Interview Day in Savannah, GA

I had the ability to go with Adam for his big Mercer University School of Medicine interview. We road tripped from Valdosta to Savannah Wednesday night. Luckily, we were able to visit with and stay with our good college friends Kyle and Caroline! Once we arrived and visited with them we got to bed quickly so Adam would be well rested for his big day.

We woke up and left for his 9am interview around 7:30 am. Traffic was rough getting into Savannah which is why we left so early! We pulled in around 8:15 am and found exactly where Adam needed to be. With just about 30 minutes left before he needed to be dropped off, we searched around for a quick breakfast. Just a few blocks away from the Mercer building was an old fashion bakery called Baker’s Pride. We both grabbed a bite and enjoyed observing the locals in their natural habitat.

After the breakfast, I dropped Adam off and watched and prayed as he walked into this state-of-the-art building for the biggest interview of his life. I had from 9am until 2pm to fill my day! Of course, I started my day off by doing my quiet time and prayer in the Savannah’s beautiful square called Kavanaugh Park! After that I headed down to River Street and treated myself to a great breakfast at the famous Two Cracked Eggs Café. There I got into a good conversation with the owner who told me he is opening his second location the very next day!

After breakfast I headed to a bridesmaid’s dress appointment, I had for an upcoming wedding. After taking about 12 minutes to pick out a dress, I walked over to Starbucks to spend the rest of my time until heading to pick Adam up! I was a nervous wreck. Luckily, I had some networking partners from BNI call to chat which helped take my mind off things for a few hours. Once 1pm hit, I wanted to get back to the campus to pick Adam up in case they got done early. This gave me a chance to go inside and look around the building.

I only had to wait about 20 minutes until I got to see the whole interview group walk out on what looked like a tour of the building. Then they sat and had a last chance to ask questions before they wrapped everything up and the interview was done! Now the fun part of exploring Savannah together.

Adam wanted to relax after the interview (who could blame him?). We headed back down to River Street and made our first stop at a cute French bakery for coffee and a chocolate croissant. Following that we walked in and out of the store fronts on the river. The weather was perfect, and it was just crowded enough to be busy but not packed. Once we walked a little, we worked up an appetite and found a restaurant with a top balcony. There we enjoyed a few drinks and a calamari appetizer.

Following the appetizer, we drove to Forsyth park and walked around. This was the first time Adam had been and he loved the relaxed, diverse and entertaining feel that it held. Once we walked a bit, we headed into a coffee shop right across the street to grab another cup and to take in the day. Once we got enough of the city feel, we headed back to Caroline and Kyle’s house. We caught them up on our day and then ordered pizza and wings for dinner.

The next morning, we had a good amount of time to play around with. Adam was mad that I went to Two Cracked Eggs by myself! I told him that I went to try it out and that I was perfectly okay with going again. Yet, we were able to go to the opening day of the second location of the Two Cracked Eggs and be the very first customers! We had no wait where the other location had a 45-minute wait, and we were told our cash will be hanging up on the wall. After our delicious meal, we snapped a picture with the owner and headed on our way.

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Our next stop was to Pooler, GA. There we got to explore their disc golf course and Adam was able to throw a few holes! It was such a beautiful park with so much to do. There were very diverse families hanging around and enjoying nature. While in Pooler we checked out the Tanger Outlet Mall. Of course, we could not get out of there without spending money! Luckily, the Asics store was doing a BOGO sale and we were both in need of new shoes. We were able to both walk out in bran new and super comfortable kicks.

On our last stop, we grabbed lunch at Five Guys Burgers and Fries then headed on our way to Ocilla, GA for Adam to take care of Clinch County football team. Adam’s team lost but endured a good game. Once Adam’s job was complete, we headed up to Conyers, GA to spend time with Adam’s family.

Our experience in Savannah was great. We could just feel in air that it was a town we would be okay with moving too. It was exciting, fast but calm and relaxing all at the same time! Somehow it felt like the most important day of our lives so far but also a relaxing get-away. We simply loved it! Now we look forward to spending four years in the Savannah area.

Thanks again for all of the prayers and support that you gave us on this trip to Savannah, GA!

Much love from your favorite millennial couple, The Howards!

Dyslexia Destroys

It is national Dyslexia awareness month. I would be doing a disservice to all my fellow dyslexia friends and followers if I kept my story to myself. I would not be a true advocate for change if I did not share the signs and symptoms my teachers should have realized in elementary school. I will not be using my story for good if I don’t share how dyslexia completely destroyed how I thought of myself.

In my own definition of dyslexia, it is when the brain is wired a little different therefore making tasks such as reading, writing, spelling and math harder to learn and remember.

Growing up I went to one of the poorest elementary schools in the state of Georgia. I remember there being so many discipline problems that made it hard for the teachers to teach. In elementary school I never brought home straight 100’s like my older brother did. Most of the time I would not fully understand what was being taught to me until I was taught in school, went home to struggle through the homework, then going over the homework assignment the next day in school. My teachers seemed to love giving crossword puzzles as extra credit and I would try so hard to finish them but they would give me anxiety before I know what anxiety was. Most of the time I had my mom finish them for me because she was good at them.

I would bring home spelling words and it would take me twice as long to get through them all without messing up. I would sit on my dad’s lap at our dining room table and go word for word. As I got a word wrong he would raise his voice asking if I was trying to be funny when I was really trying my best. This also happened with reading at an early age. I would read slow, couldn’t figure out how to pronounce words correctly. Writing was no better. Words would be spelled wrong and I had no idea what the difference from a noun, subject, adjective or a verb therefore putting together a proper sentence was rough.

Math class was no different. I could not do math quick enough in my head so I would always just count up or down on my fingers. Never being able to stick basic addition, subtracting or multiplication to memory. All of these small daily struggles caused me to think that I was stupid. Because I knew I needed extra help I naturally became the teacher’s pet trying to help the teachers out more so that if I needed help I didn’t feel bad asking.

Middle school was no better. I remember almost every year my friends were placed in the gifted classes but I was in ‘regular’ classes because of my test scores. I hated middle school so much that I asked to be homeschooled my 8th grade year. Middle school made me feel so stupid and like I was never going to be able to stay up to date with the lessons. The long tests that were given made my palms sweaty. I remember my teachers double checking my test handbook and my scantron because they knew it was so common for me to write the correct answer in my test booklet but fill in the wrong bubbles. (Also, pretty sure this was illegal!)

High School was the first time I ever recall hearing the word dyslexic. After struggling through three years of high school. My senior english teacher handed back a hand written, timed essay and told me see him after class. I looked at the paper. I failed and there was his red hand writing all over the paper. When I stayed after he asked me if I was dyslexic. I asked him why he thought that and what is was. He told me that I failed the paper because of horrible spelling, sentence structure and flipping letters around.

I went home and talked to my parents and told the teacher that I would like to be tested for whatever dyslexia was. After we looked into it, we found out that the school system would have tested me for free before the 5th grade. Since I was in highschool it would have cost my family about $2,000. At that time I did not want to go to college and my only goal was to get through my senior year.

A few months after the teacher telling me about dyslexia I was at a 4-H event and it came up again. I was on a leadership board and we were last minute putting together a presentation. I got handed a poem to read in front of the 75+ people crowded. I had to sight read it right there in front of my leadership team the the guy in charge before doing it in real time in front of the crowd. I could barely make it through the first line of the poem when he took the paper from my hands and looked me in the eyes and asked me if I was dyslexic. He could clearly see the worry in my eyes about reading in front of others. The pit of my stomach dropped as I heard the word ‘dyslexic’ again. He quickly gave me the task of leading everyone in the pledge of allegiance instead of reading a poem. Hearing the guy beside me sight read the poem perfectly made me destroy myself worth a little more that it already was. All I could think was how stupid I was and unable to do basic task.

All of these little signs that could have been caught made me feel dumb. These feelings made me feel as if I was not going to be able to go to college because I could not even do great in high school classes. I thought I was never going to be successful at anything because my reading level was still on a low grades scale. I thought that I was never going to be able to make money because I could not do math past a third grade level. I constantly compare myself to others who were learning quickly and easily. I felt like a burden to my parents who were trying to help and my teachers who were working hard. For so many years I felt so dumb. Dyslexia destroyed the way that I thought of myself. Dyslexia destroyed my ability to dream about the future. Dyslexia made me question my self worth. Dyslexia made me feel like an outsider. Dyslexia destroyed me from fully embracing who I was for the first 20 years of my life.

I share this story to bring awareness to dyslexia. I share this story to help educate you to know what signs to recognize dyslexia in your loved ones. You can be the change to help someone understand how their brain works before letting it destroy how they think of themselves and their own ability.

Luckily this is not the end of my story. Stay tuned!

Love, your dyslexic local blogger Colleen Howard.

 

Interview Surprise

   

We were on the road from Valdosta to Savannah, GA. It was the night before Adams big interview for Mercer University School of Medicine. As we drove I tried taking his mind off of the big day. We cruised listening to podcast and jammed to Kacey Musgraves. I had warned him that I had a little surprise to give him before the interview. If you know anything about Adam, he loves gifts. The sun was setting and he asked for the surprise to be given to him. I reached in the back seat and handed him a box full of notes.

He started opening one note at a time and realized that they were letters from our family and friends. These were letters of nothing but love, excitement and support. I had reached out to all of these people a week prior and was blown away at the amount of notes that were collected.

Once Adam got through reading each note he looked up at me and said, “Wow, I’m about to cry. This really is amazing! It’s great to be reminded that I have such a great support system.” He loved them so much he asked for them all back to read through them again.

I couldn’t agree more! We have so many people that have prayed, encouraged and supported us each step of the way. Below you can see the encouraging messages that were given to Adam the night before or day of the MUSM interview.

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MUSM Interview Day

Today is the day! Adam will be interviewing in Savannah GA, to get accepted into Mercer University School of Medicine. He has prepared, practiced and prayed for this day to come. Even after being rescheduled from hurricane Dorian, nothing can stop this day from happening. Even though it has been a busy week for me and Adam, nothing can steal the joy away from this amazing day.

As Adam has his first ever medical school interview today (September 19th, 2019), we are calling our prayer warriors to action! Please cover Adam in prayer as often as possible as you go throughout your day.

Please pray specifically for Adam to be the man that God has built him to be. That he has confidence and peace that only comes from our Heavenly father. Lastly, pray that God’s will be done in Adam’s life. That God opens the opportunity that He has for Adam to pursue.

Your thoughts and prayers in this season of our life mean the world to us! Thank you from the very bottom of our hearts for going on this journey with us. Please feel free to send this post to your prayer warriors, friends and loved ones who understand the power in prayer!

Thank you so much! From your favorite millennial couple who are busy chasing down their dreams.

Top 5 Lessons I Learned in my 23rd Year of Life

I have been 24 years old for one full month! Before 11 more months pass me by, I wanted to take a second and put on paper my biggest takeaways from my time as a 23-year-old!

