“Change is one of God’s greatest gifts, and most useful tools.”

I can’t believe I’ve already been in class here for three weeks. Exactly one month ago Mom and I were driving through Tennessee and Virginia on my move north. As much of a change that it’s been, I’m quickly settling into the new normal of life in dental school and living in Philadelphia.

IMG_0056School is definitely picking up pace, and we’ve already had one big quiz and our first official exam in Intro to Oral Medicine (with appropriate celebrating afterwards of course). We are pretty much starting our one exam per week grind now with our next one being over Biological Systems next Monday – mostly embryology/development, with emphasis on the head and neck region. At first this class seemed overwhelming, but to me it’s so fascinating. The fact that the face starts forming as early as weeks four and five is unbelievable. Before a woman probably even knows she’s pregnant, that baby is already forming its unique tiny face and all of the major organs are developing. That is one reason I will never understand how so many scientists/biologists aren’t pro-life when they understand the intricate (and EARLY) details of human development. I really don’t want to start a side rant on that…

I had my first rotation in our advanced simulation lab this week where we practice using a handpiece (aka dental drill) through using a virtual/3D software – Penn is actually the first school in the country to utilize this specific cutting edge program, so that’s pretty cool. You’re basically drilling into thin air while looking through a 3D viewer, but it actually provides resistance that mimics (so the course director says, we wouldn’t know) the way hard enamel, softer infected tissue, and even the inner pulp or nerve feel if you unfortunately go too deep. There are different shapes and depths that we have to drill and the guidelines for grading are things like the percentage of the bad portion that we remove while minimizing the error (to the micron) of damaging the surrounding healthy portion. Long story short, it was actually really fun and reassuring that I was actually fairly good at it my first time, so maybe I have naturally good hand skills after all! I know it’s nothing like the real thing with a real live person and limited light, access, etc, but still, it was a nice small confidence boost that I’m hopefully actually cut out for this whole dentist thing. We also got a dental study model set of permanent and primary teeth in dental anatomy, so yeah, you could say things are getting real. IMG_0047

I’m slowly finding which friends that I seem to be drawing closer to, but I really have never liked how fast cliques can form in any smaller environment like this. I’m still in that “I want to be friends with everyone” stage, but I know it will be harder as time goes by and especially when we start things like lab and clinic rotation when we’ll be with the same smaller group for longer amounts of time. I am still hungry for smaller, authentic community, especially spiritually, though. Not having weekly LifeGroups and leading worship, us praying for each other, and just encouraging one another has been hard this first month, I’m not gonna lie. I know I’ll eventually find a new church home, but we’ve gone somewhere different each week so I obviously haven’t settled in anywhere yet to start attending a small group of some sorts.

That being said, I’m learning that my relationship with God could actually use some time away from the comforts of living in such a strong Christian community daily. It’s definitely harder to have the motivation to have my time with Jesus in the morning when I don’t have my best friends asking me about what He’s teaching me lately, but at the same time, I’m more desperate for it. The professional school grind is certainly draining, monotonous, and at times discouraging, so I know without setting aside time in the morning to rest in His presence and let Him strengthen and fill me, I would be simply wandering on my own, exhausted and longing for refreshment. I do need to play my guitar more though for sure, and I miss my times driving in my car (side note, it’s sold!!) singing at the top of my lungs to the latest Bethel worship jam.

As much as I love all my classmates here, I can’t help but miss my “home team” daily. Every now and then, I also wish so badly that I could just talk to Dad and tell him how everything’s going and what pub I’d want to take him to whenever he could come visit. He was so excited and proud of me for taking this big leap of faith. The sadness can come from nowhere and hit me all at once, but I’m still so amazed at how God is carrying me and my family through daily. Every so often I receive a letter in the mail from a friend, and honestly it does so much more for me than they’ll ever know. To stay truly connected to my friends from college was seriously one of my biggest priorities in this new stage, and I really hope that I will continue to invest in their lives and them in mine. It takes work, but I know it’s so worth it. In less than two short weeks, I’ll get to hug lots of their necks because I’m GOING TO TEXAS for a long weekend to go to a Baylor game! Sic ’em and praise the Lord. All thanks to the Pope’s visit to Philadelphia canceling an entire Friday of class at Penn. I knew I liked that guy. I’m just not Catholic, so I will definitely take advantage of our one precious three day weekend (other than Labor day).

I’m also discovering more local West Philly gems like Honest Tom’s Tacos and the Lil’ Pop Shop. As much as I crave a Common Grounds No Bull or Shorty’s Pizza on the daily, I’m learning to fall more in love with this place and its food culture every day.

IMG_9785IMG_0051Until next time, I’m exploring more off campus study spots, getting my butt to the gym more, dreaming of fall and all things pumpkin, and studying the beauties of palatal fusion and neural crest cell differentiation.

