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

Advertisements

Opposite Sex Friendships

This is a topic I’ve wished other people could talk about and guide me in, but I really never see much about it anywhere, so I suppose I’ll offer up my opinions on what I DO know to be true in regards to male and female friendships (in this case, I’m referring to both members of the relationship being heterosexual).

When the concept of a male and female friendship is brought up, I either receive responses of ‘that’s not at all possible’ or ‘that’s completely fine, what’s the big deal,’ essentially. Usually these responses correlate with different generations, logically enough. What I do know, however, is that these kinds of relationships are very prevalent among my generation today, and thus, we need to ponder and grapple with how Christians specifically need to approach this societal trend.

I believe Christian men and women can be friends with one another, as long as they approach the friendship with a shrewd mindset.

This opinion was spurred by my incredible father, who talked to me about being shrewd in dress as a woman. The reasoning for being shrewd in dress for a Christian woman is not because men cannot control themselves or women are at fault for what they wear, but because of the knowledge that sin and evil are active in others, and depending on what social situation you are getting yourself into, the goal is to act as conscientiously as possible to decrease the room for evil. Need I remind you, the enemy in cases of wrongdoing is not a person, but sin and the way Satan slithers around in these situations.

So similarly, we need to be shrewd in our friendships among heterosexual Christian men and women (or friendships among the gender you are attracted to).

Before I explain my view further, I’m going to tell you my story with this topic.

For the longest time as a child, I had a male best friend, Nathan, from about 5 years old until I was 10, and then we still remained close friends until I was about 13. We had tons of fun being active and creative, playing anything from imaginary games to video games. But as we got older, we drifted apart, mostly because we gravitated towards more friends our age (he was three years younger), but also I think because Nathan hit adolescence and maybe started feeling differently about being such close friends with a girl.

At that point after Nathan drifted away, I had a couple guy acquaintances through band in middle and high school, but for the most part I didn’t have any guy friends. I kind of felt like I couldn’t have any, or that they had to be friends who would develop into something more, as many people still believe today. Perhaps that’s how it should be at that age, as people are changing a ton hormonally and maturity-wise, and can be a bit unpredictable or fickle in regards to feelings. But I think there’s possibility for friendship for sure once both parties have fully matured. But shrewdness then comes into play.

Nowadays I have many guy friends. I just hung out with one at the library yesterday, I played cribbage with one today, and there are a couple others I talk to almost every day. Keep in mind, I do think the way to approach these friendships varies depending on whether the friend is or is not dating someone and your own romantic status.

Sometimes it can be better to hang out as a group with others, sometimes people can be perfectly fine one-on-one, and frankly, I think it all depends on comfortability, relationship statuses, and most importantly, the potential for lust and other applicable sins to creep into the friendship.

As a Christian, here are some truths to gauge how you must approach your opposite-sex friendships. Sometimes I have felt unsure how to approach some of them, as you likely have, so here is what we DO know:

  • As Matthew 10:16 says, we are to be as “shrewd as serpents.”
  • Lust is a prevalent struggle in our sexualized society and many people struggle with it.
  • Lust can take many different forms, not just purely sexual desires. Matthew 5:28: “But I tell you that if you look at another woman and want her, you are already unfaithful in your thoughts.” As someone who has often struggled with this sin, sometimes it can present itself as thinking too much about someone, having false hope where there should be none, twisting their words to create meaning where there shouldn’t be, and other things that have escaped my mind currently. While some of these things are indeed more applicable to when one or both parties are unavailable to date, the main truth here is that Satan is always active and trying to bring you and your loved ones down. Don’t underestimate the number of ways sin can manifest itself.
  • Your friend is a brother or sister in Christ.
  • Your friend should be treated with love and respect.
  • Any romantic partners in relation to the friendship should be treated with love and respect.
  • Mark 12:31: “The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater as these.”

There have been a couple of times I’ve struggled with liking guy friends who are off limits, in which case I’ve had to wrestle through and change the relationship accordingly. Sometimes that means ending the friendship sadly, sometimes that means making boundaries, sometimes that means only communicating in groups, these things all depend on the individual and what needs to happen to decrease sin.

When you are not struggling with attraction to the friend, though, it’s good to still keep sin in mind and be aware that you never know what sins others are struggling with, especially something like lust that someone is clearly not going to talk to the other about.

