April / Hannah
Name - Hannah Gilbert
Age - 24
Lives in - Nicholasville, KY
Alma mater - Asbury University
Majored in - Psychology
Graduated - 2015
Drinks her coffee - White mocha
Last read - Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
SIB: Describe your basic job duties?
HG: I answer the office phone, greet [guests] and make sure they have what they need, answer lots of questions, and make sure the coffee station is filled. *laughs* That’s very important, especially around Southland. Our staff love their coffee. And then [in] my other role, I am one of the house staff at one of the Refuge for Women houses. [It’s] for women coming out of the sex industry. I work there a couple nights a week, and I’m there for whatever the ladies need. I drive them places, make sure that they’re abiding by schedules and rules, and [am] the leadership presence in the house. There ends up being a lot of informal counseling, because I try to form a relationship with all the girls. They tell me about their [lives], and if something’s going on, I try to talk them through it.
SIB: Tell me about how the Refuge is helping these women in the community?
HG: The basic design of the program is that there’s different phases, so in the first phase [the women] focus on their emotional healing, spiritual healing. Once they’ve done all their classes and homework to progress them to the next level, they are required to find a job. [The Refuge helps] them write their resume and prepare them for interviews. The Refuge has a ton of connections in the community, so they connect [the women] with different businesses. Our goals are to make sure that they have a job, safe housing and a strong community. It’s very holistic, Christian-based. [The women] don’t have to be Christian, but it definitely is a faith-based program. We don’t always have a lot of graduates, because it’s a hard program, [but] I know that any girl who comes in [gets] touched.
SIB: Both of your jobs involve working directly with people. What from your psych background helps you with this?
HG: I definitely feel that at the Refuge, all the counseling classes I took gave me a good amount of practical knowledge on how to have a therapeutic conversation with someone. I’ve learned a whole lot more since being at Refuge, but [college] gave me a background on how to work with trauma victims. It gives you that foundation. And then at Southland, I feel I end up counseling people a lot, because [I] get a lot of financial needs-based calls. Southland is all about helping the community, but they also have processes for that. So, if someone calls and needs [immediate] money, we can’t do that. It’s not possible with how many requests that we get. But that leads me to have the opportunity to listen to people, because sometimes people just want to talk [about] whatever’s going on. Having the knowledge on human behavior and thinking has really helped me in those tough conversations.
SIB: “The more identities a man has, the more they express the person they conceal.” - Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. What do you consider your identities?
HG: My friendships, my relationship with my boyfriend, my family, and work. My relationship with God, and this may sound weird, but my introvert time. *laughs* I feel like that’s a really unique but important part of me. My two jobs are very different environments, so I definitely feel those are completely different parts of my life, and then my friendships break down a lot too, because I have a lot of different types of friends.
SIB: You are all about friend dates. What are other ways you maintain strong friendships?
HG: I love going to get coffee and meeting up and having life talks. It’s gotten a little harder with some of my friends because a lot of them don’t live here anymore, especially after graduating college. I’ve realized how terrible I am with maintaining long-distance relationships. I’ve been trying to get better at being intentional about texting or calling. That’s something else I’m learning a lot these days, is the whole excuse of not having time. You can make time, it’s just depends on what you’re making time for. It takes a little bit more effort, but I love the women in my life so much. They’re worth that.
SIB: What’s your favorite (almost) free date?
HG: Jordan (Hannah's boyfriend of nine months) and I love exploring [outdoor] places, so we’ve been to the Arboretum, to the Palisades in Berea, [and] McConnell Springs, just like hiking or exploring different trails. Our recent favorite thing has been watching HGTV type shows on Netflix, specifically this British one - it’s like this British house hunting show, and then we talk about things like we like in houses. We are such talkers and we just like to talk about our day, about what the Lord’s teaching us.
SIB: Do you think a person needs multiple roles to express herself?
HG: Different people bring out different parts of me. I love all the people in my life, but I don’t think that I would feel 100% myself if I just spent time with one person or one group all the time. Certain friends bring out my fun, silly side. And then there’s other friends that I love to be with because they’re naturally chill. And some of them are really positive, some of them are snarky and sarcastic and a little cynical, and that allows me to bring out [those parts] of me, because I’m naturally not the type of person to let it all out to anyone. It does help me express.
