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

Perfect the Uncontrollable

I love being in control. I have to be in control in my mind, otherwise my anxiety goes haywire. Striving for perfectionism and being in control go hand in hand for me. At work, I always perform tasks the same way every time. Homework can often be a long and tedious process because I always have to make sure I have it done just the way I want it. My planner is mapped out just so, with each month under a different pen color; homework assignments on the left and other scheduled activities on the right. Everything is neat and orderly, and that is how I like it.

That means when I fly on an airplane, although I don’t have much of a problem with it, I freak out a bit. I think naturally it will crash and I will die, because I can’t be in control. I have been concerned about my passion and aspiration to pursue music, because in the back of my mind I have a strong hunch that at the end of the day what I really want to do involves moving away. Where jobs and companies are located is beyond my control and that freaks me out more than the actual occurrence of me moving probably would. Everything will go wrong and panic will ensue if I am not in control.

If I try hard enough, I can get the grades I want. If I plan accordingly, I can hang out with the people I want. The problem I’ve started to see—that I have been struggling with for the past couple months—is that I think I can perfect anything and everything. With worldly things, that’s how it works; things can be perfected if done just so.

The scary truth is I have let this toxic lie seep into my life that says, ‘if you try hard enough, you can eradicate your sin.’ When I subconsciously maintain this mindset only to find out I still struggle with lust or selfishness or comparison, I become incredibly frustrated. Then, instead of running to God, I tell myself I’m not good enough, because if I was leaning into Him more often, I wouldn’t be dealing with these problems. I tell myself I’m the problem. But the problem is sin. And sin is inevitable, Annah, in case you didn’t know. It’s so easy to know the truths in my head but not fully accept them from God. I know and always hear that God is in control and it will all be okay, but I never truly believe it. My actions never display that truth, because the scariest thing to me is not being in control.

A few weeks ago I watched an awesome video by a Christian woman named Sadie Robertson. She has a YouTube channel where she talks about faith and in this video she essentially talked about letting go of all of the hurt from our pasts, giving everything up to God, and telling him to ‘wreck my world.’ Ever since then I’ve been thinking about that concept and this perfecting of my faith I’ve been holding onto. Ultimately it all comes back to the struggle of control. I initially prayed and asked God to ‘wreck my world,’ but I don’t know that I’ve really opened my fists yet.

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” ~Proverbs 16:9

My prayer right now is to let go of control, but also fear, because they go hand in hand for me as well. He sees my day, and my tomorrow, and my entire future before me… Although I will fail, I have nothing to fear, because His grace has covered me. Plus, the devil loves to play with my weaknesses. If I could perfect my faith there would be no need for Jesus.

I don’t know where I’m going in the future, but God will be right there with me, continuing to love me with his grace and patience. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

~Annah

Introverts & Isolation

Where are all of my introvert readers at? Yeah, hey! I can definitely relate to you. After being in large social gatherings for a while I become super exhausted and need alone time. I need a few deep friendships instead of loads of friends. I think answers through very carefully before raising my hand in class or sharing with a group in other formal situations. Sometimes I feel like the only introvert at my college (but let’s be honest, most of them are probably just hiding in quiet places.)

Alone time is great and very necessary to have with the Lord in the midst of the chaos of college. But if I’m honest, sometimes I find myself alone too much and while it’s great if I really need to study, I think it’s important between introverts to understand that we need community too. Especially as Christians, we were not made to be alone all of the time. Sometimes I can find myself caught up in my alone time and nagging anxious thoughts, beginning to wallow over self-pity about who knows what. When I start feeling in a funk or out of place and not having the greatest day, I’ve learned that even if it’s the last thing you want to do; flocking to other people is the only way to go.

We are a self-centered culture driven by our own motivations and when you need to recharge and be alone frequently as an introvert, the urge to value your own life over everything else going on is too easy. Just like anything in the world, being an introvert has its pitfalls and can lead to sin if not watched carefully. A day spent cramming for a test could mean struggling friends who may need you are left struggling, because hanging out with them is not convenient for your schedule. Maybe you could have gone out of your way to call or pray for a family member, but you were exhausted and decided to take a nap instead.

This is not me stating introverts are terrible sinners, I’m sure extroverts have their own problems we cannot relate to, but introverts can easily turn their way of living into self-centeredness and lack of awareness towards others. Anything that doesn’t fit our personal schedule can easily be placed on the back-burner, because convenience is bliss, right?

If you’re anything like me, you start thinking about this and realize oh crap, there’s contritionI haven’t been putting anyone else first in a while. First of all, talk to God about it. He loves when you open your heart and say here’s the gunk… take it and transform it. Don’t wait until after you’ve beat yourself up about it—run to him right now. While you may have heard these verses a million times before, hear them with fresh ears now:

“But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” ~Matthew 6:30

You know that test you feel like you’re going to fail? You know how you feel like you can’t do anything until that homework assignment is done? It’s going to be okay. The world will not go up in flames if you don’t get the grade you wanted. The other day I was preparing for a speech and as an introvert I absolutely hate speeches. Every time I get a new assignment for the class, my blood pressure goes up a little bit. But I started thinking about it in a new way as I rehearsed the other night. Yes, it seems daunting now, but an hour afterwards it will be so far from my mind and I will not care anymore. So why give it the time of day? Why worry about something that has no significance on the eternal spectrum? Yes, that doesn’t mean my fears immediately dissipated and everything was roses after that, but giving all of the things you’re worrying about to God and realizing their ultimate significance can help you slow down and enjoy life a little more. He is taking care of you, even if life doesn’t go according to plan. Trust fall into his arms and maybe spend time in the presence of community for a little while.

“…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” ~Philippians 4:6

Ah, the classic do not be anxious about anything verse. But we really need to hear that constantly! Do you let that really sink in, because often times I don’t! Do not be anxious about anything. That doesn’t mean except that speech or that placement test or that job interview or even sin (which I’ve done before). It means don’t be anxious about anything!

Usually, at least in my case, if I’m not in isolation because I’m recharging from a crowded event, it’s because I’m anxious about something. But that’s all the more reason to run towards God and his people! Maybe he even wants to talk to you through some of his people. Allow yourself to recharge on Netflix now and again, and maybe spend a day bearing down on homework, but also provide slots of time for community and the other people God has breathed life into and wants you to experience.

~Annah

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

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