  1. My sphere of influence is a gift from God to spread His love.

I used to think that a full time, after college job was just to pay the bills. When that was my mindset, work was unexciting and dreadful. Once I was able to wrap my mind around the fact that I don’t have to be employed at Christian camp to spread God’s love I looked at work a different way. The many opportunities that I get to share love with co-workers, clients and networkers is exactly where God wants me to be!

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  1. It doesn’t matter how my husband folds the towels.

This invaluable lesson came from a Christy Wright podcast and really has changed my life and helped my marriage. See, I am recovering from Home Control Disease (HCD) which is exactly what you think it is! Adam use to try to help do things and I would either 1. Nag him to do it the ‘right’ way or 2. Go behind him and ‘fix’ it. If you do this, we need to talk about HCD.

The slap in the face I learned was that there is no wrong or right way to fold towels. Yes, there is ‘his way’ and ‘my way’, but there was and will never be such a thing as the ‘correct way’. If the goal is to simply get the towels folded and put into their desired location, why in the world was I stressing out about making sure they were folded ‘my way’?  Why was the need to do every little task ‘correct’ taking up so much of my brain space?

I decided to put an end to my HCD. Even though it has still been hard! I let my husband help around the house, he does about 50% of the housework and I let him accomplish the tasks however he sees fit!

 

  1. Self-care is NOT selfish

I have to take care of my own health and wellbeing. I do not have to wait for a medical professional to prescribe me something. I used to think that if I was going to get better, I would need an medical professional to help. Once I found out my doctor was booked three months out, I knew I was going to have to find other resources to take better care of my health! I spent much of my 23rd year of life reading books, listening to podcasts and watching YouTube videos from very educated and accomplished Doctors, motivational speakers and specialist! At the touch of my fingers I had more than enough knowledge to find what I was looking for.

With this increase of knowledge, I started making my yoga practice important again. At first, I didn’t want to spend money on each class. Then my next excuses were that I should be doing stuff for work or Adam. I finally laid down the lies and starting the metal process of knowing that taking care of myself, one yoga class at a time, will make me the best Colleen to better influence those around me!

 

  1. Write out every dream I want to accomplish in my life

I read a book that talked about a “100 List.” This list is simply a collection of a person’s top dreams they desire to accomplish in life. I was fascinated! So I typed my “100 List” up but only got to about 70 goals. With my list typed, printed and posted in my office, I didn’t think much of it. Then came a desire to take a random trip for fourth of July! We googled the cheapest flights from Atlanta on the 4th. Low and behold, the cheapest flights we found were to Philadelphia! When just a few weeks before this trip, #24 on my 100 list was to get a picture with the Liberty Bell. I wrote it down as a goal, with no plans of making it happen any time soon, and the dream quickly came to life.

Another one of my ‘100 List’ was listed at #5 to get baptized in the Jordan river and to walk where Jesus walked. Just a few weeks after jotting down a draft of my “100 List” I got a message from a church I did camp at that they were taking a trip to Israel and he remembered to let me know! I wrote down the desires God has placed on my heart, and He started opening doors right away.

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  1. Each meal matters

I simply learned that if I want to feel my best, I must eat food that will make me feel good! Thanks to Everlywell (learn more about it in my blog 10 Things That Changed Me In 2018) I was able to learn what my body was sensitive too. This helped me have better knowledge of what makes me feel bad and what makes me feel good. Once I gained this knowledge it was simply about having the discipline to put things into my mouth that would help or hurt me. My 23rd year of life was when I fully gained understanding that the food that goes in through my mouth and comes out of my rear, can either make me feel good or bad during the “in-between the holes” processing machine. And that I am THE ONLY one who controls what goes into my body.

 

Here is to rocking and rolling as 24!

-Colleen Howard

 

 

Interview Prep

The email came! The email that Adam had waited over a year to come was sitting in his inbox. He called me to tell me the email arrived with such joy and excitement in his voice. Adam had applied early decision to Mercer University School of Medicine (MUSM) and knew he had pretty good chances of landing an interview. Applying early decision means that all of your eggs are in that school’s basket! The doctor that Adam has worked with for many years graduated from MUSM and we have heard great things about the program. When it was coming time for Adam to narrow down his list of prospective schools to apply for, Mercer just kept coming to the top of the list.

He applied and then just a few days later he started prepping for the interview. The first step was to pick a date for the interview and a location. Mercer has two medical school campuses, one in Macon and Savannah, Georgia. Adam has decided that he would love to live in Savannah so he thought that the Savannah campus would be a good place to tour and check out. He set the interview and then he was ready to start preparing.

The second step in this process was to make sure he looked good! To be as professional as possible Adam decided to shave the beard. This was not everyone’s favorite part of the process because he looks totally different and Adam is just a beard guy! But we all agreed that it is the highest form of professionalism to be cleanly shaven. With the beard gone it was time to make sure the suit fit well.

Adams white shirt that he got from being a groomsman in a friend’s wedding and wore in our wedding was a little too small. His suit fit but he wasn’t super confident with the color for a professional interview. This led us to hitting up Joseph A. Bank just to shop around! The first suit he tried on he loved. I could just see his confidence sore in the perfectly fitted navy blue suit. We were not set on buying it because he had one at home and it was a big expense, but of course it was buy one get one free. We went in just to look around and we came out with two suits that had a price tag that was equivalent to my wedding dress. With the suit investment we added in a nice white button down from TJ Max and a sharp, school-colored tie from the clearance rack at Belk.

The third step was the interview prep! I enjoyed watching Adam go over interview questions with a friend in Valdosta and a recent grad from the Mercer medical school. He would jot down drafts of ways he would answer questions and run them by me. He practices tons of possibilities but really focused on just being himself for the interview!

Adam was ready. Date set, clothes perfect and confidence ready to rock it! The week of the scheduled interview was when the weather channel announced that hurricane Dorian was turning to head up the Georgia coast. We didn’t know what that would mean for his interview that was just a few days away, but we had a gut feeling. The next day when we heard that Georgia Governor Kemp released an emergency evacuation there was no way the interview would be happening the same day as originally scheduled. Then we quickly got an email confirming that all Mercer interviews at the Savannah campus have been canceled and will be rescheduled for September 19th.

The good news is that Adam got an interview, is practiced, confident and well-dressed to rock and roll the interview!

Please keep Adam in your prayers for September 19th!

Love, your favorite millennial couple, The Howards

 

MCAT Round Two

July 19th, we woke up early! Well, not that early for me since I am a natural early riser but really early for Adam. On this specific day he had no trouble popping out of bed. After several weeks of Adam studying mornings and nights while working full time, it was the day he was going to take the MCAT. This was his second time taking this test and he wanted it to be his very last time ever thinking about it! We hopped in our Toyota Corolla named “Curby” and hit the road to Tallahassee, FL for an 8:00AM test time.

The MCAT is a seven-hour long test where all electronic devices must be locked up the whole time. The only breaks given are a 30-minute lunch break and two 15-minute breaks between sections. All I can say is that I am very thankful that I did not have to take this test! But Adam took it like a champ.

We had planned it all out. I would go with Adam so that he would not have to drive first thing in the morning. Since I am the avid morning person, I wanted to be able to serve Adam in that way. It also allowed me to drive us home after the test when his brain was mush. He came out of the test, seven hours later, pretty confident and ready to get home to relax.

August 20, 2019 was the date that the MCAT scores would be released. That is the day where Adam would know if his score improved from the 2018 test and if it was going to give him a better chance at getting into a medical school program in the 2019-2020 application process. I woke up early and logged into him MCAT portal to see if I could wake him up with the news of his scores. Unfortunately, they were not posted yet and I went on with my busy planned out day!

Adam called me a little after 11:00AM and told me that his scores were just posted, and he increased his overall MCAT score by 15 percentiles! My lunch plans had recently canceled so I was able to take my smart man out to lunch. (Our men need to be treated to dates too!) We celebrated, Adam relaxed for the day and we both knew that this was the first step into a long process of applying for medical school. (Check out our blog The Process of Medical School)

Thank you to everyone who prayed for Adam as he prepared and tested for the MCAT! Each prayer is so very appreciated. Thank you!

Love your favorite millennial couple, The Howards

My Parents Prayer For Adam as He Pursues His Dreams

Prayer for Adam Howard & Med School

Dear Heavenly Father,

You are the great Physician Healer. In your role as The Great Healer please bless Adam in his pursuit to become a healer like You. You made Adam in your image.

Father bless him with test scores good enough to be admitted to med school.

Bless him with direction and wisdom in choosing and being accepted to med school.

Bless him with knowledge and discipline to choose a field of study that would be good for him and allow him to use his skills to be able to glorify You.

Bless Adam to be a healer like You so he can deal with and heal his patients in body, mind, and soul and be able to draw his patients toward You, Father.

I ask for these blessings to be in the mighty name of Your Son, Jesus Christ.

Adam’s Parents Prayer as he Pursues His Dreams

Our Father,

We want to thank you for all the blessings that you bestow on us – not least of which is the gift of parenthood.  You blessed us with two amazing sons and we thank you!  At this time would like to lift Adam up to you as he pursues his dream of becoming a doctor.  We pray that your will be done and that You use his gifts and talents and give him calm and peace as he enters his medical school interviews.  Help him always remember that You have a plan for him and that Your plan is always perfect.

Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you: declares the Lord, Plans to prosper you and not to harm you.  Plans to five you a hope and a future.”

My Prayer for Adam as He Pursues His Dreams

Below is my deepest prayer for Adam as he steps in the direction that the Lord has called him to follow.

Dear God,

My deepest heart cry is for you to use Adam to be a leader that uses his gifts and talents to point people to Your amazing grace. God protect Adam’s heart, mind, soul, words and actions as he runs headfirst into this competitive field. May You give him the endurance and focus he needs to stay the course of this long journey ahead.  Please guide him with the confidence that only comes from you. On hard days may You send him reminders that You have called him for such a time as this.

Lord, may You keep his mind strong and of optimistic energy. May you keep his heart fixed on the patients he has helped and the countless patients that he will be able to be used as a part of their healing story. Build his hands to be strong, capable and always ready to reach out and show Your love through medicine! Please open the next door for which You have for Adam to walk through. May Your will be done in Adam’s life.

Amen!

Adam’s Medical School Journey Update! 

Where we left you off earlier in the year was that Adam had taken the MCAT and got a good enough score to apply to two medical schools! He did that while also figuring out how to apply for medical school, still taking online pre-requisite courses, working full time, being an athletic trainer and figuring out the married life he found time to submit applications to the Mercer University School of Medicine and Florida State University.

We were excited to have two applications submitted but he was very aware that he would have to bring up his MCAT score to be considered at those two schools and many more. Once the applications were submitted in the late fall of 2018 all that he could do was wait. In April of 2019 Adam got declined from Mercer and then a few months later got declined from Florida State’s Medical school program. (If you want to know more about the process of medical school check out this blog I wrote last year)

Once he received the two rejection letters, he used them as pure motivation to get accepted into those schools. This encouraged him to strive for A’s in his online science classes, study harder for the MCAT and to get the best recommendation letters possible. And that is exactly what happened! Adam used the excitement to apply for early admission at Mercer. He spent countless hours perfecting his essays, uploading recommendation letters and preparing his application. Just two short days after hitting the submit button good news came! I got a phone call from Adam on a Wednesday at 3:55pm which was weird because he never calls during work hours unless it is an emergency. As soon as he answered the phone he said, “Hey babe, I can’t talk long! I just wanted to let you know that I heard back from Mercer…. and they have asked me to come to an interview!”

