All of God’s Children

We are living in tense times. How do we combat the sound of conflict and pain? How do we hold onto hope despite the pain? How do we empathize and show our neighbors we care about them all, when many are under the impression that Christians don’t care and aren’t loving?

These are the kinds of questions that run through my head as I watch videos, scroll through news feeds, and read argument after argument online. There is so much hurt and as someone who’s greatest strength according to the “strength finders” test is empathy, I grieve deeply for these minorities who are being oppressed. How can I sit here worrying about homework when there are so many bigger problems going on?

I’ve never been highly invested in politics but lately all I can think about is the distress happening.

Lately in light of recent events I have been thinking of the topic of abortion. I’m not trying to start any arguments or debates, but I’ve thought about my stance and how from what I’ve gleaned from the Bible, there are numerous reasons pro-life is my stance and I cannot support Christians having abortions. But that’s just it–I can only apply that reasoning to Christians, I cannot hold non-believers to the same standards because we don’t have the same morals! (Although I do still have non-Christian reasons too.) If I had different beliefs I would probably be pro-choice. I understand their side of the argument and I get there can be some very genuine health and financial concerns involved. That makes it tricky and confusing, and that’s how I’ve come to understand that God truly transcends politics. There’s always in every situation an opinion based on Biblical truth and my own personal reasonings, but there’s also the desire to love on my neighbor (which is also Biblical) and provide for them. Usually those ideas can’t mix one way or the other politically, hence the transcendence.

This is probably another jumble of a blog, but I guess my point is that if you’re a Christian you should be spreading God’s love and following his Word. But don’t let politics take the forefront, because God is bigger than it all. There is no right or wrong as far as God’s political opinion (because he doesn’t even have one!) There is no cut or dry “good” and “bad” party.

It breaks my heart to hear people personally attacking others or saying that there shouldn’t be people alive who think a certain way. No opinion or viewpoint is inferior to any other.

Remember that we were all designed to be God’s children, even if we don’t all accept Him. Don’t forget the humanity and beauty behind every soul. Every terrorist was made in His image, as was every school shooter, strictly conservative Republican, transgender Democrat, illegal immigrant, and yes, even Donald Trump himself.

I think as Christians it’s most important during this highly political time to transcend perceived perceptions, love and empathize, and listen to every opinion with open ears. Be there and make time for all of God’s children, whether they identify as that or not.

“I believe in a world that’s beyond me / I believe in a world I ain’t seen / past the glass, and shotgun shacks / and violent, faceless, racist facts / I believe in a world that’s made clean.” ~Jon Foreman

~Annah

Advertisements

Nighttime

As a child, I was never afraid of the dark. I’ve always been the type of person who basically cannot sleep with any light on. Sleep has always been one of my favorite things. But I’ve come to realize nighttime has meant many different things to me over the years—it’s a constantly changing relationship.

I had a couple memorable one-liners as a child. I always loved when there was moonlight on my bed and I made sure to make it known that “the moon makes my bed warm.” It was this comforting presence in the midst of the dark surroundings. Something about the moon was always so cozy to me.

Bedtime was also a time for rebellion as a child. One of my sisters, my brother, and I all shared a room at one point. As soon as my parents would put us to bed, my brother and I would begin to talk, while my sister would become agitated and usually told on us for being loud. As my family and I love to tell people, there was one night I started jumping and dancing around on my bed. Eventually my father found out and brought me into the hallway in frustration. I began to cry as he questioned my actions, asking “Did you do it?! Say yes or no!” Grief-stricken, I famously cried out, “Yes or no!!!”

When I was in high school, nighttime became a time to be sneaky. My freshman year I always texted my crush after I went to bed, but I’m pretty sure my mom knew the whole time. Otherwise I would stay up late doing homework when I wasn’t supposed to. I’m thankful my parents were strict about bedtimes though, because I truly value my sleep (and I am NOT a morning person). Nighttime was also a time to be sad, as I always hated crying in front of people. Especially with friends, high school was a rough time for me. There were plenty of frustrations to be drowned in.

