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

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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

Summer Blessings for the Doubtful

As I move back into school tomorrow (in a new apartment with new roommates!) it’s the classic time to reflect. Today is quite literally the end of summer vacation for me. That didn’t properly hit me until yesterday when the waterworks began. Simply put, transitions will never be easy for me. I love too many people and I can’t be around everyone all the time and that is so very difficult for my empathetic, emotional little heart to swallow.

After finishing my second year at a small Christian college, a summer without internships or summer camps placed me in the minority. I barely met anyone new (unless you count customers I never saw again) and I was a barista at Biggby Coffee, which was also my job last summer. With nothing seemingly new under the sun was there anything new to learn? Of course. But honestly, at first glance I really doubted it.

Firstly, God pointed out that hey, what you think is the same actually isn’t, Annah. Nice try. As I echoed in a letter to my coworker Theo, I realized that though I worked the same job, this summer and last could not have been more black and white. Returning to the same job allowed me to rectify the two things that were sour last summer: my attitude and my self-esteem. And although I’m still no picture-perfect barista and it’s the type of job that burns me out, I was able to carry myself with way more confidence, take myself less seriously and even have many great laughs with my Biggby pals. They are a precious crew of people.

But more than anything I look back on this summer and I’m overwhelmed. I see despite my emotions, despite what I felt, God kept pushing the same messages at me: gentle whisperings saying look at my love for you. Look at the beauty I have made. This is for you. This is what he desperately wants us all to know and understand. He tried to emphasize these sentiments daily this summer for Pete’s sake and I ignored him most days! Now that I look back I just want to sit and cry like a baby because I don’t deserve this. I’m sorry, God, but have you seen me?! Have you seen the damage my words and my mind can have on other people?!

And his answer is yes, I have. But here are some more blessings for free. Here are relationships with lovely people that I want you to have for free. Here is a goofy family I want you to have for free. Here is some more air for free, as Relient K says.

He pours down food my taste buds don’t deserve daily. He drenches me in beautiful music (don’t even get me started with the majesty of this art). In a weird way, he also blesses me with a unique emotional heart that allows me to see the pain of the world. Whether it involves a friend carrying too many burdens or a friend feeling the weight of too many burdens because his body is wasting away, my heartbroken tears are a glimpse of my Father’s sorrows. Even my tears and my writing are not my own I’ve discovered, but they are a special reflection of God that no one else can offer. This may sound bizarre, but I believe God has taught me about himself through me.

Plus God taught me that I can love on others in many ways, without even planning it or even (shocker as a writer) using words! Too often I’m tempted to take matters into my own hands. Maybe if I bring up specific topics at just the right time the spirit of Christ will move in people, I think, trying to emphasize my efforts. But sometimes high-fiving someone after they buy a bike is another way to say you matter.

 

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My roommate, Kaitlyn, traveled hours to come see me. Bless her heart. (+ the Hamilton soundtrack)

 

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Me and my two pals from high school, Fran & Nichole, went to the Detroit zoo.
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Kaleigh and I went through our ups and downs, and we are now good friends. Love you, girl.
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This is only half of the McKee twins. Not only are they radiant Christ-followers, but my pals from the womb!

 

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Just another one of God’s blessings.

 

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My only legitimate new friend this summer. Kelsie, you rock, thanks for supporting my school.

 

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A walk with your mother + dog + God’s gorgeous creation = blessing.

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Enjoy that picture of yours truly. Here’s to new seasons.

~Annah

 

 

Summer 2017 Goals

After two weeks, it’s finally hitting me that it is now summer. The season of calm, the season of recharging and the season to be reminded to listen carefully to what God has to say about my life. I’m sitting here basking in the hazy, warm breeze drifting through the living room while listening to new music from Harry Styles (basically the next Paul McCartney). Ah, there is nothing like the warm blanket of weather and new music to put me in the summer spirit and my heart is happy.

I then received and began reading a lengthy email from my advisor. The email brought up a lot of things—mostly things that stress me out… my future, my career goals, the average fears of college students. But at the end she wrote about how summer is the best time to listen to God’s calling for your life, be patient, and continually spend heavy, lengthy time with him. It tugs at my heartstrings because it makes me remember what’s most important, which is nothing I or my loved ones have been worrying about.

With that being said, these are my real summer goals. These are the things I am sure of and what I really hope for my summer. These are not goals that anyone else wants for me, but the genuine desires of my heart in this season.

My first goal was going to be “find part-time work” apart from Biggby, but if I’m honest, I’m not sure that’s going to happen. But I’m still praying about it.

