You Say

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Right now I’m not at work like I was supposed to be, I’m at the doctor.

I’m not here for strep or something that will go away easily, I have chronic fatigue syndrome.

I know, it sounds like a made up thing, but I assure you-it is all too real.

I’m overworked- actually, all I’ve done lately is go to work. And by the time I go home, I’m too exhausted to do even the simplest of tasks. Lately, I’ve been doing what us “chronic fatiguers” (I don’t know the official word lol) call OVERDOING it. Most people would be a little tired, but they’d be okay. Not me. I feel like I have the flu, and I feel like that probably once a week.

Now I’m not telling you all this so that you can join my self-pity party that I too often throw.

I’m telling you this because there’s more to say. I’m telling you this because God is there with me in the midst of my struggle.

As I was waiting for the receptionist to get my card to go through on the computer, I heard the beginning of “You Say” by Lauren Diagle. My heart skipped right to the chorus.

“You say I am loved,

When I can’t feel a thing.

And you say that I’m strong,

When I think I am weak.

And you say that I’m held,

When I am falling short.

And when I don’t belong,

Lord you say I am yours.”

I automatically thought,”Oops, my Spotify must still be on.” I checked my phone, but the app wasn’t even open. I then realized that the receptionist was playing it quietly on her computer. She had no idea, but hearing that song was the encouragement I needed today. I felt God so strong in that moment, and I heard a quiet whisper in my heart that said,”This is for you.”

Isn’t is amazing how God finds the most unique and quiet ways to reassure us when we feel afraid.

So now, I’m looking around the room, I’m noticing that all the other patients in here are elderly and I can’t help thinking, “I’m too young for this, I don’t belong here.”

As I think this- I feel the words from this song comfort me. I can hear God’s quiet loving voice reminding me that when I feel weak, He is strong. When I feel like I don’t belong, I’m reassured that I will always belong with Him.

God never fails to blow me away, and I’m thankful today that He gave me a message that I needed to hear.

-Annie

Do it Afraid

“Fear”

If we let it, this 4-letter word can have more control over our lives than we do.

It’s not a scary looking word, so why does it kill more dreams, relationships, and our walk with God more than anything else? 

Did you know that in the Bible the phrase “do not fear” occurs in some variation over 300 times? 

God didn’t just say, “Hey fam, I kind of would prefer if you’d trust me and not freak out, but if you do it’s chill and I’ll just wait for you to say I was right.”

He commands us to STEP OUT OF THE FEAR, because He knows the power that fear can have over someone’s life.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are mine. “

Isaiah 43:1

Let’s break this verse down:

1. God doesn’t tell us to “only be afraid sometimes”, or “to be afraid when you have a really good reason”–> He COMMANDS us to step out of the fear and into a shelter of safety with Him.

JESUS DIDN’T DIE ON THE CROSS FOR US TO LIVE A LIFE OF FEAR.

2. How can we possibly live this “fearless” life that so many have spoken about?

Faith, trust, and pixie dust

Don’t close the window–> I’m going somewhere with this..

Faith and Trust:

Here’s a definition of “faith” that I found on Webster-

“complete trust”

The things or people that we put our faith in are the same things or people that will affect every part of our life. 

 

What are YOU putting your faith in? What are you trusting COMPLETELY?

 

Finances? We’ve all been there. Feeling secure in your finances is great and a healthy place to be.. but what about when that becomes your ONLY security.

What if you lost it? What would you do? Would you regret putting your faith in it?

Relationships?

Don’t get me wrong, having a set of people that you are proud to call “yours” is a blessing.

Although–be sure that “your people” are what you put ALL your faith in.

From personal experience–no matter how wonderful someone is and how much they care about you–they WILL fail you at some point, because they are HUMAN.

What happens when that person who you have put on a pedestal falls short?

Because they will, not because they’re a bad person, but because we weren’t created to be perfect. 

What happens when we do put our faith fully into God?

AMAZING things, that’s what!

God is the only one who will NEVER fall short, He will never give up on you, and He will NEVER stop loving you.

He is the ONLY one who can do this.

Money comes and goes.

