Thursday, May 3, 2012

Time to Kickstart My Book!

So, "How's that book coming along?" you might wonder. Well, it's almost finished! I'm done writing it and now working through final, detailed editing. April was really great for writing and editing. I'm so much better at editing on actual paper—there's something about being able to physically cross out errors or draw arrows to move paragraphs around that makes my process go much smoother than on a computer. So, when I realized that, the book took off! Hallelujah because it's been an arduous process.

I've told a lot of people about my book and how I'm going about publishing it, but here's a little more info. Basically, very few companies will publish first-time authors. Now, if you're like me, you think, "Hmmm, so how does someone ever get published?" and that's a good question...and one I haven't mastered yet. But, I'm hoping to work with WestBow Press, which is the independent division of Thomas Nelson. The only issue is that they need money up front, and for those who know me well, I'm broke. Teaching high school in Hawaii didn't exactly allow my savings account to build up. is a site that lets people raise money for their creative projects while offering rewards at different donation levels (i.e. a copy of my book when it comes out), and I'm trying to use that to pay for a publishing package. CNN, The New York Times, the BBC, and Time Magazine among others have featured the site, and it has a cool set up. I have 30 days to raise my money, and if I do, I keep it and pay the publisher, but if I don't raise it, every cent goes back to the donors, so there's little risk involved. Worst-case-scenario, if I don't raise the money, people only lose the time they spent looking at my page. :)

So, today is the day I launch my page. Stress! It's a huge praise that they accepted my project, and now I'm going to spend the next thirty days praying for God to provide—pretty much what I've spent this year doing as I've needed His guidance for this new endeavor in my life. If you at all want to help me, I would so appreciate it. I realize that already so many people have helped me immensely by praying for me over the years and encouraging me. What really would help is if you want to pass along my site to anyone you think might be interested. Not only can it help me reach my total, but it can also get the word out about my book, and I feel strongly about it.

I didn't leave Hawaii and move to flat and insufferably hot Dallas because I had a whimsical idea to be a bum and try writing for a while. This book has been on my heart for the past three years, and I feel like I'm supposed to be obedient and go for it—not so that everyone can read how awesome (not!) my life is but because there's a need for resources for young adults with cancer. Every time someone has passed on my blog or referred a friend with cancer to me, I've been reminded how passionate I am about helping others battling the disease.

Below is a link to my Kickstarter page. Even if you just stop by to learn more, I would be so grateful! The more people that know about the book, the more people (hopefully!) it can encourage when it comes out.

Thanks to everyone who's been on my team in this process—for encouraging me, praying for me, checking in on me, and believing in me and where God's leading.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,


Friday, February 24, 2012

Finishing Strong

Here's the truth that's bombarded me lately: I suck at long-term goals.

I'm really good at setting goals three months at a time. I set new goals each year from January-March, April-June, July-September, and October-December. That's manageable for me, and I like charting progress over time, but only a short period of time.

Long-term goals, on the other hand, are my nemesis. I start out really well and full of energy, and then, somewhere in the middle, I lose sight of my purpose, get discouraged, and want to bail out. I've always known this about myself, but somehow I'm still surprised amidst long-term goal situations when I start muddling through. I have a bracelet that says, "Finish Strong," and that became my motto one summer during college. I know I need to finish strong, I tell myself to finish strong, and yet, the act of finishing strong isn't exactly made easier by either of those.

That's currently the state of my book. I'm so close to finishing it, but I lost sight of the goal somewhere over the last few months because it still seemed overwhelming and so incomplete. Never mind that I've been exponentially further along than when I started back in August; the goal still seemed too big. So I muddled through, discouraged, doubting my purpose, and wondering if I made a huge mistake in moving home. Despite all of that, in the back of my mind, I haven't been able to shake the feeling that I was supposed to do this...and still am.

With all of this, I'm running a ½ marathon this weekend at Disney World. I'm running it in spite of the fact that my knees and I have a turbulent relationship, that my orthopedic doctor flat-out told me I was not built to run long distances, and that my journey has included passing out, physical therapy, and dropping loads of money on race fees, running shoes, and rehab.

My knees suck—my kneecaps don't track correctly, and that's not a fun feeling...especially when I literally can't bend them anymore. I get really frustrated because I've trained faithfully, but I've seen people whose training sucks and have done very little athletically before yet pick up the idea of running a ½ marathon and execute it without problems. That's more than a little irritating.

Sometimes when I'm running and, nine or ten miles in, I can't bend my knees, I've literally shouted, "Seriously, can't I just be exempt from this?!?" Who I'm shouting at is up for debate. It's probably half at my knees and half at God.... At those points, I'm thinking that I've already freaking had cancer, so don't I, like, get a pass on having atrocious knees? Haven't I kind of "served my time" with the whole "my-body-hates-me" thing?

Obviously I know the answers to those, and this race is not even that important in the grand scheme of things anyway, but it has come to be significantly symbolic in my life. I've realized that my frustrations in running that cause me to shout out how angry I am at the obstacles in my way are symptomatic of a bigger frustration. Underneath it all, I don't really need to run successfully; what I really need is to know that I can finish something I've started. I can plead with God to let me run without having issues, but I'm really pleading for a victory with a long-term goal, to finish what I've started.

Running has become strangely important for that purpose. I don't actually care that much about being a successful runner—I'm still a volleyball player through and through, and as I mentioned, I'm apparently not even built to run. But, I've been training for this since October when I paid for it—but even before that when I was running 5Ks, so I'm into my sixth month of training. That may be nothing for you, but for me, this task has now eclipsed my preferential short term goals.

