abroad, finish school, go to medical school, establish a career, have a family, etc. Now that I am on the brink of so much change—change that could drastically alter my path in life for the next few years— I need to take a step back and be honest with myself. Am I doing this for myself or for God’s glory?

I have been thinking about these upcoming life events, and I do believe that this plan is what God is calling me to do. I think, more importantly, I need focus on integrating daily prayer into my life. I want to be intentional with these changes in my life and ask key questions for each new situation. Who do you want me to meet, God? What am I supposed to gain from this change? How are my experiences going to help me make Earth more like Heaven?

I can’t be swept away by the idea of change in the future. It all is so uncertain, and no matter how these changes affect my future, I want to make sure that I am living my life for God first and foremost. I trust that God can use my passions and strengths to do good. On this cusp of change, I hope that I can rely less on myself and instead trust that God is leading through these new periods of my life.

 

Lots of love,

Hannah

A Lesson in Humility: A Recap of My Children’s Medical Trip

Before embarking on this Children’s Medical trip to the Arkansas Children’s Hospital, I couldn’t help but create expectations for what I wanted the trip to be like. I wanted to spend one-on-one time everyday with sick in-patients, giving them joy, hope, and encouragement. I yearned to hear stories from the families about how they were dealing with the stress of having a sick child so that I could offer a listening ear and an empathetic heart. What we got instead was little patient contact and a lot of filing, copying, and stuffing of envelopes.

The reality of this trip was so drastically different from what I envisioned, and for a while, I was bitter. I knew that other Children’s Medical trips to Iowa and Tennessee were having a very different experience than we were having. I realized, however, that I was being selfish with the service that I was willing to offer. As the week went on, my group discussed how we could all benefit from a dose of humility. We came to serve this hospital. No service (administrative or patient care) is below us. With that notion in mind, our group was able to enter the hospital every day with positivity. When we got to do arts and crafts or play games with smiling children, we cherished those moments. Other times when we were doing paperwork, we tried to use that opportunity to learn more about the behind the scenes jobs that need to get done in order to make the hospital run.

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This trip was not what I expected at all. Despite the challenges we faced, I have many memorable moments with my group. My favorite child interaction was when I was running “Art Cart” for the out-patients. I saw a little boy running around, and his dad looked exhausted, so I decided to see if I could harness his energy. The little boy and I began playing a modified form of Red Light Green Light. Soon other kids were joining in, and we played this game along with Simon Says, Duck Duck Goose, and whatever other games I could think of on the spot. Needless to say, the kids had an endless supply of energy, and I definitely got my cardio in for the day.

My other memorable moment was making dinner at the newly built Ronald McDonald house. This facility was beautifully renovated. It is clean, cozy, and comforting for the families who stay there. Plus, their dog Mac brings a smile to everyone. On Thursday night, we decided to make “Breakfast for Dinner” for these families since we heard that many people were sick of eating pasta or chili. After getting a tour from the wonderfully dedicated maintenance man, Ernie, we whipped out the red and white striped aprons and got to work. We flipped pancakes (topped with your choice of chocolate chips, bananas, and/or sprinkles), scrambled eggs, fried some bacon and sausage, and even made cookies. It was a great feeling knowing that we could provide a home-cooked meal for these families. I am so thankful that Ronald McDonald house exists because if I had a sick child, the last thing I would want to do is worry about where to stay or what to eat. Here, the families can just focus on being there to support their children at the hospital. I’m so glad to have been able to serve in such a wonderful facility.

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Finally, my group was filled with funny, kind, and positive people. Before we began our service at the hospital, we bonded by rock climbing to the top of Pinnacle Mountain. Luckily, no bones were broken—just one scraped up leg resulted. Later we bonded further by cheering on the Packers at Buffalo Wild Wings, even though we were surrounded by dedicated Dallas fans. Luckily, the Packers were victorious, so we were able to leave with our heads held high. Whether it morale boosting Baskin Robbins runs, murder mystery podcast listening sessions, or intense games of Uno attack, our group couldn’t have gotten along better. Even when we were disappointed at times about our service, we were able to laugh it off and face each moment with the positivity needed to get through the week.

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So no, this trip is not what I expected it to be, but as a result I grew in my ability to lead, adapt, and remain positive in unpredictable circumstances. I was challenged to volunteer selflessly and humbly, realizing that we were helping the hospital no matter what type of service we were giving. I was able to bond with my wonderful group and meet some of the nicest people with Southern hospitality, such as Margie from church who cooked us a meal for free, the men from the simulation center with their passion and enthusiasm, and Blake from the research center who was so excited to educate young adults like us. Even though this trip didn’t go as planned, I can still walk away feeling accomplished in the ways that I served others and built relationships with the people I met.

 

Hasta Luego 2016!

Here we are–December 31, 2016. Just like that, another year has flown by. This year was characterized by college, friends, family, and travels both small and large scale. While I’m sad that life occurs too quickly, all I can say is that I am thankful to be where I am today. I’m healthy, happy, loved, supported, and so much more due to the communities that I have been blessed with. I’d just like to take a moment to recall some of my favorite memories with you.

