To the Women of God

Every now and then I have memories pop into my head. One might be an embarrassing memory from 7 years ago that I am still beating myself up over…some are great memories, some I find hard to digest, even now. Last week as a friend asked me to write a piece on evangelism, a memory came to mind that I can’t even find a category for; confusing? frustrating? humorous?

Two years ago, while living in Alabama, I found myself frustrated that I was surrounded by SO. MANY. CHRISTIANS. I know, I’m ridiculous. But hear me out…I think fellowship with believers is absolutely necessary–there is no question about that. We are reminded constantly throughout the Bible that surrounding ourselves with healthy, uplifting, encouraging and challenging believers is something that God not only desires for us, but commands us to have. But the goal of our faith is not to just become “better Christians”. More than anything, our sole purpose in life is to bring the good news and hope of the truth of the Gospel to those who have not heard or who do not believe. That is what all of this–life– is about. When I lived overseas, I saw first hand the immense joy that new believers, well into adulthood, experienced when they decided that Jesus was the real deal and they wanted in. I saw the ache of the genuinely lost, searching for something to fill the void in their hearts. When you see the turnover from the genuinely lost to the genuinely joyful, nothing else matters. After witnessing the turnover, and being a part of it at the ripe age of 11, I realized that that was all I wanted in life–to be a part of it. Not because it made me feel like a good samaritan, but because ultimately, nothing else was as satisfying or fulfilling as being used by God to tell others about the hope they can have in Jesus. So, my heart longs for deep fellowship with believers because the Christian walk is not an easy walk. But more than anything else, my heart burns to be surrounded by the lost. Let me love the Muslim, the Buddhist, the Hindu, the Agnostic, the Atheist, the Nihilist, the Not-Sure-What-I-Believe, the Bad Kids, the Good Kids Who Don’t Know Jesus, The Gays, The Lesbians, and everything in between. After about 6 months in Alabama, my heart ached to be around these kinds of people–to know them, know their story, and love them. I knew and appreciated the blessing of going to a Christian school and to be able to worship and speak openly about  my faith–but I wanted out of the “Christian Bubble” so badly. Mobile, being a port city, is overflowing with immigrants–I had the opportunity to lead and be a part of a team that worked with Internationals in the city who had put down roots in Mobile in the form of cultural coffee shops and restaurants (an extremely frustrating, tedious, and discouraging ministry–another blog post for another time).  Finally, coming into my second semester, I was meeting people who were so different from me–people who I so desperately wanted to share Jesus with.

I remember this scene so vividly: I shared the joys of my heart, the things that made my heart beat faster, the things that I knew God had given me a passion for with some friends at a table outside one afternoon. It seemed that my endless prayers for a place of ministry within the city of Mobile had been answered. God was knitting together my path with the paths of those who desperately needed Jesus. Butterflies fluttered around in my stomach as I spoke of what God was doing and how excited I was that God would choose me to be a witness to them. Soon, a good friend spoke up. Somebody who knew my heart (so I thought), knew my past of a life overseas, and knew about my passion for the lost thought it necessary to utter the words “I just don’t think you are ready to share the Gospel, yet.” OK, YEAH, I AM NOT JOKING, THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENED. Speechless, my eyes hit the ground. I mean, what do you say to that? As I continued to stare at the ground, he attempted at some advice.

“I really want you to read this book before you try to tell somebody about Jesus.”

This, by the way, was the same person who told me in the previous months that I had been sharing my testimony the “wrong way” my whole life.

I’m sure there was drool spilling out of my mouth as I stare, open mouthed at my friend who apparently didn’t believe in me that much. Still not speaking, I’m sure I rolled an eye or two. He continued to tell me that the book was full of some great tips and how-to’s on how to share the Gospel. At this point, I’m pretty offended, wondering if he really even knew me at all. I am not stubborn enough or frankly even smart enough to ever think that there is one way to share the Gospel or that there is no room for learning. But in that moment, the focus shifted from God’s work and His faithfulness to how I wasn’t smart enough, capable enough, or equipped enough to tell people about Jesus, and that was not ok with me.

Later in the semester, I noticed that there was a pattern of degradation towards my ability to share the gospel and articulate sound advice or encouragement for people. When people would come to me for advice or guidance, I would be shut out by a male, usually older, who thought I apparently wasn’t doing a good job. I was hurt, knowing that the men around me really thought that God didn’t have anything more for me than being a follower. My whole life I had been thrown into situations that forced me to grow into a leader, to be independent for myself, yet fully dependent on God (something I am deeply grateful for, now.) This had never been questioned or threatened before based off of my gender and/or age. All of a sudden it seemed like all I was getting was criticism, and I questioned whether or not I really was capable enough to be in the types of roles of ministry that require care and love and guidance for people–the type of ministry my heart beats for.

I shared the heaviness of my heart with a friend who grew up in the area, wondering if she had felt the same judgement. I spoke of how I felt like God was calling me to be something other than a Sunday School teacher. I was teaching twice a week at a local church and while I deeply loved the teens I got to mentor, I knew that teaching was not my gift nor my passion. Like I said earlier, I would much rather be in the nitty-gritty of life, walking along side families as they experienced the good and the bad (pretty fitting that God later revealed to me that I should pursue a degree in counseling). I explained the ache of my heart to be in a different area of ministry, she grabbed my hand, looked me in the eye, and said “You just need to accept that this is your role in ministry as a woman.”

I was dumfounded as I heard a woman say this to me; that God did not have more than that for us because as women, our roles were to sit back and take care of the children–and if we felt the ache of God calling us somewhere else, we needed to just accept that we needed to be doing something that the rest of the world was telling us was “God’s calling on our lives”–completely disregarding what God might actually be saying to us as women, as followers of Jesus, and hearts longing to be obedient to Him.

I felt so hopeless in this season of my life–based on what all my peers had told me, what I knew about God previously was apparently “not correct” and I had been living in a way that God “did not approve of”. Apparently, I had been doing ministry wrong my life, and even if I felt a fire in my heart for a certain type of ministry, I needed to accept that God just wanted me to be in a place that I had no gifts or passion for, just because I was born a woman.

To the women who are tirelessly teaching Sunday school to all ages: you are incredible and I support you. You are the ones entrusted to be a part of children’s spiritual growth while the tired momma’s and papa’s take time for their own spiritual growth. What an incredible responsibility, privilege, and honor. You do you, ladies. I applaud you for taking the action of obedience to be faithful in what God has called you to do, because this ministry is hard and exhausting and under-rated.

To the women who are being nudged by the Holy Spirit to be active in a different area of ministry, like myself: you are incredible and I support you. You are the ones who are entrusted to take the Gospel in areas outside of the classroom. I applaud you for being faithful to what God is calling you to do. You do you, ladies.

Women and Men: if you have found relationship with Jesus and surrendered your life to Him and to the telling of His story–you are missionaries. Listen, people! God gave every single one of His children unique talents, gifts, and callings–these were not for us. They were given to us so that we would have a medium to share the Gospel through–a medium that will reach a range of people that might not be touched through somebody else’s ministry.

