Cleansed

We are not just forgiven as Christians, but we are cleansed. Do you understand that? I definitely have not lately.

The past month I’ve felt far below adequate and that mindset has made every day pretty miserable. I’ve felt too far-gone to be saved and too distant for God to reach. When I read those words, I know it’s not true, but my heart has not believed it. I’ve felt as if all my attempts to rectify my relationship with God have been futile and pathetic.

Over my four day winter break in early February I had an especially hard time. I went home and I was miserable with every aspect of my life. I felt so hopeless in the status of “Christian.” I didn’t even know how to vocalize it to anyone, I just felt incredibly sad, like I’d let God down in every area of my life. It’s only now in retrospect that I can put these thoughts into words.

I’ve been putting so much pressure on myself and works. When I’m not radically spreading God’s love or changing peoples’ lives or having a super wonderful day or resonating with the Holy Spirit I feel useless. Sometimes reading the Bible is the last thing I want to do and that makes me feel like a phony.

Let me stop a second. Have you caught this, because I only just have hours later… Everything I’ve been saying is a flat out lie. I’m letting the lies consume me and I’m not trying to combat them. Focusing on works and my own efforts is completely contrary to how God wants me to live. I’m honestly still trying to pull myself out of this mindset… I need to keep leaning into the Wonderful Counselor beside me. Satan has been generating blow after blow daily and I’ve been too weak to stand up.

But maybe I can’t stand up because I am too weak. Maybe when God says I am weak and he is strong, he’s talking about seasons in my life like this. I cannot pull myself out of this pit of despair, but if I present it to Him, He is strong enough.

I love to turn to Psalm 139 in every situation. It’s one passage from the Bible I never get tired of reading. Today as I sat in chapel a half hour early, I read it again. In relation to how I’ve been feeling lately, I now realize this portion matters:

“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.” ~Psalm 139:7-12

I read this and suddenly the truth brings me to tears. I read this and suddenly my heart feels it. I read this and I hear my Father, who desperately loves me and wants me to understand his unconditional love. I hear my Father saying, “Annah, you think you are enveloped in darkness, but there is still light in you. You are still as bright as day. You are my beloved and with you I am well pleased.”

I am forgiven of my sins, but I am also cleansed. I don’t have to dwell on them anymore.

Yes, Satan is chasing after me. Yes, I am too weak to fight back. Yes, God still loves me. Yes, he will fight for me. I need only be still and turn to him.

~Annah

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My Heart, My Passion, My Dream

I’m a writer and I hope to write books someday. Chances are there may come a time when someone asks me who inspires me to write. I think about all of the writers I admire for different reasons: J.K. Rowling, Victor Hugo, J.D. Salinger, Jane Austen… I could name those people, but if I’m truly honest with myself those are not the people who mostly inspire me to write. To be completely honest with you, I’m a really weird writer, because the people that inspire me to write are not novelists, they’re musicians.

Music has always been my favorite way to unwind and find comfort in other people and the beauty the world has to offer. I experience inexpressible joy in music, whether that’s hearing my flute join the dialogue of the rest of a symphony band or listening to the plot line of lyrics my favorite singer is spitting out of my iPod. These people are sending out emotions and messages that are going straight from their recording studio to my heart and I am so in love with this art God has created.

When I was in elementary school my musical palette was either my Spirit movie soundtrack or Jack Johnson (I know… I was a pretty cool kid.) I have so many sporadic memories of moments in my life with music, whether that was clopping like a horse in my living room to Spirit or listening to Switchfoot’s “Learning to Breathe” album on the way to my dad’s high school men’s varsity basketball games. They’re random snippets of my life that my brain has decided to store away and when I think back to my childhood, music is what I remember first.

My neighbor, Nathan and I would always put albums in his television and literally run in circles in his living room, instead of dancing. First of all, what kinds of kids do that? We were so weird. But we did that all the time. Sometimes if we were feeling really rowdy, we would stop at the couch as we were running and try to do cool jumps and kicks off of it.

Then in middle school I started playing the flute, which I still play in a weekly concert band group at my college. Band was and still is such a nice break from my other classes. It’s incredibly refreshing to use a different part of my brain after hours of reading, writing, and memorizing constantly. I also started singing for fun in middle school. This is a well-known fact to my family, but an unknown fact to almost everyone else. (Thank you to my family for putting up with hours of singing.) I would spend hours almost daily listening to my iPod and belting out songs. This was almost a daily occurrence during high school too! But only in my closed bedroom or basement when no one else was too close within earshot, because otherwise it was too embarrassing. Honestly, whenever I come home from college I still go to the basement and sing. I can literally do it for hours… it’s my security blanket. For some reason I enjoy and am addicted to singing, even though I know I’m not the greatest.