  1. January: Learning about the HIV/AIDS social justice issue on my service trip to Chicago, IL
  2. June: Shadowing an OB/GYN and getting to use the doppler to hear a baby’s heartbeat
  3. July: Visiting Seattle, WA and Alaska on a cruise with my family
  4. July: Exploring Chicago, IL with my mom: visiting Navy Pier, shopping, eating delicious food
  5. August: Completing my first triathlon despite the terrifying swim portion
  6. August: Being a camp counselor to a precious foster child at Royal Family Kids Camp
  7. Summer: Hiking and exploring Milwaukee with my high school friends
  8. School year: Having my job on the ALIVE team, being a TRIPS leader, spending time with my friends, beginning research, connecting with my professors, and so much more

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I have high hopes for 2017. First, I have my children’s medical trip to Arkansas. Then, I need to make it through second semester of sophomore year. I will be taking Organic Chemistry, Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy, Physics, and the Christian Tradition. While it will probably be another hard semester, I am excited to be reunited with my friends and professors. In the summer, I hope to do some kind of race, travel somewhere, and volunteer at Royal Family Kids Camp, Finally, the goal in the fall is to spend the semester in Quito, Ecuador!

There are so many amazing opportunities to look forward to in 2017, but I’m hoping this year to be less future-focused, but rather enjoy one day at a time. I feel like that’s the only way to help time slow down just a hare so that I can take in all of these memories. 2017 will definitely be a year of new experiences especially with the leadership roles that I am taking on and with the traveling that I will be doing. Most importantly, I hope that 2017 is a year of spiritual growth for me. I want to continue deepening my faith and challenging myself to trust God’s plan for me.

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Happy New Year!
Hannah

Solidarity Amidst Our Fractured Society

Week one of college done. As the Script would sing, “I’m still alive, but I’m barely breathing.” It’s true. I’m taking a tough course load, and I’m super involved on campus. My life is insanely busy, but it’s so fulfilling. Anyways, at the college’s opening Mass, I found out that my school’s theme for the year is solidarity. Honestly, what a perfect theme to reflect upon this year, especially when the world seems so chaotic and fragmented. I was lucky enough to be able to attend a lecture called “Solidarity in a Time of Bias, Hate, and Violence,” and it opened my eyes to the fact that so much work needs to be done in order to create unity in our communities.

The presenters challenged us to think of solidarity as more than just unity. It demands each individual to commit oneself to the common good. Solidarity stresses justice for all and reiterates that humans were designed by God to be interdependent. Our society tries to marginalize individuals based on our differences and brainwashes people into believing that each person can thrive autonomously. Solidarity fights against society’s structural sins through self-sacrifice and care for the poor and vulnerable.

Later on, the lecturers stated that bringing solidarity into communities begins with a change in the mindset of each individual. I, myself, need to take a step back and notice my surroundings. Sometimes hate, bias, and violence are so embedded in society that it is hard to notice it if I don’t proactively look for it. It’s not enough just to acknowledge the terrible things that are happening in this world. I want to be part of the solution. How can I better incorporate justice, service, and solidarity into my daily life? Even on campus, how can I help create a more inclusive, welcoming community?

I may not have the answers to these questions yet, but the theme of solidarity is so thought-provoking. After all, as Christians, we are supposed to be one body in Christ. We need to be the ones who see the similarities in each individual, rather than separate ourselves based on our differences. At the end of the day, we are all human beings deserving of love, dignity, and justice. Imagine if members of society truly lived in solidarity with one another. What a wonderful world it would be. It’s not impossible, and I’m going to do my part to make solidarity a reality.

Lots of love,
Hannah

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

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

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

Taking a Break…

When I first created Curiosity and a Cat, I was so excited to express whatever was on my mind. I thought it would be a unique way to do the journaling that I love with the hopes that these thoughts could inspire and encourage readers. I had tons of ideas to write about, and then the insecurities set in…

No one is going to read this.

Every other college girl has a blog. You aren’t unique by doing this. 

You are a science major, Hannah. You suck at writing. Why blog?

The list goes on and on…

I’ve always struggled with self-confidence, especially with sharing my opinions. I’m afraid that I will sound stupid or that my ideas aren’t valid. I easily become swayed by the lies that I form inside my head. However, I think it’s time to start conquering this fear inside of me. My family, friends, and coworkers know that my thoughts are valuable; I need to start believing that myself.

One of my favorite verses is Romans 12:2.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is– his good, pleasing, and perfect will.”

I need to be TRANSFORMED by the RENEWING of my mind. I need to realize that if God places something on my heart, I should have faith in Him rather than listening to the lies inside of me. So after taking a break from blogging, I’ve decided to give it another go because it is something that I feel called to do. I can’t worry about what others think about my articles. All I’m striving to focus on is creating material that I am proud of. Hopefully, the topics that are on my heart and mind will relate to someone else in the world. At the least, blogging will be another outlet to reflect on my life and my faith, allowing me to grow spiritually and emotionally.

