All posts by Abby Wolff

About Abby Wolff

As far back as I can remember, I have been creating. I was blessed to grow up in Kansas City into a family that encouraged me to pursue my passions in the arts. I am currently on track to double major in Animation and Theatre/Cinema at Missouri Western State University. Some of my favorite moments on stage have been playing Ruth in Blithe Spirit (MWSU), Genie in Aladdin (CYT-KC), and Anybody's in West Side Story (CYT-KC). Behind the scenes credits include Dramaturg and Scenic Charge for The Great American Trailer Park (MWSU), Prop Designer and ASM for The Addams Family (TitP-Shawnee Mission), and Prop Designer for The Drowsy Chaperone (OCTA). Along with working on and off stage, I also serve as the Vice President of the Alpha Psi Omega- Xi Eta cast. When not on stage or in the animation studio, you can usually find me either working in the Missouri Western scene shop, working on short films, or writing and doodling in coffee shops. Life is too short to be boring. We have been given the opportunity to live extraordinary lives, and I want to use the time I have to make art that matters.

Simple Joys

Life is stressful. Spanish tests make you cry. Dance steps that you don’t understand can make you feel like a loser. However, there’s a lot of great stuff to remind you to love life. I did an exercise with myself this past week where I wrote down as many things that bring me joy. This is what I came up with!

  • Walking to class with your favorite album playing through your headphones
  • A cup of tea in the morning when you’re feeling icky
  • Jump in a puddle
  • Ten different colors of pens
  • Making a friendship bracelet
  • Sparkly eyeshadow  
  • Using stickers to check off items on your to-do list
  • Neon flashcards for studying
  • Wishing on a dandelion 
  • Hot coffee to accompany you during homework sessions
  • Watching cartoons from your childhood with your pals
  • Sidewalk Chalk
  • Taking selfies with people you love 
  • Bean bag chairs
  • Playing Risk at 11pm with your people
  • Doodles in the margins
  • Petting a happy doggo
  • McDonald’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Reading a book that is in no way, shape, or form related to school work
  • Pink Sunsets
  • Binge watching “Yugi-Oh”
  • WWE Video Games
  • Holding hands
  • Eat chocolate
  • Wandering through an art museum 
  • Lemon drops
  • Leaving an encouraging sticky note on the bathroom mirror
  • Bubble wrap
  • Getting a new pair of shoelaces
  • Orange Soda 
  • Treating yourself to two flavors of ice cream
  • Hand-written letters
  • Sitting under a tree
  • Apple-Spice Candles
  • Spending time coloring
  • Fuzzy Blankets 
  • Dressing up in the middle of the week for no particular reason
  • Hammocks
  • Sitting on a bench and people watch
  • A Bouquet of flowers from the grocery store
  • Snuggles on a rainy day
  • Turning off your phone for the evening 
  • Pizza Nights
  • Looking for shapes in the clouds
  • Washi Tape
  • Cleaning your room
  • 1am discussions
  • Drawing little hearts on your sneakers

Take heart and cling on to the simple joys of life. I found that the more I added to my list, the easier it became to appreciate the little things that made my days sunnier. Set aside time to truly give thanks for the blessings that come in small packages.

 

Until Next Time, 

Abby

 

Lies from the Christian Film Genre

If it isn’t obvious by the banner above or some of my previous posts, I am a pretty vocal Christian gal. I’m also a gal who loves watching and making movies. In fact, half of my bachelor’s degree is in cinema! Whenever a new movie from Christian production studios hits theaters, there is a huge wave of believers proclaiming, “YOU MUST GO SUPPORT THIS FILM AT THE BOX OFFICE!!!!!!!” And if you ask, “Why must I go support this film at the box office?” you often will get the reply, “BECAUSE IT IS A CHRISTIAN MOVIE!!!!!” And then you’re the worst Christian ever if you say, “Well, honestly it doesn’t sound like it’s getting very good reviews, so I don’t really wanna spend my money to go see it.” 

Over my 21 years of life, I’ve been surrounded by Christian media. Veggietales? That was (still is) my jam. Adventures in Odyssey? Love me some radio drama. Left Behind? …okay the books were great, but the movies… While I have seen some great forms of entertainment that have the gospel message at the center of the piece, I have seen many more films that just plain awful. As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to learn what it takes to make good art. The Christian film genre seems to struggle with this idea of “good art” and I think it boils down to these six lies that this genre constantly spouts out. 

 

God needs defending

“I feel like God wants someone to defend Him.” This was a line from the main character in “God’s Not Dead,” a film that came out in 2014 and sparked two more films to join the series in 2016 and 2018. When I heard this piece of dialogue a few days ago while watching the review that made me sit down and write these thoughts, I laughed so hard. Fun fact: the Bible describes God as a lion. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a lion before, but those bad boys don’t really need anybody’s help. Christians: our God does not need defending. He’s not up in heaven, curled up in a corner thinking, “Ah man, someone said I wasn’t real today, I sure hope to Me that one of my super followers will prove that I’m real!” Yeah, no. Should we be bold when we talk about how God continually is changing our lives? Absolutely, but He doesn’t need us to be the last line of defense. In fact, God really doesn’t need us at all (that’s kind of the whole point).

 

If you are a Christian in the United States, you are highly likely to be persecuted and these movies show that there are court cases to prove it. 

This is something that gets me fired up in general: when people reference sources WITHOUT EVER READING THE ACTUAL SOURCE. I’m gonna use “God’s Not Dead” again as an example. At the end of the credits, there is a list of court cases that apparently inspired the making of the film. Film reviewer Kevin McCreary pointed out the inconsistencies in the cases that were listed. 