Our loved ones may not always say the “right thing.”

God stays–> He may not always say what we WANT to hear, but He always says what we need to hear. 

Saying that you will never be afraid of everything again is a ridiculous statement. We’re human, and we will still feel afraid sometimes, after all–we aren’t perfect.

But guys—isn’t it cool to know that God is behind and in front of every step we take?

Pixie Dust:

This message is not tied to those who struggle with mental health issues that cause a literal chemical imbalance in their brain such as anxiety. I have no doubt God can heal ANYTHING, but I also believe He uses medicine, counselors, and the great resources we have as well. I don’t want anyone to take this message the wrong way and feel ashamed of something that they can’t control. You’re doing great and I love you. 

You’re not going to be fearless every second of your life.

If you walk into something that scares you, don’t try to wait until you’re 100% “fearless.” Take advice from a podcast I listened to that I can’t remember what it was.. (Sadie Robertson I’m 55% sure)—> 

“Do it afraid.”

Why can you do it afraid?

Because you may be scared, but God isn’t. 

-Annie

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comfort vs. Service

For me, this semester has become centered around one word–“perspective.”

Life at Lee is amazing–don’t get me wrong. It is a unique university with the ability to change our lives.  Notice I say our lives; I feel like ever since I graduated HS my focus has been a little too much on my future, my plans, my life.

I’m beginning to realize that that is not the perspective that Jesus has called me to live in.

My first semester at Lee (literally last spring) I was surrounded by the “newness” of it all, I was enticed by the aesthetic and brand that Lee produced. I looked forward to all the things that God was going to do in MY life, the blessings He was going to bring ME. 

Looking up at those majestic brick buildings and the perfectly manicured landscape–I think I missed the greater picture that God was trying to paint for me. 

Ever since the first time I attended Christ Community Church (CCC)- my perspective on not only Cleveland–but the church in general–has changed.

One Sunday at CCC, the message talked about how sometimes we work so hard on what’s going on in our church (small groups, high-tech stage, kids church, etc.) that we become one-sided in our focus.

Don’t get me wrong, it is great to have progress and growth in a church–as long as the amount going in is equal to the amount that is being given out. 

Leading me to my first question:

 “If your church is blessed enough to have a nice lobby, a pastor with $80 sneakers, a small group specifically for 30 year old women who knit and like dogs (you get my point)—-what is your church DOING for those who are on the OUTSIDE?

I don’t know if anyone has noticed–but Cleveland, Tenn. is OVERRIDDEN with poverty.

I’m not calling you out– I didn’t realize what was outside of campus until the day my bubble was popped.

This was the first time I ever went to CCC, on the walk back to our house–my roommate and I saw someone digging through the trash. And this man was digging like his life depended on it–it shattered my bubble. Seeing that, was like putting on a pair of those 3D glasses (side note: not those sunglass replicas but the cool cardboard ones with the blue and red)–my whole state of vision was changed. 

There is a deep brokenness in this city that needs to be healed.

After doing some research on the statistics– more questions form in my mind:

There are 89 churches in Bradley County, at least 27 of them in Cleveland–so why are there still more than 2,000 people on the streets? 

 

I can tell you why I only just started really getting involved, it’s a simple and selfish reason–but it’s one I feel that so many of us are familiar with.

“It’s an inconvenience.”

True service, takes sacrifice. It’s hard, it’s not meant for an uplifting “I feel better now, I worked at the soup kitchen and gave people food.” After leaving the soup kitchen, what do we do? We slip into PJ’s, grab the food we never really have to worry about having, and then lay and watch Netflix on our $800+ laptops–satisfied with being a “good person” for the day. Maybe even editing some photos for IG of you serving chicken noodle soup to people.

This is a big thing I’m about to drop but –here I go:

God didn’t call us to always be “comfy.” 

Remember John the Baptist? The devoted friend and servant of Jesus Christ who went to JAILyet, he kept spreading the gospel, he kept joy even in the darkest moments.

There have been plenty of times in my life where I’ve looked up and said, “God, I am so not qualified for what you’re asking me to do here.” You know why I say that? Because I am uncomfortable with what is happening. 