All of this is to say that I'm really excited for my race this weekend. I need to finish it and know that I can complete a task I've so faithfully prepared for. I didn't skip a single run. When weather's been bad, when work has conflicted, and when I've been sick, I've rescheduled runs, but I have still faithfully completed 12+ weeks of specific training for this race. Everyone who's heard me talk about my race probably thinks, "Okay, Hannah, what's the big deal? I've run a ½ marathon. People do them all the time," and those statements are true. However, this IS a big deal to me.

Most of all, I need this race because it's coinciding with my struggles to complete my book. It's almost like if I can finish this well, I can finish my book. My only motivator in this has been myself. It's been pretty much a solitary process, and while that might sound like a bummer, it's actually not; I've needed to do this alone. I know community's important, but I've needed to know that I can see a goal, motivate myself to faithfully prepare for it, and complete it—not because my parents are making me, not because a doctor's telling me to, and not because school or work requires it—but simply because I want to and can.

I wanted to share this because I'm excited but also guessing many others struggle to finish strong. If you suck at long-term goals or if you, also, need a victory, I encourage you to find a hobby or task completely unrelated to the long-term goal you're struggling with. Work to complete that and remind yourself that you can and will finish strong.

Communication books explain that confidence is "knowing you have the ability to complete something successfully"—it's not even HAVING the ability to complete something successfully, but it's BELIEVING we can be successful. It's like those terrible singers who audition for American Idol—they're confident, not because they CAN sing well, but because they BELIEVE they can sing well.

Confidence for my run means knowing I can complete it successfully, and for that, I'm not nervous at all. That doesn't mean the elements won't intervene or my knees won't dislocate—heaven forbid I don't finish, but it could happen. Still, I'm confident because I know that I can now run my ½ marathon successfully. With my book, I've been lacking confidence. I could fail, no one could publish it, and even if someone does publish it, no one could read it. However, I'm realizing that those issues aren't causing my doubt. The issue is that I've apparently been in great need of a confidence boost to complete my book—to believe that I CAN finish this and finish it well—and running has helped show me that, though long-term goals aren't my forte, I can successfully tackle them.

So, wish me luck on Sunday as I run through Magic Kingdom and Epcot, and feel free to pray that the threat of rain goes away and that my knees are miraculously pain-free. And, whatever you're working on or dealing with, finish strong, friend.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Thrill of Hope in a Season of Humiliation

I realize it's been a ridiculous amount of time since I last posted. I could blame it on the fact that I'm in the process of writing a book while also working three part-time jobs, or I could just call it what it is: avoidance.

Confession over. Now onto bigger and better things.

I've been feeling lately like I've been in a season of humiliation. Before I go much further, let me clear up what "humiliation" means. The dictionary definition is: "the act of humbling someone, being reduced to lowliness or submission," and it adds that "humility can be self-sought, but humiliation involves something [or someone] else."

Okay, so what does that mean? Though we often use it to mean "embarrassment" or, in my shameful case "things that are comical for me to see and laugh at," the word humiliation is more about being reduced to lowliness or being humbled. And, it involves either some other force or person in the process.

How has my life been in a season of humiliation lately? It's hit me the most in my jobs lately. My retail job is a complete waste of my Wheaton College degree—monetarily and academically. Every time I work, I'm acutely aware of that fact as I repeatedly have to convince customers that we are sold out of certain items and I'm not just making crap up. I've been substitute teaching, and while it's been fun to get to know some students a little bit, most of the time teachers don't have me teach much; they leave work for the students to do on their own. In those times, I'm just the necessary breathing body that's over 18 and officially has to be in the room with the kids. The teaching skills I honed over the past two years—all the hours of prepping, grading, and classroom development—are pretty wasted in that avenue. I think the only skills I'm actually putting to use right now are my volleyball skills since I'm assisting a club team.

So, it's been a season of "being reduced to lowliness" and definitely of submission. I'm not completely embarrassed or anything—I've accepted what's happening, but it is a little bit of a bummer to feel like a lot of my skills and abilities are completely wasted right now. Though from time to time I doubt and question whether my decision to move home and write a book was really from the Lord or just a big mistake, most of the time when I remember my goals, I'm affirmed in my purpose here. My submitting to what I think is His plan has brought me to this place of "humiliation" where I look around and think I probably won't be putting anything I'm doing this year on a resume so as not to lessen its effectiveness (unless I get published, that is).

I was struck the other day with the thought that it's probably fitting that I feel like I'm in a season of humiliation since it was definitely a season of humiliation for Christ. He didn't arrive triumphantly or gloriously resplendent; He was born in a stable and placed in a feeding trough for animals. THE KING OF KINGS, btw. Not that He was embarrassed, but rather, it was a season of humiliation because He was physically "reduced to lowliness and submission" by His own willingness but also because of the sins of the world.

In light of that, my "season of humiliation" seems pretty miniscule, and it's made me more okay with that. In church, our pastor has been teaching us why there's no need to fear. We've been looking at Luke 2:8 and following, and Pete preached on the verses of the Christmas story that we've all heard time and again. In verse 10 the angels tell the terrified shepherds, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people," and in verse 10, they clarify what that good news is: CHRIST. "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ, the Lord" (v. 11).

What a simple answer to our fears and doubts: do NOT fear, do NOT worry, do NOT be dismayed: Christ is here!

As we sang "O Holy Night," I was struck by a line that I've sung probably thousands of times but never thought too deeply about:

"A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices."

Singing that made my eyes water. In this season, I miss Hawaii and the life I built there. I miss my students and my work as a teacher. I miss feeling stable, a solid routine each day, and knowing that I'm doing something purposeful. It hasn't been the most victorious feeling season, but that line in the carol is perfect.

He is my thrill of hope amidst a dark world in which I feel pretty weary at times (I realize that sounds dramatic—my life isn't bad and I'm blessed...I know that...but still, I get discouraged fairly easily). I rejoice in this season because without His coming down and being born, I would be stuck in my hopelessness and weariness.