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(Go watch his videos, he’s great)

“God’s Not Dead” is a story about a student arguing with a professor in the classroom about the idea of God being dead. There’s about a dozen other story lines, some of which are way more interesting that the main character’s plight, and the movie ends with the classroom of easily swayed college students standing up and saying that God, is in fact, not dead. Here’s the kicker though: you’ll notice that none of these cases support the message of the film. In fact, having these cases listed make it seem as if the filmmakers think you are too dumb to do your own research to see that they were lying to you. That, or they’re naïve enough to Google search “Christian Court Cases” and just copy and paste the first six articles they find into their credits. Either way, people are being fed false information. 

I am not going to pretend that there is not prejudice in the United States against Christians but it is nowhere near as bad as Christian films want you to believe it is. It’s instilling a fear-based mentality of, “Oh no, if I’m in a public school or in a job that has nothing to do with ministry then I run a huge risk of being wrongly persecuted like the protagonists of these films!” Y’all, there are people who are being tortured and murdered for having bibles in other countries. We’re doing just fine in the United States. 

 

Every single character who is not a Christian is a horrible person who needs to be saved by your preaching.

I hope that this is self-explanatory, but just in case anyone needs a refresher: just because someone believes differently than you does NOT make them the scum of the earth. Why is it that in every Christian film, the antagonist seems like one of those vaudeville bad guys? It’s like the writers think that all Atheists are sitting in their classrooms and offices thinking, “Hahaha, how can we make these pathetic Christians know they’re totally inferior to my Evolution-believing, Abortion-loving, Proud-Liberal mind?” Contrary to what these movie makers want you to think, the only people like these who exist are characters in their stories. 

With how jacked up our online (un)civil discourse is at the moment though, it can be easy to forget that people are people. Here’s the hard truth: humans don’t save souls. My parents can’t take credit for my salvation, even though they were the ones to lead me to Christ. Stop looking at every person who has a different world view from you as the enemy who needs to be fixed. Instead, look at people how Jesus looked at them: living, valuable beings who need love. 

 

Storytelling should be sacrificed for preaching.

If your dialogue sounds like you are reading from a pamphlet about Jesus from the 1970’s, you have made a mistake. There’s a philosophy with Christian media that if it can change just one person’s mind then it doesn’t matter how hokey the writing turns out. As an artist who is a practicing Christian, this is very frustrating to me. My goal is for everything I do to be an act of worship. In other words, I want everything I do to glorify my Creator who gave me my gifts. This mindset encourages me to strive to do everything with a high quality. I avoid doing things halfway. When I write something, it doesn’t say, “This is a piece written by a Christian who is a Christian because God loves Christians who write about Him because Jesus is the best and everyone should be a Christian.” I do my best to reflect my values in my writing, but I am not going to sacrifice basic structure to force in a Bible lesson. There have been films like “Soul Surfer” and “The Miracle Season” that have been successful at having Christian values being a central part of the story without them constantly using “Christian-ese.” (See, there are a few faith-based movies that I like.) Let’s just tell good stories instead of trying to awkwardly shove the Gospel at people. 

 

Low Budget is an excuse for Low Quality 

No. No No. No No No No No. I go to a public college that does not get a huge amount of funding for students to make film projects. With what we have though, I have seen my peers make some stellar pieces of cinema. If my pals at college can make things with great actors, special effects, writing and direction on a no-money-budget, then Christian films should be able to do the same with their million dollar budgets. 

 

If people judge the movie, they are attacking your Christian faith.

No, they’re using basic critical thought to judge whether or not a film is worth watching. Calling a movie out because it had errors that could have easily been fixed is not attacking an entire religion. When Christians get up in arms about why a film should be loved and watched by everyone, it can be easy to give the wrong impression. You can get loud and angry with people when you are trying to argue your point, and when you are yelling, it’s kind of hard to do that whole, “love your neighbor” thing. If I was a person who didn’t believe in Jesus and someone told me I was attacking them personally because I didn’t like a movie, I would be concerned. I would think, “Geez, why is this person so upset over a movie I don’t like?” Your identity in Christ is not hinging on how many people like the latest Christian movie at the box office. Furthermore, if a fellow Christian does not like said latest movie, they are entitled to that opinion, especially when that opinion is grounded in truth. As believers, we are to be on constant alert for inconsistencies and things that can lead people away from the Lord. There are things in this genre that blatantly lead people away from what the Bible really says and if we sit by and keep quiet, we become part of the problem. 

                                                                              ***                                 

A dear friend, who happens to Hindu, told me that religion should not be a genre, and I agree with him 100%. This label is not helpful and honestly, I refuse to accept it as an actual genre. “The Passion of the Christ” was a highly successful film that was not marketed as a “faith-based” movie. It was advertised as a mainstream story that people of any and every background could enjoy. Because they marketed the film in this manner, the movie-going audience was not just a bunch of Christians who felt it was their duty to go watch a movie about Jesus. 

When people hear that a film is part of this so-called Christian genre, it repels people who aren’t already “in the club.” Films can often turn into a fan-service for Christians rather than as a way to get non-religious people interested. We need to get back to the root of storytelling, and the most successful stories are the ones that are relatable. Making films with one-dimensional characters who either think that the Angel of God has told them that they need to defend Jesus in their classroom or the Atheist villain who once believed in God but now is an evil person is not a way to use such a powerful medium of entertainment. Let’s make movies that truly reflect the human spiritual experience, which is messy and imperfect. Let’s stop comprising filmmaking in the name of ministry. Let’s start making our actions more important that the labels we put on them. 

