I’m not going to say I like Hamilton any more than the next person, because I know there are thousands of more devoted fans than me, but there’s something about listening and experiencing it as a writer that really gets to me. Or maybe I’m just too empathetic? I don’t know, but the lyrics, especially the questions, really stick to me. How does one write like they’re running out of time? Have I done enough [with my words]? Who will tell our stories—will anyone?
How does my writing play into this narrative that is the vast planet we live on? You know it’s kind of terrifying, writing. You put your heart and soul into characters, you believe in your stories in the midst of millions of others, enough to spend months and years on them. Then you publish them for anyone and everyone to read, you put your story on the line because you believe so immensely in it, resulting in inevitable rejection by some readers. Stories can easily be looked over, even if they are published, because of the sheer volume of them. But they’ve all been worked on and loved so well by the ones who penned them.
The vast majority of stories will not be heard by the general public, but does that mean we stop writing them? No. Because as scary as it is, we shouldn’t write with the numbers or lack thereof in mind. We write because we have faith, we write because we’re gamblers, we write because we’re not scared of the odds. We shoot our stories blindly into the dark because we know they’ll help someone somehow. And that’s pretty dang cool. So keep writing and “keep fighting in the meantime.”
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. ~Psalm 23:2
As I look at 2018 and as I look at my life beyond 2018, I sense plenty of chaos. More and more decisions as I grow older, less and less of a comfort zone in place, and a ginormous temptation to be in an ever-present frenzy of fears.
I always had this naive idea that once school/homework left the picture, life would be grand. But every semester I take a step closer to graduation and realize that it’ll only become harder. Later on questions transition to where do I live? who do I live with? where am I going to work? what do I even like doing? and the list can go on and on.
I’ve always been pretty confident that I don’t know what the heck I’m doing with my life. Family members have tried endlessly to conjure up work ideas for temporary or permanent work, and I’m very grateful for their diligence in regards to my future. But at the end of the day, I can’t help but believe that me and God are gonna tag-team this one. It’s a large daunting concept isn’t it: YOUR CALLING (*cue dramatic music*), but I think people tend to go about it the wrong way, like God will magically descend and say ‘Annah, here’s what I want you to do.’ Until then you’re supposed to fret and bite your nails apparently.
I think you can do anything, as long as you’re spreading God’s light in the field you’re in. One of my favorite chapel messages at my college this past semester was given by a former graduate, who stated something to the effect of: The world doesn’t need more seminary students and Christians going into ministry. What it needs are people willing to undertake the hard fields, where God’s light is often shut down and scoffed at.
All it takes is stillness to find answers. Stillness helps you listen and redirect your focus on whose voice really matters. Stillness is intentional and not focused on yourself (because honestly, we’re all about go, go, go). Stillness gives you a chance to sort out your priorities, because at the end of the day that’s up to you. When your priorities are coated in Scripture, how can you ever go wrong?
I’ve learned many things from stillness, all very important. I’ve learned that I am replenished by acts of stillness and fighting my innate hurried nature to focus on God. I have learned that I only like writing when it’s something I’m passionate about. I’ve learned I love to write emotional and authentic thoughts on social media, because many people scrolling need to hear it and I absolutely abhor that social media’s a cesspool of pretending like everything’s great 24/7. I’ve learned that I am in the best mindset and full of the most gratitude and peace when I am immersed in music, whether classical or modern. I have learned that I value and hold a passion for all of God’s forms of entertainment.
Given daily moments of stillness, I think you can gain a lot of insight too. We focus so much on the ‘doing’ that we usually forget about the ‘being’: when we need to listen and focus on God’s desires rather than our own. Let Psalm 23 wash over you this year, as it has started to wash over me:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the
shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
For now, I’ll stick to the joys I have been given: music and words. (Currently listening to Harry Potter music.)
The questions and choices in your life may grow louder and more frantic over the years, but you don’t have to follow suit. Praise the Lord!
As the year closes off, I wanted to take a moment to reminisce. While 2017 was emotionally draining in many ways for me, there were also golden nuggets of goodness everywhere. I wanted to highlight random bits and pieces that made this year a little brighter. Some aspects of this list are unique to 2017, while others have been around and I only just discovered them this year. While you read, feel free to come up with a list of your own, and I’d love to hear your thoughts. (…especially anything music-related!)
