Living by the Light of the Midnight Sun

As I look back over my time living in Alaska, so many parts still feel like a dream. A dream where I was another person from a different life where adventure, good people, and the wild was the currency for buying happiness. Every so often in this life there comes a time or place that clicks, that resonates within your being that this place is where you are meant to be. Everything clicks and life is good.

Life. Is. Good.

After one of the lowest years in my life, Alaska was a balm to my battered heart and a salve to my weary soul. Alaska, the Last Frontier, the Land of the Midnight Sun, the Land where I found Solace.

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I arrived jet lagged with a splitting headache that made me throw up, but my eyes still lifted to the mountains in awe. I was immediately taken under the wing of Sheli, one of the most welcoming and beautiful souls I have ever met, who took it upon herself to make sure that I had more than just a room and place to sleep, but a home for my all too short stay. I started off my time with a trip to Denali National Park, where one is truly a guest in the very wild beauty of nature.  I was set loose to explore, to climb, to run, and to simply be while taking in sights that I never thought I’d be blessed enough to see. Sights I had to work to find. Sometimes, the journey was the adventure. Regardless, in less than a week, I was able to see Denali AND all the major types of wildlife- bear, moose, caribou, wolf, and dall sheep.

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Denali

My clinical was of course an amazing and vital piece of being in Alaska, both in the people I was privileged to work with and in everything I learned. I grew as a therapist AND as a person and I’m full of gratitude toward the people who let me glean from their experience and knowledge.

DCIM103GOPROGOPR4703.JPGEvery weekend and even during the week, I was running on all cylinders- every day was an opportunity for a new adventure! From meeting up with an old college friend for hikes to biking through downtown Anchorage to ice cream runs with friends, I packed my days and nights. My thirst for adventure was quenched and my desire to wander through the glory of nature was satisfied.

DCIM103GOPROGOPR4473.JPGOne thing I’ve realized about my time exploring the mountains, it is both a humbling and empowering experience. The glory of God was evident in every rock, in every tiny flower that bloomed, in every crevice I placed my boot or Chaco-clad feet into. It was magnificent to be a wanderer in this wild and beautiful land of the midnight sun. The mountains called me, the cry of the rocks resonated on the same frequency of my mind’s song and I went. I climbed, I slipped and fell, I climbed again. I turned around sometimes, and resolved to return.

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Every time I climbed, I was struck anew with the wild beauty and blatant magnificence of creation. What an incredible and thoughtful God to make all this and give us the means to enjoy it, even with the work to get to the top, it was absolutely worth it to be able to appreciate the wonder of it all.  And what an insightful Father to give us such resilient bodies with which to journey through these hills.

IMG_7255 - Copy (2)gopr4291.jpg gopr4004-e1504230926575.jpgAnother thing I have learned about these mountains- everything is both closer and farther away than you think. The heights we climbed to are far from impossible and not nearly as daunting as they appear; however, it is unwise to underestimate the time and effort necessary to reach them. Even more beautiful and often overlooked than the grand heights sometimes are the tiny flowering plants that thrive in these high elevations. I don’t know why I’ve been so drawn to them, but I find myself fascinated by these little lives. They are hardy, yet still so delicate. They are understated, yet they demand attention through their existence among the rocks. My thoughts on this- Tread lightly as you traverse the mountains, for it would be a shame to miss the resilience of the plants that help to build it.

Snapchat-1508485656IMG_3445Tread lightly as you go through life, be careful of the words that so easily slip off the tongue as they can cause either great harm or healing. Walk lightly through life, but grow deep roots.

Finally, besides the mountains, I had people. For those who know me, forming friendships is typically a long and arduous process. Absolutely, it’s worth it, but it takes time and effort. I figured, like all good things, that is simply my normal. But in Alaska, it felt effortless! I feel a kinship with the people up there. There’s the same hunger in all of us. A hunger to do and to be and to appreciate all the earth has to offer. The risk and danger is acknowledged and respected. Nature is respected, but thoroughly enjoyed. It’s a beautiful balance and I loved learning how to live like that.

Besides all we have in common, the people in Alaska have taught me a great deal about generosity. They were willing to go above and beyond anything I expected in so many key ways. From lending me equipment to picking me up for an impromptu hike up Wolverine to going camping with people you barely know to jumping in the freezing cold Resurrection Bay at midnight, the generosity of true friendship I’ve experienced has been unbelievable and it made living there a joy.DCIM103GOPROGOPR4101.JPGJoy really is the best way to sum up my two short months in this isolated northern adventureland. Joy at where I lived, joy with my work and learning, joy with my adventures, joy with the relationships I built, and joy at life. Especially after this past year, this joy-filled life alone has been amazing. Looking back over my time here, I’m overflowing with gratitude. Eucharisteo joy and gratitude. Living with immediate recognition of the beautiful, even if it is so small it is passed over by most of the world. Mountain aven flower blossoms turned toward the sun on the side of a mountain. Clouds covering the top of the mountains as you ascend into the whiteness. Mountains outside the office window. Even the taste of sugar-filled coffee after lunch.