What a reason to celebrate! Sitting in my room looking out at dead trees, winter-gray skies, and what just looks cold, I miss the tropical breeze, soothing ocean waves, and sunshine of Hawaii. But, I think the deadness of everything in Dallas makes me more aware of how great and what a "thrill of hope" He is compared to my circumstances.

So, rejoice because He is a thrill of hope in our mundane lives and oft-changing circumstances. He suffered a season of humiliation to give us that hope, and that is a greater gift than any I will receive this Christmas or any other.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,


(P.S. As for not feeling super victorious lately, I heard back from a publisher the other day who is interested to know more, so praise the Lord for that! He clearly knew that I needed some affirmation in what I've been doing. Thanks for your past and continued prayers for my book!)

Friday, August 12, 2011

It's been a while...

(though that might have been obvious if you looked at the date of my last post)

Maybe you're wondering WHY it's been so long. I could give you a few reasons such as I've been teaching high school English, I've been living in Hawaii, the sun and sand bleached my brain, I've been working on some things, etc. All of those reasons are legitimate.

However, the real reason I've been radio-silent is that I haven't known where to go from my previous posts. At about the year-mark post-chemo, I felt like to continue blogging was a good idea, but since all of my previous posts had been about my lymphoma (I did, after all, start the blog for that purpose), when I was healthy and not a lot was new or out of the ordinary on the cancer-front, I simply didn't know what to write about.

To write about my everyday life seemed a little self-important and mundane (though it's been a great adventure for me), and to continue writing about my lymphoma when there wasn't much news about it seemed like I was either milking it or trying too hard to make it fit.

So, I simply stopped blogging. Though it seemed like at the time I was just postponing having to make a decision, ignoring it was clearly making a decision nonetheless. So, now it's August, it's been almost 15 months, and here I am.

There's so much I could write about--about two years' worth of adventures in Hawaii, my busy but wonderful summer, or my chaotic and somewhat depressing move back to my parents' house in Dallas. However, I'm going to keep this re-introduction to blogging short (for today, at least) and tell you that I'm working on writing a book.

That is why I left Hawaii, that is why I don't have a job, and that is why I'm in the mood to write. I've been writing every day for the past couple weeks, and when I arrived to Dallas on August 1st, I had a clear goal in mind: August 1 started "Writing Camp."

What, you may ask, is this potential book about? Well, if you had to guess, I think you'd get it. It's definitely not fiction. I always felt like a bit of a fraud trying to come up with something poetic, full of imagery, or creative and new in writing--as if I was trying to write well but knew there was nothing brilliant I could come up with.

No, it's not fiction. I'm writing about myself. In hopefully a more interesting way than that might sound. Really I'm writing about my experience going through cancer, and though I realize I'm no one famous and also that no two cancer experiences are the same, it's been on my heart for a while (like 2 years), and I figure it's time to buckle down, be obedient, and do it.

Thus, I'm writing. I'm at 40,000 words as of today. There's a great chance that absolutely nothing will come of this, and while that will definitely be disappointing, the only thing I feel passionate about right now is this book(other than returning to Hawaii to enjoy the calm of Lanikai and my ohana there). But that second passion of returning to Hawaii is probably helping fuel my writing--the sooner I finish, the sooner I send things out, the sooner I can figure out what--if anything--might come of this, and the sooner I can go back to Hawaii Nei. :)

If you'd like to inquire more about it, please do! I've got lots of free time when I'm not writing. :) If you'd like to pray for this endeavor, I'd love that, too. When I asked my teammate Brooke if she'd be okay with me using her name and some details about her, she replied, "Absolutely! I've never been in a book before!" to which I replied, "Well thanks...I've never written a book before!"

So, mahalo (thank you) for letting me start anew on this blog. To all who read the previous incarnation so faithfully, I have not forgotten you. In fact, I am probably writing about you. But, it's time for a new direction in this blog. Some things will be different than before (note the title: I still love Psalms, but I don't want to cheapen them by using verses just because I used to) and some things might still be the same (I do still stand on Christ daily as my solid Rock). A hui hou ('til we meet again)...Aloha!

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,


Saturday, May 15, 2010

"Be exalted, O Lord, in Your strength; we will sing and praise Your might." ~Psalm 21:13

(Written on Friday, 5/14):
Today is a day of celebration. Why, you may ask? Well, today is exactly one year from my last chemo treatment!!! That, my friends, is definitely a cause for celebration.

I'm kinda liking that May 14th is one week from my birthday because I think I'm going to annually give myself a reason to celebrate one week early, which will, of course, carry out through the following week, so it'll be like one big week of celebration, basically. :) Anyway, as I think back to one year ago, I first cannot believe it's already been a year, and second think that at the same time, it feels like that was in another lifetime. Weird how that happens, isn't it??

I guess I really don't have that much to update other than the fact that today is such a day of praise, but I have been learning some things lately that I'd like to share.

First, in honor of today and looking back while moving forward, below are some psalms I've read recently that have reminded me of our God-given purpose after going through different things in life:

Psalm 7:17
"I will give thanks to the Lord because of His righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High."

Psalm 9:1-2
"I will praise You, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders. I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High."

Psalm 9:11, 13b-14
"Sing praises to the Lord, enthroned in Zion; proclaim among the nations what He has done....Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death that I may declare Your praises in the gates of the Daughter of Zion and there rejoice in Your salvation."

Psalm 13:6
"I will sing to the Lord, for He has been good to me."

Psalm 16:8-10
"I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure because You will not abandon me to the grave, nor will You let Your Holy One see decay."