I’m excited to be back, and I have a plethora of ideas to write about (thank you overactive brain). Stay tuned for more random thoughts from yours truly.

 

Lots of love,

Hannah

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Dear 2015,

Dear 2015,

First, you went by way too quickly. Luckily, I have three journals full of gems to reflect upon. If I could describe you, I’d say you were a year of transitions. I graduated from high school, began college, and made many memories along the way.

In the beginning, 2015, my mind was definitely preoccupied with trying to choose a college to attend. I only applied to three schools, and I was so anxious about whether I was limiting my options. Meanwhile, I was thoroughly enjoying forensics with all of my friends. Sure, we had to get up at 6am to go to the meets on Saturdays, but forensics meets were the best! My friend Maddie and I rocked the  Group Interpretation category with our piece “Animals.” The story was about how a janitor saves a family of hamsters from barbaric second-graders. I’ve never had to act as a hamster before…it’s truly a one-of-a-kind experience. Maddie and I had so much fun performing together, and I think that’s why we did so well–we genuinely enjoyed the story that we were acting out. Forensics is the only thing I’ve ever won at, and the team holds a special place in my heart.

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By the time spring rolled around, I committed to a college. Praise God! I was so worried about what to do, but He eased my anxieties, and I have no regrets about the choice that I made. Spring break was phenomenal because my family took a cruise to the Caribbean. We departed from San Juan, Puerto Rico, and then voyaged to St. Tomas, Antigua, Martinique, St. Lucia, and Grenada. We went on so many adventures including snorkeling, riding jet boats, getting a mud bath in a hot spring, eating authentic Caribbean cuisine, and discovering all of the local spices and produce. While these adventures, sunny skies, and aqua-blue waters were incredible, the most memorable aspect of the vacation was the people that I met. Ricardo, Remi, Agnelo, and Ayessa were the main staff who took care of us on our trip. They all worked so hard, and yet were genuinely kind to us. They told us about their lives back home and about how rough their countries are. Despite all of this, they were radiating with positivity and joy. That was a common theme in the Caribbean–happiness. Everyone that I met was so happy even though they had so little. This sounds ridiculous, but even the way they beeped their car horns while driving on their skinny, winding roads sounded happy. Our tour guide at St. Lucia, King Nigel, said that their motto was “good vibes,” and that was clearly evident everywhere that we visited. I hope to one day go back to the Caribbean. I love the people, the culture, the food, and the climate. This is cheesy, but true. I left this vacation realizing how blessed I am. It opened my eyes to the lives that people live outside of my sheltered community.

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June was filled with rejoicing! I survived my AP classes, and I finally graduating from high school. I loved my high school; we had great teachers, academics and sports. Not to mention, I had the most grounded friends, my sisters in Christ, who challenged me each day to deepen my relationship with God. Despite all of that, I was very ready to move on with high school. I couldn’t wait for the freedom and independence that college would bring!

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The highlight of my summer was being a counselor at Royal Family Kids Camp, a camp for abused and neglected foster children. This was the second year that I was a part of this wonderful, life-changing camp. That August, we were blessed to have 30 precious campers with us. I was in charge of two, seven-year-old girls. The week flew by, but it was filled with  so many memories: tubing in 60 degree weather, dressing up for the Royal Tea Party, picking out a special gift for each of my campers, and holding my girls’ hands as we walked from activity to activity. My favorite moment, though, was when I was reading heart notes to one of my campers (heart notes are words of encouragement that counselors can write to campers or vice versa.) Originally, she had no interest in them because even at age seven, she could barely read. However, once I started reading them to her, her eyes lit up. She even asked to sleep with some of them. I’ve never had a sister, nor have I cared for two children so deeply before. I don’t know their pasts, and I’m not certain of their futures.I pray every day that my campers, and all of the other campers, find secure, loving homes. I hope they remember that even in the darkest hour, God is always with them.

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A day after Royal Family Kids Camp, I moved into college! What an adventure. I love my school. It’s small and charming and beautiful. I have group of friends at work, and my floor in the Honors dorm is the best. We are artsy, wacky, and a little nerdy. I wouldn’t have it any other way. With these gals I’ve danced for 13.1 hours at Dance Marathon, practiced yoga in the dorm, devoured numerous amounts of frozen yogurt, and laughed so hard that it hurts. I also learned at college too, don’t get me wrong. My professors were great! I knew them all really well… heck, I even wrote a Haiku about Alkaline Phosphatase for my biology professor. It was a wonderful, speedy semester.

college

It was a pleasure knowing you, 2015. All in all, it was an exciting year filled with endings and new beginnings. I’m thankful for all of the opportunities that I was given this year and for all of the new friends that I have made. I can’t wait to see what 2016 brings!

 

Lots of love,

Hannah

P.S. If you would like to learn more about Royal Family Kids Camp, please visit http://royalfamilykids.org .