 

 

 

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Flattop Mountain

My time in Alaska was like one of her summers- brightly flowering for a few short months before the days grew short and dark. But like her summer, I will come again. I’ll let my heart’s compass point me north and I’ll go. I’ll go to live and to learn, to explore and adventure through the hidden treasures of the wild. I’ll return and when I do, I’ll be living by the light of the midnight sun.

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DCIM103GOPROGOPR4477.JPGThe road goes ever on,

Annamarie

P.S. If you made it to the end, free to share or comment about an adventure you had! I would love to hear about where wandering through the world has taken you! 🙂

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The Art of Being a Single, Christian Girl

gw0a2239There’s an art to it you know- being single. Being a single girl. Being a single Christian girl.

The beautiful thing about the time we live in, is that I don’t need a man to have a good life. I have more opportunity for success and happiness as a single woman now than at any other time in history. Right now, I love being single. I can make my own plans, I can travel, I can go where I want when I want, and I answer to no man. If my big Friday night plan is to binge watch Madam Secretary with a roll of cookie dough and a 2 Liter of Dr. Pepper, then that sounds like a pretty good night! I also love being a woman- mostly. There is still so much more work to be done, but at this point in history, women are closer to equality than we have ever been before. It’s an exciting time to be a female, but also still scary with degrading stereotypes and expectations still pervading culture. And let’s not forget, trying to find a pair of jeans that actually fits both my curves and waist sucks! Finally, I am a unashamedly a Christian. I absolutely wouldn’t trade my faith for the world. Jesus gives me purpose and joy in life. In Him, I live and move and have my being.

So- how do all these things fit? How can I be a feminist yet be pro-life and against Planned Parenthood? How is being a feminist and being a Christian compatible? How do I explain that my happiness at my relationship status as a “single” is not coming from a place of bitterness or cynicism?

img_6421I’m not a man-hating, bra-burning feminist. I’m also not a callous, heart-weary cynic. I’m just NOT WAITING for Prince Charming to come before I start changing the world. I’m NOT WAITING to find that “best friend” to “do life” with before I start doing life on my own. I’m NOT WAITING to find a personal spiritual leader before I start taking responsibility for my own faith walk with Christ.

When I was in college, Christine Caine, a tremendous Christian speaker and founder of The A21 Campaign (an organization that rescues women out of sex trafficking, http://www.a21.org/index.php?site=true ) came to speak at a chapel service. Her message was inspiring, but one of the best things she said that day was the introduction of her husband. Standing on stage, she asked him to stand up and said, “I am married to the single-most ravishing piece of masculine flesh on planet Earth… He’s hot, and he’s mine.” She was proud to be his wife and very much in love. Someday, if that’s in God’s plan, I’m going to describe my husband like that. But the point is, IF THAT DOESN’T HAPPEN, I’m still going to live my life with passion and purpose and joy.

img_20161214_145937It’s frustrating to me that as a female, I even have to justify this point of view. Successful single men are applauded, yet I’m still stuck with subtle questioning of “have you found anyone yet?” It is expected that a single man should be working hard at advancing his career, but when I explain that I’m doing the SAME THING, I am on the receiving end of remarks about how “don’t I want a more ‘balanced’ life?” i.e. get a boyfriend. My career is completely focused on helping people achieve maximum quality of life, so why should society silently look down on my choice to remain single while pursuing my degree? In this age where women are encouraged to achieve greatness, why on earth am I still feeling the need to justify why I’m happy with life as a single gal? That I don’t need to have a Tinder or Match.com or whatever is the new thing these days? With explaining how it is completely possible to be single, yet still retain a soft heart and live with a joy that isn’t skin deep.

So- what’s the art? The art is in balancing the conflicting world views I hold as a Millennial, a woman, and a Christian. My faith is the bedrock upon which the other two stand. I have Baby Boomer values with Millennial idealism that I can change the world one person at a time. I’m relishing the opportunity for career advancement and equality that my profession has for women.

I’m going to keep living life in the here and now, dreaming big for the future and if a man comes along with dreams as big as mine, I can’t wait to go on that life journey with him.

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In an article in Christianity Today entitled “Would God Give Me Ministry and Marriage?” Christine Caine beautifully addresses this coming together for the glory of God.

“One night, I was speaking at a youth rally of about a thousand kids. Before I stepped onto the stage I prayed, Father, if I’m going to go further with this guy, I have to know that I’m going to do more for your kingdom married than I am single. Otherwise, I’ve given my life to you and I just want to stay single. I have to know. Do I keep dating this guy?

I sensed God’s response to me out of Deuteronomy 32:30, which says, “How could one man chase a thousand, or two put ten thousand to flight?”

Chris, God was saying to me, you can choose whichever one you want. If you don’t marry Nick, this is what you will have. You will have one thousand, like tonight. For your whole life wherever you go, I’ll use you. But one will chase one thousand to flight. Two will put ten thousand to flight. So if you do marry him, you will have a tenfold impact for my kingdom.

See? THAT is what I’m waiting for- a man who shares the same huge dreams for life that I do. A man who chases after God before he chases after me. A man who has the same enduring passion for seeking God’s will that I have. A man who sees me as not just a helpmate, but as an equal partner and who will help me reach my dreams and goals, even as I help him reach his. Together, we can have a tenfold impact on the kingdom of God.

But…

IF THIS MAN NEVER COMES, DON’T FEEL SORRY FOR ME.