My relationship with nighttime changed the most coming to college though. On a simple note, it became a loud time. After growing up in a small rural town and having my own room for a few years, I grew accustomed to complete, blissful silence while I prepared for bed. College has made me realize how blessed I was, as it’s almost never quiet. That was one of many transitions I had to grow accustomed to.

But on a much heavier note, nighttime became fearful. As my freshman year progressed, I came to terms with my anxiety. The majority of my anxiety stems from hypochondria and a fear of being sick or dying. Last summer was by far the worst it has ever been. Almost every night in June and July I was afraid, and putting my head down to the pillow was almost impossible. I enjoyed watching Netflix before bed to unwind, but it became a necessity, in order to push off the attempt to sleep. Night after night I tried to sleep and noticed a different pain in my chest or head, an irregular heartbeat, whatever it might have been… and immediately my whole world came crashing down. I was dying, I was sure of it. Every single night.

One night I remember so vividly. I went to bed a bit worried about some health-related thing. But I decided I would give it to God and not worry about it. Then, for once, I actually went to bed rather quickly, without any abnormal pains to scare me. All I know is about an hour or two later I abruptly woke up in a cold sweat, with my heart racing. I bolted up in bed and walked into the dark living room. I looked outside and up into the sky, where I liked to envision God. “I’m dying,” I whispered, as I started sobbing uncontrollably. I was so sure of it. I walked into my parents’ room and woke them up, while they quickly let me into bed with them. I curled up between them like a child, and after a while, I settled down. But the fear was too real.

This past fall, I bought a Twenty One Pilots poster at a sale. It has the lyrics from their song “Ode to Sleep” that says “I’ll stay awake, ‘cause the dark’s not taking prisoners tonight.” I put it on my closet, so it’s right in front of me when I sit up in bed. To me it’s a reminder that no matter what my flesh will tell me at night, I’m safe. Even if I were to die, someone’s still in control. And it’s not me.

~Annah

Transitions and Introspection

Let’s see if this blog will be coherent. Probably not.

Lately, maybe because of the new year, I’ve been considering my life as a whole. One thing I really want to work on this year is honesty, especially within my friendships. Too often we’re not direct with one another and we skirt around things that make us uncomfortable… especially women. It’s so much easier to talk to everyone but the person or people you’re in conflict with and that’s not okay! We need to change that. It’s a bad habit engrained in too many of us, I’m sorry to say.

One thing that has really stuck with me lately is from a song by Twenty One Pilots, called “Isle of Flightless Birds.” The lyric says “Your soul knows good and evil, your soul knows both sides and it’s time you pick your battle, and I promise you this is mine.” That has played over and over in my head.

This is what I have begun to do over the past year or so… picked my battles. I’m now at this strange stage of adulthood, where for the first time, I’m in control of the people in my life. Who do I want to surround myself with? Can I provide any more towards existing relationships? Are my relationships helping or hurting my life? Is this an obligation? Do I want to watch these people become successful? Is this burden the right battle to be fighting? Does God and His word support my decisions?

I love everyone that has ever been in my life. I’ve learned so much from the most difficult people. God places everyone at just the right time. I’m beginning to let go of people and cling closer to others. That’s just the stage of life I and my peers are in! We’ve been at college two years now and entered into a new chapter, where we decide what kind of life we want to lead and what kind of people we want to partake in it.

This is not easy. I’ve always been a people pleaser and as I’ve gained more confidence in my identity, I’ve also come to accept that life’s not going to go how I want it to. People will be upset one way or another. But how am I going to approach these storms and difficult talks in my relationships? That’s what matters.

I’ve picked a couple battles, some people that I really root for and I want to struggle with. One in particular has been on my heart for about six months. I think it’s a battle worth fighting. There are also people I’ve been struggling with for a while now, who I’ve thought and prayed about for a year. This has resulted in some difficult and emotional decisions.

