8/30/2015

Grace Trumps Fear

A new chapter began this week for me: college. And this adventure promises to take me on an exciting ride! But even during this first week, I've discovered fresh ways I resist grace yet also ways that God gives even more grace, grace that sets my soul as rest. But let me start at the beginning:

Girl Reading a Book at Home Free Image Download
This image and all following images are not original but used with permission of the photographer




Maybe I mentioned this before, but I was home-schooled up until graduating high school. I always tried my best in school and (mostly) didn't take the easy way out, even if it presented itself in a flattering way. I graduated with a 4.0 and a good twelve years of learning much more than factoring polynomials and why WWI started (which still seems fuzzy to me).

But I wondered, inwardly, if I had learned enough. I feared that I wouldn't be enough, know enough, or have enough behind me to handle college. I thought that the decisions and schedule would overwhelm me, and homework and papers would burry me in permanent studying (and for a girl that did very little homework in her life so far, homework is a scary concept). I feared not making friends and missing out on what they say should be the best years of my life.

In short, I feared college.

Relax Working on the Garden Free Image Download

And I don't think that I'm alone in fearing college. All of the overachievers fear the higher expectations and the ability to overachieve to a greater extent. All of the underachievers, though, fear being left behind and stressed even under a normal load. We fear growing up and making our own decisions. We fear going through the process of making new friends all over again. We fear that we may lose ourselves in this new environment, but dear friends, a thought just occured to me: 

What if we can find ourselves during these four years of college? What if we trust that Jesus is bigger than any fear, that He holds us, and that He shapes our futures and writes our stories? What if we chose to live in belief rather than fear, in grace rather than stress? 

That sounds wonderful!

But these questions touch something in us that we'd rather not think about: they reach deeper than our time management principles and dig into our beliefs, our identities. We sometimes prefer to listen to the voice of fear and not go to the root of the problem because that requires us to admit that we can't do this life on our own.

And so we try to satisfy the longings of our souls by checking off everything on our planners and getting ahead on homework, but these satisfactions last only until we turn the page to the next week. We put our identities into what we feel, if we feel liked or bored, stressed or rejected, and we let these feelings dictate our lives. We pour all of our efforts into ensuring good friendships and happy feelings, but these things will only satisfy until the fatal text or finals tests. And then where are we? 

I'm with you on this fear. You see, I put a little of my identity in my pretty pink planner with color-coated (pastel colors, of course) lists. I let my spirit rise and fall with my feelings and fears this week as I met new people and sat in new classrooms. I lost my focus more times than I gained it, and I exchanged eternity for an 18 month calendar.



But what if God changed me these four years? What if He formed me into a strong and grace-filled woman with a greater understanding of His kingdom? What if He helped me to let go of these fears to which I cling? What if He helped me find myself these years?

I want that. I yearn for that kind of life! Don't you? 

So what's stopping us? How do we live this fearless life?

You see, fear tries to block us from tapping into the source of grace that can transform what we believe, which will change how we think, which in turn would revolutionize how we live. And that source would be Jesus.

Silly fear, don't you know Jesus? Don't you know that Jesus is 

best, 

enough, 

beautiful, 

worthy,

grace, 

controller of time (for goodness sake, He created time!),

righteous, 

here. Here. HERE! 

"What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all- how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:31. Please go and read the whole chapter, because I couldn't hardly pick just one verse to encourage you here!) 

College- not as big as Jesus.

Filled schedules- not going to overwhelm Jesus.

Uncertain relationships- can't shake Jesus.

Recurring insecurities- won't stand up to Jesus.

Step by step, day by day, class by class, Jesus whispers in my ear "Do not fear, I live in you." Will I quiet these fears enough to hear Him as I journey on through these college years? Will you put your soul at rest in His grace long enough to hear Him whisper to you, "Do not fear"?

Hush.


For if we let Him, God will use these years to shape us into beautiful workers for His Kingdom. We can approach our classes, not as just another lecture, but as an opportunity to learn something that might help us further God's Kingdom, whether this means that we help someone else pass the same class or we use our new skills to get a job and show grace to our coworkers. Jesus can transform homework into something of wonder because it shows us that we can learn, and that this learning, even if it seems pointless, will strengthen our characters and minds for His glory.