 

Until Next Time, 

Abby 

 

Memory|Stream of Consciousness Blog

To follow up last week’s blog, writing is hard when you don’t have any ideas that you want to use. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got a LONG list of prompts. However between classes, work and theatre ventures, the creative writing part of my brain has checked out.  Maybe since I’m not called to rehearsal, I’ll get a burst of inspiration while I derp around my dorm room. Also, pro tip: don’t get paper cuts, because Band-Aids make it slightly difficult to type, even if they are the awesome Avengers kind. Better yet, don’t slice your wrist on the fly rail wire while you’re at work, because not only will your arm will hurt when you type, but your Sweet Ben will have to help you clean it and put a giant bandage on it. There’s no point in living in the past though, onto today!

Actually, I do like looking back at the past; that’s why I take so many pictures and am a scrapbook fanatic. A few of my friends have given me grief in the past for taking so many snapshots. It was a lot worse in high school, but you know what? I barely talk to my high school friends anymore. It’s not because we hate each other or anything; we’ve all just grown apart. I like having albums of photos to look back on and remember the wacky adventures I had with my high school besties. I enjoy having memories captured to reminisce with. I mean, how else am I gonna look back at the “Good Old Days”? 

For my high school/Associates Degree graduation party, my mom got over 400 photos printed to display on boards. After the party, I took the displays apart, but gave the photos a new home. I had recently moved into the former gaming/office room, and decided to line my door with photos. Every time I walk in or out the door, I saw the faces of people I love. Sometimes, they reminded me to pray for someone. Other times, they lifted my spirits because they remind me that I’m not alone in life. Since then, I’ve moved rooms and have half way moved out of the house. Even though that door of photos is gone, I still have all those precious snapshots tucked into an album that I’ll flip through every so often.

There are memories from old scrapbooks that make me remember times with people who used to be my closest friends. Some entries include twinning in Superman shirts, various snapchats from/involving Avery, a screenshot saying, “Antibodies is just around the corner”, playing card games after a black box rehearsal in my living room, and my ticket stub from seeing La La Land with my buddy Micah. Even just writing about those memories has made me smile, but here’s the thing: I barely talk to half of these people anymore. I’ve got memories scrapbooked from old crushes, boyfriends, and friends that turned into not so great pals. However, just because a relationship comes to an end for a sucky reason doesn’t mean you have to completely forget about the good memories you had with that person. You have people in your life for seasons at a time.

The art of photography is very important to me. I enjoy the silliness of taking selfies or goofy photos with my friends, but I also very much enjoy making art through the media. Mom still doesn’t get why I took darkroom photography in community college, but oh man, I loved that class. I was so glad that I still was allowed to use the photo lab during my final semester at Maple. The process of getting a single darkroom print is so long and tedious, but when you get a great shot, it’s all worth it. Plus, when you’ve got fun photos, you can add cartoons on top of them and make yourself crack up at your own jokes. 

I guess the idea of a single print taking a lot of work can relate to relationships. You can’t just expect a friendship to happen. You have to work for it. The thing with friendships though is that it doesn’t feel like work when it’s a true friendship. I used to feel like I had to work extremely hard for my “friendships”. Funny enough, the people I used to break my back to impress don’t have a presence in too many of the photos I hanging up in my dorm room for my senior year of college. Thing is though, those people show up in scrapbooks, journals and photo albums as good memories. So, I can either look at those people with bitterness and/or regret, or I can thank the Lord for the influence they had in my life for a time. We move on and grow up, but living with heavy thoughts from the past is not helpful in your growth process. If you pull anything from this jumbled stream of consciousness mess, hear this: treasure your memories, but don’t let them hold you back from new relationships and adventures. 

Fingers crossed that your friendly, neighborhood red-head gets a creative spark back while battling spanish quizzes. Thank you for reading, and happy memory-keeping. 

 

Until Next Time, 

Abby 

 

WRITER’S BLOCK: Aglet Edition

There are times when I get writer’s blocks. There are different types of blocks: ones when you are dealing with a combination of both lack of inspiration and motivation, and others where you are just lacking the ideas. And then there are the times when you are back to being a full time college student and you cannot make your brain sit down and write something deep. When I get in these funks, I just do word vomit writing on a random topic and see what comes of it. So let’s talk about something everyone should know about: Aglets.

Honestly, the only reason I know what in the world an aglet is credited to the classic Disney Channel show Phineas and Ferb. There’s one episode where the genius step brothers decide to raise awareness for the tiny piece of plastic/metal at the end of shoe laces. The big song of the episode, “A-G-L-E-T” is one that every now and then slips into my brain and won’t leave for a good, long while, even though the episode come out in 2009. In fact, it’s swimming around my head now. Maybe I’ll even dream about it tonight. If you haven’t listened to it ever, go look it up. It’s a bop. 

Aglets are very helpful to those whose shoes get attacked often. I admit it; I am guilty of untying my friend’s shoes from time to time. A shoe attack is truly successful when you are able to get the laces pulled out through the holes that keep them in place. If you’re a poor soul whose aglets have fallen off, or worse, never had aglets to begin with, you’re stuck trying to thread your frayed lace back through its hole. It’s extremely frustrating for the victim of the attack, but slightly amusing for the person who did the deed. 

When I was younger, I had a strange habit of picking at the aglets on my laces. I wasn’t enlightened to the fact the aglet was a friend to my shoe and therefore a friend of mine. Out of boredom, I would pull away at the plastic until my poor shoelace was left in ruins. I would then have to put a piece of scotch tape around the devastated shoe lace to avoid the dilemma of having to rethread a tattered piece of string. Thankfully, I am no longer a child and have learned the ways of the world. Well, at least the ways that involve the end of shoelaces. 

