Nicknames Aren’t Always the Worst

My friend Grace has started calling me AB. I love this nickname, y’all. I just eat it up.

Some of my friends at school this past year also started calling me AB. We kind of joked that I could be Anna Beth Nass off “Heart of Dixie” because she’s basically who I want to be when I grow up (from her hair down to the shoes), but I think the nickname says something so much more about me.

I’ve only had a few nicknames in my life: Booger, given to me (affectionately) by my father; Bundy, because when you’re on a sports team your friends don’t get terribly creative; and now I get to add AB to the list.

I just love when people write cards to me and address it “AB – “. It’s so personal. People have chosen to lovingly refer to me with a name they’ve picked.

I think about these nicknames and can’t help but think about how personally God knows me. More than anyone else knows me.

In Isaiah 43:1, the Lord says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name. You are mine” (NLT).

God knows each of our names. He formed us in our mothers’ wombs, and more than that, He “calls us by name.” It’s an affectionate calling.

Exactly like when each of us were in trouble when we were younger and we just knew how much trouble when our parents would use our names: first name, first and last name, or (if you were in a lot of trouble) the whole dang thing.

However, when we’re not in trouble, there’s a pretty good chance our parents will use our fun nicknames. No matter how they were created, you are labeled with that from your loved ones.

I love the voicemails from my dad. Shorter than ten seconds, they always say, “Hey Boog. Give me a call. Love you, bye.”

It’s this moment of intimacy with my dad where I know he is claiming me.

Just like when my friends call me AB. They create a moment between the two of us that says, “Hey, I love you,” without actually having to say any of that.

God does the same thing. “Child.” “Anna.” “AB.” “Booger.” “Beloved.” These are all things I know that the Lord uses to refer to me. “I have called you by name. You are mine.”

On the days when I crave physical touch (which isn’t often), become homesick, or find myself in the crippling feeling of loneliness, I run to the cards I have saved that all address me with nicknames. It instantly brings me back to a feeling of love and security, no matter where I am in proximity to my family and friends.

Likewise, I run to Isaiah 43:1 when I am feeling separate from God. There is nothing that can separate me from God, but loneliness and staleness in my relationship with Him can mask as a pretty good boundary.

What nicknames give you great joy and security in your heart?

God created the people who call you by those names. We are able to see Him through the moment of interaction where we step into relationship with each other, lovingly reaffirming our love for one another.

I will forever be grateful to those that call me by my nicknames, and to see God through that person is an even sweeter deal.

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My Mountain Tattoo Holds My Heart

For those of you that know me, I got a tattoo on the outside of my right arm back in January. It’s a mountain range most people confuse with a heart beat. (I’ve also gotten “What constellation is that?!” which might be one of my favorites.)

I promise: they’re mountains.

mountain tattoo

Anyways, I got the tattoo to symbolize that God is much more than I could ever imagine and too many times I shrink him into the size of my pocket. He’s that big and still he chose me: to create me. To love me. To care for me.

So, last fall, I was scrolling through Twitter when I was on the Blue Ridge Parkway and I noticed one of my friends had tweeted: “God is literally so big you can never overexaggerate him.”

It was one of those times where my heart must have been incredibly open and waiting to hear such truth: even in the biggest ways I can think of God, it is still making him much smaller than he is.

He is all that is, will be, and ever was.

And he chose me. He chose you.

So you could say my little mountain tattoo on my arm holds a pretty deep connection to my faith. It also reminds me of Boone, where I have spent the past three years of my life, and all of the transformation that I have accomplished as a person.

So, with all these reasons, I got this tattoo in a very visible place. I wanted to see it on a day-to-day basis and I wanted others to see it as well. Outside of my arm, it is!

What I didn’t realize until after I got it, was how many comments/compliments I received on it. Every single day I have someone say, “I love your tattoo!” or “Someone’s been drawing on your arm.” My response is always, “thanks!” or “Yeah I practice my doodling there.” And think nothing of it.

Yet, no one had asked me what it stood for…until today. I’m currently sitting at Starbucks writing my little heart out (it’s a much-needed outlet for all that I’m learning this summer) and about thirty minutes ago I was ordering my coffee.