We celebrated at our favorite local BBQ joint and knew this was the first step to a big journey. As Adam prepares for his interview with Mercer, we are asking people to cover him in prayers. If you are willing to commit to pray for Adam as he takes a big step into following his dreams please reach out to us and let us know! We are so excited for what his future holds, but we know that we need a community of prayer warriors to cover us in prayer each step of the way.

Thank you for following our journey,

Love, Your favorite millennial couple, The Howards!

We are Back on the Blog!

Happy hurricane season to all of our many Marriage and Medical School supporters. We have missed keeping you updated in our lives, but we have good reasons. If you haven’t talked to any young professionals in their 20’s you would not likely know the struggles that working millennials are going through. The pressure to come out of college, be married, work your way up in a career, buy a house, be well-traveled, start a family, and do all this while being debt free. Well, that is not ideal for Adam and I, and we are called to a different path! (If you have any young professionals in your life please go above and beyond in checking up on them!)

Shortly after we celebrated our first year of marriage, we dove deep into what our next year of marriage would look like. We did this by really focusing on figuring out what our calling is in life. I was confident that my calling is in leadership and to encourage and support other hard-working professionals. With that I dove in deep to my job and hit the best quarter of sales in my career. This followed a promotion of taking a role as a Coordinator in Training, but I did not even come close to hitting my quota in this new role. Man, it did not feel good knowing I am called to leadership while I had no one on my team to lead for three months.

This was all around the same time when Adam was working full time as a lead orthopedic tech and Athletic Trainer, taking an online science class, and studying for the MCAT “round two”. (Check out our MCAT blog post) He was busy, tired, stressed and questioning if his calling was to pursue medicine at all or at the doctoral level.

This season of discovery kept us quiet from sharing our journey while we looked within. The good news is that we have clearly identified what is important to us! We are excited to use the gifts and talents that God has gifted us to the fullest. Now all I can say is, get ready! We are excited to be back on track with keeping our followers and support system up to date with each step of our lives.

Keep your head up high and words filled with love!

Love your favorite millennial couple, The Howards

God Took My Favorite Lyrics as a Kid & Made Them Reality

When I was a pre-teen I was introduced to a singer/songwriter named Britt Nicole. She came to my church one weekend to sing her latest album. The only thing I knew about her was that her musician was the drummer I went to church with since I was a baby. Even though I knew basically nothing about her, what pre-teen is going to turn down a free concert? I started doing everything that most people do before going to a concert…you listen and learn all of the song that are going to be sung! I went straight to LimeWire, yes LimeWire was a free music download tool to get music, to listen to her music. Once I started listening to her work I began to fall in love with her gift of songwriting.

To this day I have still never heard an artist write songs that connect with me on such a deep level. I have been following Britt Nicole ever since that very first concert. I have pre-ordered every album she has released, and her music is my go-to when I am having a bad day. I could easily be one of her biggest fans! But what I like most about Britt Nicole is how God used one of her songs to be my anthem into adulthood before I even know what was happening.

Britt has a song called ‘Set the World on Fire’ that I would sing and cry out as a pre-teen and teenager for God to use me to make a difference for His Kingdom. I connected to the song because I wanted to see the world and make an impact that pointed people to Christ. My heart was so connected to this song that I would sing it every day, I would whisper prayers to God that asked Him to ‘use me to set the world on fire’, I would even us it to sign off in my daily journals. This was my song.

Little did I know how real this song would become in my life! No, I did not go straight to a third world country to share the message of Jesus or become a preacher. To me, it was even better. While I was praying for God to show me what my next step was after high school, He pretty much opened one door for me to go to Valdosta State University (VSU). This may sound normal to anyone transitioning from high school to college but let’s get this clear, I NEVER wanted to go to college. But here I was, God made it clear that this was my door, college at VSU was my path. When got my acceptance letter to VSU I had no idea of the school’s mascot or even the school colors.

It wasn’t until my third year in college that I noticed that me being on VSU’s campus, me doing the student leadership and involvement was exactly what I cried out for through Britt Nicole’s song. Valdosta State University’s mascot name is Blaze and he is just that, he is a flame. I had cried out so many times for God to use me to set the world on fire and here I was in this season of life at the only school in the state that had a fire flame as a mascot. God had put me in a season where I would be able to love on students and share the message of Jesus Christ through promoting school spirit, through promoting the ‘Blazer Spirit.’ God put me at VSU so that I would have the opportunity to serve at WinShape Camps and lead teams to travel to over 10 states sharing the love of God. He made every single cry out for me to ‘set the world on fire’ so real and so true.

What I have learned from this discovery is that God will bless you tenfold for what you cry out for. Write your prayers, sing your prayers, say them under your breath, cry them with your tears but let God know! He hears each one of them. God answers prayers and puts you exactly where you are supposed to be. Going to college at VSU even when I never imagined going to college set me up to learn so many amazing lessons, meet incredible people, start organization and create jobs for college students, travel the country, lead kids to Christ, and even meet the most amazing man I get to call my best friend and husband.

Let your prayers out to the Lord and one day after taking the right step at a time you will wake up and see that you are exactly where you asked to be. I am beyond thankful for the way Britt Nicole’s music has impacted my life! From jamming out to ‘Holiday’ with friends on vacation to dancing with hundreds of kids to ‘Gold’ even blasting ‘Read or Not’ to hype me up before a project or presentation to making ‘Set the World on Fire’ the song cry of my prayers for so many years. It never amazes me how God uses so many people’s talents to point others to God’s goodness. God takes the favorite things of your heart and will make them dreams come true!

Keep your head up high and your words filled with love!

Your friend, Colleen Howard

Check out the song now!

 

Patience

Recently I was working in Garden City outside right outside of Savannah, GA. As I was getting ready to head for lunch, I started asking for food recommendations. To my surprise, no one gave me a lunch recommendation, all anyone said was “any food choice I could want is just two miles down the road.” Sure, I put ‘food’ in my GPS and almost 100 food locations popped up for me to choose from that were just two minutes down the road. My game plan was simple, pick a place to eat, get food and head back to work.

Little did I know that traffic was HORRIBLE! After it took me TWO HOURS to go two miles, I decided to eat at Chick-fil-a (shocker) and get back two miles down the road. TWO HOURS! Everyone told me ‘just two miles’ not one person mentioned how bad traffic gets just two miles down the road. But after my frustration and being out of work for over an hour, I learned a good lesson.

This two-hour, two-mile commute, four total miles taught me that sometimes there are short steps to take in your next stage of life, but that step may take more time than expected. Your next step may be right in front of you. You may know exactly where you want to go and have your own time frame lined up and planned out, but that is not how life works. I am finding more and more that the next two miles in life may be a two month or even a two-year wait.

I see this so true in my life and so many of my friends’ lives. I have seen friends struggle with wanting to take a two-mile step into the direction of working full time but having to finish extra college first and that small next step take two plus years. I have heard of friends who have been married for a few years and so desperately want to buy a house and start a family but have to wait for the next step that has taken them longer than their friends. There are people who can see their next step in front of them to open their hearts and homes to fostering or adoption, but the next step is taking longer than it should.

We live in such a fast-paced world where we want the ‘to-do list’ lifestyle or the “one step at a time” to happen quickly, but God does not promise us that we will live on our own timeline. He gives us so many promises of prospering that I believe we find our biggest desire and need for God during the in-between. We find our greatest need for God while we are in the two miles of traffic that takes two hours of our life. God draws us in to remind us that we are created to be fully dependent on Him. That even though we see the next step in our life, we are not in control. That when we find that we are stuck from point A to point B that God has not forgotten us, He has not left us stuck in the same season without a purpose. He is with us every step of the way, at every traffic jam drawing us closer into His love, trust and faithfulness. You are not stuck! You are in your season for a reason.

As I was still frustrated about the two miles taking so much more time of my life than expected, I turned to the Bible and was reminded of Hannah in 1 Samuel 1. Hannah so desperately wanted to have a baby. She saw her friends in the season that she also wanted to be in. She didn’t understand why she couldn’t have what she wanted but she could see it in others around her. I’m sure she questioned why it taking her so long, why was she the one feeling stuck? This is the same questions that I have asked myself and I have heard friends question from a deep part of their heart as well.

Just as Hannah had so much faith in God for His perfect timing in her life, we are called to have faith and to wait in faith. We are to build our faith to be strong and unwavering on the time it takes to get from step A to step B. Have faith that God’s presence is with us, He is not simply ignoring our prayers and heart desires. God has proven time and time again that He loves us too much to let life unfold on our timeline. Instead He answers prayers at the right time, every time.

Join me in building our faith in the wait! Worship with me as we sit through the traffic of life. Spread the joy that comes from God as we are being prepared for the next step in life. Help me in making a culture of supporting each other in our own seasons of life without adding pressure of what is next. Remind friends that God is a God of promises and answered prayers. Keep praying, keep pressing, keep trusting there is joy at the end of your traffic jam.

I Have Learned More About Sabbath From a Secular Podcast Than I Have From Church.

To be honest, I learned more about what a Sabbath looks like from an atheist on a podcast than I ever did in church. I always heard that we are to take a sabbath and how important it is but come on! What the heck does a sabbath look like? I get why it is important, but for 17 years of my life I had very little to no control of my schedule and then college is basically a few years of hard-core procrastinating balanced with getting everything done to graduating college. Then a transition into working a full-time job and very little other obligations.

Where are the concrete reasons of how to help someone experience a Sabbath? Oh, and especially as super type-A, to-do list, task-oriented human like myself.  Where is the importance of a Sabbath in the pre-marriage books that I read? Sure, biblical things were all over those books like not cheating, finances, serving togethering, picking a church together but NOTHING about the importance of taking a Sabbath.

One of the first podcasts I came across as I started discovering more than music on road trips, I came across Dax Shepherd’s “Arm Chair Expert” podcast. He had an episode with Ashton Kutscher where he talked about Kutscher’s Jewish faith. Kutscher went on to explain that no matter what is going on in his life he prioritizes time to rest each week. A few weeks later Mila Kunez (Kutscher’s wife) talked a little more in depth about their family ‘Sabbath’ practice. Even though she claims no religion, she values the importance of stopping, resting and refreshing with family. She went on to explain that one evening every week her family has nothing planned but time together. They don’t worry about anything besides enjoying being together. They share a meal and take time to reflect of the past week. Their family uses this time to apologize for anything that might have come up or gone wrong the past week. This prompts them to start a new week on a clean slate of love and gratitude. Kunez mentions that it was so important for her to not carry any negativity from past weeks into the present.

