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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Bright New Horizons!

Friends, family and internet-strangers: I have recently moved my blog to Wordpress due to increased ease and simplicity. This past year has been one of great growth and change for me, and my new blog gives me a change to not only update my look, but weed out the topics that may have been unhelpful or unhealthy from my years in an eating disorder.   I do hope you'll continue to follow my blog for crazy adventures & encouragement! Full-speed ahead!

Visit: and leave a comment to say hello!  I'd love to connect with you!


Monday, June 13, 2016

Songs I'm loving right now: June 2016

1. Sovereign Over Us by Michael W. Smith

2. All Glory be to Christ by Kings Kaleidoscope

3. I Will Rise Again by Jason Gray

4. Strangely Dim by Francesca Battisteli

5. Money & Fame by Needtobreathe

6. Who Cares if We're Dancing? by OBB

7. How Can I Keep from Singing by Audrey Assad

8. Heart Won't Stop by John McMillan, Sarah McMillan

9. The Great Awakening by Leeland (I'm always listening to this one, for years now!)

I hope you find some tunes you enjoy!  Click HERE for some more recommendations :)  Happy listening!


Sunday, June 12, 2016

What are you Overwhelmed With?

So, as is the cycle of life, I've been in the midst of trials lately.  They're the kind of trials that aren't akin to a giant storm, but rather: A constant drizzle of rain.  The first bit doesn't seem bad at all, but as the rain continues and you resolve is drenched, it starts to weigh down on your joy.

After a brief period of, in all honesty, a pity session.  I was completely broken down.  In the realization that woe-is-me wasn't helping at all, I went to the Lord.  I meditated on verses like Psalm 23 and Isaiah 54:10, which says: "Thought the mountains may move and the hills disappear, even then my steadfast love for you will remain.  My covenant of blessing will never be broken," says the Lord God who has mercy on you."

And I dove into the book of Joshua, taking strength from the sovereign power with which God leads the Israelites.  Now, it wasn't like a giant "ah ha" moment, but it did finally hit me.  The Lord showed me that I have nothing to fear, nothing to be worried about.  For even if all my abilities, dreams and supports are stripped away, He does not fail His children.

See, my man Joshua wasn't without fear when he took over for Moses.  In fact, I'm pretty sure he was quaking in his little Bible-sandals, because he was suddenly thrust into a position of leadership over a people who were not exactly easy to deal with.  As if to reassure him, the Israelites said: "We will listen to you just as we did Moses."  Josh was probably rolling his eyes at that one, like: "Ok, do you not remember how Moses left for a few days and you all decided to start worshipping a golden cow?!"

So Josh was an ill equipped leader, shepherding a flock of drama-queens through the desert.  And man, I can resonate with him there. He must have felt SO alone.  Like Joshua, we often feel so overwhelmed that the darkness of this world clouds our vision of Heaven.  We forget that we aren't living for this world or the people in it.

The past few weeks, I've jokingly lamented to friends: "I am basically failing at life right now."  Dramatic, yes, but it feels entirely accurate.  I've missed time with friends, messed up at work, accidentally stood up my own grandmother-- sorry grammy!  I'm not only failing at adulting, I'm failing at life in general, so it seems (I'm pretty sure I could publish an entire blog on my hatred of failure....but, I digress)

But here's the beauty in it all: We are in the midst of a greater story.  If you feel overwhelmed by life lately, remember that Joshua waiting a long time for the promised land, like a loooooooooong time.  Sometimes breakthroughs take a while, and oftentimes: They don't look how we expected them to.

But we keep pressing on, keep marching around that wall, because the power of the Lord will prevail.  We'll never reach that "promised land" of perfection on this earth, but we can live with peace knowing that we have a strong & dauntless warrior leading us into battle.  Instead of being overwhelmed with this life,  we can be overwhelmed by Him.

And when we do, our failures and fears and fatigue seem much less pressing.  He's never lost and He never will.  So hold your head up, friend.  Keep marching on.  And when you feel like you're about to go under, reach out to the Lord. He's never left you.


Thursday, June 2, 2016

In Memory of our Duchess, Lily

As a child, I always wanted a dog.  In fact, I used to drag a stuffed bear around on a purse strap to show my mom I could take care of a dog.  I looked after “Honey,” filling a bowl with shredded paper in case she was hungry, snuggling with her—normal dog owner stuff. 

But then, we met Lily-- er: Duchess of Hershey Morning Lily, according to her official title and birth certificate.  