Ministry is not a men vs. women thing like the world has made it out to be. Let’s stop closing the doors in people’s faces when they seek to understand what God’s calling on their life is. Let’s quit shaming women for wanting to be world changers for the sake of God’s kingdom–because if anything else, we should be rejoicing when a believer walks faithfully into what God has lead them to do. Stop making all men feel like they need to be preachers and pastors in order to be manly followers of Christ. Let’s stop equating Godly femininity with being quiet and letting men tell us what to do–there is great spiritual wisdom in a women who listens and obeys what God is telling her to do, rather than any human.

To the women who have been degraded for seeking God’s will for them, YOU DO YOU. To the women who have been disrespected by male Christians who don’t believe in you– YOU DO YOU. Fight the good fight. You are incredible and God’s plan for your life of ministry (regardless of whether it is within the church or not) is determined by HIM and your willingness to step outside of your comfort zone and be faithful. When you are criticized for your obedience, cling to Jesus and give Him the glory. When you are successful in your ministry, cling to Jesus and give Him the glory.

When I start thinking or talking about all the ways in which I could be spending time with the types of people that are shamed by the rest of the world, my heart starts beating faster. I want so desperately to be the friend that nobody understands–to be the one who is loving, kind, patient, gentle, and caring to ALL people, despite their past, present, or future. This is what I am passionate about and this is the ministry I feel God is calling me to. I have absolutely no clue where, or how it will shift from now to ten years from now, or how hard it will be, but I am clinging to the truth that in Jesus, there is freedom. Freedom not just to live life free of guilt and shame from my sins, but free to listen to the Holy Spirit’s guidance and to walk in obedience to HIM and HIS plan for me; that I don’t have to have the same type of ministry that culture has urgently expected from me, as a woman.

To the women of God who are seeking a new ministry that they are afraid of or nervous about, I am right beside you. Ministry is about Jesus and the freedom of the Gospel–the good news. Ministry is so much more than what men and women “should do”. It’s about what God is calling us to, nudging us to, guiding us to, dragging us by our feet to. I support you with my whole heart. Jesus is calling and the lost are waiting. Run the race and fight the good fight.

 

All my love,

Hannah Jane

xoxo

 

 

20.

Today I turn 20. As the flood of “Happy Birthday!” posts roll into my notifications, I’m in awe of how many languages, nicknames, memories, and encouraging words are being poured into my soul. (If you know me well, you know my love language is words of affirmation, so birthdays are especially fun for me. Yes, please keep telling me how wonderful you think I am. No, I won’t get tired of it.)

Over the last 20 years I’ve become a very pensive person (some might call it “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad over-thinker” but we’ll just go with “pensive”). I love to analyze things, situations, and even people (sorry…I’m working on that one); picking them apart until all the pieces are laying out on the ground for me drool over. I love theorizing about why things happen, or why they don’t. What could be different, how things have affected people, and what to do with those things. The good, the bad, and everything in between. It’s all worth something to me.

As someone who studies families and people, I tend to take what I’ve learned and analyze my own life. I’ll do this on a regular day, but turning 20 hit me more than I anticipated. Every morning I brew some coffee and sit down to journal and talk to Jesus. This morning my heart bubbled over with emotion as I mulled over all the things that I’ve experienced in my 20 years. A led to B, B led to C, C led to D… you get the idea. It was like I was seeing a movie of my life for the first time. Every scene was a new point in my chronological timeline, and it all connected and made sense.

I always tell people that I love sharing my testimony because you can see God’s fingerprints all over my story–my story is really His story. I was overcome with gratitude this morning for the good, the bad, and everything in between. It’s all worth something to me.

I won’t share my entire story on this blog, simply because it would take too long. If you’re interested in hearing it, please message me and know I am always willing to share. But, this morning as I scribbled the details of my life into my journal, every experience seemed to intertwine itself into the heartbeat of who I am. If A wouldn’t have happened, then B would’ve never happened…A was hard, but I really loved B. Everything made sense. We all have these “A’s and B’s”.

If I was never a stranger in somebody else’s country, I don’t know if I would be able to truly empathize with people who are different than me the way I can now.

If I never learned about empathy while living overseas, I’m not sure I would be pursuing a career in counseling (which is a huge part of who I am today and who I want to be).

If I never lived in the places that seemed unbearable at the time, I don’t know if I would have learned how to put my trust in Jesus in the same way I am still learning how to.

If I was never bullied, I don’t think I would be a strong advocate for young women the way I am now.

If my safety was never put into jeopardy, I know for fact I would’ve never had a reason to go to boarding school in Germany…

If I never went to boarding school, I would not be the same Hannah Jane.

If I never lived in a sexist environment, I’m not sure I would know how to defend myself and my intelligence the way I do now (and am still learning how to do).

If I never endured incredible loneliness, I don’t know if I would be able to rely on God’s faithfulness the way I’m learning how to.

**I believe God is bigger than my life and that He could’ve taught me these things and brought me to the places I’ve been through many different routes… I do believe you can learn things like empathy, trust in God, and empowerment no matter where you live or what you go through. This is just how God used the events in my life to teach me these things.**

And through all of this, I notice a consistent pattern. Dry seasons turn into fulfilling seasons. Seasons where I’m not sure how to trust in God transform into seasons of God proving me wrong every single day–that He is faithful and trustworthy. Seasons of weight that blossom into seasons of freedom. God proves Himself still there, never changing, through every cycle. As I look back on each phase of life, God has used every single tear, and every single fit of laughter to knit me into the woman I am today, 20 years later. Nothing goes to waste. Not in my life, and not in yours. How sweet to know that we don’t go through hard times just because “life is unfair”. We may not always know why, but we can always put our hope in the sovereignty of God–that He is good, even when life is not. That He is faithful, even when we feel abandoned. That He is loving and just, and will use every season for His glory and our growth.

All day this verse has been touching my heart: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” – Ecclesiastes 3:11

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How encouraging to know that God made this promise to His people. The words don’t promise an easy or happy life, but they promise that God will use our lives as a way to tell of His glory–and that it will be beautiful…in its time. This is what I think of when I look at my life. That God has not wasted a single day of  my life to tell the story of His glory. He has made everything beautiful in its time.

Friends, I hope you find hope knowing that your pain is worth the joy that comes in the morning. I hope you feel peace knowing that someday your struggle will be a good story. It will become a lovely piece of the picture God is painting of you. It will be beautiful…in its time.

All the love,

Hannah Jane

 

 

Year for Freedom

Ah. warm, comforting, coffee in my hand. An interesting collection of music playing in the background. A laptop balancing on top of  my crossed legs as I type. Someone across the room speaking another language on the phone…Spanish, maybe?

You guessed it: I’m in a coffee shop. And I’m writing. I really missed writing and I feel like I’m meeting up with a good friend I kind of lost contact with while I was off at college. My sincerest apologies.

So, what have I been doing this whole time while I was neglecting my poor little blog? Well, at the risk of sounding melodramatic, I’ll say I’ve been growing. Yes, I’ve been writing papers, taking tests, learning new things about families and children (my major), complaining about the cafeteria food…you know, normal college stuff. But, I have to say, this was a really rough semester. I say this not to sit here and complain about how hard my year or semester was–because I could do that, but I would be completely missing the point of why God allows us to endure seasons that are harder than others. I share in the hopes of comforting others who have also walked with tired feet through a rough season this year. My goal for this is not for anyone to feel sorry for the TCK who just can’t seem to figure America out…my  goal is to be the loving voice that whispers to struggling sisters (or brothers!) and says “Hey, Me too”.

