In Her Words: Anna Hickner

Hello! *Sparkle* here – or otherwise know as Anna Hickner – but my nephews prefer the former. I write from a fifth floor walk up in Harlem, New York where I’ve spent the last year living as a post doctoral psychology resident and, most recently, a newly hired clinical psychologist at a community health center. Growing up in Michigan, it was a distant dream to live in The Big Apple – one that I never thought would actually be possible for me until more recently. And then this happened:

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Actually, before NYC my life’s journey took me to Indiana and Spain for college, Costa Rica for a volunteer year, Chicago to recover from volunteering and apply to graduate school, and Washington DC to earn my doctorate. One might think after all that I would be prepared to make the jump to the city that never sleeps, right?! Wrong – after graduate school I was burnt out, bummed out, and was the brink of emotional collapse. So what did I do, you ask? Did I pull myself up by my bootstraps and saddle up for the fight? Simply stated, no, I didn’t. Instead, I left the country to backpack along around Southeast Asia for 10 weeks, which you can read about here, an impulsive yet somehow intuitive decision I will never, ever regret. In graduate school I encountered many challenging, soul-searching opportunities that many times I wanted to run from, or just forget. Doing neither (aside from leaving the country at the end of 2012), I’m infinitely grateful that in graduate school I also encountered yoga and an amazingly supportive community and practice to steer me back on the right path. (My own therapist also helped, too.) It was a path that helped me to finally make it to my dream city. This isn’t to say my life in NYC is all that glamorous. It’s not. I commute 1.5 hours each way to work, and if you didn’t catch it before, I walk up and down five flights of stairs every time I leave my apartment. With heavy bags of groceries. With two loads laundry. And I’m probably still recovering from moving in. That said, there are days I run in Central Park or walk around downtown feeling like the luckiest girl in the world because I’m here. (There are also days where nothing seems to go right, but at least things are not going right in NYC.) In the end, whether it is a good day or a bad one, I know that made it to a place that’s legendary for anything being possible, and I’m one step closer to making other dreams come true.

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This brings me to the big question of “What is it to be Living the Good Life?” Sometimes I find it hard to not get caught up in the fantasy of rom-coms or social media where living a good life is about finding true love, having it all, or taking a lot of trips/having crazy jealousy-inducing meals/posting-everything-about-your-life-as-if-it-were-amazing-and-the-best-ever. It’s not. At least not for me. For me, living a good life means experiencing it all – the full spectrum that the universe has to offer, and then being able to share the highs, the lows, the points of pure desperation/elation/tribulation/infatuation with others. This is what makes life real, and something I experience regularly with my patients and loved ones (or, on occasion, with strangers). Sure we can usually find a silver lining in plans gone awry, and that’s important, but sometimes it’s okay to just feel the rage or hurt or confusion inside, and just BE there. Hopefully someone can be there with you, because if we all experience these emotions, and accept that they are part of life, then we never really are alone. And that might be one of the most important parts of truly living a good life – companionship. In short, the authentic moments in life, and the ability to intimately share them, is what I determine life is all about.

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As you may have gleaned already, I love psychology. I love how it not only allows me to impact others’ lives in a meaningful way, but also helps me learn from my patients, my friends, my family, even people with whom I struggle. Still, being a therapist means giving of yourself. A lot. Because of this I’ve had to develop ways to nourish and replenish myself so that I can keep on doing my job. My passions also include singing/playing piano/composing music, and, of course, yoga or some sort of physical exercise. I guess this really can be simplified by stating that my passions revolve around expressing myself creatively – whether through word, song, or bodily movement. Because we never are really just one thing, right? So why limit ourselves in that way?

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Aside from great music to accompany a solid workout or a fun night out with friends, I’m also inspired when I see others achieving their dreams – to see what makes them *sparkle*. I love to witness others investing in life’s genuine gifts, whether this means getting out of bed and making it through one more day without falling back into a severe depression, or crossing the marathon finish line. After all, life is a series of marathons, is it not? Even if some days/months/years feels like a sprint…

Speaking of, moving to the ‘concrete jungle where dreams are made of’ was one of my marathons, and started to help me believe that with patience, practice, perseverance, and a good support network (ie, peers?) anything is possible. I hope moving to NYC is just the beginning of many other marathons. Two of my ultimate dreams are to have one of my songs on the radio or in a movie some day (such as this Bluesy ballad: Murder or this Disney-esque piece: Fall In Love Again), and to eventually be student-debt free. (Actually, if I could sprint through anything in life, being debt-free would top the list!) Alas, as I have learned this is not likely any time soon, I put on my yoga pants and tie my shoelaces once again, preparing for another five flights of stairs.

