Blog Stuff

Changes

I was eighteen and afraid of my own voice. What could I possibly have to say that mattered? Why would people spend time listening to me  when there are so many, many people better at what they do? Who would care about the random adventures of my life, the specific ways God reminds me I’m loved , or the life lessons I run into?

As it turned out, people cared.

When I stuck my first blog post out there on the internet, I was so nervous. I didn’t even tell anyone I had a blog until I had several posts written. Even then, my mom and my grandparents were my main readers.

But slowly and steadily, the list of readers grew. At about the same pace, I grew into who I am as a writer. I found my voice on this blog. I learned how I respond to things with words. I learned technical stuff like pacing and stylistic choices and all of that, but I also learned how to spell my heart.

For the past nearly-five years, I’ve used this space on the internet like a journal. I had no specific audience in mind – my words were just out there. It’s how I have so many wonderful supporters from all different ages and places. I love that.

This blog has watched me grow up over the past few years. It’s been a natural growth. A lot of growth  happens when you’re not even realizing it. But sometimes growth is intentional. It stretches you and challenges you and might give you growing pains, but it’s all very good and necessary.

You’re going to notice a few changes on the blog in the coming months.

Like I said, I’ve never had a target audience before, but now I do. Now I have a book out there for girls in the middle-high school age range, and I want them to have a place to come, hang out, and drink in truth.

That’s absolutely what I hope this blog already is. I just want to focus in on those of you who are in this group of people.

Here are some questions you might have:

Q: Can I still read the blog if I’m not a teen girl?
A: Absolutely! Please do! It’s not going to be a dramatic change in content, and it’s not going to turn super girly on you (I can’t stand lipstick, so no “makeup and inner beauty” posts. Although as you long-time readers have learned, I am actively involved in the ongoing leggings-as-pants conversation).

Q: What’s going to change?
A: The blog’s content will be written with a specific group in mind, including the books I review on the blog. This also means shorter, more frequent posts (grad student life permitting) that can be read more quickly  while still speaking truth or fangirling over my crock pot and all of that.

Q: What’s not going to change?
A: How I write. My ultimate goal in bringing God glory in what I write. This blog itself. It’ll still be the same space, and all of the past five years’ worth of posts are still here for you to read and me to facepalm over. It’s still me, and it’s not a change in who I am, it’s just writing with a specific audience in mind.

It also means some behind-the-scenes work is going to happen, like updating post categories, getting tags in order (meaning, actually using them), design adjustments, all of that good stuff.

Q: What can I do to help?
A: I’m so glad you asked ; ) If you’re a teen girl, I hope you’ll keep reading and giving me feedback on how I can better connect with you. I also hope you’ll share the blog with your friends. If you’re not a teen girl, please keep hanging around! And please share the blog with any teen girls in your life.

This will be a gradual shift, and I’m gonna have to learn and grow with it. We can grow into this rhythm together.

You all are so dear to me, and I appreciate each one of you. I wanted to make sure I kept all of you in the loop because your support on this journey means more than I can tell you. For all of the time you invest in reading the blog and all of the prayers you’ve prayed for my life and ministry, I sincerely thank you.

And now for some book news:
You may have heard I’m in the middle of writing my next book! I usually give people more details when I talk to them in person, but I figured you’d want an actual on-the-record update.

I’m officially writing a sequel to All of This. And it officially has a name (hey, I’ve gotta keep some things a secret…). No updates yet on when it’ll be released, but the whole thing is outlined and I’m slowly writing my way through it. This story is the toughest one I’ve written – there are so many details and deep moments and emotions in this thing. And also some humor because I’m Anna and she’s Sadie and that’s just what we do.

So thank you for hanging around for this post! I’ll be back soon!

P.S. I’m planning something fun for the blogiversary…come back  for that, too!

Always and only for His glory,

Anna Schaeffer

Blog Stuff, My Kind of Average

The Updates

Want to know something crazy? I’ve had this blog for 4 years. It started back when I was 18, the second semester of my freshman year of college. My first post: “Yes, I Started a Blog.” Because everyone knows I’m crazy-creative at naming things.

So my 4th blogiversary technically happened on February 26, but I was slightly preoccupied with the flu. By “preoccupied,” I mean I spent three days in bed doing stuff like taking medicine and reading novels and forcing myself to drink some liquids other than coffee.