Lots of people reading this are probably wondering what made my year “so bad”. I’m not really sure exactly what made it difficult for me but I can assure you the “T” word [transition] had a lot to do with it. In the course of the last 365 days my family and I have gone through a ton of different changes that required a lot of thought and prayer–much like many of our loved ones who served overseas faced as well. After I decided to leave the University of Mobile, I had no real direction and when door after door was shut (side note: when that happens to you, it’s probably God trying to tell you something) I decided on OBU. It was kind of an impulse decision which is odd for me, considering I am the queen of overthinking. I like to just say that my impulse decision to enroll at OBU was the Holy Spirit guiding me to where I needed to be. When I got there I figured that since I was obeying God’s direction with faithfulness, despite my fears, I would be rewarded with perfect grades, a perfect living situation, and friends lining up begging to be my friend (lol ok totally joking about that one). When my expectations were smashed in the face, I blamed myself.

  • What am I doing wrong?
  • I’ve always been a good student…why am I struggling to pass classes all of a sudden?
  • What is wrong with me?
  • Why did God bring me here so I could be unhappy?

I’m absolutely positive–like without a doubt–that every single college student has faced these incredibly discouraging and degrading thoughts. I would call Dean [my loving, patient, sweet boyfriend] with a lump in my throat asking him what on earth I was doing so wrong that was making things so difficult. He would always reply with things like “stop beating yourself up”, “it’s ok, it’s going to be ok”, “there is nothing wrong with you”, and I found it so hard to believe at the time. I would look back on my time at BFA [boarding school] and wonder why I did so well there and struggled so much in college. In my head, boarding school was like a precursor to college. I would always say that if I could thrive there, why couldn’t I thrive here? I was convinced I was just going backwards in every way. Spiritually, mentally, academically. When I let comparison rule my life, I blamed myself for not being as “good”, “strong”, or “smart” as I was in high school.

Here is something I’ve learned this year: life will never ever look like Pinterest. We have to stop looking at social media and expecting our lives to be picture perfect like they may seem online and then beating ourselves up when we don’t live up to the impossible, unattainable standard we’ve allowed the internet to set for us. (I’m totally preaching to the choir right now.) Sometimes you spill your coffee all over your white shirt right before your 8am class (yep. I did that.) Sometimes you spill coffee all over your bedsheets (yep. I also did that–if nothing else, I need to chill out with spilling literal coffee all over the place. Sheesh.) But sometimes your 1 year old spills your coffee all over your laptop, papers, and desk. (If you’re confused by all the coffee analogies, read my previous blog post titled “coffee stains”). Sometimes life just happens and it is what it is. I have learned this year to cut myself some slack. Life won’t be as easy as it was in high school…and it is totally normal, and it is totally ok.

This year lie after lie made a home in my  heart. The ultimate enemy used my biggest insecurity against me to steal my joy–and I let him. I went into this semester with the quote “Bloom where you are planted” written on my heart in pencil and when things didn’t work out the way I expected them to, I hid in my room and said “I don’t even know how to bloom”. Here is the thing, friends: It’s ok to be upset. It’s ok to be insecure sometimes. Nobody on this planet is expecting perfection from you. However, Jesus did not intend for his beloved children to hide in their bed covers for fear of being hurt.

I know I am not the only one who let fear and insecurity stir in their hearts this year. If you’re reading this and that was you this year, PLEASE know this:

  • I love you–seriously
  • I would hug you if I could
  • You are never alone
  • You are not a freak of nature
  • You can overcome this

A verse I leaned on during the last few months of 2016 was 2 Corinthians 12:9. It says “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.'” Like, what’s a better way to boast about my weaknesses than to write a blog post about it? Hehe, but in all seriousness, sometimes you just have to admit that you can’t handle things on your own. Friends, let go of your fear. You cannot do it all. You cannot be all things to all people at all times. You just can’t. And that’s not even how God designed us to be. So struggling friends, remember to cut yourself some slack.

Another thing I’ve learned this year–as in I learned this in my time home for Christmas break– is that sometimes I comfortably sit in my pool of struggles. I whine and complain that nobody will ever understand me because I’m that weirdo who isn’t American but isn’t European and I’m just a big mess. Again, let me reiterate that dramatics are my go-to. But seriously guys, what good does this attitude do for anybody? It didn’t help my situation, and it didn’t ease the pain of my struggles. My parents lovingly called me out on this a few days ago and after I got over my dramatic “I’m offended!” speech, I realized that my parents are always right about this kind of stuff. I decided to take a look back at how I handled things this year and instead of saying “I’m weak, but Jesus makes me strong” I just accepted “I’m weak”. I say all of this because I don’t want anybody else to stop there. In a way, I kind of gave up and said “I don’t know how to bloom, and I’ll never know how to bloom”. Ummm, total lie alert.

So, it’s new years eve and I am totally embracing the whole “new year, new me” thing like never before. But, I’m not doing it alone. I know lots of people who are doing the same thing this new year. Lets embrace where God has us, admit when we are weak, and cling to Jesus–because He is seriously the only thing that will pull us out of hiding in our bed covers and open our eyes to what He has for us. Lovies, if you are waiting for something to happen before you can truly be happy, you will be disappointed. Don’t believe the lie that you are a freak of nature and the only one experiencing something because I promise you that you are never alone. Don’t be afraid to explore the talents that you might have that you never knew about. Don’t be afraid to share those talents with the world. Don’t let lies attach to your heart so much that you are afraid to leave your room.Don’t be so afraid of getting hurt or being let down that you refuse to bloom.

This morning as I scribbled in my journal, I found myself writing “this time last year…” over, and over, and over. Sentence after sentence left me in awe of how God had used situations that were less than perfect to continue molding me into the woman he plans for me to be. I found myself realizing that this year was hard, but it was worth it. Through my struggles here are some things I learned:

  • I am so incredibly proud to be a woman. I love who I am, and I love who God made me to be. I love that he made me to  be girly and frilly, interested in all things beauty and fashion. I love that He gave me the desire to create. I never knew I was crafty until about a year ago and I am totally embracing it. Thanks, God. I love that He gave me those interests because I full heartedly believe those will be used to lead others to Him. I love that God created be to be a sensitive, empathetic person. I am proud that God gave me the desire to listen to and love others–instead of being ashamed of my natural sensitivity, I’ve decided to embrace it and use it to love others well.
  • I am so proud of my past. I am glad I’m the weirdo who is not fully American and not really European. Instead of being embarrassed that I’m not like everybody else, I’ve decided to embrace and love my differences. I am excited to share with whoever will listen what it means to be a TCK.
  • I am excited for my future. Instead of being ashamed that I cannot perfectly undergo transition, I am embracing the fact that it is hard for everyone and I am no exception–but that I have the freedom to mess up and the hope of Jesus to lead me through it.
  • Self care is important. I cannot love others well if I am loving with an empty tank.
  • C’s get degrees–enough said.
  • Perfection is unattainable so I must stop trying to achieve it. I am very quick to tell others that they need to cut themselves some slack but never seem to take my own advice.

