2020: The Year That Was

Well guys, we’ve made it.  Today’s the last day of 2020.
How many of you remember what you were doing and feeling at this time last year?
 
From what I remember, most were excited for 2020 – from Roaring 20s themed parties, to posts about “the year of the eye doctor”.  Yes, 2020 was set to be grand.
 
Admittedly, I was tempted to comment on all the enthusiasm with a reminder as to the devastation of The Great Depression that emerged out of the glamour of the 1920s, but alas, why ruin the moment?
 
And then 2020 actually hit, and, in an instant, the world stood still.
 
Looking back on the last 12 (but more specifically the last 9) months, I’m sure 2020 has felt to many like the year that.. well, wasn’t.

School was cancelled.
Sports were cancelled.
Church was cancelled.
Concerts were cancelled.
Vacation was cancelled.
Holidays were cancelled.

Yes, in many ways, it felt like life itself was cancelled in 2020, replaced with months of uncertainty that stretched on to eternity.

As such, it would be easy to simply dismiss this last year, running wholeheartedly into 2021, in the hopes that, like magic, when the clock strikes 12, this madness will end, and life will resume.

Tempting, right?

But what if instead, for a moment, you stop thinking about all the ways that 2020 was the year that wasn’t, and start thinking of how 2020 was the year that was.

 

Maybe 2020 was the year that you finally completed some of those projects around the house that you’d been meaning to do.

Maybe 2020 was the year that you spent more time with family.

Maybe 2020 was the year that you added a healthy habit to your life.

Maybe 2020 was the year that you took up a new hobby.

Maybe 2020 was the year that you had to face something about your personality that you’d been running from for years.

Maybe 2020 was the year that you experienced the reality of God in a way that you never had before.

For me, 2020 was the year that I truly became involved in a church for the first time in my adult life.

It was the year that I started a podcast with my older brother. (Sorry for the 6 month hiatus y’all – we’ll get back to it hopefully soon!)

It was the year that I finally had time to more consistently work on music, and so, arranged 5 new songs in a matter of months.

 

2020 was the year that I reassessed my values, and decided to make a fifth cross country move to be able to see my family more consistently.

It was the year that I blogged for 100 days straight, began an optometry blog (again, sorry for the hiatus), and more consistently published personal blogs.

It was the year that I started getting over my fear of talking on the phone.

It was a year that I struggled with anxiety, but began learning to cast my cares on the Savior.

It was the year that I discovered the beauty of community.

 

2020 was the year that I learned to drive the combine, drive a tractor with two loaded wagons, and dump the wagons.

It was the year that I accepted and began my first non-residency job.

It was a year to realize who I am, and begin seeing myself as the Father sees me – beloved.

 

No, 2020 was not perfect.

It had more than its share of anxiety, frustration, anger, loss, and tears.

But in the midst of the storm that was this year, there was peace.

There was hope.

There was love.

And there was joy.

 

May you find these in the arms of friends, family, and the Father today, and everyday as we begin this journey into 2021.

 

Hannah

(im)perfect.

Merry Christmas, y’all!

Well, it would seem that we’ve once again found ourselves at the holiday season.  Is it just me, or does it not feel much like Christmas this year?

Maybe it’s because I’m not traveling across the country for the first time in 3 years.

Maybe it’s because there’s no (okay, fine, there’s a little) snow.

Maybe it’s because I worked through Christmas Eve.

Maybe it’s because all of the “normal” events that mark the holiday season just… weren’t this year.

Whatever it is, it hasn’t felt much like Christmas for me.
And I’m guessing I’m not alone in this.

 

This year has been… unplanned.

Imperfect.

And for many of us, I’m sure this holiday season feels much the same.

 

Maybe loved ones are missing – for safety or from death.

Maybe there just simply weren’t enough funds to cover that “perfect” Christmas dinner, or buy just the right gifts.

Maybe you had plans of getting everything “right” for the holidays this year, but somehow things fell apart and you ran out of time once again.

Maybe the gifts you ordered never came.

For me?

As I’m writing this, I have a stack of Christmas cards on the table that I started a month ago and have yet to send.

More of the gifts I ordered have yet to arrive than are here.  The three that did arrive just got wrapped about 20 minutes ago, and the tape has already decided to not stick on one box. (Good thing my brother already knows what it is, as he was the one to intercept the Amazon truck and read the box…  Who knew that you could change the packaging?!)  