We were not called to a life of COMFORT while on this Earth, we are called to a life of LOVE.

Love is NOT always comfortable, people will not always return it; love takes patience and understanding–it takes putting on the shoes of the other person and walking with them as best as you can.

People don’t always need an elaborate prayer, a sermon, or a long devotional (not that those things aren’t good)– sometimes, they just need someone to talk to, someone who will show them that they care. They need reliability,  care, patience, love–all of the things that Jesus is.

All of the things that He has called us to be.

If you’re in an uncomfortable spot in your life--don’t feel discouraged.

Because often, God will take us out of our comfort zone to use us for something greater than we could ever imagine. 

Thanks for reading.

-Annie

 

I Don’t Want to Be an Empty Shell

I remember many different trips that my family made to the beach when I was a kid, but there are a few particular times that stand out in my mind from all the others. And guess what many of those involved?

My deeply driven desire to be a hermit crab owner. 

Anyone who has stopped by those tourist shops along the beach has seen a hermit crab. I remember watching them climb up the sides of the wire cage, mesmerized by their “giant claws of death.” Those crabs fascinated me, but what truly caught my eye was the shells.

So many different shells, each a vibrant color, some even had a tiny scene painted on them.  I convinced my mom to let me get the “cage bundle” (a much to small crab prison, complete with a “sea sponge” and one shell.)Mom instructed me to pick only two other shells, so I did what any logical child would do and came back to her with ten.

This is when I learned that these shells had a more important purpose than to just “look pretty.” I was told that we need the bigger shells so that the hermit crab can live in them as he grows. This helped my decision to be easier, and before I knew it, I was taking my new pet home.

Long story short, I was a horrible crab parent, and Hermie (no joke, I am 80% sure that’s what I named it) kicked the bucket in the short span of 2 weeks. I was heartbroken (well I was for about 10 minutes before I got distracted and forgot about my grief).

The saddest part of Hermie’s death was that his empty shell now sat all alone in the cage. Without my little crab, the shell had no life of its own. When Hermie died, his shell was still pretty on the outside, but on the inside, it became hollow and empty, because it no longer had a  purpose. 

The reason I told this story is that Hermie and I have more in common than you would think. Jesus is the hermit crab inside of my shell.

I know you’re probably thinking “Wait girl. Hold up. Did you just compare Jesus to a hermit crab?!”

Yes, yes I did. Now hold on, and hear me out.

Jesus is the life inside of me, He gives me the strength that I need to climb, to walk, and to thrive in the purpose that he has lovingly laid out before me.

My shell is quite pretty, it is colorful and vibrant, it makes people smile and laugh. Even so, when it is empty, my shell loses the knowledge of its purpose.

Without my provider, I can’t make myself move, I don’t have the strength to climb those mountains, and my empty shell will never be satisfied.

2 Corinthians 4:7 says: 

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God, and not us.    

Time for a pop quiz, in my story I told you, what happened that led to my hermit crab dying?

I neglected it.

I became distracted.

I didn’t feed it with all the proper nutrition.

And worst of all, 

I forgot about it.

This same thing has happened to me in my relationship with God. Sometimes, I become distracted by fear, depression, by curveballs that the world throws. Discouragement sets in, and I spend less time with the Lord, sure that I’m not good enough for someone who is perfect.

I stop feeding my soul and begin to let it starve.

Have you ever been so focused on your pain that you forget to run to the only one that can heal it?

I know I have. 

There is no better thing to fill your shell with than the love of Jesus.

His food supply will never run low, your insecurities will be kicked to the curb as you call on your provider to fill you with confidence. Most of all, you won’t just be a pretty shell.

You will be whole, and nothing will stop you from being able to move.

Thank you for reading,

Annie

Things I Learned My First Week at a University

Hello all,

I have just survived my first week at a university, and I am going to share some things that I have learned during it.

