We’re not in Kansas anymore

Here I am sitting on the other side of my first week as a grad student feeling full (in heart and mind), thankful, and challenged – just the way it should be.

class

I am not going to say that it’s been a breeze of a week by any means, and the days have honestly dragged by. There is definitely an already noticeable difference from college. For instance, lecturers referring to us each individually as “Dr. ______” when we ask or answer a question. Also, two hour lectures are a straight up struggle compared to 50 or 75 minute college classes. It is sort of fun being all together all day long, almost like high school AP classes with your same 20 friends. It’s at least been nice starting at 10 am for a few days this week with ample time for my morning rituals of Chemex pour over, worship jams, and reading, but soon we will move into more of a demanding 8-5 schedule, depending on our lab or clinic rotation times. I have this idea that I’m going to become a morning workout person, but we’ll see how that really goes.

The "free" iPad that we definitely paid for in our tech fee

The “free” iPad that we definitely paid for in our tech fee

With Penn’s new curriculum, the way our courses are set up is a little hard to explain. Basically, their goal is to have our classes much more integrated across subjects with a more seamless didactic/clinical flow and minimize the chance of us learning about the same topic multiple different times throughout the first or second year. For instance, instead of taking separate anatomy, biochemistry, or histology courses, those topics might all be included in our “Biological Systems” or “Foundational Sciences” courses. When we begin our hard tissue module (i.e. bone), that will cover bone histo/physio/biochem/anatomy, etc. In theory I’m a fan, and it makes a lot of sense. Each course is split into two or three modules, and each module has its own comprehensive exam (no pressure right). Once we really get going, we will average about an exam per week but they’ll be split across the courses (allowing you to really focus on each exam for that week when it comes), and there will be a few weeks here and there that are exam-free. The only bad thing is that we’re the guinea pigs so we’ll just have to have an open line of communication between us and the faculty to make sure it’s as effective as we’re all hoping. We also are starting the clinical science portion of our curriculum much earlier than last year’s class, so we start our advanced simulation, general restorative dentistry lab, and assisting upperclassmen in the clinic as soon as September!

I really love this campus

I really love this campus

This first week we’ve covered things like embryology, molecular cell bio/genetics, dental development, and a general intro to oral medicine. “Intro to Patient Evaluation/Oral Medicine” was our very first class, and it’s honestly probably everyone’s favorite so far just because the doctor who teaches it is passionate, engaging, inspiring, and full of stories of his own experience in practicing. Multiple times, he’s explained to us that we can in fact save lives by being a dentist when we find things like oral cancer or a mass in someone’s thyroid or salivary gland. Penn does a really good job of teaching us that we are not just here to fix peoples’ teeth, we are ultimately health care providers in charge of our patients’ well being as a whole. A lot of people don’t realize why I have to take things like gross anatomy of the entire body or master the details of DNA alpha helix binding and gene transcription, but it really is to give us a broad understanding of medicine, not just learning to drill, fill, and bill. Penn also likes to brag that they do that better than anyone (a little school pride never hurt anyone), while still highlighting the dentistry-specific aspects as opposed to some schools where the dental students take their first two years with medical students and might miss some of those dental emphases. This class I guess is also considered “easier” or more straight forward than something like our lightning fast embryo lecture that only maybe three people have taken in undergrad. The first day we all walked out feeling about like this. You’d be surprised how much they can teach in two hours, and now I understand the drinking from a fire hydrant analogy of dental/med school difficulty.

bike

post-overwhelming-first-day bike ride was a must

It’s also cool knowing that our lecturers are some of the world’s leading researchers on their area of expertise. We have multiple lecturers for a given course, so they really are bringing in the authorities for each given lecture topic. The doctor who taught us about dentin and pulp formation as well as dental pulp stem cells is seriously like THE boss of dental stem cell research. He’s done all kinds of really cool trials here and in China and worked for the NIH as well. Even when he’s really hard to understand or so cutely says “tooths” instead of teeth, it’s definitely a privilege to be here at Penn taught by the best of the best. 

Our first quiz is this week over genes (how many times do we really have to learn protein synthesis), and people are definitely starting to get anxious since nobody really knows what to expect. I am really striving to maintain the balance of school with everything else that I don’t want to let fall to the wayside – something that honestly took me until senior year to master. For example, taking the time to check out a different church with friends this morning and hit up another local fave food spot for breakfast tacos afterward. Not to mention putting down the studies for the night to cook a good meal, write a few letters to my friends far away, and write this post.

dinner

In other unrelated news, Ben Rector’s album Brand New came out on Friday, and I am already obsessed. I think my favorite track might be More Like Love, and it really captures my heart for how I want to impact my new community and classmates here at Penn. When all is said and done, simply loving people is really what matters.

I used to think I wanted to be famous

I’d be recognized out in a crowd

But the funny thing is every time I’ve gotten what I want it lets me down

I used to think I needed all the answers

I used to need to know that I was right 

I used to be afraid of things I couldn’t cover up in black and white

I find the farther that I climb there’s always another line 

A mountain top, it’s never gonna stop

And the more of anything I do, the thing that always ends up true

is getting what I want will never be enough 

Now I just wanna look more like love

I just wanna look more like love

This whole world is spinning crazy and I can’t quite keep up

It’s the one thing around here that we don’t have quite enough of

So I just wanna look a little more like love

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And then it was here

Since I’ve last posted, so much has happened. Okay, understatement of the year. The majority of my summer was entirely low-key and uneventful while I longed for that moving day that seemed impossibly far away.  August hit fast, and life is flashing by like it does all too well.