Once I heard both of their explanations of the importance of their weekly Sabbath in their families, I was so blown away at how I have gone my whole life and missed the teaching and commandment of the Sabbath. Adam and I took our first Sabbath about six months into our marriage. We had to look at our calendar and planned out a day where we would intentionally schedule nothing! It was a great day to just breathe and have no expectations. But that day came and went, and we did not make it a habit to take a Sabbath weekly.

Since that first Sabbath we have really dove deep into what a Sabbath should look like. I have learned so much good knowledge about making my Sabbath routine by listening to people like Annie F. Downs who takes a Sabbath every single Wednesday no matter what. As well as Lysa Turkerst who schedules a Sabbath on whatever day best works with her schedule. And Dr. Caroline Leaf who takes science of the brain to match what the bible says about the importance of a day of rest for our body, mind and soul. The more I research, read, learn about the importance of adding intentional rest in my life, the more I am driven to make it non-negotiable. If these super productive, important and famous people can take a day of rest why can’t I? Why is this not already the normal? Why do I feel such a need to be busy all the time? And why is this not covered in any of our pre-marriage advice?

Adam and I have started out planning a Sabbath at least once a month! To start we are not even planning a whole day to Sabbath but instead just a Friday evening. The few we have done have been planned out a month in advance but are so refreshing. We take this time to reflect on how the month is going, how we are doing individually and how we are doing as a couple. We get anything off our chest and fill the time with joy. It is important to me that we spend equal time in our sabbath apart as we do together. This gives us a chance to breathe as an independent human and to connect with God.

Our desires are to be more structured in planning our months to make sure that we get a full day of Sabbath at least once a month and then move into maybe half a day every week until we can make it a habit of a full day of rest every single week. We are still seeking advice and wisdom from people in our lives and quite frankly any resources possible to really try to understand what a true Sabbath can look like. We are tired of Sabbath seeming like such a secret and out of the normal thing to do. It is clear that our bodies and minds need deep spiritual rest and connection, but it shouldn’t feel like a burden to pause life and to recharge with a Sabbath. We don’t have it all figured out, but we do know that life is too short to not pause and rest in a Sabbath.

 

What does Sabbath look like for you?

Did you grow up learning about the importance and practicality of a Sabbath?

What is your favorite way to rest during your Sabbath?

 

Keep your head up high and your words filled with love!

Your friend Colleen Howard.

Happy Mother’s Day Letter to all Moms of Millennial Daughters!

There is a stage in life where every little girl wants to be just like her mom. Then the little girl turns into a teen and goes through a phase of hating her mom! After a few years through the teen phase comes the time when a daughter realizes how thankful she is for all the things she never knew all moms did or went through. Yet, as the stages continue, so many things are unintentionally taught and picked up to be passed on from mom to daughter. Some of these traits are extremely beneficial and some the daughters fight to not repeat as their mother did.

This Mother’s Day I asked 20 millennial females to answer two questions.

  1. ‘What is one trait you got from your mom that you are thankful for?’
  2. ‘What is one trait that you saw in your mom that you wish she didn’t unintentionally teach you?’

Some of the responses I got made me speechless. My heart broke from the one who responded that said she could not participate because of bad choices her mom was currently making. No response was exactly the same, but I was shocked by the common themes that showed up in the responses.

To all of the moms of millennial daughters, this one is for you!

Mom, thank you so much for teaching us how to be strong. ‘She taught me how to be strong and keep pushing through the bad times because there was always a greater purpose.’ Because of the strength that was passed down to so many daughters there is now a generation of independent females paving the way because of you! ‘I will forever be thankful for my Mother’s strength. While raising 3 kids on her own, she was able to wake up every day & continue to move mountains.’

Mom, you taught us to keep going no matter what. That nothing is too big to get in the way of our dreams. ‘She taught me to be a strong independent woman and to always reach for the stars no matter the obstacles.’ You created a life for us to truly live and a safe environment for us to learn and grow. ‘She allowed me to set my own expectations and goals for myself and reach them accordingly.’ There is a whole force of females in the world because they watched mom’s show us how to go with the flow of life, ‘She taught me that life will not always be easy, therefore you should prepare that. Work hard, be intentional with your time, and love hard (even if that’s not in the most sensitive or emotional way).’

Mom, you showed us how to have ‘responsibility and independence from a young age’. Not only to be responsible but to ‘stick out your commitments and stay true to your word, a simple lesson in integrity.’ Most importantly, mom, you created a generation of females that are proud to say that their mom is their best friend. ‘I am forever thankful that my mom has always been my best friend and someone I could talk to! Whether about good or bad things, I could rely in her for support, encouragement, excitement, and wisdom.’

You have taught us so many lessons but the ones that we are most thankful for are for teaching us independence with strength, being our best friend with unending support, and for given us determination to never give up. Mom, because of you loving on us, the world will be a better place! You have made us who we are, and we are forever thankful. Thank you for loving us. Thank you for showing us what it is like to be a strong independent female. Thank you for walking through hard times to teach us to never give up. Thank you for believing in us when we didn’t believe in ourselves. Thank you for building trust, never letting anything get in the way of our relationship and for being our best friends.

Mom, we are forever thankful and celebrate the habits and traits we picked up from you! There are little moments when we realize we are turning into you and it brings us so much joy. Yet, even though there are moments we embrace being like you, there are habits and traits that we watched and so desperately knew you deserve better. These habits and traits we have seen for years and know that you did your best. We understand that these traits came because you were putting yourself last to put your kids first. These are by no means complaints. These are traits that were unintentionally taught to us that we have picked up and noticed we do not want to copy.

Mom, you worked so hard! Sometimes too hard and it made us feel second best because work seemed more important. ‘My mom worked A LOT, and still does. She worked to the point where she would miss family dinners and sporting events to make sure work was happy over anything else. When I was younger, it upset me, but now that I have a job of my own, I sometimes find myself overworking myself and missing out on fun things and family times. I didn’t realize then what it was teaching me, but now I feel like it’s imbedded in me to put work a little too high on the priority list.’

Mom, there are things that didn’t matter to you but mean the world to us. ‘I wish my mom wouldn’t have always had a cleaning service come to our house each week when I was growing up. As I have gotten older, I struggle to keep up with laundry, dishes, and lack organization a lot in my life because it was always done for me.’ We understand that you did your best, but we pick up and learned so many things from you. How you treat us, and others is such a big part of our everyday lives. ‘My mom never apologized. So, I never learned how to apologize to others. It’s something I have been actively working on the last few years.’ No matter what day of the week, or what the topic we were watching and learning. ‘I wish my mom had a stronger faith and taught me and my siblings more about God.’ The way you lived was taught to us in every day we were with you.

Mom, you did so much for us that we noticed you so often forgot about you. Your mental health as a mom is what seem to have affected every millennial daughter the most. It seems to affect us the most because we love you and know you deserve the absolute best, but you give us your best over and over again before you give it to yourself. ‘I wish my mom did more for herself. I appreciate all she did for us but wish she would have taken more time to preserve herself for the sake of her spirit and us.’ It is actually really amazing to see how incredible you raised us all while never really focusing on taking care of you.  You did so much to care, love and protect us. ‘I wish my mom wouldn’t have bottled her emotions up about life happenings like death, money troubles, being human and needing a good cry. Mental health is real and emotions shouldn’t be hidden from the ones you love just to always be that “strong hold” of the family.’

Mom, you are a rock star in so many ways. Yet, you taught us that we could conquer the world yet ended the day being disappointed. ‘I wish my Mom wouldn’t let things get her down as much as they do. She always taught me how important it is to seize the day and make your own path in life and it kills me to see her waste days on the couch.’ You taught us to be ourselves and to not care what others think but didn’t always live it out. ‘I wish my mom didn’t give way to social standards. She was always worried about what others would think and it created a schism in our relationship.’ We always knew, and we still do, that you are just as much capable of anything you set your mind to just how you taught us. But it breaks our heart when you ‘…complained without making strides to address the root problem’.  

Mom, we think you are beautiful! From the inside and out we are so thankful you are who you are. We would not be the same incredible young adult changing the world without you! It breaks our hearts to hear you tell us how beautiful you think we are, but you have lost seeing your own beauty. ‘I wish my mom had more confidence in herself. From her body to her abilities, she neglected herself for us kids a long time ago and never recovered. I wish my mom knew herself better and was confident in who God made her to be.’ Mom, most of all. Every little ‘flaw’ that you pointed out about your own body, taught us that it was okay to be unhappy with our own body. ‘Due to hearing her constant body complaints growing up, it is hard to ever accept and love myself. Instead, I just see my flaws when looking in a mirror.’

Mom, you are beautiful. You are inspiring, you are encouraging, motivating, determined, strong, caring, kind, fearless, smart, amazing, and hardworking. Mom, you are our best friend! We spend the first part of our life wanting to be just like you! Now we are spending the rest of our lives trying to make you proud! We look at our lives and see how blessed we are to have a mom who put us first so much that you forgot who you are. If you take anything away from this Mother’s Day letter, please take away that we want you to take care of you! We want you to love yourself how you love us. We want you to believe and support yourself and your dream, how you constantly support us. And last, we want you to see yourself how we see you, as an incredible woman, and most importantly how God sees you.

We love you so much mom! Because you gave us the world, you deserve the world.

Happy Mothers Day, your millennial daughter.

 

Keep your head up high and your words filled with love,

Colleen Howard

(Disclaimer, these are all real quotes from millennial daughters.)

p.s. Huge thank you to each and every one who responded to help me create this post!

 

 

Girl, Buy Your Own Flowers      

One year into marriage and you would think that my husband would get the hint. I love having flowers on our dining room table so I would drop very clear hints that I wanted him to buy flowers to belong on the table. My hints were somewhere along the lines of “Can you pick something up on your way home from work to fill this vase,” “When was the last time you got me flowers,” “I wish this table had some pretty flowers” and you can imagine other hints dropped! But nothing I said worked. I never got flowers.

When I started to get frustrated with Adam when he did not pick up any of the signals, I quickly realized something. Adam does so much for me and is so sweet to me every single day of my life, even when I don’t deserve it. I realized that I was the one who like flowers on the table.  I did not like that Adam got them for the me. I would really not care who in the world gave me flowers to put on my dining room table! It was something that brought ME joy. Eating at the table with fresh cut flowers made ME happy. Seeing bright colorful flowers on the table brought a smile to MY face.

I was expecting something from Adam when it was something simply for ME. Why do we so naturally find ourselves in this rut? Why do we want something, and do everything possible to get it, except just do it for ourselves? We make excuses. We wait for someone else to do it for us. We get frustrated when other people aren’t fully focused on what we want.

This is my call to all ladies:

1. Know what you want.

2. Stop asking or waiting for other people to care about what is important to you.

3. Do everything possible to make it happen for yourself!

No matter if it is as simple as buying yourself flowers, accomplishing your small daily tasks or achieving your biggest life dreams. Girl, buy your own flowers.