Here are some of the “most important” things that I learned over the first week at Lee University:

WEAR SUPPORTIVE FOOTWEAR. I brought lots of cute boots, some flats, Vans, but not a lot of options for my fragile baby feet. (I exaggerate with those last words slightly, but only because I was never aware how wimpy my feet truly were until last week). I am all for exercise, and I do think it’s important. I’m gonna be honest, have I made time for it last year? No. So, I went from walking around a mile a day to four or more. By day two, I had massive blisters covering a large portion of my feet.

-This one goes along with number one, although now I am going to discuss clothes. I brought dresses with cute little tights, which is what I wore in Wytheville (because I drove everywhere). So, I decided to wear my overalls, which seemed like a cute and comfy option. Note to self: tight denim does not do well when one is sprinting across campus. It is week two and I now wear mostly jeans and sweaters, occasionally spicing it up with a necklace (WOOT).

Twenty minutes is not enough time to get across campus if you are a new student and not familiar with your surroundings. But I do admit, I did feel pretty fly when I speed-walked across campus and cruised (more like crashed) into class 1 minute before it started. Jokes aside, manage your time better than I do.

-ALWAYS make sure you have your student I.D. with you, especially if you are going to Lee. At Lee, your ID holds your right to”free” (well, free as long as you forget that you paid $1,000 or more for your meal plan) food,  shows that you attended chapel, and allows you access into your hall (which is quite nice, especially when it is 30 degrees outside).

Now, moving on to the more positive sides of those “mistakes” that every newbie can’t help but make at least once:

-All the walking is great exercise, I have been so happy while I have been here, and I owe some of that to just having time to simply think.

-The expensive meal plan is so worth it! I personally am loving the food here, of course I am definitely not what one would define as a “picky” eater.

You will be forced to be confident in your “natural” state. When I first got here, I had a picture in my head of me with curled hair, flawless makeup, and an adorable outfit EVERY SINGLE DAY. God only knows how I planted that idea in my mind, because it did definitely not happen! At first I was kind of sad that I wouldn’t be able to complete this picture of my new “Lee self” that I had formed in my mind. I was worried about not looking “cute”, I mean first impressions are everything, right?

Yet, as I walked to class today with messy hair and an outfit that I planned in about 5 seconds, I realized that I was still smiling, and that by just looking like myself and not wishing that I looked as cute as whoever else, I felt a sort of freedom.

Taking the time to accept yourself in your busy and messy state is freeing, I recommend it 10/10.

Also, putting yourself out there is scary, but worth it in every way. That person that you want to talk to may feel exactly the same way, but it’s up to you to go for it.

The moral of this rabbit trail post is that yes, if you are going out on your own, you will experience change. It may also not turn out exactly like the picture that you have framed in your head, but darling, even if that frame shatters, there is someone who can help you form a new picture piece by piece.  

If you are dealing with a new change in your life, take my advice and do not try to handle it all on your own. Gather every insecurity and every fear and lay them all at His feet. I have learned just over this past week just how important it is to surrender our plans to God, because plans can change in the blink of an eye, and when our house is rocked, we need a firm foundation.

Sending love over the web,

Annie

 

What it’s like growing up in a small town

I have been wanting to write this for awhile, but it never felt like the right time. Now that I’m leaving for Tennessee in only a few weeks, I’ve decided that now is a better time to share than ever.

It’s time to set things straight. Today I’m going to share with you which stereotypes are right, which ones are wrong, and what it was like growing up in a small town.

I haven’t lived in Wytheville, VA my whole life, we moved here from the city of Chesapeake, VA when I was 7. I’m glad we did, because if not, I would be completely different from the person I am today.

Stereotype #1

Everyone knows eachother. TRUE (mostly)

My town is definitely bigger than most “small towns”, but this still is a halfway accurate statement. For example, if your dad is the high school football coach and he’s caught with marijuana, EVERYONE will know within 2 days.

Sometimes I play a game when I am at a stoplight where I try to see if I know the people in the car beside me. Usually I don’t, and it them becomes an awkward stare off between me and a stranger. Sometimes it’s someone I went to high school with, or some person from church I don’t speak too; I then proceed look away quickly and die a little inside.

Whenever I mention a friend or a boy I’m interested in, my grandpa starts by asking “now what’s their last name?” I sigh and tell him, and sometimes, he knows exactly who their family is. Pastors are extremely connected in small towns.