I was under house arrest for about a week and a half, and by the time I could leave, I was so desperate for civilization that I went grocery shopping for my mom. I was so excited, I even fixed my hair to go to Kroger.

I clipped my coupons, put my MASSIVE PUPPY (tiny Millie is around 30 pounds now) in her crate, and climbed into my car.

Only to discover the battery was dead.

I’m not exaggerating when I say I wanted to cry. Freedom was oh-so-close…but no. So I waited around until someone could come jump the car and follow me to the auto parts store. Springing for a new battery wasn’t exactly my idea of retail therapy (some therapy definitely wouldn’t have hurt at that point), but I got that taken care of and drove off to Kroger.

Then, when all of the sickness didn’t leave like I told it to (despite my bossy oldest sibling complex), I went back to the doctor for more prescriptions…and they gave me a tetanus shot.

Y’all, I felt blindsided. Apparently, my system was due for a refill, so the doctor asked if I wanted one. I said, “Might as well.” Then when the nurse came in, I was like, “Um, it’s actually been a really, really long time since I’ve had a shot, so I’m not really looking forward to this.” And the nurse said, “It’ll be okay.”

Such sympathy.

Not gonna lie, a big reason I got the tetanus shot was to surprise my mom because it’s so uncharacteristic of me to willingly submit to stuff like this. Then, later that day, I casually said, “Did I mention they gave me a shot today?” And she was duly impressed.

She was proud. My arm was sore. I’m finally healthy.

Then I participated in back-to-back D-Now weekends with a local church and my own in between book publishing stuff, grad school application stuff, interning at church, and other exciting things that I absolutely love. It’s been busy, but the these things are such big blessings in my life and I thank God daily for these opportunities.

So to make a long story, well, long, that’s where I’ve been the past few weeks. But as I think about how I’ve had this little piece of the internet for four years, I see not only how I’ve settled into a writing voice, but also how much God has He has taught me more about Himself, other people, and myself.

I totally don’t have everything figured out, but it’s fun to retrace my steps as they’re recorded on the blog. And I’m seriously so excited to blog about what’s coming up next…especially updates on All of This. I absolutely can’t wait for you to meet the girl named Sadie who’s lived in my head and heart for the past couple years. I hope you’ll become great friends with her like I have.

Now that I’ve started talking about a character like she’s real, I need to go figure out some details about how I’ll introduce her to you.

Thanks for sticking with me through all the crazy, ridiculous, sentimental, deep, contemplative, random, and all the other blog posts I’ve written over the past few years. And thank you for coming back and reading more even though my immune system decided to take a vacation for a little while and kept me from updating.

Regardless of circumstance, God is faithful. He was faithful when I was an eighteen-year-old nervous to tell people I had a blog, and He is faithful now when I am a twenty-two-year-old nervous about sending a book out into the world. His plans are good, friends. And I’m excited to blog about them as they happen.

In His love,

Anna

P.S. This is Millie, as of  a week ago:

IMG_5702

Blog Stuff, My Kind of Average

Au Revoir, 2013

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:

thebigwartyone

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:

mypumpkin

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:

colorrunaftermath

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:

oldladycostume

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.

catchingfire

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:

Santahatsonthebeach

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,

Anna

Blog Stuff

Updates and Outtakes

Hey, blog readers!

I actually had a post written for last week, but then my sister and I got really caught up in brainstorming how we could turn it into a vlog. Unfortunately, neither of us had time for the vlog, but we both liked the idea, so I didn’t want to share the post yet. I also had an annotated bibliography to write and submit for a Communications class. Y’all don’t know how close I came to just using that as a blog post. But then I realized not everyone (much to my amazement) wants to read a list of scholarly articles about why teens should read YA fiction.

I love that topic. But anyway…

My last post was “A Beautiful Death,” and to be honest, sometimes I don’t know how to follow a “big” post like that. I like a mix of serious and fun, but sometimes the balance feels awkward. I felt like that post needed a chance to breathe before it was pushed aside by something else.

Speaking of something else, here are some updates of what you can expect on the blog in the coming weeks:

– A book review of one of the most gripping books I’ve read this year. And that’s saying something. After reading it, I walked around in a fog for a few hours, unable to pull myself out of the story world. It was deep, and emotional, and raw, and beautiful, and…wow. I’ve mentioned how much I love a good redemption story. I loved this book.