I still have two strands of lights sitting on my chair that I never got around to hanging.

Out of the 10 songs that I planned on arranging for Christmas, I finished two.

I didn’t finish planning music for this morning’s Christmas service until… this morning.

And, I realized yesterday that I completely forgot to order one gift for my parents. (And several others for friends/other family members…)

Oops.

 

And while I know that all these things are very minor in the grand scheme of life, it’s still easy to see the imperfections.

 

But as I stand run in place here at my desk, I’m reminded that the Christmas story has never been about perfection.

Mary?  She was a pregnant teen.

Joseph?  He had considered leaving Mary before they even got married.

The journey?  It was around 80 miles.. on foot.  (Y’all, I’m exhausted after like 10 miles.)

Bethlehem? It was the armpit of the tribe of Judah.

Jesus? He didn’t even get the luxury of a home birth.  He was born in a barn, because that was the only space left in the city.

The shepherds?  They were nobody’s – just doing their best to get by.

The wise men? They showed up an estimated two years after Christ was born!

No, nothing about the Christmas story was perfect, but such is the beauty of the gospel.

It has never been about our perfection.

It has never been about being “good enough”.

It has only, ever been about the goodness and grace of God our Father, who wrapped himself in our frailty to “save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray.”

Tidings of comfort and joy indeed.

 

From my imperfections to yours, Merry Christmas 💕

Hannah

 

I Say No.

Y’all.  It’s been a week.

After spending most of a month being super active (which, let’s be real, is probably what keeps me sane), and actually being around other real live human beings, a week in the silence and solitude of my own little world came as a quite a shock to the system.

As an ISTP and enneagram nine, solitude can be both a blessing and a curse.  And so, while I love having time for introspection and deep thoughts, I have the unfortunate tendency of getting a little too deep and then having a hard time digging myself back out.

Mainly because, well, I don’t want to.

Because somehow, even as my thoughts keep churning until the words are swirling whirlpools that threaten to swallow me whole, the drowning feels… painfully euphoric.  And, like an addict craving another hit, as the water fills my lungs, I find myself longing only to sink.

Which, might make me crazy.

I’d like to think it just makes me human.

 

The thoughts themselves vary, but throughout the self-talk that screams in silence, a common voice is found: fear.

If I’m honest, I’ve been run by fear for… most, if not all, of my life.  From fear of sickness, to fear of weight gain, to fear of failure, to fear of abandonment, to fear of hurting or disappointing others, to fear of being unloved, to fear of simply not being enough – they’re all there.

And, chances are, I’m not the only one who struggles with this.

During one of of the many hours of silence and solitude this week, however, 2 Timothy 1:7 came to mind:

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (NKJV)

And, for at least a moment, my thoughts shifted.

We have not been given a spirit of fear.

I have not been given a spirit of fear.

You have not been given a spirit of fear.

Quite the contrary: we’ve been given a spirit of power!

 

As I continued to ponder this verse, the song I Say No came to mind, and I realized:

Y’all.  We can say no – no to the thoughts and feelings and voices of fear and negative self-talk.  We have been given that power!

 

Unfortunately, it’s easier said than done.

If you’re like me, the cacophony has sounded for years.

And, as a raging river etches at stone until a canyon is born, a life of fear yields a seemingly inescapable chasm, growing ever deeper as torrents of trouble fall.

However, we are not called to crawl out on our own!  As the psalmist writes in Psalm 46:1:

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. (NIV)
 
 
And so, when I feel my strength give way as the siren song pulls me into the depths of my mind, I can be assured that He is there! That [His] strength is made perfect in weakness! (2 Corinthians 12:9) And together, we can say no.
 
For this, I have no greater words than Paul in his letter to the Corinthians – Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! (1 Corinthians 15:57 NKJV)
Y’all. Some days, the battle will seem overwhelming.  Some days, the victory will feel far.  But today, and every day, I pray for the strength to simply say, no.
Who’s with me?
HV

Messy.

Happy (I think it’s) Tuesday, y’all!

After waking up this morning (and putting my contacts in), I looked around my room.

Between clothes, shoes, boxes, bags, and papers, it looked like a tornado had gone through (and dumped things in sporadic piles).

Admittedly, it would have been easy to be frustrated and overwhelmed by the self-created mess spurred by impending change. As I looked around in the dim light, however, the thought came to mind:

sometimes everything has to be torn apart before it can be put back together

How fitting.