Psalm 18:2, 46-49
"The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn [a] of my salvation, my stronghold....The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God my Savior! He is the God who avenges me, who subdues nations under me, who saves me from my enemies. You exalted me above my foes; from violent men you rescued me. Therefore I will praise you among the nations, O LORD; I will sing praises to your name."

Psalm 19:14
"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer."

There are so many more psalms and verses that talk about singing and giving praise to Him whom praise is due, but these are a start. I shared with my students in homeroom the other day that, though they've heard my story about lymphoma multiple times, I will continue to tell it and different aspects of it since I feel like that is my command now--tell of all the ways God has been faithful. I've mentioned before that I don't want to always bring conversation around to me and cancer, but at the same time, as I think about it and tell about it, it continues to amaze me that that HAPPENED and that God was and IS so good!!! So, I will continue to tell my story.

With that, I have a few more things to update, so secondly, I've been reading Crazy Love by Francis Chan lately, and it's a book you should definitely read. He delivers the truth in a very real and honest way where you know exactly where you stand, but you don't feel like crawling into a hole and sulking, so it's just good. Anyway, there was a chapter talking about how we really can't KNOW all of God, and I started reflecting on that. If you asked me to describe God in one word, I would say "faithful." However, it's absolutely ridiculous for me to think that, just since I've seen Him work in my life and show His faithfulness in that, I now know all of Him. He is absolutely faithful. But, just because I've had those experiences where I've seen His faithfulness, that does not mean that is all of who He is. He is so much more than faithful--and though faithfulness is the most recent way I've seen His work in my life, I have to remember that I don't have Him "figured out" fully.

Additionally, the book talks about fearing God, and I'd like to share something that helped me out in a huge way. I'd always been told how to fear God, but really, it seems like something that's just confusing. However, what's helped understanding that is thinking about one of my biggest fears: lightning. Yep, not death or failure; lightning. Now, if your house had been struck multiple times by lightning, if you were tall and accustomed to lightning storms starting at Kanakuk while coaching middle school children in the middle of an open field, and if you had looked up all of the info about how lightning can strike, you would be terrified, too. Anyway, here's the thing with lightning: we know so much about it, right? It typically strikes the tallest thing around, we know how to avoid it and be safe, and we know about its properties. However, did you know that when there's a storm in the distance, you could still get struck by lightning from miles away? Did you know that, while it usually hits the tallest thing around, that's not always the case? Sometimes it hits the 2nd or 3rd tallest thing based on what those things are composed of. Yeah. Scary. So, while we can kinda understand it and stay safe around it, it's a little unpredictable, powerful, and thus, a little bit scary.

So now, follow with me on how that's helped me understand about fearing God (and granted, this may not make any sense to those of you who love lightning...): just as we can know so much about God, we can remember how He's done things in our life, and we can recount ways that He shows Himself as faithful again and again, we can't fully understand Him, we can't "tame" Him, and we can't box Him in thinking we know exactly where He's going to move and how He's going to work. He is incredibly powerful and decisive in His work, too. We can understand a lot about Him, but it's ridiculous for us to think that we could predict Him, know Him fully, or even try and box Him in. And yet, I think I do this so often. So, it's been a good reminder to think about the fact that God is a little like lightning and I should love Him, trust in Him, and run to Him, but I need to remember that I don't have Him figured all out, nor should I suppose that just because He's worked one way in my life before He will do that same thing each time He moves.

Anyway, how am I doing health-wise? Well, I'm doing great. :) I feel great, I'm still in the clear, and since it's been a year since my last chemo, my 1 year check-up scans are coming up in June. I'll be heading back to Chicago for those, so I'm looking forward to that. I love Hawaii--it's beautiful almost every day (minus rainy days or vog days--days when volcanic ash from the Big Island makes its way over here), it's warm, it doesn't make me want to cry in April because it never ever will snow in April, and it's made me more of an outdoor-loving person. However, I have a deep love for Chicago in my heart, and I would absolutely live there if it wasn't cold, so I'm looking forward to being back there in June.

Since my last post things have just been moving right along. We're down to two full weeks of school and then two exam days which means my first year of teaching has almost come to a close. CRAZY!!! I can't believe that! I was flying through Chicago last week on Sunday, and it was Wheaton's graduation day which was even crazier--to think that I've been out for a year is unreal. Time flies! Back to school: I'm trying to finish strong, and it's been a little more of a struggle working with unmotivated students who checked out many weeks ago, so I've been praying big time for patience and love.

I have traveled a little already this month, and this coming week I'll travel again, so it's made May fly by even faster. Last weekend I flew to Chattanooga, Tennessee by way of LAX then DFW, and actually on my 2 hour layover in Dallas, my dad got to come eat lunch with me at Chili's Too at DFW airport. :) That was awesome and I am SO thankful for parents who always sacrifice for me--time, money, emotional effort, etc. Anyway, I went to Chattanooga because my first Kanakuk K-West co-counselor, Melissa "Fain" Sparks (we went to NYC last year for spring break) got married to a guy named Cameron who we worked at kamp with as well, and I was a bridesmaid in their wedding. It was such an incredible time--it's been difficult to find really good deep friends here that I can also just have so much fun with, so it was great to be around such incredible people all weekend. I realized that I miss land a little bit--people ask me if I have "Island Fever" and I can answer that I only do when I leave the island and am reminded of what wide open spaces look like. Anyway, Melissa and Cam's wedding was awesome and was a great reminder of God's sovereign plans just in the way he brought them together and has blessed them. Additionally, Melissa's dad had been diagnosed with a really really rare disease back in March--literally 1 in a million--and so there was a question about whether he'd even be able to walk her down the aisle--much less dance with his daughter, but that, too, was so incredible to see God's healing power at work, and though it was a trial, Dr. Fain did get to slowly walk Melissa down the aisle. :) So, it was an encouraging weekend. Below are some pics:

Good times. This week I'm flying home because Madelyn GRADUATES from high school. WHAT?!?!? I know. I can't believe it. That'll be great family time, plus my friends from TCA are getting married, so it'll just be a weekend full of celebrations. :)

Ok, I've gotta run, but that's what's been going on lately. Oh--almost forgot. I'm up to 8500 words in writing my book of sorts...some of the people at the wedding encouraged me that I really should write, so that was awesome. We'll see what happens. :)

PTL for continued health and having been out of chemo for a year! As for prayer requests, Mrs. Graham found out they have 3 options for her breast cancer treatment, so if you'd pray for wisdom as they make decisions, patience as they wait, and peace in this time, I know they'd appreciate it. Yall are great. Thanks for continued encouragement and love. As I think back to last year, I am humbled and reminded again and again how I could not have made it through in the same way without your friendship, prayers, love, and incredible support. Wow. Thankyou thankyou thankyou always--I am truly forever grateful. God bless in all you do!

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,


Sunday, April 11, 2010

"I will praise You, O Lord, with all my heart, I will tell of all Your wonders." ~Psalm 9:1

Happy April!!! I can't believe we are already 1/3 through April of 2010—that's SO crazy!

Whew! The month of March has come and gone, and I feel like it FLEW by! Here’s what happened and why it moved so quickly: My mom and sister came the first week of March. We had such a blast. We survived The Tsunami (which never really it essentially killed our sunny Saturday but made for a great story as we evacuated up to a lookout high above Honolulu...and I have a t-shirt that says "I survived the tsunami"...AWESOME). Also, we found the Pirates of the Caribbean ship, The Black Pearl, which is here on Oahu for refurbishing as they turn it into new ship for the 4th movie which is filming on Oahu and Kauai this summer. Long story short, we met the guy in charge of the project--who happened to build the Black Pearl in the first place--and after some shameless begging, he gave Madelyn and I each pieces of the Black Pearl. I got this heavy metal welding something, and Madelyn got a 2 foot long plank from the side of the ship. Below is a picture of my mom, Madelyn, and I on our Pirates adventure.

They left on Saturday at 8pm and my friend Caroline came in at 8:45pm that same night. When I took her to the airport the next Friday, I parked my car and also boarded a plane—not to Dallas but to Maui to see the Armstrongs who were finishing up Wheaton’s spring break there. I hung out there for the night and the next morning, and then I left with them, but we parted ways in the terminal as I headed back to Honolulu and they to Wheaton. Two days later, HBA had its Junior/Senior Banquet (aka Prom), and since I’m a junior advisor and the juniors plan it for the seniors, I was a little frantic (we’re trying to teach them to take initiative…they’re slowly learning…). Prom went well, the next day our grades were due for the 3rd quarter, and after that, I got to breathe again! :) I spent the rest of that week on Oahu, attempting to tackle a to-do list of like 50 items, exploring the island that I live on, and enjoying just being here and not having anything to do! I’d spent my Fall and Christmas breaks back home or in Chicago/NYC, so this was my first break to just chill here for a bit. A highlight from that week hanging out here is that I bought my very own surfboard! I'm no pro, don't worry, but I like surfing, and though I want to go more often, I was always put off by the $40 to rent a board for an hour, so I decided if I just BUY one, I'll actually use it! Below is a partial picture of my surfboard.

We had two weeks of spring break, so the 2nd week, I flew to Kauai with a couple of girls that I teach with. That was a great blend of adventure and pure relaxation in the sun by the beach and/or pool! The last couple days in Kauai, my teammate Kaitlyn and her family were at our same hotel (what are the chances?!?), so it was wonderful seeing them—but more on that later.

As you have just read, March flew by from one thing to the next. We've been back to school for two weeks, and we have 7 more to go! Wow—my first year of teaching is going by SO quickly. I don’t know if that’s good or bad because, while it’s nice to almost have that “scary first year” under my belt, it’s quite appalling that I’ve been out of college for a year almost. Growing up is overrated, and I miss being irresponsible and free. :)

Health-wise, I am doing great! Other than a dumb bout with laryngitis at the end of February—as I learned one summer at Kanakuk, it’s pretty impossible to teach a class when you have no voice with which to teach, so that was lame, but I felt mostly okay—I say my health is great! Many people have been asking about my hair, and, once again, it’s growing on me. I’m liking the length it is now much more than in January, and though it seems eternally SLOW when I see it every day, looking back at pictures from even a month ago, I can definitely see the difference. Maybe that’s a good lesson to learn: appreciating even small changes and blessings…life lessons. :)

Beyond that, I have a few updates as to how I'm doing and then a prayer request.

Update 1: First, I think I've expressed in previous posts how the processing after-chemo has been more challenging than any processing DURING chemo, and I think that's because during it, my mindset was just to push on through and beat it. This time—almost a YEAR...WOW—after chemo has been more conducive to processing since I haven't had to worry too much about just pushing through for survival. :) Actually, the day after my last post I think I had a helpful breakthrough. Basically, it's been hard after cancer to figure out where I am in my walk with the Lord because each "trial" has seemed so insignificant in comparison to last year that I've felt at times like I'm just chilling—not necessarily far from the Lord, but not feeling like I've been growing too much. I think after struggling physically and emotionally to go through each day of last year, it's been so different when I feel great and yet things are somewhat mundane. As I read that statement, don't get me wrong: I am THRILLED and SO thankful to be healed and not have to worry each day about so many things that came with cancer, but it's just been a weird transition back to routine everyday life.