Song: This has two parts: my favorite song I discovered this year was “Knock on my Door” by Faouzia, but my favorite song that actually released this year was “Rhythm of Your Heart” by Marianas Trench. (Shout out to my sister Cassidy and my friend Hannah for these finds!) In both cases I think they’re great to dance to, maybe even at a New Year’s Eve party?! Sometimes a good dance party can make or break your day.
Book:The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Apparently I missed this bandwagon a few years ago… but better late than never! Rudy stole my heart and Zusak took all of my tissues, but I’m grateful and now I have my own copy. YAY! (99% of the time I only buy books that I already love and would read again/to future children. My book collection is only my absolute favorites.)
Musician/Band: Almost Monday
Still waiting for new music, because these guys ROCK. That’s all I have to say about that. *cues Forrest Gump’s voice*
Bible Verse: Hebrews 12:1-2
This verse has been the tune of my heart this year, and whenever the going gets tough I just remember ‘run with endurance’ and ‘endure for the joy’ set before me. I also shared this verse in a letter to a yellow angel named Luke, with some unique Annah annotations that I copied down in my own Bible. Keep running, friends.
Movie: I found my all-time favorite movie this year, yet it’s an oldie: Harold & Maude. Since watching it and sniggering alone in my dorm room last April, I have watched it approximately five more times. However, my favorite movie that came out this year was probably Dunkirk (which I just watched again last night!)
It made me cry within the first five minutes, as most of my favorite entertainment does, and I thought it left a powerful impact with its unique musical rhythm and bare movie essentials. It put me constantly on edge and as empathetic as possible to situations I have never experienced. Time and time again, through literature and imagery, soldiers and their sacrifices astound me. Sometimes it seems like the ones that survive sacrifice even more than those who gave up their lives, because the remainder of their lives are transformed by tragedy. To have to rebuild sanity afterwards… I could never imagine the pain.
TV Show: Riverdale
Honestly, I watched season 1 in three days… Based on Archie comics, the dark mysteries alone will keep you watching episode after episode. They certainly know how to attract viewers, I’ll give them that.
YouTuber: Mark Ferris
Honestly, I don’t watch television. Instead, I watch YouTube, and it’s probably one of my favorite ways to unwind after a long day. I subscribe to many different people, but most are usually entertainers, comedians, or daily vloggers (video bloggers). Mark Ferris, a lanky, lovable, amiable man from Britain is probably my male alter ego. His videos make me laugh all the time, probably because we have the same sense of humor. Mostly he just makes vlogs, which I also appreciate as they’re essentially a visual alternative to blogs.
Phone App: Spotify
Most people frequently use Spotify, so it’s no secret that everyone loves this music-streaming app. However, I constantly find and adore different features of the app what seems like every week. As someone who tries to listen to anything and everything, I appreciate that they make playlists of music for you based on your interests. My favorites are “Discover Weekly,” “Release Radar,” and “Your Top Songs 2017,” kudos to a recent feature that summarizes what you listened to the most over the year and how often you listened.
Class: Intermediate Creative Nonfiction
This category is exclusive to students, but my favorite class I took through the spring and fall this year was definitely “Intermediate Creative Nonfiction.” We focused on writing memoirs, read some great memoirs like The Glass Castle and The Mountain and the Fathers, and workshopped one another’s work. It helped me further develop my creative writing voice and allowed me to let loose with my writing humor.
Album:Self-Titled by Harry Styles
I talked about this recently, but I thoroughly enjoy Styles’ album every time I return to it. There’s no way for me to describe how much I love Styles’ musical work without it sounding corny. Basically, he’s bringing fresh work into what I would consider a ‘bland’ popular music scene. (Controversial opinion, I know…) I still appreciate techno and electronic pop sounds, but that really can never beat the sound of real instruments in my opinion. Also I just read in an interview article that Styles’ popular single “Sign of the Times”is meant to be a mom talking to her baby, so that just added another layer to an intriguing tune. I’m linking the video because the filmmaking is incredible as well! (Did I mention Styles debuted in Dunkirk?! Multi-talented at 23 years old.)