 

This is Virginia Heights, it’s an adorable country restaurant and yes, it is ALWAYS this busy on Sunday’s after church. It is the place to be if you’re 50+, and each time I go there with my grandparents, my grandpa talks to literally almost everyone in there.

If you aren’t in the mood to see people you know in my town, you avoid Walmart at all cost. Walmart is the wall street of Wytheville, and if you go there after 5 you are guaranteed to see:

People you went to high school with (which in my case, I either run or do a brief wave and then run)

All your old teachers (in fact, Walmart was the place that helped me realize in middle school that my teachers had a life outside of being teachers)

For many, their relatives. (Yes, Great Aunt Sue, I’m still single. No, please do not set me up with your friend’s grandson.)

And if you’re lucky enough to go later than 10pm, you will encounter at least 3 creepy men in their 60s, and you will be paranoid as you walk back to your car with pepper spray in hand.

Stereotype #2:

We drink a lot of sweet tea.

TRUE

Sweet tea is one of the best things about living in the South. People drink it about as much as they drink water. And also, it gives you a great caffeine buzz that can help prevent a 4 hour nap after church. (The last sentence may be from personal experience.)

Stereotype #3:

Everyone goes to church. MOSTLY TRUE

Out of my towns population, I would say about 65% of people go to church on Sundays and that increases to 85% on holidays such as Easter or Christmas Eve.

After all, we are in the Bible belt.

I go to one of the biggest churches in town, and I’m pretty sure I see atleast 15% of Wytheville’s population at service, which has it’s pros and cons.

Pros: I get to see people that I don’t get time to see on weekdays. And I get to spy on people.

Cons: I get distracted during communion because I’m spying on people.

Stereotype #4:

We are as cute as the small towns in Hallmark Christmas movies.

TRUE

I may just be biased, but I truly think Wytheville is adorable, particularly our downtown. We got a grant and in the past year or so, and I have seen the downtown area completely transform. One of my favorite things to do is just walking around on Main Street.

 

They turned all the sidewalks into brick and added flowers all over Main Street. They also play music through speakers– good music, 70s style.

There’s a mural in an alleyway now and it’s the best picture spot in town. My friends and I have spent a lot of time taking “cute” pictures there. To take the photos, I always place my phone on a timer and put it in a plant that is across from the wall.

Fun fact: One time I got all the way to my house before I realized I left my phone in a plant downtown.

Wytheville may be at it’s best now, but it was still great during my childhood, concrete sidewalks and all.

When I was in 5th grade, me and my best friend at the time spent the entire summer together. Which was great,  because she lived in the middle of the downtown area.

I went home with her almost every day after school, and we had an unhealthy (but fun) routine. Her mom would take us to King’s Produce, there we would get a large Crazy Vanilla ice cream and a Mountain Dew. (The funny part is that I hated Mountain Dew, but I thought my friend was cool, so I got it because she did. I was quite the little conformist). We would then either go to her house and watch TV, break into the playground at the elementary school (where I would swing for like 2 minutes and then get off and almost throw up), and go downtown.

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Our downtown adventures after school consisted mainly of us going to Skeeters. I’d get a barbecue sandwich (despite the fact that the place is famous for it’s hotdogs), and she’d get a hotdog. We both got Cokes in glass bottles, and we felt like adults as we swung our legs back and forth in the swivel seats by the table. 

We’d then sometimes go into random shops downtown. By now, we had about $5, so we “window shopped” and I am pretty sure we annoyed every single store owner within our proximity (sorry guys).

I remember one time we went into this bridal/dress shop, my friend looked older so we pretended that she needed a dress for prom. She tried on like 10, and then we left claiming that we were going to get money and come back-we never came back. 

We also loved going in The Office Supply, which is actually one of Wytheville’s tourist attractions because of the giant pencil that hangs out front. (I still am not sure that one day it will not fall and kill us all). We tried out literally every pen and sat in the office chairs, eventually we bought like an eraser. Sorry Office Supply, but you did help fuel my childhood.