So there were some hodge-podge thoughts. Maybe you could resonate somewhere within the chaos? Life can be pretty jumbled sometimes, but I know my Heavenly Father will make everything clear over time.
~Annah

Resolution? No, Restoration.

It’s December 30th, which means everyone is planning their resolutions for 2017. I’ve never been into resolutions… I’ve tried a couple times but I usually end up disappointed, as I’m sure many other people can agree.

There are a lot of things I need to work on. Exercise is barely existent in my life, there’s always room to grow spiritually and there are tons of things I never spend hardly enough time doing. If I wanted I could make a list miles long of things I need to do or improve upon. But that wouldn’t help nor motivate me.

I think planning on a restoration makes much more sense than a resolution. My goal is not to solve something this year,  but to ‘to return something to a former owner, place or condition’ as the definition states.

I need to remember what I was made for and who I was made for. Believe it or not, I’m not made to acquire money or go to school. I’m not made for good grades and resumes. I can proudly say my purpose is much more personal and meaningful. So I want to spend my year truly living and believing that I’m made to grow close to my Father and show others his love. Everything else that needs fixing can stem from that.

God is well-known for highlighting sins in my life. At different periods I’ve felt him tugging my heartstrings to focus on certain shortcomings. This past year it has been lust, which in many ways I feel is still a taboo subject! Lately I’ve felt more drawn to focus on selfishness and gossip.

Especially for women, gossip has become so normalized, it’s frightening! We are so quick to talk about people behind their backs, even if it’s not the most serious scenario. When I’m angry or upset, it’s so much easier to go to a friend than God or the person involved. Not only that, but we engage on the other end and never stop to call each other out and redirect each other back to God.

I want to restore my friendships to Godly ones. Too often I don’t want to hurt my friends’ feelings, but to be a real friend in Christ, sometimes we have to speak the truth. We have to say the hard things that make our flesh furious, but will ultimately keep our eyes on the right person.

I’m to be a servant of the Lord as well and too often I forget that. I put myself first. I tell myself I’ll pray for others or I’ll be there for them once my stress and checklist is over and finished. I’ll help you once it’s convenient for me. That is not okay. My priorities have been upside down and I want to make strides to flip the pyramid back over. It’s going to be hard, it’s going to be heavy and I’ll probably sweat a lot (out of my eyes), but this restoration needs to happen.

My prayer is that this coming year I could lean on my Father more than anyone else. I hope to be able to point my loved ones back in his direction every time. I pray that when I fall God and others would do the same for me, because I know I’m gonna fall. A lot. I pray that you too might find restoration in whatever you feel is necessary.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” -Hebrews 12:1-2

~Annah

Remodeled – An Excerpt

As some of you may or may not know I want to be an author. However, I always feel hesitant telling people that because so many people say the same thing and never get anywhere. It’s just an ideal dream. But it has become kind of a mission of mine to come through with it. I have a lot of things to say, I guess. Mainly I’m just super quiet and observant. I have things I want the world to know. And I don’t just want to write, but I want to make people think, whether that’s through different lifestyles or viewpoints. My goal is to get people outside of themselves, but also write realistic, relatable characters.

This past semester I had my introduction to creative writing class, where I probably wrote more in a few months than I ever have before. My favorite piece was the one fiction story I was able to write, Remodeled. After over a month of poetry I was pretty relieved to write some fiction. Short stories are a challenge though, because I become way too attached to my characters.

Anyway here’s the beginning of my story! I’ve never shared any fiction on here before so I thought I’d give it a try. Maybe you’ll like it. Maybe you’ll think I’m a terrible writer. I’m always game for feedback, so fire away.

 

“There’s an elderly woman outside who can’t lift the grocery bags into her car,” I heard my boss say from the supermarket entryway. “Will someone help her out?”

I stared transfixed at the plastic bag turntable in front of me. It was no more than twenty degrees outside and snow was falling thick and fast. Please, for the love of god, don’t pi—

            “Adrienne, you don’t look like you’re doing much. Why don’t you go help?”