Seriously, just go buy some of these crackers and eat the glorious food. It’s organic. 😉
Concert: Jon Foreman (9/29)
My favorite musician makes for my favorite concert. Foreman asked us for a Grand Rapids ‘Yeehaw’ and we gave it to him. My sister and I had a great night and the honest, intimate question-and-answer at the end was pretty cool. Wise words were spoken by all.
Creative Writing Piece: “Yellow Birthday” poem
I posted this in a previous blog from August with the poem’s title. This was inspired by Luke, previously mentioned. Loss: short-term sadness, long-term joy.
Event: Dance Marathon
Back in March my college hosted this annual 24-hour event, and we raised money for the Helen DeVos children’s hospital. Money went towards casts, bills, and other medical necessities. Luke used to go to that hospital frequently; it was an incredible opportunity to support those in need. I moraled and cheered on my 24-hour dancer friends for 8 hours. We had a blast and I’ll likely participate again.
Experience: Joining flute choir
This past semester, I joined my college’s flute choir. I joined for zero credit, because flute has always been a great way to de-stress for me. As a junior, I am now officially sad I never knew about the group sooner. It has been an incredible once-a-week relaxation, with lots of laughs and smiles. I’m definitely looking forward to more fun this semester.
I always think simple pleasures are necessary, and this list definitely supports that claim. If you and I were to count the little blessings and enjoyments over the years, I think we’ll likely find that they far outweigh any pains, large or small, that have come our way. There is always more light and hope than we think in dark situations. Here is to another exciting, joy-filled year in 2018. Here is to finding the silver linings, even when our outlooks are looking grim.
Remember, you can and will persevere, you always do.
It’s no secret that attending a Christian college means residing in a Christian bubble—it’s hardly reflective of real life, with little to no belief disagreement or push-back. We are blessed to have people challenging us intellectually, and occasionally religiously, but far too often I witness Christians isolating themselves. This is only a small portion of Christians that I engage with at one school; it happens everywhere at every stage of life.
Too many Christians nowadays only cling to explicit Christian ideas, texts, and entertainment. Frankly, I believe this is unwise and a very limiting way to live life.
I grew up in a Christian home and have officially dedicated my life to Christ for about six years now. Even at a young age, I’ve subconsciously thought about explicit Christian entertainment and how Christians should interact with their world. I always thought Christian radio was the corniest thing and wanted no part of it when other people would play it in the car. My family avoided watching movies like “The Passion of Christ” and I avidly read Harry Potter (currently re-reading for the 1000th time), starting from about age five, when people would look at my petite body next to the 500-page books and think I was the next Einstein.
Admittedly, having just finished an 11-page paper for my rhetoric class about why I believe Harry Potter has numerous Christian themes in the eighth movie alone, this topic of Christian isolationism has been on my mind a lot lately. Also, please understand this is NOT me telling anyone their methods of living are inferior or superior. There is nothing wrong with explicit Christian texts, movies, and music.
This past summer was the first time in my life I picked up a “Christian” book and read it. Since then I have read a couple and had no serious problems with them. I think some Christian books can be good and Scripture-breathed. The couple I have read (Mere Christianity, Jesus > Religion, and Uninvited) were much better than I thought they would be. However, they’re still not my first reading choice like I know they are for boatloads of other people—it’s perfectly fine to enjoy them—but it’s also important to remember that if you’re reading them thinking it’ll be a replacement for the Bible, that’s a red flag.
It’s fine to enjoy a good Christian book, but if that’s 99% of the books you read, I think there’s a problem with that. If Christian radio is your jam, sing along all you want, but if you never interact with any music outside of that, I think there’s a problem with that. If you truly believe anything that’s not explicitly Christian is sinful or satanic or any other negative denotation, I really have a problem with that.
Why do I think this is such a big deal?
Because I believe in a God who works through everything. I believe in a God who can use anything to portray his values, including tainted humans like you and I or tainted things like Harry Potter and punk music, if that’s your opinion. I believe God made everyone in his image, even those that haven’t accepted him, so small traces of his character can be found even in the most far-reaching aspects of life.