I wonder who the chap was that invented the aglet. This little piece of plastic is something that is taken for granted so often; maybe the inventor was taken for granted, too. I mean, he’s not a person like George Washington or Neil Armstrong that we learn about in history class. I bet he was the kind of guy that got made fun of in high school. He’d get his glasses knocked off or his books thrown across the hallway. All the while he’d think, “Someday I’m gonna prove all you wrong and do something great!” And what does he do? He invents this little thing that half the population doesn’t know the name of and dies without fame or fortune. 

*Jumps onto Internet*

After a quick Google search, I learned that the inventor credited to the creation of the aglet was a gentleman named “Unknown”. I guess his parents didn’t like him very much. Just goes to show you that you can do something awesome for the world, yet everyone still will forget your name when you die.

 

This ended up being a lot more depressing than I ever intended it to be. 

 

Lord, let me get inspiration/time to write next week.

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Until Next Time,

Abby

 

The ABC’s of Theatre

Theatre is full of words and phrases that can be confusing to one who is not heavily enveloped in the art. Due to this fact, I have taken the liberty to create a glossary of sorts: The ABC’s of Theatre. I hope you find it enlightening and helpful in your future theatre endeavors. 

 

A- is for Audience, which is the group of humans you have to entertain every night. 

B- is for Babies, which you pray are not in the audience. 

C- is for Coiling Cables, which you need to know how to do properly or your technical director might throw something at you. 

D- is for Dressing Room, which is where normal humans transform into whimsical stage characters. 

E- is for Ensemble, the group of people who make stage shows much more interesting. 

F- is for Fresnel, a type of lighting fixture. If you pronounce the “s” in the name, it is highly likely that your master electrician will make fun of you forever. 

G- is for Ghost Light, which should always be placed on the stage at the end of the evening before turning out work lights and leaving the space. This is for safety and to keep the ghosts in your theater happy. 

H- is for “Hamilton,” the musical that you are 95% confident that you could perform as a one-person show. 

I- is for Italian Run, a rehearsal in which the actors say their lines as quickly as possible. This is helpful in checking for line memorization and is guaranteed to make any show, regardless of genre, much funnier. 

J- is for Jukebox Musical, which is a show consisting of pre-existing songs. Examples include “Mamma Mia,” “All Shook Up,” and “American Idiot.” Some Jukebox Musicals are better than others, and others really should have just stayed on the radio. 

K- is for Knap, a technique used to mimic the sound of contact in a stage combat scene. This sound is often made by slapping your chest or thigh. Examples of knaps can be found when observing Super Kicks in WWE matches.

L- is for Lift and Fight Call, where actors practice lifts and fight scenes before the audience is let into the house. These are very important for safety, and any actor who thinks there are unnecessary has never been dropped on their head or punched in the mouth.  

M- is for Microphones, the things that get very sweaty after actors use them for a performance. 

N- is for Notes, the instructions directors and/or stage managers give you to make sure you continue to do well at your job. When you ignore these notes, you increase your chances of having a hard time getting future employment. 

O- is for Outdoor Theatre, for people who like to sweat more often and worry about weather more consistently while participating in the fine arts. 

P- is for Pit, which is either the term for a group of musicians or the place you hide the musicians for the show. Contrary to popular belief, it is not intended to be a trap for the musicians. 

Q- is for Quick Change, one of the most stressful things that can happen backstage. 

R- is for Rehearsal, the session of time where actors learn and practice the show. Sometimes, when actors, directors and SM staff are truly exhausted, it is possible to break a rehearsal. An example of this is when you are supposed to be a posh, British lady and yell like a southern rancher. 

S is for Shakespeare, the writer that everyone will claim to love but a lot of the time are fibbing to look cool and/or like an intellectual in the theatre community. 

T- is for Tech Week, the period of time where technicians don’t sleep.

U- is for Upstage, referring to the part of the stage that is furthest from the audience or when an actor draws a ridiculous amount of attention to themselves rather than the person who is the main focus of the scene. Most people are not a fan of this. 

V- is for Vamp, a musical term referring to a section of music that is repeated over and over again until the next section of music begins. These are usually used underneath dialogue, and depending on the performer, the conductor will either have to speed through the vamp or repeat it 53 times.

W- is for “Wicked,” the musical that kind of seems like fanfiction but is still doing super well on Broadway since 2003.

X- is for Cross, because writing out the whole word “cross” while taking blocking notes takes too much time and space. 

Y- is for Yoke, which is the part of a Source 4 Lighting Fixture that is attached to the pipe. You’re gonna wanna hope that this yoke is secure, as lighting fixtures obey the laws of gravity, regardless of whether or not there is an actor underneath them. 

Z- is for Zzzzzz, which is what you do after a 16 hour work day in the theater. 

 

 

Until Next Time,

Abby

 

A Year of Lasts

I still haven’t fully processed that this is the final year of my undergraduate program. Technically speaking, I’ve been working towards this degree since I was 15 years old, which is when I started my gen eds at my local community college. I spent three years completing my associates degree, a year taking art classes/trying to figure out where to transfer to, and will be beginning my third year at Missouri Western on August 26th, 2019. It’s so odd to think that in roughly eight months, I will be moving on to a new chapter of life. 

