Pinterest A Grateful Life Lived: 2015

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

25 Days of Christmas Kindness: Part 2

8: I haven't had this bad of a day since I first started treatment last winter.  I was on the verge of a panic attack, severely lacking in sleep and extremely discouraged.  I was able to talk with my dad though and he encouraged me to do something with my other gifts instead of lament that I cannot run right now.  So I texted a good friend a message about my gratitude and thankfulness for her.  I still felt like I was falling apart by the time my head hit the pillow, but my heart was more at ease that I at least made it through the day.

9: Unfortunately, stress took over and I didn't go out of my way to help anyone.  Bad Hannah! :(

10: God put something right in front of me that I could do for someone else.  It just happened to be extremely undesirable.  It was a great chance to get my heart focused in the right place, but I struggled with not being bitter about it afterwards.

11: I had a similar opportunity to yesterdays', only today: I totally blew it.  I got mad about it and voiced my disgust that I had to do said "chore" in the first place.....not a good representation of Christ.  Thankfully, I was able to make things right after the fact.

12: Today was another "cheat" day, where my act of kindness was a prearranged gathering.  However, it was still really neat to do and I enjoyed finding something that someone else would particularly like.

13: Sunday was hard.  I figured it would be easier after the pastor's sermon recapping our series in Romans; the message really resonated with me.  But, I found myself late into the evening without any deliberate act of kindness.  So, I chose to use the digital world for my kindness of the day. My heart wasn't in it though.  I think I kind of expected to get kindness back, and that was my main motivation.  I'm glad God showed me that, though.  Definitely something I need to work on.

14: This was a hard day for me.  A really hard day.  I tried to encourage other people, because that's my go-to when I feel extremely discouraged.  But it was a short trip to a record store, Christmas shopping with friends that cheered me up.  My friends were there when I received some really bad news, and I was amazed at the love and support they gave.  I felt so grateful for that kindness.  So, perhaps today was a receiving day...I'm learning that those are really necessary as well.  :)


If you're new to my blog or this particular series, check out Part 1, HERE.  Stay tuned for next week's post.  Merry Christmas!


Saturday, December 12, 2015

25 Days of Christmas Kindness: Part 1

I'm starting a series of Christmas giving.  Each day I will go out of my way to help someone else.  The point isn't to talk about the "good things" I'm doing, so for most days, I will leave that out.  Rather, I'll focus on my heart attitude surrounding that day's act of kindness.  I think it's time I put less focus on the ABC Family "25 Days of Christmas" and more focus on sharing Christ's love this season.  So I'll be posting roughly every week and I hope you'll consider taking the challenge with me.  Get a notebook or start a Word doc. and see what God does in your heart this season.  Merry Christmas and enjoy reading about my 25 Days of Christmas Kindness:

1: Ok, I just made this commitment.  I should probably stick to it.  But I am so tired....Alright, I gave someone grace in a little thing they did that bothered me.  Does that count as a "good deed?"  Can it please count?  I'm so stressed.

2: Today, I gave someone permission to use something of mine and definitely had a hard time following through with it.  I keep wanted to rescind that offer and it's only been a few hours.  I definitely need to keep my mind fixed on Christ with this one-- my fleshly nature is screaming "be selfish!"

3: It's only the third day and I already failed my challenge.  I don't remember going out of my way to specifically help someone on this day.  It's a good wakeup call regarding my own intentions and how I spend my time.  It's easy to get stressed out about my final exams-- which was the case on this day, when I had miniscule "free" time all day-- and forget that if I'm that stressed, other people must be feeling that way too!  I need to get outside my own little world.

4:  Didn't do anything this day...I'm starting to think I'm not very good at this "selfless giving" thing.

5: Today was good, it was from the heart and I felt really good about it.  I learned that a small gesture goes a long way,  and everyone loves a good cup of tea :)

6: Ok, this was by far the most fun act of giving yet.  All the Butler athletes wrapped up shoebox gifts for local children.  It was so enjoyable to do, but it also made me wonder how much of my selfless acts I've been doing for other reasons.  Whether it be "fun" or to feel good about ourselves, it's so easy to get away from the real motivation to show love towards others.