– A “real” blog post called “Life as a Doer.” I realize the word “doer” looks weird, but auto-correct didn’t give me a fuzzy red line under it, so we’re going with that title. Besides, it’s from a Bible verse. I actually started writing that post earlier in the year, then just left it in the drafts folder until I could flesh it out some more.

The drafts folder for the blog is like my sister’s scrap basket. She fills her basket with bits of felt and scrapbook paper left over from crafts, or fabric she might use for future projects. In the case of my “scrap basket,” I find all kinds of stuff – some paragraph I’ll end up using in a future post, some one-liner I took out of a post, and some things that just makes me scratch my head and say, “Huh?” Here’s an example, pulled right out of the scrap pile:

“…Because you’re feeling all good about your skinny jeans and how they fit just right, until you realize your skinnies are in the hamper and you’re in your relaxed fit jeans. 2013 is officially the Year of the Salad.”

As you might guess, that line didn’t make the cut for my New Years post. Cleaning out my drafts folder always makes for a good time.

So that’s what you can expect! Not my awkward outtakes, of course, but the other things I mentioned. I’m also working on something really, really cool I can’t mention on the blog yet. But take my word for it: it’s exciting. No, my novel hasn’t been accepted for publication or anything (in which case, I’d be typing in all-caps), but still! It’s ridiculously exciting proof that God has big, big plans for our lives beyond what we can imagine. Speaking of His big, big plans, that’s an upcoming blog post, too.

If you’d like a reminder sent to your email as soon as these posts are put on the internet for all to see (hence why I don’t share so many outtakes…), you can find a subscription box on the sidebar on the right of the page. Just type in your email address and BOOM. You can be among the first to see whatever pours out of my brain next.

Until then,

Anna

P.S. I know this was a short post, so to make up for it, please enjoy this picture of my sister’s guinea pig and me. Clearly, Toula adores me.

AnnaandToula

Blog Stuff, College Life, Writing

Beginning Again

Where I live, we’re caught in the awkward time of year between summer and fall. See, technically it’s still summer, but school’s back in session, so it should feel like fall. And if we’re being really technical, we don’t experience very much variety in the seasons department ‘round these parts. They all just kind of blend together in a combo that slides from spring to summer and back to spring.

You can tell I’m getting old when I open a blog post with a discussion about the weather. Sigh.

Maybe I’m not that old, but I did start my fourth year of college this week! As a matter of fact, it’s Day 4 of my senior year of college.

Senior. Me. Anna Schaeffer. What.

I’ll try not to freak out on you. No promises, but I’ve yet to go into hyper-cleaning mode like I do when I’m stressed.

Now that my Costa Rica series is over (click here to read it), we’ll be moving on to some new topics on the blog. I had such a great time sharing a few of my experiences with you, and I appreciate all of you who told me you were keeping up with my journey.

Now that the series is over and school is once again in  the picture, here’s what the blog schedule will look like:

Because I’m doing the whole manage-your-priorities thing, homework has to come before blogging. Because as fun as blogging is, it doesn’t pay the bills. Neither does school, but you know what I mean. But take heart: I’ll still be hanging around! I’m just planning on a weekly rather than biweekly posting schedule this fall. Blogging really is important to me and I have the greatest time sitting down to type out my thoughts and hearing what’s going on in your lives, too.

If you’re curious, I’m taking classes exclusively in my major (English Creative Writing) and minor (Communications) this semester. Core requirements are behind me (with the exception of one.more.science I have to pick up later), which means each of my classes are either writing intensive, reading intensive, or writing and reading intensive. I’m sure I’ll have plenty to say about that later on.

In other news, I finished the first draft of my 2nd novel!!

You know, that one I mentioned a couple months ago. The one that involved lots of conflict and “what if” questions and research. The song of my heart? That’s the one. And it’s done! Or at least the first draft. I’m taking a bit of a break from the story so I won’t be so overwhelmed by things that need to change when I read through it. It’s currently just under 80,000 words, which is actually a little over my goal. It’ll be trimmed and rearranged and all that good stuff, but I’m happy with where it’s at for the first draft.

I’ve never poured so much emotion into a story before. I’ve never had such high stakes (not to be confused with steaks, which would be an awesomely delicious story element) in something I’ve written, either.