“Venti vanilla iced coffee with cream and an extra pump of vanilla, please,” I smile because I am thoroughly satisfied that I have created my own complex Starbucks order.
“No problem,” the barista answers, “Cool tattoo. What does it mean?”
“Um…” I begin to jumble my thoughts and try to eloquently describe to someone that it has to deal with God.

I didn’t realize what a challenge it would be to share my tattoo’s definition with strangers. I get caught up in wondering if they’re going to get mad at me for my beliefs, if they’re going to roll their eyes because I’m a Jesus-lovin’ girl, or whether they even know anything about Christianity in general.

Somehow, I get the words to my lips and my passion for my tattoo comes through. I’m looking down at it and tracing the mountain range with my finger as a distraction but also as an attempt to get a feel for the prodigious size of the mountains that don’t even compare to the size of my Creator.

I look up and the barista is smiling. “After this weekend, I needed that.”

And I just can’t believe that I haven’t offered up my tattoo’s definition to strangers before. It’s such a large part of who I am.

It’s a large part of what I love about us, as people: the need to depend on someone/thing that is larger than we can ever try to express.

And today, as we have to continue with normal lives after such a tragic weekend, my tattoo serves as a reminder of the One I can lament to and with, the One I place my hope in, the One who wants so desperately for us to turn to and learn how to love each other better.

Who knew a tiny little mountain range could describe a girl’s heart so much?

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The Girl that Hangs Out with Old People

One of the questions during my internship weekly reflections this week, of course, was: Where did you see God this week?

And it took me a little while to ponder. This week I started my Explore Internship through the Western North Carolina Methodist Conference at Centenary UMC. It’s an effort for me to help discern and articulate my call to ministry and give me some time to get my hands dirty while working in a church setting.

So, long story short: this week I have seen God a lot. I saw Him when I clicked with my mentor this week. I experienced Him during my first worship in a new church setting. I saw Him in the hospitality of my new church friends.

But I think what really takes the cake is what I’m seeing in my living environment. I am staying with a sweet woman who agreed to host me for the summer. She is kind, passionate, and owns three dogs (it’s basically heaven).

I am incredibly blessed to say that Lee and I have hit it off from the moment she answered the doorbell with one of the most genuine smiles I’ve ever seen.

One thing I already love about Lee is how she has let me jump into her life. She invites her friends to dinner with us. She fills me in about each person who calls her. She tells me about her recently deceased husband. Lee has exemplified what I love so much about the church and what I have to be reminded of: we are called to do life together, inter-generationally.

There’s a reason the church isn’t an elementary school, high school, or adult gathering place. No, the church is the building created as a gathering space for all ages. We have so much to learn from each other.

The teenagers and young adults could teach the older generation about so much technology. We can teach them about how it doesn’t actually harm the society, but how we can use it as a resource for connections and networking, but also as a tool in our faith.

Meanwhile, we need the balance of the older generation reminding us that cell phones, tablets, and laptops aren’t the only way to communicate. There’s something incredible about looking into someone’s eyes while they’re sharing the joys and sorrows of their lives.

The young people can teach us about new ways of studying the Christian faith that hasn’t been popular practices before while our elders can encourage us to still stay faithful and rooted in the practice of studying the Word.

There is something that every age brings to the table. There’s a reason we’re called to community as a whole.

Poor Lee always says, “I just wish I knew some young people I could introduce you to.”

And I just can’t help but think that this is exactly where I want to be right now. In the midst of a friendship with a woman that could be my grandmother and, unfortunately, I don’t know that I could ever describe to Lee the amount of joy and appreciation I have for our friendship.

