It’s the end of another year, and I’m sitting here amazed at how far I’ve come since this time last year. Tonight my family will celebrate with our annual sparkling grape juice, cheese, and apple slices, but first, in this last post of 2013, I want to talk about you.
Although I have no way of knowing who reads my blog unless you leave a comment or tell me you’re a reader, WordPress (my host site) keeps up with some pretty cool stats. For example:
Believe it or not, this past year, visitors came from thirty-eight countries – not including the United States! Often, it was just a single click from a person in a country, but still. Thirty-eight.
The top five most visited posts, other than the homepage and “All About Anna” section (click on the name of the following posts to read them):
1) “He Knows the Plans” – The story of my youngest sister’s birth.
2) “Go Teen Writers Blog Tour” – I had the opportunity to host Go Teen Writer’s Stephanie Morrill and Jill Williamson when they went on a virtual book tour! This was when a lot of international visitors stopped by. Not only was it a fun interview, but there was also a giveaway.
3)“The Impossible” – A retelling of the Christmas story. I’ll talk a bit more about this one in a minute.
4) “Torch Love” – I actually didn’t write this one. This was a guest post by my sister, and it’s a must-read.
5) “Dear Anna,” – A letter I wrote to my younger self on the eve of my twenty-first birthday.
Okay, now back to “The Impossible” for a minute. It was one of my two Christmas posts this year, and I want to fill in a few details:
A couple weeks before Thanksgiving, I got an idea for a post called “Battle Cry”. I knew what I wanted the premise to be, but I still needed to fill in some gaps. But as I started thinking about it, my mind began going in a different direction. For several years, I’ve been fascinated by looking deeper at the Christmas story. I love thinking about what it really must’ve been like; what it must’ve felt like to be Mary or Joseph. What if I retold the story from a different perspective? I wondered. Not to replace the original Scripture, of course, but to give people an opportunity to think about the nativity in a different way.
When I posted “The Impossible,” I really wasn’t sure what people would think. Whenever I blog something, I never know if anyone will even read it, much less enjoy it. But I felt compelled to share it anyway. And honestly? I’ve been overwhelmed by the support the post has received. Every time someone left a comment or shared a link on Facebook or told me they read it, it meant a lot to me. Really, truly. You honor me with your support, not just for my writing, but for your belief that God can use even a college student trying to share what’s on her heart. And it’s not just with “The Impossible,” but other times, too. So thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
Now for a treat. Have you ever noticed the search bar on the right of this page? It’s a really cool feature that lets you look up a blog post using a key word of phrase. What makes it really, really cool is that it tells me what’s been searched for. The benefits of this are two-fold because: 1) I can see what type of content interests readers the most 2) I can amuse myself to no end with the results.
Like everything else, I have absolutely no idea who searches for things so please feel free to keep lookin’ stuff up. As for a few of the more unconventional search terms of 2013, I’ll list them below, along with my best explanations:
“The famous sayings of Anna Schaeffer” – I’m sorry to say I don’t think I have any “famous sayings,” unless they’re something like “I love bacon” or “Have you read (insert book here)?”
“She did cut her hair” – I think this one is for “Cutting up”, a post I did about the first time I let my sister cut my hair. It was quite the experience.
“What did Anna Schaeffer do that was special” – Everything. I did all the special things.
“Can you use hairspray on garden gnomes” – I’m sure you can, but I’m pretty sure their hair’s not really gonna go anywhere…since it’s plaster. By the way, I believe this goes with my 2011 Thanksgiving post called “I’m Thankful for…Garden Gnomes”, which mentions both hairspray and garden gnomes. In separate contexts.
“Gum blowing” – Ah, yes. There was a time when I totally impressed some ladies in a retirement community with my bubble gum blowing skills. If you want a recap of the experience (why wouldn’t you?), check out “Currently…” But I’ll be honest: The bubble gum thing is the most normal part of that post.
“Sasquatch walking in the woods” – What can I say? If you had a sasquatch living behind your house, you know you’d talk about it on the internet, too. Get more knowledge by reading “Sasquatch in the Woods”.
“But I can do it better” – I couldn’t think of a post this could be associated with, so I typed it in the search bar. I ended up with a list of basically all my posts. You interpret that (I’m kidding).
“What product does Anna Schaeffer use in her hair” – That’s slightly personal, yeah? But if you must know (since I don’t generally discuss the condition of my scalp on my blog), I usually use what’s on sale. Although I do have a thing for Herbal Essences.
“Mom cutting hair” – Nope, that would be Erin (see earlier comment).
“2” – 3, 4, 5…? I don’t know, but I think this is a good opportunity to shamelessly plug part 2 (as well as parts 1,3,4,5,6, and 7) of my Costa Rica travel journal. You can start the reading journey by reading part one, called “Into the Nations”.
“Schaeffer Ladies’ belts” – Seatbelts? Clothing belts? Conveyor belts? Belting out a song? We wonder.
“Sasquatch drawing” – For the Sasquatch story, refer to the above comment.
“Bubble gum blowing skillz” – Aha! People love the skillz! They want more!
“Schaeffer’s blog” – You’ve arrived, friend. Welcome.
Unknown search terms: 58 – I wish they were known really, really badly.
So that’s just a few of them. Like I said, looking for stuff is anonymous, and I really enjoy seeing people exploring the blog, so feel free to keep entertaining me searching for things in 2014!