7: Mondays are rough, really rough.  But I set myself a reminder to go out of my way to help someone, and I was able to do so by encouraging a friend by listening to their struggles, even when I really didn't want to.  I can't imagine how Jesus listens intently to the trials and pains of everyone in the world, but I wanted to have His heart as I related to my friend.


I could blame exams or my cold or my injury, but the truth is: This week showed me that my heart is quick to focus on myself and in need of a spiritual tune-up.  My struggles should be motivating me to love others even more, because I know how difficult things might be for them.  I'm really appreciating this 25 days already!  Check out the next week's segment (part 2) HERE.


(RELATED: Gift Ideas for Runners)

Thursday, December 10, 2015

When the Trials Keep Coming

Sometimes, you're 20 years old and it feels like the world is falling apart.  And you're not quite sure how you got there, but you tuck your knees in and brace for the brokenness of your own humanity.

Sometimes, when you're 20 and your world's falling apart, you listen to praise-and-worship music and watch funny cat videos.  But the pain doesn't cease and you just want to cry until your head doesn't hurt and your heart doesn't ache.

You want to shake the nausea that is sweeping over you, because you feel helpless and tiny and scared.  You want to be nourished with hugs, fed with hope.  You want tangible love.  Most of all: You want to be okay with the radical spinning out of control.  But you're not.

Because, when you're twenty and it feels like your world's falling apart, you want a big hug from daddy and the comfort of your stuffed bunny.  You want to steal back the innocence, make the constant motion stop.

Don't lost hope.

I know you wonder how you can survive.  You wonder how a life filled with such sorrow can be endured.  Surely we humans cannot withstand the magnitude of pain that sometimes engulfs our hearts.  By what strength can you raise your head when you feel so crushed?

I ask these questions because I know how it feels.  I know the feeling of despair at my own failure.  I know the fear of backsliding to where I once was.  I know the bitterness and loneliness and self-pity and desolation.

I know the overwhelming dread of the weight of sin-- dread because the eye can see its power.  And we cringe at its possibility.  In my 20 years, I've been bound by enough shackles to confine thousands.  And I don't want to go back.  And I know I'm not the only one with that fear welling up in my heart.  I know I'm not the only one who is going after trial through trial, pushed to the limit.  I'm not naive enough to think I'm the only one.

But, my friends, we cannot give up.  We cannot cut ourselves off from the world and lament in the darkness.

We 20 year olds are the generation the Lord is raising up to change the world.  We are beacons of hope, as dimly lit as we are.  Even if your candle is but a lick of a flame, you still illuminate the darkness around you.

This dread of sin and pain of the moment does not compare to the future glory that is in Christ Jesus.  And that glory floods us even now.  Now, when the trials come back to back like winds of a roaring hurricane. Now, when 20 years old feels like a small blip, from which you have nothing to show for.

The nausea will pass.  The pain will subside.  You will- eventually- stop crying.

Your body will be healed and your spirit will be mended, all in the Lord's timing.

When you're 20 years old and it feels like your world is falling apart, there's no choice but to press on.  You are a warrior child, one who does not give up in the battle- not because of YOUR strength, but because of His.  So embrace your brokenness, but look to the Healer.  Look to Him, because He will come riding in and comfort your soul in all things.

Grab your stuffed bunny, call home and strengthen your resolve.  As low and as dark as it may seem, you will see light of day and your little candle will keep shining in the meantime.
(RELATED: The Waiting Game)


Thursday, November 26, 2015

I Am So Thankful for You!

You know how your family does that "tell everyone what you're thankful for" thing?  Well, I was always the kid who tried to think of the most holy-sounding response, usually throwing in "God" and "family" as buzzwords here and there.  Honestly though, Thanksgiving meant very little to me during the first nineteen years of my life.  I mean, I took great care to be grateful every day.  Plus, it was just another holiday I had to navigate the realities of my parents' divorce (talk about tricky dinner conversation).  The point is: Thanksgiving was just a chance to play with my cousins and verbally sprinkle my Christmas wish list on anyone who would humor my dreams of getting a puppy.