I feel like so often growth and change are appealing concepts from the outside.  I mean, who doesn’t want to improve? Who doesn’t want to grow – stronger, healthier, smarter?

But from the inside? Y’all, change (at least for the better) is not pretty!

Rather, it’s a mess!

Sometimes things need torn out (like cement and stone for a driveway project).

Hidden things (like bats in basements) are often exposed.

Memories, good and bad, resurface.

The old, worn, comfortable things (like clothes and habits) are thrown out to make room for the new.

 

And if we’re honest, growth isn’t any better – growth is ugly and painful at best!

Remember back to puberty? Did anyone make it out unscathed?!

Or for those of you who play(ed) sports or work out – have any of you grown faster or stronger without pain?

(Random thought: it’s a good thing corn doesn’t have pain sensors.  Could you imagine growing 2+ inches per day? Yeow!)

 

So if all change and growth is so ugly, and painful, and messy, then what’s the point? Why do we continue?

For the hope. For the promise.  Of something more, of something better.

 

As I close this post, I’m reminded of two scriptures, James 1:2-4 and 1 Peter 1:7.

In James (from The Message), it reads: Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.  You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors.  So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely.  Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

Similarly, in 1 Peter (from the New Living Translation), we are reminded that: These trials will show that your faith is genuine.  It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold – though your faith is far more precious than mere gold.  So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.

And so we, as Paul exhorts in Philippians 3:13b-14, continue – forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, [we] press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called [us] heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Don’t quit.

‘Til the next time,

Hannah

To Leave a Legacy

It’s been a long time since I posted anything in this blog… probably because I have more blogs than are reasonable for a single person, but that’s beside the point.

With #100DaysofHannah finished, and less urgency for constant content with little respect to quality, it would seem I have more time to think, ponder, meditate, contemplate – all the good things in life.  Whether that changes the direction or frequency of my posts on this blog is yet to be determined, but frankly, that is not the point of this post.

Rather, tonight’s post stems from a question that came to mind as I was considering potential plans for the coming weeks:

If I were to die tonight (or in the very near future), what would I be remembered for?  What would my legacy be? And, is that who I want to be remembered as?

I suppose with that introduction I should make a few disclaimers: 

First, no, I am not considering taking my own life, so y’all can put down your phones and breathe.

Second, I’ll admit, discussing death can seem morbid.  And if it bothers you, I won’t be offended if you stop reading now.

If I’m honest, death is something that I have contemplated for most of my life.  

Why?

Maybe it was a doctor’s suspicion of a condition that could result in sudden premature death.

Maybe it was the stories that I read, in which, for some inexplicable reason the main characters always lost a loved one.

Maybe it was the depression that I fought for years, believing that one day it would overpower me.

Whatever the cause, life has never been my expectation.

While I would love to say that this has significantly impacted my perspective of life, I’m not fully convinced that it is true, as tonight was the first time that I truly contemplated death in light of impact and legacy.

 

Which brings me again to the question:

If I were to die tonight, what would my legacy be?

 

For the last several years, I have sought to spread joy – simply to bring a smile to the face of others, to make them feel seen and valued, to show them they are loved. If I’m honest, my attempts are feeble at best, as I run from vulnerability, seek my own importance, and lash out in insecurity.

But even on my best days, does it matter?

Does any of it matter?

What difference does it make if I’m a “happy person” if the people I come in contact with do not see Christ in me?

What legacy am I seeking, if not that He be glorified in me?

 

I’ll admit, I don’t have answers.  I don’t know how to get it right. I don’t even really know where to start – except at His throne of mercy and grace, where I long to one day bow before Him, only to hear Him say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

 

-Hannah

It Is Well

I really shouldn’t be blogging right now.  No, I should be writing a case report, grading a presentation, or doing a plethora of other residency related tasks. But, as in my optometry school days, there is nothing like an imminent deadline to promote procrastination.