Last time moving into a dorm 

Last year of caf food 

Last round of college auditions

Last year of working in the Potter scene shop

Last two semesters of foreign language classes (Praise the Lord)

Last eight months of having to walk almost a mile to most of my classes

Last few advising sessions with Jeff

Last time I will celebrate a birthday where there is a high chance I will be on a film set

Last year of using my faithful blue dorm room bed spread

Last year of sharing a bathroom with three other girls

Last round of finals during undergrad

I spent a few days working on this list. While there are many more things that will be a “last” this year, I have been having a hard time making the list much longer. It was frustrating, because I had the idea for this post about four weeks ago. I said to myself, “I’m gonna make a blog post to commemorate my senior year of undergrad by talking about all the lasts that are coming.” The more I worked to come up with a list though, the harder it got. I was wondering if I was struggling with writer’s block, but then I realized what the real problem was: I was being too negative. 

You see, I was looking at this final year with the mindset of “Oh yeah, it sucks that I don’t have a ton of time left at this school.” Instead of being grateful for the fact that I am going into my senior year with strong relationships and expectations, I was focusing on how all of it will be over once May 2020 hits. When I realized what I was doing to myself, I took a step back to reevaluate how I was looking at this school year. I have made goals for myself in academics, work, and personal development, but my main goal for the 2019/2020 school year is to fully live in the moment. I don’t want to focus on how a good thing is coming to an end; I’d rather be enjoying the good thing while it is happening. 

I challenge anyone who is getting ready to go through a time of transition to not focus on how things are coming to an end. I have found the more I focus on the inevitable end, the less I enjoy the journey. I’d like to think that I am a bit of an expert when it comes to planning, but there are times when plans become too rigid and stressful. Instead of making sure every single “last” is absolutely perfect, I am going to try and let myself be free to feel whatever emotions may come. So bring on the final year of shows, films, APO meetings, GFS projects and surprise adventures that will come my way. I am eager to see what Senior Year will bring.

 

Until Next Time,

Abby

 

A Letter to 14-Year-Old Abby

Dear Abby, 

Hey, girl. It’s me: You. I’m the You that’s about seven-ish years older than you. You’re fourteen, and your life is about to become a lot more complicated than you ever thought it would. You see, in about seven months, you’re going to turn fifteen. You’ll learn to drive and get your first real job. You’ll start teaching piano to an eight-year-old girl and end up teaching twenty-two kids music before you turn twenty. You’ll get a boyfriend and start community college. You’ll start a double major in Animation and Theatre. You’ll get dumped (twice). You’ll drop a major. You’ll meet amazing people. You’ll see the life of someone you love dearly change completely for the better. There’s a lot of stuff I wish I could go back and tell you. I’m taking the opportunity to do it down, with the hopes that there’s some other fourteen year old girl who needs to read this letter. 

You’re gonna have crushes on a good handful of boys, and that’s okay. However, these boys won’t always treat you the way that you deserve to be treated. Understand that you are a treasure, no matter what anyone’s opinion of you. There will be a few boys who show an open interest in you, but goodness sakes, do not settle. You deserve to be treated like a queen: accept nothing less. When your heart gets broken, know that the hurt does not last forever. Also, understand that it’s okay to have good memories from relationships that came to an end. God brings people into our lives for seasons. Sometimes those seasons aren’t as long as we originally thought they would, but regardless of how long any relationship lasts, there is something you can learn from every person you encounter. 

Don’t give up on your dreams. You’ve got some huge ones, and you will accomplish some of them over the next seven years. No one can achieve them for you, and no one will want your dreams more than you do. Don’t let anyone tell you that what you want to do with your life is foolish. You are not a traditionalist or one to do things the conventional way. You are a trailblazer and an extraordinary achiever: own it. While your dreams are your own, know that you will have allies to your goals who will help you along the way. Also know that there will be people who don’t have your best interests in mind. Be discerning with who you open up to while also trusting those God has put in your life to help you grow.  

Taking care of yourself is important. In fact, it’s about the most important thing you can do. You love to take care of others. You’re really good at it, too. However, you tend to have trouble taking care of yourself. One of the best things I have learned recently is looking at the “Love your neighbor as yourself” verse in a different light. You see, that verse isn’t telling you to love others but treat yourself like crap. It means that you have to know how to love yourself in order to love others. Loving yourself includes making sure you get enough sleep, drinking water, being in the Word, going to counseling and taking your meds. You’re gonna want to fight your doctor for a long time about medicine, but there is nothing wrong with getting a bit of extra help. Do not let anyone convince you that you are wrong for doing things that truly help you be the best version of yourself. 

“No” is a sentence. You are going to have so many great opportunities come your way, but you cannot and should not say “yes” to all of them. There will be times where you feel that you have to justify yourself for why you are saying “no” to something. You’ll also feel like you’re the biggest disappoint that there ever was when you have to decline a job or experience, but that is not true. The world will not combust if you don’t step up for every single position. Sometimes, the best way for you to take care of yourself is for you to step back and let someone else be in charge, even if it’s a job that you truly love.

There’s going to be a lot of really crappy stuff that happens. At times, it will feel like the world is going to end. However, there is going to be some really amazing stuff that’s going to come your way that will remind you just how wonderful life can be. There are times I wish I could go back in time and actually talk to you, 14 year-old Abby. Sometimes I wish I could go back and tell you to avoid certain people or situations. The thing is though, every event that will happen in your life will shape you into the strong woman you will become. So I’ll leave you with this: live your life to the fullest. Love everyone, including yourself, full heartedly, even when they hurt you. There will be so many more mountains that will outweigh the number of valleys. Be present in the moment and savor every minute of life. I promise I will do the same. 

