Our Grieving World

Some days are sadder than others when you’ve lost someone. Perhaps it’s because I’m older or perhaps it’s because his passing was seemingly undeserved, but Luke’s death has stuck with me, not to mention his family and closest friends, so closely these past few months. It’s confusing trying to figure out how to process our losses, isn’t it?

Sometimes you’re sad, sometimes you’re mad, sometimes you’re resigned to the fact, sometimes it’s very unsettling. Recently I’ve just been deeply disappointed I didn’t get to know Luke more. In all honesty, part of me feels really guilty for this sadness and disappointment, because I didn’t know him as well as so many others did. If I’m upset, I stop and grieve, because those that knew him far more than I must be indescribably upset. On the other hand I can’t help but wonder if this disappointment is flowing out of selfishness. Is this hurt justified or not?

But to those that knew Luke, if you’re anything like me, the main reason his passing is upsetting is likely because he truly was a joyful, loving soul. One could only imagine if he had been given a longer life the even larger impact he could’ve had on others. But then I think about how much joy and life was packed into those 17 years, and the tremendous story his life spoke into those around him in such a short amount of time. It’s incredibly inspiring. Who wouldn’t wish to know someone like that?

Sometimes I can’t help but thank the God I believe in that Luke was able to bless everyone for a whole 17 years. His parents and brothers witnessed a giggling, courageous, witty, faithful soul for 17 years. What a blessing. And the God I believe in said I’m going to take all you have, Luke—17 years—and I’m going to use you for something great. People are going to flock to you and cry over you because of your steadfast faithfulness. You’re going to teach your loved ones how to be strong in the face of adversity.

So that’s some more of my processing and a small snippet of the feelings amongst Luke’s loved ones over these past couple months. I take what I’m feeling and I take the unimaginable pain of his family and friends, and multiply it until it’s unbearable.

Why?

Because countless people worldwide are experiencing a similar pain, and sometimes I think it’s easy to be desensitized to the effects. Whether loved ones lost to cancer or loved ones lost to terrorism, it hurts; oh it hurts to consider our grieving world. Perhaps now more than ever we grieve we are sorrowful and we need a rock to lean into. We are broken and struggling to hold on. We yearn for love and laughter because we are sodamaged by brokenness.

This is our chance to let others know we are here and we understand their pain. We have all experienced pain in a multitude of capacities, and yet, we’re too often self-consumed with our own lives to stop and ask others how they’re doing. Every time we undergo pain and brokenness, we are allowed the opportunity to open our arms to others in similar situations and help them through their own. Not because we have all the answers and can eradicate the pain… but because we are made for community and it makes life a lot more bearable when you can confide in others.

~Annah

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A Trace of Joy

Yesterday in my British Literature class, our professor had us write poems modeled after some of the modernist poets we read. This poem is loosely based on “Valentine” by Carol Ann Duffy. I wrote it on the fly with no revisions and I appreciate that unapologetic way of writing. Maybe it’s flawed, maybe the word choice could be improved, but it’s bold in its imperfections.

 

Not a giggle or a hug.

 

I give you a scraped knee.

Scab oozing over in blood

It echoes contentment

Like happy toes squirming through mud.

 

Here.

It will leave a foul stench,

But one that whispers

Like a butterfly wing

Of rapidly beating hearts

Playing make-believe.

 

I want you to remember the truth.

 

Not neat pews at church,

But raucous, rowdy adventures.

 

I give you a scraped knee

To soften your heart

That has confined itself

To cubicles

And tax forms.

 

Take it.

Feel the rough edges on your

Weathered, weary hands.

Find joy in simplicity again.

~Annah

The Problem of Christian Isolationism

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.

~Annah

Tap-Dancing Veins

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. 

~Annah

Flicks that Fill my Heart

Each movie at the top of my recommendations list, that I consider favorites, are a diverse group. They are all different genres and highlight different values in my personality. Hopefully you like some of them or find one of interest to you. Most I would recommend to everyone.

  1. Harold & Maude

MSDHAAN EC016
Photo Credit: Winnipeg Film Group
My favorite movie: a twenty-year-old meets an eighty-year-old with subtle humor that sends you keeling over until your sides hurt. This past April was the first time I saw this flick, but I’ve watched it at least four more times since then and died laughing every time. While it is definitely my favorite film, I would not recommend it to everyone. Honestly, it takes a certain kind of person to enjoy this movie, but if you have an acute sense of humor, love quirky storylines, and have an analytical mind–friend, meet the love of your life.