On July 30th, I became an aunt again to the newest, most perfect, chunk of a ginger nephew, Grayson Lee, and then quickly had to say a tearful “See you later” to him and his older brother. My sis let me be in the room this time for the birth, and I will never forget that incredible moment our family shared. This summer has been the epitome of bittersweet and overwhelming change with Dad being gone, and that day was no exception. IMG_8108

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I packed up my entire life in TX and drove (I really should say rode) across the country with my mom, who I’m convinced is the best road trip partner on the planet – not to mention a beast at driving that massive truck that I hated driving after a good five miles. I was much better qualified for playlist DJ-ing, local restaurant Yelp-ing, map navigating, and updating our progress via social media and ample photo uploads.IMG_8893

We enjoyed our day pit stop in Nashville seeing some great music sites including the historic Ryman Auditorium and Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. The best part for sure, though, was meeting up with my old roomie Chels for local drinks and eats and one last hug goodbye. After 4 days total and 3 days on the road, we finally parked and unloaded our U-Haul with the help of old family friends (who are local!), Ian and Susan, in front of my new home (which I LOVE and pics will come soon) for at least the next year and hopefully longer.

apartment on the right, dental school in the back!

apartment on the right, dental school in the back!

All last weekend, Mom and I set up my place and had ample time for all the touristy must-do’s in Philly. Falling in love with this place is so easy. The incredibly rich history combined with the modern and diverse vibe makes for such a cool melting pot of people and cultures, not to mention food and art. I’ll have plenty of time to write about all that over the next four years, though – like mastering Septa so much that my classmates think I’m from the area or successfully grocery shopping without a car. I still can’t believe I’m actually here. Now when I think about that entire decision process I wrestled with for weeks, I cannot imagine being anywhere else. I already have such a peace and confidence that I am exactly where I need to be, and have hope that that will only continue to be stronger as the weeks and months go by.

#tourist

#tourist

At Penn Dental, our orientation lasts an entire week and is full of riveting informational lectures, presentations (read: librarians putting us to sleep and Penn Police scaring the you know what out of us about the realities of West Philly), and of course abundant opportunities for “social activities” (pretty much all night happy hours) getting to know the people that we’ll live life with for the next challenging four years. Every night we’ve gone out as a class to fun local bars/restaurants with our orientation leaders and some of the D2s and had a few scavenger hunts along the way to get to know our new city and ultimately each other. Basically that means living it up before reality hits and our lives are consumed with things like microbiology, embryology, and dental morphology all too soon.
IMG_9533        IMG_9637                                                                 Monday we had our white coat ceremony, which is a really cool milestone in any future doc’s life that marks the induction into the profession. Penn Dental faculty has definitely made it clear that we are no longer students, but we are professionals, student dentists, and ultimately their colleagues. I already feel such a tremendous pride and honor from being at such world-class institution surrounded by so many driven and diverse people that all share the passion for dentistry. Each day I’ve gotten to know my classmates better, and I just can’t believe how well the admissions committee does at just picking 120 straight up COOL people from thousands of applicants. We’ve made it past the first couple of awkward small talks, and I’m slowly starting to know most faces and names and have definitely started to have realer and deeper conversations with some. This morning I even church-hopped with a few friends, and I can’t thank God enough for already showing me that he’s providing me with a new spiritual community even if it might take awhile to find a new church home.

IMG_9644There’s just such a camaraderie between us that can’t be compared to high school or college classmates. Then it was always about being friends with people who you grew up with for 18 years, look or act just like you, or happen to be involved in the same extracurriculars as you. Here I feel like everyone genuinely wants to get to know and be friends with everyone, and nobody cares if we maybe never would’ve been friends in undergrad. Nobody wants to be competitive or cutthroat (which Penn sometimes gets that reputation – very hard to believe now that I’m here), and at the end of the day we all just want to be kick-a** dentists and we’re going to support each other in getting there.

IMG_9502Tomorrow’s my first day of 17th grade (WHATTT?), and I couldn’t be more pumped to start this journey with my 119 new friends and future fellow docs. Penntists 2019, LET’S DO THIS.

“You have stories worth telling, memories worth remembering, dreams worth working toward, a body worth feeding, a soul worth tending, and beyond that, the God of the universe dwells within you, the true culmination of super and natural. You are more than dust and bones. You are spirit and power and image of God. And you have been given Today.” – SN

“Crushed it.” – How to rock The Interview

terrifyingI cannot believe it’s almost been almost a YEAR since I started my interviewing journey for dental school applications. I still remember my first one was to San Antonio on August 10th (with my former roommate – who also aced her interviews and was accepted to all 3 TX schools!), and now this year on that same date I’m loading up a UHaul truck and heading off on my road trip to move to my far-away new home – to actually be a student! I promise time really does fly, and to all of you pre-dentals (and pre-meds! a lot of this will be similar to your interviews) who will be awaiting those glorious emails and phone calls this fall, take heart. You definitely could be in my shoes starting dental school and seeing all of your hard work in college finally come to fruition in one year’s time! This is an entirely different nerve-racking experience (how will I go grocery shopping in the city without a car?), but the best kind.

dentalSince a lot of my younger friends are going to be going through that entirely new and sometimes overwhelming process very soon (so proud!), I thought I’d put together a little list of do’s and don’ts from my experience and provide some general outline of what to expect. “How do I just talk about myself for an hour?”