So I will write.
I’m pretty sure every post I’ve had for the last 6 months started with a variant of: this isn’t what I expected.   And as I stand here contemplating the last nearly 4 months, and the days, weeks, and moths that lie ahead, I can say with certainty that this is unexpectedness still rings true.
This time, I’m sure I’m not alone.
2020 hasn’t been what any of us expected.
Not that I’m really sure what we expected… 
Maybe a year of fun? A year of hope? A year for success?
All I know is a global pandemic that has stopped the world in its tracks certainly wasn’t it.
For me, 2020 was supposed to be a year for changes, a year for community, and a year for growth.
I was supposed to wrap up my residency, find a job, start doing this optometry thing on my own.
For the first time in my adult life, I was beginning to feel integrated into a spiritual and social community.
At last, it felt like maybe this weird life-thing was coming together.
And then, as the last weeks of February turned into March, slowly but surely, it all began to fall apart.
Trips were cancelled. Communications strained. Plans were derailed. Communities unraveled.
And not just for me, but for everyone.
For others, jobs were lost. Finances upturned. Weddings postponed. Hopes, dreams, lives – torn apart in days.
And so we’re left to scream:
This isn’t right! This isn’t fair! God, this isn’t how it was supposed to be!
And sure enough, maybe this isn’t how it was supposed to be.
It sure doesn’t feel right.
It sure doesn’t feel fair.
But yet, here we are.
I wish I knew why.
I wish I could make it all make sense.
I wish I had answers as to what the coming days may hold.
But I don’t.
And so, it’s easy to feel afraid – gripped by the uncertainty.
It’s easy to feel lost – shrouded in darkness and despair.
It’s easy to feel alone – abandoned in this life of isolation.
But in the deafening silence of isolation, as the tumultuous waves of doubt and anxiety rise, I hear a voice – still in the chaos, quiet in the noise – and I am drawn to the arms of the one who brings peace in the storm, hope to the hopeless, life to the dead.
It is He who holds the nations.
It is He who promises never to leave us or forsake us.
It is He who works all things together for our good and for His glory.
And so I am called to trust – trust his goodness, his grace, his mercy, his love – assured that He knows the plans He has for us – plans for welfare, not calamity – to give us a future and a hope.
As I close out this blog and move onto whatever task lies ahead, I am reminded of the words of a hymn written by Horacio Spafford upon the loss of his fortune and family in 1872:
When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll.
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say:
“It is well, it is well with my soul.”
And as its melodies resound in my mind, I pray that you find peace, comfort, and assurance as we traverse the days ahead, so that together we may sing:
“It is well. Yes, it is well with my soul.”
Til the next time,
Hannah

2019: A Review

Well guys, I guess we’ve made it.  In just a few short hours, 2019 will be over, and a whole new year – and decade – will have begun.


2019 was, in retrospect, probably one of the most eventful years of my life.  A short summary would be that I moved across the country 3 times to live in 4 different states, became a doctor, and began residency.  But where’s the fun in short summaries when you can spend a couple hours (of writing, not reading – y’all are saved) reminiscing about the highs and lows of the past 12 months.  And, to make it more interesting, I decided to choose a different word to represent each month because, why not? So, without further adieu, here’s 2019: A Review


January: Eager
Yes, I was eager in January.  It was the first month of this new year, and I was ready to hit the ground running.  2019 held great promise for adventure – moving to New Mexico, interviewing for residencies, graduating, starting my first optometry job – and I couldn’t wait.  During this month, I kept myself busy: going skiing with family (never ski with 30 mph winds at 17 degrees when they’re making snow.), traveling north to see two of my favorite humans (and a spectacular blood moon), playing dark snowball to for hours on end with cousins, finishing my rotation at the NC VA, and finally packing my bags and car as the last few days of January came to an end, and beginning my cross country trek to the beautiful Land of Enchantment.


February: Enchanted
February is the month of love, right? It should come as no surprise then, that this second month of 2019 was simply enchanting – well, almost.
The first day of February, I will probably never forget. Dad and I had made it to Houston the previous night – at rush hour, in a downpour, through the third ward, after 7 hours straight in the car.  I hated it. Everything about it. All I wanted to do was pack the car back up and keep trucking through to New Mexico. Forget the interview – I’d tell them I wasn’t interested.
But Dad wasn’t about that.  Much to my dismay, he told me that we had made it that far – I was going to interview at Houston.  If I still hated the world by noon, I could tell the doctors that it didn’t feel like a good fit, leave early, and keep trekking west.
I wasn’t pleased, but I got up early the morning of Feb 1st and went to that interview… where I proceeded to tell the docs my honest opinion of Houston from my 16 hour exposure.  As 4:00 rolled around, my hatred had diminished – okay, fine, I loved the docs – but I also felt a certain safety: I’d never be moving to Houston. After all, who in their right mind would rank a candidate who blatantly admitted: Yeah, when I got here I hated Houston.
From this point, however, the month was sunshine and roses.  Literally.
My home in New Mexico was everything I had ever dreamed.  With a beautiful patio, 2 car garage, 3 bedrooms, fireplace, generous owner, and brilliant view of the mountains mere miles away, I was hooked.  And then I met my coworkers and patients, who were absolutely amazing.
I was in love.
And, as ice cream on this glorious pie, I had the opportunity to travel to the east coast for another interview (hooray first rental car!), swing by home just in time for Valentines, and go to my first (second, and third) national park with my official travel/adventure buddy (Cousin? Friend? Did we ever figure this out?). 
Yes, February, my dear, you were enchanting.


