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Rome Highlight Reel

Hello, 2020! Woof, we’re only two weeks into this year and life is C R A Z Y! However, it’s the best kind of crazy. It’s only 43 days till the opening night of my final performance at Missouri Western, 73 days till my 22nd birthday, 108 days till graduation, and 217 days till I marry my best friend. Life is bonkers, y’all. 

I was blessed to end 2019 and ring in 2020 in Italy with my future-in-laws. For those who don’t know, Sweet Ben’s mom is at the Nato Defense College in Rome and will soon begin her next assignment in Naples, Italy. Ben’s sister and dad are also abroad with her, so this trip right after Christmas was the first time we had all been together since August when Ben and I sent them off at the airport. Over the course of eleven days, I got to have so many wonderful adventures in a country I had always dreamed of visiting. Here is an abridged version of the eleven days I got to spend with Ben and his family in Rome! 

Day 1 (12/27)

Highlight: After three flights (one of which was eight hours long), we landed in Rome and got to hug Ben’s parents and sister. Once Ben and I had a nap after lunch to battle jet lag, we took the Metro to a cozy little pizzeria. Little did I know that the first thing you see once you exit the station that leads to the restaurant is the Colosseum. Yeah, that was a pretty nifty sight to behold before dinner. 

Favorite Taste: Salami Pizza. Honorable mention goes to the shot of Limoncello after dinner. 

Fun Fact: It’s super common for Europeans to have coffee after dinner. This is a cultural norm I can totally get behind. 

 

Day 2 (12/28)

Highlight: Sant’Eustachio is said to be one of the best coffee shops in Rome. Judging by the crowd that was crammed into this relatively small space, a lot of people thought it was really good. If you’re ever in Rome, go check out this place. While it was a bit overwhelming, my Romeo e Giulietta was delightful. 

Favorite Taste: Gnocchi and Mozzarella in Tomato Sauce at this little corner restaurant we found by wandering down the wrong street 

Fun Fact: In 609, The Pantheon was the first temple that once honored Roman gods to be transformed into a church. This saved this brilliant piece of architecture from being destroyed during the Middle Ages.

 

Day 3 (12/29)

Highlight: On the first Sunday of the month, it is free to enter into Vatican City, which causes a TON of people to come out to visit. After going through the museum (which includes the jaw-dropping Sistine Chapel), we found a shortcut to go into St. Peter’s Basilica. Wandering through the gigantic church and praying with Ben for our future marriage was a beautiful experience that I will treasure for the rest of my life. 

Favorite Taste: Cappuccino after visiting Vatican City

Fun Fact: Michelangelo, the artist who painted the Sistine Chapel, originally said “no” to painting the massive room because he reasoned that he was a sculptor, not a painter. The Sistine Chapel is considered to be the greatest masterpiece ever created. You aren’t allowed to take photos of the chapel, so enjoy this doggo statue that we found. 

 

Day 4 (12/30)

Highlight: Enjoying a lazy day and taking Star and Carebear on a walk. 

Favorite Taste: The richest hot chocolate I have ever tasted with the espresso I mixed into it because mochas do not exist in Rome

Fun Fact: People take their dogs EVERYWHERE. It was so funny to see so many different dogs out and about, including in the malls and some restaurants!  

 

Day 5 (12/31)

Highlight: We spent the last day of the year exploring an apartment complex that has sixteen murals on the sides of the buildings. There were so many moments throughout this trip where I would turn to Ben and say, “Can you imagine looking out your window every day to see *insert amazing sight*?” My personal favorite was the wall with rainbow squares. We were also able to find a coffee shop that put a bit of chocolate in coffee, which made me quite happy. 

Favorite Taste: French champagne with apple juice to ring in the New Year

Fun Fact: Many Italians wear red underwear to ring in the New Year. It’s said to bring good luck!

 

 

Day 6 (1/1)

Highlight: There’s sight called the Aventine Keyhole on a hill in a village in Rome, where you have a breath-taking view of St. Peter’s Basilica. We waited in line for almost an hour to take a look through this keyhole, and boy, was it worth it. (Photo credit of the view goes to Google, as my little iPhone wasn’t able to do the view justice)

Favorite Taste: Mini tiramisu at a 95 year old coffee shop 

Fun Fact: The keyhole is part of the property owned by the Priory of the Knights of Malta, a Roman Catholic religious order of crusader knights that was formed in the 11th century. It is the oldest surviving chivalric order in the world and is a sovereign entity under international law.

 

Day 7 (1/2)

Highlight: Climbing to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa is a TRIP, y’all. The climb is worth it though for the amazing view you get of the city. 

Favorite Taste: Lemon and Strawberry Gelato in the train station 

Fun Fact: Keith Allen Haring was an American artist whose pop art and graffiti-like work was inspired by NYC streets. One of his works can be found in Pisa, Italy! 

 

Day 8 (1/3)

Highlight: Ben and I took a walk with his mom in search of coffee. Afterwords, I played Monopoly for the first time in about eight years. The game took three hours, and because of my stubbornness and negotiation skills, I somehow won. Ben was proud. 