I was very fortunate to have been invited to interview at five dental schools, all with very different interview day styles and atmospheres (click here to check out some of my initial thoughts about each school), so I do feel like I have a good idea of the spectrum of things to expect. I will not say I actually aced every single one of them by any means, and I definitely have some funny stories of my adventures (like waking up about 40 minutes before I needed to be AT the school – and still had to catch a cab in the city – and it rained ALL day – and they only really asked me if I had grown up on a farm – and somehow that’s where I’m going. HA!), but somehow they all liked me enough to offer me a seat in their class! The bottom line – and I know you’ll hear this from anyone – is to really BE YOURSELF. Admissions people do not want a rehearsed robot, someone overly cocky (or someone under-confident for that matter), and they don’t want you to be uber nervous like you might fear you’ll be. Relax, have FUN, and just have a normal conversation with your interviewers.

Here’s a breakdown on some of the things I did (or wish I did better) and things I tried to avoid.

  • Dress to impress (but not distract). Buy a nice suit and rock it. Girls, knee length pencil skirt and pants are both equally great. Not too flashy or low of a top (but you can still show a little personality with color or a subtle pattern). Closed-toe pumped are great, just keep in mind you will be walking A LOT on the tour of the school and throughout the day, so break those babies in. Guys – I can’t really help you as much, but just be on the conservative side, and make sure it’s ironed. I’d say stick to black or navy. Bring some kind of file folder/portfolio to collect papers or contact info they hand out and have paper to take notes on throughout the day and write down your questions for them. I had a slim, professional-looking, off-white leather shoulder bag that was the perfect size for my folder and minimal things I might need – phone, chapstick, makeup, bandaids in case of blisters, mints, floss for after lunch (this is a dental school interview after all), a mini water bottle.
  • Fix your hair/accessories in whatever way that will bother/distract you least. Keep jewelry to a minimum. If you typically wear glasses, don’t all of a sudden decide to wear your contacts. Or if you never wear glasses, don’t buy fake ones to look smarter. Please. I am normally about 60/40 glasses/contacts, so some interviews I wore my glasses and some I didn’t.. Girls, for hair I’d advise just something that keeps the front out of your face. I curled mine and wore it half up for some, low pony for some, and maybe just my front layers pinned to the side for one.
  • Get there earlier than you think you need to. Period. Always allow time for traffic/parking/walking/finding where you are actually supposed to be in the building. (Houston traffic = from Satan). You do NOT want to be late. This is kind of important.
  • Eat a good breakfast! Drink coffee if you normally do, but don’t overdo it (frequent bathroom breaks and the shakes are just inconvenient in a time like this). You know they always tell you that for standardized testing, finals, etc. Well this interview is the whole reason you had to take all of those standardized tests (aka MORE crucial to fuel up). You don’t want your stomach to speak louder than your confidence.
  • Be friendly towards your fellow interviewees. Getting to know everyone was one of my favorite parts of interview days! I guess I’m an extrovert from Texas, what can I say? It’s fun to see where everyone’s from, what dreadful undergrad exams they’re skipping to be there that day (or “Woah they’re married and have kids?”), and just to automatically have a lot in common with these folks that also are weird (I mean smart, compassionate, and driven) enough to want to be tooth docs, too. I remember at my Penn interview where we had a sheet of who everyone was and where they were from, a guy said, “Oh who’s from Baylor? That’s awesome!” Thank you, football, for that one. I also loved seeing some familiar faces that I’d shared interview days with at other schools and insisted we all add each other on Facebook to see where we would end up.
  • Know AS MUCH as you can about each school BEFORE you interview. Research! It’s pretty much a fact that there will be a time in the interview for YOU to ask THEM any questions about the program. Another FANTASTIC time to ask questions is when you’re with the current students maybe on the tour or at lunch. In my opinion, this is when you can find the MOST about a school. I carried a folder in with me with written questions on the inside panel that I wanted to ask each school. Some were the same, but some were specific to that school. Also they definitely might ask you why do you even want to go there? Be ready to schmooze talk em up. Seriously, show that you’ve done your homework. At one of my interviews, the FIRST thing she asked me was “What questions do you have for me?” Nothing about me or my application. We talked about the school and just about life in the city, what I liked about the program, and what her experience had been like on faculty for probably 95% of the interview time.
  • On the same lines, know if the interview will be “open file” or “closed file.” This means some schools’ interviewers will have read your entire application, all your essays, and all your letters of rec before talking to you. Other times, they might only be given your essays or letters of rec (without knowing your GPA, DAT, involvement in organizations). These give two very different scenarios because in an open file interview, it’s usually more about what might not be on your application or asking you to expand on something you wrote. For a closed file, I think it’s more just about your personality and ability to engage in the conversation. They’ll look at your numbers later. Also, some schools you’ll have just one interviewer and other places you might have multiple. The curveball I got thrown at Columbia was that it’s a one-on-one interview, but you’re all in one big room with your respective interviewers, so it kind of has a restaurant atmosphere of other people’s conversations. They did definitely have the best food, hands down. They treated us like royalty, and make it hard to turn down. Don’t choose your school based on the catered meal, though. There are more pressing issues.
  • Realize that your interviewers are real people, and oftentimes, actually dentists. They understand what we’re going through and maybe why we want to be in the fascinating field (and that they’ll all say is the best job in the world). They also probably have some things in common with you. I’m not kidding when I say that the vast majority of my interviewers were extremely friendly and easy to talk to. After the first 30 seconds, all nerves left! I talked about everything from Baylor football to religion classes/papers to cooking to triathlons to Panama to mission trips to city living to “growing up on a farm.” Some are more structured than others. You might get someone who has an actual list of questions they’re going through, or you might get someone that just wants to talk to you and let the conversation go wherever it will. Be prepared for both.
  • Have a clear, concise, and convincing answer to THE question, “So why do you want to be a dentist?” No-brainer, right? Even though it’s actually hard to exactly articulate sometimes, you need to have some serious thinking time before hand of how you will answer this one. Again, be honest and be yourself! It’s a good idea to have a friend or family member mock interview you with some typical questions you might could expect (Google dental school/med school interview questions and you’ll get plenty of ideas), but just don’t memorize exact answers. Have rough bullet points maybe, but be in the moment and talk naturally.
  • After you leave the interview day (maybe on the plane ride home or a post-interview coffee shop stop), take some time to sit down and maybe write down your raw, initial thoughts on the particular school. What did you love? What did you not like so much? How were the students and faculty? How were the facilities? Do you like the city it’s in (spend some time if you’ve never visited)? How scary are the tuition costs? Does it offer interesting opportunities for what you’re interested in (externships, research, community service, specialty exposure/encouragement, honors programs, etc)? It’s hard to describe, but you will have a clear feeling about each school right then and there before you have too much time to analyze everything months later (and trust me did I ever). Pen+paper+pros+cons are a sure way to get an idea of where you’re at. I truly loved all of my interview days and everyone I met throughout those months, but I still remember texting my mom right after my Penn interview as I was walking around THE quintessential college brochure campus in the cool drizzle struggling with my umbrella. All I said was “Mom. I realllllllllllly like Penn.” Why did I make it more complicated than it was? ;)