Believing in Jesus, rather than fear, clears our vision so that we can better see God's Kingdom and how we can be a part of it. Trusting Jesus, even when we don't feel like it, strengthens our peace in Jesus and His sustaining Gospel. Choosing grace over stress frees us to start living and then start helping others walk in Jesus as Jesus shows us how to follow Him.

He calls you out to a grace-filled life right now if only you listen to the gentle wind. So you, you reading this, whatever you face in life, don't let fear stop you from breathing in God's grace and living out His Kingdom! Do not fear, because Jesus is bigger than every fear. Do not fear because even though you can't do it, He can, will, and has already done it!

Hush.

Do not fear. 

Jesus is here!

And that changes everything. 

Princess Hannah 

8/20/2015

Coming Home- Summer Tales Part Three

First came the five weeks of training and hard work at American Academy of Ballet. (Not to mention the amazing friends, growing experiences, and ah-ha moments.)

Then came five nights of living the NYC life with Mom.

And then I came home.


Home.

I remember when I first arrived home I immediately went to find my kitties! For the first time in six weeks I got to pet their soft fur and kiss their little faces! Something was missing, though... Dad and Rebecca excitedly met us at the airport, but the twins planned to spend the night at a friends house because we got back very late (the airport I flew into is over two hours away). I didn't want to wait any longer to see them, but I couldn't do anything now.

I'd have to wait until morning.

Or not.

The twins felt the same way and called Mom when we arrived, asking to come home. We just couldn't wait to see each other! It felt so wonderful to live in the same house again, all of my family (including my kitties) under the same roof. And I slept in my own bed again!


And then I accepted the challenge to live out summer in two weeks. I don't know what summer means to you, but to me, a good, relaxing summer day includes:

-Sleeping in until at least 10:00 (Or much later if you recently completed a five week ballet intensive.)

-Cereal and milk (Don't ask, but it's my I-slept-in-too-late-and-it's-almost-lunchtime breakfast.)

-A long time to study God's Word (Get excited now because more But God posts are coming soon!)


-Watch TV (Up to three episodes, preferably British but other intellectual shows acceptable.)

-Waste a bit of time on Pinterest (We all do it, might as well enjoy it!)

-Exercise a bit (Because if I don't, then I feel droopy and tired.)

-Do something creative (Write, blog, draw, dance! I actually finished the second draft of a full length novel last week and drew this little sketch based off of dresses that I saw at The Met.)


-Spend time with family (And I got all caught up on this because my Aunt and her two kids stayed with us all last week. I love family!)


(My sister and I abandon normality and sit longways on the couch, pushing out the cushions and cuddling under the blankets. I love our little tradition but mostly because I love her!)

-Stay up a bit too late (Because why not? You can sleep until 10:00 anyway.)

This list actually teases me a bit because I know that these days are limited. School starts in a week (and for many of you, it has already started), and I feel sad that I can't spend all day in my pjs anymore. But that's what makes Summer Days so fun! That's what makes us prepared for the real adventure, Life. Because let's face it, laying around in our pjs drinking tea (a new habit of mine) and watching Netflix isn't what Life is about.

Life is about bringing God's love and message to the world around us, virtual or not. Life requires work, but work isn't bad. Life gives us plenty of lemons to help us practice making lemonade. Life brings so much joy in unexpected ways. So don't feel disappointed that summer draws to a close, feel excited that Life awaits you on the Monday mornings and on the Friday evenings. (And also remember that you can still rest a bit from Life during the school year. I like to keep my Summer Days skill level fresh by practicing it regularly on Saturdays.)

So I'm back! I'm back home and I love it! But I want to be more than just physically back, I want to be ready for what Life brings around the corner!

Here's to a great summer and an even better school year! Comment below what you consider to be the perfect summer day! Also, share with me something that you're excited about for the fall! Oh, and here's something random but desperately needed: I need to know what kinds of tea to drink! I just started drinking tea, but I don't know which kinds I like and hate to buy a whole box only to throw it away! I want tea bags with sweet/mild tones, preferably with caffeine. Any suggestions? Thanks so much!