But perhaps my favorite part of music and my best memories of it are concerts. I’m not kidding when I say I live for concerts. I get the worst post-concert depression too. My first concert was in eighth grade, when I saw Allstar Weekend on November 13. I counted down to that concert months in advance—I was a full-on obsessed 13-year-old girl. Side note to musicians: watch out for the 13-year-old girls. They are the most intense, I promise. It’s kind of scary.

Last year I went to my two favorite concerts of my life: Twenty One Pilots and Switchfoot (with Relient K as their opener). For those of you who don’t know, those are all of my favorite bands. I could write entire blogs dedicated to each of those concerts, so all I will say is there was so much love and joy for Christ radiating onto those audiences. The only difference was one crowd was not aware of the source of this joy and love, and one was.

Alternatively, the other week I was at a local concert expectantly awaiting this band I had newly fallen in love with. They definitely live different lifestyles, yet there was still beauty to be found in their music. Maybe we don’t live the same way, but we still share a passion for the art and that’s what matters. Their opening band was not at all my style, with intensely loud drums and bass, on top of inaudible lyrics. But for some reason, while I was standing there next to people starkly different from myself and the smell of alcohol wafted through the air, I found positivity. Despite my personal tastes, it is still music and there is still beauty in it for some people. I’m always in awe of this art we have been given to express ourselves in any manner we choose. No matter what, there is passion behind music, and that can’t be said for a lot of other things.

This creative outlet and these musicians are what drive my desire to write. Music makes me want to squeeze everyone I love close and show them why life is good. On top of my English major I have a Communication major. Besides the fact that Comm. pushes me out of my comfort zone, I took on this major because I want to combine what I love most: music, writing, and communicating with my fellow human beings.

I have no idea yet what my specific career will look like. It could be public relations, it could be marketing, I have no idea. All I know is I love music and if I’m going to live my one life and have (in theory) one career, I would be pretty upset if it didn’t involve music.

There have certainly been doubts and fears, which will continue throughout my journey to whatever is next. Sometimes I don’t feel cool enough and sometimes I feel like being a female is a hindrance to my dreams, but I’m going to push through the lies. All of these memories and thoughts are filled with joy, because music has been with me through it all… innocence, joyful times, hardships, awkward middle school years, angsty teen years, frightening transitions, uncertain adulthood. There is an innumerable amount of people that need loving in the world and the best way I can offer my love is through this passion. So music: will you have me?

~Annah

Care About Apathy

“Yeah, being apathetic’s a pathetic way to be. But I don’t care… what matters to you does not matter to me.” ~Relient K [Apathetic Way to Be]

We live in an incredibly individualistic culture. Everyone talks about pursuing their own personal dreams and forging a path in the world for themselves. So many people have started acquiring this mindset that you stick to your own life, I’ll stick to mine, and don’t you dare touch my life because it’s not yours.

We have become an apathetic and emotionless people. But this isn’t about something trivial like where to go to dinner or how to fill our time. No, it’s something much more important—we don’t make an effort to care about anyone else’s lives. It’s as Relient K sings: “What matters to you does not matter to me.” Whether college students rushing to complete their personal checklist for the day or traffic jams of impatient people all in a rush to run personal errands, I look around at my fellow self-centered humans and it’s kind of terrifying. There are times when I do the same thing out of habit because it’s easy, and that’s scary. It’s so easy to be self-centered.

We are fine sticking with the shallow and the surface level. No one wants to dive deeper into the uglier or more serious parts of others’ lives. Don’t mess with me if I have to head to work or I’m in the middle of my me time. Not to mention electronic communication is easier for us to use over face-to-face or even telephone calls. We skip the hard conversations or if we touch upon them it’s not in person, because that makes us too vulnerable, doesn’t it? We don’t want to prove we have deep emotion and we are not satisfied with our lives. We don’t want to be anything but apathetic. We want to keep our cool around other people.

This results in many things, including depression and feelings of isolation. People suffer in silence alone in their houses with their joyless possessions. My heart aches because we all fall prey to self-centeredness or self-pity—we love focusing on ourselves day in and day out. This apathy for other people persists. It’s a trap that is so easy to fall into and almost impossible to get out of.

I want to challenge this idea of apathy and individualism. I believe we were made for community. We need other people to thrive and we need to spend more time doing things for other people. We all have a desire to be wanted and to be loved. That means having intentional conversations, it’s going to be hard, and you’re going to have to open yourself up to others and show your weaknesses.

When I’ve felt super down about my life it has always helped to pour more of myself into others’ lives. There are so many hurting hearts and they need the love we can give them.

We were made for passion and emotion. If nothing else, you should care about apathy.

~Annah

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

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