My mom was pretty hush-hush about it.  We were just going to see a dog, she told me.  I don’t think I even knew that the dog’s owner wanted to give her away.

But as soon as I saw her tear across that yard, tongue flapping in the wind, I knew she was our dog. After minimal pleading on my part, mom agreed and Lily became ours. A week later, Matt and I sat her in the middle seat and excitedly rode home on either side of her. That was the first and last time she rode in the middle, as she soon learned she could crawl across our laps to reach the coveted window seat. She loved the fresh air. I remember my mom being worried that if we opened the window for her, she would jump right out she was so excited. My uncle- who graciously found Lily for us- assured us she wouldn't. And he was right. Lily was content to watch the world zoom by as she drooled in anticipation of a walk at Highbanks.

But first: There were early mornings. Early, dark mornings where I would stand outside in my pajamas, begging my new buddy to go poop so I could go back to sleep. And there were the thrilling firsts: First walk, first bath, first time she ran to me when I called her. Like any dog owner, I thrived off those moments. And before long, I claimed Lily as my own. "I feed her and brush her," I reminded my mom. "She's practically my dog!" Without reminding me of her financial sponsorship, my mom simply smiled.

I quickly began exploring Lily's personality. She loved swimming, but hated bath time. Like a true Hartzell, Lily loved Greek yogurt, eggs, bagels and Clif bars. Also like a Hartzell: She very much disliked the vacuum and Swiffer- albeit for different reasons entirely.

Lily was my constant companion. When the divorce was finalized, Lily was the pillow for my tears. When I wanted a short and slow run, Lily was my eager running partner. I took her to Christmas carol at the nursing home and to play with the young children I nannied in the summer. All of them adored Lily.

And during the tough years, the years when I didn't let myself eat- let myself live- Lily showed me how important it is to eat and sleep and breathe. If it was okay for her to rest and eat treats, then it must be okay for me too.  She calmed my anxiety, distracted me. And when I dropped food from the table, in an attempt to hide it, Lily's keen sense of smell ratted me out every time. She was my little accountabilibuddy, probably the only one I didn't ever get angry at.

I never understood why people got so obsessed with their pets, so invested in an animal that couldn't even talk to them.

But Lily did talk. She spoke every time I left for school and she trotted to the door, lowering her head as if to say "Please please don't leave." She spoke every time she sprinted up the hill at the Alum Creek Dam, yelling "Yes! I love this! Look at me go!" She spoke every time she turned her nose up to spinach that had fallen on the floor. "Mom, I don't like this stuff!"

Lily was an incredible gift.

The first reaction when I learned Lily had died, was a tearful prayer. I didn't expect this reaction, but I found myself overwhelmed with gratitude, gratitude for this friend who had stayed by my side, but chiefly: Gratitude to the Lord for giving her to me. He knew that I needed Lily, and He loved my family so much that He entrusted her precious life to us. And that just wrecks me, that He cares for me so much.

I always hated leaving Lily. College made that impossible to evade, but when I still lived at home, I had a secret routine. Every time we went on vacation, I would sleep with Lily the night before we left. I'd curl up on the floor with her and I'd tell her over and over again that I was leaving but I would be back. My heart knew what it was like to feel abandoned and alone and I couldn't bear the thought of her thinking we were leaving her.

And I think, like most things, that was more for me than it was for Lily. She had a deep and pure sense of trust, a beautiful overbite-smile that said: "It's all okay."  Even to the end, she kept that smile. Her tail kept wagging ever time I called her name. She was so content and at peace. Lily knew she was loved. She knew she could be herself, and I think that is the most important lesson she taught me:

Lily taught me to receive love. And I thank God that I had ten years with her precious, adventurous, selfless heart.

Friday, April 22, 2016

When in Chicago: Don't forget to get lost

I first visited Chicago as a wide-eyed six year old, intent on visiting the American Girl store and dining at the Rainforest Café.  But Kit Kittredge is packed away in a box, and animal-themed dining didn't seem as appealing when I set off for Chicago last weekend.  I boarded the Megabus with anticipation of the Latino Film Festival as well plans for what I could do with my free time.  This was the first time I'd voyaged to the windy city without my family in tow, and it was somewhat liberating to set my own agenda.

While I loved previous visits to Shedd Aquarium and boat tours along the lakeside, I had more inexpensive activities in mind....namely: I would explore the city at random.