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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

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…

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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.

All things new – embracing each season

425ca6210f45ba18989eb3c0f97f0dbfThere are some people that are perfectly content with settling into a familiarity of life and going through the motions day in and day out.  I, on the other hand, absolutely love change and the new-ness of things: homes, months, seasons, classes, friends.  Sitting here in my adorable new apartment, endless thoughts fill my mind about everything that is happening now and in the near future.  In the words of Switchfoot, “Life was just happening.”

This summer has certainly been one of transition for me.  It’s been the first summer that I haven’t moved back home for the few months of so-called “freedom” from normal (stressful) college life August to May.  I stayed here to take nine credit hours to finish up my degree’s core (but actually random) requirements, spend some more time exploring the field of dentistry, work a little here and there, and most recently, to decide to take and study for the DAT. My summer has been a complex mixture of emotions, as I’m finding myself at a pivotal season of being smack dab in the middle of my undergraduate years. I’ve had plenty of time to myself to just reflect on my first half here at school and anticipate what in the world the next two years will look like.

boxes boxes boxes

boxes boxes boxes

Love our dining area

Love our dining area

cozy living room

cozy living room

the place I hopefully will spend enough time in

the place I hopefully will spend enough time in

The past couple days were spent boxing, hauling up and down stairs, and unpacking my life from one apartment to another.  I have no idea how it all actually happened because packing has been the last thing on my mind all summer with everything else going on.  Shout out to my amazing parents for helping me so much! I could not have been more excited for the move, though.  I absolutely love my new bedroom (complete with my first non-twin bed ever!), and I already felt completely at home after getting [most] of my things situated, a great night’s sleep, and of course an inaugural cup of coffee sitting at our table my first morning here. My two roommates for the upcoming year(s), Audrey and Chelsea, are encouraging, hilarious, and full of life.  We share a passion for food, decorating (Chels is an interior design major responsible for a majority of our place’s ridiculously cute style), exercising, excelling in our schoolwork, and above all, Jesus.  I know this year will be one of lots of laughs, dinner parties, and supporting each other on this crazy journey.

Another reason my future seems so close and tangible is that I’m studying to take the most important test of my life thus far. Also, I’ve started to really research in-depth the possibilities of dental schools, but I’ll save that for another post. All that to say, THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING. DAT prep has been anywhere from confidence-boosting to downright discouraging. I feel very up and down as far as how ready I think I am/will be by August 29th (less than a month!). All I can do is depend on God’s grace, and stay strong and motivated to simply do my best.
oral_surgeryMy time I’ve spent shadowing an oral surgeon has been such a blessing.  It’s crazy to think that I just happened to run into and meet him at a local dentist’s office I was shadowing the first week of summer, and now I really feel like we’ve steadily built a great mentor-student relationship that will hopefully last throughout my years of applying and getting into dental school. Every day I go, I learn even more about this potential career route for me, and I always leave with a fresh perspective about why I’m even doing all this in the first place. I’m so thankful God has given me this opportunity and am even a little sad knowing next week will be my last Friday there for now.

In just a few short weeks, the fall semester will be off and rolling ahead at full speed.  Like I said, though, I’m a fan of the new and exciting season of different class schedules and new professors.  I am taking a wide variety of classes this semester for my major (bio) and two minors (business admin, religion) that are sure to be challenging and demanding but still interesting and hopefully enjoyable.  Accounting, Entrepreneurship, Genetics and lab, Cell Physiology/BioChem, and Jesus and the Gospels.  I’m really pumped about that last one because I heard the professor is so great, and who wouldn’t want to read the Bible and learn more about the life of Jesus for a class?

My new job I have as a supplemental instructor for the biology department is something that I honestly haven’t thought about much over the summer, and now that it’s getting closer, I’m excited about it but also a little unsure exactly what all it will entail.  It’s basically like a cross between a teaching assistant and a tutor for the large introductory courses. I know this position will challenge me to expand my leadership abilities, and it will give me a chance to share my passion for science and hopefully have an impact on nervous and overwhelmed college freshmen.

Thinking about my last two years at college is a crazy thing to even fathom.  Who knows what God has planned for me as He continues to grow me into the woman I’m to become?

What will I learn and what grades will I make?

What new friends will I have?

What old friends will drift away?

Will I go on any dates (wherever you are, manly men of God who will purely pursue a girl) or even possibly be in a relationship?

Will I finish my second half marathon?

Will I ace my DAT?

Will I travel to a new exciting place?

It’s natural to wonder about the future, but it can be draining and hindering us on what we could be experiencing in the HERE and NOW. I’m preaching to myself mostly when I say let’s challenge ourselves to sometimes simply BE.