A shallow movie-watcher would say this is about a weird romantic relationship, an average movie-watcher could tell you about all the quirky jokes or how, for one reason or another, they just didn’t get it. But a few deeply attentive movie-watchers could explain the emotional pain planted in between the notes of humor. The cry of the broken, beaten, kicked around, and spat out… and all I want to do is give the Harolds and Maudes of the world a hug.

“If you want to sing out, sing out and if you want to be free, be free.” -Cat Stevens (Also the soundtrack to the movie, if you’re a Stevens fan.)

  1. Les Misérables

Les Miserables
Photo Credit: Good Reads
“I’ll escape now from that world,

From the world of Jean Valjean.

Jean Valjean is nothing now.

Another story must begin.”

-Jean Valjean

I like to say my favorite stories are those of redemption and I think my value of Les Misérables displays just that, through Valjean’s change of heart. When I place my life’s belief on a Being who is the key to redemption, it only makes sense. As the title suggests, this musical (based on Victor Hugo’s rich, colorful novel) revolves around “the miserable” in France. But more importantly it touches upon the lost, the forgotten, and the overlooked humans of the world.

It is a story, simply put, that I deeply desire every human to experience. To see or read or listen to. My father brought me, my sister, and my mother to the theatre in 2012, and I knew zip about the plot. I spent the following two hours absorbed in the story before me, listening to Fantine’s grief and bursting into tears, and watching humans overcome by the joy and hurt others have to experience through revolution, love, and suicide. Once again, it’s not a story of France; it’s a story of humanity. How immensely that touches my heart.

It’s a narrative that hits you differently every time you interact with it. Even if you aren’t into musicals, you will likely surprise yourself and enjoy it, as happened to one of my friends. You can and will take it seriously. It will resonate with you.

  1. Leap Year

Leap Year
Photo Credit: Blu-Ray
Ireland is my true love, which is no secret to any of my loved ones. I love everything about it and anything even slightly related, so it’s no surprise that my favorite romantic comedy is set in Ireland. While other people might fawn over the main actor in the movie, I’m drooling over the country backdrop.

For anyone in the mood for a sappy movie with good banter, give this Amy Adams film a try. All the background settings are beautiful, cozy and inviting, which only enhances the experience, and until May, when I visit Ireland (WHAT?!), is my substitute for the real thing.

This movie also holds a dear place in my heart because it’s associated with a hard time from my first year of college, during my worst weekend of anxiety, when one of my best friends stuck by my side the whole time. Besides her empathetic, wise words of comfort, she knew just the trick to cheer me up/distract me, and introduced me to this. Thank you, Kaitlyn.

  1. Begin Again

Begin Again
Photo Credit: Begin Again Movie Website
When I watched this romance/drama for the first time this past summer, the credits rolled and I instantaneously decided it had to be on the top of my movie list. This movie centers on a musician and an A&R representative, which for those of you who don’t know, is my dream job. It also has a wide array of actors, including the stars Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo, as well as Adam Levine and James Corden. Basically it’s my love of music in a narrative movie. And naturally, that means I thoroughly enjoy the music within the movie.

The main criticism seems to arise from people who dislike Knightley’s singing, but I thought she did a fantastic job, especially considering that’s not what she normally does. This movie is perfect for anyone who loves music and the hard work behind producing songs, as well as any of you who want a feel-good ending that puts a smile on your face and makes you thankful that you took the time to watch it.

  1. Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium

Mr. Magorium
Photo Credit: Empire Online
Every line that comes out of Dustin Hoffman’s mouth is reason enough to love this movie. This narrative centers upon the owner of a magical toy shop, his apprentice, a boy who loves hats, and a mutant. That’s about all I can divulge, but trust me; it is not a movie to pass up. Everyone who’s a kid at heart needs to watch it.

This fantasy will tug at your heartstrings, as it did mine. So much so, in fact, that I distinctly remember this as the first film I cried over. Films with the most accurate messages about life make me the most emotional, and like Les Misérables, this is a movie that hits me differently every time I watch it. Mostly it touches and addresses patches of loss in our hearts, but in a healing and loving way.