Life-giving friendships shouldn’t be age restrictive. No, they are life-giving because of who and Whose we are.

xo, anna.jpg

What College Hasn’t Taught Me

I’m currently wrapping up my third year at App State. I don’t know how I currently feel about that (maybe scared, excited, overwhelmed, anxious, proud, or overjoyed) and it changes depending on the day. But, as I’m finishing up this year, I can’t help but to reflect on what my college experience has taught me:

  1. Time management is key to a somewhat less stressful life
  2. The importance of the library’s “silent” floor
  3. The beauty of a Mocha Chai from Crossroads
  4. How to appreciate the Solarium’s waterfalls to mask quiet conversations
  5. 17,000 students still make for a small school
  6. Earbuds can get you out of (almost) every conversation
  7. Just because you have a $120 paycheck, doesn’t mean it will last
  8. Taking classes you care about makes a huge difference
  9. Class participation can benefit you immensely
  10. If the sun is out, everyone knows class is basically optional

Somehow, I can’t help but to also ponder the things I haven’t learned yet. Maybe my last year will do me good:

  1. Learn to get a poster to stay on my wall (successfully) for a year
  2. Recognize an anxiety attack induced by stress and high emotion and conquer
  3. How to teach my roommate to clean her hair off the bath mat
  4. How to put on a bra properly
  5. Getting past being “stale” in my relationship with God
  6. How to love a community of girls passionate about their faith
  7. How to lead aforementioned community
  8. How to write a book
  9. How to get along with my mother (when we’re both being difficult)
  10. To remember to call my grandparents weekly

Thanks, App State, for these lessons and much more. I’m blessed to have another year left with endless opportunities, networking connections, and learning.

Here’s to summer!

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Inhaling Truth & Exhaling Lies: What I’m Learning About My Self-Worth — Becoming

Something that has been so important in my relationship with Jesus lately is realizing my self-worth. Sounds pretty easy, right? Well, it’s a lot easier said than done in my opinion. So many times, I leave space for the Devil to crawl in and remind me of my insecurities. “Anna, you don’t dress nice enough.”…

via Inhaling Truth & Exhaling Lies: What I’m Learning About My Self-Worth — Becoming

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I hope you’ll take the time to check out my blog post on Becoming! I’ve been struggling with remembering how much I’m worth and how God has created me, perfectly. You were made fearfully and wonderfully, too. Don’t ever forget that.

Attraversiamo, Friend

mark 4.35

I’ve always been a big fan of Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I’ve read it dozens of times, and it never ceases to thrill me. I love the idea that she travels to Italy, India, and Indonesia to find herself. To be aware of the woman that Elizabeth Gilbert is.

Anyways, one of my absolute favorite parts of the book is when she is traveling in Italy and a friend of hers uses the word “attraversiamo” meaning to cross over. One of my favorite quotes in the book:

“Attraversiamo.” He couldn’t understand why I liked it so much. Let’s cross the street? But to my ear, it’s the perfect combination of Italian sounds. The wistful ah of introduction, the rolling trill, the soothing s, that lingering “ee-ah-moh” combo at the end. I love this word.”

Attraversiamo. To cross over. I was rereading this passage of Mark 4 last Sunday and the scripture that stuck out in my mind was verse 35: “As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.’”

We can then use the typical analysis of this passage: the disciples were fearful on the boat during the storm even though Jesus was with them. They had little faith in Him. They questioned His goodness and His intentions for their lives. Then they question their little faith – who was that man that even the winds and seas obey?

While that analysis is of vital importance, here, I would like to argue that maybe one of the most meaningful sentences of this passage is when Jesus speaks. The first line: “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” Jesus spoke and the disciples followed.

Let me say that again. The disciples followed.

It’s much like when we say that we follow Jesus. He calls us to pick up and follow Him. “Attraversiamo, Anna,” I pretend He says to me, “let’s cross over! Let’s explore new paths and directions and you have to remember that I am your Creator and Redeemer and Friend.”

So, I follow Him. And in the beginning it’s thrilling. I’m walking and laughing and conversing with God. Then I start to pick up behaviors like the disciples did in Mark 4.

My life suddenly feels rocky. The sea is overflowing my boat and I don’t have enough help to get the water out. “Teacher, teacher,” I cry out. Desperately wanting God to wake up and realize the terrible mess I’m in.

And just like He does in Mark 4, he fixes my problems. He steadies my heart. And he looks at me and wonders why I have such disbelief.

Why? Why don’t I believe? He asked me to cross over and I accepted. He knew as He asked me what I would be facing and how He would be by my side the entire time. I should know that.

