How to Have Tough Conversations

I decided to write this post because honestly I’ve had to do this a lot in the past couple of years with many different people. Especially for Christians, this is an essential aspect of life, and if we are to spur one another closer to Christ, we need to actively hold one another accountable in areas of weakness.

 

1. Give yourself space to thoroughly process the topic.

Chances are having a difficult conversation with another person is daunting because you haven’t allowed yourself enough time to think through what parts of their actions are hurting you most, why it matters, and the root of your strong emotions toward their actions or how they’ve made you feel. Processing can look very different, depending on your personality: maybe you like to journal out everything that happened, maybe you need to verbalize out loud until you’ve discovered the root of the issue, or maybe you just need to sit in complete silence to actually give yourself space to think, because your life is unceasingly busy.

Whatever you need to do to actually allow yourself to think of the issue at hand, I hate to say it, but you’re going to have to do that. No resolution or conversation can come about if you don’t reflect on what has happened so far in your relationship with the other person.

2. Write down all of your thoughts.

True, I am very much a written processor as you can probably tell… however, I think writing down everything you’re feeling is valuable regardless of your personality. Even if what you write down doesn’t make it to the conversation, the act of writing will allow you to solidify what you’re feeling, why, and what parts of the issue are most important to you. Think of the person and write your thoughts about how they’ve made you feel. Chances are, whatever you wrote initially is most important to the issue at hand, and then the conversation can be shaped around those points/feelings.

3. Incorporate relevant Bible passages.

While you want to be honest about your feelings and the person’s actions, you also want to make sure you’re having the conversation for the right reasons. The best way to ensure this is to incorporate Scripture and reorient the conversation around a bigger picture… it should not be about an apology or making someone feel bad, but if you’re both Christians it should definitely be about Christ and how you can both grow closer to him together as a result of the conversation (hopefully).

4. Make sure to use statements that emphasize your opinions and feelings of the issue at hand, so nothing is taken personally in a negative way.

Despite what you feel (and easier said than done), your feelings are just that; they’re not facts. So make sure you’re emphasizing that you acknowledge the “opinion-ness” of your feelings. No one wants to feel attacked and no one is pure evil, so don’t paint people that way. You’re trying to build bridges, not burn them down.

5. Restate how much you care about the person.

This ultimately should be why you’re having such a sticky conversation. The world tries to convince people to simply leave negativity in the dust or cut out anything that has a less than joyful effect on you. But like with so many other aspects of culture, Christianity is counter-cultural. Real love and love that goes beyond the temporal addresses issues in relationships and resolves them. There is no ignoring the problem, running from the problem, or pretending like the problem doesn’t exist.

Just like God’s relationship toward us, having hard conversations and being in relationships with other human beings means acting both justly and graciously. Just, because we acknowledge that certain actions are not okay, but also gracious, because no one is perfect and we all screw up.

6. Wait at least 48 hours before approaching the person. (More if you have a busy schedule and less time to process.)

Similarly, your aim is not to hurt anyone or act out of pure emotion.

 

I think having the knowledge of how to approach a person and a topic of conflict is useful, because we are more likely to tackle a difficult situation if we have solid steps in place. Otherwise running away from the problem or letting it fester becomes too easy (and makes the lives of both parties involved worse!)

Just remember: these conversations will only be beneficial. They have only strengthened my relationships with others or given people important things to meditate upon for future interactions with others. You really can’t go wrong having a tough conversation, as long as you’re speaking honestly, while still being open-minded to their responses, empathetic to them on the receiving end of such difficult topics, and aligning your points with God’s word.

~Annah

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What Matters

Really think about that question and ponder it daily. At the end of your life, what do you want to have focused on and placed your energy in? Relationships? Work? Creativity? Technicality? Yourself? Others?

This past July was crazy for many reasons, but in the midst of the emotional turmoil and literal constant transitions (I moved twice and will move twice this month too), it has made me realize what I really care about.

This summer has been a whirlwind of too many things for my taste. But it has been essential nonetheless. On the surface, people might scoff. I’m only working one unpaid internship, with irregular work dates. How am I feeling a ‘whirlwind’? Aren’t I just lazy?

I certainly am the poorest of the poor currently. No money is being spent out of this girl’s pocket if I can help it. Luckily I’ve been raised frugally, so missing out on a couple shirts or snacks isn’t a huge deal for me. So if you prioritize work, maybe you’d say I’m having a pretty unsatisfactory summer. If you value money, you’d say that’s an utterly terrible season.

But I’m not measuring it by those things. I do certainly love my work, even though it’s not paid. Ironically work and the lack of money have not been what has made July such a rollercoaster.

Let me back up. We all have to prioritize in this lifetime. It’s not an option; you either consciously or subconsciously do.

For me, this journey of prioritizing started at the beginning of 2018, when I hoped for a year of stillness and received anything but… because the other side to prioritizing is having the world shove prioritizing opinions at you in 50 billion different ways.

Remember: only you can solidify what your priorities are.

In May, I had the opportunity to broaden my culture just a little bit through my gorgeous roots in Ireland. As I sit here crafting this message to Irish songs, I’m once again uplifted by something that does matter to me: human culture.

Work is fleeting. Money is fleeting. People are what ultimately matter to me. Helping and/or starting conversations with people through entertainment is essentially how I will pick careers in the future.

Fast forward to July, after I had grown accustomed to my internship, living situation, and finished my classwork for my study abroad trip, and I found myself pulled in a billion directions. Have you ever been in such a scenario?

I found myself pulled to have relaxation time after a stressful and emotionally taxing academic year, job hunt relentlessly to gain money, participate in July NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) to ease my inner doubts, establish a strict exercise regimen (which I need to delve back into…), start worrying about THE FUTURE (why do we have to worry?! No thanks.), and be the most social of butterflies.