I’m naming 2017 my year for freedom. This year, let’s celebrate the freedom we have to mess up. Let’s celebrate the freedom we have to not be as perfect as Pinterest. Let’s celebrate the freedom we have to just be ourselves. Let’s celebrate the freedom we have to cling to the same God who designed and loves our beautiful universe–stars, skies, oceans, deserts, and every living creature that runs through each. Let’s step out of our cells full of lies and into the space where we meet Jesus. Let’s be a chain reaction of love to everyone we know. Let’s whisper words of comfort to those struggling. Let’s shout words of praise when someone we love succeeds. Let’s be there for each other, and let others be there for us when we need it.

Cheers to a new year! I wish every single person who reads this love, blessings, and growth in 2017.

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

Hello, friends.

This past month I’ve been reflecting on some things.

I have finally made it past the first four weeks of school and now I’m starting to feel like I have wiggled my way into my niche. Life is good. I just spent all last night with some great girls making dinner, drinking coffee, playing cards, watching movies, baking pizzookie*, and wearing face masks. At one point last night, I laughed so hard I involuntarily spat an entire mouth full of water out. (I am so sorry, Amanda, for invading your personal bubble with my spit.)

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I posted a cute selfie on Instagram, (I mean look at us…we are seriously adorable) and the tendency we have as humans, more specifically females, to seeing other people having fun is to ask ourselves why we are not having fun?

I mean, I’m not the only one, right?!

Here is the truth: before I hit the four-weeks-i-actually-have-friends mark, I would sit in my room and wonder what was wrong with me because it seemed like literally everyone around me was making friends, fitting in, and having fun. Yet, I was struggling to make connections with other people. The result is obviously to think that I am the problem…right?  This is not a new concept for me, and it probably isn’t for you.

I have moved around a lot. I have been blessed to see God work in many areas of the world and to be a part of that work is unexplainable. When I tell people that I lived in Europe, I think they automatically assume that my life was a magical fairy tale. While I acknowledge that I am blessed and spoiled to have lived in some spectacular areas of the world, I am still a human, and my life was still pretty normal. I went to high school and did high school things. Moving around a lot has its perks that I will forever be grateful for. However, just as many other things in life, it has its downsides too. One of those downsides is the uncomfortable phenomenon of knowing so many people in so many places but somehow feeling alone.

I remember feeling lonely quite often and wondering why all of the closest friends that I made the deepest connections with always lived in different places. Whenever I struggled with making friends in the place I was, my natural tendency was to blame myself.

feel like people don’t like me here.

feel like they don’t like me because I’m American.

feel like they don’t like me because I’m not as smart as them.

feel like I’m not good enough.

feel like there is something wrong with me.

And as adolescence began, these started to pop up out of nowhere:

feel like I’m chubby. No boy will ever like a chunk.

feel like my hair is too thick…why can’t my hair be silky and straight, like hers?

feel like my crooked tooth is ugly.

feel like I’m too skinny. No boy will ever like a stick.

feel like I’m not _________ enough.

Sounding familiar?

Whenever these thoughts invaded my mind, my precious mom would always say this: “Emotions are liars”. She explained that even if we felt a certain way, it didn’t necessarily mean it was true. Even if I felt as if I wasn’t good enough in some area of my life, mom would always point out that Jesus had something to say about it.

I am giving myself the perfect opportunity to display my nerd-heart for the world to see. This semester I am taking a class called “Social Problems”. We talk about a lot of heartbreaking things but one of my favorite topics we’ve studied so far is the inequality gap. In as simple of a way as I can put this: The people with the most money have the most power. The ones who can induce social change the most are the ones with power and therefore, the people who can induce the most social change are the ones who have money. Here is the worst part: the people with the most money in America were given that money. There is no possible way for them to have literally started from the bottom and made it to where they are by working. (I know that’s not true for every single rich man or woman in America. But let’s be real here.) They were mostly born into it, married into it, or inherited it through a family death.

Here is the zinger: Because the rich never knew exactly what it was like to be poor, they will never know what the poor really need.

Ok, I am getting to my point now. Jesus is not like the rich in America.

When Jesus was on this Earth, somehow fully man and fully God all at once, he went through what you are going through. Yes, you read that right. Jesus experienced temptation, too. Satan even personally spoke to Jesus and attempted to fill his head with lies. (Key word: attempted. Jesus never gave in and never sinned. You go, Jesus.)  Jesus knows exactly what it feels like when your mind is swirling with thoughts of disbelief in yourself. Because Jesus was in the same position as us at one point, he fully and completely empathizes with us. He knows what we need.

Here is the other zinger: Jesus Identified the things that Satan was whispering to him as lies and he hung on to the Father. We need to do that too.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” – John 10:10

Satan wants us to feel like we are not good enough. But, then there is Jesus. Jesus wants to give us life. 

Through the power of Jesus, we can resist the temptation to believe the lie that we are not skinny enough, pretty enough, funny enough, smart enough, you name it. Satan wants to discourage you. Jesus just wants you. 

So, next time are sitting on your bed and crying because you don’t think anyone wants to be your friend: Talk to Jesus. Open your Bible. Let God’s word encourage you with truth so that it can kick out the lies. Make some coffee. Call your mom. Whisper to yourself that “emotions are liars” and be patient. Let God answer your prayers in His timing. Let God’s word remind you that you are not alone and that Jesus gets it. Let yourself feel the pressure to be perfect lighten.

 

Friends, I hope you are encouraged to know that you are loved, fearfully and wonderfully made, and understood by our sweet Jesus. That’s so spectacular.

All My Love,

Hannah Jane

 

 

 

 

The Truth About Our “Calling”

Hey, Friends. It’s been a while. I’ve missed you.

Picture this:

The sun has been hiding behind the clouds all day and every now and then I hear the pitter-patter of the raindrops coming out to play. I’m on my second cup of coffee. My “Oklahoma Baptist University” mug is sitting next to me on my night stand along with some dainty tea lights to cozy-up my room. My apple cider wax is melting nicely into my scentsy, and truthfully, it smells like Thanksgiving in my room right now. I’m snuggled up with the softest blanket in the world along with a cat who has been purring next to me all morning. Clearly, this is the perfect time to open up my laptop and write. In this scenario, I honestly had no choice.

For the past few months I have been constantly on the go, minus a couple of days here and there. I’ve traveled to a few states and even had the incredible privilege to go back “home” to Europe for two whole weeks. This whole summer I have felt hashtag BLESSED to be able to do so much traveling to see the people I love across different parts of the world. I’ve been busy. But last week my parents went on a cruise. Without me. Yeah, I know, how could they?! In all seriousness, they truly deserve some time to themselves and together before the new school year starts. So… I was at home. With not much to do but think.

Let me preface: My family moved to Texas about two weeks before I moved to college last year. Needless to say, I have not planted myself here in Texas because I’m really not here that often. The only people I really know here are my parents’ co-workers who obviously don’t have time to come chat with me over a cup of coffee because I’m bored. With that being said, I had a lot of time to myself while my parents were away.