Anyway, I think one of my bigger struggles this year has been not necessarily feeling like I'm being used or am growing too much, and it's hard for me—and probably for a lot of us as believers—to just sit still and rest in Him rather than tackling trials and struggles. I have known for a while that it can be so much harder to trust in Him and see Him when things are routine and ordinary, so maybe that's been it lately. So, the day after my last post, I was going through my study in Psalms and was on Psalm 33. My commentary is a book by Warren W. Wiersbe, and in explaining how God is a shield, he writes, "God protects us, not to pamper us, but to prepare us to go back into the battle. He is a 'refuge and strength' who hides us long enough to help us."

This quote has been so helpful to me in remembering that God has ordained EVERY season in our lives—the hard ones, the easy ones, the bewildering ones, and every other season in-between. It helped to read this and be encouraged that this time of calm AFTER the metaphorical storm (of Hodgkin's) is full of purpose, and it's okay for me to just REST. Maybe this time has been a time of rest and protection, not for God to pamper me and make me feel good about myself, but to let me grieve, process, heal, and overall prepare to go back into the battle. So, I've had to realize that it's ok to rest and take time to heal. If we didn't what use would we be going back into the battle half broken from the previous struggles we've been through? All of that is to say that 1) every season in life is ordained for a purpose—even the quiet ones that we don't think about 2) it's okay—in fact, GOOD—to take time to heal and process so that we will be better prepared to go back into battle. God is using us in those times.

Update 2: As for processing, as you know if you're reading this right now, writing was—and still IS—very therapeutic for me in this whole journey. That said, I've started to write out more of my thoughts in book form...that's the end goal. Whether it ever gets published or not, we'll see, but I have a long time until then. My grandma (Mema!) has always encouraged me that my blogs were super helpful and that she thought I was supposed to write a book. I took that as a sweet comment by someone who has to love me and say nice things to me, but I've been thinking more about that, and it's really become a passion of mine in a way. I know one of my spiritual gifts is encouragement, and another one sometimes comes out to be shepherding. On top of that, apparently I'm "good at writing," although my grades sure as heck never showed that. (Maybe that's because I was an English major, so my writing didn't always shine in comparison with the brilliant minds of other English majors at Wheaton...and, let's be honest: I always could have put more time and revision into my papers.) Finally, I have learned in the past year that I really get excited when talking about cancer—not necessarily mine, but just in general since it's something we always hear about, and yet it still seems so forbidden and ominous. So, combine my passion for encouraging, shepherding, a more-than-marginal and at least competent writing skill, and my desire to share about cancer, and I think a book seems like a really good way to encourage and shepherd through writing about cancer. We'll see. It's something I'm praying about, but in the meantime, I've been writing down my thoughts, I have a general outline, and I have a title inspired by my dad from one night early on in my diagnosis. I'll let you know what comes of it! Thus far, I have 4,771 words...and a LONG way to go. :)

Update 3: I have a prayer request for anyone who is still reading. Small sidenote: I was discussing this topic with the person my prayer request concerns, and I still feel a little narcissistic—or to use her word, presumptuous—in writing here since I am feeling so well and I know that people have WAY more important things to do than check up on me, but I figure that as long as people are asking for updates and saying that they're checking here for updates, I'll keep writing on here, hopefully not adding to the noise of internet writing. ANYWAY, my prayer request is this: the woman who shaved my head last January is my teammate Kaitlyn Graham's mom, Robin. She helped organize that whole night (which was SUCH a blessing to me!), let us come over to her house, played encouraging music, prayed with all of us, and actually helped me shed that nasty thinned hair which I hadn't washed in a week. (gross). Beyond that, she and her family prayed faithfully for me, she brought me Jamba Juice and flowers, came to my graduation brunch, and has just been so loving and a huge blessing to me along with the rest of her family (and of course KG!). Last month, she went in for a mammogram, and they found that she has breast cancer. :(

The Grahams were the ones that overlapped for a couple days at our same hotel in Kauai on my spring break, so it was an incredible blessing to see them and spend some time together and share cancer stories, fears, and other feelings. After we had dinner the night before I had to leave, I was really hit hard by the whole situation—and I know firsthand that people get cancer everyday—but it was so hard to see Robin and her whole family having to walk through something like this. They are so precious, and they were especially important in my own journey, so to have to walk through this themselves is awful. I went down to the beach that night and was just so burdened—I cried (rare!) and was just crying out that I didn't understand. It was actually a really great experience being out under the moon and stars by the ocean and having that freedom to just look up and wonder what God's plan is and why I don't understand it. Somehow, after my cries of frustration that I didn't understand, I had an epiphany where it was just so clear that I was RIGHT. I DON'T understand. Bottom line. I simply can't understand what God is doing there—or even what He was doing with my lymphoma—but instead of that being such a frustrating cry, it became one of peace as I accepted the fact that I do not understand. It reminded me of Job when he comes to the realization that he was NOT there at the start of creation, he does not order the world, and he doesn't have all things under his sovereign plan, but God does! I think that night was crucial to my understanding of God as I made peace with the fact that I simply do not understand, and I can say that without being so frustrated or angry, but I can instead rest in the fact that the God who DOES understand is sovereign and good.

So, as much as this breaks my heart to see the Grahams walking into this new journey, I can say that I KNOW it is harder for them. They would LOVE your prayers for healing, wisdom, and that peace that truly does pass all understanding. I've been able to talk to Robin a good amount, and they have found doctors and now are waiting on a lumpectomy to stage her cancer. Prayers for miraculous healing, that it would be Stage 1, and that the lumpectomy would get ALL of the cancer so that there's no radiation would be huge. Having seen how incredible everyone's prayers were for me, I have no shame asking for more prayer—in fact, I now know how important it is to lift up burdens and the burdens of others. So, prayers for Robin, my teammate Kaitlyn, and the rest of her family as they start to walk this road would be so appreciated. They are a such a godly and sweet family. Below is a picture with me, Robin, and Kaitlyn in Kauai.