 

Keep your head up high and your words filled with love,

Your keeping it real friend, Colleen Howard

Book Club

After recently leaving an event, I had a quick exchange of words with a friend who loves books. When I say she loves books, I mean she really loves books. And so do I, don’t get me wrong, but no one loves books the way that she loves books! As we were leaving, we got the idea to do a book club. But this would not be an ordinary book club because we both don’t like spending money on books and having to read so many pages by a certain date. We wanted a book club where girls can just gather and talk about the book they are currently reading and why they are reading it. Just a few short weeks after this idea was planted into our heads, we had a date on the calendar and a cute little flyer to send out to our friends.

My goal was to have about five girls gather and talk about our current books and why we are reading them. For us to have just a night to be real, meet other girls in similar stages of life, to relax and talk about books. I know I am not alone in the sense that I will be reading a really good book, but it’s not really common conversation to bring up what you are reading. It’s about movies, music, podcast, sports or politics. Come on world, let’s make reading cool again! This book club would be a night to speak to other people who care about what you are reading and to exchange in dialogue or even exchange books. So, we invited almost every female we knew between the ages of 20-30 to come experience book club.

Once the night finally arrived, I was so nervous for how it would turn out. I have never been to a book club let alone host one at my house! Seven smart, strong, and beautiful women decided to give book club a try. My dining room table was full of snacks, drinks and our hands were holding our books! We introduced ourselves and got right into telling each other about our books. This incredible group of women talked about books for about two whole hours. The best part about it was that everyone’s book was so different from type, theme, author, genre and even why we were reading it. No matter what the book was we could all relate and learn from the book and the reader explaining the story line.

It was such a good time of laughter and relaxation! The night went on as if all the ladies had known each other for years but the joy in the room was so fresh. There were so many big take-a-ways but the biggest thing that we took away was that it was okay to read at different paces, where some ladies have a goal to read three books this year and others have a goal to read 19, and we all read different genres for different reasons. At the end of the night we decided that we enjoyed it so much that it should be a reoccurring monthly event. We all agreed that the second Friday of each month could work and that we would bring a few books to possibly exchange if someone in the group wanted to read one of our books.

Maybe book club will turn into monthly book exchange? Who knows! All I know is that life is too short not to regularly gather with like-minded people. Books are too rich to leave closed and never read. People are too important to not ask them what their dreams and goals are! Living rooms were made for living, laughter and fun. I am so thankful that I stepped out on a limb and hosted a book club…and not a normal book club. It was worth it and then some!

 

If you are a female in Valdosta, GA and would like to come to book club the second Friday in May please reach out to me!

Just some books that were brought and talked about: Basilica by R.A. Scotti, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, Why Her by Nicki Koziarz, Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker, White Awake by Daniel Hill, For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn, Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist, The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon, Unglued by Lysa TerKeurst, A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, all of Bob and Maria Goff’s books and others!

What are you currently reading?

 

Keep your head up high and your words filled with love,

Your friend Colleen Howard!

Let’s talk about…. CHORES

It was just a random lunch break as Adam and I sat down with a friend at Zaxby’s who is on the edge of popping the question. Our friend out of nowhere asked, “so tell me about household chores.” As a wife who says too many words per day anyway, decided to shut up and listen to how Adam answered this question. I was surprised to hear what he had to say and also honored. He answered our friend telling him that we do pretty much 50-50 of the house hold chores but I have them planned out so that it is not ever an over-bearing load of cleaning and that I tend to stay on top of it more than him. He was correct in every way!

Growing up I never really had a chore chart. I only remember my mom or dad telling me to go clean my room once in my whole life. We all helped out around the house but there was never a set schedule for what to do when or who was doing what. When I was in college, cleaning was something that really only got done when I was procrastinating for writing a paper or studying…am I right?!? But I knew enough about marriage that household chores are one of the topics that lead couples into fights.

Adam and I both appreciate a pretty clean and neat home. The first few months of marriage we both just went about our week and then we would spend one day of the weekend doing EVERYTHING in the house that needed to be done. From a MOUNTAIN of laundry, taking out the trash, mowing the lawn, buying groceries and everything else we would try to get it all done that one day. This worked for a bit but then we both started dreading this one day of the weekend because it felt like a whole day of nothing but laundry. And coming from a girl who enjoys doing laundry…saving two peoples weeks’ worth of laundry to do on one day is NOT FUN for anyone.

Once I hit my peak annoyance of wasting away a full day of the weekend, I knew something needed to change. Luckily, I follow a few wise working women on the internet that had little tips and tricks to help me re-think how chores can be effortless and smooth! Once I perfected my own system of what works for me and Adam, we have stuck to it and are never turning back!

Below is the schedule of what day we do what chore.

Monday– One load of laundry

Tuesday– Side gig

Wednesday– Load of laundry and wash towels

Thursday– Plan out meals for next week

Friday– Wash bed sheets

Saturday– Plan next week

Sunday– Wash dog and vacuum

With the very few house chores that we have to do (we are enjoying the small list until kids come) breaking them up to do one a day makes the load so do-able. I found that washing clothes every 2-3 days gives us a few medium size loads that don’t take long to fold and put away instead of doing seven days’ worth of laundry plus bed sheets and towels on one day. This is also helpful for Adam because he has three pairs of work scrubs that he likes to wear so this rotation lets him pretty much always has clean scrubs. Since we cook a good bit at home, dishes are pretty much done every night. We take turns if someone is folding and putting away the clothes then the other person is doing the dishes and cleaning up the kitchen. Our robot vacuum cleaner runs about three times a week whenever we feel like it is needed. And about once a month we will need to get out the old fashion broom and give the corners of the house a good clean.

Now, one year into marriage and about six months into this system, we have it pretty down pack and almost muscle memory. It is such a simple break down that we don’t question if it is worth skipping a load of laundry or not because we know if we do the laundry will get quickly backed up and overwhelming. This system came up after hearing Emily Ley suggest writing every household chore on a sticky note and dividing them up between spouses. We aren’t at the point where we want one person to be solely responsible for a specific chore but could break it down day by day.

There is nothing better than the weekend coming around and only having a few simple chores that need to be done before Monday rolls around! This is the system that works best for us in this season of our life. I’m sure once we are both deep in our careers and once we become parents our chore schedule will look extremely different, but for right now we appreciate the teamwork and simplicity that this system brings. It has protected our marriage from miserable weekends of cleaning and arguments about who does what and when.

We are very aware that living with someone is not always easy. And on top of that, we all grew up with different cleaning habits and house roles of who does what in the marriage. The sooner that household chores are talked about and expectations are set for who does what the better off all couples will be! Keeping a house clean should never be grounds for arguing, life is too short. It is so worth taking the time to sit down and look at your weekly responsibilities and make a plan that best fits your schedule.

Keep your head up high and your words filled with love!

Your friend, Colleen Howard.

Medical School Update – March 2019

One year ago (2018), Adam was studying hard to finish a list of prerequisite classes, cram for the MCAT and figure out how to apply for medical schools. He worked hard and learned so much through the process but did not get any interviews from the two schools he applied to. Which brings us to year two of applying to medical school. Check out what Adam has to say about where he is in the process of pursuing his dreams and what steps he is taking now!

“During the time between admissions cycles, I have been trying to apply what I learned during last year’s cycle. I have finished organic chemistry I and II and feel much more prepared to take on the MCAT exam for a second time and to improve my score significantly. I have also taken greater advantage of opportunities at my job to gain even further clinical experience. I am very optimistic that with an improved MCAT score, GPA, and resume, 2019 will be the year that I am accepted to a great school and we can move on to the next chapter in our lives.”

We have strong faith that this will be the year Adam gets a few interviews and acceptance letters for medical school! Last year he only applied for two schools, Florida State University and Mercer. This year he is planning to apply to 20 schools. This will be easier for him second time around because he knows the process, how much time he will need to dedicate and how much to expect financially. From what we have read and learned about the process of medical school is that it is pretty rare to get in your first try. Most students get it their second, third or fourth try. Adam is confident for this application season but knows that this is still just the start of a very long journey.

This is going to be an exciting year for the both of us as we are working hard to pursue our dreams. If you are looking to help in any way, we would be so honored if you could be praying for wisdom, encouragement, peace, strength and an interview that leads to an acceptance letter as Adam proceeds in his second year of applying for medical school. Thank you so much for following along in our journey. We couldn’t do this without such a wonderful and supportive community.

P.s. check out our blog post of the process of medical school!

As always, keep your head up high and your words filled with love!

Your friends, Colleen and Adam Howard

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First Year Anniversary Trip to Gatlinburg, TN

February 17th, Adam and I celebrated making it through the first 12 months of marriage! We had a great deal (listen to a timeshare sales pitch and get a free room) with the Holiday Inn Resort after staying one night in a Holiday Inn for a wedding last summer. We knew this would be a great get-a-way and perfect time of the year.

February 14th, we drove from Conyers, GA and checked into the hotel a little before dinner time! We had no plans…which for me is a hard thing to do but ended up being exactly what we needed. Once we unpacked, we were just a few blocks from the Gatlinburg strip. As we were looking for a place to enjoy a good Valentines dinner, we walked up on a restaurant named Howard’s Steak House. This was a no-brainer dinner location! After dinner we decided just to take a stroll down the strip to see what was all offered. We came up on an epic escape room. As crazy as it sounds, we decided to take on the challenge of doing an escape room with just the two of us! It was the most well decorated and put together escape room we have ever done. We barely made it out, but we solved the puzzle with just a three-ish minutes left to spare.

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February 15th, we woke up and beat the breakfast rush to the Log Cabin Pancake House. This was the fastest service we have ever experienced. The food was phenomenal! We headed over to our time share presentation and saw the great things that Holiday Inn offers but quickly turned them down. The weather was so beautiful outside that we headed straight to a local disc golf course for Adam to get some playing time in! After a round and some really incredible course holes we had worked up an appetite and headed to grab food at a place called Blaine’s Grill & Bar.

We heard the aquarium was the best of the best, so we went right ahead and got close with some pretty cool sea creatures. Adam was able to touch a jelly fish for the first time! Since we did a good bit of walking around the aquarium, it only made sense to take a ride up the sky lift. There had recently been some pretty bad wild fires so the sky lift was brand new and the views looked like a lot of burnt mother nature. Next, we made our way to the famous Ripley’s Believe It or Not! This was such a good reminder that God makes everyone with their own uniqueness!  By the end of four floors of entertainment we were pretty tired and ready for dinner. We decided to just take a night to chill and order pizza. Before the trip Adam surprised me with ordering a few bath bombs from Lush! He knows that bath bombs are something I would never buy for myself but wanted to surprise me. The first and best one I tried was called Intergalactic and I highly recommend.

February 16th was a very foggy day with a high chance of rain. I was so sad because this day was planned for hiking. Adam told me to pull it together and just hike the trail any way. He knew I was looking forward to a good hike and pretty views! I am so glad I listened to him because it was amazing. The hike was very moderate and started out cold and foggy turned into hot with clear skies. We made it 1.4 miles and found a beautiful nature masterpiece called Arch Rock. Then hiked a little further up to Alum Cave Bluffs where we caught our breath and soaked in the views before heading back down. Oh, it was beautiful. We didn’t make it to the summit but will for sure next time!

