The Most Important Word in Human Vocabulary

Love.

We all want it and hope for it and seek it among others. Nothing upsets us more than when we can’t have it. I’m going to make a bold statement: Love is the main desire we all have. It’s why our hearts harden after the divorce papers are signed. It’s why we can’t stop gushing about our best friend on social media. It’s why the girl sits in the bathroom weeping. It’s why we shut out the parent that left. It’s why we care so much about other sexualities. It’s why we stand up for minority groups and races. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lack of love was the reasoning behind serial killers and terrorists.

If we just acquire love, life will be perfect and we will feel fulfilled.

Love is a word that creates tension, struggle and sensitivity. Some of you reading this have been seriously wounded by love or those you believed loved you. It’s the most shocking, sorrowful moment when the rug of love is swept out from under you by those you thought would never pull it out. When that happens we don’t want to forgive, we want to grow angry and our hearts harden. I don’t believe either reaction is okay and it only creates more rifts, splitting love into more and more shattered pieces.

I do think it’s possible to love people even with opposing opinions. Many may believe love only exists in similar opinions, but I say love allows all opinions to flourish, without shutting any out. I believe love transcends left or right, him or me, and I believe it keeps no record of wrongs. I believe you always deserve it and love has no limitations. Love extends to all people in every nation of every mental capacity, even those hardest to love, especially those hardest to love. I believe all ideas of love are foggy reflections of a true, pure love that surpasses them all. I believe love offers everything, sometimes life itself, without asking or expecting anything in return.

I know love will outweigh darkness.

But doesn’t it always come back to love? We argue over laws and politics, because we have differing opinions on how to achieve love for people. Wars ensue and people fight because of the love they have for their side. Could you even count how many love songs there are? At every concert you attend, the musician makes sure the audience knows how much they are loved and appreciated. “I love you Detroit!!!” And we scream and some roll their eyes over the inauthenticity, but only because that’s what we really want, right?

Authentic love: humanity’s desperate desire. Our heart’s desperate cry. Ironically, we’re often fed and desire the unrealistic depictions of love constantly thrown at us through entertainment. But only because we long for a love that will blow us off our feet and overwhelm us in joy.

What if I told you I think this kind of love is possible? Would you believe me?

You have good reason to desire love, with its authenticity and overwhelming power. You have good reason to weep when you encounter broken love. You have good reason to wait and not be satisfied with a love that’s half-trying. We weren’t made for broken love.

~Annah

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TV Shows that Captured my Heart

Note: I’m trying my best to return to consistent Friday postings! (Yes, I know, today is a Saturday…) But expect Friday (or Saturday) posts weekly. I have a blog rotation I’m starting: worldly ponderings (which are my thoughts on different aspects of life, e.g. beauty standards or the violence in our world), creative writing (I can’t always guarantee I’ll have new content for this one), Christian life, and reviews/entertainment posts.

Without further ado, here are the shows I would consider my favorites. (I think I would also include Friends, but everyone pretty much knows about it.)

  1. Gilmore Girls

    Gilmore Girls
    Photo Credit: Neil Jacobs

This is by far my favorite television show, because of the warm family dynamic between Lorelai Gilmore and her daughter, Rory. They’re incredibly sassy and witty characters, which makes their interactions with others highly entertaining. One of my favorite lines is when Emily Gilmore, Lorelai’s mother, drops a box of items off at their house and Lorelai says, “What is it? It’s heavy… must be her hopes and dreams for me.” I will add that the dialogue is incredibly fast-paced, which can make or break the experience for some (I get a kick out of it, but it tires my mother out.)

If you appreciate  coffee, sassy remarks, small town life and a warm “dramedy” with plenty of popular culture references, buckle up for 7 seasons of Gilmore Girls, plus the six-hour revival series that came out this past winter. It won’t be long before you feel like a part of Stars Hollow, with all of its eccentric characters.

  1. Parenthood

    Parenthood.jpg
    Photo Credit: UPTV.com

Another “dramedy,” Parenthood appealed to me because my sister recommended it and Lauren Graham, who played Lorelai in Gilmore Girls, is also a character in this show. But after watching all six seasons, I grew to love it as its own entity. There is also a strong family dynamic that warms the show, with the plot shifting between four siblings (Adam, Sarah (Graham), Julia, and Crosby), their children, and the siblings’ parents. The close-up, intimate camera shots make the viewer feel a part of the action in a way that the generally wider camera angles of Gilmore Girls don’t. A vast majority of episodes end on a positive note with the entire family coming together for the final scene, which appeals to those of us who enjoy large families and the community family provides.