This story is also a little grittier than my previous stories. And I don’t mean that in an edgy, cover-the-kids’-eyes way, of course. What I mean is, it’s about life. And life isn’t always handed to us in a neat little package with a big bow on top. Sometimes it’s feels like life is dumped into our lap and we have to sort through everything before it makes sense. And that’s where the emotion, hopefully, comes in. The goal is for the reader to see that, yes things happen that we don’t understand, but God promises He makes all things work together for our good (Romans 8:28).

A lot of times, writers tell you their characters take over the story and do what they want to do, rather than what the author wants them to do. If you’re a non-writer, that may sound ridiculous, but if you love penning stories like I do, you’ll probably understand what I’m saying.

Example:  I didn’t anticipate my main character’s personality. I thought I had a pretty good grasp on how she processed life before I started writing, but she turned out differently. She’s a little snarky like I thought she’d be (she’s a product of my brain, after all), but her voice is so much stronger than I’d planned. Her story is pretty serious, so although there are jokes and one-liners and other things I wish I were good at in real-life, she needs that strong voice to carry us through her story.

Maybe it’s because my characters are in their teen years, or maybe it’s because I’m in to happily-ever-afters, but I had to fight really hard to make the plot go the way I wanted and not end up super bubbly and light-hearted. Meaning, I had no intentions of writing a love story.

But then, somehow, one of the guy characters ended up with a dimple on his chin. So of course the girl character think that’s adorable, and I found myself yelling at my main character, saying: “You can’t like this guy! You actually despise him! You don’t even let people see past the wall you’ve built up around yourself!”

And she was like, “But he’s got this dimple and deep eyes…”

And so I said, “PUT YOUR HEAD IN THE GAME! YOUR LIFE IS SUPPOSED TO BE FALLING APART!”

And she responded with, “Well, at least don’t make me say that next line to him. That’s hurtful.”

And then I walked away from my laptop for a few hours, trying to figure the whole thing out. And I don’t want to give any spoilers or anything, but I will say we reached a compromise (Really, though, I  just laid down the law…don’t tell my character).

As I was thinking about this the other day, I realized something: We’re just like those characters. Obviously, we’re real and they’re not (unless you’re me and they’re constantly murmuring things in the back of your mind), but we’re people living out a  story.

Oftentimes, we try to do things our own way, just like my example up there. I’m not just talking about relationships, although you’re welcome to draw your own conclusions from that. But we think we know what’s best for us. I’ll be the first to raise my hand.

NEWSFLASH, ANNA: You don’t know what’s best for you.

But God does. And He has big plans for our lives, if we’ll just trust Him. If we’re following Him, He will take all of the stuff we’ve been through and use it for our good. For a purpose that glorifies Him.

I’m excited about the next step for this novel. I’m excited about revising and editing and everything else that comes along with the whole writing thing.

I’m also excited to see what God has in store for Fall 2013 in my own, real-life story. What about you?

In His love,

Anna

Blog Stuff, God Talks

100

This morning I went on a walk with a friend. We went to a cemetery, enjoying the cool breeze before the air settled into a hot, humid blanket over the earth. Believe it or not, cemeteries are good places to think. Being around so many who have gone before always leads me to remember something: Life on earth is just a blink, then it’s gone. There are people buried in the shadows of chiseled headstones who have been laid to rest longer than they were ever alive. It’s impossible for me to get that perspective and believe this is all there is; that there’s no eternity, nothing beyond what’s now.

Whenever an author sits down to write a sequel to a story, she must remember all that took place in the previous story. Her new story is defined by the old one, because she can’t go back and change what’s already happened. If, for example, a character was tall, that same character must be tall in the sequel. If a character’s uncle passed away in the first book, that uncle can’t be alive in the sequel. See? What happens in the first story matters. No, it’s not the end of those characters’ journeys, but their experiences don’t just go away.

That’s our life. In terms of a story, we go through different chapters, different scenes, different moments. Each of these instances matter because we only have one chance. Unlike this post you’re reading, I can’t go back and “edit” a part of my life once it’s been “published”; once it’s already happened. See? One opportunity to live this life.