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Good luck to all of you, and if you have any more questions about the interview process, I’d be happy to help!

the best kind of extravagance

straight

Friday morning I got a call from the all too familiar 215 area code number I recognized. I then walked into my aunt’s house where she and Mom were waiting for me at the computer to map out our cross country road trip and hotel stays with Irving Street, Philadelphia as the final destination. With tears still pouring down my face (I think they must have thought I had been in a wreck or something that would cause sad tears – but these were the joyous and overwhelmed kind of tears), I played them the voicemail saying that my scholarship to Penn had been increased to the maximum amount ($30k/year instead of $20k/year). That’s an additional $40k meaning I’ll be in that much LESS DEBT when I’m through and navigating the waters of post-professional school and new world of doctor-hood (read: a struggle). I really never expected anything to change or be updated with my financial situation just one month before classes start. I had contacted them early on in the summer after Dad’s passing just to simply ask if they could do anything else to help me in this extremely difficult transition, but they said all scholarships were finalized at that point.

{If you maybe missed this whole initial roller coaster decision and God’s crazy sense of humor and timing, read my post about it here.}

I am still in disbelief. I had just been complaining to Mom about an hour earlier about my frustration that grad students had to pay almost $500 annually for all-inclusive fitness center and group class access. “I didn’t budget that into my loan amount!” Throughout this whole process, I have still struggled to not only focus on the money part of becoming a dentist. I am SO excited about this next chapter, but it is definitely a big pill to swallow when I see those expected student budget sheets and my first tuition bill. I also know very strongly that it is not God’s desire for me to be so enslaved to money matters now or in the future, and I really don’t want my life after school (or residency) to be dictated by my loan balances. I want to surrender my finances to Him and be free to go and do what He’s placed on my heart for whatever season I’m in. I want to stay enthusiastic and willing to take even more leaps of faith to see my dreams to fruition, with Him guiding me each step – or I should say leap – of the way.

All those months of praying into this decision and doubting if my dream school where I really felt God leading me would financially be realistic even after I committed, and then God reminds me of his everlasting faithfulness and provision. AGAIN. All in HIS crazy surprising timing, which makes for some way better stories than I could ever write into my life. He so extravagantly gives to His children, and how often we forget that no dream is too far out of reach when He is the author.

My friend Danny said to me after I told him the insane news, “This will be the story you’ll tell someday when you give speeches.” I loved that so much, because I’m currently reading Don Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story. {I’ll talk more about that later – also how I crazy loved Blue Like Jazz.} If I would have never trusted God in the first place with this crazy idea to move across the country where I knew nobody and attend one of the top (and one of the most expensive) dental schools, I would have missed telling this twisty, surprising, and thrilling story that’s really just beginning.