March: Exploration
March was a month for exploration – without a doubt.  Most of the month I spent out and about – well, as often as I could without getting in trouble for missing work 🙂
It was as if I could not soak up the beauty of my new home fast enough. Nearly every day after work, I sped out to the mountains – hiking miles, catching sunsets.  The weekends, I ventured further – seeing the Gila Cliff Dwellings, trying my first Hatch Green Chiles. Every day seemed to hold its own glorious adventure.
March was coincidentally the month when my greatest adventure of the year truly began.  At 6:00 MST on the morning of March 18th (Residency Match Day), I woke to an email: “Congratulations. You have matched with the University Eye Institute.”
I won’t lie – there were tears.. And not happy ones.  I had been so sure that I wasn’t heading back to Houston.  I had had dreams of being placed at another site, not that my dreams are ever prophetic – thank God – but still!  I had come to love the wilderness of New Mexico so much – why would I want to go to the 4th largest city in the nation? Why did I have to give up my mountains for a place virtually as flat as northwest Ohio?!
But I had prayed extensively about the match – that God would place me where He wanted me – and the rules of the match were clear – there was no changing it once you were matched.
Yes, I was going to Houston.
Growing up, Dad always said that we have two options in life – be happy with what we are doing, or change what we’re doing and be happy with that.
This time, I couldn’t change my direction, but I could change my attitude, and so, I put on my best happy face, and threw myself into preparing for this new adventure.


April: End
During the month of April, I thought a lot about endings.  This fourth month brought the end of two chapters of my story – my time in New Mexico and my journey through optometry school – and I wasn’t ready. And so, there were countless days that I never wanted to end – from nights at White Sands, to sunsets on Tortugas, to my first time biking the back-route hills, to visits from some of my favorite people.
But the days did pass, and before I knew it, I had packed up my life once more and started the trip back to Ohio.
I’ll admit, I was not the best of travel companions as we made our way towards the Midwest.  Shout out to Mom for tolerating my moodiness and letting me keep hold of the wheel – the one little piece of life that I felt like I could control.


May: Grey.
First off – look y’all, I changed my letters.
Second – I’m taking a poll: do you spell grey – grey or gray? Or does it matter?
In any case, May was a gray month (I think I like that better.  And I rhymed – I swear it wasn’t intentional.)
From the outside, it probably looked pretty stellar.  After all, on May 5th, I finally finished the degree I’d been pursuing for 4 years.  I was supposed to be excited, right?
In all reality though, I really wasn’t.
I was burnt out. I missed my mountains. I missed my coworkers. I missed the heat.
And most of all, I missed the sun.
I am not exaggerating to say that we went the entire month of may without breaking 72 hours without rain. It was excessive.  For the second time, in 4 years, we didn’t plant a single field (which was what I had been most excited about coming home for).  Aside from that, none of my plans panned out. I wanted to travel, but kept putting it off in hopes of a dry week to help with planting.  I wanted to find a house, but try as I might consistently came up empty handed. I wanted to get all my ducks in a row regarding licensure, but papers got lost (multiple times), and documents were slow in processing.
It was like a gray cloud was hanging over all of my dreams.
And that was May.