Don’t get me wrong, I really value having some alone time. I absolutely love doing my calligraphy while sipping on a cup of coffee snuggled up with my cat and listening to my jazz playlist on Spotify. (Everyone who knows me has said I act like an old lady, but I just can’t figure out what they’re talking about.) But in all reality, I am actually an extrovert. The one thing I enjoy more than described earlier is enjoying that with other people. I love to talk about life and love and what makes our hearts beat a little faster and why we are passionate about things. That gives me life. That’s my jam. But when you don’t have other people to have those conversations with, you start to have those conversations with yourself. (Call me crazy but you know you do it, too.) Let the over-thinking ensue.

Here is what is coming for me in just a few days:

  • Moving to a new state
  • Starting a new University
  • Having a new roommate
  • Starting a new area of study
  • Learning a new campus
  • Making new friends
  • Joining new activities
  • Finding a new church
  • Being a new kid…again

So, unless you are superwoman, you would be freaking out a little bit, too…right? That’s what I’m going to tell myself, anyway.

Here is the whole-hearted-vulnerable-truth: My first year of college was so hard. I won’t go into detail on such a public platform out of respect for the institution and for the people who still go there, but it wasn’t my cup of tea and ended up really hurting me. It has taken a lot of prayer for Jesus to soften my hurt and bitter heart. I’m ok now and I am confident that God will reveal to me why I went through the things I did at the perfect time. I’m no longer bitter or holding grudges…but I do have scars. These scars don’t hold me back anymore but they do make me nervous.

When I tell people about my experience at my first university, they always ask me, “What makes you think that this year and this new school will be any different?” And I hate that question because I don’t have a good answer for it. The truth is, I don’t know what this year will be like. Besides holding onto the good experiences others have had at this school, and to knowledge I have that God answers His people’s prayers, I have no actual validation that the same thing won’t happen again. And that scares me half to death, really. (Prayers are always welcome, by the way.)

If you pay any attention to any platform of social media of mine, you will know that my favorite author is Jen Hatmaker. Her book For the Love gives me all the good kinds of feels. Not because she writes sweet nothings to her readers about Jesus and love and happiness. But she is a real person with real human feelings and she uses her platform to empower and encourage women of all ages. She is seriously my role model. So I’m following in the footsteps of Jen and being really honest about my real human feelings this past week for the sake of encouraging other people with real human feelings who feel like they are alone:

I am really nervous that I’m going into a new area of study that I’m not sure about. I’m nervous that I won’t be a good social worker. I’m scared because I am sensitive and light-hearted and social work is a heavy profession. I’m scared that I will never figure out the right thing to major in. I’m scared to waste my parents’ money on 4 years of very expensive education to never use my degree. I’m scared that I will never figure out what I am supposed to do with my life.

Ok, there it is. It’s out there. I’m nervous about a lot of things that are important to me. And I know I am not the only one, which is why I share. Life is hard and a little scary sometimes. And that’s ok. But I am starting to believe that God does not have one mysterious path or profession for us. I’m starting to ditch the idea that there is one thing in my life that God has called me to do and if I never discover what my thing is, I’m terrible at discerning the voice of God. Forget that, man. Guilt and shame are not from my Jesus. I’m starting to walk away from the belief that I’m wasting my time if I don’t know what my future will look like.  I’m starting to remember that God doesn’t waste anything. I’m starting to believe that His goal for us is to love Him and love others the way Jesus did/does. Our “calling” isn’t necessarily an occupation or location. Our calling is to salvation and to spread the gospel with the gifts God gave us.

1 Peter 4:10 says “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” My calling is not going to start the day I get my diploma and finish a degree plan. Your calling is not going to start as soon as your kids are older. Dear one, if you are living with Jesus, your calling has already begun. My calling has already begun. Our calling is here, now. I know people who are devoted momma’s, changing their precious baby’s life one day at a time. I know people who are so fantastic at writing and will impact our next generation with their words. I know people who are using their own experiences to touch the hearts of those experiencing the same. No matter how incredible or ordinary your every-day encounters are, our calling is to use the gifts we have in every season of life to share the love of Christ. I don’t know about you, but that certainly relieves some pressure from my burdened shoulders.

So, let’s celebrate our God-given gifts. There is room for humility but self degradation has to go. It has no place here.

Here are some of the gifts God has blessed me with:

I’m good at

  • Listening
  • Caring
  • Empathizing
  • Nurturing
  • Encouraging
  • Loving
  • Empowering

What are some of your God-given gifts? Write them in my comment section. Seriously, it’s not one of those things where you’re all “Oh, that’s cute” and keep scrolling. Go write at least one thing you are good at in my comment section. There is a reason you’re good at it, even if you don’t know what that reason is, yet. I would be honored to pray for your gifts to be used in your season of life right now.

I am saying goodbye to the fear of not following the right path. God has given me (and you) certain gifts for a reason. I’m going to use these gifts as I meet new people at OBU. I’m going to use these gifts if I am a social worker. I’m going to use these gifts when I’m a wife. I’m going to use these gifts when I’m a momma. I’m going to use these gifts that God gave me to paint my part of the canvas. If you grab your paintbrush, friend, God will do something big with our painting.

 

Why I Believe in Love

I love love.

I’ve always been a hopeless romantic and always will be. Honestly, what’s not to like about a good love story? I will always root for true love to win in the end. Romance is important and valued in my life. But that is another blog post for another time. Love is so much bigger than the sweetness of butterflies and passion.

Over the last three years, I have decided that my favorite word is “love”. I always get weird looks when I say that because it tends to come off as cheesy and I’m accused of being a “basic white girl” but hear me out, darlings. I am so confident that love has the power to break down barriers that we deem unbreakable.

When I lived in Vienna, life was really hard. Bad situation after bad situation shoved me into a corner that I couldn’t get out of and I was the saddest I have ever been. I could have been stuck in that corner by myself, but I wasn’t, because love was so much more powerful than my sadness or the unfortunate situation I was in.

One of the most valued things God blessed me with was the gift of my friend, Faith. I am an American Christian and Faith is originally from Iraq and her whole family is Muslim. For years Faith and I have deeply loved each other despite our differences. In fact, our differences are almost overlooked. She has lovingly welcomed me into her home and introduced me to her culture and vice verse. We’ve gotten in trouble for talking too much during class, consumed way too many chicken nuggets together, recorded covers of songs, talked about boys, gone shopping, done henna, eaten sushi, played slender-man, watched movies, and belly laughed our way through school. This friendship was my saving grace in an extremely difficult time in my life. Faith is one of the biggest reasons why “love” is my favorite word. We’ve had disagreements but never fought. We’ve had confusing conversations about our different religions, but the love and respect we had for each other was so much more powerful than our disagreements. To the world, our different nationalities or religions are enough to say “I could never be friends with them” but love kicks that barrier down and says “I couldn’t be who I am today without them”. Because of this life-changing friendship, I will never see people the same ever again.

That’s the kind of love I believe in. That kind of love is the type of love Jesus instructed His followers to walk in daily. That love is so powerful that it takes the hurt and broken by the hand and guides them to the path of restoration. That kind of love is how I want to forever live my life.