You should feel slightly envious, because I literally have nothing stopping me from living full out for God. You should feel excited that there is nothing preventing me from chasing the plan God has for my life. Instead of asking me if I’ve found someone yet, ask me about my kingdom purpose. Ask me what God is doing in my life. We will have a whole lot more to talk about.

Yes, I have high standards. I don’t apologize for that because if this guy does come along, I’ll be giving up a lot to be with him. I’ll be saying goodbye to one of the greatest times of my life- the time of being a single, Christian girl. A time where I wrestled with the whole idea of being alone and whether or not that was ok. A time where I discovered how singleness truly is a gift. A time where I struggled to believe I had a purpose. A time where I discovered the dreams God placed in my heart. A time where I spent years in the proverbial field being prepared to slay giants. A time where I learned intimately the perfect love of not a man, but the Son of Man, the Savior of my soul, Jesus Christ.

Life will still be a grand adventure. I will always have joy. I will always have purpose and meaning. I will know in the deepest part of my heart, that when given the choice between finding a man or following Christ, I chose Christ. I chose eternal love and eternal faithfulness. No earthly promises of “till death do us part” drew me away from “till He returns or calls me home.”

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My Baptism at ORU; 10-24-2014

I am at peace with that.  As in any painting, the first brush strokes in discovering the art of being a single, Christian girl are tentative and slow, the artist being hesitant to take the picture somewhere it shouldn’t go. So far, the brush strokes on my painting have been messy. There’s been miscommunication and scribbling outside the lines. There’s been backtracking and reparation to the picture. There’s been self-doubt and plummeting self-esteem that’s had to be painstakingly built back up. But best of all, there are new designs planned and new colors waiting to explode upon the canvas of my life. It’s not easy. I’m not a great artist, but my brush is guided by the God who is.

One thing is for sure, there’s an art to being a single, Christian girl and God himself has given us ladies a goal. Proverbs 31 is more than just describing the stereotypical “submissive and meek little housewife.” It actually speaks of how beautiful, strong, and industrious women are vital to our world.

dsc_0081“She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks… She is clothed in strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come… Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” (Proverbs 31: 17, 25, 30)

To all my single girlfriends, embrace this time in your life and become a woman who is fearless and bold. Dream big and never be satisfied with the status quo. Seek relentlessly to become a woman who relies on the Lord and not just a man. You are not to be pitied, but celebrated. For you can become a woman who transcends societies’ expectations in every way and who beautifully masters the art of being a single, Christian girl.

The Road Goes Ever On,

Annamarie

The Summer I was Selfish

This summer was the stuff of dreams for me- I traveled to two continents, got all tanned up, hung out by the pool, was in a dear friend’s wedding, and did all the classic fun summer things one is supposed to do as a 20-something with 2 months of no work and all play.

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Don’t get me wrong- I loved every minute of it. Mostly.

You see this summer, despite all the amazing places I traveled to and all the experiences I had, it was all about me. All about where I traveled. All about what I experienced. All about my awesome pictures. All about my new Instagram account to document my picture perfect summer.

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Those few months, I let my wanderlust and pursuit of adventure consume me. I was so burned out from school and so tired of the daily grind that shaped my first year of PT school. I yearned to see more, do more, and be more. I wanted to feel the thrill of travel and get high on the rush from wandering the world.

I was looking for purpose in my pursuit of happiness.

Now, we all need to rest now and again; take a vacation and get away from the monotonous day-to-day, but I went to the next level. Somehow I thought that if I could just get to July, and begin my globe-hopping journey, my life would take a turn for the better and all my travel would let me find whatever it was I wanted so desperately.

I came back and started school- aimless and dissatisfied.

Why???

My sole purpose of the summer, whether I realized it or not, was to satisfy my own desires. I expended very little effort to contributing to the world around me other than to get as much enjoyment out of it that I could.

It’s funny you know, a person never realizes how tedious it is to live solely for your own happiness. The essence of happiness is in a constant state of flux, shifting as the sands that blow through a desert. It is fleeting and at the end of the day, month, year, whatever, it does not endure.

But purpose endures.

Purpose is what allows you to be content where you are, what allows you to pour into the lives of the people around you. The more time you spend in one place, the more time you have to build relationships and to find your niche of service.

So what is your purpose?

That, I can’t tell you. I CAN tell you that I get closer to finding my purpose when I am seeking out God’s will for my life. This task is never-ending but always fulfilling. For me, it begins with prayer, but also the tried and true “guess and check your work” method from learning math in third grade. Volunteer someplace where you think you can contribute, even if it may not be a strength.

Sometimes our purpose may not to be simply to help others, but to challenge our character to grow in strength and diversity.

In serving the church, I’m still figuring it out, but I guarantee I won’t get any closer without stepping up and trying to find where God wants me. Right now, I’m volunteering with teaching Sunday school to preschoolers. I know my calling is NOT kids ministry, but hey, my purpose is to be a working member of the body of Christ and if this is my purpose for these few months, then I will serve joyfully.

My pursuit of happiness this summer delivered. I was happy!

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I was also selfish in my desire for my happiness to BE my purpose. Life is about so much more than making myself happy! Because, as I’ve already said, happiness is temporary, but purpose is enduring.