While it is a fictional show and should generally be taken with a grain of salt in many aspects, I will say that watching the parents interact with their kids and teenagers made me empathize with my parents. Oftentimes growing up, children take our parents for granted, especially in the angst-y period of adolescence… but they daily need to deal with tricky decisions in the case of finances, family illnesses, and absent parents, among other issues.

Another reason I love this show is the way it highlights each generation, from the grandparents to the kids. I think people of all ages can enjoy this show, and while Gilmore Girls can sometimes be a little feminine, Parenthood is relatable to everyone, and you will laugh and cry with the Bravermans.

  1. Riverdale

    Riverdale.jpg
    Photo Credit: Netflix

Calling all fans of Archie comics, this one’s for you! However, it’s not the lighthearted, silly take you would expect, but a dark mystery that also happens to be, in my opinion, the most dramatic drama in all of existence. But I have to be honest… it is SO addicting. Almost every episode ends in a cliffhanger; a clever filming technique to keep viewers interested. The first season premiered in January and this coming Wednesday (10/11), the second season will premiere on the CW at 8:00 EST. I never watch shows live, but you can bet I’m eagerly waiting for Riverdale to start!

With the first season culminating in the solution of a murder mystery and another Riverdale community member being shot, it’s likely this season will revolve around a mystery too. The show revolves around the well-loved characters in the comics: Archie, Jughead, Betty, and Veronica. Jughead is definitely my favorite, with his strong writing skills and brooding-yet-witty personality. (Have you sensed a theme? I love witty people.)

As one of my friends pointed out, there are also similarities to Harry Potter, with Veronica’s mom named Hermione and the evil biker gang named “The Serpents” with snake tattoos, so that’s probably a subconscious appeal for me too. Those that live for mysteries, intense drama and a bit of romance—make some popcorn and watch Riverdale!

  1. Once Upon a Time

    Once.png
    Photo Credit: ABC.com

You probably inferred this from the title, but Once Upon a Time is a show that develops a plot around children’s fairytales, with Disney stories holding the most prominent influence over the plot. So all of you that hold a love for Disney near and dear to your heart, give Once a go. Fantasy, action, adventure, and mystery are all meshed together to form this magically entrancing storyline that has shaped six seasons of the show.

The seventh season started yesterday, but in all honesty, I have not caught up. Supposedly almost all of the main characters have left for the seventh season, so many fans are unhappy about that. My friends and I have discussed our mixed feelings about the show. Some people feel that certain characters become too repetitive with no character development and some plotlines in the later seasons seem weaker than previous seasons in others’ opinions. I will admit I was more eager to continue watching the earlier seasons than I am now. However, I do still adore the Disney and fantasy aspects, which has kept me watching. I can’t give a fully-informed opinion with where I’m at right now, but if you enjoy magic and fantasy, that will keep you watching and interested regardless of characters and plotlines.

  1. Sherlock

    Sherlock.jpg
    Photo Credit: PBS.org

Finally, what is television without sleuthing and Sherlock Holmes? Shout out to my English readers and those that appreciate British entertainment! They know how to produce an enthralling show. If you’re even the slightest bit familiar with Sherlock Holmes, there’s no need for me to explain. Some of the episodes are even based on short stories from Arthur Conan Doyle’s books, including the first episode, entitled “A Study in Pink,” which is loosely based on A Study in Scarlet. Four seasons are out so far, with 3 episodes per season, 1 hour and 30 minutes each. I have only watched through the first episode of season 4 because it was a pretty sad episode…

Truthfully, I am unsure if there will be more seasons, as I don’t know how four ends (and am too scared to know…). But with stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the lead roles, if there were more, it surely wouldn’t be for another year or more.

 

Hopefully at least one show caught your interest and if you have watched any (or all!) of my favorites, please let me know! I love talking to people about any and all of my favorite entertainment, and am always up for discussing any of the delightful characters! Good news: all the shows listed are also on Netflix! Unfortunately, for those of you without Netflix, the only show I could find to legally watch online (that is also available in America… Sorry Sherlock fans) is Riverdale, on the CW website. (If you’ve found the others anywhere, please share the link!) Happy binge-watching!

