Inquiring After a Word

Sometimes putting words to paper is really difficult. Sometimes I find old words that comfort me, because they were not difficult at all. Here is one such work, as titled above.

 

Our mouths carry words with so many meanings

‘God’ is someone I look up to dearly

At his wife the bold man screams ‘god’ clearly

Each of us are delicate, angry beings

 

A dizzy girl lies staring at ceilings

He almost saved her dad—not, but nearly

Musty pews could it really be merely

Wishful thinking through dumb, ‘god’damn feelings

 

Search, but don’t let your heart be too far-gone

Do we praise the god with capital ‘G?’

Opinions are where inner fights will spawn

Left, right, fragments of color only see

A pattern of misery will be drawn

Instead of lenses that will break us free

 

~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

Transitions and Introspection

Let’s see if this blog will be coherent. Probably not.

Lately, maybe because of the new year, I’ve been considering my life as a whole. One thing I really want to work on this year is honesty, especially within my friendships. Too often we’re not direct with one another and we skirt around things that make us uncomfortable… especially women. It’s so much easier to talk to everyone but the person or people you’re in conflict with and that’s not okay! We need to change that. It’s a bad habit engrained in too many of us, I’m sorry to say.

One thing that has really stuck with me lately is from a song by Twenty One Pilots, called “Isle of Flightless Birds.” The lyric says “Your soul knows good and evil, your soul knows both sides and it’s time you pick your battle, and I promise you this is mine.” That has played over and over in my head.

This is what I have begun to do over the past year or so… picked my battles. I’m now at this strange stage of adulthood, where for the first time, I’m in control of the people in my life. Who do I want to surround myself with? Can I provide any more towards existing relationships? Are my relationships helping or hurting my life? Is this an obligation? Do I want to watch these people become successful? Is this burden the right battle to be fighting? Does God and His word support my decisions?

I love everyone that has ever been in my life. I’ve learned so much from the most difficult people. God places everyone at just the right time. I’m beginning to let go of people and cling closer to others. That’s just the stage of life I and my peers are in! We’ve been at college two years now and entered into a new chapter, where we decide what kind of life we want to lead and what kind of people we want to partake in it.

This is not easy. I’ve always been a people pleaser and as I’ve gained more confidence in my identity, I’ve also come to accept that life’s not going to go how I want it to. People will be upset one way or another. But how am I going to approach these storms and difficult talks in my relationships? That’s what matters.

I’ve picked a couple battles, some people that I really root for and I want to struggle with. One in particular has been on my heart for about six months. I think it’s a battle worth fighting. There are also people I’ve been struggling with for a while now, who I’ve thought and prayed about for a year. This has resulted in some difficult and emotional decisions.

So there were some hodge-podge thoughts. Maybe you could resonate somewhere within the chaos? Life can be pretty jumbled sometimes, but I know my Heavenly Father will make everything clear over time.
~Annah