Summer Blessings for the Doubtful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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Just another one of God’s blessings.

 

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

 

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

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

~Annah

 

 

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Sophomore Teachings

Sit tight; this could be a long one.

Last year I sat down and wrote a really difficult blog about how challenging my first year of college was. God has definitely been with me through the deepest of pits and that never changes, as sophomore year was a whirlwind of emotions. There were many sweet moments and some rough patches strewn throughout. But mostly, (I can thankfully say) sophomore year has been sweet. I have learned a lot from both God and the people I have journeyed alongside:

 

  1. Be open with others.

The thing is, college seems like a super social place, but the reality is hiding is incredibly easy. Sometimes you become tired of all the “I’m good”s and the constant smiles on social media. You start to wonder if you’re the only one who’s actually not having a good day, week, month or even year. I used to loathe crying in front of anyone growing up because I didn’t want to burden my loved ones. However, the older I get the more open I’ve become with my emotions and although sometimes it may seem like I cry a ton (sorry fam!) I’m thankful I don’t hold my emotions back anymore.

Not only is this freeing for the mind, but it automatically helps relationships when I can have a good cry. Something about someone having seen me at my worst creates a new bond in our relationship. One day I was having a rough time and I thought about calling my mom, but instead I texted a friend I wasn’t super close to and she ended up sitting with me and we talked for an hour. If I’ve cried in front of you, it’s a good sign I love you a lot.

I also love having serious conversations about faith and sin, like one night when my pal and I watched Nacho Libre and then hung out for an hour talking about our struggles with lust. Another cool moment was at church when people were invited to have leaders of the church pray over them. Specifically we had been talking about control, which is something I struggle with a ton, so I timidly went up to my statistics professor, promptly started crying from nerves, and had her pray over me. That brings me to my next piece of knowledge…

 

  1. I struggle immensely with control and selfishness.

God is constantly illuminating sin in my life, but this school year these were the two most prevalent sins. I need to let go of the burden of grades and the future especially. I grip to those things so tightly when I don’t need to. Selfishness has always been something I’ve known I struggle with but this school year really illuminated how it impacts the ones I love. You would think selfishness would only hurt yourself, but sin always leaves its mark on others. My roommate in particular really helped me see that and how I wasn’t cognizant of all of her struggles.

 

  1. Examples of Godly forgiveness.

The sad thing about being close to any human is you’re going to hurt them at some point. I’ve found the true character of a person to come out when they forgive someone and how they forgive someone (or don’t…). The first instance I truly experienced this forgiveness was last summer (yeah, yeah, it’s not totally consistent with sophomore year). I left an uncomfortable voicemail on a previous friend’s phone about my struggle with lust and how I felt it was negatively impacting our friendship and we should probably cut ties. Personally, if I was in his shoes I would have been super upset and uncomfortable, as he had every right to be. But what stopped me in my tracks was the fact that he messaged me back, which I at first took to be a slap in the face (that I really did need), but at the end he said, “Annah, I hope you do well for yourself.” I cannot to this day get those words out of my head, simply because of the grace and forgiveness that rests within them.

My roommate was another person that really exemplified not just what it means to say ‘I forgive you,’ but how to truly forgive as God calls us to. Back to what I started referring to about my selfishness and lack of cognizance, she acknowledged my actions/words, conveyed how they hurt her and then looking past them to say ‘I love you.’ (Roommate, you are such a blessing in my life.) Finally, I can only imagine the amount of times my mother has had to gracefully forgive me for dumb and mean things I say to her. Thank you, Mom, for showing me how to gracefully forgive others in a quiet, humble way.

 

  1. Everything you love has faults, if it’s not God.

Basically, this is me saying I never thought I could dislike an English class, but American literature proved me wrong. It’s nothing personal; pre-nineteenth century writing is just not my cup of tea. (But did you like how eloquently I stated that instead of ‘I didn’t like an English class’?) Although it is still true in a serious way, I think sometimes we forget and are let down by the world.

