The Most Important Word in Human Vocabulary

Love.

We all want it and hope for it and seek it among others. Nothing upsets us more than when we can’t have it. I’m going to make a bold statement: Love is the main desire we all have. It’s why our hearts harden after the divorce papers are signed. It’s why we can’t stop gushing about our best friend on social media. It’s why the girl sits in the bathroom weeping. It’s why we shut out the parent that left. It’s why we care so much about other sexualities. It’s why we stand up for minority groups and races. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lack of love was the reasoning behind serial killers and terrorists.

If we just acquire love, life will be perfect and we will feel fulfilled.

Love is a word that creates tension, struggle and sensitivity. Some of you reading this have been seriously wounded by love or those you believed loved you. It’s the most shocking, sorrowful moment when the rug of love is swept out from under you by those you thought would never pull it out. When that happens we don’t want to forgive, we want to grow angry and our hearts harden. I don’t believe either reaction is okay and it only creates more rifts, splitting love into more and more shattered pieces.

I do think it’s possible to love people even with opposing opinions. Many may believe love only exists in similar opinions, but I say love allows all opinions to flourish, without shutting any out. I believe love transcends left or right, him or me, and I believe it keeps no record of wrongs. I believe you always deserve it and love has no limitations. Love extends to all people in every nation of every mental capacity, even those hardest to love, especially those hardest to love. I believe all ideas of love are foggy reflections of a true, pure love that surpasses them all. I believe love offers everything, sometimes life itself, without asking or expecting anything in return.

I know love will outweigh darkness.

But doesn’t it always come back to love? We argue over laws and politics, because we have differing opinions on how to achieve love for people. Wars ensue and people fight because of the love they have for their side. Could you even count how many love songs there are? At every concert you attend, the musician makes sure the audience knows how much they are loved and appreciated. “I love you Detroit!!!” And we scream and some roll their eyes over the inauthenticity, but only because that’s what we really want, right?

Authentic love: humanity’s desperate desire. Our heart’s desperate cry. Ironically, we’re often fed and desire the unrealistic depictions of love constantly thrown at us through entertainment. But only because we long for a love that will blow us off our feet and overwhelm us in joy.

What if I told you I think this kind of love is possible? Would you believe me?

You have good reason to desire love, with its authenticity and overwhelming power. You have good reason to weep when you encounter broken love. You have good reason to wait and not be satisfied with a love that’s half-trying. We weren’t made for broken love.

~Annah

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My Greatest Inspiration

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.

  1. 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.”

  1. 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.”

  1. 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.”

  1. 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.

  1. 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?

(This link looks funky, but it should work fine!)

~Annah

Dirt-Caked Feet

I’ve been in a Creative Nonfiction Writing class for a few weeks now. This piece, as titled above, required us to write about a quintessential childhood memory with over-the-top detail. Enjoy!

 

“I CALL THE MIDDLE SWING!” Nathan’s teensy brown bangs fluttered in the breeze while his red athletic shorts careened down the chipped, rust-colored paint. His porch had the kind of paint kids adore peeling off until their parents notice.

Nathan’s little sister, Kate, and I darted for the swing set in his wake. Slowly, the summer sun climbed the sky, adding dancing leaf shadows to the yard. Below our bony, breathless bodies, grass soothingly greeted the dirt-caked plains of happy feet, covered in bleeding or tender scrapes and scratches, which resulted from unforgiveable sticky, sharp pine needles, hot, gravelly asphalt, and deathly, six-pegged Legos. Our toes wiggled gleefully, knowing over 24 hours had passed since dog poop squelched and coated the smooth skin. Slightly slippery with the remnants of morning dew, the grass blades also echoed of tacky green-and-yellow Slip-n’-Slides covered in water and sprinklers with water claws. Running full speed and jumping through, we hit the jets, which almost stung, but tickled too, leaving grass and leaves clinging to chicken legs with scabbed knees. However, the number of times we laughed and screamed in delight totaled more than the amount of boo-boos on our bodies.

I hit the rubber swing fast, slamming my belly onto the seat and pushing off in the direction of our gunky pond. Coated in algae and likely filled with diseased, mutated fish, the pond glimmered with the memory of my sister’s old shovel stuck at the bottom under miles of thick black, gooey muck. Then I swung backwards on the swing, in the direction of Nathan and Kate’s family room, where a freshly-painted bar sat with brown, leftover stains from concocted drinks. Every pop imaginable fused together into the see-through shot glasses, often overflowing with bubbly fizz. Alongside the bar counter sat shelves upon shelves of CD albums and vinyl. Some glinted with the names of famous musicians and others glimmered with the neon pink, blue, and yellow color combinations only deemed recognizable by children who attended raucous, rowdy Vacation Bible Schools.