Princess Hannah

8/16/2015

NYC- Summer Tales Part Two

New York. 
What will it bring? 
New York. 
What will it be? 

Will it be like the movies, flashing with lights? 
Will it bring giddy moments that last through the nights? 
Can it really be all that I want it to be? 
New York. 
New York. 

New York. 
Here it is now!
New York. 
Can I say, WOW?

For the buildings stand taller than I thought yesterday
And adventure awaits me at the start of each day. 
It really is all that I dreamed it would be. 
New York. 
New York. 


I talked about the challenges and rewards of my summer of ballet training in New York in my previous post, but I didn't share with you the super fun part- New York City! Yes, my dream senior trip came true, and Mom and I walked around the city that never sleeps for five days! I will never forget the fast-paced, historical, neon colored city that mixes old and new in a way no other city can. 

NYC,  

I had a blast. 


Day One- To See the Sights!
We didn't arrive to the city until around lunch time when we arrived at our classy hotel, but we did get to see Times Square and Central Park before heading off to tour the skyline at sunset on a tour boat. We saw the Brooklyn Bridge, the different neighborhoods of NYC, and, of course, the Statue of Liberty! And we didn't have to even stand up. Wonderful.


Day Two- Fancy Day

Mom and I went ahead and named several of the days in the city, and we deemed the first day "Fancy Day." And what did we do for Fancy Day? 

We shopped down 5th Avenue and Madison Avenue. 


I ate one of the most wonderful bites of the trip, a macaroon from Laduree. (I want need to learn how to make these!)


We (of course) stopped by Tiffany's. I didn't go into the store expecting to buy anything because everything there costs so much (although I'm of the mind that people pay more for the blue box than they do for the ring), but we found this adorable coffee cup that looks like the Tiffany's box for "only" $40. And so we had to get it, right?


We may or may not have purchased a few other things... The most exciting thing that I bought I found at my new home the Kate Spade store. I found a watch that I really like and that doesn't overwhelm my tiny wrists! Check it out here!

I felt so glamorous carrying those bag around. Finally I didn't feel so intrusive when we walked into the stores so fancy that they didn't put price tags on the merchandise. (Cough, cough, Dolce and Gabbana. I actually felt a little bit of pain looking at those stunning dresses which were so close and yet so far.)


Our purchase from Saks Fifth Avenue (the one located on 5th Ave., that is): Channel lipstick, a classic. (The one pictured is the Rouge Coco lipstick in Mademoiselle


After we wore ourselves out with shopping, we freshened up and headed to the theater to watch a beautiful classic: The Phantom of the Opera. I liked it, but as I feel about most musicals, I think that I will like it more the second time when my emotions have a channel to go through. (I actually rooted for the Phantom, thinking that it would end like Beauty and the Beast. Spoiler Alert: I was wrong.)


And one can't have Fancy Day without cupcakes? I added s'mores cupcake to my "love-it" list after this beauty from Magnolias Bakery.


Day Three- Book Day

Yes, we had book day! First on our list: NYC's Public Library! The building made me constantly stare around and feel like a guest at a palace, but I felt quite disappointed at the lack of books on display. Apparently, they keep the books in an underground location and only bring out the books that you request. But what if you don't know which book you want and you only want to wander about a building full of pages that you've never read and stories that you've yet to discover? What if you want to go to the library and pick the book with the most interesting back cover? (Guity.) 


So, to cure my need to see hundreds of book around me we went to two bookstores. One promised us everything and gave us nothing, and the other, The Strand, held 2.5 millions books on four stories! It satisfied my yearning and also added a vintage Elizabeth Barrett Browning poem book to our library at home.

But I didn't take any pictures at the bookstore. Sorry!

We, to go along with book day, stood in line to get cheaper (notice the "er") tickets to see Les Miserables (which is based off of a book) that evening, because the three shows that we already scheduled for the trip couldn't put to rest our longing for Broadway (and no, that wasn't sarcastic).