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Summer was about the same as the above described, with two additions. As I said before, we spent the whole summer together, and of course we got bored of hanging at her house. So, when this happened, we would steal from her mom’s change jar (sorry) and get out the $2 (or so) that we both needed for the public pool.

The McWayne pool was the place to be  (well at least for us kiddos who couldn’t afford the country club across town). We would throw our change from the baggie we carried it in pay for admission, and then go in the disgusting changing room, emerging in brightly colored tankinis. This was the life.

We then laid around much too long, and eventually got in the pool. My friend was a better swimmer, and we’d sometimes find other friends at the pool, we  then would race, and I’d almost die. Then we’d scrounge up more change and ask the cute lifeguard (well, sometimes) for one of those plastic long popsicle things. If we had more to splurge, we would use the crosswalk, and brave the journey to King’s Produce. I always walked in there in my bathing suit (even though it was “against the rules”). We’d get our ice cream and head back to the pool, relishing the looks of all the jealous kids whose parents wouldn’t take them there. 

I could go on and on about my memories of Wytheville, but let’s be honest, if this blog post gets any longer, NO ONE will read it. (I wouldn’t)\

So in summary, being raised in a small town as a kid is the best. It’s much safer, and I believe it is simpler since we have to be creative on what to do. It does have it’s cons, but maybe I will one day write a different post about those haha!

I hope you have enjoyed getting a glimpse into my cute little hometown!

Making Tough Times Produce Great Growth

Hello all,

It has been awhile! I could use the “I have no time excuse” but I do. As my youth pastor once told me “It’s not that you don’t have time for this, it’s that it’s not a priority to you.” Those words hit my little 17 year old soul hard, but they were what I needed to hear.

I am going to work on making the things I am passionate about a priority, and I encourage you to do the same. Let’s commit together to making passions a priority and not putting them on the shelf as we fret over the more “important” things such as work or college.

Excuse my tangent, for that is not very relevant to the topic I want to talk about today-thanks ADHD!

This week has been draining, mentally and physically. A few weeks ago, I was at a peak. I felt like I had finally recovered from the mono I had in August. I was going to the gym for once in my life, eating healthy, and going to bed early to wake up early and have a full day. My schoolwork was all caught up, only two months or so now before I get to transfer to Lee University- I felt unstoppable.

I think that is the problem with feeling “unstoppable” though, because once you are that high, the pitfall to the bottom seems even more harsh. About two weeks ago, I woke up with a sore throat and I instantly felt off. There’s no way I am sick again right? Well wrong. I started feeling worse, achey, headache, all that lovely stuff. In the back of my head I kept thinking “could I have mono again?” I shrugged off the thought, reminding myself that it is extremely rare to get mono a third time, but I couldn’t shake the fear that I may be that lucky rare case.

I went to the doctor and she said I probably just had a throat infection, they took my blood just in case.

Life resumed as normal, I was happy, a little sick feeling, but okay. Then I got a call from the doctor saying I had mono once again!

A lot of questions went through my head after I hung up.

There was a lot of “why me God” at that moment. I knew it wasn’t the end of the world, but I was frustrated. The past month I had been eating healthy, getting proper sleep, and exercising- and somehow I still got sick again!

While I was whining to myself, I also became panicked when I thought about how I was leaving for a university in January. That gave me 2 months to be better. I was catastrophizing thinking things like “what if I get sick over and over and over?!” Or worst, what if I have to wait another semester to go to Lee?

After a day of moping, I decided I needed to suck it up. But I didn’t do this alone. God reminded me of his sovereignty and that he is guiding my future. So I don’t need to worry over the “worst case scenario.”

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.

He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Psalm 23

When we are going through a hard time, we can either dwell in the fear and negativity, or we can rise above it. You can’t always choose what situation you’re in, but you can choose how you react to it. One of my favorite sayings recently I heard from one of Sadie Robertson’s podcast episodes (I do not remember which one).

When in a tough situation do not say “God get me out of this!”; instead say, “God, what can I get out of this?

If you are going through a rough season, I encourage you to try to keep positive mindset.

Change your outlook, take this tough situation to God and let him use it, because he will.