 

  1. Talk to who you want to!!!

I’m an introvert, and while I have a secret sassy and loud side only certain people see after hanging around me for so long, I’m generally not a very spontaneous, I-love-talking-to-strangers type of person. But sometimes I have hardcore friend crushes and I’ve begun to gradually ignore my fears of ‘oh, but that could be weird’ or ‘but I don’t really know them, I shouldn’t join them,’ because I want to hang out with people I think are cool! Even if it might not be obvious to others I have at least internally gotten bolder this year about socializing with people I’m not good friends with. (Maybe it’s because of my public speaking and barista experiences?) One time I just messaged a girl I thought was cool and was like can we please hang out sometime I’d love to get to know you and she was super flattered! (Maybe she’s even reading this!) I asked people to lunch I wanted to get to know a little better and I even spontaneously hung out with a group of cool tall dudes and had them teach me Spike Ball.

 

  1. God’s plan always happens and yours does not.

I am a planner so every week I would map out what I hoped to get done and every week my perfectly laid out plans would fail. Who knew? Oh right, God. I definitely still struggle with a healthy balance between school and socializing, as I have a hard time studying with other people around. Thus, when my work I hoped to accomplish doesn’t get done right away, I become easily frustrated (so basically, I was frustrated most days.) But my goal for next year is to really let go and be okay with how every day goes, even if it’s not what I envisioned. Because frankly, it will never be what I envision, as much as I love and try to deceive myself that I’m in control. So thanks God, for constantly reminding me of this one.

 

  1. Listen to everyone, especially those you disagree with.

This semester I took an argumentation class for my Communication major that focused on analyzing arguments and forming our own valid ones that were not just ‘your view sucks!’ I’m pretty sure everyone in the class was either in the ‘this is hard’ category or ‘this is boring,’ including my professor (who is also probably the best one I’ve ever had!) who blatantly said ‘yeah, I don’t really enjoy teaching this class, it’s not the most interesting.’ Well little Annah was silently sitting in the corner like ‘I kind of loved this class.’

Normally I avoid controversial topics and conflict in general at all costs. But since taking this class, I’m more confident in sharing my opinions, even if they aren’t popular, because I genuinely want to hear the opposing side’s thoughts and try to understand them. I love when argumentation and viewpoints (especially controversial ones) can be looked at subjectively and broken apart so that the emotions are not involved, to really analyze why people feel the ways they do. It’s not just ‘us’ versus ‘them,’ but it’s humans versus humans, and I want to understand it all!

So sue me, I’m super nerdy about forming and analyzing arguments.

 

  1. A hip hop musical was the best idea EVER!

This one is essentially for my father. So he’s probably groaning and rolling his eyes right now, thinking ‘not again!’ But I would be lying if I didn’t mention Hamilton, the current Broadway phenomenon taking over America, because it was a big part of my year (and how my roommate and I interacted with one another.)

Honestly when I heard the first couple of songs I thought 1. History is not my favorite, I don’t know if I’ll like this. 2. Holy crap, they’re singing really fast, how am I ever going to keep up with this?! 3. I never really listen to rap or hip hop, this will be interesting. So I’m sure my dad has similar thoughts. But then you realize there are slower songs and you also start catching on to the beat and smooth syntax, (the poetry is ingenious, yet historically accurate!) and before you know it you’re bobbing your head and crying at the same time. I finished listening to the soundtrack while I was home filling out my taxes. Needless to say, I’m not sure which thing made me want to cry more. But dad, since you love words, I promise you’ll enjoy it (despite an arm and leg being cut off to get tickets. That might hurt a little).

 

  1. Don’t wait to tell people you care.

One way I exemplified my love for my friends was writing spontaneous letters to people and putting them on their doors. Always tell people how much they mean to you; that will also strengthen friendships.

 

  1. I am truly blessed in every way possible.

Music, writing, food, college, a home, friends, family, and every boss I’ve had so far in life (knock on wood)… I cannot be reminded enough that I am truly blessed, especially in the midst of annoyance with homework or finding a job.

I love the messages God pulls out for us to remember in certain seasons of our life, whether sophomore year of college, first year out of college, or first year of retirement. Keep your ears open to his words.

~Annah