Now, that all changed when the eating disorder reared its ugly head.  The holiday season became nothing short of miserable, and Thanksgiving in particular felt like an ultimate test in which I was doomed to fail with family and friends all watching.

At the risk of sounding cliche though: This year is different.  It's the first year that Thanksgiving is "capable" not "calories" and "gratitude" instead of "guilt."  See, like the Pilgrims did almost 400 years ago: I now recognize that looking back is a vital part of moving forward.

Let me tell ya: Looking back is painful.  At the same time, it amazes me what God has done in my life this year.  It also humbles me to realize how many friends and family-- many of you-- have stood with me, prayed for me and cried with me during the process thus far.  You have eaten meals with me, learned about meal plans, texted encouragement and shown me what "fun" is-- something I'd missed out on for about five years.  And for those five years, I hated Thanksgiving.

And I want to say thank you.  Thank you to my parents.  Thank you to my church-- both in Indy and Columbus.  Thank you to Mary, Katy, Olivia, Stephanie, Hannah, Lexi, Lauren, Kristin and Stacie.  Thank you to the amazing friends I met in recovery (because you women actually empathize with the struggle of this journey).  Thank you to my therapists and mentors and dietician and everyone else who has seen God at work in my life.  This Thanksgiving is such a miraculous milestone for me, largely due to your love and support.

Some of you know that I had a mild muscle strain that didn't allow me to finish our my cross country season the way I'd hoped.  And yet: I am so grateful that God has given me this opportunity to learn how to cope with injury in a healthy way.  How can I retain anger about that though!?  Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be competing and running again with joy.  I never thought I'd really feel comfortable being myself and letting others see that.  I never thought I'd have real friends-- ones who were there all along, in reality.  God is restoring life to me in ways I never thought were even possible.

All of this is bogus when I think about the pain I was going through at this time last year: Faced with the shame of having to withdraw from school because I was too unhealthy.  I've worked with every fiber of my being to get where I am.  But, like Paul says in 1 Corinthians, it is by the grace of God I am where I am.  My strength comes from Him alone, and I am eternally grateful that I have so many people on "Team Hannah."  I'm overwhelmed with thanks.  But the cool part is, that joy now overflows into my life, paid forward to others in a grand circle of God's love!

So while you are enjoying your family and friends this holiday, I want you to know that I am grateful-- immensely grateful-- for YOU.  So many of you have made a huge impact in my life.  Happy Thanksgiving.  This is my "Freedom Filled 2015," and Thanksgiving is such a sweet time to reflect on all this year has been.  Thank you.


Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Waiting Game

Waiting.  It's something we humans know oh too well.  We wait for buses; we wait for the weekend, for texts messages and phone calls and unruly children.  It's quite a bother, really.  Partly because we don't know when the waiting ends and partly because we don't have control over when it ends, waiting causes anxiety for most of us.

One thing I've been learning this fall, however, is that there are certain things I don't have to wait on.  I don't have to wait on the Lord's peace and I don't have to wait for good circumstances in order to have a good attitude.  I've learned the hard way that: "I'll have peace when....." doesn't play out well.

John 14:27 says that the Lord gives us peace that is not of this world.  In Philippians 4:7, Paul reminds us that God's peace surpasses all understanding.  That has been so comforting to me these past few months, as I've gone through joyful circumstances and difficult trials.  Being the emotionally-high-strung woman that I am, I tend to get thrown for a loop anytime something is out of my plan.  In case you haven't noticed: That happens a lot.

I told myself I would wait until God healed tight and strained muscles, until He provided a place to live next year, until He gave me more friends.  I kept rationalizing my fear and anxiety with this internal promise that WHEN God acted, I would have peace and relax.

There's two things I learned from doing things the wrong way.  Number one: God is always acting.  Just because He isn't doing things the way I want or the pace I want, doesn't mean that He isn't working for our good all the time.  This truth requires us to recognize that sometimes, our dreams are in line with His will and sometimes they aren't.  The second thing I learned was that life will never present an ideal, easy way for us to let go of fear.  Remember that proverbial "when" I mentioned.  It never comes.  Our finite minds can't grasp eternity, so instead we keep grasping for the next thing and the next thing, and our "when" keeps growing even as God provides.  We miss what God is doing because we're too busy thinking that all of a sudden, second isn't good enough and we must keep worrying and keep being anxious until we reach the very top.