June: Provision
This month could also be entitled “trust”, as it would seem that God’s provision quite often follows an opportunity where we are called to trust Him. However, I still suck at trusting, and so, June will be called the month of provision.
Over the course of these 30 days, God provided exceedingly abundantly more than I could think or ask on multiple occasions – flights, hotels, cars, food, timing – the doors  that he opened at just the right time were innumerable. And while many of these moments were memorable, the most notable is a story that I hope to share for many years to come.
It’s no secret that I had had a difficult time finding housing in Houston.  I had looked almost daily beginning in March, and still had nothing to show for my efforts come the first week of June.  So, one afternoon, Dad and I decided to pack our bags, drive to the airport and fly down for a couple days (yes, that was literally all the more thought we put into the decision).  I was positive that this would be it. But, two long, hot, tiring days of searching later, I was still without a house, and we were both back in Ohio for my last 3 days at home before the official move.
On the early afternoon of June 17th, we finished packing all the belongings that could fit in my car, said goodbye to the fam, and took off with no destination but Houston – somewhere.  2:00 CST the next afternoon, we pulled into town. (Yes, it’s an 18+ hour drive. Yes, we drove over 13 hours, only stopping to get gas. Yes, we might be crazy.). We still had no idea where we were going, so we literally drove around until we made it to a suburb, saw a decent looking hotel, and unanimously decided that we could sit in the car no longer, so it would be our base of operations – providing they had a room.
They did.
That night, we prayed, searched, ate BBQ, searched, and prayed some more.
This is probably the point in the story where I should give some more timeline details.  It was Tuesday. I had a flight out of town to see Hugh Jackman live in Chicago with my friends Thursday night. I would get back into town Sunday late, and then head to my first day of work bright and early Monday morning.  That gave us approximately 36 hours – including sleeping – to find a place, move in, get Dad a flight home, and get me on my flight back. Time was not on our side.
God, however, was.
Wednesday rolled around.  I made phone calls (none of which were returned).  We went on tours. Nothing was working. I was hot, frustrated, and exhausted – completely ready to throw in the towel and give up on finding a place.
About 4:00 though, Dad found one last option.  Begrudgingly, I hopped back in the car to go check it out.
To my disbelief, everything about the place felt right.  As soon as Dad and I finished the tour and hopped back in the car, we looked at each other and knew there was nothing that needed to be discussed: We had finally found my home.
Within an hour, we were back on the premises with a signed lease, set to move in the next morning – after the final inspection had been completed.
You see, the day of our tour they were literally putting the finishing touches on what was to become my home.  It could not have been rented out any earlier.
It’s funny though – that night as Dad and I ate dinner, I kept expecting a feeling of relief, or maybe of exceeding joy and gratitude, to flood over me.  It never did.
But that’s okay.  Over the past 6 months, I have come to see His hand working so often through where He has placed me – even in the moments where my emotions don’t seem to match my reality – and so, I am grateful for his merciful provision.


July: Freedom
Come on, what’d you expect from a girl who loves all things summer?
July was, in many ways, a month of freedom.  Clinic was pretty chill, as I was paired up with the Peds resident for most all of my patient encounters, and I had weekends generally free to roam.  Once my aforementioned adventure buddy/cousin/friend introduced me to the wonders of Texas beaches (okay, they’re probably not the “ideal” beaches, but again, SUMMER – all I need is water and waves), there was no looking back.


August: Adjustment
With the arrival of August came a lot of changes.  The other, more organized part of my brain (aka the Peds resident), was stripped from me, and I was left to see patients on my own (shocking, I know).  As such, I was expected to see more patients in less time, without the aid of the person who I’d literally just spent the last 6 weeks learning to work with.  Aside from that, there were new rotations, new attendings, and new expectations.
In my personal life, I began attending a new church, and tried to branch out and meet new people.  One worked, the other did not.


September: Wet.
September, as a whole, was going to be a pretty non-descript month.  After Labor Day spent with family, I settled into a glorious routine of: work all week, beach all end.
That is until a tropical storm decided to back track into Houston, flooding the city, canceling clinics, and grounding all flights.
Including the one that I had had booked for months to head to the Midwest to hang out with my people.
Oops.
But yeah, September wasn’t much to write home about.
*still a mite bit salty about that one*


October: Exhausted
For whatever reason, October seemed to just drag on and on and on.
Sure, I still enjoyed what I was doing, but there was a part of me that really wanted to stay in bed every morning rather than getting up and heading to clinic.  Even after what was supposed to be a relaxing visit from Mom. But, October was Academy month, and all I had to do was make it to the last weekish of the month, and I would finally have a break.
So, I hopped on a plane – poster in tow (I presented for the first time!) – and made my way to Orlando, where I proceeded to sit through 4 days of lectures -only t come back home more tired than I was before.
Which perfectly set the stage for November.