Luke 19:10 states, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Jesus’ purpose in coming to this world is clear- He came to earth, out of love, to save the broken, the hopeless, and the desperately lost. Without His birth, His life, His death, and His resurrection, we have no hope. We have no purpose for life beyond temporary happiness.

BUT with Him, the possibilities are endless, with countless doors wide open if we choose to take the first steps. In this Christmas season and as the year comes to a close, I challenge you, take a moment to reflect on your purpose in life.

Where is your focus? Are you simply going through the motions of seeking to fulfill the desires of a temporary life? Or is your gaze turned towards heaven, towards the will and desires of a God who loves you so much He sent His Son in the most humble form of a baby who was born with nothing?

“And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

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You are called to a purpose greater than your happiness. No matter where you are in life, God has a plan and purpose for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Don’t sell yourself short. You can do so much better than simply pursuing happiness. Pursue your Purpose.

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Best wishes and Merry Christmas,

Annamarie

 

I Want the Same Things You Do

The aftermath of disbelief, the onslaught of bitter hate, the disappointment and the rage

Directed at Me?

Why?

I’m not a bigot. I’m not a racist. I’m not a misogynist.

Why do you label me as such?

I want the same things you do.

I want the right to speak, to be respected, to be considered equal

In the workplace, in the home, and in society.

I’m not homophobic. I’m not islamophobic. I’m not a war monger.

I want peace for my family, prosperity for my nation, and protection for those who have none.

Why do I deserve the wrath of your frustration and fear?

I want the same things you do.

I want all people to be able to walk safely down the street without fear of a gun or the person behind it.

I want all people, regardless of personal life choices, to have a country that welcomes them home.

Why do you strike at me from the safety of your screens?

I want the same things you do.

We have simply exercised our right to vote, to have a voice, to take part in something

Larger than us.

“But how can you trust that man?”

Even if I did, by what rights do you condemn me?

I want the same things you do.

“You are blind! You are a fool! You are ignorant!”

Why do you label me as such?

An X in a ballot box does not define me and it certainly does not make me

A stupid, heartless, and deplorable human.

I see your fear. I see your disappointment. I have felt it before.

You see, I want the same things you do.

Can you not see?

An X in a ballot box is not a measure of my humanity.

Why do you label it as such?

Think of me how you wish- misguided, delusional, lost.

Nothing I say will dissuade you.

But know this-

I am as much a person as you.

Why would you deny me the right to have an opinion different than yours?

I have dreams of a better country, where love, not fear, is the standard we are held to.

For perfect love casts out all fear.

When I say that my X in the ballot box marked a different box than yours,

Why do you assume I am against all that is good in the world?

Do you even know me?

If you did you would know that the reality is this-

I want the same things you do.

 

 

The Road Goes Ever On,

Annamarie

Fighting Fear

11377203_10207011772717606_1093685745815291026_nLife doesn’t scare me. I do not have a timid spirit that fears the unknown or trembles at the future. I can jump from cliffs over 50 feet high. I can speak in front of a crowd. I can ride a horse bareback through an open field. I can challenge myself and enjoy the struggle, even if it ends in failure.

Life simply does not scare me.

Except for spiders and needles, those just are really NOT ok! And of course I am not infallible. Fear is still just as much a part of my life as the next person’s. I just don’t let it rule me.

EXCEPT… these past two months have been awful. So bear with me as I just ramble a bit about my fight with fear.

The beginning of 2016 for me has been quite a jam-packed journey. This has been more a journey of seeing the downward spiral fear can take you through and the laborious upward climb towards defeating it.

And I haven’t fully done it. I doubt I will ever completely beat fear. But I have a God who can.

Thus far in my 22 years, I’ve been pushed to trust God with my future and trust God with things that worry me and yes, sometimes scare me, but I had no clue how to fight fear that consumes your entire day- waking AND sleeping hours. The fear that causes you such abject helplessness you doubt your entire reason for existence.

It may not have appeared like this, but hey, I have deep thoughts underneath the excuse of “I’m just tired” and when you have lots of quiet hours staring at neuroanatomy, you have time to let those thoughts take precedence.

Point being, trusting God that the nurse knows what she is doing when she comes at me with that awful needle to do a TB test is one thing, but life? That feels like it’s asking just a bit too much. I have been completely helpless these past two months trying to strategize how I can bring up my GPA in PT school. This may not seem like such a scary thing, but trust me, this is my life right now. Weeks are planned around tests and studying. Laundry and grocery shopping and sleeping take a backseat to learning my profession.

I’m not a good test-taker. I’ve been blessed with enough intelligence that it really hasn’t impacted me too much. But now? My future in school depends on it. The sheer frustration at being unable to prove my understanding and knowledge drives me crazy. Can you imagine explaining the entire anatomy of the shoulder only to promptly miss the very facts you just spoke? It’s maddening.

And there is nothing I can do to fix it.

I have employed every test-taking strategy Google and my professors have to offer. I have a working knowledge of most of the material I have learned in class.

I do everything right! And it makes no difference.

I can’t fight this. I have no weapon to wield against the anxiety that takes over weeks before I even take the exams.

