“Go”als

Here I am again, sat at a computer, doing exactly what I love most: in this particular case, listening to “8 Days a Week” by The Beatles and writing this blog. The feel of a pen or keyboard in my hands and time signatures tapping in my ears is the dream.

How will it translate into a career? Unsure.

This is the week when I’m supposed to post creative writing, but instead am going to talk about creative writing in the bigger scheme of my life, along with music… because I just read this:

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…And it meant a lot to me. I went in thinking it would be a nice little book by a big inspiration, and what I didn’t prepare for were the many tears streaming down my face, because of how personally it resonated with my artistic journey. I saw myself in Leslie’s words: my exact fears, self-doubt, and passion for words and rhythms. I saw my family within his, as he navigated an unconventional journey to find joy and dreams. And while I’ve always known how human we all are, reading his book really brought that home for me in an emotional way.

The world is a “big” scary place when you don’t know what you want to do with it. But when you start making steps toward dreams, you start realizing how small the world really is, and how interrelated we all are, even if you’ve never been across the ocean or across the country. Perhaps it’s scarier for us as artists to realize how incredibly tangible our dreams actually are, as long as we’re willing to put the work in.

My favorite summer show to watch is America’s Got Talent. Today I was struck by an elderly man who came on the show to do stand-up comedy and was then put through to the next round with 4 yeses. Despite his risque humor, I shed a few tears, because that perfectly exemplifies the heart of a true artist.

As an artist, you need a resilience of spirit. Sometimes your dream is right around the corner, and sometimes it doesn’t happen for 50 more years. So the real question is: are you willing to maintain an upbeat attitude and always strive to fail upwards, regardless of the time commitment? Because that will distinguish the dreamer from the achiever.

The past few weeks without social media have been wonderful, but I would be lying if I said it doesn’t freak me out. Social media has been the main outlet through which I pushed blogs to readers, and now I don’t have that in my grasp. My reader statistics have gone down drastically and that hasn’t been the easiest for me to watch.

Honesty time: this blog means a lot to me. I’m currently making no money, but the dream I’ve had for a while is to go further with this blog. I hope to eventually invest money into this blog. I’ve considered expanding this blog through YouTube videos, to add another dimension to my interactions with readers, especially where entertainment blogs are concerned. These are all tangible possibilities.

I know my blog cannot be my sole job. I know publishing books cannot be my sole job. I know my pursuit of the music industry in whatever capacity that manifests itself will not be my sole job. I need all three in my life, somehow, some way. I could see myself working for others or being my own boss. But in whatever I do, I need variety, and I think that’s why my interests are so broad.

More and more, I’ve felt like I’m called to something more than unconventional. Something unique. But I cannot place my finger on it.

I’m currently revising a fictional book that is fairly autobiographical. The necessity to have it published is out of a need to be heard and a feeling of under-representation as a petite woman. Throughout my scourings of the internet, I have yet to see anyone sending out such a message as the one in my book. With such autobiographical influence, it has truly become a story I believe only I can tell, which has propelled me forward in the artistic project.

Many of my blogs have originated out of a similar vein. Oftentimes I’ll want answers or agreement on a topic of interest, and cannot find such, so I feel the need to blaze the trail. Mostly because I know the power of silence, where lies can fester and wound. Frankly, even if people hate what I have to say, I’m going to say it, because at least SOMEONE will have talked it about it at that point.

So maybe I do know one piece. Whether I help brush dust off the pop music scene, whether I put out a book, whether I pen 5,000 more blogs, whether I edit books, whether I cover musical events in journalism, and on and on… I think I’m supposed to start conversations.

And I think now I’m ready for the word “go” in all of its capacities.

~Annah

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Opposite Sex Friendships

This is a topic I’ve wished other people could talk about and guide me in, but I really never see much about it anywhere, so I suppose I’ll offer up my opinions on what I DO know to be true in regards to male and female friendships (in this case, I’m referring to both members of the relationship being heterosexual).

When the concept of a male and female friendship is brought up, I either receive responses of ‘that’s not at all possible’ or ‘that’s completely fine, what’s the big deal,’ essentially. Usually these responses correlate with different generations, logically enough. What I do know, however, is that these kinds of relationships are very prevalent among my generation today, and thus, we need to ponder and grapple with how Christians specifically need to approach this societal trend.

I believe Christian men and women can be friends with one another, as long as they approach the friendship with a shrewd mindset.

This opinion was spurred by my incredible father, who talked to me about being shrewd in dress as a woman. The reasoning for being shrewd in dress for a Christian woman is not because men cannot control themselves or women are at fault for what they wear, but because of the knowledge that sin and evil are active in others, and depending on what social situation you are getting yourself into, the goal is to act as conscientiously as possible to decrease the room for evil. Need I remind you, the enemy in cases of wrongdoing is not a person, but sin and the way Satan slithers around in these situations.

So similarly, we need to be shrewd in our friendships among heterosexual Christian men and women (or friendships among the gender you are attracted to).

Before I explain my view further, I’m going to tell you my story with this topic.