As I clicked back through this year’s blog posts to see what all we’ve covered, I realized I haven’t caught you up on what’s been going on in my life the past couple months. One of the biggest reasons for this is the fact that this fall I weathered one of the most intense semesters of college ever (for me, at least). Hello, senior year! There was so much studying and writing and reading that I didn’t have as much time to blog as I would’ve liked. But on the bright side, I learned how to defeat a zombie in one of my lit classes, so if you ever find yourself faced with the undead, I’ve got your back…from a distance. I don’t handle things like that very well.
But I have some pictures! No, there are no zombie pictures (I mean, ew), but they’ll let you peek at few of my less serious, non-academic activities.
Let’s start back in October (ancient history, I know). Each October, my family goes to a pumpkin patch to, well, pick out pumpkins. I like pumpkins; I like scooping out their insides, toasting the seeds, and attempting an epic carving. But I’ve always wanted something more. I’ve always felt this longing deep inside for one of those warty ones. Why do I want a warty pumpkin, you ask? Why is the sky blue? I don’t know, I just wanted one. But then I’d always cave in and get a smooth one like my sisters so I could carve it (because warty ones are like the boss level of pumpkin carving). But not this year! I resolved to go against the flow and follow my pumpkin-loving heart and find one that genuinely made me happy. I found this one:
Just marvel at its wonderfulness for a second. But unfortunately, we had a pumpkin budget, and this thing of beauty was about forty bucks. So I went with a smaller—but no less warty—version:
I decided it was a metaphor for the beauty found in imperfections or something. I can see the future search terms now…”Anna Schaeffer’s warts.”
Also this fall, I did something that involved dressing in all white, encountering many clouds of various colors, and ending up looking like this:
I love how the color looks like I have a uni-brow. By the way, it was The Color Run 5k, and I recommend you check it out if you’re into 5ks. Or spontaneous color explosions and the intense exfoliation it takes to remove it from your appendages. Really though, it was a blast. And not just because a rainbow face makes my teeth look whiter.
I’m all about wearing costumes, so I also spent some time dressed in what I refer to as my “old lady costume.” My sister, Abby, is often told she resembles Taylor Swift, so she decided to dress like her…while I was her grandmother. The outfit involved some bright lipstick, floured hair, and hairspray (an Anna Schaeffer hair product alert!) that took days to remove from the glasses. Plus, it was rather comfortable. Behold my no-nonsense pose:
November brought us Catching Fire, my most anticipated movie outing of the year. Abby, a few friends, and I saw it at midnight and let me tell you this: It is the most faithful book to movie adaptation I’ve ever seen. And so, so good. I totally don’t like how the movie added a couple of choice words that were so not in the book, but overall, it was really well done.
Notice my Katniss costume in the above image. Braid, rain jacket, determined facial expression, sweatpants…okay, so maybe not. But still.
All right, this is getting lengthy. I’ll speed it up by showing you a picture of my sisters and me from our family vacation which took place the week before Christmas:
A cruise. At Christmas. We traded boots for flip-flops, sweatshirts for swimsuits, and cold weather for tropical sunshine. And now I have a pretty decent tan beneath my jeans and sweater. I’ve never been on vacation right before Christmas, so I was worried things wouldn’t be Christmas-y enough (because I’m all about Christmas-y stuff). But the boat was decorated and we heard Christmas carols, island-style. Pretty fun!
And then came Christmas in all of its excitement and wonder. And it was a beautiful Christmas, too. Not just because of the decorations and the baked goods and the cool weather, though. But because of the opportunity to stop and think about how far our Creator went to show us He loves us. He made the impossible possible. It’s incredible, really. After the Christmas Eve service at church, my immediate family, aunts, uncles, and cousins all gathered at our grandparents house for our annual dinner, gifts, and wrapping paper fight. I was also asked to read “The Impossible” while we were there. I’d never been asked to read one of my posts before, but I was happy to celebrate our Savior’s birth by reading something I wrote for Him.
So here I am at the very end of 2013. I’ll talk more specifically about some things from this year later, but I wanted to say this: It’s been a full year. If I’d known what all was ahead back in January, I honestly would’ve trembled. There’ve been many, many joy-filled moments, but also many moments that made me drop to my knees. Moments that caused a bit of a silence on my blog even when I didn’t have a ton of school assignments because I just didn’t know how I could write when so much seemed wrong. So it’s been a challenging year. It’s been a year of some big changes I anticipated, but it’s also been a year of some even bigger changes that blindsided me.
But they didn’t blindside God. And if there’s one constant woven throughout 2013, it’s this: God is sovereign in the good times and every bit as sovereign in the bad times. He’s Lord when our next step is clear, and Lord when the ground falls out beneath us. He’s in control when times seem easy and in control when absolutely nothing makes sense. He’s with us when our hearts are full of happiness and with us when our hands are full of pieces of a broken heart. Basically, He’s with us. He’s Emmanuel, and I pray we celebrate His nearness not only at Christmas, but every single moment of every single day of the year. Because He will be with us in 2014, too.
So thank you, blog readers, for hanging out in my little corner of the internet this past year. Whether you’ve been reading for a couple years, or you’re stopping by for the first time, I like you a lot. Thank you for your love, your support, and your encouragement. As I mentioned, there’s a lot I didn’t share here on the blog recently, but thank you for sticking with me anyway. I appreciate you more than you know, whether I’ve met you face-to-face, or only through the Web.
And thank you, most of all, to Jesus. The Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and End, the First and the Last, the Author and Finisher of my faith. 2013 was Yours, and 2014 is Yours, too.
If I know anything about God, it’s this: He’s always surprising us. I’m excited about the next adventure.
Happy New Year!
In His love,