Taking life one authentic step at a time. :-)

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Thank you to Hannah for including me in this! I feel honored, and I look forward to reading about and being inspired by you and others who are Living the Good Life. *Sparkle on, friends*

xoxox

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This post appears as part of the In Her Words series. To learn more about In Her Words, click here.

Influence Conference Link-Up

Happy Monday, friends! I’m headed to the Influence Conference late next week and am excited to join with other attendees in a little ‘meet and greet’ link-up today!

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Hi, my name is Hannah and I am just an ordinary girl loved by an extraordinary God who has a passion for Jesus and people. I’m an author, blogger, traveler, social worker and wife who believes in ‘living the good life’ Jesus calls me to live, to the fullest extent possible, inspiring others to do the same in their own unique way! I reside in Pure Michigan and love books, bright colors, coffee, country sunrises, early morning workouts, journaling, and autumn (my absolute FAVORITE season), to name a few things.

What I’m Looking Forward To: So. Much. But for the purpose of this, I’ll mention only three things: 1) Connecting with other women from all over the country who share my passion of blogging, photography, and creativity, 2) Following the Strategy Track where I hope to learn how to turn this beloved blog space of mine into a full-time business and career, and 3) Being renewed and revived in the Gospel. I cannot wait to hear from God and worship Him alongside other God-inspired women.

What I Won’t Leave Home Without: My Bible (God), laptop (for when inspiration strikes), journal (to record thoughts/notes/prayers), and iPhone (to capture memories and moments).

I absolutely cannot wait for this experience. I am thrilled to be attending this event for the first time and will be sharing more of my heart on this over the weekend, so tune back in here on Saturday morning!

Until then, have a great week!

As Autumn Approaches

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In just over a week, my absolute favorite season will officially be here. Autumn. Fall. Harvest-time.

I have always loved autumn, and for a variety of reasons. For starters, school begins right before autumn, so I’ve always associated the season with fresh starts, new beginnings, and possibilities. Secondly, autumn is a season where we actually see  and experience change, as the colors in nature transition from green to gold to red to brown, and the leaves make their way to the ground, leaving the trees barren by the end of November. The sight of change reminds me that nothing stays the same forever and to make the most of every moment I’ve been granted. Thirdly, autumn is when I celebrate my birthday, another ‘fresh start’ I’ve been blessed to get every year for almost 30 years. And lastly, autumn ushers in a time of comfort and coziness as we end our time at the lake and nestle back into full-time life at the ranch. This means catching up with family and friends we missed during the summer season, physically going back to church and settling into community, as well as busting out the slow cooker and making the very best of comfort foods that leave the house smelling divine. So. good.

As autumn approaches this year, I’m looking forward to backyard bonfires; pumpkin-everything (you name it, I love it); cornstalks outlining our entryway; spicy-scented candles; warm blankets and books to get lost in on Sunday afternoons; a glass of red wine sipped in the cool, crisp air; football and movies in the home theater; the return of Downton Abbey; and the blank pages of a new journal to record my hopes, dreams, prayers and praises for the things God is working out in this season. I’m excited for celebrations, including friends’ birthdays, my birthday, our annual Fall Ball, and of course, the holidays. Both Halloween and Thanksgiving are both fun days in this household! And I absolutely cannot wait to experience the Influence Conference for the very first time. I am thrilled to be attending and am anticipating a wonderful opportunity to connect, grow, learn, and worship with other women. It will be a great way to begin my 30th year here on earth, a new chapter that I hope will be filled with God’s goodness, favor, and wonders.

I feel this autumn season will be unlike any other. I sense good things are in store and that there is much to be excited about and enjoy to the fullest extent possible. I hope to make the most of these days to come and that you will too. May we all reap a harvest of blessing in this season!

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In Her Words: Stephanie Allen

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Hello, my name is Stephanie, and to summarize my life I would say it is ‘complete and lovely chaos.’ My husband and I have been married for 4 ½ years and are parents to 2 little girls with number 3 due to arrive in November. We met while deployed in Afghanistan, the last place I ever expected to meet the love of my life and future father of my children. Shortly after I returned home we married and 9 months later our first little bundle of joy arrived with the second following less than 17 months later. Not to mention my husband separated from the military, we moved across the country, he completed an accelerated nursing program and now baby girl number 3 is on the way, I am nearing the end of my Air Force career to be a stay at home mom and we are planning to move to Minnesota and live in our RV for a few months while looking for a new place to call home. Needless to say…we are busy and just a little crazy!