He won’t ever leave me. His goodness doesn’t depend on my ability to sink or swim in my own storms.  Instead, He asks me to cross over. He takes my hand and is ready to take on life with me.

Attraversiamo. One of the most beautiful words in Italian, with the perfect combination of sounds. One of the most beautiful words to hear from the Lord.

“Attraversiamo, my child. I’ve got a plan and a purpose for you.”

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The Importance of Thank You Notes

importance of thank you notesI’m a girl that loves thank you notes. I love getting a surprise in the mail, even if it’s a simple, “hello” or “I’m thinking about you” or “thank you.”

With the interference of technology in our daily lives, I think Thank You notes are a dying practice. It’s simply much easier to drop a text or an email or even a Facebook post.

Maybe it’s because it’s easier that these things get priority over a “thank you” note, but I whole-heartedly believe that “thank you” notes get down and dirty on a personal level. A person sending this note takes the time to pick out the stationary – significant or not – and handwrite a message. Hand. Write. I know. I know.

It may sound boring, or even like an inconvenience to you. But in a world where people are getting flooded email inboxes and empty mailboxes? A little note in the mail can brighten a friend’s day.

Here are a few tips to make “thank you” notes more fun:

  • Pick out stationary that represents you. Make it fun or classic or bright. It’s your choice, friend!
  • Send one no matter the time that has passed. It’s never too late for a “thanks!”
  • Personalize each note. Draw on your favorite details of the gift or event or even person you’re sending the note to.
  • Remember that nothing is too small for a “thank you.” It’s the thought that counts entirely.

An in-person thanks can’t compare to the detail of taking the time of writing and sending a personalized thank you.

I grew up with the practice of writing thank you notes as a big deal. We had to write one for everyone, customize each card for each gift we’ve received, and it was a pain. Completely a pain.

However, as I’ve grown, I’ve been thankful that my mom taught me the importance of gratitude and how to express it. I realize that thank you notes are not just for gifts or money. Thank you notes can properly show a little affection to someone who has done an act of service for you, gone out of their way to include you, or offered you the use of something they own (ex: beach house or guest bedroom).

A thank you note can make a hostess feel appreciated. It can make a friend feel recognized. It can make a college student feel like even the little things they do actually matter.

Now, in very Anna fashion, I’d like to end with, “Thank your, ladies and gentlemen.” The styling’s of Frank from You’ve Got Mail can’t be beat, except with a handwritten thank you. This will just have to suffice.

Thank your.

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Comparison is the Thief of Your Story

Comparison is the thief of joy.

This is currently my life mantra. I don’t always live by it, but it’s pretty consistently in the back of my mind.

Anna, you were made whole by me. You were made with a unique story and purpose. You have a personality that is unmatched by anyone. Trust me. Cling to me. You are perfect.

That’s what I imagine God begs of me on a daily basis. Some days it’s easier to listen to Him than others.

Today is one of the hard days. And it’s not necessarily linked to my “comparison is the thief of joy” motto, it’s pretty dang close:

Comparison is the thief of your story.

If you’re anything like me, you’re surrounded by friends of incredible strength, wisdom, talents, and have experienced things in their lifetimes that you can’t even imagine.

It happens to me a lot. What can I say? I have pretty dang cool friends. I love to hear them talk about their childhoods and show the kind of women they have become. I love when they open up to me and spit out some of the darkest parts of their souls.

It’s certainly one of the biggest ways I connect with people. I love to feel as if you trust me enough to share your story with me.

One thing that I’m missing, though, is the sharing of my own story. Too many times, I sit in silence. I don’t mean to, I promise. But I am so captivated by your story that I don’t want to speak up. I don’t want to try and compare my story to yours. I don’t want to interrupt the telling of your life to talk about little ol me.

I tell myself that I haven’t experienced enough trauma or hard times to talk about. I tell myself that my shame and my guilt isn’t what’s molded me. I also tell myself that none of what I’ve experienced is valid. People have harder lives than I do.

Why would I complain? Reminisce on my hurt?