So, that's most of what I've got for now. To close, I'd like to draw attention to the verse that opened this post, and particularly the second half: "I will tell of all your wonders." My Bible commentary explains that "wonders" means "God's saving acts, sometimes involving miracles...but aways involving the manifestation of God's sovereign lordship over events." I think that's a huge part of what I'm supposed to do with my Hodgkin's--to tell of ALL the ways God incredibly showed His faithfulness, sovereignty, and immense blessings through healing, provision in treatment, prayers, and incredible people surrounding me. Beyond just Hodgkin's, though, I was reading through that last week and was so infused with the purpose of that verse--that we are to tell of all the ways God has shown His "sovereign lordship over events" in our lives. I love the way that is clarified, and it has reminded me of my purpose in life and helped shed light on what to do with cancer.

I pray that y'all are SO blessed and are reminded of all the "wonders" God has done in your life. Thankyou thankyou thankyou for all continued prayers, support, friendship, love, and prayers for the Grahams! God is good.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,


Thursday, February 4, 2010

"Oh Lord my God, I called to You for help and you healed me." ~Psalm 30:2.

Today is another landmark day or anniversary. It has officially been a year. "Since what?" you might ask. Since I got the WONDERFUL call from my Nurse Practitioner that I was in REMISSION. PTL! How time flies! I can't believe I've been in remission for a year! 2009 has come and gone. I can't believe it's coming upon a year anniversary of having graduated...time is just moving right along, and I'm not sure how I feel about that. As Ferris said, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop to look around once in a while, you might miss it." Profound words from a slightly less profound source.

I realize that it's been a while. Jumping back into things in January is always crazy, as you surely understand. I've been thinking of blogging for a while, but I hope I'm not so narcissistic that I think I should post because everyone is waiting on that. While I find that blogging has been incredibly therapeutic for processing, for some reason it seems hard to justify blogging when I don't have a ton of Hodgkin's related info to convey since I don't want to be self-important and think my voice needs to be another one to add into the mix of this day and age where everyone can be a "writer" by their own standards. But, that's another that I get hung-up on as a former English major and current English teacher.

All of that is to say, if you HAVE been checking for updates, I am so sorry. I do think it's fitting on this 1-year celebration of CONTINUED remission (yes, I had scans over break of which I will get to in a minute) to update on my health and to maybe explain how Christmas break went since some of you either saw pictures or read in our Christmas card that we had a pretty exciting break. :)

So, Christmas break. On Wednesday, December 23rd, my mom and I went to Baylor Plano to have my 6 month CT scan. It was a slowwww process of waiting, but once they called me back, the scan itself only took 5-10 minutes. We waited for 3-4 hours. Good times. ANYWAY, the Dallas guys read them and said they were still clear, so that is a huge praise! As I've mentioned, Hodgkin's is really curable, but if it's going to come back, it's usually within the first year or two, so this is the time to watch for it. Dr. Gordon in Chicago still has to read them additionally, but it sounds like they're good!

After that less fun day, we had a great Christmas! This was the last one for my parents to have any kids still living at home, so it'll be interesting next year as Madelyn comes back from Charleston, I'm back from Honolulu, and Katie's back from Colorado Springs--all to celebrate Christmas. I'm predicting it will be LOUD since someone will have all kinds of new adventures to share about...and she tends to be loud anyway. :)

On Wednesday, December 30, we flew to New York City to celebrate New Year's Eve. Being in Times Square and watching the Ball drop was something I'd always wanted to do, and it was SO COOL! I would recommend everyone doing it at least once. Some people had told me that it's the "best thing you never do again," and I might agree with that, but if the weather conditions were perfect, I'd probably do it again. It was fun. I don't know if you realize (I didn't), but there are over 1 million people there, so the crowds you see in Times Square itself on tv are not even close to the majority of people, thus lots of people are lined up many blocks away where they essentially watch the action on a tv screen set up outside. Hearing this from my best friend Sarah, we decided that if we were going to spend the money, take the time, and freeze, we were going to do this RIGHT, which meant we were gonna be IN the heart of Times Square.

And we were (check out our vantage point). We got to the epicenter of Times Square at 12pm on December 31, and we were standing there for over 12 hours (it takes a while to celebrate and leave). Despite waiting for eternity and the sleet/snow/rain mixture that started coming down on us by about 9pm, it was INCREDIBLE! We made some friends actually as soon as we got there--an engaged couple named Brett and Chi, and they ended up staying with us and joining our family the whole time! We had so much fun "holding the lines" to our space and giving evil eyes to those that tried to infringe on it (which happened about every minute), we played Mad Gab, we listened to music on a portable speaker, and eventually, when the entertainers started coming out, we watched/listened to them. This second picture is of the family with our family "mascot" (?) had to be there...or have seen Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends...

Here are some more pictures:

The first is of the official countdown. Here it's down to 12 seconds (BEST NUMBER EVER):

The second picture is of the stroke of midnight!!

The final picture is of all the confetti--apparently they drop more than 2 tons of it...and yet, not ONE SINGLE PIECE fell on us.

It was AWESOME. I'm SO glad we did that! And, on top of all of that, we got to see 3 Broadway shows, which I am in love with since I think the coolest job ever would be to sing on Broadway. :) My mom, Madelyn, and I flew back late Saturday, January 2nd, and then I flew back to Honolulu the next day at about noon, so it was a bit of a whirlwind, but it was absolutely worth it, and I had a great time with my family.

Back in Hawaii, things are going well--again, it's weird that there are no seasons, so it really doesn't feel like February, and more than that, it feels like it's the same day, every day, but I think I'm adjusting. Plus, I definitely DON'T miss those days in the teens or even below 0 that my Wheaton friends have been reminding me about lately. I've been busy with school, Homecoming (it's in January here because they have it for basketball), and then Junior Camp which is like a retreat with the whole junior class. That was great, and though the junior class has apparently been known previously to not have a lot of drive or unity, it was really cool to see them bond and come together for Homecoming week and the competitions that went on last week with that.