On ‘living the good life’ … “Mommy… Mommy… Mommy…. MOM”. While I’ve been a mother for almost four years now this is somewhat of a new sound for me to hear. Three weeks ago I went from being a military officer in the greatest Air Force in the world to a stay-at-home-mom of two little girls with number three on the way in a few short months. I can honestly say my responsibilities and duties in the military were far less demanding than the needs of my girls. While my husband and I have always been responsible for them there was a time not too long ago when I felt like my daily influence was minimal compared to their caretakers. Something I have been less than satisfied with for some time. The amount of time we were spending as a family included rushed dinners with a quick bath, a few books and straight to bed. Weekends were busy trying to get ready for the next coming week and chores around the house. Looking back I feel like everything was a blur and I wasn’t truly enjoying time with my family. It was about a year ago my husband and I decided the constant looming idea of deployments and Air Force trips away from home were not for us anymore. This was not easy for either one of us since it has been our lives up until the last couple years. It’s an amazing career and you meet some of the finest people in the world, but being able to raise our children together is much more important. I know and completely agree it takes a village to raise a child, but being with them all the time and having more time as a family is what I call…. The good life.

I would say my passions have also evolved in the last couple years. I currently work with two organizations at our church. The first group is called MUMS (Moms Understanding Moms). A group of mothers that get together a couple of times a month to network and develop relationships through fellowship, learning, outreach and spiritual growth. After moving to Nebraska and leaving behind an amazing support network of friends in Arizona I was searching for something similar here in Nebraska. And thankfully, I found this amazing group of women. I am definitely passionate about helping other moms and also growing from their experiences and becoming a better person inside and out. Another group I thoroughly enjoy working with at church is called JUMP (Jesus Use Me Please). This program teaches children that God has called each of us to serve and love others and using their talents to do good deeds and serve around the community. The past two years I have worked with the Lil’ Jumpers (ages 4 – Kindergarten) and loved watching these little people learn about the Word and see how God is working in their lives. I have always loved volunteering, but this puts a whole new perspective and I’ve learned much more than I think I’ve taught the kids.

My inspirations continue to be my family, friends and those I serve(d) within the military and at church. I wish I could list everyone by name, but I would take up all of Hannah’s blog (she is a huge inspiration to me by the way and I admire her positivity and outlook on life). In recent years, I have tried to surround myself with positive people that aren’t negative which isn’t always easy.

Regarding what fires me up?!?! Yikes! It takes a lot to get me really fired up, but I cannot stand seeing others being taken advantage of, especially children and the elderly.

My dreams and goals for the future continue to change as life continues to sway as well. As I mentioned previously, we are looking to move to Minnesota to be closer to family, which has been a dream for a long time. We haven’t had the luxury of ever having family close and I look forward to our children having those influences and future memories of time with their extended family. Eventually I would like to go back to school, but I’m not exactly sure for what or when I will. Right now I’m going to just enjoy the days with the kiddos. I do really enjoy Public Health and the healthcare career field so I’m sure I’ll be called to do that in some way.

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This post appears as part of the In Her Words series. To learn more about In Her Words, click here.

 

My Favorite Books of Summer

With summer coming to a close, it seems like a perfect time to share my three favorite books read in this season. Here they are (all non-fiction), listed in no particular order …

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Wherever the River Runs by Kelly Minter.

I adore Kelly Minter. Her previous book and bible studies are nothing short of amazing! This gem of a book ranks as one of my favorite of hers to-date. Kelly captures her various trips to the wild land of the Amazon through essays marked with vivid descriptions of the river, rainforest, and most importantly, the  people who live there. Her account humbled, inspired, and left me with a desire to go out and do some good. Right. Now. I love books that move my heart and propel me forward in my faith. If you’re looking for something to empower you to “go and serve,” then this is the one for you!

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Let’s All Be Brave by Annie F. Downs

“Brave” seems to be the theme of the latter part of this summer season as I have been taking the steps to do more with the dreams God has put in my heart, specifically with regard to my career and my blogging, creating, writing pursuits. So when I heard about this book via another blog, I knew I had to get it, and I devoured it while on our Pacific Northwest adventure. I compare reading Annie’s words to talking with your best friend over a good cup of coffee. She tells her own stories of courage, while encouraging you to go after the thing God is calling you to do, using your own unique gifts, resources, skills, and talents. This book speaks truth and wisdom that I, personally, so needed to hear in this season. It’s been over a month since I finished and I keep referring back to quotes and Scriptures she mentioned. If you’re struggling with being brave and going after that thing in your life you feel you have to do more than anything, read this book! It’ll be just the thing to reignite your courage and fire you up!

