About Hanna

www.dearhanna.com // Writer, educator, & enthusiast of the high school through college years. Student Enrichment Coordinator @BelmontUniv. Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can't lose.

Single at Christmas

Tis the season to get engaged!  Fa la la la laaaaa la la la laaaaa.

Being single during the holidays is always… special.  It seems like everywhere you turn there are couples canoodling. Each time you check facebook, there is a new “HE PUT A RING ON IT” status.  And to top it off, every time you turn on the TV, there is a Jane Seymour “Open Hearts” or “He bought it at Jared’s!” commercial. Ew.

And in case you missed it last year, the best photo I’ve ever seen in response to this…

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We’ve all been there, sister.  It can be exhausting being single around the holidays.  You feel on guard, walls up, not wanting to be a scrooge, but also trying very hard to protect your vulnerable heart.

I had a great group of single girlfriends in DC– strong, independent, successful women, who would let their guards down when together and around the holidays this topic always seemed to come up.  We’d grapple with why it’s so dang hard–even for awesome women–to be single from Thanksgiving through New Years.

Eventually, one of my best friends would pose this question:

But what if you knew this was your last year being single?

What if you knew that this time next year you would be married? How would you live this year differently?

Then we’d each confess all the ways our lives would look different if we were able to glimpse into the future and knew we’d be married the next year.

“I’d soak up more girls’-night-out times.”

“I’d hang out with my high school girls more often.”

“I’d pay off that credit card.”

“I’d quit smoking.”

“I’d really get in shape.”

And on and on we’d go.

We would rattle off a multitude of things we would do or spend time and money on now if we knew it was our last year of singleness.

How absurd is that?  Why weren’t we living like that right then and there?  Why did we think we’d live differently if we actually knew we wouldn’t be single in the near future?

So that is my question for you, all my single ladies, who are pushing through the holidays as a single gal.

If you knew this was your very last Christmas being single, how would you spend it?

Would you live it any differently?  Would you cherish the time with your siblings and parents more?  Would you spend your money differently?  Would you be a bit more light-hearted and a little less annoyed by the rest of the coupled world?

I don’t know what Christmas 2015 is going to bring for you. I don’t know what Christmas 2015 will hold for me.  But I am convinced we should live life as abundantly as we can today. Single, married, happy, healthy, or not.  There is always something else to hope for.  Let’s choose to be joyful and content today, no matter our circumstances.

O Come, Let Us Adore Him

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O come, all ye faithful, joyful, and triumphant; come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem; come and behold Him, born the King of angels.

Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation; sing all ye bright hosts of heav’n above; glory to God, all glory in the highest.

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born this happy morning; Jesus, to Thee be all glory giv’n; Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing.

O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, Christ, the Lord.

This is my favorite Christmas hymn without question. There are certainly others with more compelling melodies, but something about the lyrics to O Come, All Ye Faithful gets me every time.

Let’s adore him.

The Dictionary of Bible Themes defines adore as an attitude of worship characterized by love and reverence towards God. In strict terminology, the Latin expression adoratio is a designated act of worship due to God alone.

I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word adore, I picture a group of adults huddled around a tiny baby, ooing and ahhhing.  It’s easy to transfer that image to us oohing and ahhing over a baby in a manger, but that is so far from what our adoration, or worship, of the God-man should look like. []

>> Read the rest of Hanna’s post on Michael Easley’s InContext blog

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Unmet expectations

ImagePretty much every heart-to-heart conversation I’ve had over the last month could be boiled down to this sentence:  My life doesn’t look like I thought it would. 

Most of the time, this was said in a negative sense.

I just finished my freshman year in college and still don’t have any great friends here.
I’ve spent two years on a major I’m now realizing I don’t want to pursue a career in. 
I’m graduating and feel more lost than ever.
No one told me it’s so hard to make friends post-college.
I’m 30 years old and my husband and I are struggling with infertility.
I’m 32 years old and still single.
I never thought marriage would be so hard.

Occasionally, it was said in a positive sense.

I never imagined I’d be graduating college, already with a job offer in a field I love!

Post-college life is so much better than I thought it would be!

Marriage is so much easier and fun than I had ever hoped!

 Life hardly ever looks like we expect.

That’s the beauty of life.  If everything unraveled as we imagined it would, life would be predictable and boring.  The best seasons of life are when we land in a spot we never anticipated and marvel at the goodness of God for getting us there.

But what do we do in the seasons of disappointment?  What do we do when we are grieving, hurt, or even angry that life hasn’t at all turned out the way we thought it should?

1. Acknowledgment is the first step.

I can’t begin to tell you how many times I just tried to pretend everything was okay and life was how I wanted it to be.  Don’t try to fake yourself and everyone else out.  It doesn’t work well.  Be honest with yourself.  It’s okay to admit that things aren’t going the way you had hoped.  If you don’t admit it, you can’t move on and grow from it.  So start by acknowledging it.

2. Dig in.

So you’ve acknowledge it.  Life doesn’t look like I imagined it would.  But what exactly hasn’t met your expectations?  You may have been able to pinpoint some tangibles (I don’t like my job, I don’t have meaningful friendships, I thought I’d be married by now, I didn’t anticipate my parents getting divorced, etc) but dig beyond those.  What are the deeper expectations you had that are still unmet?  If you stay on the surface and just blame your disappointment on something–  the absence of a career, husband, best friend, etc– you’re missing the point.  So dig in.