So here's what we do.  We buckle down and face reality.  Life is gritty.  It's unexpected, it's painful and it's joyous. It's never perfect.  We rest in the peace of the Lord that tells us He is in control and He is good to us-- it's not enough for God to just be powerful, we have to remember He is good!  Physical pain, relationship strains, loneliness-- it's all in His hands.

What keeps you from letting go today?  What lack is fueling you restlessness and anxiety.  I want to remind you of my two lessons: Life is never going to be perfect AND God is always in motion in your life.  This is stuff we already know, but perhaps you need a reminder today like I did.  Keep pressing on!


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

10 Struggles of Collegiate Athletes

 1. Food takes priority over a shower
Because there are days when you have five minutes and Bath & Body Works Mango body spray comes to the rescue
2. When Spanish class doubles as snack time and your prof calls on you with your mouth full πŸ˜‘
3. When you forget your apartment keys, but when you return from morning practice: Your roommates are all still asleep
4. When it's a rest day but your body still wakes you up at 7:00

5. Or, when you have random drug testing at 6:00 on said rest day
6. Graston on your sore muscles
I want to know what genius is making a fortune off of a metal scraping tool that makes me tear up. Kudos to you, good sir.
7. Walking around with a giant ice-pack wrapped to your hip
It is what it is. The real struggle comes when it's time to somehow cut it loose.
8. Leg drains for dayz
Complete with a running poster and mismatched socks (see #9)
9. Laundry
Because somehow, your hamper hasn't been liberated from smelly clothes since you first got to campus in August. Surely there's a bottom to that thing, right?

10. The ice tub
It's the bane of collegiate athletes everywhere. With grit and resolve, we willingly thrust our bodies into its abyss, hoping to emerge with fresh muscles. It's a love-hate relationship, but the ice tub make us feel hardcore and for that: We salute itπŸ‘ŠπŸΌ✋🏼

-Created using The List App.  Download the app HERE and follow me @hh12995

Monday, October 5, 2015

When God Gives you $20 and You Complain

Devoid of any particular positivity this morning, I wandered around campus with my head down.  I didn't hesitate to smile up at others, and yet: My heart has been quite downcast since I first woke up at 6:30 this morning.

And so flipped on my music.  I read my devotional and I tried not to panic at this unnerving feeling.  This feeling of dread, much mores substantial than warranted by a typical Monday.  I reminded myself of all God has been showing me lately, how He has been weeding out the fear in my life and drawing me nearer to His arms.  But the fear of athletic mediocrity; the fear of failure; the ache of rejection, all hit me hard as I tried to press in to the Father.  The pain I feel is notably trivial in the long run, but it has such a powerful, daunting presence in the moment, washing over me like waves.

Because the fear of failure cuts deep...

and the pain of rejection lies subtly in the depths, shadowing our hopes and dreams with its lies.

I smiled at a driver, feeling a tinge of guilt that my years of acting experience allow me to fake out the world with such ease.  And then, I saw it.  Crumpled up in the parking lot,  lay a $20 bill.  I didn't see anyone nearby who it might belong to, so I picked it up gingerly and felt the worn paper in my hands. I was a little irked, to be honest.  Why was God giving me money, I had asked for His presence, not a quick cash donation.  How the heck was $20 supposed to "sooth my soul?!"

And yet, I began to think about what I could do with the money.  After all, I hadn't been craving $20, so I wouldn't miss it if I just gave it away.  I wondered: "How I could bless someone else with this gift that I hadn't deserved?" I tend to overanalyze things, so I began concocting the plan that would bring about the most glory for God-- silly, right?  But I wanted to give the money to the person who would get the most joy out of it.  I wanted to make the absolute best choice.  There were too many possibilities!

Then, the Spirit reminded me: "I've given you the money, don't you think I will use it for my maximum glory?  Don't you trust that I can do that?"