Except, I actually do. I was driven to this point, getting subtle nudges through messages at church, learning scripture with my small group, talking with my sister, and finally, watching the movie War Room. I have always known that prayer is the way for believers to battle, but it takes preparation, self-discipline, and confidence in the sovereignty of God.

And it is my only way to combat fear.

The Bible is filled with teaching and instruction and promises about prayer. It is a very real way to communicate with God and engage in spiritual warfare. I wrote in my journal that night, “I have come to another moment of choosing- myself and my own strength or God and His sovereignty in all things. I CHOOSE GOD! How can I do anything else? I have eternal peace and continuous joy in life because of Him. I want to serve Him, to fight for Him, and to be the warrior and servant He’s called me to be.”

I have an updated attitude. I have been reminded that I, Annamarie, do not have the strength to be completely self-sufficient, and thank goodness, I don’t have to. I simply have to surrender. Look how far God has brought me!

How Far I've come

“…the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.”

In my own strength, I could not have come this far. By my own strength, I can go no farther. But by the power of God and the power of my prayers, in 2 years time, there will be another picture of me in another graduation gown, fulfilling the dream He has placed in my heart.

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” (Colossians 4:2)

“And I [God] will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (John 14:13)

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8)

“The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.” (2 Corinthians 10:4)

 

11737193_947428971983430_1161497052_nFear had gladly built up a massive fortress around the walls of my heart and my mind. Then I began to again fight to bring them crashing down with my prayers. My friends, prayer is powerful. Prayer convicts, prayer heals, prayer lets you cry out to God when you don’t have words to speak. Prayer needs to become what I schedule my week around, not my tests. Prayer needs to become my test-taking strategy. Prayer needs to be my weapon of choice to fight fear.

(Disclaimer: I still study, but prayer is what allows me to go into a test or quiz without anxiety and with a clear head.)

I am only human. I will feel frustrated and helpless and fearful all too soon again. BUT, fear has no place in my spirit when God is there. “For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). Fear will not rule me; it may knock me down to my knees, but that is fine. My knees are where the true fighting is done anyways.

It is there, on my knees, with the weight of the world coming down, where I pray.

The road goes ever on,

Annamarie

Auld Lang Syne

As I sit here by the fire in the living room of my childhood home, counting down the hours until 2016, and listening to Susan Boyle sing Auld Lang Syne, I can’t help but reflect back on all the milestone moments that have made up my 2015. Yes, this will be a slightly sappy and nostalgic post, but bear with me- I don’t usually indulge in such excessive emotional expression.

This year of blogging and sharing my life with all of you has been quite an experience and I’ve loved every minute of it and I hope you have as well.

I was trying to pick out all the significant photos to try and sum up my year, but narrowing it down proved impossible. There have been so many moments, so many little victories, and thankfully, very few incidents of panic and sinking-stomach feelings.  So to wrap up this monumental and lovely year, here are 15 of my top moments:

  1. January 2015- I got accepted to the Kranert School of Physical Therapy at the University of Indianapolis. That letter I’m holding is the culmination of 4 years of hard work, dreaming big, and no shortage of the grace of God.2015-01-29 14.37.35
  2. March 21, 2015- Woke up at 5 AM in the Land of Enchantment with two of my best friends singing Taylor Swift to welcome me to my 22nd year on planet Earth.11377203_10207011772717606_1093685745815291026_n
  3. Spring Break 2015- I got a week of adventure climbing mountains and rocks, sledding down White Sands and seeing the missile and bomb history of the US, and enjoying the company of two of my dear friends Joy and Allie.IMG_4279
  4. April 2015- I put a year of riding lessons to use by jumping in my first competition with my wonderful partner Bruno.IMG_4407
  5. May 2, 2015- I GRADUATED from ORU Magna Cum Laude with a B.S. in Health and Exercise Science.IMG_0924
  6. May/June- I traveled to Washington D.C. for the first time with my youngest sister Rachel. It was amazing and inspiring to see the tributes to America’s finest. From Quantico, Arlington Cemetery, and the Iwo Jima memorial to Mount Vernon, Capitol Hill, and Gettysburg, it was an unforgettable and jam-packed week with my baby sis.IMG_5191
  7. July 2015- Gerecke Family Reunion! What a legacy my Opa and YiaYia left… Family is such a precious thing and all of us cousins have again resolved to make sure we never forget it.11749624_947319301994397_1575018534_n
  8. August 2015- I took a real quick vacation to Tulsa to catch up with my friends still in good ol’ Oklahoma and to help my sister Alyssa move in for her sophomore year at ORU. It was so good to see everyone and it really helped me get my head screwed on straight before beginning school all over again.IMG_20150805_200511378
  9. August 2015- I moved to Indianapolis in my first big girl apartment! I’m a grown-up now?20150730_142249
  10. August 31, 2015- I start PT school! ‘Nough said.20151013_115904
  11. October 2015- At this point I’ve started to really appreciate all the unexpected close friendships and fun times I’m having with my wonderful classmates. We have had to pull together to get through this tough semester with our sanity intact.12313712_10154383067453852_6360433721834669074_n
  12. November 2015- Thanksgiving! One of the most blessed and contented days of my year. I appreciate so much my family and where I’m at in life.
  13. December 3, 2015- I got to see The Piano Guys (a goal of quite a few years now) with my Mom and brother, Nathan. They were amazing! And it was incredible to finally see them live!IMG_4942
  14. December 18, 2015-STAR WARS!!!!!!