For dinner our last night in Gatlinburg, we thought it would be cool to do a progressive dinner. Where we get drinks at one place, then grab an appetizer at another and so on until dessert. This idea was fine for appetizers and drinks! We stopped at a cool Mexican place and then headed to play a round of putt-putt! We both ended up getting a hole-in-one but Adam won by a good bit. After the game we were ready to pick up our progressive dinner, but we quickly found out that this one weekend was a very busy night in Gatlinburg, TN. We then spent about 45 minutes looking for a restaurant that didn’t have a 30+ minute wait time. We luckily made it to a steak house that had two seats open at the bar! I got a great steak and sweet potato and Adam ordered a salad. Drink, desert and service was good, but the progressive dinner did not go as planned! On the way back to the hotel we couldn’t pass up the Arcadia Space Needle. I am not a huge fan of arcade games but after losing at putt-putt my competitive spirit was ready for some more fun! We loaded up some game cards and had a blast before bed.

February 17th came too quick and it was time to pack up and leave. This was the official day of our first-year anniversary, so we followed the tradition of eating the top tier of our wedding cake. Not recommended at all! We tossed it out and headed to get in line for our last meal at the Log Cabin Pancake House. After our meal we grabbed two mugs and a magnet to remember this trip then got on the road.

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We had such a good time! It was great to be in an area where everything was pretty much walking distance from our hotel (everything besides disc golf and hiking). The hotel and staff were great and everything besides the escape room was a pretty good price. There was so much to do for people of all ages. We for sure want to go back with friends or family one day. While planning the trip we had money set aside so that we paid cash for everything and didn’t load anything up on a credit card. This made the whole trip feel guilt free because we already worked hard and saved money to have fun. We also talked about how we wanted to focus on our time together and keep our phone use to a minimum. Most of the trip my cell phone was off, and we just took Adams for pictures and safety reasons. It was so great to be able to focus on each other and reminisce over our first year of marriage.

 

Keep your head up high and your words filled with love!

Your friend, Colleen Howard

 

The Top FIVE Life Lessons I Learned From My First Year With Aflac

You have all seen the commercials and laughed with the duck, but do you really know what AFLAC does? I didn’t! Not until I had a God ordained moment at a job fair and fell in love with the door that God was opening for my life. The job sounded perfect, but hard! I have officially served as an independent AFLAC agent for 12 months and below are the top five life impacting lessons I have learned from being an AFLAC Rookie.

  1. How to take rejection

This may seem like a weird lesson! I am not talking about rejection from being dumped, losing friends or even getting fired from a job. I’m talking about waking up every day getting pumped about work knowing that it will take AT LEAST 19 people to say NO to my face for ONE person to even give me a chance. Cold calls are not easy. There were days, even weeks and months that were filled with constant rejection. It felt like the life was being sucked out of me. As if I had walked through the wrong career door. All these no’s lead to the yes’s that were worth it!

  1. On the job learning every day

It is crazy to think that I went to college for 4.5 years to get a piece of paper that says Bachelor of Fine Arts: Communication but in three classroom days I was a graduate of AFLAC ‘Flight School’ and ready to put on my heels and go to work. And let me be super clear. My knowledge of all thing’s insurance was pretty much 0% before signing my 1099 form. Lucky for me the Aflac trainers know that most learning is best done by doing it. This was the scariest part for me. I traditionally need to know what I am doing before I go out and do it. They were right! No one day as an agent is ever the same. I have run into new learning opportunities every day on the job whether it is sharing my faith, communicating styles, how businesses operate, and so many things about the inside and outside of insurance.

  1. Unlimited opportunity

My dreams as a kid were to have a fun life and help people. I guess having a college degree was a good goal, so I went for that. But sadly enough I never dreamed about how I specifically could help people. I never dreamed about having my own team of employees or even how much money I could make and give to charities I supported. This may be one of the biggest things that I have learned with my year of AFLAC. I have heard countless stories of how AFLAC agents were able to help so many people but also have their life dreams come true. When I started my goal was literally to pay my bills. After a few months of feeling lost with no long-term direction I got my butt to dreaming bigger, praying harder and working harder to start making these dreams come true. Now I am dreaming bigger for my life and career than I ever have before. I am so thankful and confident in all the many talents and opportunities the Lord has given me to dream and do so that I can make a difference in all areas of my life and those around me. Aflac has shown me in as little as 12 months that anything is possible with hard work and a big heart for serving people! I am very much starting at the bottom, but I can’t wait to look back at this blog post in six years (when I am 30) to see how far I have grown and the opportunities I have been given.

  1. Freedom

I am so proud to say that since graduating college I have not had to clock into my career job NOT EVEN ONCE! I am my own: boss, secretary, accountant, and hype man! It is a lot on one plate, but I would NEVER trade in this opportunity just to secure a pay check. I honestly get to do what I want and work when I want to. (And let me just throw in that by Saturday night I am normally ready for it to be Monday morning again.) I love working hard, helping people and hearing people’s stories but if I have been busting my butt for weeks and want a total Sabbath day on a Tuesday then I allow myself to take a day off without needing to ask permission from anyone. With this freedom of my own work schedule also comes A LOT of time management! I have to make sure I am working hard to hit my goals and showing up for my own career. I have so many people cheering me on but at the end of the day IT IS ALL ON ME.

  1. Comparison

Let’s just be real. Comparison is a lesson that is hard to learn in any career field or life. I got off to a slow start in this career. I started right after graduating college and in the middle of getting married. I am not proud of how hard I worked my first year with AFLAC but I constantly have to remind myself that everyone starts their own AFLAC journey at so many different stages of life. I was so quick to compare my turtle race start to someone who seemed like a hare just kicking butt and taking names. In this job I am CONSTANTLY reminded that every agent has their very own story for how and why they are with AFLAC and comparing is just a waste of energy. I spent my first year with AFLAC always feeling behind the ball. Then at the state convention I was awarded the #2 Rookie Agent of the year in New Accounts Opened and #4 Rookie Agent of the year in Gross Production. I am so thankful that my support team and husband believed in me and encouraged me by reminding me that this career is not about comparison!

 

I am so unbelievably thankful for this incredible opportunity to work for such an awesome company and to connect with outstanding businesses and policy holders. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would work as an insurance agent, but it is so clear the Lord has prepared me so well for such a time and career as this. The lessons I have learned in the past twelve months have made me stronger and given me such a fun life to live.

Thanks for letting me break out of the marriage or medical school post and share a bit about what I do!

Keep your head up high and your words filled with love.

Your AFLAC agent and friend, Colleen Howard.

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And some times you just got to be a little crazy!

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A six-year-old changed my view of marriage on my wedding day.

The thirty-minute count down was on. White dress was buttoned. Flowers in hand. Vail placed perfectly in my hair. I was ready to walk down the aisle to marry the guy I fell deeply in love with. My best friend. He was waiting for me! We had all of the hard conversations that are needed before saying ‘I do’. We were ready for this. I was so excited to serve Adam as his wife for the rest of my life.

It was just me and the two cutest flower girls on the planet that were left in a huge cabin. My parents and bridesmaids had already left to get lined up and ready to go. As I was getting the last little things ready, I had the thought that I should go to the restroom one more time just to make sure! Let’s be real…. I was nervous! I told my adorable flower girls to hold my flowers and I would be right out. As I hurried up and basically flew out the door to grab my flowers, little Emma looked up to me and with her hands and my flowers on her hip said, “did you wash?”.

Just like her momma says to her as she leaves the restroom. This simple statement made my rose gold heels feel like cement in the cabin floor. She was right. I didn’t wash my hands because I was in a hurry to link arms with my dad and make my best friend my husband! But who am I to spend so much time planning, preparing, praying over this day to not give my soon to be husband the cleanest version of myself? He deserves my very best. The cleanest most pure version of me. I was not even officially a wife and I felt like I was already falling.

That’s when it really hit me. The real definition of marriage. A wakeup call of how great our God is. Marriage is messy, but Adam didn’t want to marry the perfect version of Colleen. Yes, he is in healthcare and wants me to wash my hands as often as possible, but he picked me to be his bride with all of my mess and imperfection.

This is the EXACT reason Jesus died on the cross for us; because we are so messy. I am so far from perfect. But EVERYDAY he would choose to clean up my mess. I don’t have to clean myself up to pray, go to church, or worship. God wants me and all my mess. God has created me and is committed to me no matter how dirty my mind, heart, or actions can be. Yes, I want to give Adam my best self every day. I want to give the Lord my very best with every breath I take. But the reality is that I am far from perfect. I am so far from pure. It is okay if I walk down the aisle to my husband a little dirty. Because marriage is a pure reflection of Christ. He wants our ugly. He accepts our dirtiness. And he died for our mess. We were not called to be cleaned by ourselves. We were called to be cleaned by the blood that Jesus shed for us. We are called to commit to Christ as a wife commits to her husband.

Now EVERY time I wash my hands when leaving a bathroom, I think of sweet Emma holding my wedding flowers with her hands on her hips asking, ‘Did you wash’. Being reminded that I am not able to purify myself. God loves me exactly how I am. He pours out grace in every area of life. And he loved me so much that he gave me a marriage that is just a little taste of how great His commitment is to us.

 

Let Gods grace and love over even the deepest darkest areas of your life.

Keep your head up high and your words filled with love,

Your friend, Colleen Howard.

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The Mind Games of Marriage

As a little girl you dream about who you will marry. As a teenager you are told to pray about your future husband. As a college student you are supposed to meet guys at church or through mutual friends. Once you meet the guy, you get married, buy a house, have kids and go about life. Everything exactly how you imagined. All of the prayers answered. Living happily ever after with the dream guy, the answer to your prayers.

But what about the in-between? What about the seasons of waiting? What about when things don’t go according to the plan?

I had done all the things. As I grew up my dad would lay his hand on my head at night and would pray for not only me but also for my future husband. I wrote the list of qualities and characteristics I wanted in a husband and I stuck to the list hard. I didn’t date around and waste my time with guys I knew were bad for me. I didn’t text guys past ten o’clock at night. When I met Adam, he was more into me than I was into him, but he fit my list perfectly. I gave him a chance and he truly is the guy of my dreams. The man that my dad prayed for as he covered my in nightly prayers. I am over the moon grateful that the Lord gave me Adam.

But…all of a sudden as I have met, fallen in love, and married the man of all my daddy’s prayers, my life began to change in ways I never imagined. After just a few months of marriage I was over taken by anxiety that turned into depression. I would get up, teach a spin class at 6am, come home, do a devo, shower and get dressed and then fall right back to sleep by 10am. I would wake up just in time to cook lunch for Adam and then I would be too sick to leave the house. By the time 5pm rolled around I would get myself out of bed to make Adam dinner. Most days as he came home, I would be an emotional wreck or my eyes were filled with tears. Once again, I let another day go by where I accomplished nothing. I did nothing. I was nothing.

In the middle of it I had no clue what was happening. A year ago, I was living my best life as a super star student in college. Now I was married, my dreams had come true, yet I could not get myself to leave my bed. My stomach cramped. No matter what I ate my body seemed to hate me. I was wondering what I needed to do to change. Wondering if I would ever get back to the Colleen I was in college.