Also, I got to share some things I'd been learning in the form of "myths" we sometimes have about God, so that was good--probably for me as I continue to process, especially. I basically shared about my myth that sometimes I think God is "out to get me"--and not directly, but subconsciously that shows up. For instance, the first few months I was here, I remember just thinking that it was almost too good to be true--that I'd gotten something I actually PLANNED on, which is usually NOT the case--and I almost had this feeling that I was just waiting for something bad to happen, which is TERRIBLE of me! So, I got to share how I realized that that kind of thinking is definitely a myth--sometimes God does have to teach us hard lessons, and to be honest, usually we don't get what we want. BUT, it's not like God is sitting up in Heaven all nonchalant thinking, "yeah, just you wait Hannah. This won't last. Don't get too happy." And yet, when I feel like I'm waiting for something bad to come along and mess it up, that shows that I DO sometimes forget that God has the BEST for me, that He is GOOD, and that He is on my side. I think I've shared all of that before, but I figured that if I'm going to tell you that I shared at Junior Camp, I should probably tell you what I shared about.

Aside from that lesson, people have been asking me, "Where are you in your relationship with the Lord?" lately, and it's been hard to answer. It's not that I think I'm in a dry spell because I think I'm growing, but then again, I don't know that I've been growing incredibly. I don't think I'm in an apathetic spot or anything, but the reason it's hard to answer is because I don't KNOW! That sounds like a cop-out, but really, I feel like I'm not SURE where I'm at. I'm not talking about what I believe--I know that--but as for how I'm growing in my walk with the Lord, I think I am, but I just can't pinpoint it. If that's not the vaguest thing or the most confusing, then please let me know where I'm at. :) You can see my struggle with answering that question. So, in the meantime, I'm trying to grow and pursue the Lord, and I realize that, most of the time, we don't know what we are learning DURING the lessons anyway. I was reading to my homeroom from The Red Sea Rules the other day, and I love one of the phrases Morgan uses. He says, "The Christian life is less of an unveiling than an unfolding," and I agree. I don't think the metaphorical curtain ever just drops and TA-DA! we know. On the contrary: life is more of an unfolding step by step as God shows us one day at a time how to follow and what that actually looks like.

While I'm at it, I should share another quote that has a great contrast of what the Christian life ISN'T with what it IS: "God's people don't live on explanations; they live on promises, and those promises are as unchanging as the character of God" (Warren W. Wiersbe). That comes from a commentary on Psalms that I've been working through, and I feel like that is great advice to remember, and it's been helpful as I think through last year. Yeah, we don't always get explanations. BUT, we do receive hundreds of promises, and the God who promises us all of those good things is FAITHFUL. I like that quote a whole lot, basically.

On a few last notes, in case you are wondering about lingering side-effects, my toe nails have almost grown out all the way to where they are almost all connected to skin again. :) Also, I am wearing my hair short. I came back from Christmas and decided that, even if I absolutely HATE this short hair, at least, by the end of this, if people ask me how I liked short hair, I can answer fairly. However, if I wore a wig until it was shoulder-length at least and people asked me that question, I might never know if I hated it or loved it. And, on the hope that this lymphoma will not come back nor will I contract another kind of cancer in the future, I decided that, if I do HATE it, I never have to wear it short again. My current thoughts are: 1. it's growing on me. haha...pun intended. :) 2. it's cute. not pretty, but it works and it's different, and again, I never have to wear it short again if I don't want to. 3. I am SO jealous of girls who can throw their hair into ponytails. People tell me that I'm "lucky" because it must be so easy to style, but that is not true. It's not easy if you don't know HOW to style it, and I can't just throw my hair into a ponytail that I try to make look decently nice for work. No, I have to wash it and attempt to style it much more frequently than I did with my long hair.

And now, on to the future. February is a short month--in case you didn't know that--so it should go by pretty quickly. I'm not anticipating much happening this month outside of GRADING GRADING GRADING (why am I an English teacher?!?). The reason for so much grading--and planning--is because I'm trying to work ahead for March. Why, you might ask? March is going to be a month of fun (and work, but fun, too!). My mom comes the first week on her spring break, my best bud Caroline (who went with me to the Dallas chemo and was shopping with me when I found out) is coming the next week on her spring break, my cousin may or may not be coming to stay one week, the juniors and seniors have Prom which junior advisers help plan, so I will be there, and then we get two weeks of spring break! The second week I'm going to Kauai, so I'm excited. I'll update on those as they come, but I figured I'd at least lay out why it is that February will probably be a super low-key month.

To those who would be jealous: please realize that I still do not go to the beach every day. I happen to have a job where I work INDOORS most of the day, so that is why I do not look like someone injected me with Hawaiian blood. Also, I should probably clear up that Hawaiians do not wear grass skirts around, do not surf to school, and do not live in grass huts. I'm sure there are a couple of THOSE people who do that just to be different--or maybe on surrounding islands in rural parts, but since the students complain that people they meet ask them these questions, I figured I'd go ahead and clear up those rumors for you. My fellow Texans: you understand their plight because it's like all of those other Americans who ask if we rode horses to school, how many pairs of cowboy boots we have, and how many cows we own.

Ok. I should go because I have a lot of grading to do. Thank you SO much to everyone who has continued to lift up my family. I am floored again and again by people's love and continued support even now, a year into remission! Thanks for encouraging me, and thanks for letting me share. God is so faithful, and as I look back on the last 15 months, I am reminded of that again and again. God bless!

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,