SIB: Many women may struggle to integrate different facets of their lives, or to keep them separate. How do you think those different facets should relate to each other?
HG: I think that it’s perfectly normal and healthy to have lots of different aspects in your life. Variety is the spice of life, right? I do think that it’s healthiest for each of those aspects, even though they are different, to still be true to you. And [for] each of them to be healthy for you.
As far as how they relate together, I think it probably just depends on the person and their preference. For some people, it’s super important for their family to be involved in other aspects of their [lives] - their friendships, their romantic relationships, their job, their hobbies; for some people it’s really important for their friends to be involved. Whereas for other people, it’s not that important. It’s really hard to be healthy, to learn a good balance, between your work and your relationships. I have a huge problem, I always have, with jobs [overflowing] into other parts of my life. I get very focused and dedicated to what I’m doing and where I’m serving, but I’ve learned that that can have a significant impact on my relationships and I don’t want that to happen anymore. My priorities are really starting to go to my relationships with God, my boyfriend, my friends, my family.
SIB: How would someone work towards simplifying her life?
HG: It takes time [and] a lot of evaluation. I’m learning that it can’t happen overnight. When you have a lot of priorities it’s not wise, it’s also plain rude, to just cut off things. So it’s a process of peeling off layers. I think that if someone was in that situation, the first thing that they need to do is take a day or so to just rest and evaluate. “Am I passionate about this? Is this what the Lord is calling me to?” Really get to the root of why you’re doing what you’re doing. If you’re really passionate about three different things, and you honestly feel like that’s what the Lord’s calling you to, even though it’s a lot, then go for it.
But a lot of us, myself included, do a lot of things for perhaps the wrong reasons. It might be that there was a season that you really felt called to [something], but at this point you’re just doing it to people-please, or because you hate quitting. [But] when you’re so spread thin, you’re barely doing anything for any of them. [You need to] pray about what to say no to, so you can truly say yes to other things.
SIB: How do you replenish and care for yourself?
HG: I love when I get days, especially mornings, by myself. Whether a cozy day inside, like on a rainy day, or spending a beautiful day outside. Those are often the two environments where I can really slow down and hear God’s voice the most. It’s really important for me to have that quiet time reading a Christian book or Scripture. Sometimes it’s hard for me to slow my mind down, so what I often do is start with my time with God, read a devotional, read Scripture, ‘cause He just helps to still me, and then from there I can just get absorbed in a book or a TV show. I love to watch those random science space shows because learning about the universe reminds me how small I am and how small the issues I have are. I’m like, “Oh my gosh, black holes, oh that’s so cool!” *laughs*
SIB: What is something you are insecure about?
HG: Probably one of my biggest insecurities is my personality. I often worry about how I come off to people because I care way too much about what other people think of me, and so sometimes I worry about whether something I was saying was communicated right, or whether I sounded weird or awkward. I often wish I was funnier or more clever, ‘cause sometimes I’m not the most witty person, and if there’s a big group and they’re all cutting up about something, sometimes I get insecure about not being funny or cool enough. I’ve gotten a lot more confident in the past couple years, but I definitely still struggle with that. And then probably my other insecurity is confidence. Not feeling like I’m smart enough or good enough for something.
I’ve learned to, as soon as I start to feel myself getting anxious about those things, to center back on the fact that no one else’s opinion matters but God’s. He’s teaching me more and more about purely living from the confidence that His love for me and His delight in me is so strong, so much more than I could understand, and that’s literally all that matters. As long as I’m only caring about that, I’m doing everything I need to do. Just remembering that soothes me when I feel like I sounded stupid or didn’t sing a song very well at 608 (Southland's Sunday night church service). I’m learning how to turn down the volume of those [negative] voices, and turn up the Spirit’s voice.
SIB: What are your favorite ways to take care of your body?