~Annah

My Greatest Inspiration

Three years ago yesterday I got baptized. One year ago today I saw my favorite band, Switchfoot, in concert for the first time, after listening to them for at least a good 12 years of my life. So naturally, it’s only fitting that my sister and I are going to watch Jon Foreman, the lead singer of Switchfoot, perform today. And frankly, all three of these events are strongly correlated (yeah, statistics lingo! It does come in handy.).

This post is dedicated to Jon Foreman, my greatest inspiration of all time. I’m going to tell you about the little I know of this man and why he deserves an entire blog post.

  1. Jon is an incredible writer and strings words together beautifully.

Look no further than any Jon Foreman or Switchfoot song to find poetry and poetry done well. But it’s also well-done in its simplicity, which is something I respect immensely. Many people strive to write the most eloquently or the most scholarly, but sometimes the best messages are simple and straightforward, and sometimes that’s what it takes to make words stick.

“Your heart is a work of art.”

“I arrived at the conclusion: love isn’t made, love doesn’t sell or pay, but we buy and sell our love away.”

“Don’t let the panic bring you down.”

“Don’t let your spirit die before your body does.”

  1. Jon is introspective, and thus, can pull on your heartstrings just the right way.

If you know yourself well and your faults well, you probably know humanity well. That’s Jon Foreman. He gave an incredible TED talk that I still love listening to (and I suggest you all check it out. It’s still bookmarked on my computer from a year ago.) His art and personal character don’t evolve from an outpouring of perfection, but from a man who knows his faults and imperfections very well. I love and respect those who are willing to share their struggles openly; I believe that’s what people of faith should be like, as God thrives in our weaknesses.

“Maybe that’s where life is born

when our facades are torn…

pain gives birth to the promise ahead.”

  1. Because of a daily walk with the Lord, Jon’s lyrics are drenched in Jesus and his promises.

One great lyric that I believe represents Jon’s worldview best is “We were born into the fight.” As a believer, we face a daily battle and the struggle of choosing the Lord over temporary pleasures. One of my favorite Switchfoot songs on their most recent album is called “If The House Burns Down Tonight” which is a powerful message originating from a fire in his hometown. His solo music especially frequently breathes out Bible verses, proving his familiarity with the Word.

“Would you create in me a clean heart, O God? Restore in me the joy of your salvation.”

“I’m not sentimental. This skin and bones is a rental.”

  1. Joy seeps out of every one of Jon’s pores.

I learned this from going to Switchfoot’s concert last year. Multiple times throughout the concert, Jon interacted with the crowd. The best part was when he walked through everyone standing in front and made his way to the people sitting in the back, who had probably not expected his attention at all. He went up to a young man and plopped his hat on his head, acting like they were old friends. But what a cool metaphor for Jesus! We are to be people who exhale joy and make everybody feel like somebody. You matter.

  1. Jon soaks in people and does not take a single one for granted.

Jon puts everything aside to cater to other people. For example, he nearly missed a plane one day at the Detroit airport because he stopped to talk and take a picture with my brother and his friend. (I was not at all jealous…) We were made to bring hope to others, but we remain so self-centered! Live in active awareness of that struggle and push past it.

“You’re gonna be you and it’s going to take a lifetime of practice.”

“Don’t let past mistakes rob the present of its potential for beauty and joy.”

“It’s going to take a struggle to become who you are.”

Let’s use Jon Foreman’s faithful spirit, among other inspirations, to push ourselves to action. Let’s grow the Christian family that society so often misconstrues. Because if we don’t properly portray God’s love and joy to others, why would they want check Jesus out? The world receives improper portrayals of Christ daily, so let’s be the light, shall we?

(This link looks funky, but it should work fine!)

~Annah

Dirt-Caked Feet

I’ve been in a Creative Nonfiction Writing class for a few weeks now. This piece, as titled above, required us to write about a quintessential childhood memory with over-the-top detail. Enjoy!