It’s a gentle, sweet reminder that you can pull through and you are capable.

 

Begin Again and Leap Year are both on Netflix for those interested. If nothing else, you can listen to the majority of Les Misérables songs on YouTube with the videos. You’ll have to hunt a bit more for Harold & Maude and Mr. Magorium. But I hope you take the time to watch or re-watch one of these. Entertainment is such a lovely way to relax, but also to analyze and reflect on the world and our place in humanity.

You can engage with entertainment. You don’t just have to absorb it.

~Annah

Concert Chatter

It’s creative writing week, yay! This memoir was based off a dialogue prompt that asked us to write a couple pages of dialogue between a group of people, which also reveals bits of their character along the way. To enhance the memoir, I’ve included a picture from the evening!  Here’s to memorable sibling moments. Hopefully they don’t hate me after this, I hear that’s what happens when you write about family…

 

“Cassidy, you know how to hook up the Bluetooth, right?” Dilyn extended the phone cord in Cassidy’s direction from where she sat behind the steering wheel, not moving her eyes from the winding country road.

“Of course, I’m an engineer.”

“Play some Twenty One Pilots!” I insisted, as she grabbed the cord and started monkeying around with her Android.

“…And Mutemath.” Hitting the road for a concert means you listen to the bands’ music. “Do we have all the tickets?”

“Right here, Dil.” Charley held a stack of papers in his hand. Tyler Joseph’s voice began drifting steadily louder out of the speakers, singing the words to “House of Gold.”

“YES!” Dilyn and Cassidy high-fived.

I snorted unnecessarily. “Can I have mine now, Charley? Where are we sitting? How many rows from the front?” With a lunge, I grabbed a ticket from his hand and stared intently at the row and seat numbers in the top right-hand corner.

“Want to play MASH?” Cassidy leafed through a notebook. I grinned.

“Sure! Well, I have to pick Josh Dun since he’s in Twenty One Pilots… and then Niall Horan because he’s forever my one and only…”

“Eric’s still bitter he wasn’t invited to the sibling concert.” Dilyn looked at Charley. “He’s your sibling now; you should’ve bought him a ticket!”

“Seester, how about including realistic people too? I’m adding Nathan for you.”

“…Fine.”

“He could’ve still bought his own ticket and joined us.”

“Charley, that’s not the same.”

There was a pause as Cassidy sat writing the names down.

“Shit!

Dilyn!” Our unified voices rang out.

“Sorry, but I just realized I left parking cash at home!”

“I have some you can use,” Charley said, still giggling at the swear word.

***

            With a slam! of Camry doors, my siblings and I made our way through the parking lot toward the entrance to DTE Energy Theatre. It was an outdoor concert, and even though no sign of the stage could be seen from our parking spot, we heard a telltale Mutemath rumble.

Guys, they’ve already started their set, hurry!” Dilyn started running towards the entrance. “They put on such a good show; you don’t want to miss it!” I matched her pace eagerly.
“I’m going to the bathroom first.” We looked back to find Cassidy headed in the opposite direction, toward a long line of people who could only be awaiting the Porta-Potty.

“Cassidy, seriously?” Dilyn rolled her eyes.

“Cass, there are bathrooms inside!” Charley yelled, but she was already in line.

“Ugh… she’s just like Mom.”

“I still can’t believe you’ve seen Twenty One Pilots three times already and never told me! Or took me with you…” I huffed, stopping in my tracks next to my brother.

“Hey, missy, I bought your ticket so quit your crying.”

“Thanks for that, big brother,” I replied, sincerely.

Cassidy reappeared to Dilyn’s urgent “Come on”s. Once we reached our seating on the far right side, about thirty rows back, Mutemath left the stage to loud cheers.

“Dang it, we missed them! Are you kidding me?” Dilyn sat down, her shoulders slumping, while everyone in the crowd gradually returned to their seats.

“Oh, boo hoo.” Charley pulled his arm away from Dilyn, as she tried to smack him.

“I’m sorry; the line for the bathroom was just so long! I’m so sorry, Dilyn!”

“Just my luck.”

Meanwhile my eyes were fixed on the stage. “Do you think they’ll come out soon?”

 

 

~Annah

Social Media Can Positively Influence

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?

~Annah

P.S. Happy birthday to the best brother in the world!!!