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    Thank You Facebook for encouraging my Star Wars obsession!

  15. Christmas 2015- It was very different with Mom working on the actual holiday, but it was still really awesome. As all of us kids have grown up, it’s been a wonderful evolution of how we care for each other through all the festivities.20151231_233432

And there you have it- My 2015 summed up in a few quick snapshots of life. Of course, there is the 2nd Tough Mudder I finished, my first backpacking trip, camping, climbing Howard Auditorium, doing the splits on the Indy sign, and the global phenomenon of STAR WARS, but I only promised highlights remember?

Suffice to say, God has blessed me so much and I can only pray that 2016 will hold as much joy and accomplishment as this one has. So here’s to Auld Lang Syne. To times long gone; to memories made; to growth; to disappointment; to Walter Mitty moments.

To 2015!imagejpeg_13[1]

The Road Goes Ever On!

Much love, Annamarie

Echoes in Eternity

Russell Crowe Workout routine and Diet plan1Gladiator is one of my favorite movies. It’s a classic- Russell Crowe in all his ancient-Roman glory, taking on the evil Emperor in an ill-fated, yet heroic attempt to restore Rome to a Republic. There is one scene at the beginning, before he starts on his epic misadventure, which has always stuck with me. Right before he leads his troops into battle, he motivates them with this statement:

“What we do in life echoes in eternity”

What we do in this life, what we say and think and feel, how we treat others, what we value- all of these have echoes that will go beyond this world into eternity.

In light of the recent turmoil our world has seen, it is important to do a bit of self-examination towards our attitudes, opinions, and how we have let social media become an outlet for those without putting them through a needed thoughtful contemplation.

I do not want to get into a political discussion or a legal analysis on the threat of radical Islam or whether or not America has the resources to take care of refugees, and especially not how GOP candidates are responding to the refugee crisis. All this is subterfuge and distracts from the root problem of the various responses to recent world events- that we are fear the unknown.

I also don’t pretend to be an expert in theology or social behavior- these are just my observations and what I believe my reaction should be as a Christ-follower.

1) Engaging in petty internet debates never truly solves anything except to keep the makers of high blood pressure drugs in business. It’s incredible the callousness and mean-spiritedness that comes to the surface from behind the safety of a computer screen. An argument online incites anger, hostility, and divides people from coming to reasonable solutions.

I can still remember my mom saying Proverbs 15:1 to us kids after many hurtful fights, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

People in general, but ESPECIALLY Christians, need to keep this in mind. The church must remember we are one body and the body never accomplishes anything if it is constantly tearing itself apart.

2) Jesus loved people. He cared for them, healed them, taught them, and showed them unconditional love. He did this for the Jew, the Gentile, the slave, the free man, for women and children, and people of different religions. 1 John 4:7 says, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.”

This does not mean compromise your beliefs, become tolerant of sin, or throw out common sense. After all, Jesus told us to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Mat. 10:16) and told the woman condemned of adultery to “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11). But He also forgave her and showed her the merciful love of God.

His love is unconditional. So should ours be.

No matter where people come from, what their beliefs are, or what they have done in the past, they are made in the image of God. His heart breaks for the broken and lost. So should our hearts be broken for those who are suffering.

We don’t need to judge harshly those with different beliefs or backgrounds or circumstances because we aren’t qualified to do so. Only God is the final judge and jury. We need to show them the love of God.

3) Finally, as a Christian, I need to get active and DO SOMETHING! I love the Matthew West song that says just that:

“I’m so tired of talking about

do_something_hd_wallpaper_by_vtahlick-d5szsroHow we are God’s hands and feet

But it’s easier to say than to be

Live like angels of apathy

Who tell ourselves it’s alright,

Somebody else will do something.”

God created us to be His hands and feet on this earth. To bring in His harvest. To be fishers of men. To go and make disciples of all nations. To care for the widow and the orphan.

To Pray.

Paul writes in Ephesians 6:10-18 to put on the full armor of God, “so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand… And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

Personally, I am very limited in what I can do right now. I’m still in school. I’m in thousands of dollars of debt to pay for said schooling. I have no great evangelism skills. I can’t provide a home for the homeless, food for the hungry, or safety for the refugees.

But I can pray.pray-without-ceasing

“Rejoice always, PRAY WITHOUT CEASING, and give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thess. 5:16-18)

There is supernatural power when we call upon the name of Jesus in prayer.

So Pray- pray for those lost in Paris, pray for the refugees, pray for the families of close to 1,000 Nigerians who have been murdered by Boko Haram since May. Pray for those hurting around the world because human suffering is not unique to only one country or people group.

Writing this now, my heart is full and tears are burning in my eyes when I contemplate all the heartache, tragedy, and senseless violence that is so commonplace in our world today. It’s not fair. It’s not fair that I can sit here in my apartment, safe and warm with a Christmas candle burning watching the snow fall outside, when across an ocean, a family is wondering whether they will live to see the next dawn or that a mother is pushing aside hunger pangs because she is giving what little food she has to her children. It’s not fair that people who went out last Friday night never came home because of a calculated and brutal terrorist attack.  Life is not fair.