In either case, be shrewd with your opposite gender or gender of attraction friendships. Constantly think of how to serve and love your friends. Eradicate room for sin in one another’s lives as much as possible, regardless of whether you know their struggles or not. Act in whatever way will best honor your friends as members of Christ’s body. Make love and respect the main priority in your friendship, and by extension, Jesus. Interact with your friends how you would want to be interacted with, whether single or dating.

Enjoy the beneficial and different perspectives these friends can have, celebrate the beautiful people and company you have with others, but also strive to create a godly community that fights sin and spurs one another closer to the Lord. That’s my two cents on male and female friendships.

Please, please, please feel free to add your thoughts! I’d love to hear them. And let me know if anyone else has addressed this; I’d love to read more!

~Annah

My Addiction

I have an addiction to social media.

This is something I haven’t voiced to anyone before, but I think voicing it causes everything to make so much more sense to both me and my loved ones, because it really is a true addiction that has hindered my relationships with others. I wake up and sit on social media, I scroll before bed, and many times I scroll for multiple hours in between the beginning and end of my day.

It is quite literally consuming my life and driving me to apathy over how I’m spending my days, and that is what scares me the most. It has stolen too much of the past 7 years of my life, and I don’t want to live that way, so I’m indefinitely logging off all platforms until I can rid myself of this negative chain around my neck.

However it’s not easy for me to give it up, not just because it’s an addiction, but because the main side effect that I’ve experienced is FOMO (the fear of missing out). As the years have gone on, my FOMO has multipled, because people utilize social media more and more frequently, and I know my friends will be constantly using it while I’m not, so there’s the fear that I’m missing out on important information in their lives. Sad, but true, and not just in my case, but hundreds and potentially thousands of others’.

I think this is a prevalent addiction in our society, yet no one is talking about it. It exacerbates mental health struggles, it makes me feel guilty, it causes me to push people away, it forces me to be less social than I am, it fills me with emotions like apathy and anger. So WHY are we not talking about it and getting people the help they need?

According to an article written by the Washington Post, the 6 questions to test social media addiction are:

• Do you spend a lot of time, when you’re not online, thinking about social media or planning to use social media?

• Do you feel urges to use social media more and more over time?

• Do you use social media to forget about personal problems?

• Do you often try to reduce your use of social media, without success?

• Do you become restless or troubled if you are unable to use social media?

• Do you use social media so much that it has had a negative impact on your job, relationship or studies?

I personally would say “yes” to all of these questions. And honestly, I think there are a lot more people my age that would too, who don’t realize they have an addiction.

Over the past 10 years social media has become ingrained in our DAILY lives. People spend more time than ever staring at their phones over the people around them, taking pictures of experiences rather than just experiencing them, and making relationship updates on social media more important than the real life relationship! We choose to find our worth in the amount of likes and comments we get rather than conversations face-to-face, and we are overloaded in pointless or angry information that stirs up nothing but negativity, and oftentimes, comparison.

Social media has screwed up a lot of things in our lives. People under the age of 30 on average do not seek news from real sources, but deal with “news” mainly through angry Tweets by celebrities or grotesque pictures of violence on Facebook. We don’t know how to properly respect opinions different than our own, because we can just scream at one another through a computer screen and block the people we disagree with.

As a Communication major, I am utterly disheartened by how minimally we actually communicate with our loved ones. Sometimes it seems like people would rather divulge private information to 500 acquaintances than their closest friends, and I think there’s something really wrong with that.

Every culture, generation, and time period has to deal with unique struggles and distractions. Honestly, as I struggle to stay off social media for the next couple of months at least, I really wish I didn’t live in a time with social media. Social media can isolate in many ways: cyber bullying/hate comments, sending people to their rooms to be alone for hours at a time, increased depression rates, reading terrible news constantly…

But I think we overlook how social media can isolate because it can make those without it, especially millennials and generation z, feel out of the loop with the rest of their peers.

All addictions should be taken seriously; I truly believe that. And so, as I journey through the beginning/hardest stage of recovery to freedom, I think being honest about my addiction and allowing loved ones to know about my struggle is the most important part. To my loved ones, feel free to support and encourage me through emails, phone calls, or text messages. I know it may sound silly, but my brain has been in pure panic mode at the thought of giving up these websites.

But despite the panic and fear, I know it will radically change my mindset, my perspective of myself, and my productivity. This addiction has kept me from better relationships with others, productivity in work and school, proper health/self-care, and even the desire to do fun activities like reading and writing. I’ve allowed this addiction to run the majority of my days for 7 years.

I want to live and really live out my passions and purpose that I believe I’ve been given. I can’t do that when I’m stuck within the tiny confines of an Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat feed.

~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

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!!!

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