My first roommate, my darling Christina, is from Korea. We were young (16yo), ignorant on how to live with others, and had a list of cultural differences that we didn’t even know about until we learned the hard way by offending each other on accident. Sometimes we didn’t understand each other but we loved each other so deeply that in the end, fights and awkward confrontations were just a minimal piece of our friendship. We were heartbroken to know we wouldn’t be living with each other anymore. I’m talking about some really ugly crying at the end of the school year. That’s the type of love I believe in. I believe in ugly-cry-love. That kind of love says “forget it” to the things we don’t understand about each other and holds tightly to the care we have for what we do understand.

These friendships are a tangible example of a 1 Corinthians 13 (Love is patient, love is kind…) type of love.

My first year in America was confusing because I didn’t see this kind of love. I was seen as stupid for my misunderstanding of American culture and disrespected when I tried to defend myself. I was called a heretic when I disagreed with someone on spiritual matters and ignored when I tried to speak in the name of love. I witnessed fights and name-calling among fellow Christians on campus arguing over free will. My heart breaks to think that people who believe in the same Jesus as I do would treat myself and others this way. This is not the kind of love I believe in. I refuse to believe this behavior can even be called love. 

My heart was heavy after a year of this. But love is more powerful than hurt. After only a week in my hometown with my closest friends, the power of love kissed the scars on my heart and rejuvenated my soul. This type of love is so powerful that it was able to unwind a year of hurt and replace it with empowerment and encouragement. My dear Maddy and Analysse have been my best friends for so many years. The kind of love they have showed me stretches across oceans and refuses to let go despite inconvenience. That kind of love kicks distance in the face and says “this is worth it”. This is the type of friendship that Proverbs 17:7 talks about: “A friend loves at all times”.

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I’ve decided that love is so much more important to me than being right or agreeing with someone or being the smartest person in the room. I could care less if I know how to answer every theological question you may have, but if I know how to love you the way Jesus told me how to, I will be doing my job. Loving others the way Christ told us to is less about pointing a struggling friend to an answer that sounds nice and more about being present when there is no reasonable explanation for what they are going through. This kind of love screams and shouts and jumps up and down and praises our good God when good things happen in each other’s lives.

This year, at the most perfect time possible, I read Jen Hatmaker’s book “For the Love” and I could rave about it for hours but I will leave you with this quote that so resonated with the cry of my heart:

“This is why we live and breathe: for the love of Jesus, for the love of our own souls, for the love of our families and people, for the love of our neighbors and this world. This is all that will last. Honestly, it is all that matters. Because as Paul basically said: We can have our junk together in a thousand areas, but if we don’t have love, we are totally bankrupt. Get this right and everything else follows. Get it wrong, and life becomes bitter, fear-based, and lonely. Dear ones, it doesn’t have to be. Love is really the most excellent way. One of the best parts of being human is other humans. It’s true, because life is hard; but people get to show up for one another, as God told us to, and we remember we are loved and seen and God is here and we are not alone. We can’t deliver folks from their pits, but we can sure get in there with them until God does.” I believe in that kind of love and I believe it is powerful.

 

 

 

Coffee Stains

Fact #1: I love coffee.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a coffee fanatic. I’m actually drinking coffee right now. (Shocker). Although I love all types of coffee, I wouldn’t say I’m an expert. I just really love the time spent with coffee.

There is something special about having a good cup of coffee in the mornings while you’re  talking to Jesus. There is something sweet about offering a cup of coffee to your guests. There is something exciting about trying a new coffee shop. There is something reminiscent about a cup of coffee sitting between two friends catching up. There is something so classic about a tradition of spending hours with your best friend in your favorite coffee shop every summer.

I’ve loved coffee for years but I haven’t always loved coffee. When I lived in Russia, coffee wasn’t the main focus. Tea is their jam. Russians love tea and if you don’t take the tea offered to you, you will offend someone. In Russia, tea is the spine of time spent together.

When I was a freshman in high school, I moved to Vienna, Austria. It’s hard to live in Vienna without having coffee. Vienna is even famously known for specializing in their Wiener Melange (similar to a cappuccino). Living in Vienna without drinking coffee is like living near the beach and never swimming. Crazy town. So, with time, Vienna tuned my heart to the sound of coffee brewing. The point of this is not that coffee is tasty, and sometimes too expensive. The point is that coffee tells a story. Coffee is a subjective experience that is personal for everyone. In Europe, coffee is everywhere, and it is good. If you let it, coffee can bind people together. Stories can be told, burdens can be shared, prayers can be said, and life can be done together when we gather around a cup of coffee.

Ok really though, this isn’t all about coffee. There is a point.

Fact #2: I am super clumsy.

So clumsy it’s funny. Last year I was wearing my friend’s super cute platform heels and I was so excited to borrow them until I realized my center of gravity really needs some work. One second I was feeling a little bit like Beyoncé in these shoes and the next I was flailing around as my knees, then face hit the floor. Not a pretty sight, but so funny. So yeah, I’m clumsy, but I embrace it.

I got my ESV Bible as a graduation present, and it was just lovely. Crisp pages and verses already highlighted by my family and notes written in it specifically to me. So much love. It even has my name engraved on it, guys. So cool. Anyway, about two weeks after I had first gotten it, I took it to a Bible Study at the Urban Bean in Orange Park and I spilled coffee all over my brand new Bible. At first I was heartbroken because it took away the “brand new” look and feel. It also took the shine off of the edge of my pages. With time, I realized this is just a representation of who I am. I love Jesus and I love coffee AND I’m super clumsy so this was inevitable. Now, I’m proud of this coffee stain on the edge of my Bible. It shows character and personality true to myself.

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Fact #3: My Coffee Stains Matter

Coffee stains are unavoidable. You will spill coffee on your brand new Bible, and it’s ok. Things will go great in life sometimes. There are seasons for greatness. But sometimes life is a little less than perfect and you get hurt and your heart has a stain on it. And it’s ok.

If I am being completely honest here, moving to America was a lot harder than I thought. Throughout the year, I had a couple clumsy moments and there are some stains stuck on my heart that have a big fat “T” all over them. (The ugly world–transition). At first I was so embarrassed of these stains on my heart, the same way I was disappointed that I had “ruined” my brand new Bible by spilling coffee all over it.

Actual Thoughts:

  • Am I just not trusting God enough?
  • Why are things so confusing in America if I am actually fully American?
  • Am I just dumb because these things don’t come naturally to me?
  • I must be going backwards, somehow.

But I am realizing that these T-shaped stains on my heart are not ruining me. These stains don’t make me stupid or unworthy of being used by God. They are actually making me more beautiful. I spilled coffee on my Bible but I chose to keep using it. I didn’t buy an entirely new Bible with no coffee, no notes, no highlights, no personal ties, just because one thing happened and it made a tiny mess. I’m learning it’s kind of the same way with God. He uses us despite our stains. He even uses those stains to tell a story of His glory and goodness. These coffee stains are a part of my story and I am so proud of them, now.

Sometimes stains don’t make sense. We don’t know why they are there or how they got there or why we had to be the ones that got the coffee spilled all over them. It might not make sense now, but I know someday I will look back and see the fingerprints of God all over this season of coffee stains. Until that time, I will continue to sip my coffee and praise Jesus for what He is doing in my life.

I hope those of you with coffee stains begin to see them as a piece of art painted by God to somehow help tell of His goodness.