 

“I CALL THE MIDDLE SWING!” Nathan’s teensy brown bangs fluttered in the breeze while his red athletic shorts careened down the chipped, rust-colored paint. His porch had the kind of paint kids adore peeling off until their parents notice.

Nathan’s little sister, Kate, and I darted for the swing set in his wake. Slowly, the summer sun climbed the sky, adding dancing leaf shadows to the yard. Below our bony, breathless bodies, grass soothingly greeted the dirt-caked plains of happy feet, covered in bleeding or tender scrapes and scratches, which resulted from unforgiveable sticky, sharp pine needles, hot, gravelly asphalt, and deathly, six-pegged Legos. Our toes wiggled gleefully, knowing over 24 hours had passed since dog poop squelched and coated the smooth skin. Slightly slippery with the remnants of morning dew, the grass blades also echoed of tacky green-and-yellow Slip-n’-Slides covered in water and sprinklers with water claws. Running full speed and jumping through, we hit the jets, which almost stung, but tickled too, leaving grass and leaves clinging to chicken legs with scabbed knees. However, the number of times we laughed and screamed in delight totaled more than the amount of boo-boos on our bodies.

I hit the rubber swing fast, slamming my belly onto the seat and pushing off in the direction of our gunky pond. Coated in algae and likely filled with diseased, mutated fish, the pond glimmered with the memory of my sister’s old shovel stuck at the bottom under miles of thick black, gooey muck. Then I swung backwards on the swing, in the direction of Nathan and Kate’s family room, where a freshly-painted bar sat with brown, leftover stains from concocted drinks. Every pop imaginable fused together into the see-through shot glasses, often overflowing with bubbly fizz. Alongside the bar counter sat shelves upon shelves of CD albums and vinyl. Some glinted with the names of famous musicians and others glimmered with the neon pink, blue, and yellow color combinations only deemed recognizable by children who attended raucous, rowdy Vacation Bible Schools.

Just now the sun similarly glinted through the shivering, shaking trees above our heads, as we sat normally on our swings to pump our legs farther into the sky. Writhing, moon-colored maggots used to lie where I now sat. An old, rusting, purple and white, two-person swing set used to sit where the new, wooden, three-person set now sat. While Nathan and I flew higher, synchronizing our pumping rhythm and yelling, “We’re married!” I recalled chirping laughter between Mr. and Mrs. Scott upon asking Nathan who he wanted to marry. “Annah!” rang out with every ounce of certainty spread across the two syllables. A wiggly-toothed smile had appeared upon the baby-faced boy who often peered through my front window and shouted, “Hello?”

Kate, who had pumped higher than either of us through sheer determination and lunging backward and forward with her whole body, now flexed her legs upward. Her knees disappeared as the legs extended almost unnaturally and the toes lunged to graze the tree branches. Her tiny toes spread apart to grab hold of the wilting, weather-beaten, leaves and pull them away from their woody host. Bending downward until unable to fight anymore, the attacked branch snapped back with a rushing, fluttering, whooshing sound. Each leaf stubbornly clung to Kate’s toes before drifting single-file to the ground. When I tried for the leaves, I cupped the clump of tree appendages between my feet like a toy monkey, clanging its cymbals together abruptly. Unwillingly, the leaves admitted to the capture, while Kate cackled and screeched.

~Annah

Quietly Confident & Sweetly Unapologetic

This is a random, word-vomit blog… just a heads-up. It’s commentary on my own character and how I’ve changed, but I’ll try to connect it to the big picture for everyone else.

I’m the type of person who describes myself as ‘nice’ or ‘friendly.’ You know, super generic words that actually don’t mean squat or give anyone a depiction of who I really am. Honestly, I never sit down to really think about my characteristics as a unique creation. I just think I don’t know… I’m Annah. People who know me know who I am… while really I can’t even describe who I am.

Some things never change about our characters, like my resilient stubbornness over the years. Just ask anyone in my family about my relationship with the word “sports” and they will laugh their heads off. I refused to play sports in elementary school and had no interest in being signed up for Girl Scouts, so I avoided both. The only time I ever considered playing a sport was after my siblings’ soccer games, when they would bring snacks back to the car. Sports = free snacks? Hmm, that’s tempting.

Throughout middle and high school I never drank a lick of alcohol and barely touched a boy. People partook in games like ‘spin the bottle,’ while I would sit in the background, shamelessly eating food.

