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