For the longest time as a child, I had a male best friend, Nathan, from about 5 years old until I was 10, and then we still remained close friends until I was about 13. We had tons of fun being active and creative, playing anything from imaginary games to video games. But as we got older, we drifted apart, mostly because we gravitated towards more friends our age (he was three years younger), but also I think because Nathan hit adolescence and maybe started feeling differently about being such close friends with a girl.

At that point after Nathan drifted away, I had a couple guy acquaintances through band in middle and high school, but for the most part I didn’t have any guy friends. I kind of felt like I couldn’t have any, or that they had to be friends who would develop into something more, as many people still believe today. Perhaps that’s how it should be at that age, as people are changing a ton hormonally and maturity-wise, and can be a bit unpredictable or fickle in regards to feelings. But I think there’s possibility for friendship for sure once both parties have fully matured. But shrewdness then comes into play.

Nowadays I have many guy friends. I just hung out with one at the library yesterday, I played cribbage with one today, and there are a couple others I talk to almost every day. Keep in mind, I do think the way to approach these friendships varies depending on whether the friend is or is not dating someone and your own romantic status.

Sometimes it can be better to hang out as a group with others, sometimes people can be perfectly fine one-on-one, and frankly, I think it all depends on comfortability, relationship statuses, and most importantly, the potential for lust and other applicable sins to creep into the friendship.

As a Christian, here are some truths to gauge how you must approach your opposite-sex friendships. Sometimes I have felt unsure how to approach some of them, as you likely have, so here is what we DO know:

  • As Matthew 10:16 says, we are to be as “shrewd as serpents.”
  • Lust is a prevalent struggle in our sexualized society and many people struggle with it.
  • Lust can take many different forms, not just purely sexual desires. Matthew 5:28: “But I tell you that if you look at another woman and want her, you are already unfaithful in your thoughts.” As someone who has often struggled with this sin, sometimes it can present itself as thinking too much about someone, having false hope where there should be none, twisting their words to create meaning where there shouldn’t be, and other things that have escaped my mind currently. While some of these things are indeed more applicable to when one or both parties are unavailable to date, the main truth here is that Satan is always active and trying to bring you and your loved ones down. Don’t underestimate the number of ways sin can manifest itself.
  • Your friend is a brother or sister in Christ.
  • Your friend should be treated with love and respect.
  • Any romantic partners in relation to the friendship should be treated with love and respect.
  • Mark 12:31: “The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater as these.”

There have been a couple of times I’ve struggled with liking guy friends who are off limits, in which case I’ve had to wrestle through and change the relationship accordingly. Sometimes that means ending the friendship sadly, sometimes that means making boundaries, sometimes that means only communicating in groups, these things all depend on the individual and what needs to happen to decrease sin.

When you are not struggling with attraction to the friend, though, it’s good to still keep sin in mind and be aware that you never know what sins others are struggling with, especially something like lust that someone is clearly not going to talk to the other about.

In either case, be shrewd with your opposite gender or gender of attraction friendships. Constantly think of how to serve and love your friends. Eradicate room for sin in one another’s lives as much as possible, regardless of whether you know their struggles or not. Act in whatever way will best honor your friends as members of Christ’s body. Make love and respect the main priority in your friendship, and by extension, Jesus. Interact with your friends how you would want to be interacted with, whether single or dating.

Enjoy the beneficial and different perspectives these friends can have, celebrate the beautiful people and company you have with others, but also strive to create a godly community that fights sin and spurs one another closer to the Lord. That’s my two cents on male and female friendships.

Please, please, please feel free to add your thoughts! I’d love to hear them. And let me know if anyone else has addressed this; I’d love to read more!

~Annah

How to Prepare for (and Survive) Difficult Spiritual Seasons

I hate to break it to you, but it’s inevitable. Difficult and sometimes seemingly impossible spiritual seasons are going to come around, whether you’re mad, confused, frustrated, grieving, feeling distant, feeling disconnected, or mental health is blocking you from reaching God. Hint: I’ve experienced all of these types of seasons.

I’m writing this from a fairly good season where I’m eager to engage with God and tag-team this summer together. I have some questions I’d really appreciate answers to (*cough*), but mostly it’s smooth sailing. But I know it won’t always be, and I can’t plan how long the sailing will remain smooth, so that’s why this list is so vital. For those of you in a difficult spiritual season right now, know that I’ve had plenty of turmoil within the past 10 months and it seemed pretty bleak at the time, but I’ve come out on the other side, and you will too.

  1. Dig into Scripture consistently/have verses at the ready

Yes, we all know this one should be a given, but I think a lot of us (I’m already raising my hand) don’t crack open the Word nearly as much as we should. This doesn’t mean you have to scarf down 50 pages in one sitting, take one verse at a time if you’d rather! This is about fitting in truth into whatever little crevice of the day works for you, because we are fed the world’s lies on a daily basis and it constantly weighs on us either directly or subconsciously.

Whether the verses you read end up being applicable or not to whatever your next difficult season entails, I don’t believe that entirely matters. Oftentimes I’m so desperate in my difficult season that verbally or mentally speaking any kind of truth (a.k.a. any verse in the Bible) gives me a pinprick of hope that I’ll make it through. But also, you can never go wrong with the truth within the Gospels, Psalms, or one of the letters in the New Testament, like Philippians. My personal favorites to calm me down are Philippians, James, Psalm 139, and Hebrews 12:1-2.