Peer pressure? Not even miles within reach of my vocabulary.

My dad, being an English teacher, ended up being my eleventh grade teacher (and no, it was not weird, to answer literally everyone’s question.) He had us do this, dare I say, great activity where we had to write down a compliment for everyone in the class that did not involve something generic like “you’re nice.” The results were shocking and uplifting for every 17-year-old and I still remember some loud, highly-opinionated guy I seldom spoke to wrote that I had a ‘quiet confidence’ about me.

Well, little did he know, that is one of the most accurate descriptions I can think of for myself. If you want to know who Annah really is, I am quietly confident and sweetly unapologetic.

My lack of knowledge in career paths or future plans is made up for in my knowledge of my personal values, spiritual values, and what I value in other human beings. These values are where my confidence lies, so I guess that’s why I’m ‘quietly’ confident. While I may seldom have strong exterior situations to stand confident in as a college student, my interior life is sure to be rock-solid. Sprinkle some good ole stubbornness in there and my quiet confidence is not about to change anytime soon.

As I have recently realized, I am also sweetly unapologetic. I feel as if I take the characteristics I dislike about myself and force myself to pull a 180. Only two years ago I suffered through my first year of college, incredibly self-conscious and possessing a very small amount of self-esteem. Since then I have allowed my quiet confidence to flourish while my faith has taken the difficult cards dealt me and turned them into rewarding obstacles.

Similarly, my self-consciousness concerning other people has slowly begun to melt away and continues to do so today. While I still have steps to take to not let others’ words affect me so personally, I have become unapologetic in my interactions with others. I don’t mean I say whatever I want with no cares, it just means if I think someone is cool, I talk to them, which is much more than I could say two years ago.

Last year I thought this girl down my hall was cool and even though we had never properly talked, I stuck a note on her door. Since then I have gotten to talk to her lovely soul more. This past May, two cool senior guys were playing Spike Ball with their friends, so I walked up to them and asked them to teach me. Picture this: 5’1” Annah playing Spike Ball with three 6’+ guys. I randomly messaged someone from high school I said maybe two things to today, because I saw something stupid and funny I thought he would appreciate. And those are just some instances off the top of my head. 13-year-old Annah would be appalled.

I think too often we put up walls between ourselves and others, most of which are self-created. We decide we can’t talk to people because they would judge us or think it’s weird or your past is complicated or 5000 other excuses. If you think someone is the bee’s knees, you should befriend them. If some random chick does something funny in the dining hall or you see someone with a t-shirt that has your favorite Star Wars character on it, go talk to them!

Life is short, you are perfectly unique, and both forgiveness and community are unlimited. Be confident in your unique self. Talk to anyone and everyone.

(Also, I realize now I may need to add a third quality to my list: surprisingly sassy.)

~Annah

Music Makes Me Soul-Search

“It’s been a long day

Without you, my friend

And I’ll tell you all about it

When I see you again.”

I’ve heard this song a lot of times in many different contexts and it hits a little bit differently each time. But every time I hear those initial piano chords, it pulls at my heartstrings. As of 2 years ago, I associated this song with leaving my three weeks at Windy Gap, a Young Life camp in North Carolina, where I voluntarily served for three weeks folding laundry and cleaning cabins (and hosing down the lost-and-found shoes… that was nice in the 90-degree-low-of-the-day weather).

Basically, leaving Windy Gap involved the longest amount of time I have ever spent crying in my life and the one time I was genuinely mad at God. Why, God? Why would you put me in such close proximity to brothers and sisters in Christ I love to death only to be torn from them for the rest of my earthly life?

But in a way, it was God gracefully allowing me to see a glimmer of heaven.

On top of those emotions, what was the main song throughout Luke’s memorial? That’s right, the same song. When I heard the first chords my heart dropped a little, as if the significance wasn’t already emotional for me. But we were really blessed by Luke Granger. The bright, hopeful, joyful, yellow-spirited Luke Granger that looked upward no matter what was in front of him.

While no one is perfect, in a way the remembrance of Luke’s life was also a gentle reminder from God for my anxious, white-knuckling-until-the-bitter-end soul. A gentle where are you looking? nudge from Dad.

Everything is grace-driven.