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Needless to say, Mom and I celebrated with steak, red wine, AND dessert last night.IMG_7715

Recovering perfectionists unite

perfectMy dear friend Jordan posted this on her blog (seriously, go follow it to get an ample dose of lovely words from her heart about Truth, Life, and the occasional rant about school). I immediately told her I would reblog it because it is something that so many of my friends need to hear, with me at the top of the list. We talked about this very thing last week when I visited. We ate a quick dinner, drank Shiner, and discussed for hours things that really matter in the world: our thoughts on same-sex marriage and how to really love our friends, realizing wonder and big questions about the Bible are welcomed, and memories of Dad. She told me she made her first B ever last semester in nursing school, and I enthusiastically high-fived her and said, “YES, me too!” We know we both share this insanely strong inner drive to do all things with nothing but EXCELLENCE. But since when did that ONLY mean receiving a certain letter grade our entire lives on our transcript, getting inducted into the country’s oldest honor society, or shuddering at the thought of not graduating with honors?

I am not dissing the desire to succeed and achieve in hopes of utilizing the gifts God has given us for His glory (even though if we’re honest how many times do we do it for our own glory?), but there is a BIG danger in placing SO much of our energy into some of these things that will simply FADE with time. As I’m starting dental school in ONE MONTH (I’ve seriously got to get my brain to start thinking about that rude awakening) I desperately want to hold on to my (recently found) balance of school, social life, and spiritual life. Do I want to be an academic boss at Penn Dental and show my first year what’s up? Um YEAH, do you know who you’re talking to? But along the way do I want to sacrifice things that help me be the best version of myself amidst the daily grind: authentic friendship/community, ample sleep, quality food, consistent exercise, intimacy with God? Never.

I could go on, but she basically says everything I want to and probably more articulately and honestly than I could.

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Bittersweet: pros and cons of moving across the country

With a little over four weeks left of summer before I make the big move, I thought I’d write a little bit about the things I’m most looking forward to and the things I’ll miss more than I’d like to admit. Having lived in the greatest state (some die-hards would say country) of Texas for all 22 of my years, it is finally starting to hit home that I will be a resident of the different, far off state of Pennsylvania in about a month. More people than I can count give me the “Are you crazy? How could you leave Texas? Ever?” response while some friends are super stoked for me to adventure out of the comfort zone of home. Oh, and Penn Dental is one of the top schools in the country and UPenn’s entire academic system is a world leading institution. That’s sort of why I chose to attend there. Living in a cool new city is just the cherry on top. And it’s not Penn State ;)

Here are just a few of my thoughts about it all.

Philadelphia Skyline

PROS

  • All things new. I dig change.
  • Seasons. 4 SEASONS. In one year and not one day. Yes, I know one of them is uber cold. Still, seasons other than constant sweating for at least half the time and looking out for the random ice storm or great flood the other half.
  • Urban living in a city full of young professionals. Even though Waco is much bigger than my hometown, it’s a little far from actual city life.
  • Open minded people. I know it will be a huge change from the Bible belt and far right wing conservatism of East Texas, but I welcome other ideas and opinions and having intelligent conversations about big issues without anyone blowing up. I’m not saying college turned me into an all-out liberal by any means, but I can still value people with different backgrounds and views. I will still holdfast to Truth no matter where I live. The God of Atlanta, TX and Waco, TX is the same God of Philadelphia, and I’m excited about learning to trust in Him more than ever, especially when it’s not the cultural norm like I’ve always known.
  • Foodie heaven – Philly is definitely on the culinary rise and it’s way more than just cheesesteaks.
  • Car-free and bike-loving life. Goodbye to buying gas and hello to everyday cardio.
  • Proximity to NYC, DC, Boston and other cool places along the East Coast. Instead of driving for 12 hours and still not being out of TX in some places, I can hop on a bus and be in NYC in about an hour and a half. DC about the same. I can also meet up with my fellow East Coast pals like Jenna or Danny in Boston, Dusty in NYC, and anyone else who I convince to move this way in the future. I’m looking at possibly making it to a day of the Food Network Wine and Food Festival in NYC this fall or catching tix to see my man Jimmy Fallon or finally a Broadway. You know, in all my spare time outside of studying my brains out…

CONS

  • Y’all already know I’m sad about it. Tex Mex. Read: jitas and ritas as I know it.
  • Other people not saying “Y’all.” (see above for indication of frequency of use) And everyone knowing me as the one from Texas and commenting on my sweet, Southern accent that I don’t even think is that bad. It can be a pro, too I guess…Everyone loves a Southern belle, right?
  • Being so far from most of my family and friends. I’ve got a new nephew coming in T minus one month, and I know I’ll miss my mama from day one after being home with her all summer. Waco won’t be a quick road trip away and all my friends in Dallas, Houston, or Austin will only feel close if I read their letters.
  • Having to find a new church home and spiritual community after my incredible four years at my church in Waco with some of the best people I know. I know this one will be tough and may very well take longer than I’d like.
  • Shiner Bock, Texas BBQ, and Blue Bell. I know Blue Bell is questionable for everyone right now, but what about real BBQ and small town Texas-made Shiner? Someone please tell me it can be found in the Northeast.
  • Football. I really want to go to something like a Penn vs Harvard football game and laugh and tell all my Texas people about what a joke it was. Ivy League vs Big 12? Please. Football games, and especially college football Saturdays, in the South are like nothing else. Sic ‘Em Bears. #OneTrueChampion (Oh how I wish I could come to Ft Worth this fall)
  • Everything else I’ll only realize I miss once I’m gone and a plane flight away. Also, I am so going to be one of those people in the airports on Christmas Eve because we have class/clinic until the 23rd. What is that even?