“Sure,” I replied, mustering the weakest smile possible. “I would just love to help.” Ugh, why do I always have such a crass attitude?

On the plus side, at least I could cover up my atrocious yellow work vest with a coat. Stiffly, I jerked the black cotton over my sore body and pulled a wool hat over my tightly pinned black bun. Yeah, I’m really starting to feel the repercussions of my workout yesterday. It had been the first time in a month I’d forced myself to do something worthwhile, like caring for my body.

Lane, my boss, made me hate my job even more than I already did. He was short and squat, with dark-rimmed glasses he always stared over the top of, probably because he thought that made him more menacing. To him, he was better than all of us lowly minimum wage workers who had to cater to customers in this tiny town in the middle of nowhere. When I walked past him towards the door, he grabbed my arm.

“Hey, watch that attitude. We are here to serve customers. If you won’t do that, you’re always welcome to quit.”

I glanced down at him, thinking of all the things I wanted to say in retort. How I would definitely leave if I could. How his attitude wasn’t that much better than mine. I considered taking out an earring and stabbing his cornea. But instead I just barely nodded, saying monotonously, “Please let go of my arm.”

The biting wind grazed my face as I stepped into the flurry of winter. A small lady stood hunched over her grocery cart, while another younger woman lifted a bag into the trunk of her small, red bug. I approached reluctantly. When the younger woman saw me, she smiled.

“Hey, you don’t have to do that, I was just about to help,” I said weakly, grabbing a bag myself. “I’m the one working here after all, this isn’t your job.” I laughed a little. Why would you waste energy on work you don’t have to do?

“Oh, that’s perfectly all right, you go back inside!” she exclaimed, warmly. “I’m sure you’ve been working hard all day! You deserve a little break.”

I opened my mouth to disagree, but closed it abruptly. Well I mean if she insists, I can’t argue with that. Who would want help from a rude person like me anyway?

            With an awkward nod at the old lady, who had been staring and giving me a toothless smile this whole time, I returned to the warm embrace of the store. Luckily, Lane had gone off to attend to other duties, so I returned my coat and stood at my assigned place on the end of a checkout lane.

As another customer entered our lane to purchase groceries, I delicately pried open the bags, so they sat ready for the incoming items. It was nice to be the bagger, because I hardly had to converse with the customers. Reaching into my pocket, I pulled out earphones and placed one in each ear. Music processed my inexpressible emotions for me and I liked that. Emotional rock music was my favorite; profound lyrics mashed with electric guitar solos. It brought out emotions I didn’t even know I had. Mostly, it kept me calm when I had to talk to customers, because I’ve never been a people person.

“Have a nice day,” I said, blinking in response to the customer’s smile. More groceries began to pour in from the next customer and I started over. One of my favorite songs drifted through my earphones and I let the words consume me, as I continued my mundane work in autopilot mode. I was so absorbed in the song that it wasn’t until the customer had tapped me on the shoulder that I jerked out of my reverie. The young woman from earlier was back.

“Adrienne… that’s what your nametag says, right?” the young woman asked, while I unplugged my ears and let the unnecessarily loud music flood the vicinity.

“Yeah…” I said, trying not to let my annoyance become too obvious. “…And yours?”

“My name is Brielle,” she said simply. She held out her hand to shake mine.

“Cool name,” I replied with hardly any enthusiasm. Her hand remained facing me and without any other way out, I shook it.

“Thank you, I think so too! But you’ll have to thank my mother for that,” Brielle said, moving a strand of auburn hair behind her ear. “Anyway, I just recently moved here with my family so I thought I would get to know everyone in town! Adrienne… I will remember that for sure. It was lovely to meet you!”

“Yeah… you too,” I said, hesitantly. With another smile, Brielle walked away, her cart squeaking along in front of her. She’s a little too chipper for my taste. I gazed after her, my eyebrows furrowed. I wonder if she’s like that around everyone.