And let me tell you, I do not know why we didn't plan on seeing Les Mis in the first place! IT WAS SO BEAUTIFUL! And I don't mean pretty, I mean beautiful. So full of grace, so full of redemption. And the singing. Oh. Jean Valjean! Oh.

Les Mis. That's where it's at!


Day Four- Be a Kid Day

Yes, we had Be a Kid Day in NYC. And yes, it rocked! We started off with a picnic breakfast in Central Park. 


And we went to see The Lion King.


The M&Ms store, of course!


And we ate at a wonderful place called Ellen's Stardust Diner, where the waiters and waitresses give live Broadway-type  performances the whole time! It was the coolest restaurant (beat only by Belle's Castle in DisneyWorld).


And then I stood on top of the world.

Well, on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building, but that's the same thing. The night felt almost chilly so high in the sky, and the city felt so different with the lights shining bring for me to wonder at but the noise so far below that I could imagine that only me and NYC shared this moment; anything could happen.




Day Five- All New York City Day

You've got to have pizza when you're in NYC, right? And might as well make it delicious fire-baked pizza with the best crust ever from Lombardis? 


And All NYC Day means branching out from our little bubble of the Theater District. So we went to Chinatown where I struck the only Chinese pose that I know- the one from The Nutcracker. 


Of course one must eat gelato when visiting Little Italy!


And then we entered The Metropolitan Museum of Art where I wandered through hallways of Haute Couture Valentino, Channel, and the like before making a beeline (or as much of a beeline as one can make in this maze of a museum) to the three rooms FILLED with Degas (my favorite classic painter)! I freaked out to see the original copy of the paintings that I've seen so many times on-line! And I got to pose besides the famous statue!



Because we loved it so much, we revisited Ellen's Stardust Diner before going to our last show...


WICKED!!!


Wicked blew me away! It embodied everything fun about Broadway in a quirky and interesting tale accompanied by fabulous songs! Plus, Caroline Bowman (Elphaba) sang like no one I ever heard before! (I liked her better than Idina Menzel...)


And I got to meet Kara Lindsay, the actress who played Glinda!


Day Six- Until Next Time Day 

And then we had to say goodbye. 

Not without a hot dog from The Shake Shack (very good). 


And the most delicious milkshake ever from The Shake Shack (even better).


But a few more selfies later, we drove to the airport, waited three hours for them to clean out bird guts from the plane engine, and took off towards home. Oh, wonderful home! But I found it hard to say goodbye to the city, to the faced paced life, to adventure right around the corner, and even to the stuffy subways that can take you to a whole new world in three stops.


But really, this isn't goodbye. No, it's until next time, New York. Until next time, city that stole my heart.


Comment below where in the world you'd like to go! And stay tuned for the final part in my Summer Tales series- home! Also, if you are planning in going to NYC soon, please email me at hannahgirl06@gmail.com, and I'd love to help you in any way that I can!

Princess Hannah

8/13/2015

I Can't Do It- Summer Tales Part One

Can a six week trip to New York change your life?

Yes, yes it can.

Five weeks training for ballet at American Academy of Ballet changed the way I thought about ballet, what I thought about myself, and what I thought about this journey called life.

And here's how it all happened:


As I posted about here, my flight and first week at AAB flew me up to new and exciting places! But I couldn't tell you then that the first week would be the easiest, and everything would get much harder. I danced long hours every day, totaling up to around six hours a day six days a week (around 180 hours total). Even our "off days" included at least two miles of walking. I didn't feel these hours pile up the first three weeks, though, and I felt ready for the last two weeks.

But not much could prepare me for the fourth and fifth weeks at AAB.

You see, AAB's Summer School divides up the five weeks into three sessions that dancers can take separately if they want. Of, course dancers could take more than one session if they wanted, and I took all of them, but for each new session, they re-leveled the dancers. In the first session, I danced in the highest of eight levels (they determined that solely on age), but in the next session I moved down a level because the new dancers that came in could dance. Most of these talented people came from other countries, so I didn't complain at all about moving down a level to where people spoke English and I could really shine. In fact, I grew much during the second session and felt quite comfortable.