Just now the sun similarly glinted through the shivering, shaking trees above our heads, as we sat normally on our swings to pump our legs farther into the sky. Writhing, moon-colored maggots used to lie where I now sat. An old, rusting, purple and white, two-person swing set used to sit where the new, wooden, three-person set now sat. While Nathan and I flew higher, synchronizing our pumping rhythm and yelling, “We’re married!” I recalled chirping laughter between Mr. and Mrs. Scott upon asking Nathan who he wanted to marry. “Annah!” rang out with every ounce of certainty spread across the two syllables. A wiggly-toothed smile had appeared upon the baby-faced boy who often peered through my front window and shouted, “Hello?”

Kate, who had pumped higher than either of us through sheer determination and lunging backward and forward with her whole body, now flexed her legs upward. Her knees disappeared as the legs extended almost unnaturally and the toes lunged to graze the tree branches. Her tiny toes spread apart to grab hold of the wilting, weather-beaten, leaves and pull them away from their woody host. Bending downward until unable to fight anymore, the attacked branch snapped back with a rushing, fluttering, whooshing sound. Each leaf stubbornly clung to Kate’s toes before drifting single-file to the ground. When I tried for the leaves, I cupped the clump of tree appendages between my feet like a toy monkey, clanging its cymbals together abruptly. Unwillingly, the leaves admitted to the capture, while Kate cackled and screeched.

~Annah

Quietly Confident & Sweetly Unapologetic

This is a random, word-vomit blog… just a heads-up. It’s commentary on my own character and how I’ve changed, but I’ll try to connect it to the big picture for everyone else.

I’m the type of person who describes myself as ‘nice’ or ‘friendly.’ You know, super generic words that actually don’t mean squat or give anyone a depiction of who I really am. Honestly, I never sit down to really think about my characteristics as a unique creation. I just think I don’t know… I’m Annah. People who know me know who I am… while really I can’t even describe who I am.

Some things never change about our characters, like my resilient stubbornness over the years. Just ask anyone in my family about my relationship with the word “sports” and they will laugh their heads off. I refused to play sports in elementary school and had no interest in being signed up for Girl Scouts, so I avoided both. The only time I ever considered playing a sport was after my siblings’ soccer games, when they would bring snacks back to the car. Sports = free snacks? Hmm, that’s tempting.

Throughout middle and high school I never drank a lick of alcohol and barely touched a boy. People partook in games like ‘spin the bottle,’ while I would sit in the background, shamelessly eating food.

Peer pressure? Not even miles within reach of my vocabulary.

My dad, being an English teacher, ended up being my eleventh grade teacher (and no, it was not weird, to answer literally everyone’s question.) He had us do this, dare I say, great activity where we had to write down a compliment for everyone in the class that did not involve something generic like “you’re nice.” The results were shocking and uplifting for every 17-year-old and I still remember some loud, highly-opinionated guy I seldom spoke to wrote that I had a ‘quiet confidence’ about me.

Well, little did he know, that is one of the most accurate descriptions I can think of for myself. If you want to know who Annah really is, I am quietly confident and sweetly unapologetic.

My lack of knowledge in career paths or future plans is made up for in my knowledge of my personal values, spiritual values, and what I value in other human beings. These values are where my confidence lies, so I guess that’s why I’m ‘quietly’ confident. While I may seldom have strong exterior situations to stand confident in as a college student, my interior life is sure to be rock-solid. Sprinkle some good ole stubbornness in there and my quiet confidence is not about to change anytime soon.

As I have recently realized, I am also sweetly unapologetic. I feel as if I take the characteristics I dislike about myself and force myself to pull a 180. Only two years ago I suffered through my first year of college, incredibly self-conscious and possessing a very small amount of self-esteem. Since then I have allowed my quiet confidence to flourish while my faith has taken the difficult cards dealt me and turned them into rewarding obstacles.

Similarly, my self-consciousness concerning other people has slowly begun to melt away and continues to do so today. While I still have steps to take to not let others’ words affect me so personally, I have become unapologetic in my interactions with others. I don’t mean I say whatever I want with no cares, it just means if I think someone is cool, I talk to them, which is much more than I could say two years ago.

Last year I thought this girl down my hall was cool and even though we had never properly talked, I stuck a note on her door. Since then I have gotten to talk to her lovely soul more. This past May, two cool senior guys were playing Spike Ball with their friends, so I walked up to them and asked them to teach me. Picture this: 5’1” Annah playing Spike Ball with three 6’+ guys. I randomly messaged someone from high school I said maybe two things to today, because I saw something stupid and funny I thought he would appreciate. And those are just some instances off the top of my head. 13-year-old Annah would be appalled.