But what we do with the unfairness that life hands us echoes in eternity.

How we respond to tragedy and how we treat our fellow human beings will have eternal consequences.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”

Truly I say to you, as you did it for one of the least of these, you did it to me.

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You want your life to make echoes throughout eternity?

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second [commandment] is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)

Think before you speak. Love our fellow man. Take an active role in the Great Commission, with prayer being your #1 go-to option for whatever you face in life.

Love the Lord your God and Love your neighbor as yourself.

What we do in life echoes in eternity.

The road goes ever on,

Annamarie

P.S. Here’s the link to a blog I read earlier this week. It’s a thought-provoking article about the situation with the Syrian refugee crisis.

http://blog.rinamarie.com/2015/11/17/holocaust-2015/

Living a Sold-Out Life (Part 3)

Part 3: Be an Olympic Torch amidst the Candles

Honestly, this last part of Living a Sold-Out Life has been hard to write. It has made me look hard at how I’m living and my motivations for why I do so. My thoughts may be a bit muddled but bear with me.

Most importantly, remember that my relationship with God is very different from yours. We are different people and your story is not mine so our experiences will vary greatly. However, this does not negate the truth that the Bible is applicable to everyone and that the calling of a Christian is the same- “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19, 20)

Keeping this in mind, explore with me this blazing torch business. Living a sold-out life means that we need to share our hope of salvation!

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So in review, we’ve gone to the ultimate source of true peace and love, we’ve begun to let the Holy Spirit guide our thoughts and actions, but HOW CAN I SHOW PEOPLE MY FAITH?

A few weeks ago when I began this series, I instinctively would have said, “Let my light shine.” My actions and good deeds will be evidence of my faith and all people will simply have to wonder what’s different about me! (sarcasm intended) This is a very “Christianese” response to our dilemma.

To be brutally honest, it solves nothing because there are lots and lots of good and loving people that don’t have a true relationship with God. Lots of little candles. How do I “shine my light brighter?”

Good deeds themselves do not reveal the motivation of the heart.

This is why my “light-shining” good deeds are indistinguishable and only point a blurry and ambiguous line to my faith.

Who’s to say that volunteering at a homeless shelter is because I felt called to help or because I felt guilt over my many blessings or because my school requires it? The result is the same- the homeless shelter has another volunteer.

Well, that’s just frustrating because again…HOW DO I SHOW PEOPLE MY FAITH?

Straight-up Answer: You don’t. God does.

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I, Annamarie Gerick, have no power or ability to change a heart. Only God the Father Almighty can do that. He can use anything in creation to do so, including me. So my job, my responsibility is to be faithful and keep running the path He has set for me; to “finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me- the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24).

What does this look like?

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:6-7).

When you seek out your source of strength and peace, you become rooted and established in your faith. When you become stronger in your faith, you begin to filter your actions and thoughts. Now, as you see the fingerprints of God in your life and want to share that, simply let “Child of God” be your identity.

“For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin (Romans 6:6), that whoever is united with the Lord is one with Him in spirit (1 Corinth. 6:17), and to all who believed and accepted Him, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1: 12).

You are no longer a slave to fear; you are a Child of God.

Do not hide what God has done for you. If someone asks you about a situation you’ve been dealing with that God has brought you through, tell them how you drew strength from your Savior! If a friend is discouraged about a relationship, is confused about what to do next in life, or simply tired from life, don’t offer platitudes and pity. Don’t pretend to have an answer or a fix-all solution.

Listen and offer prayer. Then follow through and pray with them right then! The most meaningful witnessing you will ever do is to the people closest to you. They will know you and will see that your identity is rooted in Christ.

You let God be so apart of you as a person that it will infuse your being and God will take care of the heavy-lifting. That my friends, is how you show your faith.

That is living sold-out for Christ.

You find strength in Him. You let the Holy Spirit guide you. You stand firm in your identity as a Child of God.

The road goes ever on,

Annamarie

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P.S. Thanks for sticking with me through all of this! This was a pretty heavy topic for me, but its been an incredible time learning and struggling to get the right words to express what I’ve learned. I’m not perfect at this, but I know the gold standard that I need to keep aiming toward. So take heart! This is why life is a journey- we can’t finish it in a day.  🙂

Keep it real y’all.

 

Living a Sold-Out Life (Part 2)

Christian schools have a bubble. Believe it. Ever heard of “Ring by Spring?” How about your parking ticket payment referred to as the “wages of sin?” Or my personal favorite, “So you’re here to get a degree, but you could always minor in MRS.”

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ORU Class Ring! No Engagement Band Needed.

No thanks, I’ll just take the BS before moving on to a PhD. No MRS required.

But I digress because the point of this is- the bubble is real!

For a freshman straight out of public school, having self-professing Christian classmates was wonderful and the bubble where I spent those formative college years helped me develop character and integrity. However, I knew it wasn’t what the real world felt like. I’ve spent the past two years wondering if when I got out, I would have the grounded foundation needed to hack it in the real world. Wondering what it would feel like to live out of the bubble.

Wondering if I could truly live sold-out for Christ.