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Speak by Nish Weiseth

This. book. Simply stated, I LOVE this book, so much in fact that I read it in just two days. My heart for this blogging space is to tell stories and share things that are encouraging, life-giving, true, lovely, hopeful, inspiring, and influential in helping others to ‘live the good life,’ and Nish’s words confirmed for me that doing so is a powerful way to reach out to people, make a difference, and gradually change the world. In reading this, I’m inspired to be a better not only a better story-teller, but also a better listener, and learn essential truths from others. As a social worker, it also made me want to further develop in my abilities to use the power of story in advocating for social justice and ultimately, social change. I look forward to opportunities where I’ll be challenged with doing so for the betterment of those who are marginalized, yet who hold so much wisdom and grace that the rest of us need to hear.

What books have you enjoyed this summer? Any good recommendations for fall?

Happy Reading, friends!

In Her Words: Loni Pryor

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Hi, my name is Loni Pryor and I live in Michigan with my 2 year old son, husband of almost 8 years, and 2 little weenie dogs. I spend most of my days as a stay-at-home Mom, and I love it. It’s hard work, but so rewarding and I feel incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to experience parenthood.

One of my biggest passions in life (besides being a Mom) is design. Using my creativity to beautify a brand or a website is something I could spend all day long doing. Recently I opened my own shop on Etsy called Blossom Birdee. As a stay-at-home Mom, it’s easy to lose your personal identity. I felt Blossom Birdee would be the perfect place for a creative outlet. The best part about Blossom Birdee is I get to incorporate my faith (another huge passion for me) into the business. Blossom Birdee focuses on creating one-of-a-kind prints to help decorate kid’s spaces and specializes in bringing bible verses to life in a creative way. These prints can fit in with a child’s bedroom, playroom, and even throughout the home. It brings me incredible joy to be able to help spread God’s Word and use my creativity at the same time.

To ‘live the good life’ means to me, to follow the Lord and his path for you (even when it’s not going great). Love others as Christ loved us. Focus on your family and their needs, but also on others who are in need, especially around the world. To be selfless leads to the living the good life, because the more like Christ you become, the bigger your heart will grow, the more you can love yourself and others, and the more peace you will find.

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This post appears as part of the In Her Words series. To learn more about In Her Words, click here.

Introducing a New Series: In Her Words

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Happy Labor Day weekend, friends!

Today I’m excited to introduce a brand new series, entitled In Her Words, set to kick-off here as of this coming Wednesday, September 3!

The purpose of In Her Words is to make this blog more relevant to all of you, the readers. In addition to reading my thoughts and stories each week, this series will allow you to meet some other amazing women who are doing great things and ‘living the good life’ in their corners of the world. My hope and prayer is that as each woman shares about her life and what is important to her, that you would in turn be influenced and inspired to find joy in yours, every. single. day.

Each week, ‘In Her Words’ will feature a woman who is being intentional in ‘living the good life’ in her own unique and wonderful way. Her post will essentially provide an introduction of who she is; an overview of what inspires and fires her up, as well as what her passions are; a glimpse into her dreams, goals and visions for the future; and, of course, an understanding of what ‘living the good life’ means to her, in her words. It’s a wonderful opportunity to ‘meet’ those who may have lives similar to yours, and also those who have lives very different from yours, and to ultimately create and foster a sense of community among all of us, regardless of our respective assignments, callings, projects, and pursuits.

It is my firm belief that a big part of ‘living the good life’ means that we help light a spark in others and spur one another on in our endeavors. This series seeks to do just that by empowering us to share our stories, opening ourselves up to those passions and longings we have, and giving ourselves the grace to accept and enjoy where we are at in our lives. Unleashing our hearts to have this experience is the key to making a difference and having an impact in our time here.

So with that said, I hope you will tune in this Wednesday as we jump into In Her Words, and get ready to meet some fabulous ladies! If you are interested in being a part of this series, simply submit the above information with a picture of yourself to me by email: hgottschalk12@gmail.com.

In the meantime, I hope all of you are basking in this last hoorah of summer with glorious rays of sunshine and quality time to yourself and with loved ones! Live it up and enjoy every moment! See you back here on Wednesday!

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