And even as I began to question why God would've given me $20 when I'd been asking for His presence, it all made sense:  My gift of running-- or gift of anything, really-- is from Him. (RELATED: My Running Motto) He desires to use those gifts, to grow them and expand them for the kingdom.  But we so often forget that we can trust Him to bring those gifts to fruition, thinking that we need to pray and plead and work hard to make it happen ourselves.  That's not how God works.  When God prints money, He has a plan.  He doesn't just dole out His $20 dollar bills and hope that we stumble upon a worthy cause for His money.  No.  The money He gives-- the gifts He bestows-- are guided by His hand.

If the Lord has given you a gift of athleticism or "mad brain skills" or financial stability or anything of the sort, He has done so for a reason and is going to develop those gifts and talents as you surrender to Him.

God's economy is authored by grace, but it isn't lackadaisical.

Perhaps you are feeling disheartened and discouraged today, overwhelmed at what looms ahead.  I encourage you to meditate on Matthew 25:14-30 and the truth I've offered up in this post.  You aren't abandoned or unwanted, and neither are the gifts the Father has bestowed upon you.  Take heart and press on.



Sunday, September 6, 2015

My Aim

My aim is not to prove everyone wrong and to proudly triumph. Rather, my aim is to prove worthy the gospel of Jesus Christ, He who has already triumphed and is drawing me closer day after day.

Sometimes my pride gets in the way and I forget this.  I used to think "Wow, my life is going to make a good movie someday!"  No joke: I used to imagine it frequently-- more so after I saw movies like "Chariot's Of Fire" and "Unbreakable".

But I don't want to be just another face, another self-infatuated human on an earth of self-infatuation.  I'm so sick of myself sometimes.

This started out as a Facebook post that got too wordy, and had too much substance. is goes:

Worthiness has been on my mind a lot lately, both my own worthiness and that of society at large.  For the past year of my life, I've been really focused on me, because when your life is on the brink of collapse, you have to focus on the fundamentals.  You have to focus on just breathing.  And now, I believe that time is coming to a close, because I am more alive than ever and I can devote myself to more than just anorexia recovery.

But I find myself turning inward because of the biggest thing that haunts humanity at large, the biggest thing that drives people to the depths of despair: Fear.

 Fear asks: Am I pretty enough? Am I a fast enough runner, a good enough student, a good enough child?  Fear lunges at us like a sharp crack of lightning, and we are so often frozen in its wake.  And so we live in a state of competition, of fear that says: I must prove myself, or everyone will give up on me.  No one will love me.  I will be all alone.

That is what fear says.

But let me tell you something, straight from the Father: You are already proven worthy.  Second Corinthians 3:5 says that by ourselves, we aren't sufficient enough but, with Christ: We are made sufficient.   We are good enough-- you are good enough.

You are pretty enough, smart enough, fast enough, kind enough and worth enough.  (RELATED: Am I Beautiful?)

And when the realization of that truth hits your heart, it opens the door wide for two reasons:

1. The God of the universe has redeemed you and deemed you: Worthy
2. His opinion of you is the only one that matters

The second reason is a lot harder to get deep in our hearts.  Repeat it to yourself.  Repeat it and repeat it and let it become true, let it become air the breathes your soul to life in the aftermath of fear's strike.  Because you no longer have to live life in a state of constantly proving yourself, and you no longer have to fear what is going to happen.  God love you with a burning passion and seeks to bless you and fill you and take you on a wild ride of faith.

We don't have to set our aim on proving ourselves worthy, because that has already been done.  Now, we live in a state of freedom that allows us to pour love into the world around us. Now, we are liberated from fear of inadequacy, of loneliness, of disappointing others.

Run your race.  Run with strength and boldness.  Run with your blinders on and your eyes on the cross.  That cross tells you that you are sufficient.

Be encouraged, be bold and be free!


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A State of Hope

Since coming back to Butler last weekend, I've been a whirlwind of emotions. But in the aftermath of the excitement and loneliness, I've finally settled on a state of being that transcends simply "feeling." I am hopeful. Some moments, I am worried and I choose hope. Other times, my smile radiates and I bubble over with hope that fills my soul. But whether or not it is easy to pinpoint: I live in a constant state of hope. Maybe that's because I can now see how far Christ has brought me. Perhaps it's because the reality of the cross doesn't hit home until your heart desperately grapples with the sacrifice that brought us grace. Perhaps it is because I am redeemed in a more tangible way that I could see in the past, I am repurposed and replanted in the environment God has willed for me. 