Now that I’ve escaped the bubble, I’ve become hyperaware of what my actions and words say. It was all fine and good to let that biting sarcastic comment out with friends who would never doubt the love I have for them. It was all fun and games to joke about getting smashed on weekends until that became a legit option.

Everything from my political opinions, how I respond to disappointment, my demeanor in class, to my outfit choice when I got out on the weekends needs to be filtered before I let it out.

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I filter my words and actions not because I care what people think about me, but because I care what they think of my Savior. 

You see, I’m a good person by most people’s standards. Not much sets me apart from other good people who aren’t living sold-out. Good deeds and kind words are things any average person can do because there are many “good people.” We are called to go beyond that and stand out because of our faith.

How?!?

Good question. I really don’t have an answer, but I do know the first action towards getting there is to recognize my flawed human nature and trust in the Helper that Jesus sent to me- The Holy Spirit.

Jesus says in John 14:25, “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

Very explicitly, Jesus says the Holy Spirit is here to remind us, to help us live-sold out. The reason the Holy Spirit is with us 24/7 is because living life in this manner is hard! It demands all of you.

Literally Every Single Part of You.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come!”

Nothing can be held back because that is what you promised Christ when you accepted His gift of salvation. Give it all up now to gain a treasure in heaven that will never pass away or be destroyed.

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Baptism: October 24, 2014 (At ORU)

Living in surrender to the Holy Spirit is such a mind-blowing concept because how on earth can I filter every thought or intention by the Him before it flies off my tongue? I’m only human. I sin. I mess up.

I don’t completely know how to do this. But as I’ve immersed myself more into the nature of God, His nature is slowly becoming more ingrained as my nature. For example, I no longer bite my tongue as often to curb my sarcasm; it has simply ceased to be my instinctive go-to reaction.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

I know, much easier said than done, but let me tell you, it’s even easier done with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

This filter thing takes practice. It takes training your mind and body to behave to a heavenly standard, not an earthly one. It’s seeing the results of your actions on God’s terms, not yours.

It’s living a sold-out life for God.

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The Road Goes Ever On,

Annamarie

Living a Sold-Out Life (Part 1)

Part 1: Go to the Ultimate Source

Yesterday I got to catch up with a very dear friend of mine. We haven’t gotten to really talk since I moved to Indianapolis because well, I’m here and Oklahoma’s a very long 10 hours away driving. She asked me how I was doing with the move and starting school and all and honestly, I was able to reply, “It’s different, it’s so hard, but I’m really happy.”

Other than the fact that physical therapy is something I love learning, my transition has been transfused with peace, with contentment, and it kind of freaked me out until talking with my friend forced me to put words to my feelings.

You see, most of my close friends are in Tulsa or halfway across the world. My family is still 3 hours away. Grad school is my world now- studying, learning, practicing, and yeah, dozing off in class occasionally.

that-horrifying-moment-where-youre-looking-for-an-adult-but-then-realize-you-are-an-adult-so-you-look-for-an-older-adult-someone-successfully-adulting-an-adultier-adult-b7059

Point being, I’ve picked up my life and started all over. Again. This whole adulting thing is overwhelming. Yet, I’m at peace. Unnatural peace.

You see, as I’ve begun carving out a home here in this new city, God has been carving new lessons upon my heart. This time in life is a fork in the road and there are two options:

Live Lukewarm OR Live Sold-Out.

I choose to live a life sold-out for Christ. Let me break it down, because that is a huge, very big end picture right there; easy to say but much harder to put into practice. Here’s a pathway of how to get there:

Part 1) Go to the Ultimate Source of Peace and Love

Part 2) Use that Holy Spirit Filter

Part 3) Be an Olympic Torch Amidst the Candles

Success might be a long time in coming, but that’s ok- It’s a process and we aren’t flying blind.

demotivational-poster-t6bk7ho2ip-FLYING-BLIND

This will NOT be you!

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” (1 Peter 2:21)

So Number 1: Go to the Ultimate Source of Peace and Love.

Without that constant support system of close Christian friends, I’m being driven to the only true source- God. I have to start my morning with breakfast and my small Jesus Calling devotional. (http://jesuscalling.com/) It’s not much more than a few verses and a small paragraph of encouragement from the Father, but the peace I start each day with has become something I depend on more than that extra 10 minutes of sleep.

It’s not just a ritual or textbook “Christian thing.” I crave closeness with my Abba Father.

See, living sold-out isn’t always evident. It happens in the stillness of the morning before anything really important happens.

God says, “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me… If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you… As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love…” (John 15: 4, 7, 9-10)

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He also promises, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have drawn you with loving kindness.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

I could cry in relief that I have such a constant and unconditional love to fall back on every minute of every day. Remaining in it makes it so easy to brush off the brambles of life.

IMG_8893So step one: simply go to Him.

He loves you so much! His heart weeps with yours when you hurt and sings for joy when you succeed. Even when He is silent, His everlasting and unconditional love surrounds you. Won’t you reach out?

He will meet you right where you are. He can heal your bruised heart. He will wash you clean.

In Acts 17:28 Paul says, “For in him we live and move and have our being. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’”

He will never leave nor forsake you, but you must go to Him in order to live a sold-out life.

The Road Goes Ever On,

Annamarie