Favorite Taste: Chicken dumplings at an Italian Chinese restaurant 

Fun Fact: Monopoly was first published in 1935. It’s been causing fits of rage and strain on every sort of relationship around the world for 85 years. 

 

 

Day 9 (1/4)

Highlight: Van Gogh and Monet are two of my favorite painters ever. We got to have a VR experience where the viewer got to tour through the world of the some of the works created by these two artists. Not gonna lie, it was a bit emotional for me to get to be immersed in paintings I’ve admired my whole life. 

Favorite Taste: Fresh bruschetta mmmmm so good. Know what’s not good? Green Apple Limoncello. It’s like drinking battery acid. 

Fun Fact: You can trace the origin of bruschetta back to Ancient Roman times. It’s popularity has spread a lot since then and is still a classic favorite in Italian restaurants. 

 

Day 10 (1/5)

Highlight: While we were wandering around the ancient ruins of Ostia, I saw a large black cat just doing his thing. I followed him to take a picture and, naturally, he ran away because some weird American was being annoying. When we went through the bookstore, we found the same cat and his friend just chilling out in the shop! We saw a few other cats when we were leaving to head back home, which was probably the largest population of cats we saw on the whole trip. We happened to see another cat during our night tour of the Colosseum. It was quite funny to see people be more interested in the cat living in the ancient architecture than the stunning building itself.  

Favorite Taste: Marble cake at the café in Ostia

Fun Fact: Ostia was a port and commercial center of republican Rome. The ruins of the city include an amphitheater that could seat up to 4,000 people. Bonus fact: there are signs outside the Colosseum telling guests to not disturb any cats that are on sight. Apparently, there is a kitty colony in the stadium! 

 

Day 11 (1/6)

Highlight: There were some ridiculous seagulls we encountered during our final day in Rome. It’s almost as if they were posing for people as they took photos of them. Ben and I spent a lot of time trying to translate what these weird birds were squawking at each other. 

Favorite Taste: Bubble Toffee from my La Befana stocking

Fun Fact: The story of Pinocchio originated in Italy and the character is a common souvenir you can find on just about any corner. When we were walking through the city, we found a real life Geppetto!

 

I have always been of the belief that everyone needs to leave their home country at least once in their life. Traveling expands your worldview, reminding you how much bigger this planet is outside of your hometown. I am so thankful that I got to satisfy my travel bug urge in Rome with the Smiths, and look forward to more travels in the future!

 

Until Next Time,

Abby

 

The End of the Decade Post

Huzzah, it’s another end of the decade/year post. Woo. So original. Bet you’ve never seen one of these before!

Anyway

During one of my flights on the way to Rome to visit my future in-laws, I looked back at the start of the journal I have been on-and-off writing in since December 3rd, 2018. It affectionately was nicknamed, “Break Up Journal #2” (thank you for the purchase, Mom.) It is astounding to see how quickly life changed over the course of those first few months of that journal. Beginning a relationship with my best friend from the scene shop was not in the plan. But as I have said before, God always has better plans than we do.

Throughout the course of this decade, I have learned so much about life. Sometimes, there are people who are only in your life for a short season, and that’s okay. There are times where it is best to stay quiet and do your job, even when you work with difficult people. There are times where you must stand up for yourself. There are times where the right course of action is the unpopular one. People change, and so do you. You must know when to apologize. You must know when you are at fault, but more importantly, you must also know when you are not at fault. It is okay to protect yourself. It is vital to love yourself. Your health is more important than pleasing others. Just because you fail does not make you a Failure: it makes you human. You are blessed with gifts in a unique way. No one can live your life for you; do not waste it.

There is so much more I have learned, yet there is even more I have yet to discover. I am eager for this new decade, as there is so much to come already. I’ll be getting married. Lord willing, I will begin grad school. Maybe even have kids, who knows. No matter what happens, life is never boring. No matter what comes my way, I look forward with hope and joyful anticipation.

As far as goals go, my main writing goal is to spend more time creating pieces that I actually am proud of. I got close to my goal of posting a blog every week in 2019, and even though I fell off the wagon over the last few weeks of this year, I’m still happy that I mostly stuck to my goal. However, posting weekly is not practical with the life I am living at the moment. I’m about to begin my final semester of undergrad. I’m planning a wedding. I’ll be applying for grad school. Life is bonkers. So, instead of hurriedly scraping together a post every week to hit a deadline, I will be posting on a bi-weekly basis in 2020. Twenty-six posts during a year of massive life change seems like a pretty solid goal. Perhaps 2020 will finally be the year I successfully complete a year long personal writing challenge!

First post of 2020 will be up on January 12th! I look forward to sharing about my trip to Rome. Fun fact: this entire post was written while waiting in line to see the Vatican. My feet are numb and there is an insane amount of people. Life is bonkers. Best wishes to all as you begin this next decade!

 

Until next time,

Abby

 

When You Feel Like You Are Letting Everyone Down

Hi, my name is Abby, and I deny the fact that I am a perfectionist and a people-pleaser. But alas, I am both of these things. On the enneagram scale I am a 3w2, which is a combination of “The Performer/Achiever” and “The Caregiver”, as well as being an ESTJ on the Myers Briggs scale. If you look up basic traits of these personality types, you find these major points across the board.