Nevertheless, I’m beyond pumped for my new adventure! I’m just trying to not think about the actual “school” part at the moment…

One Month More

Now that July in Texas (my last one possibly – so weird to think about) has somehow already graced us with its presence, I realized I have yet again let my blog fade in the background of my everyday. You think I’d have all the time in the world these days to just write on and on, enough for a book – side note, I’d really love to actually write a book one day. Now as far as the subject, I have no earthly idea. I just know that words are powerful,  books I’ve read have changed my life in ways, and I’ve just got a lot of opinions on things.

Here’s my lousy attempt to wrap up my first half of summer in the country.

letters

I’ve rediscovered the lost art of old fashioned letter writing, and it is SO GOOD. I can’t tell you how much it makes my day to find an envelope addressed to me in our mailbox and recognize the address as one of an old college friend. I also have that same anticipation with each one I write and send on its way, hoping it will be the best part of that person’s day as well.  One of my dearest pen pals, Jordan, told me in her last letter that a friend had explained to her that all of Jordan’s letter writing/blogging/encouraging words via social media could all be considered forms of discipleship.  That thought had never crossed my mind, but when I started to think about it, it definitely made sense. When I sit down and intentionally (and consistently) think about what to say to a friend and ask for the Lord to give me words that will encourage them, that is pouring into their life even if it looks different from the traditional picture we have of discipleship of coffee dates and scheduled weekly hangouts. I already do feel like I’m getting behind on responding to people, but the beauty of letter writing is that it does not demand a prompt and hurried response much like a text or Facebook message. It’s ok to let a few days or even weeks go by to give you time to really think about what you want to say. So to all of you that asked to join in my back and forth writing, take heart. I promise it’s on its way soon.

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I’m absolutely obsessed and in love with my new, beautiful, perfect road bike. Her name is Roxie. I promise I’m not weird for naming my bike and acting like it’s my new baby. Boys name their toys all the time. After wanting a good road bike for years and it being the only thing I asked for graduation, I finally am the proud owner of a Specialized Dolce Sport EQ in satin teal. This is essentially replacing my car when I sell it to live the true urban lifestyle, so I’m okay with the fact that it cost about as much as an old used car. I didn’t get a Baylor ring, and I saved my family thousands for not rushing a sorority. I think that justifies it. Thanks Mom! :) The second I hopped on and tried it out, I could tell that it was worth every penny. I’ve already taken several rides, and a couple long ones in Waco and around here, and I could go on and on about how good it is. When you’re upgrading from a beat up mountain bike from middle school you somehow got around in college on, it’s a really big deal, folks. Also, my toned cycling legs are quickly coming back after a month of missing teaching BearCycle. If the side effects of riding just for fun happen to be more defined thighs and calves, I’m not mad about it.

      leisure         better          blue

My summer reads are extremely varied and simultaneous, and I’m okay with that. I have this problem with books in the summer. I never, and I mean really never, have time to read much for leisure during the school year. Having said that, I definitely make up for it in the months when all I can really do is stay on my couch in the AC. I might get through one chapter while I lay out at the pool before I’m so done with the unbearable Texas sun and sweat is dripping on every page. So far I’ve finished Leisure: The Basis of Culture (not exactly leisure reading but very good and thought-provoking) and Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science. That one is by Atul Gawande, a leading medical author, and I loved every page! I’m actually now reading a second one of his – Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance – that my mentor doc gave me when I told him I was reading his first. Gawande is a general surgeon in Boston and has written for The New York Times. He writes a lot about doctors being human beings (aka not perfect like society expects them to be), the constant pressure of performance, the healthcare system and how it could be improved, and just a lot of neat stories of behind the scenes of his life as a surgeon. I might be going to dental school now, but I’m still fascinated with all things medicine and who knows? I might also be a surgical resident one day. I’m now reading All In by Mark Batterson who wrote The Circle Maker that I loved and that challenged and ignited my prayer life more than any other book I’ve read. This one is about actually being sold out for the gospel and surrendering our entire lives for Jesus, not simply asking him to follow us and our plans. I’m also reading Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller with the tagline “Nonreligious thoughts on Christian Spirituality.” Let me know what’s on your summer book list!

       cg          shortys          food

I took a week-long trip back to my old stomping grounds, and man it was good for the soul. I told several of my friends when I left in May that I’d for sure make a visit during the summer before I left for good, and when my mom went to Montana to bring some things back from the cabin and would be gone for most of the week, I figured the timing was perfect. I had couches lined up to sleep on for all 5 nights and had texted everyone I knew in Waco for the summer basically saying, “If you want to see me, tell me when you’re free and I’ll fit you in!” It was so good making that all too familiar four hour drive, and it really felt like I had never left even though a month had already passed since I did. I hit up all my favorite local joints for pizza, coffee, drinks, and one more Waco t-shirt, all with people I dearly missed. I also headed to the beloved farmer’s market and Cameron park (via Roxie) one last time. It was certainly sweet being back, but if I’m being honest, it did feel different. I really realized for the first time that I wasn’t a college kid anymore and I felt more in the in between of that and grad life. I love love love all of my younger friends, but staying with them and even going to my old Lifegroup, I sensed a noticeable difference. I’m not trying to say I’m that much more mature than them, it was just more of a recognition that this season of my life was in fact over as much as I didn’t want it to be.  It sort of was an almost tease to be there that long, knowing that it would be my longest visit to Wacotown for at least four years. I thank God more and more each day for that place and those people.