I finally took myself to the doctor. I knew something wasn’t right and I was scared. Not just for my own well-being but for my marriage. This Colleen was not who Adam fell in love with, this was not the wife I promised to be. The docs did quick blood work and found out my liver was lacking B-12. He put me on b-12 shots and was surprised I had made it this long without b-12 in my system. I was so relieved to know this was a part of my problem that was heading to be a part of my cure. Some b-12 and I would be feeling like myself sooner or later.

It did work! I was able to stay awake for a full day. I was able to work and start feeling good! I was able to be the wife I had always wanted to be for Adam. But the anxiety and depression did not completely vanish. I have still suffered nights where I could not get my brain to turn off. It would run and run in one thousand directions until I was in a full-blown anxiety attack. I have heard of super sad things happening to people we know and unable to shake extreme sadness.

As I am new to all these emotions myself, explaining them to Adam has never been easy. One night my anxiety attach was so bad that I slept in our guest bedroom to let Adam sleep. I was in such a deep mind game with myself that I had no clue how to bring it up to Adam. Nothing specifically was wrong. I knew all of Gods truths and promises. I knew how blessed and in control I was. But my mind was stuck on only the negative. It took me over 48 hours and Adam saying “lets go on a walk and talk” for me to open up to him. Honestly for me to open up with myself and let my heart and mind speak up.

With tears in my eyes as I type this, I still don’t understand these mind games that are going on in my head. All I know is that I am in control. And I can get more in control by seeking the many truths that the Lord as promised me. I have read books, listened to podcasts and opened up to dear friends. Most of all I have turned to Adam for support and cried to God for understanding.  I am writing this because I know I am not the only new wife who has suffered some kind of mind game in marriage. I want to speak out to let someone know that it is okay. You are not alone. The world makes it too easy for wives to compare each other instead of standing together.

Our minds are incredible things. I have fallen in love with Dr. Caroline Leaf who takes the bible and pairs it with the science of our brain! She says, “whatever you think about grows…don’t focus on what you are going through- focus on what you are going to!” This quote is so true. The first six months of our marriage we were so blessed, but I put our marriage through a deep valley. Instead of being mad at myself for something I can no longer control, for time I can’t get back, I will choose to focus on how strong that season made our marriage! How that hard season of my life will help me understand what other wives are going through. And even a deeper understanding of how incredible God’s grace and protection is over my heart, mind, and soul.

Stress, anxiety, depression, are mind games of marriage that I’m fighting through every day. Making me stronger. Making Adam stronger. Strengthening our marriage and the future or our lives.

Thanks for letting me get deep and honest with you this week.

 

As always, keep your head up high and your words, thoughts and soul filled with love.

You’re unperfected but covered in grace of God- friend, Colleen Howard.

Learning Through Community

Looking over the past full year of marriage, I am simply amazed. God has provided so much in both of our lives. I recently was overwhelmed by all the lessons that we learned through the community around us. We watched as death suddenly took the life of one of our church moms, leaving a husband and two boys without her here on earth. I cried reading the story of how the college classmate I sat next to at my college graduation lost her first baby to a miscarriage. We talked through what it looks like as we heard of a marriage that was in the midst of falling out of love and seeking to get counseling to save their marriage. There were even lessons we learned through infidelity in a marriage that happened through work relations and now leaves two kids to grow up with parents separated. And even a marriage that fell apart after a more than a decade of marriage. We watched and learned as we hugged our loves ones who lost their best friend to cancer. And learned as we watched parents handle the news that their child was diagnosed with type one diabetes. We learned how families cope with their loved ones who live every day of their lives with brain tumors.

We learned lessons as we got to know our neighbor and how Alzheimer’s has stolen her fullness of life and changed her family relations. Lessons about cars getting broken into and dogs passing away. We took lessons from watching our dear friend leave for a mission trip happy and healthy and come back with his life on the line. We learned how anxiety and depression can so quickly rob someone of joy. We took note on how brave wives stayed in America to work and take care of their family was their husbands were sent off on deployment. We were reminded of how short life is when one of my professors, a homecoming date from high school, and a college co-worker all lost their lives way too soon.

We were able to watch, be in community with, and pray through these hard times with those in our lives. The biggest lesson we learned through this year is that God is still so faithful, and his grace is real.

Through so much sadness that happened in just twelve months, so many beautiful things have also taken place! We watched and learned as a family opened their home and adopted a tiny human to take their last name. We celebrated with friends who made major career switches, graduated college, and moved states away. We got to learn all about our friends’ families as we celebrated at their weddings. We happily awaited the arrival of two little baby girls, one whose parents struggled through infertitily and the other who wasn’t planned but her parents always wanted a girl!

Anything can happen in one year. Anything. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. Neither is your next breath. But lessons are learned. Through happiness or sadness, through pain or celebration. The Lord knew what He was doing when he created community! Through all these lessons we picked up in the past twelve months we are overwhelmed with the conversations all of these lessons have brought us. This past year and the community around us will forever change both of our lives, our marriage and our relationship with Christ.

 

Keep your head up high and words filled with love,

Your friend Colleen Howard

Our Favorite Thing In Our First Year of Marriage

February 17th 2019, marks ONE YEAR of MARRIAGE! Does that mean we are no longer newlyweds?!? Who knows? Who cares! We are still deeply in love. Through the past 365 days we have been so blessed. There have been many ups and downs but we can look back and see how we have both learned and grown through this first year. Below are some of our favorite things that we experienced in the past 365 days of marriage!

Favorite Podcast– Up and Vanished

Colleen’s favorite book– Come Matter Here by Hannah Brencher

Adam’s favorite book- Fight by Craig Groeschel

Funniest moment in marriage– Colleen viewing Adam’s MCAT scores before him

Most memorable learning moment– meeting with a financial advisor

Biggest ‘adulting’ moment– Setting up a joint savings account!

Most valuable experience– babysitting our flower girls for four days while their parents were on a mission trip!

Favorite meal to cook at home– Steak pasta cooked by Adam

Favorite drink– Sleepy Time Tea

Favorite way to spend time together– Walking Evie (our corgi)

Favorite song– Free by Zac Brown

Favorite TV show– You by Netflix

Favorite fast food– Zaxby’s

Favorite restaurant– Woodstack BBQ Tavern

Favorite trip– Honeymoon! Cruise to the Bahamas

Adam’s advice to couples about to go into their first year of marriage– be flexible, listen well, set expectations for each other, and take time to gain perspective and gather information before speaking.

Colleen’s advice to couples going into their first year of marriage- dream bigger while talking about your futures together. Explain your expectations as often as possible!

We look back at our first year of marriage and are overwhelmed by the ways God has blessed us! To everyone who has taken any part in our first 12 months of marriage, we are so truly grateful for your support in our lives.

Keep your head up high and words filled with love!

Your friends, Adam and Colleen Howard

 

 

It’s Getting Hot in Here!

I honestly stumbled upon yoga. When I was the team leader for Valdosta State University Campus Recreation, we had no yoga instructor, so I got certified. I couldn’t touch my toes. I didn’t know how to breathe while working out. I didn’t know any moves besides: down dog, child’s pose, and warrior one. I didn’t know the difference between hot yoga and sunrise yoga.  I was pretty much a train wreck.

As I finished my online certification, I was lucky enough to have a roommate that had a few years of yoga experience. She gave me so much help and wisdom. Without attending a yoga class in six months, I found myself in front of a class instructing a few college students in my first ever yoga class.

I was never a wonderful yoga teacher, but I made it fun and strived to give people rest. The art of yoga means so many things to so many people. Yoga became rest for me. It became my stress relief. It got me through summers of camp and my last few semesters of college. Somehow when I graduated from college and got married, I forgot all the deep rest and rejuvenation that yoga gifts me with. After many conversations with Adam I finally wrapped my mind around treating myself to a yoga class once a week. After almost a year of no yoga, as soon as I started back, I could tell my body, soul, and mind missed the deep rest that I can only seem to find in a studio on a mat.

Now it is a priority for me to go to a yoga class at least once a week! One of the studios in town had a promo for ‘bring a Friday’ for HOT YOGA. Not just normal yoga but in a room that is about 85 degrees. Yep, I drug Adam with me. I wanted him to see that yoga isn’t as easy as child’s pose and that it brings me so much rest. The teacher for the class we attended was Kim. I LOVE Kim’s classes. She is tough, accommodating for everyone in the room but she was always so real and raw. We rolled our mats out, already sweating from just stepping foot in the door, did about 100 vinyasa and felt deeper rest than I had experienced in a while.

As we packed up, I was waiting for Adam to let me know how much he hated it. To my surprise he thought the class was challenging but he enjoyed us doing it together! He could tell that I was my best self during and after attending a yoga class. He was able to see the value in me simply showing up on the mat to be my biggest encourager for me to put myself first and to go more often.

I am so thankful he showed up with me for a fun date night than meant so much to me! What is something out of the ordinary date night routine that you and your boo have recently tried?

p.s. do something today that is just for you!

Keep your heads up high and your words filled with love!

Your friend, Colleen HowardIMG_2429

10 Things That Changed Me In 2018

Things that changed me in 2018-

2018 was my first full year as an “adult’”. Boy, what a year it was! I started the year out engaged and looking to find rest. Somehow 2018 had some of my favorite moments of my life but also the worst season of my life. I found rest at rock bottom.

Below are the 10 most important things that happened in my 2018 year of living!

  1. 100% commission-based job

March 7th I will hit my official one year with America Family Life Assurance Company, also known as AFLAC! God made it so clear and still makes it clear that this is the line of work He wants me to do. But it’s is 100% commission. I am an independent agent. I love it, but it is risky. Working on commission has grown my faith more than I could have ever imagined. I have to trust that the Lord will provide. It has grown my relationship with Adam in our first year of marriage starting with nothing and only having one consistent pay check. I have an awesome mentor/boss who has guided me through every stage of this process. Even though it was extremely difficult, I managed to be in the top four rookies in the state in Annualized Premium and second rookie in the state for most opened accounts with AFLAC!

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  1. Getting Married (duh)

In 2018 I got to marry my best friend. It was the best day of my life. Having my family and close friends around me was so beautiful. The wedding was awesome, and the marriage has been such a learning experience. I honestly thought that we would rock marriage. Which we have, but I found out quickly that being married only means that I spend more time figuring myself out than I ever have in my life. We have had an awesome year of marriage. Adam saw me at rock bottom. He loved me through my worst. We built a strong foundation of communication, hobbies, finances and diets.

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  1. EverlyWell food sensitivity test

I have always loved Shark Tank! I love it so much I wrote over 20+ pages about it for one of my senior classes. I love it even more now because it introduced me to a product that literally changed my life! What I ate in 2018 effected my whole day. I had no clue what was making me feel so drained. After doing my at-home blood work I got quick results back explaining that I was sensitive to so many things I had no idea about. This test helped me cut out foods that don’t make me feel my best. It tested my blood for  sensitivity to over 90 foods and the results where shocking. For example, I am sensitive to all dairy, glutens or wheats, pear, basil, coffee …and the list goes on. That week I cut ALL these things out of my diet and I INSTANTLY felt like a new person!