So now I sit at the late hours of the evening listening once more to “See You Again,” along with an entire playlist I created called “Luke.” I sit, I listen, and I’m fidgety. I’m not content. I don’t want to sleep, I don’t want to watch a show or a movie, I do not want to continue passively watching my life flash by without any heart or soul in it. I want to write, I want to create, I want to breathe life into a dusty world.

Is anyone else bothered by their passivity?! AHH! God called us to be ACTIVE and too often in the twenty-first century we’re handed passive tool after passive tool. I’ll just sit here and worry about how my words sound instead of just writing, because I compare EVERYTHING, everything to other people.

I want to write and I am going to write. And I will tell you all about it when I see you again, friend.

~Annah

The Beauty and Heartbreak of Death

Ever since I heard of my dear family friend, Luke’s, passing yesterday afternoon I have been on the go. My mom told me, I cried a bit and prayed with some of my housemates, then I headed right to work where the stress of three classes’ homework for today hit me and the rest of the night was spent trying my best to focus on reading and writing, whilst juggling student inquiries at my secretarial job, a scattered brain, and waves of emotion. I woke up today and had my back-to-back classes and now I’m finally done and am free for a long weekend (I’m incredibly blessed to have Fridays off of class this semester).

So now that I am free, I have time to process and write this blog. Time to really consider and bring to God whatever the heck it is I’m feeling. Luke battled a rare and aggressive cancer for two long and hard years, so naturally it is relieving to know his pain and battle is over. I think about Luke’s passing and I’m struck by the thought, “Wow, God, thank you for allowing us this opportunity to choose you in our short lifetimes. Thank you, Father, that because of Jesus we now get to come home to You when we die.” I think of the blessings, I want to dwell on the blessings and the good, I’m surrounded by lovely souls who keep reminding me of the good.

But honestly, God, I’m still incredibly sad. There are still tears streaming down my face, even though I know the ultimate outcome is beyond just “good,” beyond ideal, beyond the best we can possibly think of. Luke is home and Luke is whole in the place he truly belongs and now can exist in his true untainted being, the way God intended him to be. What could be better than that? But our world is broken and Luke’s death is directly correlated to the pain and the brokenness that you and I have created, and that breaks my heart. The outcome is ultimately positive and I know deep down it is good, but as one incredible friend alluded to in a simple text message, because I still live in the realm of brokenness, my heart is broken, I experience brokenness and am not invincible to the pain, therefore, sadness is completely natural. We only see dimly in the mirror right now, so it’s going to hurt.

I’m sure everyone reading this has experienced some kind of loss or deep sorrow. The hardest part is that you cannot plan for it and everything else happening in your life at the time always seems to become trivial in a way. I’ve been to three funerals in my lifetime, the last one being at least seven years ago. I remember my grandpa’s funeral, because even though I had cried for my grandma’s, my grandpa’s funeral was when I truly understood the weight of the situation. I distinctly recall standing with my family and watching his casket being lowered into the ground and that’s when the floodgates opened. He was really gone, he was not coming back, and for now at least, we were permanently separated. I recognized the finality of death.

It hurts knowing Luke was only 17. It hurts knowing his parents and brothers have to spend the rest of their earthly lives without their youngest son and brother. It hurts that people cannot firsthand experience the joy, love, and witty jokes Luke had to offer the world. It hurts.

But there’s also comfort and that comfort lies in eternity, Luke’s peace, who God is, and God’s promises, which all eternally outlast every possible pain you can think of in this scenario.

Loss is hard but it’s also a great reminder of what is  most important: people. That is why God’s biggest mission for us is to go out and make disciples of every nation. If there is one thing you should care about other than me, God implies, it is people. And not just your best friend or your mom, but every person. Get to know as many people as possible, because they are made in God’s image too, despite their opinions and their lifestyle choices. Love on every person you meet, which I know Luke was incredibly skilled at, and don’t forget that every breath is a second chance (as Switchfoot sings) and a gift.

Luke had to undergo more than I could ever imagine over the last two years and that was really difficult for everyone to watch, but

Luke battled on the winning side.

And ultimately, all I can say is “Hallelujah, what a savior.”

As they say on Earth, rest in peace, Luke. Not that you need the well wishes. I know God is so ecstatic to have you home. Party it up.

~Annah