Uh oh. Comfortable. 

Then came the last re-leveling. And (you guessed right) this time they placed me in the highest level with the talented foreign dancers that outshone me by a bit. Or maybe more than a bit.

Right about here you can freak out with me, and that's okay. In fact, that's what I did as I entered my first class with this new group of people. It didn't help that this class taught us one of the hardest dances that I've ever failed to do. It also didn't help that all of the boys (well, I say boys, but they were men) watched as I failed to do it.

I felt so small, so inferior. I heard someone say that one of the foreign girls didn't expect some of the new girls to last longer than two days in the highest level before they asked to be moved down, and I knew that she included me in this statement.

"Maybe I should move down." I said to myself that day.

But maybe I should prove her wrong, prove myself wrong. Maybe I could do more than I thought that I could. Oh Jesus, help me!


Spoiler alert: I didn't give in. I didn't take the easy route. I stayed with these crazy-good foreign dancers and continued to learn and work and train. I learned that my technique serves me better than I thought. I learned that a girl from a tiny Southern ballet school can dance with the dancers who win some of the biggest ballet competitions. I learned that it's okay to be at the bottom of a class. And I learned to not give up.

Because I wanted to give up many times and no time more than the last Wednesday of the program. Let me tell you about that day in hope that you won't give up on whatever impossible task you face right now.

The day didn't start off on a good note because I dreamed that my kitty woke me up kneading me but opened my eyes to a dorm bed with no kitty. It felt empty and sent tears down my face. The picture of my family on the desk cascaded waves of homesickness upon me which I could hardly even feel due to tiredness. So... tired... need... rest.... Let's just say that I drank watered down black coffee this day and hardly flinched. 



Because we had so many pieces to prepare for the upcoming show, the highest level skipped siesta the last week and rehearsed until dinner (and for me until 8:30 because I participated in something extra). I injured my hip earlier due to overuse and couldn't even walk or put on clothes without pain, which made dancing difficult. Plus, my allergies flared up, and left my nose stuffy and my throat sore. Things didn't go my way this week. Not at all. On top of all of these things, I didn't have much time to spend in God's Word, which might explain the huge pity-party coming soon in the story.

I remember laying down on a coach in the dance building ten minutes before the next rehearsal. I couldn't stop crying. I prayed. I tried to trust God, but I couldn't see past the tears from slipping out from my eyes, threatening to mess up my mascara. I missed home. I missed family, kitties, and normal things. But I missed rest most of all. I didn't feel like it would end or like I could do this! The mountain of rehearsals not to mention "homework" assignments overwhelmed me as I curled up on the hard coach, but I didn't know then what I know now. Or maybe I did know this but I wanted to throw myself a pity-party anyway... (Pay attention now because the turning point comes right about now.)

I can't do it.

But Christ in me, that's a different story.


Because that day ended (cats gifs can cure wonders when you need a pick-me-up before going into another long rehearsal). And I learned the pieces. And I didn't let comparison or envy crush me. And I got even more practice at turning my pity-parties into praise parties. I can't say that I depended upon Christ's strength the whole time. In fact, I really struggled with leaning upon Him during this time because the whole world around me screamed: you should be able to do this by yourself! And I often believed this lie and tried so hard to make it on my own that I missed much joy. But I knew that I needed to root my identity in Christ, and so together WE did it.


You see, I performed five dances during the last performance. True I limped out of the theater, but WE did it. And in the process of dancing at AAB I got to talk to so many people about how the grace of God changes everything about life! God showed me that He gave me certain abilities and that, though my talents may not look as impressive as others' gifts, He can lead me to do bigger things that I thought possible.

God helped me to discover that He can do it, and He had prepared me to do it through Him. This doesn't mean that I will do everything perfectly, for I made some huge mistakes this summer. But it does mean that I should try hard. It means that I actively resist the temptation to let my own or others' expectations of me define me, because a level doesn't detail my identity me nor does what other people think of me determine my value. God writes my story, and this story won't be easy or even fun all of the time, but it will be good. Why will it be good? Because God is good.