~Annah

Perspective and Remembrance

I was so excited for this brief Thanksgiving break for many reasons. Mostly because it would be a break from homework and stress… I got all of my homework done except for handing out surveys for  my statistics project. I thought it would be easy. But much to my dismay, I sat in Biggby on November 25th, trying to get strangers to read three papers and fill out a survey and I succeeded only two times. I knew it was a lot to ask and I wasn’t very hopeful–when my doubts were confirmed, I came home and cried.

Yes, I was frustrated over the project, but more than that I was upset over the fact that even a small amount of work created stress. I was frustrated because I realized we never truly get ‘a break.’ Not in this world.

This has been the busiest semester of school by far, not to mention the fact that it has included my least favorite class of all time: statistics. (How did you guess?!) It has really made me stop and think. It has pushed me to my emotional limits. I went two weeks with headaches. My hypochondria tried to tell me I was dying, but reflecting on it, I’m pretty sure they were all stress headaches. This world is going to kill me. It just asks for more and more and more until I’m too tired to give any more.

I take a glance at my workload, jobs, what I’m trying to do with my life, relationships with people… but man, I don’t know how I’d survive everything without the hope of Jesus. When I get caught up in these trivial things the car of my life speeds into the ditch and I question how I landed there, only to find God standing on the highway saying ‘why didn’t you listen to me?‘ Time and time again I see the storm when I try to control my life and give in to the demands of the world. Yet I walk towards the storm countless times anyway.

We as people are so forgetful. Christians are also so forgetful. There are many Christians today who are caught up in the rules, the right and wrongs, the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ people. Yes, there are many things in the Bible we are told to follow. But we also screw up and need forgiveness. People are fixed on the rules and forget what it means that God is Love. We also forget that we are told to judge, but judge only our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, to keep each other in check when we fall. We cannot judge nonbelievers, only God can.

I, and maybe you too, need to take a moment to ourselves. Breathe a bit. Soak in the hustling, crazy world around us and see how tiring it is. Do we really want to be a part of that? Then look to the truth, crack open the Bible, say a prayer. Let God breathe life back into our tired bones. Remember who can control the entire storm.

~Annah

The Women of Music

When I think of my role models, I’m struck by a realization. 99% of my role models are men.

I’m talking people who are in the spotlight (in this case just music). People who aren’t your family or friends. My greatest inspirations that are known by an abnormal amount of people (maybe “famous” you’d say) are Jon Foreman, Tyler Joseph, and Matt Thiessen. They create music, and more importantly, string together words that have power. Words that hold weight. They make people think.

When I think of popular female musicians, my mind lands on Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez, etc… I think about what they sing in their songs and it’s all similar. I think about what they wear and it’s all similar.

When I think of female solo musicians, what is conveyed to me through the media and their music and their clothing is a weird standard. There’s a standard that they need to be sensual, and whether they mean to or not their bodies are constantly being emphasized. Some of them for the purpose of confidence, yet the way they go about it rubs me the wrong way.

I’m disappointed that this is everyone’s general view of female musicians. That to be in the spotlight for longer than a couple weeks you have to look and dress a certain way. There’s no variety. There’s no lyrically profound songs. It’s all either about love, revenge, or sadness.

I’ve heard enough about relationships and heartbreak. What I’m hearing is that all these women have learned in their lives is how to have a boyfriend? How to look cool and confident in front of other people? I know for a fact they know so much more. I want to hear something unique, something that will catch people off guard!

If you have the opportunity for thousands of people to hear you, don’t you want to make them think? Tell them what you know to be true? Music is a creative outlet, something where voices can be expressed. Everyone has a unique voice, yet I’m not hearing much variety.

I don’t hate any of these ladies. I know they work very hard at what they do and they have a passion for it. I just wish they would break out of this weird mold that has surrounded female musicians. All I see right now is a box. I know they’re capable of going beyond what they’ve been doing and I just wish someone would step up and write something that will stop everyone in their tracks. Say what everyone else has been afraid to say.

~Annah