Given my type-A nature, this was both invigorating and terrifying, but here's what happened:

1. I learned my way around!
Here's the fantastic thing: When you get lost enough times, you eventually map out your surroundings.  Even better, you get to see so many different places then you would if you just followed Google Maps like every other tourist.  I can't say I didn't sheepishly peer at street signs, but I can say that I gained confidence as a navigator and adventurer.  Long live spontaneous exploration!

2. I found an awesome tea store and book store
I saw this in a gift store.
It is 100% accurate to my life.
I'm a bit quirky- no qualms with that- so while my classmates were ogling at Armani bags and $500 tank tops, I wandered into Adagio teas and fell in love.  The shelves were lined with loose leaf teas, and the saleslady encouraged me to pick up the jars of tea and smell them.  "If there are any that catch your eye, I'll make a sample for you!"  I suppressed my inner tea nerd and merely nodded, all while trying to contain my excitement.  All the prices were listed by the jars and no one pressured me to buy anything.  They were genuinely friendly and their tea was incredible.  I walked out with a sample of verbena green tea and some almond mocha oolong tea.

As if that wasn't good enough, I then made my way down to a bookstore.  I'd had enough stimulation for one day and couldn't think of anywhere I'd rather spend my time than a used bookstore called After-Words, with a basement boasting 70,000 books.  The shop owner was just as quirky as I'd hoped and the books just as eclectic.  I was overwhelmed at my option, but prudently made a selection and handed over my $4 with elation.  "This place is awesome," I raved to the shop owner.  He made some corny joke about Butler and I made some awkward smile and walked out.

3. The Latino Film Festival was amazing!
I was wary of a few of the films that we were scheduled to see.  One in particular seemed a bit more "adult" than I cared for.  Sure enough, I spent most of the movie carefully inspecting the hem of my shorts.  But the second movie more than made up for the first.   "Espejuelos Oscuros/Dark Glasses" was a thought provoking and disturbing portrayal of the secret stories we all carry.

4. I stepped out of my comfort zone
Besides literally stepping out of my comfort zone by meandering around the city, I also faced the challenge of traveling without any real friend/family member.  That brought the added testing of sitting on the bus and eating meals out at restaurants with these people-- both of which are a strong source of anxiety due as I recovery from an eating disorder.  While the weekend was not without its blunders, I was encouraged at my ability to handle the situations.  I know I would not have been able to do so at this time last year, and for that I praise God.  As my dad gingerly reminded me, these challenges are good because they help me embrace my freedom and break out of my little "safe box" of recovery.  And as difficult as aspects of the trip were, I know that the next time I come across those same struggles, it will be just a little bit easier.  That makes the effort absolutely worth it.

The greenhouse at Nay Pier

Dylan's Candy Shop on Michigan Avenue.
It's a wonderland of candy and treats!

Tapas at Café Iberico! A challenging, new
experience for me!

Adagio Tea.  Basically Heaven.

 Much like my blog, my weekend in Chicago was a series of spontaneous adventures, augmented by familiar comforts and the constant presence of the Lord's grace.  And I wouldn't have it any other way.  So then next time you're in Chicago, run along the lakeside and take in the views at Navy Pier (RELATED: Girls' Weekend in Chicago). Stop by Adagio Tea and The Chicago Tribune and Café Iberico, and- seriously- don't forget to get lost in the wonder of it all.


To read about more suggestions for your next Chicago adventure, click HERE and HERE.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Stories from Chicago

This post was supposed to be written on Thursday.  I would've opened with a description of my current surroundings on the Megabus, bound for Chicago.  Alas, you get what you pay for, and the bus was far too crowded to pull out my laptop, let alone focus.

Amidst the reverberating rap music and details on insurance claims, I stole a few minutes of sleep before a high-pitched squeal indicated that we had reached the Windy City.  The short nap would be enough for fuel me through the first evening of the Latino Film Festival, the wonderful reason for my short weekend adventure.  I had come with my Spanish class to witness the 32nd annual celebration of Latino culture through filmmaking, something I would never have pictured myself doing in the past.

Sure, I love Spanish-- emphasis on the 'love'-- but I often let caution take the reigns, and the idea of going to Chicago with classmates I didn't know that well, would've terrified my in the past.  But with an air of confidence, I descended from that Megabus, gracefully tripping on the curb as is my custom.  Since the movie was not until 9 p.m., I had a few hours to kill and I immediately took off for the Magnificent Mile with some girls from class.  We checked out a few shops, but my attention was waning due to relative disinterest and sticker shock.  I broke from the group and meandered into the more eclectic shops.  Before long, I had inevitably turned the wrong way.  And in the process of passing by four Starbucks, two cathedrals and a myriad of school children, I was stopped in my tracks by the beauty of humanity.