I have come to know that the Lord of the universe does not leave it forsake His children. No matter what. He does not watch from a distance and He does not scrap His plans for us when we go our own way, ending up in a heap of tears and pain. And no matter how you and I have deviated from His plan, we cannot escape the love of the Father that pursues us.  His mercy that never fails to rescue us when we cry out. 

This is my room in my new apartment.
So as the doctors and athletic trainers have greeted me with smiles this week, I've soaked in the sweet goodness of the Lord- the goodness that has brought me back to life- because I wouldn't be here without it.

 And they have asked: What did you learn? How have you grown?  So I've mentioned the coping skills and the accountability. I tell them I've been surrendering control and coming out from isolation.

But then, I segue to my faith.   I confess that my progress thus far has been one prayer after another, as God has held me and stretched me during these seven months in treatment.  At the end of the day, what I've truly learned through this trial is that the Lord's loving kindness provides His children with hope.

Hold on though.

I don't want you to think, for even a second, that this is a blanketed statement of naivety. Because it's not. "Hope" is not just a fancy word for "wish" as we so often think. It is based on a firm understanding of what is true, founded on the character of the one we put our hope in.  I've walked through the fire and I've seen how the Lord delivers, there's no "wishing" involved.  I don't aimlessly throw up a prayer as a wish on a shooting star.  No. I've seen how He pursues us even when we turn our backs on Him in favor of our own will, so I confidently hope in His presence in my life. 

And by this point I feel like I'm rambling. I feel like I'm saying something that's already been said a dozen times- on this blog alone.  But isn't is such, that the more we learn, the more we see there is to learn.  This time last year, I thought I understood God's mercy and sovereignty, but I truly didn't until my life was in shambles and the hope of the Lord was all I had to turn to.

Maybe that's you today.  You're exhausted; you're lonely; you feel like it will never get better.  Well I've been relying a lot on Isaiah 41:10 this week, which says:

"So do not fear, for I am with you.  Do not be dismayed for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you.  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

He will hold you.  And having the support of the Sovereign God is more than enough reason to hope.  And you'll keep stumbling along and learning and finding out there's more to learn, but that's part of the journey.  Keep your hope in the Lord, choose it even when your emotions say: "No!" The Lord is faithful and He will never forsake you.  Never.


Sunday, August 9, 2015


As I sit in my bedroom in Ohio, it's hard to imagine I'm going to be leaving just five days from now.  Sure, the big pile of stuff in the corner would suggest as much, but it's still a bit surreal.  For the past seven months, I have worked harder than I knew I could.  I have surrendered more than I thought I should.  All in all, it has been God's grace that has brought me to this point.  Only the Lord could take a broken, isolated heart, and make it new (RELATED: No Longer Stuck in Motion).  At times, I haven't truly believed it was possible.

But now I'm getting ready to return to college and run DI cross country.  I'm healthier than I have been in over four years.  I am so excited to take on Butler with the joy of the Lord- run with all my heart, make friends and study hard!  

Me at the fair last week (P.C: Heather Dugan)
I'm not naive enough to think it'll be a simple transition, but I've set up the accountability I need to be successful in this step.  And when the enemy tells me that I will be lonely or fail or spiral downward, I remind Him that God has given me wisdom in these seven months.  I remind Him that I have been freed from my chains, and I am moving forward from all that was.  I remind Him that God has already gone before me, and is preparing the way.  And then, I remind myself.

Sometimes, we get so hooked on the ordinary that we stop listening to the voice of God.  We think we have it all figured out and don't need or want anyone else's help.  That's where I was last year, that's where I'd been for most of my life.  But that's not sustainable.  We all need love.  We need grace and mercy and freedom.  This time at home has allowed me to listen to the voice of God and realize that my "ordinary" was killing me, and that the things God wants for my lift are even better than I can imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

So this is me, unhinged.  Unhinged from an eating disorder, unhinged from what has become comfortable, unhinged from fear and unhinged from isolation.  This is me proclaiming the glory of the Lord as I head back to Butler, a new person entirely.  I'm still on the road to recovery, but I look forward with hope because I know where I've been and I know just how powerful God is, to have brought me out of that place.  All I need to do is listen for His voice to guide me.