The first couple days back at Biggby I was miserable. I just kept thinking ‘God, why am I here? This is dumb. I can’t gain anything from being here again. I’m not even a good barista, I keep messing up and my coworkers have to pick up the pieces for me. I want to be anywhere but here, I still feel tension with one coworker, and this job is a source of negativity for me.’

Since then I’ve been a little stuck. I still mess up now and again when I work, but I feel much more comfortable and back into the rhythm of things. My coworkers, boss and I have shared many laughs and all of the regulars have been so sweet and happy to see me again. But also I just want to be really transparent right now. There’s this person I met last year who I have prayed almost daily for and that person has been on my heart a lot because I know they don’t have many stable people in their life and most days are just “okay.” I’ve never been sure if that person truly cares about me (one of my biggest fears is apathy from people I love), but when I came back and saw them the first time, this person that seldom shares their true emotions was so genuinely excited to see me and it really had an impact on me.

I don’t know what God’s plan is for me in this season career-wise; all I can do is continue to pray. But I do know God works in mysterious ways and the fact that I’m back home and this person is coming back to work at the same time is very interesting.

So after this footnote/goal revision, here are the summer goals I am certain of:

  1. Spend time with Gracey.

Gracey is my sixteen-year-old dog and I have been with her almost the entirety of my life. To some this may sound silly, but for me I am incredibly serious. I love this dog so much and I know her time is drawing to a close, so I want to give her all the pets and treats I can.

  1. Cook for my parents at least once a week.

Yes, yes, I know this has not happened yet. *Cue eyebrow raises and pointed stares as we sit down for a meal.* But the point is my parents are really cool humans and have helped me through everything, so I want to try to give just a little bit back. (And maybe learn some cooking skills for the coming school year.)

  1. Show my family how much I value them.

Not only do meals show appreciation, but I also hope to hang out with my siblings, aunts and uncles, and grandparents more. Whether that involves game nights, good talks or serving in any way I can, now’s a good time to exemplify my love for these beautiful humans I have the privilege of living alongside.

  1. Spend time with God.

This has kind of already been emphasized, but it can never be emphasized enough. I would be nowhere without this cool dude. I’m hoping to turn to him before more and more things, whether a difficult talk with a friend or just a stressful day of work.

  1. Write a significant chunk of my novel.

My future, my career, so many uncertainties… But what is not a question? I’M WRITING A TRILOGY. So now is the perfect time to invest into something I am certain of. Get ready to fall in love with my characters, because I’ve only developed them a little and already love them. It will be an exciting adventure that will hopefully shed light on the broken and forgotten people around the world. My goal is to also write something my grandma will love.

Also this may mean I write less blogs than normal. But that just means you’ll have something in your hands you’ll love way more sooner rather than later.

~Annah

Social Media is the Cyber Bully

Sunday is Easter, which means Lent ended yesterday and I’ve been off social media for over 40 days. Normally I don’t celebrate Lent, so I didn’t realize it ended yesterday and I’m a little scared. I wanted to challenge myself to escape social media because it has been an addiction for years. I’ve always known that, I’ve just never been honest with myself about it.

But this fast also provided me with boatloads of hope. Since it has been such a time-suck and addiction over the years, I figured I would experience immense frustration over the past 40 days. I was certain I would see an ugly side of myself emerge, that would have a fit over the fleshly desire being pulled out of my grasp.

The coolest thing God taught me over the past 40 days was that social media has no power over my life. Considering the amount of time it stole from me, I was surprised to find out I was pretty apathetic about its absence in my daily life. I don’t need it and I can survive without it no problem. But the biggest eye-opener is that younger generations have it imbedded in our minds that we need it and will miss out on something important by losing it. I promise you if people really care and if something is truly important, they will find another way to contact you.

With social media gone I was able to invest in the relationships around me deeper than before. One of my favorite nights this past month was spent with a dear friend watching a hilarious movie and then having a long talk about lust, which we both struggle with. These are the kinds of irreplaceable moments and conversations we miss out on because we are glued to a screen. If you are anything like me, times when you’re alone and not occupied by homework consist of a ton of scrolling and not much else. Not even reading, writing, or other individual activities that hold so much more value. We convince ourselves that we wouldn’t be as content doing those things and scrolling is easier and more enjoyable. That is a lie.

I want to speak some truths into your life right now. You matter and your worth is not based on pictures or posts. Beautiful, impactful moments don’t have to be posted online and sometimes it’s better to keep awesome things between yourself and God, or your friends and family. Your life is significant; even if all you did was sit on your bed all day. You don’t have to be constantly hanging out with people to have fun. Just because your life doesn’t look like those other person’s pictures doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong or they’re even that happy.