I want to encourage you today to not only appreciate ballet dancers so much more now that you have an insider's look to how a professional dancer's schedule would look like, but I want to encourage you to trust God. To go for it (whatever "it" is for you) and not give up even when the world around you expects you to throw in the towel. I encourage you to define yourself by God alone, even when you want to curl up on the couch and cry.

Because you can't do it. But Christ in you, that's a different story. That's His story. And soon it will be history.

Princess Hannah

(p.s. I'm so glad to be back! Thank you so much for the support and interaction on the blog during my absence! Please go back and check your comments, because, like always, I answered every one of them! I can't wait to catch up with all of you. And look forward to part two of my Summer Tales, NYC!!)

8/03/2015

Never Grow Up

Growing up. 

It's a scary thing, unknown and sometimes unwanted. I remember saying to myself as an eight year-old, "I will never grow too old to play Barbies." But, against my will, I played Barbies less and less. Somehow they didn't hold the magic anymore; I couldn't immerse myself in playworld like I once could. I stopped spending all day playing House outside and started to do productive things, like clean my room. I stopped eating frozen pizzas every day and started eating whole wheat bread sandwiches and guacamole. 

In lots of little ways, I grew up, but I cherish the ways that I didn't grow up, nor will I ever grow up in. 

For I still take joy in coloring in my Tangled coloring book. 



I can't help but thumb through the American Girl catalogs that my sisters get. 

Potty humor still makes me laugh. 

Disney movies steal my heart. 

I still don't regularly make my bed. 

But the culture that we live in doesn't value these things. The world today emphasises growing up, not cherishing childhood. Too often, we just look forward to the next stage of life instead of savoring the one we live in today. Toddlers own phones. Middle schoolers dress like adults. High schoolers value "mature" experiences. The world urges us to grow up and leave childish things behind, but I refuse to completely "grow up." 

Of course I will mature, and in fact, I love growing in character and maturity, especially in Christ. This isn't what I refer to when I say that I don't want to grow up. When I say that I want to value childhood, I mean that I never want to get to a place where I stop looking at the world in wonder. I never want to forget the joy of the little things. I never want to focus so much on the path ahead of me that I forget to admire the scenery. 

Yes, I'm growing up in numerous ways, but in so many other ways, I will never grow up.



Time will never take away my joy for Christmas.

I will never be too old for Princesses stories.


Often I will take detours to the toy section to glance at the new Barbies.

I will never look at the weeds in our yard as weeds but as strawberries, grapes, lettuce, bananas, salt, and more.

No one understood growing up as well as Walt Disney, who saw the value of hard work and good character, but who also knew that the magic of childhood should never quite leave us. Here are a few quotes from him:

"Why do we have to grow up? I know more adults who have the children's approach to life. They're people who don't give a hang what the Joneses do. You see them at Disneyland every time you go there. They are not afraid to be delighted with simple pleasures, and they have a degree of contentment with what life has brought - sometimes it isn't much, either."

"Adults are only kids grown up, anyway."

"That's the real trouble with the world, too many people grow up."

"I do not make films primarily for children. I make them for the child in all of us, whether we be six or sixty."

But we cannot forget that being an adult does provide exciting and productive opportunities. The following Walt Disney quotes emphasise the perseverance necessary to make your vision become reality. It's like playing House but in real life! 

"The difference in winning and losing is most often ... not quitting."

"All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them."

"The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing." 

“First, think. Second, believe. Third, dream. And finally, dare.”

So I challenge you to live when and where you are, to wonder at the small things and work towards the bigger things. I dare you to never quite grow up but to still reach a little further in this adventure of life. Life takes works, yes, and inevitably we will grow up, but we never have to grow up all of the way. We never have to forget what it was like to hug Daddy when he came home. We can still make sandcastles. We can still re-watch those favorite childhood memories. 

Grow older, more mature, and stronger in character. But please, never grow up. 

Princess Hannah

(p.s. Now I'm in NYC with my Mother! I'll be home soon, though!)