The coolest thing to me is when I read a book about another belief system or go to a concert where people smell like weed and beer, and soak in the words that are on the page or screamed from the stage, because I usually hear a small sliver of truth. Even if it’s the smallest sliver it gives me so much joy and hope, reminding me that even those people have the capability of carrying out God’s light if they wanted to.
Christians, I challenge you to read or listen to something you don’t like and see if you can find something decent in it. I think you’d be pleasantly surprised. Otherwise you avoid texts and entertainment for surface-level reasons and miss the bits you actually would like. For example, if you put down a Harry Potter book at page two for having witchcraft, you’ll completely miss out on the sacrifice, love, and friendship themes that remain prevalent in the overarching storyline.
I don’t believe I’m being “worldly” if I enjoy fantasy books or listen to pop music. I believe I’m engaging with God’s world—a world that extends beyond Bob Goff and Hillsong.
I wish you could see what I can. The pure yellow radiance of the tree. Its feathery, silky leaves tap-dance in the wind, illuminating the bright depths of its being. Apparently the leaves are passing away, but they have never shown so brightly throughout their numbered days until now, and it’s simply heart-stopping. It just is what it is without trying. Our friend Mr. Sun is only emphasizing what we already know to be true—joy and expectancy sit among the branches. This tree knows where it’s going, without knowing where each individual leaf will fall, yet the appendages tango together happily. It dances in the face of uncertainty. The branches breathe in, breathe out, sway up, sway down. They flutter, fly, and abide. As the sun looks on, the tree sits and waits, leaves steadily twirling to the floor. Eventually it will face a period of death, where the sun may seem to disappear from the tree’s presence maybe days, maybe weeks at a time. But the tree remains tall, adamant, and immovable in the face of its inevitable demise. It knows more than the leaves do—that some day soon more buds will grow, more leaves will bloom, and the yellow still courses within its veins.
Last year I wrote a post called “Our Twenty-First Century Enemy” about the tension new generations have between internet and truly living, how we’re stifled by our phones. This isn’t necessarily a contradiction blog, but I’ve recently started thinking social media isn’t as terrible as we like to make it out to be.
Honestly, sometimes I think I’m supposed to spread light through social media.
I cannot pinpoint an exact turning point, but somewhere within the last five years I stopped posting random crap on Facebook, like so much of what you see scrolling through and started—with lack of a better word—posting light and honest, genuine thoughts about the world for my family, friends, and even mild acquaintances to read. In all honesty, my Facebook is kind of my second blog, and maybe I put a lot of my heart on it, but never once have I regretted that.
I think heart is exactly what social media is lacking and what I believe social media needs. The world is what you make it, and so is social media. People are so polarized over whether it’s a good or bad thing, but why are we wasting time arguing about that?! I want to speak directly to every Christian reading this. Here is a pure, inexcusable fact:
Social media is the language of the average first-world human today.
You can like it or you can hate it, but it’s a huge way to spread love nowadays, which is something 9/10 people neglect to do. Christians, we need to engage with social media, instead of looking down on those that have their noses stuffed in their phones. Why not write something that matters on your Facebook wall or Twitter feed? Post a meaningful note under your next Instagram caption. That doesn’t mean hitting everyone over the head with Bible verses (they’ll probably just un-follow you), but just something simple like saying ‘hey you? you matter’ (one of my favorite phrases). Show people they have worth beyond their phone and the picture-perfect life they try so desperately to portray, even if that means explaining that through a phone.
You can serve others through social media and I think that’s exactly what people glued to their phones need. They need life and they need your words, so utilize them. I’ve been told my posts are refreshing to read compared to political, hateful junk spewed around constantly, so maybe there’s a method amidst the madness.
I wholeheartedly believe that social media DOES NOT have to be a draining, depressing cesspool. Like everything God has allowed into creation, it has its silver linings and the capabilities to turn people to Jesus. But in the case of social media specifically, the device to pull people in is going to have to be you and your words.
I believe God can work through anyone and anything, including social media. Do you?
P.S. Happy birthday to the best brother in the world!!!
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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?