These verses are love for you, they are your sword, they have been provided for you to stab the darkness when it lashes out at you, so grab the pages and start soaking them in.

  1. Confide in an honest community

Make sure you are a part of some kind of group that is comprised of faithful people who feel comfortable sharing their trials and victories with one another. Community is essential for Christians, and these people will be able to support you in your difficult seasons through prayer and reminders of God’s goodness, according to their unique perspectives.

The great thing about difficult seasons is that we don’t all experience them simultaneously. The great thing about sin is that no sin is isolated; someone else will understand what you’re going through in some capacity. Put these two facts together and the darkness begins crumbling.

Make no mistake, young people are incredible, and as 1 Timothy 4:12 says, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” However, being able to talk to people older than you with more experience is always comforting, if you want to obtain a larger perspective on things.

  1. Pray

Everyone knows how important prayer is to faith, but more specifically, I think physically documenting prayer in some way is really beneficial for difficult seasons. I like to keep a prayer journal whenever I have time, because later when the going gets tough (or I’m just curious), I can look back and see how God has provided and answered prayers.

What does that ultimately mean for your difficult season? That God is faithful. That God sticks to his promises—he will provide for you, in one way or another, even if that means the afterlife. I mean, what better provision could you have than Heaven? I’d say we’re pretty well looked after, even when the evil of this world temporarily holds us within its grasp. I think it’s pretty clear who’s going to win the fight, so bask in the promises and the conversation God has maintained with you through your prayers.

It’s pretty comforting to dwell upon what God has carried you through in the past, because it just assures you he’ll carry you through the uncertainty and funky feelings once more.

  1. Have those go-to people

Maybe it’s a YouTuber, a podcast, a musician, a writer… it always helps to have faithful entertainers in your life whose words are ready and waiting for you to easily find again when the darkness returns. Pick those wordsmiths who you know will restore hope in your soul, because that’s really what these difficult seasons are about… hope in relation to faith, and a lack thereof. God is constant. God is always who he says he is. God is always good and faithful to his promises and his people. You need as many voices as you can who will remind you of that.

  1. Put together a hopeful playlist

Along that same vein, this point is kind of what spurred me to write this blog. My favorite way to prepare for hard seasons is through music and compiling either a physical online playlist or a soul-list you can easily pull out when it’s pretty hard to see anything good about your faith or your life. I believe the entertainment we intake, especially as Christians, is life-shaping, and our duty is to locate messages that bring us closer to our faith.

That doesn’t mean explicitly Christian music (although it can), but words that help you feel less alone in your anger or frustration or confusion, words that make you feel less crazy for feeling what you do, words that encourage you and remind you it will get better again, just hold on.

This summer I have been considering starting a radio station when I return for my last year of college, called Annah’s Anxiety Tunes. I want to provide songs of hope for listeners to store up for hard seasons, whether mentally or in general, because I know how desperately I seek that. Regardless of whether or not it ends up happening, storing up hopeful songs is something I will actively continue to do and share with loved ones.

 

These are the primary weapons you need to poke a beaming yellow happy face in that blanket of black. God is on your side. He will not let you go. You matter. You are valuable. God has not forgotten you.

~Annah

Grade 15

A heavy workload. Aching eyes that cried too many times to count. Tough, beneficial conversations. Deep loss. Deep grief. Some 3 AM nights. Other 11 PM nights. Big career conundrums and frustrations. Little blips of clarity concerning one’s true passions. The realization of one’s youth. The realization of one’s maturity. Old friends. New friends. Internships. Housing crises. A lot of sass. The assurance of things hoped for. My very first novel draft. Large steps of independence and individuality. A fearful introvert becoming fearless in times of uncertainty. Constant pushes outside of cozy comfort zones. A broadening of my awareness for diverse opinions and lifestyles. An ear for the minority races and sexualities. An ear for the broken and confused. An ear whilst everyone else has lost theirs. Flinging into spring. Lots and lots of hopeful yellows that echo truth into my weary soul. Heavy weariness with a belly laugh of a silver lining. Crying girls in bedrooms. Crying boys in bedrooms. Smiles in between tears. Romance and the tenderness of feelings, so breakable indeed. People from the bad parts of town are people too. More attention to the minorities and outcasts. Protests for change. Sorrow that things will never be the same. Spontaneous outings for yummy treats. Professional resilience. Unapologetic appreciation for whoever puts a smile on my face. An introvert yelling friends’ names across rooms. Remembrance of commonalities. The necessity of music with its soothing narratives of pain and joy. Bittersweet, this life we have crafted for ourselves. Oh wait… It is not for yourself. Moldy hearts, forever being tilled. 💛

Junior year: defined as “how to power through anything and everything, one breath at a time.”

~Annah

Pre-Hamilton Thoughts

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.”

(10 days until Hamilton.)⭐️

~Annah

Stillness

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 

forever.

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!

~Annah