You’re probably still confused. No, none of those things are terrible, and they’re all manageable for the most part. However, as I started to juggle all of them at the beginning of the month, I swiftly realized they were not meant to be my priorities for the summer OR my life.

I gave up social media at the end of June, which certainly improved my use of time this month. The first week of July I realized my housemates and I had to move for the month, which was definitely a frustrating wrench in my plans. I had to move at the end of the school year, fly to Ireland, move every couple of days in Ireland, move to my summer housing, and I would be moving at the end of July and then back to school in August, which meant this unexpected move would bump my total to 7 (not including all of the Ireland transitions). THAT’S A LOT FOR 3 MONTHS! Then an added stressor came that week concerning a friend who seemed too out of reach to help in a very scary way.

The second week of July, I realized I struggle with singleness and idolizing relationships, which sent me into bouts of frustration and necessary spiritual time. Then last week, this same issue cropped up in a different way and sent me back into much needed spiritual and friendship guidance.

In between those two weeks, my family decided to put my life dog down, and it ended up being pretty grief-filled. And this past week I’ve been on a much-needed family vacation.

Essentially, the result of such constant and pressing emotional turmoil forced me to my Bible, and made me realize my main priority is my faith and relationship with God. That is something I want to prioritize for the rest of my life, and it won’t change, whilst my job positions, friends, writing projects, and even living loved ones will constantly change. And in my mind, without faith, what’s the point of striving to write a book or establish relationships? Life’s pretty gruesome without it.

Resultantly, I released my NaNoWriMo goals. That’s not to say I don’t care about writing or my novel, but it’s just not at all what I want to prioritize in this season of my life. And frankly, not at all what I NEED to prioritize.

Someday, my story will get published. I’ve honestly had fears I can’t accomplish novel projects without NaNoWriMo, but I’ve since let go of that lie. It’ll all get done. But not today. Not for a while. I’m going to focus on my faith, my friends, my family, my future job, and my future creative projects for the next year. (And I’m not talking novels!)

Here’s to loving people. Here’s to delving deep into my faith.

I’ve figured out what matters to me. What matters to you?

~Annah

Body Image and Lies that Crippled me for Years

Two years ago, I would have never imagined writing this blog. But after writing a rough draft of my novel, where I placed some of my biggest insecurities on display through my protagonist, Ryden, I feel confident that it’s time for me to be vulnerable about my insecurities. So hello internet, this is the most vulnerable thing I have ever done. But I truly believe people need to hear this to feel less alone.

There are so many times I have felt utterly trapped in my skin and have desperately wished my body could be anything but what it is. To just write this makes me cry, because it’s so sadly true. But my tears I have right now also fall, because that is such an ugly, twisted lie that millions of people believe when they look in the mirror daily. I think about all of the young women in elementary, middle, or high school who look in the mirror and abhor what they see. The petite young women in high school, like I used to be, who look at themselves and think something needs to change because they are “not enough.” You are enough and you are perfect just as you are, and I wish I could’ve told my younger self that.

I have told myself so many lies based on my body, including:

  • My skin is ugly
  • My nose is too big
  • I’m not tall enough
  • I’m too skinny
  • I don’t weigh enough
  • I don’t have enough curves
  • My body is not deserving of love

And perhaps the worst lie I realized two years ago that I’ve told myself for years subconsciously:

  • You will not be loved because you don’t have boobs

These are my lies I’ve lived with since adolescence, and I cannot say I simply got rid of the lies because that would be a lie too, but I’ve realized how essential my unique body is and that I need to stand up for the other women who look like me, because they are likely silenced by their lies right now. It’s so scary and yet so liberating to be sharing this with you right now.

This might sound corny, but if you could please participate, I want you to do this with me. Find a piece of paper and write down all of the insecurities you’ve had over the years about what you look like. I will write mine down.

Have your list? Good.

Now I want you to rip it up and throw it away.

The physical act of throwing it away is so impactful. You are free. You are not those things you wrote down. You are worthy of love despite all of your imperfections and those insecurities don’t define you. Not anymore.

Every single thing you wrote down is a LIE and that is the TRUTH.

For years, I let my insecurities silence me. For years, I let myself feel isolated and alone in these insecurities. For years, these insecurities won and sometimes these lies try to creep back into my system. Sometimes they float around in my system for a little while. But they never stay, because I know I’m my own worst enemy. I know I pick up on little things no one else does about myself, things that don’t even matter. I believe I was given this body for a reason. I believe there is something out there that wants me to feel inadequate and insecure.

I know I’m just like every other human on this planet because I have doubts about my body.

Our bodies are unique, and because of that, there are numerous insecurities we have about ourselves that we feel alone in. But the truth is we are not alone. Maybe someone doesn’t understand what it’s like to be petite like I do, but they know what it’s like to look in the mirror and disapprove of what they see. To look in the mirror and doubt that anyone could ever accept what’s there besides your family. These are lies that the devil of my belief system (or whatever the equivalent is for you) will take and run with, to convince you that you are not deserving of love, whether romantic, familial, friend-wise or spiritual.

It’s hard. I know it’s hard to love what you see. But whether you can see it for yourself or not, know that you are perfect just as you are. You are enough just as you are. You don’t need to change for anything or anyone. You don’t need certain clothes or shoes or makeup or a hairstyle to be seen as lovable.

This is your one body. Love it as much as you humanly can… which means sometimes you won’t love it. So when the doubts start creeping in, step away from the mirror, walk outside, and look at the beauty in the people around you. They possess the same beauty that you do. You know how you pick your friends up when they talk themselves down? You deserve that kind of self-talk, too.

Your body is perfect, so get used to that beautiful truth. Even when you don’t feel like it is.

~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

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

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

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