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” – Romans 8:18

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All my Love

Hannah Jane

xoxo

 

6 Things I Learned as a College Freshman

Guys, today I took my last exam, packed up the car, turned into the room key, shed a few tears, and finished my first year of college. It feels a little weird but so awesome to say I’ve accomplished another year of education, change, and growing! I’ve been doing some reflecting on my year and here are some things I thought I would share about the things I’ve learned this year.

  1. You’re going to change your major a few times…and it’s totally ok.

So many people told me coming into my first year of college that I would probably change my major at least once. I was so confident that I wanted to study theology because I love God and Jesus and the Bible and I wanted to know as much as I could about the Bible. After about a month in the theology department, I realized it wasn’t for me, but not because I don’t love Jesus. It just wasn’t the best academic path for me personally. So, I figured the next best thing was Intercultural Studies, right? I love cultures and I’ve been exposed to a lot of them and I figured it made sense. Wrong. Because of the blessed life I have led, I actually already knew a lot of the practical things the professors would talk about and I got super duper bored. ***I’m not saying I know everything, because I totally don’t. I learned a lot about missionary history that I didn’t know before, and I’m thankful for all I have learned. *** But, it was time to switch, again. Most of you know I have always wanted a coffee shop. So, the next logical step was business, right? HA, wrong again, my friends. Business includes math and math includes statistics and accounting and I think I had a mental breakdown in the Business Administration office when I talked to an advisor and she told me I had to take those classes. Ok, so that didn’t work.

So, after all of this, I kind of freaked out a little…and by that I mean I freaked out a lot. How could I not even know what I want to do with my life?! Does this mean I’m not trusting God enough with my future? Does this mean I just don’t have any talents like I thought I did, because nothing seems to work?! These were all lies from the enemy to make me feel insecure. But, every college student knows that we change our majors and it’s ok because you don’t have to have everything figured out right now. Figuring things out is a process and a big part of it is trusting God when we don’t know. But in the end, know that it’s ok to not know, and you will figure it out in due time.

  1. Buying a vacuum is imperative.

Incoming freshman, BUY A CHEAP VACCUUM FOR YOUR ROOM AT WALMART. You will thank yourself later. Two girls in one room all year with no vacuum resulted in a lot of unwanted hairballs. Gross, guys. Gross. Just buy the stupid vacuum.

  1. Be bold with the talents God has given you.

My senior year I taught myself how to do calligraphy and I started to get really into it. With time, and cool American crafts stores (CAN WE JUST TALK ABOUT THE GLORIES OF HOBBY LOBBY FOR A SECOND?!), my resources expanded and I started to get better. Most of y’all know I haven’t had a car this year so I was unable to get a job. I was so tempted my first semester to start selling my calligraphy to make some extra money but I was way too scared that I wasn’t good enough. Eventually, I just bit the bullet and posted an album on Facebook offering to sell my calligraphy and I have had so much support from so many people. This was such a blessing to me all semester and really encouraged me that people actually wanted my art. What an honor. God has used my calligraphy to bless me and to bless others in ways I couldn’t imagine. My calligraphy has been bought as gifts to those who are in seasons of hurt and I’m proud and honored to be a part of their healing process, even if it is in a tiny framed piece of art. Use those gifts, y’all. They are there for a reason. ***P.S. Thank you to everyone who has bought my calligraphy—my Etsy shop is opening this week for those of you who have asked!!!

  1. No matter what school you go to, the cafeteria food will suck. Just accept it.

5. Loving Yourself is Part of Loving Others

I think there’s a lot of negative attitude towards men and women loving themselves. We see it as cocky, annoying, and kind of creepy. But I have seen so many lovely ladies change from feeling insecure to feeling freaking awesome about themselves this year and it is a beautiful thing. Friends, allow others to love on you and encourage you. It is the best when you begin to realize that others see potential in you. Take that and say thank you. Listen to what they say and you will begin to think, “Hey, I guess I am really good at – insert lovely quality about yourself – “. When you begin to see the good in yourself, you will begin to see the good in others. When you stop focusing on the qualities you don’t have, and begin focusing on the lovely qualities that make you who you are, you will naturally become the one who brings encouraging words to someone else. Take the love others give you and spread it around like a nice piece of toast (yeah, I went there). You know that person who just makes you feel like you’re pretty inside every time you’re with them? You can be that for someone else. ***Also, this isn’t just an easy self-help cure for insecurities. This is so real, y’all. There are verses scattered throughout the Bible about loving each other and building each other up. I really believe if we love ourselves for who God made us to be with all of our quirks, edges, and stains, then we can love others for all of their quirks, edges, and stains.

  1. Being Nervous to Start College is Normal

Everyone coming in as a freshman is bug eyed and awkward and we don’t know what to do with ourselves and are probably lost. That’s normal. My first day of college classes, I was so nervous that I just kept texting my mom “I’M SO NERVOUS. WHAT IF I GO TO THE WRONG CLASSROOM?!” I was so distracted by my nervous-texting that I actually ran into a tree. So…yeah. If you ever think you’re over reacting about the pre-college nerves, you probably are and that’s normal. But just remember, at least you didn’t run into a tree.

 

 

Well, cool cats, I will leave you on that note.

I hope this resonated with some of you and made you giggle a little bit!

 

All my Love,

Hannah Jane

xoxo

Joy in the Blues

Well, friends, I think I’ve reached the pinnacle of the end-of-the-year-blues.

You, know…the “I can’t stop thinking about being done with finals, being with my family, being with my pets, not having to eat at the caf everyday, being tan, having a fun summer, and most of all, SLEEPING IN” thoughts that constantly roll through your brain? I know I can’t be the only one.

Summer seems so close yet so far. I feel like I am making every stride to end my freshman year with a bang but really I’m just accidentally oversleeping and running to class with bed-head. 

Today the ink in my pen exploded all over my hands, clothes, and phone case. Then in class, I fell off of my chair and knocked down two desks in the process. Later today I decided I deserved a nap but didn’t realize that I would sleep four hours through dinner, causing me to eat ramen noodles, alone in my room at 9:30 pm drinking koolaid jammers and watching country music videos on youtube because I was so bored. 

I sat there, a little bit grossed out at the fact that I was eating ramen noodles at 9:30 pm, but mostly just annoyed that I still had to wait two weeks until I could finally be home with my family. I know every single college student still in session right now is feeling the exact same way. It can be so hard to see what the point is in even trying during these last few weeks. It’s easy to feel burnt out, agitated, and lazy with our schoolwork (and even with our friendships). 

First of all, friends who are burnt out, you are not alone.

Friends who have no motivation left, you are not alone.

Friends who accidentally take four hour naps and miss dinner, you are not alone.

and it’s ok. It is totally valid for you to be feeling like this. You’ve been working hard all semester, and it’s fair for you to say “I’m tired and I don’t know how to even study anymore.” You can get through this! It just takes some diligence and patience.

Most everyone I have talked to is ready for summer, and I am so with you on this one. I want to be with my family and laugh and joke with them and sleep in and do fun summer things. But I also know I need to rest in the moment I am in. Not only is there a time and place for everything, but there is a rhyme and a reason. So, even when finals feel pointless and exhausting, remember they will be over soon and then you can frolic on the beaches in the sand while the sun sets. 