But this life isn’t all there is. There’s more. Eternity is real, whether we acknowledge it or not. We all have a sequel coming–a “Part II”—whether we experience that sequel  united or separated from the Author of our life stories. What we do now affects this “Part II.” When we stand before the throne of God at the end of life, we can’t go back and change that moment when we made a critical decision. We can’t change our mistakes, our defiance, our choices. Our story. What happens in “Part I” affects what will happen in “Part II.” Did we choose to ask God for His forgiveness, believe in His Son’s death that covered our sins, and decide to live a life that brings Him glory?

Or are we living like a stand-alone story? Like a blink that lasts for a second and is over forever?

This is my 100th blog post. The 100th entry in an online journal of sorts that shares pieces of my story. It’s not a novel, because a novel is fiction and believe me, my life is real. It’s like an autobiography, I guess. No, I don’t share every little detail about my life here on my blog, but the chapters I live through are represented here. From the light-hearted to the heart-breaking and all the stuff in between. I also know there is more to my story than what happens between now and my final breath: eternity awaits.

Actually, that’s half true. See, eternity stretches before us, but it also begins the moment you believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior—your only Savior. Yes, the Author knows what’s coming next in your story, but once you accept His plans for your life, He begins to reveal these glimpses of eternity. These previews of the sequel, to continue the metaphor.

Words fail how thankful I am that God loves me enough to not only give me a story, but to include me in His story—the greatest love story in history. The story of the Creator joining the ranks of the created so that death could die and our story could continue forever.

I’m also thankful to you, reader. Whether you’re one of the few who have been around since the very beginning, you’ve hung out with me for a while, or this is your first visit. Thank you for investing your time in reading my story. Thank you, too, to those of you who leave comments, send me emails, or speak to me in person, telling me pieces of your own story and how it relates to mine.

All of that is what makes all of this worth it. It’s why I sit down and blog, even when I’ve got a big exam to study for, even when my life feels like a scrambled jigsaw puzzle, even when my heart feels so full I can barely sit still. I continue to blog, even when I don’t know if anyone will read what I write, or if those who do read it will even understand what I’m trying to say. It’s because how I choose to live this little life of mine matters. Your choice matters, too. And it’s one small way I can attempt to offer a meager thanks to the One who faithfully leads me through each chapter of life.

What will happen between now and my 200th blog post? I have no idea, but I’m excited to see what the Author of life has planned.

In His love,

Anna

“Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” – Psalm 90:12

Blog Stuff, My Kind of Average

Summer Break?

Ah, summer. When you stand at the beginning of this glorious season, it seems as though it’ll stretch on forever. A couple of months of milkshakes, sunscreen, late nights, and friend time, right?

That’s always the plan, at least. I’ve got one week left of summer classes, and let me tell you, I’m just now taking time to breathe. I’ve been busy, but a good kind of busy. I’ve had the opportunity to catch up with friends I haven’t had a chance to hang out with in a while, I’m perfecting my jog in Wellness (sort of), and I’m learning fascinating stuff about other parts of the world in Global Communications. It’s Friday and my mind is zapped, so here’s a rundown of what’s been going on:

– I’ve decided the Book Splash reviews will be periodical, rather than weekly. I love doing them, and I’ve already got enough material to last a while, but preparing them each week takes away some of the time I could spend writing other things. Such as random lists of what I’ve been doing recently. I’m also stockpiling material in case I happen to leave the country at some point this summer.

– Did you know the quality of your passport picture doesn’t define you? Truth.

– Speaking of stock-piling blog posts, I’m also looking for some more guest posts to use during the previously mention, vaguely-referenced overseas trip. If you’d be interested in writing a post, go to the Contact Me link at the top of the page!

– I’ve been plotting out a novel recently. Unfortunately, my fabulous wall-o-corkboard is falling down, so I need to remedy that before I show you a picture. I’ll be talking more about this (the novel, not my DIY problems) next week!

– Google the word “askew.” Go on, I’ll wait here. You’re welcome.

– Did I tell you yet about the time the power went off one night when I was in the shower? Long story short, I learned my hair brush glows in the dark. It’s pretty neat.

– Speaking of writing, I’m working on a guest post for a friend’s blog. It’s about something I haven’t really discussed on my own blog, but I’m excited about it. I’ll be sure to share the link when it goes live.