The city has a way of doing that, with it's crowded streets and honking horns.  It brought my heart to a stop as I thought about all the lives that stacked into those skyscrapers and hurried through the streets.  I tried to imagine their stories, the reasons for their quirky outfits or kind eyes or worried glances.

The collective mural of faces still resonated with me that evening as we settled in for the first film.  This story was one of family, one that was torn apart by vain passions and pursuits.  And even as the action played out, I found it hard to watch. I abhorred the egotistical son and couldn't stand the lackluster husband, and I grew tired of their story.

But how beautiful it is that the Lord does not grow weary of our struggles.  Unlike us, His divine grace pours out time after time, chapter after chapter.  For me, this plays out very clearly in the way He called the disciples.  One by one, He slipped into their story and took root in their lives.  And as each of them doubted Him, failed Him and betrayed Him, He remained invested in their story.

And how beautiful, indeed, that He is invested in your story as well.  Your scene might be dismal and your countenance may be worn, but Jesus has never left your side, my friend.  He never grows weary of your struggles for He is strong to save, mighty to deliver and close to your aching heart.

So whatever borough of the city you find yourself in today, remember that the Author of your story not only has a plan for good, but He is invested in you every step of the day.  And one day, every plot twist and heartbreak of your story will culminate as praise, flanked by every story of mankind.  And every story that ever was, will lift up the Lord who always is, and what a beautiful day that will be.


Ps. Stay tuned as I roll out more posts about the fun stuff from my trip, as well as what I'm up to next!  As always: I love to read your comments and suggestions :)

Friday, March 25, 2016

He Knew What Was Coming

He knew what was coming.

He knew what was coming when He first set foot in the garden, breathing in the fresh scent of flowers and speaking to His Father.  And He knelt in the soil and felt the grass He Himself had created, listening as the birds chirped their praise.

He knew what was coming when He took the twelve to the garden for the first time, when He sat down on the gnarly roots to tell them about His love.  And He rubbed a small olive in between His fingers, laughing at the jokes of Simon Peter, chuckling at the earthly naivety of His closest friends and enjoying their presence.

He knew what was coming as He watched Judas first behold the beauty of the garden, feeling the peace and tranquility of His Master's favorite place.  Even as He greeted Judas and the others, with a smile and a parable, He knew what was coming.

He knew what was coming on those late nights when He retreated to the garden, spending hours praising His Father.  And He prayed for strength and He prayed for the twelve and He prayed for the people who daily approached Him with such broken and sinful hearts.

He knew what was coming when He went to the grove for solace and the disciples came and found Him.  "Come on," He motioned to them when their faces peered over the garden walls: "Come be with me."  And on other days, they would go to Gethsemane for a lunchtime-message.  Jesus would explain the ways of the Kingdom as they passed a vine of grapes around the circle, bewilderment in their eyes.  "But, how?!"  Matthew would ask with wonder, and Jesus would smile and explain.  And then He would take a break to eat some bread.  He would listen to the stories of the men as they sat in the shade of the cypress trees, and His heart would burst with joy as their faith grew and their eyes were opened.  Even then, He knew what was coming.

And on that night, when His countenance was troubled.  When He took Peter, James and John aside, asking them if they would come to the garden one more time.  And it had been a long night and they were tired, but how could they not go with their Jesus?  So they all agreed to make the trek with Him.  And their sandals kicked up dust as they made their way in silence, wondering why the kind face of their Savior was pained with anguish.  Once in the garden, He asked them to stay and pray, and strode ahead into a smaller grove of trees.  But the night wore on and they went to find Him.  "Abba Father," they heard Him cry out.  Confused and afraid, they went back to their post to pray.  But sleep set in before long and they slumped in a pile, amongst the trees and the moonlight.  Yes, even then He knew.

And as He wakened them once, He squeezed in one more lesson.  For He knew how their faith would soon be tested.  And as He saw the familiar face of Judas Iscariot, cresting the hill, His mind went back to that first day when they first entered Gethsemane.  It all culminated in this moment, this ultimate act of love.  And Jesus received the kiss.

Even more, He received all the blows and hatred we deserve, in that same place where He had built his brotherhood and had fellowship with the Father.  And in humility, He received it all.  For this is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us. (1 John 4:10).

His love reached deeper than depth of human understanding, to get to know us and love us and take our place on that cross, even when He knew.

*This fictional account is based on the scriptures of Mark 14:32-42, Luke 22:39-53 and John 18:1-4.