November: Done.
If you want to see details about the 11th month of this solar rotation, please refer to my previous post.  In short, I was stressed, anxious, sick, and generally miserable for most of the month. So, most days I struggled to make it through work, only to come home, eat dinner, and pass out by 7:30.
Highlights of the month, however, included attempting (and failing) to find a pumpkin patch, going to the zoo, and heading to the Carolinas to spend Thanksgiving with my southern fam.
And that was it.


December: Blessed
December was, in a word, everything that November failed to be.  Well, more or less.
With such a late Thanksgiving, there was fantastically little time between my trek to the Carolinas and Christmas. Plus, we were on interim schedule in clinic, which broke up the monotony of my regular semester schedule.
And so, with December’s dawn, I found myself awakening from my November nodding to 31 days full of potential.
In this time, I was able to see almost all of my favorite people, including 2 days with my southern fam, 3 days with my favorite dogs (and their humans… Thanks Indy snow storm for that extra day!), 5 days with my immediate fam, a few hours each with the non-blood people who have put up with me since I was tiny, and several evenings with some of the best little humans I know.  Not to mention all of the time spent with the Houstonians (and transplants) who have somehow managed to nudge their way into my life.
Oh yeah, and I got to cut down my own Christmas tree, decorate my little home, enjoy the Houston Zoolights, and spend the holidays in joyous worship of the one who came “to save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray.”


Tidings of comfort and joy indeed.


To all those who were instrumental in making 2019 the stellar year that it was, thank you so much.  Y’all mean the world to me.


From my little home to yours,
Happy New Year!


-Hannah

Unexpected: A Thanksgiving Update

Y’all, November has been a month.


I was supposed to be writing a novel.
I was supposed to be getting my life together.
I was suppose to be wicked productive – not 7 charts and 4 letters behind.


But did any of that happen?


Mmm.. nope!


You see, November is National Novel Writing Month, and, as such, I had planned on spending the month of November writing my first novel.  Granted, I had no idea what I was going to write about, but I was going to write nonetheless.


In addition to that lofty goal, I was going to finally get ahead of all my residency tasks, keep up on my housework, faithfully workout twice a day, change my diet, and start counting macros.


And then November hit – hard – throwing all my great hopes, plans and ideas out the window, as I battled stress, anxiety, and unexplained health changes that made it a struggle to simply make it through the day. Add to that a bricked phone and unforeseen circumstances that prevented me from being able to see my immediate family over the holidays, and you’ve got a pretty good picture of my past month.


Yeah, November did not go as planned


Though, if we’re honest, none of this year has really gone according to plan.


I didnt expect to be in Houston.
I didn’t expect to be attending a Lutheran church.
I didn’t expect to have a tropical storm hit that cancelled my plans to go see my best friends under 12 hours before the flight took off.
I didn’t expect to like it here.
I didn’t expect to find community.
I didn’t expect to get sick.
I didn’t expect to spend 4 major holidays away from my immediate family in the course of one year.


But, here I am, on an early morning Thanksgiving flight, facing this life of unexpecteds.


And, while thankfulness through this journey has not been particularly easy, as I sit here, I know God has been good, and I have been blessed.


He has been beside me through the physical, mental, and emotional storms.  He has given me strength to overcome every obstacle. He has been faithful, providing all I need for even the most taxing days.  Yes, He has provided exceedingly abundantly beyond all that I could ever imagine. And, more importantly, He has paid the price of salvation – a debt that I can never repay.


And so, as another Thanksgiving Day dawns, the call to thankfulness and praise resounds across this beautiful world – from the peaks of mountains high, to the sweeping valleys below.  As you hear its glorious song, may you find beauty in the shambles, joy in the sorrows, peace in the chaos, and strength to face whatever unexpecteds may lie on your path today.


Happy Thanksgiving!


‘Til the next time,


Hannah

Embrace the Thrashing

This post brought to you by 3 months of residency, 1 week of podcasts, and a painfully awkward Saturday morning.

With 3 months of residency under my coat, the inevitable question of “how’s it going” has begun to come up with increased frequency in conversation. The simple answer, because who really has time for long drawn out discussions, is that it’s going well.  Naturally, there are good and bad days, but as a whole, I’m learning a lot and enjoying the experience.  However, though this explanation is definitely true, it doesn’t really tell the whole story.

Okay, now.. where to begin?