I think too often we put up walls between ourselves and others, most of which are self-created. We decide we can’t talk to people because they would judge us or think it’s weird or your past is complicated or 5000 other excuses. If you think someone is the bee’s knees, you should befriend them. If some random chick does something funny in the dining hall or you see someone with a t-shirt that has your favorite Star Wars character on it, go talk to them!

Life is short, you are perfectly unique, and both forgiveness and community are unlimited. Be confident in your unique self. Talk to anyone and everyone.

(Also, I realize now I may need to add a third quality to my list: surprisingly sassy.)

~Annah

The Beauty and Heartbreak of Death

Ever since I heard of my dear family friend, Luke’s, passing yesterday afternoon I have been on the go. My mom told me, I cried a bit and prayed with some of my housemates, then I headed right to work where the stress of three classes’ homework for today hit me and the rest of the night was spent trying my best to focus on reading and writing, whilst juggling student inquiries at my secretarial job, a scattered brain, and waves of emotion. I woke up today and had my back-to-back classes and now I’m finally done and am free for a long weekend (I’m incredibly blessed to have Fridays off of class this semester).

So now that I am free, I have time to process and write this blog. Time to really consider and bring to God whatever the heck it is I’m feeling. Luke battled a rare and aggressive cancer for two long and hard years, so naturally it is relieving to know his pain and battle is over. I think about Luke’s passing and I’m struck by the thought, “Wow, God, thank you for allowing us this opportunity to choose you in our short lifetimes. Thank you, Father, that because of Jesus we now get to come home to You when we die.” I think of the blessings, I want to dwell on the blessings and the good, I’m surrounded by lovely souls who keep reminding me of the good.

But honestly, God, I’m still incredibly sad. There are still tears streaming down my face, even though I know the ultimate outcome is beyond just “good,” beyond ideal, beyond the best we can possibly think of. Luke is home and Luke is whole in the place he truly belongs and now can exist in his true untainted being, the way God intended him to be. What could be better than that? But our world is broken and Luke’s death is directly correlated to the pain and the brokenness that you and I have created, and that breaks my heart. The outcome is ultimately positive and I know deep down it is good, but as one incredible friend alluded to in a simple text message, because I still live in the realm of brokenness, my heart is broken, I experience brokenness and am not invincible to the pain, therefore, sadness is completely natural. We only see dimly in the mirror right now, so it’s going to hurt.

I’m sure everyone reading this has experienced some kind of loss or deep sorrow. The hardest part is that you cannot plan for it and everything else happening in your life at the time always seems to become trivial in a way. I’ve been to three funerals in my lifetime, the last one being at least seven years ago. I remember my grandpa’s funeral, because even though I had cried for my grandma’s, my grandpa’s funeral was when I truly understood the weight of the situation. I distinctly recall standing with my family and watching his casket being lowered into the ground and that’s when the floodgates opened. He was really gone, he was not coming back, and for now at least, we were permanently separated. I recognized the finality of death.

It hurts knowing Luke was only 17. It hurts knowing his parents and brothers have to spend the rest of their earthly lives without their youngest son and brother. It hurts that people cannot firsthand experience the joy, love, and witty jokes Luke had to offer the world. It hurts.

But there’s also comfort and that comfort lies in eternity, Luke’s peace, who God is, and God’s promises, which all eternally outlast every possible pain you can think of in this scenario.

Loss is hard but it’s also a great reminder of what is  most important: people. That is why God’s biggest mission for us is to go out and make disciples of every nation. If there is one thing you should care about other than me, God implies, it is people. And not just your best friend or your mom, but every person. Get to know as many people as possible, because they are made in God’s image too, despite their opinions and their lifestyle choices. Love on every person you meet, which I know Luke was incredibly skilled at, and don’t forget that every breath is a second chance (as Switchfoot sings) and a gift.

Luke had to undergo more than I could ever imagine over the last two years and that was really difficult for everyone to watch, but

Luke battled on the winning side.

And ultimately, all I can say is “Hallelujah, what a savior.”

As they say on Earth, rest in peace, Luke. Not that you need the well wishes. I know God is so ecstatic to have you home. Party it up.

~Annah

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

 

 

Yellow Birthday

I wrote this yesterday, 8/15/17.
Button up and button on

Today is yellow birthday

Did you hear the tears last night

Dripping into a yellow pool

That juxtaposes sass and smiles

With tired, aching, dry eyes

Yellow, sallow skin

Help

Yourself to a piece of cake

Smile and reminisce into the lens

Then drive through yellow-lit fields

A color grim and grateful

A color faint yet strong

On this dear yellow birthday

I’m reminded where I belong
~Annah