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  1. The Minimalist Challenge

I had heard of the Minimalist through their Netflix documentary. After watching half way through I was ready to start digging through my things. I spent each day of September getting rid of stuff! The challenge was to get rid of however many items that it was that day. For example, on the first day I got rid of one item I did not need. On the second day I got rid of two things I no longer needed, and so on till the 30th day of the month I got rid of 30 items that day. It was really hard but so re-refreshing! This changed my life in the way that it helped me not have a desire to go buy stuff. It has made me enjoy what I have and want what I have.

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  1. Going to the doctor (monthly b-12 shots)

A little was stated about my health while talking about Everlywell. But a time came in 2018 where I could not get off the couch. I would wake up, work out, get dressed and fall straight back to sleep. I lacked all motivation and drive to do anything. I couldn’t work, house chores would be exhausting for me and I had no desire to make plans, let alone leave the house. It finally got to a point where I knew I needed to go to the doctor. After numerous tests I found out that my body had almost no B-12. The PA was shocked and gave me a Rx of b-12 shots to re-load my system. After three weeks I could tell a full 180 on how I felt. I was able to stay awake for a full day and work with joy! If I could do things differently, I would have gone to the doctor sooner. But I learned a lot about myself and will not let myself get to such a bad point again.

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  1. Reading

While I was in college it was extremely hard to excel in school work and read for fun. In my first year of ‘adulthood’ I knew I wanted to focus on reading for fun but still learning and growing! I was able to finally finish reading a few books I had already started and read so many great new books. This changed my year in a way that gave me peace and excitement I had not had in a long time. I was able to relate to authors and their stories and learn so many good life lessons.

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  1. Starting a blog

The Lord had it on my heart for a very long time to start writing. I felt called to put ideas and stories on paper to share how good God is. 2018 was the right time to start a blog and strengthen my writing! I procrastinated the calling until October when I was just so sick of thinking about it and not making it happen. Within just a few months of writing, I learned a lot about myself, my relationship, community and so much more. Having a focus on writing just an hour a day has made me more scheduled and disciplined to make doing things I enjoy a priority in my life. It has not been an easy addition to my life, but it has been worth it.

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  1. No-Spend Days

I am a minimalist that was raised on Dave Ramsey’s principles! this makes an interesting combo. I have been well trained on best money practices but also live in a culture where people spend and post on social media about it constantly. Adam and I have had very good conversations about money habits. We both agree we want to set good spending and saving habits to set us up for success. One of the habits I found out about was tracking No-Spend Days. Proven over and over again, the best way to save money is to not spend money! I am so goal-focused I thought this would be awesome for me to do. I tracked the first month of my No-Spend Days in October and it was a game changer! Tracking No-Spend Days has driven me to plan better with spending but also eliminate a lot of little purchases. For example, I use to be out working and want a small fry from Chick-fil-A. Harmless right? Just a few dollars and I am happy. But I don’t need the fries and saying no to spending those few bucks strengthens my mindset and spending habits to say no for other unneeded purchases. This practice has helped me to be more disciplined with planning the days I will be spending money. As well as strengthen my ability to say no to things I don’t need.

No Spend days

  1. The Shoreline Church

After graduating college, getting married and starting college I realized I had a lot of free time on my hands. Free time for a super type-A, highly motivated person like myself can be painful. I was so lucky to have a church that was willing to let me help out by creating social media content. It allowed me to add purpose to my life. I looked forward to Sundays and the community that was being built in my new season of life. In 2018 we were connected to so many incredible families that make us feel so loved and connected to Valdosta. We have been loved on so well and can love others the same. I saw God work in unbelievable ways in so many lives of people because of the community that God fostered through The Shoreline Church. Being a part of this community has been such a great change on my year!

shoreline church

  1. Dry Shampoo

Dry Shampoo has saved me so much time in 2018. I finally got so fed up with HAVING to wash and blow dry my hair EVERY day and then not being able to style it because I just spend so much time cleaning and drying my hair. I finally gave dry shampoo a try and OMG. I went from washing my hair every day to washing my hair once a week. From only styling my hair for special occasions to being able to style it and still save time every day. 2018 I only bought three or four sets of shampoo and conditioner and for sure saved some money on the grocery bill! My hair feels healthier, grows faster and I am able to have a quick and smooth morning routine. No more are the days taking forty-five minutes just to shower, wash and blow dry hair.

dry shampoo

2018 was a roller-coaster of a year but these 10 things stick out to me the most about the things I will remember as I look back on 2018. Thank you to all the love, support, encouragement, friendship and community that supported me through this past year. I am so grateful for each one of you who had any part of my life in 2018.

 

Keep your head up high and your words filled with love,

 

Your friend, Colleen Howard!

Faith Disconnected

It was just a casual Wednesday. As I was winding down for the night I closed my laptop, connected it to the charger and went about my routine. Two days later I picked up my laptop to work on something, who knows what! I simply unplugged my beloved seven years seasoned laptop and turned it on. Low and behold the fully charged laptop I thought I was holding was actually completely dead.

I didn’t understand why there was no charge. The charger was plugged into the wall and into my charging port WITH THE LITTLE CHARGING LIGHT ON! As I started to get upset that my faith in something so simple had failed me I heard a little voice quickly calm me.

It was as if my heavenly father was speaking right into my soul. He said, this is how frustrating it is when you have all the right tools to be connected to Me, but you simply don’t. This hit me like a wall of bricks. Of course, this came at a time in my life where I had plenty of time on my hands. I woke up in time to read my bible and pray but I chose Instagram and Facebook. I had my bible and journal right there in front of me all day on my desk, but I chose to open a Cosmo and Netflix instead of my devotional. I had plenty of time to pray but I decided to fill my time thinking about Instagram posts and followers instead of taking the time to pray.

It’s so funny how God uses something like a laptop and charger that can be so distracting to my faith but also such a strong way to wake me up and remind me what is important. And what is important is connecting with my heavenly father. Being one with Him. Waking up every day laying down my life to gain so much more love, grace and mercy than I could ever imagine.

Since the day my laptop charger failed me, I have grown so much more in my relationship with God by striving to connect with God daily. I have the tools and the time. He is pursuing me, I just simply lost my connection.

Accepted, Now What?

The biggest question we have been asked is “Since Adam has been accepted into medical school, now what?”

Great question! Glad you asked! Let me tell you!
Now we wait….

Haha, for real. It is that simple. Adam applied in early admission. Which means he was one of the first in the 2020 medical school application process to be accepted into Mercer University School of Medicine (MUSM). In the application process we were prepared to have Adam apply to close to 20 medical schools and not know an answer until summer of 2020 if he gets accepted and where we will move to. Finding out he has been accepted and knowing where we will be as of October 1st has given us so much more time back than we were prepared to wait!

The only definite plan we have is that we plan to move to the Savannah area by July 2020. Until then Adam will continue to work at Valdosta Orthopedic Associates (VOA), and I will continue to build my business with Aflac. We know for sure that I will transfer my job to the Savannah Aflac region by July 2020, but it could happen sooner rather than later. Change is always happening in the insurance world! All I can control is how hard I work and to take positions that will be best for Adam and my career. With that being said, we will continue to live and grow in Valdosta unless an opportunity opens for me to transfer my job before July 2020. Valdosta has grown to be our home! We have friends that turned to family and we don’t want to rush into our next season until getting the most out of where we are now.

Below are some questions we have been getting asked that are just easier to answer in question format!

“When will we be moving to Savannah, GA?” -anytime between Jan-July 2020.

“What type of doctor does Adam what to be” – right now Adam is open to seing what is out there and finding the best fit for himself in medicine!

“Where will we live” – not sure yet, depends on where I (Colleen) get placed for work but somewhere in the Savannah region. We would ideally like to downsize to an apartment complex that has a pool and dishwasher!

“Is the next step kids” – haha nope! Check back later

“Do you know people in Savannah” – we have two college friends, one childhood friend family, one camp friend, and one of my best friends’ mom that are all in the Savannah area! So, we are not going to a town where we know NO-body, but we will feel like we are starting from scratch.

“How long will we be in Savannah” – four years

“Will we move back to Valdosta after his school?” – this is a hard question because we really don’t know. After our four years in Savannah, Adam will apply to residency programs. Residency programs last 3-5 years and will be his first paid position out of medical school. The programs he applies to can be anywhere in the country. He has mentioned that a great orthopedic residency is in Memphis, TN so that could be where we go next. But as for Valdosta, we wouldn’t mind moving back after school is all said and done, but that is just too far away to tell.

“How much student loans will we take on?” – as little as possible! Adam will be applying for a scholarship that will waive his medical school fees if he works four years in a rural community after medical school. We are praying and speaking into being that he will get this scholarship! If that is the case, we will do everything possible to live on my income alone and avoid taking on any debt. If he does not get awarded the scholarship, we are looking about $42,000 which is the average cost of Mercer medical school per year.

“Will we switch from Blazer fans to Bear (Mercers mascot) fans?” -not at all. Since Adam will be attending classes over 100 miles from the main campus, we will not be active in much school spirit at all. We will be proud mercer supporters for the education and opportunity it has given Adam to pursue his dreams, but go Blazers for life!

“What hospital will Adam be doing rounds at?” – Adam will be doing a lot of learning at Memorial Health University Medical Center

“Are we excited for what is to come?” – 100% yes. We know there will be a lot of work and transition we both will endure for Adam to pursue his dream of becoming a doctor, but we both know it will be worth it when he gets to be a huge help in patients healing process.

If you have any other questions that have not been answered please let me know in the comments!

Love,

Your favorite millennial couple that are running after their dreams

  • Colleen & Adam Howard

 

The Call!

He did it! Or should I say, “God did it!” After Adam’s interview at Mercer University School of Medicine in Savannah, GA, we made our way back to Valdosta and waited. We knew that Adam felt very confident about the interview but now everything was out of his control and all we could do was trust that God had our steps planned for us. Adam told me that if he got accepted, he would get a phone call by October 1st, if he got deferred or declined, he would know by email. We woke up every day beyond excited and with overwhelming peace that he did the best he could.

Wednesday evening, September 25th around 6:15pm, I was on the phone with a co-working discussing work and Adam called. I hit decline so that I could finish the conversation. Well Adam called again about two minutes later. Since it is very odd for Adam to call back to back, I asked my co-worker to hold so I could make sure everything with Adam was okay. When I answered a little concerned due to the back to back phone call, but as soon as he said, “babe, guess what phone call I just got” I knew he got the acceptance phone call and I busted out crying tears of pure joy.

Adam was officially accepted into medical school!

Adam came home and celebrated while playing a round of disc golf while I was at hot yoga. I somehow made it through hot yoga literally crying the whole time because I was so happy. After both of our hobby outings we celebrated with good fast food and an episode of Scrubs. He had worked so hard the past two years getting closer to this step and it officially happened!

We can not thank you all enough for your prayers and support through this season of our life.

Love your favorite millennial couple, the Howards!