 

Yours Truly, 

Abby

 

30 Tips on How to Not Suck at College

I’m about to begin my seventh year of college. Obviously, this makes me a complete and total expert on all things college. Whether you’re beginning community college or a four year university, I have devised a list of 30 Tips that I have picked up over my time as being a 15 year old homeschooler at Maple Woods and as my 21 year old self going into my final year of undergrad. It’s a mix of things I learned: both things people said to me that I took to heart and things people told me that I ignored/later regretted. Enjoy!

30 Tips on How to Not Suck at College

(In no particular order of importance)

  1. Guys, go to class. Seriously, don’t be stupid and skip all the time. Your mom and dad aren’t here to tell you to get up for school. Take some responsibility for your life and get your butt to class. 
  2. For the love of everything good and right in the world, backup your files. You know that flash drive that you rely on? That little thing that holds every paper you have to turn in this semester? Yeah, it’ll probably poop out on you during finals week. It takes like two seconds to drag and drop files into an online storage site like Google drive. Use it or you will call your parents sobbing in December. 
  3. Prioritize sleep. There are times I am planning my homework and social schedules around my bedtime. All-nighters are horrid and if you’re up until 3:30am every single night, you will be a miserable grump. 
  4. Get a job. Most campuses have a lot of on-campus work options, but towns that have colleges are usually pretty good with working with student schedules. 
  5. Know your resources. Schools often offer a lot of free services, like tutoring and counseling centers. 
  6. Drink more water than any other liquid. 
  7. If you feel like you’re the only person who isn’t drinking, don’t feel lame, cause you aren’t the only one. 
  8. If you are drinking, for the sake of you and everyone around you, be safe and considerate. Literally no one wants to have puke in their car or on their living room floor. 
  9. Join a club. Or two. Or six. Clubs are GREAT.
  10.  I am a huge advocate for flashcard studying. Focus on what you are writing and get a friend to quiz you on the cards you’ve made. 
  11. Don’t use your microwave for science experiments. If you’re wondering what happens to candy corn when you put it in the microwave, let me save you the trouble: it smells like burnt cotton candy and turns into sugary lava that breaks bowls. 
  12. Set clear ground rules with your roommate(s). If an issue comes up, talk about it and resolve it as soon as possible. The longer you let things fester, the quicker bitter feelings build up. 
  13. It is not the end of the world if you have to drop a class. Preferably, do it before deadlines hit so you can get if not all then some of your money back. 
  14. Professors have office hours: utilize them. 
  15. Become a secret agent in the dining hall. Some might frown upon smuggling out extra fruit or yogurt, but it’s a nice way to have study snacks for later. Also, you’re spending a ton of money already, might as well stretch your dollar. 
  16. People will get mad at you if you leave your clothes in the washer and/or dryer. This anger could lead to your clothes being tossed on the floor. Don’t be that person. 
  17. Take pictures and/or make videos with your college pals. This time does not last forever, so take advantage of the awesome tools we have to save some memories. 
  18. Look back at Tip #7. Same thing applies with sex. If you don’t want to have sex/ don’t feel ready for it, do not allow anyone to make you feel stupid for not doing stuff that you aren’t comfortable with. 
  19.  Find friends that you can work well alongside. I’ve been told by a few people to never work with your friends, but I beg to differ with that statement. The best work partner I’ve ever had is my best friend and the fact that he and I know each other so well makes work more enjoyable and manageable. 
  20. Learn how to budget, whether or not you have a job. 
  21. Find yourself a podcast that talks about a subject that interests you, especially if you have a long drive back home. This podcast can also come in handy on long walks to classes or having background noise for homework evenings. 
  22. Freaking text your mom. She misses you. 
  23. You don’t need as many clothes/shoes/accessories as you think you do. You’ll probably end up wearing the same pair of shoes everyday and honestly, no one really cares what you look like. 
  24. HOWEVER: If you enjoy dressing up, you do you! Don’t feel like you have to change yourself just because you’re starting college.   
  25. Even if you don’t like sports, try to go to a few games, especially if they’re free with your student ID. During my first year at Missouri Western, I randomly found a bunch of theatre majors at a football game and we had a grand time talking about our career goals while our team got whipped. 
  26. Not everyone knows what weed smells like before going to college, and no, you’re not dumb for not knowing what it smells like. If you’re like me and didn’t know until you lived on the fourth floor of a building (which causes all the smoke to float up to your room), it smells like skunk spray. 
  27. Sometimes, if your neighbor is being rowdy, instead of going straight to your RA, just knock on their door yourself. Half the time, it’s just a bunch of boys who look like they could still be in middle school yelling at a video game. They’ll be quieter if you tell them you have an 8am the next morning. 
  28. Do not rule out picking up new hobbies when you go to college. While yes, you shouldn’t change yourself, it’s good to expand your interests; it can lead to new friends! For example, I never thought I would be a WWE fan, but now I have a Ricochet t-shirt and I love Becky Lynch with all my heart. Watching wrestling with my fella’s roommates has opened up a whole new world of friendships that I wouldn’t have had if I had stuck to my mentality of, “ugh, no, I don’t wanna watch this because my cousin in middle school loves WWE.”
  29. Any time a teacher offers extra credit, do it. Don’t be a fool. 
  30. Understand that it’s normal and okay for your high school relationships to drift apart when you go to college. This was something I struggled with hardcore my first three semesters at Missouri Western. I had a death grip on my high school friendships that I wanted so badly to stay strong. Because of this, I wasn’t fully living in the moment and enjoying my new friends. There’s nothing wrong with missing your hometown pals, but know that you shouldn’t shut out the possibility of new relationships.

 

College is an awesome time of growth, self-discovery, and(as stressful as it can be) should be a ton of fun. Make the most of the time you have. You have no idea how fast time flies until you’re getting ready to pack up your life one last time for senior year. 