Well, I’ll tell you something that hit me this morning during a regular group text with my (aforementioned awesome) friends, that “we live learning about it.” We live learning about all of the things we have each experienced.

As a communication studies major, I’ve learned that conversations never really start or stop. We all come into contact with each other with experiences and memories under our own belts.

Your life is your story. No one else has experienced the insanely unique life you have lived. Your feelincomparison is the thiefgs are completely valid. Your hurt is hurting. Your pain matters. All of these things have completely shaped you into the person you are today.

Next time you and I are around our friends, let’s not shy away from telling them the depth of our hearts. We can share with our closest friends and confidants what makes us tick, what terrifies us, what scares us, and more.

Comparison is the thief of your story.

Don’t ever try to “measure up” to someone else. No one’s story looks anything like yours. Be proud of it. Be vulnerable about it. Let it drive your passions and purpose.

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Opposing Faceless Society

“We are creating a society of people who are losing the ability communicate face to face; by texting, emailing, and Twittering we are becoming a faceless society.” –Dr. Bob Brahan

Have you read a more acaround the tablecurate statement of our society?

Texts, emails, tweets, etc. have completely changed the course of human to human interaction. An interaction, I think, defines who we are and how effectively we can love each other.

I think that being in contact, physical around-the-table contact, changes the dynamics of friendships entirely.

Once, I went on a date with someone I met over Facebook. We texted for weeks before we even met in person and the conversation was good! I was super excited before I even met him because it was two-way conversation. I was asking questions, he was asking questions…it felt like we were genuinely getting to know each other.

Three weeks later, it was the big day: the day we would finally meet. I was pumped to know that we had already gotten along so well, so I knew that we would be dating within the next month.

Much to my surprise, the guy that I was on a date with had nothing to say to me. I talked the entire time, asked questions and received very little information. He looked bored, kept checking his phone, and I decided that he didn’t deserve another date.

I don’t blame the boy, although I whole-heartedly believe his momma should’ve taught him better. I blame society. It was so easy for us to start up conversations with someone we didn’t know because we weren’t face-to-face. It was easier for him to talk about himself over a phone than in person.

The sad part is: I have multiple friends that have experienced the same thing. I think it’s of vital necessity that we learn how to be around a table – creating community and connecting with one another.

There’s something about a table with a spread of food as far as the eye can see. It’s a safe safe that encourages laughter, the space can break down walls, and it’s a space where friends can become even better friends.

“Showing graciousness, kindness, and warmth to others,” has different environments. A big one is being around a table, practicing perfecting the art of face-to-face communication once again.

That’s it: it’s a practice. Nothing will be perfect right away. It might not even be perfect within the first couple weeks or months. However, if we each make an effort in our lives to involve more around-the-table gatherings in our lives, what could that do for our communication? How much better can we get to know each other without phones in our hands and conversations open?

I’m curious to know how this simple practice of rejoining around a table can impact our daily lives. Let’s start meeting face-to-face, again!

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Exploring A New Direction

As I thought about rebranding myself and my blog, there are two things that come to my mind: my love for Jesus and people and my pride on being a southern woman.

Well, those are the goals anyways. I want to love people well, through the things Christ teaches me. I also want to learn how to be a “proper” southern woman: “showing graciousness, kindness, and warmth to others.”

You know, the woman that knows how to make someone feel southern hospitalityat home. Someone that uses respectful language and knows when and where to wear white pants. The woman that masters the art of pound cakes, casseroles, and “covered dish luncheons.”

I want to be that woman. I want to be the woman that has a perfectly set dining room table, a welcoming living room, and a cup of coffee ready for you when you walk in the door.

I want to be the woman that makes an effort to remember people’s names. Uses manners out of habit. Sends thank you cards regularly. A woman that loves the Lord with a burning passion.

So, this is the direction of my new blog. Here, I will be discovering different ways to become that southern woman. Tips for practicing southern hospitality. And delving into why it is important for me to share these things.

I’ll still be blogging about my relationship with Christ and the journey He has for me – the southern woman in training – remembering who and Whose I am.

I’m excited about this direction, and I hope that you will be too!

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