– The other day, I looked over my undergraduate track sheet. It’s a weird moment when you realize you can count the number of classes you have left on your hands. Don’t get me wrong, I love being in college, but when the end is actually in sight, I start figuring out how to get out a semester earlier than I planned. It just might be possible.

Well, I’m off to go hunt down the warranty for my laptop. Poor Hester (name that literary character!) began overheating last semester, and it’s gotten so bad that I can’t rest my hands on the laptop when I type…it’s that hot. Her fan is also really noisy, there’s this disconcerting burnt-hair smell, and her battery lasts about as long as it takes for me to read my Facebook newsfeed. Hopefully I was in one of my organizational moods when we renewed her warranty earlier in the year.

– I’m thankful that even though it’s summer, God doesn’t take a break from teaching His children lessons. I mean, wow. I’ll talk about some of this in upcoming posts. He is faithful, friends.

I’ll be back next week to give some updates on my writing life! Until then, here’s a verse that’s meant a lot to me recently:

“Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love,
for in you I trust.
Make me know the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul…
Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God!
Let your good Spirit lead me
on level ground!”

– Psalm 143:8,10

In His love,

Anna

Blog Stuff, College Life, My Kind of Average

Almost Finished

Hey, blog readers!
In case you were wondering, no, I haven’t been eaten by a sasquatch (see
my last post). I am, however, being consumed by end-of-semester stuff like portfolios, papers, exams, and professional coffee-drinking. That’s why the blog’s been a little quiet. Recently, my life has become one giant checklist, full of countless little things to do. That’s annoying, but it’ll be over soon. I finish classes one week from yesterday (!!!) and finish exams two weeks from yesterday (!!!!!!!).

So I don’t know how often I’ll be posting between now and the end (of the semester…hopefully not my sanity), but I’ll be back at some point to check in. I’ve been looking through some of my old writing recently, so I’m thinking about another Memories Monday post. That way, my younger self has already done all of the work, and I’ll just copy and paste. Yay for short cuts!

I’ve also got a pretty big birthday in the middle of all of this (May 4). I’m using school as a distraction to keep me from completely freaking out over the fact that I’m about to have both feet planted firmly, completely, entirely in the adult world. Yikes. I’m going to stop thinking about that now…

But anyway, I miss blogging, and I can’t wait to be back. I’ve got so much to talk about (surprise, right?), and I can’t wait to share it all with you.

Whether you’re also going through finals (hello, kindred spirit!) or just life in general, take heart! And read this verse:

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” – Colossians 3:23-24

In His love,

Anna

Blog Stuff

Go Teen Writers Giveaway Winner!

A big thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway for the Go Teen Writers Ebook! The giveaway has ended, but if you missed the fun interview with the authors, CLICK HERE to read it!

So, first things first: I’m officially on Spring Break!!!

I just thought that should be announced.

Next up…the winner of the giveaway!

After assigning each commenter a number and plugging those numbers into a random number generator (the number generator wasn’t random; its decision was), we’ve got ourselves a winner.

Congratulations to Jenny! You’ve won an Ebook of Stephanie Morrill and Jill Williamson’s new release! I’ll be contacting you soon with some information about claiming your prize.

Y’all have a great weekend, and I’ll see you next Tuesday!

-Anna

Blog Stuff

What’s Happenin’

My sister is on Spring Break this week! I’m talking about the sister in this video (I joke about how this video went “viral” because more than my immediate family watched it). She’s also the one who wrote this guest post in January.

Because she’s on Spring Break and I’m not (just a few.more.weeks. until my break), I’m spending the week juggling between school, homework, and family time. I should be back to blogging next week, though. Trust me on this: we’ve already had some adventures, and I’m looking forward to sharing them (along with pictures) soon.

How about another vlog? Kidding, kidding. It’ll be a while before I make another one of those things. My family has been picking on me about it because they say I sound much, much calmer on that video than I do in person. I personally think that’s a good thing, since I don’t want my passion for life to scare people away. At least, that’s the story I’m sticking with.

But I just wanted to spend a few minutes on the blog, since it’s my usual Thursday morning routine. If you start to miss me terribly (and want to see some of my usual enthusiasm), you can be “impressed” by my “talent” when it comes to “driving” my aforementioned sister’s stick shift car. Watch the video in this post and you’ll understand all of those quotation marks.

Have a good week, and be back soon!

In His love,

Anna