Do you have any tips to share about the college experience? I’d love to read them in the comments below! To everyone preparing for school to begin, I wish you the best of luck and hope you have a great 2019/2020 school year! 

 

Until Next Time, 

Abby

 

Sewing Class

On February 15th around 2:15pm, I thought about going back to my dorm room and swallowing all of my anti-depressants. It was a Thursday. I was sitting on a stool trying to focus on the demonstration my professor was doing, but the invasive thoughts kept whispering in my brain. It would make people happier. You wouldn’t have to keep trying so hard. You aren’t feeling anything anymore anyways. 

I had thought about suicide before for brief seconds, but this was the first time that there was an action plan. It was also the first time I was rationalizing the thought. Praise the Lord, I had the instinct to text Sweet Ben, who was across the room at a sewing machine, and my friend Nathan, who was across campus. I told them both about the thought and that I felt that I was safe, but that I was scared. I knew that my parents were already worried about my mental state, but I didn’t end up telling them about all this until about two weeks later. 

I thought about killing myself many more times during the following two months. I hated going to counseling appointments because I felt like a loser. I didn’t want to take my Prozac because I didn’t think it was helping. For the first time in my life, I experienced an extreme struggle to get out of bed each morning. Going to church wasn’t much easier, because I felt like God was mad at me. I wasn’t sure who actually liked me and was just waiting for every important person in my life to drop me. On one of my lower evenings, I admitted to Ben that there were times when I got in my car by myself that I hoped I would get in an accident to end my hurting. It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever admitted to someone. 

During this period of my life, I was reading my bible every day. Not just reading a few verses and checking it off my list, but really studying the word and having a deep communication with the Lord. I had never felt closer in my relationship with God. So why was I contemplating ending my own life? Cause doesn’t it say God won’t ever give us more than we can handle? Doesn’t it say we are conquerors? Doesn’t it say He will never leave us or forsake us? 

Here’s the thing: the phrase, “God won’t give you more than you can handle” is complete crap. Guys, we gotta stop using this phrase, because that’s not what the Bible is saying to us. It also can make you seem like a jerk when you are trying to comfort people who are hurting. There’s a verse in 1 Corinthians that is quoted all the time, especially during times of suffering. In chapter 10 verse 13, Paul says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it.” Friends, trials are not the same thing as temptations. If you jump over to James, chapter 1 says that, “No one undergoing trials should say, ‘I am being tempted by God.’ For God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” It’s true that God won’t allow us to be tempted beyond our strength, but it does not say that we won’t deal with trials that feel like the world is falling down on us. God does not tempt us, but He does allow trials to enter our lives to sharpen and grow us. 

If you go over to 2 Corinthians 1:8-9a, you see that Paul is in a rough spot. He’s only about a paragraph into this letter to the church in Corinth when he unloads this. “For we don’t want you to be unaware, brother, of our affliction that took place in Asia: we were completely overwhelmed- beyond our strength-so that we even despaired of life. Indeed, we personally had a death sentence within ourselves…” 

O o f

Paul, the greatest missionary of all time, the guy who wrote a large chunk of the New Testament: he was open about the fact that he and his ministry partners felt so overwhelmed to the point of wanting to die. But look what Paul says in the second part of verse 9: “…so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises us. We have put our hope in Him that He will deliver us again.” God uses our afflictions to draw us closer to Him. He is the one who pulls us through the deep valleys. 

Here’s the hard truth: we live in a broken world. We have a sinful nature on an imperfect planet, and because things are not how God originally designed, crappy stuff happens in our lives. We often wonder why bad things happen or why we feel terrible, and the ultimate reason is that the world is not how it should be. People also often ask why God doesn’t stop all the terrible things that happen in the world, and that’s because we are creatures designed with free will. We get to choose how to handle our lives; God isn’t our puppet master. Rather, He wants to have a deep and meaningful relationship with us. 

Now, did I know in my heart that the paragraph above was true when I was going through my horrible patch of depression? Yes. Did it make things any better? Yes and no. Yes, because living with hope makes life so much more bearable. And no, because I don’t know about you, but when I’m having suicidal thoughts, I don’t want bible verses thrown at me with the hope that I’ll feel miraculously better. Of course, God could work this way if He wanted to, but He gets our emotions. Jesus got angry when He saw leaders leading poorly. Jesus cried with His friends when His buddy died, even when He knew that He was about to raise that guy from the dead. Heck, Jesus got to such an intense point of despair that He was sweating blood (look up hematidrosis; it’s insane). 

God gets our emotions, which is why He designed us to be relational beings. I was beyond blessed by the people in my life, specifically my roommates, my parents and Sweet Ben. My roommates sat with me while we drank hot beverages and would listen to my frustrations. My parents have been and always will be a safe spot for me to land, even when I’m not pleasant to be around. Sweet Ben held me when I was sobbing uncontrollably on multiple occasions. I was thankful that instead of telling me bible verses about how God is good and that everything happens for a reason all the time, my people loved on me when I didn’t love myself. I was never alone even when depression was rearing its ugly head. 

If you are struggling with scary thoughts, I implore you to seek out help. No one is meant to go through life alone. Sometimes it’s good to get someone else’s help with your burdens. Suicide is a permanent choice that rocks more peoples’ worlds than you could ever imagine. Ending your life is not the solution to your problems and it will certainly not make anyone’s life any easier. Every person is designed to love and to be loved by others; don’t rob people of the opportunity to have you in their life. 

Back towards the top of this page, I asked three questions: Doesn’t it say God won’t ever give us more than we can handle? Doesn’t it say we are conquerors? Doesn’t it say He will never leave us or forsake us? Paul answered the first question for us, but what about the second two? 