Until next time, I’m eating Tex-Mex whenever I get the chance (it will NOT be the same in Philly), still filling out and sending 54,298 forms to Penn, watching way too many Grey’s reruns, avoiding the storage room where I need to sort, unpack and repack, and soaking up my last month of rest and stillness before the crazy starts.

Ingrid is my homegirl

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The past few days have been full of lots of lovely meals, glorious summer (daily) naps, talking the night away with two old friends, a spontaneous mom-and-me date night (jitas and ritas, what else?), and a quick trip to Dallas to see the one and only Ingrid Michaelson with my my favorite “long-distance” friend, fellow science nerd/future doc, and concert partner in crime.

It’s ironic because the last time we hung out together was at the exact same venue (House of Blues) about this time last year for the Johnnyswim show (swoon to the max). I can always count on Christina to be up for me crashing at her house and taking the city by storm via girls’ night – usually involving fabulous eats, drinks, and music.

We grubbed on delish Mexican and didn’t stop laughing at the shy, awkward waiter obviously trying to flirt with two girls too old for him. We made it to the venue with plenty of time to impatiently wait for the first of two openers to start. The first was a band called Oh, Honey and their music wasn’t the best I’ve ever heard, but they weren’t terrible. I will say the female vocalist definitely seemed to have had a few hits of something backstage, because let’s just say she was really “feeling the music.” The next band (and half the reason I bought tickets) was Jukebox the Ghost, and if you haven’t heard their stuff, you desperately need to. I’d say they are sort of Indie Pop and consist of a simple (but still very full, fun sound) of keys, electric, and drums. These guys are adorable and pretty darn talented. The lead vocalist who plays keyboard simply blew me away with his voice that’s both intense and powerful and still kills the emotional falsetto riffs.

After a painfully long intermission – literally we were fighting through the regret to both wear high wedges – Ingrid finally graced us with her presence. And did she ever make an entrance. Dang y’all. She is unbelievably awesome live, and I’m convinced she came out of the womb as a performer and entertainer. Her set was THE perfect combination of old and new, full band and solo piano/acoustic, emotional and crazy fun, and she interjects so many little comments and stories in between songs that are hilarious, raw, and at times inappropriate – but in a strangely charming way only she can pull off. She laughs at her self, slays every single note, and makes everyone in the audience feel like we were invited to just have a jam session in her living room.

Another concert, another unforgettable night. This one was definitely in my top 5 favorite shows ever (only behind Jon, Switchfoot, and Nickel Creek of course). It was a straight up party, and definitely a summer night out well spent.

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Sometimes life gives you more than you can write about. Now is a season full of just that. I know it’s been almost two and a half months since I sat to write, and it’s ironic because more has happened in these last few weeks than probably anyone should have to deal with at once.

I realize this is a personal blog where I usually write about really anything that’s going on in my mind at the time. Still, I don’t have nearly the space or time (except I probably do since this summer will be the most event-less/least busy time of my life sans retirement) to write through all the emotion about everything that’s happened. For those of you that know me on Facebook or Instagram you know what I’m talking about. For the rest of my readers, I’ll sadly tell you that my father of a very young but extremely full 64 years suddenly and shockingly passed away on the night of April 24th at our vacation home in Montana. He went peacefully and with no one surrounding him but the northwest forest and Canadian rockies that he loved second only to God and his family. We are extremely saddened, and our family and town sense a very real and very large hole because of his absence. Even amidst the deep sorrow that comes given that none of humanity was ever meant to grasp the concept of death, we find peace, hope, and comfort in the fact that he is now experiencing the very thing for which we were created – the fullness of joy, absolute awe, and too-glorious-for-words state of being overcome by the glory of God and seeing Jesus face to face. I know this journey of grief will look differently for my mom, my sister, and anyone else that was touched deeply by my dad. I’m praying for grace daily to know how to walk through this individually and alongside my family. I’ve been absolutely overwhelmed by the outpour of love and support by everyone in Waco, back home, and even my future community at Penn Dental.

To add to the extreme dichotomy of emotions I’m living in, let’s remember I  just graduated from Baylor on May 15 and said far too many “See you later’s” than I ever want to. I’ve never been sadder to say goodbye to a season than that morning I drove away for the last time. I made a nostalgic “Waco Love” driving playlist, and let’s just say I cried almost all the way to Tyler. I am overcome with gratitude for God bringing me to that glorious place 4 very short years ago, and I will never be able to articulate just how much Baylor and every single person that was a part of my home team truly mean to me. Even through this past month of grieving, I experienced some of the sweetest times with some of my favorite people my last few weeks living as a college student in the city that won my heart. I won’t even go into detail on how gracious (most) of my professors were with working things out for me to finish with excellence and graduate just as I would have had this never happened. Long story short, I did get my first B(+) – not even in an upper level science class but a personal finance class, lol jokes – but still managed to finish the journey and reach my long-time goal of graduating Summa Cum Laude.

I’m home for the summer for the strangest few months of my life. This is nothing against my home, my family, or the people of my hometown, but honestly it’s just weird. These few months are the definition of limbo: I’m completely finished with the past season but the next one isn’t here until August. I’ve never known zero work, zero school, and zero of my people back in Waco that know me better than anyone. I really have never known how to rest, so that’s exactly what I need to learn to do this summer. I’ve got a lofty book list (a mix of theology, medicine, philosophy, and everything in between), am playing music more than ever, have some concerts and visits to see other TX friends lined up, but other than that, I am really the most available I’ll ever be in my life. I am making space for quiet and stillness – things I know I’ll be desperate for in a few months.