I am awkward – which anyone who has ever experienced me in a social environment where I am unsure of my role can probably attest to.  I hate my awkwardness. It’s uncomfortable – not only for me, but for everyone that I am interacting with – and so, I actively try to avoid any and all potentially awkward situations.  This looks different by the day, but it can take the form of being the first person out of any meeting, avoiding parties/gatherings, and panicking whenever I see someone that I know outside of their normal environment.  (Thank God that my poor facial recognition skills generally keep me from recognizing people in public.)  In short? It’s difficult and isolating, but most days I prefer to run from the discomfort than to face it.

As of late, there has been a societal push toward authenticity and vulnerability.  For most of my life, I have claimed to value authenticity – I do my best to say what I mean and mean what I say.  Vulnerability, however, is a whole different story.  Being vulnerable – taking down the shields, wiping off the facades, and simply being real, regardless of the consequences – is difficult, terrifying, and often uncomfortable.  But yet, it is what we are called to.  After all, what is love without vulnerability, and where is community without love?

This season, and especially this week, the topics of authenticity and vulnerability have been especially prevalent in my life.  After 6 months of listening to my 419 song favorites playlist on repeat, I decided it was time to venture into the wonderful realm of podcasts.  Interestingly enough, almost every episode I tuned into was discussing the value of authenticity and vulnerability, and how we must embrace the uncomfortable to truly grow.

One of the most poignant of these was a simple 6 minute episode on Before Breakfast called Embrace  the Thrashing.  It talked about how growth requires thrashing – that mental and emotional flailing of us fighting our fears, discomfort, and perceived inadequacies in the pursuit of something greater.  We often search for an easy way out though, forgetting that the only things worth doing are worth doing well.

The metaphor of thrashing seems an apt description of my life and residency.  There are many days where I find myself flailing about – doubting my abilities, hating my failures, running from my insecurities – just trying to stay afloat.  But, I am reminded that it is in this discomfort that I find growth.  This moment is not the end, but just another page in this journal called life.  And so, let us live in the present, embrace the thrashing, and enjoy the journey.

‘Til the next time,

Hannah

Not about eyes…

What would it look like if you truly believed you were loved?


It’s a question that I pondered this morning while getting ready to face yet another day.


What would it really look like?


I’ve “known” all my life that I’m loved – but that doesn’t mean that I act as if I truly believe it.  I doubt. I judge. I struggle to accept. I run and hide. Because deep down, I wonder if it’s really true.  Would they love me if they really knew me? Would that love disappear if I stripped away my carefully created facade and showed the world the bruises and scars underneath?


Some days, I really doubt it.


And it’s not just friends and family members whose love I question: no, it’s my savior’s as well.  And I don’t think I’m alone in this.


We doubt His protection – that He truly wants the best.  We feel that maybe he’ll listen on the good days. But on the days where it’s obvious just how short our efforts fall?  Well, maybe on those days we’re left to fend for ourselves. And what other choice do we have? We are called to be perfect, just as our Father in heaven is perfect – and perfect? That’s something we’re not.  We’re told of the greatness of God and his desire to shower gifts on his children, but this mentality quickly turns the all-powerful God into little more than a cosmic vending machine. And blessings? What about all the bad things that happen to those around for no reason at all?  Where are the blessings then?


Yes, we could make excuses all day.  But, at the end of the day, when all the excuses for doubting our savior’s love fall to the side – we are left with the realization that we doubt because it’s the easy thing to do.  Coming face to face with the unconditional love of a perfect Father who delights in bestowing love on his children is a terrifying reality that rocks us to the core. We can do and have done nothing to deserve this love – but yet it was freely given over 2000 years ago as our savior shed his blood on the cross.


To know this love is to be in awe of it, swallowed in it, changed by it.
There is no room for passivity.  There is no “Jesus Plus”


And so the question remains, what would it look like to live like you’re loved?


We can hold so tightly to our lives, our pride, our control, choosing to live in ruts, routines, and silly superstitions.  As Rachel Platten so aptly put it, “We whisper little prayers to be somewhere that we’re not, and if we’re good, it’ll take us there.”


But maybe, just maybe, if for a second, we let that love sink in, we could begin to let go. We could stop our worrying about the little things (that feel like very big things) of this life that are quickly passing away.  We could open up our hearts and lives to those around us – no longer afraid of losing love, knowing instead that we are found in heaven’s perfect love story.


Maybe for once we could just live – joyously free, careless in the arms of a careful father.