 

So, are we conquerors? Yes.

Romans 8:37 Yet amid all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who has loved us.

 

Doesn’t it say He will never leave us or forsake us? Yes (many times in fact).

 

Psalm 94:14 For the Lord will not forsake his people; he will not abandon his heritage

Deuteronomy 31:8 It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed

Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

I’m writing this while I watch the sunset over a lake in Oklahoma. There are thousands of bugs out singing their very loud song. My cousin and her friend are making friendship bracelets. My aunts and uncles are chatting about jobs. A few boats are still out hanging out on the lake. Down the hill, I saw a momma dear with two little fawns. I am so grateful that I did not listen to the intrusive thoughts I dealt with this last semester. If I had, I wouldn’t be sitting here enjoying the simple joys of a summer road trip. Life can still be hard. I still struggle with self-loathing thoughts from time to time. I sometimes feel I’m not wanted. However, I am constantly reminded of God’s love for me through the people He has put in my life. I believe that God loves us through others. He gives us hugs through tender-hearted friends. He encourages us with a kind word via a caring companion. He wipes away our tears through the love of a steadfast confidant. 

It’s July 27th, around 8:30pm, and by God’s grace I haven’t dealt with the scary thoughts I first had in sewing class for a few months now. It’s a Saturday. I am happy to be alive and growing. While I have not been cured of depression (and may never be), I know Jesus has conquered all. Because of this knowledge, I know I too can be an overcomer. 

If you or someone you love is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please use the prevention lifeline. Every life is valuable. 

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 1-800-273-8255

 

Until Next Time,

Abby

 

50 Ways to Love Another Human

There’s been a ton of “yuck” circulating as of late. It seems as if we’re spending a lot more time being angry with people instead of loving them. Regardless of race, gender, religion, political views, or whether or not the new “Cats” movie trailer gave you nightmares, all of us crave love in one way or another. A man named Dr. Gary Chapman wrote a book called “The Five Love Languages” which talks about how there are five different ways that we express and receive love: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Touch, Gifts, and Quality Time. Everyone accepts and gives love in different ways. Some people feel more loved when you give them a hug over you giving them a gift. While you can transfer affection to others in many different ways, it is always good to know which of the five is most prevalent in the people you interact with on the daily. This is super helpful in romantic relationships, but you can apply it to friendships and even work relationships. I’ve devised a list of 50 ways you can show love to another person  within the five categories of the love languages. That being said, let’s kick it off with…

 

Words of Affirmation: Expressing words to build someone up

*Note: Words can go a long way, whether positive or negative.*

 

1) Compliment their outfit (this works for girls and guys, friends)

2) Post something awesome about them on social media 

3) Make them a playlist that reminds you of them 

4) Text them motivational quotes 

5) Write them fun messages on sticky notes

6) Spam their Snapchat 

7) Remind them of what makes them unique and awesome

8) Encourage them to pursue their passions

9) Validate their emotions 

10) Tell them you’re proud of them 

 

Acts of Service: Doing things to serve another person that take effort

*Note: When doing an act of service, positivity is key. Tasks done negatively or out of obligation don’t come across as loving.*

 

11) Wipe down their kitchen counter 

12) Cover the bill

13) Make them a hot beverage

14) Offer to drive

15) Help with laundry

16) Watch their favorite show/movie

17) Untangle headphones 

18) Make them a home cooked meal

19) Do the dishes (even when they aren’t yours)

20) Ask, “How can I make your life better today?”

 

Touch: Sharing a connection physically

*Note: Just because a person has Touch as their top language does not mean they only want sexual touch*

 

21) Make up a super cool handshake

22) Be intentional with hugs 

23) Give high fives 

24) Pat their back 

25) Play with their hair 

26) Sit close to them

27) Quick kiss on the cheek

28) Make eye contact when in conversation 

29) Respect boundaries 

30) If you know they are not a touchy person, ask if it’s okay to touch them before hugs/pats on the back, etc. 

 

Gifts: Giving a meaningful gift that makes another person feel thought of

*Note: This does not mean a person is materialistic if they have Gifts as their primary love language.*

 

31) Bring something home from a vacation 

32) Surprise them with their favorite candy

33) Find a cool rock? Give that to them and say, “I think you rock.” 

34) Pick wildflowers 

35) Fill a journal with photos and written memories with them

36) Purchase a book you know they would enjoy

37) Take them to a thrift store and find a second-hand treasure to give them

38) Bring them their favorite beverage

39) Frame your favorite photo of the two of you together 

40) Spend a quarter on one of those fun toy vending machines

 

Quality Time: Undivided attention 

*Note: Dedicating specific time for this person is important, which means canceling plans can really hurt.*

 

41) Read a book out loud together

42) Talk without phones present

43) Have a girl’s night complete with face masks and manicures

44) Play a board game

45) Go to the park

46) Try out a new coffee shop neither one of you have visited

47) Take a _______ class together (cooking, painting, etc.)

48) Run errands together

49) Watch a tv show together

50) Volunteer together 

 

Below, I’ve attached a link to the Five Love Languages Quiz. If you’re interested to know what your ranking of the five categories is, I strongly encourage you to check it out. I have found that knowing the love languages of people I care about has been super helpful in being a better friend and companion. Take time today to spread love to others. It’s important to remember that even though all of us have different opinions, we all still need to be loved by others. Just because someone thinks about the world in a way that you don’t agree with doesn’t mean that they are any less deserving of love and respect. 

 

Link to Quiz!

 

Until Next Time,

Abby