3. Control the Controllable.

This is perhaps my favorite piece of non-Biblical advice. That and “Let It Go.” But I’m pretty sure I could find scripture to back that one up.

So your life doesn’t look like you thought it would and your disappointed? Well control the controllable! Hate your major? Change it. Lacking motivation in your career— find a way to get motivated or look for another job. Marriage is hard? Choose to make it easier by changing your attitude and the way you respond to it.

What can you control in your situation?  Where can you create some change?  Most times the most powerful thing you can change and control is your attitude.  Chuck says it best:

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4. Finally, pray for change.

When giving wives advice on how to pray for their husbands, Stormie Omartian says our favorite prayer is a three word phrase, “Lord change him!” But God’s favorite prayer to hear is, “Lord change me!”  She goes on to say, it’s not about who needs to change but who is willing to change. 

I think the same is true for any time we are praying for change.  Maybe it’s not the circumstance that needs to change.  Maybe you and I need to change.  Let’s pray that God changes us– the willing participant. Sure, you can pray for your circumstance to change. But even better, let’s pray that God changes our heart to find more contentment in who He is and not in our temporary circumstances.

God’s will for your life

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If we’re really honest, most of us spend years of our life wrestling with the question, “What’s God’s will for my life?”  And while I’m not trying to minimize the importance of us understanding who God has designed us to be and how that aligns with the plans He has for us, too often we miss the places in scripture where God really spells it out.

It is God’s will for your life to rejoice, pray, and give thanks.

It doesn’t get simpler than that.

How many hours, days, weeks, months, or years have you belabored over what major you should study in college, what career path or industry you should pursue, who you should marry, and other major life decisions?  Sometimes I think we are so desperate to know God’s will for a specific circumstance, we miss the really big and really simple things He would rather us focus on.

Always rejoice. Constantly pray. In everything give thanks.

That is God’s will for your life!  And how many hours, days, weeks, months, or years do you think we’ve belabored over those things?  Am I continuously thinking about and being intentional about rejoicing, praying, and giving thanks?

Hardly.

This Thursday, about 300 million people will “give thanks” for food, family, friends, health, and stuff.  But what if you and I were different?  What if we decided Thursday wasn’t going to be different than any other day of the year?

What would it look like for us to always rejoice, constantly pray, and in all circumstances give thanks– not just on our National Turkey Day?  

Now I know a lot of us are hurting. We are in difficult seasons of life: parents divorcing, loved ones dying, broken relationships, unemployment, heart break, feelings of pain, grief, loneliness, and exhaustion all around.  But what would happen if we chose to rejoice, chose to pray, chose to give thanks amidst the tragedy?  Is it even possible?

We aren’t thanking God for the heart break.  We aren’t thanking Him for death, for tragedy, or for loss. We thank Him because His promises never fail. We rejoice because we know He will never leave us.  We praise Him because He is our only hope, our only Savior, our only deliverance.  We give thanks because we know that in the end He has the last word.  We chose joy because He chose us, just as we are, to love us and adopt us as His children.

How desperate are you to know God’s will for your life?  How serious are you about walking in obedience in His will?

May I suggest we start with the simple–yet extremely complex–command in Thessalonians 5?

Always rejoice. Constantly pray. In everything give thanks.

Stop waiting for encouragement

Col324rectangleEasier said than done, right?

As you know, last week I wrote a blog post for the first time in almost 9 months.  It seems silly, but it took a lot of gumption for me to post again.  The truth is, I had always planned on taking the month of March off from blogging to prioritize the last month of wedding planning and celebrating.  But then, April 1 came around and I didn’t blog.  April turned into May, which led into the summer, and before I knew it, months had gone by and even the crickets stopped chirping.

It felt like I had failed.

And while the silence felt awkward, the longer it went, the more it seemed like it would be even worse if I just popped up with a new post.  Blogging again would be the public confession that I lost all discipline and abandoned Dear Hanna.

But what I now realize is that the tension I felt leading up to that post wasn’t just about lack of discipline and abandoning Dear Hanna readers, it was more about not doing something with the stirring in my soul.

For months, I had been feeling the stir to get back to writing.  God had been placing more and more things on my heart.

He continued creating tension in me to the point that I was uncomfortable, because at the root I was disobeying God’s leading.

Now here’s the kicker.

Immediately after my post went live, I began checking the response on social media and site clicks.  Without total consciousness I began praying, “Please give me encouragement, Lord. I need it. I need people to comment and say they are so glad I’m back.  I need encouragement from people.”  Before the prayer had left my mouth, I felt a strong but gentle hand on my back and a loud NO. 

“No. You do not need encouragement from people.”

You don’t need encouragement from people, because you just need to obey Me.  I have been coaxing and prodding you to get back to writing.  So if for no other reason, you write for Me.  You write because I told you to write.

You don’t need encouragement from other people; you just need to obey Me.”

I laughed out loud. I knew He was right. Yet before I could get another word in, I felt Him say, “But I will encourage you because I am the Good Provider and the Perfect Gift Giver and it is never my desire to withhold good things from you.  So, you will be encouraged by people, but remember, you don’t need it.  You just obey me.”

So that’s my question for you.

Where in your life are you waiting for people to encourage you instead of stepping out in a direction you know God is leading you?

Take it from me. Don’t spend 9+ months living in tension.  Stop waiting for encouragement from people and obey God.  And the best part is, because He is a good and benevolent God, He’ll give you encouragement along the way.