HG: I love to walk for exercise and for [its] therapeutic nature. I’ve always struggled with working out, so my favorite way to exercise is to just walk in a fast paced way that gets my heart going, and it helps with my stomach issues too. And being intentional about eating good things because eating in general is tricky for me. Oftentimes if I’m stressed or exhausted I’ll go home, eat or drink something that I know isn’t going to trigger a very helpful response in my body but is a comfort. For an example, I love coffee so much and especially on tired, stressful days, I want a cup of coffee, but it makes my acid reflux really bad, so i’ve gotten more intentional about saying “no.” And resting, sleeping. It’s tough with my job at Refuge, so I’m trying to be intentional about getting the rest that I need when I’m not there. Those things help a lot.
SIB: You have the most amazing curls. What’s your secret?
HG: I’m really old-fashioned, I still have an old-fashioned clamp curling iron that I use. No one uses those anymore except me. I section my hair off and curl backwards and then once I’m all done with it, I run my fingers through it and flip it over and it’s like shoom!!
SIB: You rock layers like no one’s business. Tell me one way you transition your wardrobe from winter to spring.
HG: I feel like a lot of girls do this, but I’m a huge fan of having sleeveless or short sleeve layers that you can pair with cardigans in the winter, but you can wear by themselves in the spring. That’s just such a practical thing to do. I really love fun transition pieces that have patterns and colors that [indicate] different seasons.
SIB: “Live in such a way that people who know you but don’t know Christ will want to know Christ because they know you.” - Unknown. What seemingly everyday aspect of your life do you feel helps you connect with those who aren’t believers?
HG: People [are] always fascinated by what I do at Refuge. No matter who you are, or what you believe, you’re for those women. Once you find out what’s going on, how a lot of them have been trafficked, everyone is on board, you know? It’s a great opportunity to share what God’s doing without being overbearing.
The love and the healing of God is naturally attractive. It’s a subject and a thing that appeals to a whole lot of people and that’s just a natural way to talk about faith. I remember talking to a nail aesthetician; she was a Muslim. She was so sweet. We had a really [great] conversation about faith, not in a specific way, just that Refuge is a great place for women. It’s just a natural conversation starter.
SIB: Do you think it’s easier or harder to be a Christian while working at a church or for a secular organization?
HG: It’s probably a little bit easier to fall into the not being authentic thing at my church job. With Refuge, even though it is a faith-based organization, I’m constantly with women that are new to their faith, or are starting to grow, and are really rough around the edges because of where they’re coming from. And because of all the challenges that come with working with people who have dealt with crazy trauma, who are almost all addicted to some sort of substance, there are a lot of challenges that come up that have forced me to get really tight with God. My dependance on Him has grown exponentially since I’ve been at Refuge because of those challenging situations and because of the amount of spiritual attack that goes on [there]. It’s really overwhelming sometimes. So I would say even though that’s tough, it makes it probably easier to grow in my faith.
SIB: In what areas of life are you confident?
HG: I feel good about my ability to relate to people and to make them feel loved, welcome, accepted and heard. I know that one of my God-given gifts in life is listening. I love being able to connect with a lot of people. I’m not always perfect; my patience runs out at times, but I’m really thankful for that gift.
SIB: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) focuses on changing one’s thoughts in order to reorient one’s feelings, habits, etc. In your opinion, what is the single most important thought a woman could have?
HG: I’m gonna steal this from the book that I just read (Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist). Shauna, in the book, talks about how every morning she wakes up and [thinks], “In this day, no matter what happens, no matter what I do or don’t do, I cannot do anything to earn any more of God’s love, nor can I do anything to take any of it away.” And that confidence and assurance and identity of who she is can transform her whole day. That one thought reassures you that you have nothing to measure up to, you don’t have to strive for anything, you can know you’re going to screw up [at] some point in that day and it’s going to be okay. I think that’s single most important thought to have ingrained in your brain.
SIB: What does balance mean to you?
HG: Even though we are called to be living sacrifices and to give our lives to being vessels of God’s love and building His kingdom and all those other Christian cliches…again, another idea I’m stealing from Shauna’s book…we as individuals are a part of that kingdom, too. Not taking care of ourselves [causes] God’s kingdom [to suffer]. He delights in us and wants to give us life, abundant life, and that entails balance and boundaries to keep us healthy and safe. Therefore, balance should be a huge priority in all of our lives, because I really believe that’s what He wants for us. When we have healthy boundaries and good balance between work and school and relationships and all those things, we can be our best selves.