Social media is the current façade, the current ‘I’m fine,’ the current mask we wear when we’re scared of being vulnerable. Let your life be richer than the posts and the scrolling. When you hang out with friends, put the phone away. Maybe even leave it in the car. If you say you’re going to be hanging out with someone, mean it. Do it.

Don’t let this covert addiction win. Because it loves to lie to you and it loves to deceive you. It’ll tell you how important it is until you wash away the façade and delete the apps and realize it’s not. It’s really, really not, my dear. You are worth more than the likes and the retweets. You are worth others’ genuine, full attention. And I promise you, you can live a full, beautiful, memorable life without the social media.

As for me, I think I’ll leave the apps off of my phone. I think I might just check them once a day, on my computer. As Switchfoot sings, “We were meant to live for so much more, have we lost ourselves?” I don’t want to be buried under the mindless scrolling to fill the ‘boring’ time that has been gracefully given to me. And I don’t want you to be buried, either.

~Annah

Store Up the Promises

I’ve heard chaplains and pastors around me describe how vital it is to store up on God’s promises during the good seasons to help you through the rough patches later. It’s definitely true, because oftentimes if we wait until the thick of the rough patches to search for positivity, our emotions can easily cloud the truth. We are more susceptible to Satan’s lies during the bad times.

Today I am joyful, and the best part is that I didn’t expect today to be anything special. That’s when God likes to prove us wrong. But this is not something I take lightly, because I know there have been and will be other days where joy is really hard to find. So I am basking in the joy, sitting in sunny spots and writing, and my soul is happy. As I write in my dorm lobby, friends keep walking in and greeting me and I am so blessed to know so many lovely people walking alongside our Father. I love having the scales lifted from my eyes to spot even the smallest blessings, like a warm smile and greeting.

God rejuvenated my spirit through a coffee meeting with a Hope graduate named Eric, who is a musician and producer that composes music for films. On this uncertain road to my passions, I have resolved to soak in any and every piece of information available to me, while meeting more people in the industry. The coolest part is seeing the joy others have when they talk about music, just like I do. Networking is always made out to be some scary, uncomfortable situation, but to me it’s interacting with more people who share my passions.

For being an introvert, I’m kind of surprised I don’t mind networking at all. More and more I find myself changing from the quiet and timid communicator I was in high school, and my level of self-confidence is definitely a huge contributor. A year ago I did not have half the level of confidence in myself that I do now and I don’t know when the switch flipped, but it just proves that even if God’s not working on a certain sin area in my life, he’s still working and shaping my image in a different way.

God gave me contentment that music is something I truly want to pursue and lately I have been hesitant whether this is really his plan or just my ideal plan. However, when I expressed my concerns to Eric he made sure to explain that we often feel pressured that there’s only one specific plan God has for us and we need to make sure we don’t pick the wrong one, when that’s really not the case at all. We can’t mess up his plan for how he wants us to serve the world through an occupation, because it’s not the occupation that ultimately matters, it’s being the hands and the feet of Christ in whatever field we pursue. As Eric said, that’s God’s request for all of us and now he’s letting me choose what exact path in music I can best become his hands and feet in.

There are so many potential fears and worries that I have for my future, no doubt, but I’m trying to work on opening my clenched fists. I’m also starting to realize that wherever I go, whether God places me in my hometown, a different state, or across the world he will be there with me, his people will be there to welcome me and people that need him that he wants to speak to through me are there. The hardest part is letting go of my fears and asking God to lead me wherever he wants me, even if that involves being out of my comfort zone. “Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders.” It’s a lovely sentiment to sing, but a tough pill to swallow.

So on this joyful afternoon I am storing up promises for the hard times. God will always be there with me and he can use me no matter what I do or where I go. He will use me if I obtain a dream job, he can and has used me at random jobs like coffee shops, and he will use me in every season of my life, whether dry or flourishing. He loves me even when I don’t “feel” like he does. He will carry me through hard times, including loss, disappoint, hurt, and fear, because he always has before.

Here’s scripture and songs to store up as well, and hopefully they’ll help you too.

“I will call upon your name

And keep my eyes above the waves

When oceans rise

My soul will rest in your embrace

For I am yours

And you are mine.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1m_sWJQm2fs

Although we are weeping

Lord, help us keep sowing

The seeds of your kingdom

For the day you will reap them

Your sheaves we will carry

Lord, please do not tarry

All those who sow weeping

Will go out with songs of joy.

~Psalm 126

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tIuxV8pTJk

God will always be certain, even if our futures are not. Hallelujah. But let us also lean into what he wants from us today.

~Annah