In all honesty, that's all we can ever do.  Hard work and planning certainly have their place, but when it comes to issues of the heart: Only He can provide the answers, motivation and plan that we need.  I hope this isn't just a dismissible rant.  I hope it serves as a testimony of the goodness of God.  I will be praying for all of you, that you too may tune your ear to hear more of God and less of your own fear and condemnation.  I would also appreciate your prayers for me: That I may continue in transparency, drawing nearer and nearer to God, and letting Him lead me to freedom.

We are all on this journey together, and for that: I am most grateful.


Sunday, August 2, 2015

Unforgettable Runs: The Trails of St. John USVI

A novice runner might remark that it's best to stick to the treadmill when vacationing on the tropical island of St. John.  But if you are passionate about running and are up for some hills, then this post is for you.

The incline running on St. John is no joke.  Think I'm kidding?  Click HERE for a peek at Jacob's Ladder, the name of the hill that I started most of my runs with last week (we stayed at the Westin, which is shown in the video as well).  The video goes on to show the hills that I ran if I decided to turn left out of our villa- and running up that hill is no less of a feat.

My point?

Get ready for some fun!  It's a challenge, but the running is gorgeous and the views are spectacular as your rise and fall with the landscape of the island.  The most unforgettable runs I had on the island were all via Cruz Bay.  I headed that way (up Jacob's Ladder) and made my way through town to the seaside.  It's important to note that you cars drive on the left on St. John.  That means you run on the right side of the road when there's no sidewalk.  The sidewalks can be pretty spotty, and nonexistent in the residential areas, so I stuck mainly to the roads.  Keep in mind, however, that if there is a sharp or blind turn, you should get on the side of the road that will give a car the most visibility of you approaching.  Keep alert and try to run early in the day (before 9 a.m.) to avoid the crippling heat, as well.

There, now that the moms out there- including my own- are breathing a sigh of relief, let's move on to the fun stuff: The actual trails!  There are an abundance of them on the island.  Just past Mongoose Junction in Cruz Bay, is the entrance to the national park.  Trail heads pop up frequently from that point on, but it was easiest to hop on the trails at the very first sign directly past Mongoose Junction on the right hand side.  From there, I scrambled up the roots and rocks for a very hard couple of miles before reaching Margaret Hill.  The vista from the top is absolutely worth the climb!  I was in awe, breathless as I whispered a prayer of thanks for the experience.  From there, you can choose to continue straight and make your way down, or come back the way you came.  If you turn back the way you came, definitely branch off a few minutes down.  A short trail will lead you to the road and right across the road is a short trail down to Solomon Beach and Caneel Bay Resort.  This particular series of trails is actually pretty flat, so that's a definite reprieve for the legs.

The 400 meter loop on the resort
was how I warmed up for my runs each day

 Directly to the right of this building, is where you'll find the trailheads for the national park

Another awesome area to hit is Chocolate Hole, which has some really neat views of its own.  I loved the trails, but I also hit the countryside a bit because I'm also a real-estate nerd and can't pass up the chance to see some wicked awesome houses during my run!  I will warn you though: No matter which direction you go, wild chickens; iguanas; donkeys and deer are fair game.  That's just part of the adventure!  In the direction of Chocolate Hole, if you're wanting a stretch of flat before you tackle some more altitude, turn right on Roman Road, right past the Westin on Southside.  It's a great 800ish meter loop that is gravel and relatively flat.  It was my "reward" at the end of some of my runs.

Whichever direction you go, you are bound to encounter some amazing scenery, wildlife and hills that will stretch you as a runner and individual.  Don't be afraid to get at it and explore the island!  The locals are extremely friendly and I felt very safe during my runs- aside from some chicken encounters.

I still miss the views, but I sure do love the memories.  I hope you all get a chance to visit and run on the island of St. John.  It is unforgettable, for sure.  And if this post leaves you itching for a run, check out some of my other Unforgettable Run reviews.

Live with joy!