I have way more I wish I could fill in and update but I had to just start somewhere, and this is the jumpstart to my goal of more consistent blogging during this season when I have plenty of more time to do so. I want to write more about the books I’m reading, the letters I’m writing and receiving (my new favorite thing), the songs I’m playing, the meals I’m cooking, and the memories I’m making before all-out school mode begins again. Oh yeah, I’m only living in Texas for about nine more weeks, WHAT? I’m still definitely getting more excited every day for my next adventure of being an actual student doctor and navigating a new city life, without a car and without all things familiar. Crazy, but it’s happening.

Until next time, I’m researching road bikes, dreaming of writing a song, digging deep in the Word, sleeping and eating better than I have for a very long time, getting my butt kicked in boot camp workouts, and contently living in this time of in-between.

The Monday Mission Project, Part 5: Me

Now that we’ve reached the other side of this series I called The Monday Mission, I really do hope for anyone that has been reading that you gained something out of it like I did. Even though this project was focused on others’ perspectives on how they live out their walk with Jesus in the everyday workplace, I really found myself internally processing their responses. I realized how much I have in common with all these people in my life while having my own unique ideas on the topic as well. The body of Christ is like that, isn’t it? Perfectly synchronized as a whole, but as you look closely at each component they each have a specific role. I believe that is just what God has in mind as he gives us all our own perfectly tailored gifts and leads us down different career paths. If every single Christian worked directly in churches or the mission field, who would be the people out bringing Jesus to the worlds of business, medicine, the arts, or engineering? In my Christology class we often take a few minutes at the end of lectures discussing how do we apply what we learn about the person of Jesus in this academic and interpretative setting into our everyday pedestrian lives. How can we take what we read in the biblical text and really let the words and heart of Jesus be an overflow to others, specifically when talking about our profession?

In thinking back on the various featured posts in the series, here are a few things that really struck me from each of the interviewees:

Megan & Stanley: Simple prayer is powerful, embrace changing seasons of life, flexibility is invaluable, and don’t put God in a box. The Holy Spirit can work through any and all situations, so be bold when he’s leading you.

Chelsea: Dream big with God, and be moldable enough to realize when he has something different (and far better) in mind for you ever did for yourself. Being a disciple for Jesus often involves creativity and physically being his hands to serve the least of these.

Jason: As a doctor, my patients and my staff can equally be my ministry. When they are in a vulnerable and anxious state, I can extend the peace and love of Jesus to them. Getting the chance to partner with God in healing really gets me pumped.

Danny: The worlds of business and politics desperately need Christian leaders to step up and be bold. It is definitely possible to be an ambassador for Christ in the corporate workplace if you remain centered on the things of God and understand that businesses can be some of the most powerful agents for change. Embrace new and exciting opportunities for where God is leading next.

Anyone that knows me knows I’m a HUGE Jon Foreman fan. Not only has his music been so integral in my life, but he just has a way of speaking truth and articulating his thoughts so beautifully surrounding difficult topics. He was asked (more than once I’m sure) in an interview where would Switchfoot classify their music in terms of specific genre. Are they rock, pop, “Christian?” They often are seen as an outcast to these genres simply because a lot of the time they aren’t willing to stamp a label on their art. Jon responded with the following explanation of “why Switchfoot won’t sing ‘Christian’ songs” that I absolutely LOVE and think is very relevant to our conversation surrounding career path or vocation. To read the full response click here.

“Does Lewis or Tolkien mention Christ in any of their fictional series? Are Bach’s sonata’s Christian? What is more Christ-like, feeding the poor, making furniture, cleaning bathrooms, or painting a sunset? There is a schism between the sacred and the secular in all of our modern minds. The view that a pastor is more ‘Christian’ than a girls volleyball coach is flawed and heretical. The stance that a worship leader is more spiritual than a janitor is condescending and flawed. These different callings and purposes further demonstrate God’s sovereignty…So there is no hierarchy of life or songs or occupation only obedience. We have a call to take up our cross and follow. We can be sure that these roads will be different for all of us. Just as you have one body and every part has a different function, so in Christ we who are many form one body and each of us belongs to all the others.” – Jon Foreman

When I think about how I will use my future career as a dentist or surgeon to serve God and the people I’ll meet every day, I love that I never have to feel like I’m being any less “spiritual” or “Christ-like” than my friends going through the discipleship school or moving across the world to bring the gospel to the nations. Who are we to limit how God can work or who he can work through?

IMG_3872I can’t wait to use my platform as a doctor to make an impact on the kingdom. I know each and every one of my patients will be someone I can show Jesus to through the way I genuinely care and provide the best treatment for them. If the Holy Spirit is calling me to approach my staff or other doctors I might be working with about their relationship with God or pray with them on a regular basis, I hope that I will respond boldly. I look forward to serving globally and providing dental care to those who have never seen a dentist and letting them know they are seen and they are known by the Creator of the universe. I pray that I will wake up on early Monday mornings and be filled with joy and purpose, knowing that I’m going to work that week to live out my mission.