But until that time comes, find joy in the end of the year blues.

Don’t forget to do your best on every piece of work you do, but that no matter what grade you get, it doesn’t define you. Don’t forget to care for your friendships during these last few weeks. Don’t forget to take care of yourself, and rest when you body is telling you to rest. But most of all, don’t forget that in every season, you are not alone. There is a God who named the stars who cares for you when you are feeling exhausted and worn. He is the ultimate comforter and peace-giver. Look to Him and He will give you rest. 

Friends, I hope you feel refreshed knowing that you are not alone, even if the seasons of feeling blue. I hope you know God has placed people in your life to help you through times like these, but that ultimately, God is the provider of never-ending comfort. 

The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace.” – Psalm 29:11

All my love,

Hannah Jane 

xoxo

Dear TCK Friends Currently Living in America…

I would just like to tell you that you are not alone.

You get overwhelmed by Walmart sometimes? Don’t worry, me too.

You get overwhelmed at the amount of smoke machine churches in America use? Don’t worry, me too.

You avoid the question “Where are you from?” at all costs? Don’t worry, me too.

Ok, let me back up a little bit.

For anyone reading this who has no clue what a TCK is, allow me to assist you:

Third culture kid (TCK) is a term used to refer to children who were raised in a culture outside of their parents’ culture for a significant part of their development years.

So, I am a TCK. Anyone who has lived in more than one culture for a significant amount of time is a TCK. I lived in Europe for 8 years and have just recently moved back to start University in Mobile, Alabama.

Ever since I moved back to the States for University, I get asked a lot “What was it like to live in Europe?” And as simple as that question is, the answer is loaded. I lived in four different countries within Europe and all of those cultures are different and some of them I know better than others. But to sum up my answer (that would be WAY too long to actually answer someone in person):

The constant change and constant telling of goodbyes induced a lot of tears. But the hellos were so worth the goodbyes. The friendships made were friendships that will never, ever die despite where any of us are in this world. I have seen more countries than many of my elders will ever see in their lifetime and I plan to never take that for granted. I learned how to love those who are different than me and appreciate our differences in background, culture, race, ethnicity, religion, etc. I also learned that I really like coffee and that Europeans really like it too. I learned to appreciate history as I walked up Mars Hill in Greece and realized I was walking on the same stones Paul walked on so many years ago (talk about a humbling experience). My love of fashion grew as I noticed that even through 6 feet of snow, Russian women love to stilettos and somehow they never fell. I learned to appreciate flowers and plants as I noticed that gardening is an important part of German culture. I learned to appreciate music as I was able to listen to a live symphony in Venice, Italy for my senior trip. But most of all, I was able to understand deep rooted friendship. Friendship is so much more than hanging out and having a good time. Being a TCK taught me that friendship is about doing life with people. It’s about sitting down and mourning with someone through deep sadness. It’s about rejoicing in the moments that we smile. It’s about sharing your soul with people. It’s about the little moments of conversation and coffee on the rainy days and dancing on the sunny days. It’s about calling your best friend from across the ocean instead of going to class (sorry, mom) and crying a little bit because you have no clue what you’re doing with your life. It’s about listening to your best friend from across the ocean share their heart with you in that moment where they don’t know what they’re doing with their life, either. It’s more than just having fun together and enjoying one another’s company. These kinds of friendships are deep rooted, soul-knowing, and so precious. That is the BEST part of being a TCK.

So if you’re still reading after all of that, you’re probably thinking, “ok, that sounds nice. But why are you writing about that?”

Well, friends, because sometimes I look back on all the types of things I’ve experiences, like some of the ones I mentioned above, and I think, “So what, now?”

And the reason I’m writing all of this to the public instead of in my journal, is because I am positive I am not the only one. 

TCK friends, I hope you know you are not alone in this fight against the “T” word. (Transition. Yeah, I know, we all hate that word.)

So, you live this beautiful, sometimes fairy-tale like life and then you move somewhere for college/University and you’re like “Holy crap, what am I doing?” And sometimes America is really confusing and that only fuels the question even more.

I’m not going to lie, looking back on when I graduated high school about a year ago, I see a lot of pride in myself. I thought that moving back to America would be so easy for me because I have always loved America and I believed I was more American than my other TCK friends (embarrassing to admit, but being transparent is the only way to really convey the point in my post.) At first, things were great. Then I realized I didn’t know everything in the world (shocker). I started realizing I didn’t know the rules of football, an important part of American culture in the South. I also didn’t know how to not spend a 100 dollars in one trip to Walmart because for the first time in a long time, everything I could ever want was in one grocery store. (Like, I’m talking up to 40 choices for cereal. Are you kidding me?! I’lll take them all.) I also realized driving is a lot harder and scarier than I thought it would be and when others realized I haven’t had almost any experience driving a car, nobody wanted to ride with me (Um…kind of embarrassing.) I was also given weird looks when I told them I didn’t even have a car, yet. When others started to laugh at me when I didn’t know  what certain things were, it got even more embarrassing.

Ok, so this sounds super depressing but that’s not the point I want to end on. All of this happened because I thought I had it all together, and when I started to realize that nobody has it all together, I started to feel a lot better. Again, I’m writing all of this for those of you who have experienced this and feel embarrassed alone.

I want you to know that you aren’t.

Culture shock is a totally real thing, even when moving back to your home country. Because we don’t ever really know where home is. There are so many parts of this beautiful Earth that we can claim as our homes yet never really feel at home all at the same time. Confusing, I know.

So…Dear TCK friends,

I want you to know that America confuses me too.

I want you to know that I don’t know where home is, either.

I was you to know that it is totally possible not to buy all 40 different types of cereal at Walmart.

I want you to know it’s ok to not have a car.

I want you to know that it’s ok to not know American idioms.

I want you to know it’s ok to talk with a funny accent that sounds different from your American friends.

I want you to know that you have every right to dress in the clothes you wore overseas, but that seem weird to people here.

I want you to know that you have every right to tell your stories to people.

I want you to know that there is absolutely no shame is not knowing how to answer the dreaded “Where are you from?” question.

I want you to know that the best part about us is that we are different.

I want you to know that it’s ok to break down sometimes.

I want you to know that it’s ok to not be ok.

I want you to know that YOU are NOT alone.

I want you to know that I am a Facebook message, text, or call away if you ever want to talk.

I want you to know that we are a family.

I want you to know that I love you.

 

For anyone reading this who is not a TCK, here are some tips to make TCK’s feel more loved and welcome:

Please don’t make fun of us when we don’t know your culture. If someone doesn’t understand a situation, lovingly explain it to them rather than making fun of them. You can say “I’m just joking” but eventually being made fun of for something we can’t control results in insecurity and resentment.

Please don’t make us feel bad or pretentious for seeing a lot of the world. We love to talk about the TCK life.

Please don’t make us feel bad for not knowing how to drive so well–just help us understand it.

Most of all, just love us where we are at. Don’t expect any TCK to know how things work immediately. It takes time, love, and patience.

 

If you’re still reading after all of those words, I’m flattered.

Thank you for taking the time to read what is on my heart.

 

xoxo

Hannah Jane