  • Basic Strength: leading and serving other people.
  • Basic Fear: failing and being unworthy of love. To avoid this, they set and accomplish goals to feel successful and worthy. They also fear having a bad reputation
  • Basic Desire: to be admired and accepted. They seek value through accomplishment, which may push them deeper into their work, which sometimes leads to being a workaholic.

Now, you may not subscribe to personality theory, but over the past five years of learning more about various theories, I have come to better understand myself and others. The biggest thing I have learned about myself is that I am my own worst critic. Seriously, I am probably one of the most self-critical people you will ever meet. However, my mindset tells me that I must be hard on myself in order to achieve and not let others down. This ends up being horrible counterproductive and a hole that I have a hard time escaping.

No one is perfect. There are times when you will mess up. You will need to ask for forgiveness, and 95% of the time, if you truly communicate your remorse, the other party will forgive you. I have found though that often times it is easier to forgive another person than it is to forgive yourself. Sure, the other person can say, “What you did upset me, but I forgive you.” But with me, the fact that I have upset another person destroys my soul. I feel that I need to keep punishing myself, even if I have already dealt with the consequences.

Here’s the kicker though: I am saved by grace. The God of the Universe came down from heaven to die for my sins so that I didn’t have to pay for them. Jesus took all the blame so I don’t have to suffer the eternal consequences. The fact that we are commanded by God to forgive one another is to be a representation of His love for us. If God forgave all of mankind, then we are supposed to offer that same kind of love to others. Just because God forgave us though, doesn’t mean the task is complete. It takes the other party to accept forgiveness to make the transaction complete.

When you beat yourself up after someone has forgiven you, you have thrown that person’s grace out the window. More often than not, people move on. When you dwell on the fact that you messed up two weeks ago on something, you are hindering yourself from moving forward. You cannot expect yourself to be perfect. It is foolish to think that you will never let someone down. But when you realize 1) that you are not a disappointment to everyone in your life, and 2) that you must give yourself grace when you mess up, you are able to be a much happier person.

I’m currently about to begin finals week. I am stressed. I’ve shed many tears over the past week. I have felt like I have disappointed every single one of my professors and that I’ve been a bad friend and a crappy girlfriend. But to anyone who feels this way (myself included): STOP. These are lies. You are not a failure. You are not a disappointment. You are not a bad person. You are not defined by your mistakes. You are human. Every person that you feel you are letting down? Yeah, they have all screwed up in the past too. Give yourself some grace. Dust yourself off and keep going. More often than not, you learn more from your mistakes than your successes. Embrace the chaos, remember to breathe, and keep moving forward.

 

Until Next Time,

Abby

Things Change

Things change. 

“Yeah, duh. Come on, Abby. We all know this, what the heck are you getting at?” That’s what I’m guessing you’re saying at least. But you know what? I just watched “Frozen 2” and I have T H O U G H T S, OKAY?

*deep breath* Sorry y’all, I’ve been going through an emotional roller coaster over the last week and a half. Watching this gorgeous movie has made me sit down with a cup of coffee and process the jumble of thoughts I have been pushing aside for the past ten days. 

 I am not the same person I was a year ago. To be honest, I am not the same person I was at the beginning of the summer. And as I have changed, the people around me have changed as well. Some of those people have stayed in my life while others have drifted away. Along the way, new faces have entered into my life and friendships have grown that are now divine blessings. Others have left deep wounds in my spirit that have left scars. While healing as happened, there are still reminders of pain that have come from change. 

A year ago, I was mourning the loss of what I thought was my future. The “ideal” that I had created in my mind was gone. But, praise the Lord, I was surrounded with good people. While I was struggling with my grief, I was presented with opportunities to let my burdens to be carried by others. I also was given the chance to pour into the people I cared about most. I was able to witness miraculous life changes that I might not have seen if my life hadn’t been flipped upside down. 

Without giving away the plot of “Frozen 2,” let me just say that this is a great example of showing how even when things seem to be the worst that they can possibly be, you can still choose to move forward. When you accept the fact that change is a normal part of life, it allows you to be on the lookout for the good things that are coming. Life often does not turn out the way that we think it will, and more often than not, it’s for the better that things change. 

Over this past year, I have learned to loosen my grip on plans. Slowly but surely, the grip is becoming an open palm. I strive to let my life be an offering, regardless of whether or not my plans go the way I think they should go. So, as I travel deeper into the unknown, I will be holding on tight to the thing that never changes: the love my Heavenly Father has for me. 

 

Until Next Time, 

Abby 

Writing Q&A

Woooooooo Abby is drowning in homework and studying and memorizing scripts, so she decided to do a Writer’s Q&A she found online. Enjoy! 

What type of writing do you do? I used to want to be a novelist. Like, that was my dream career. While I still would love to do that, my favorite thing to write at the moment are plays! I also am an avid journaler. 

What genres and/or topics do you write about? In this season of life, I have been writing a lot about mental health. However, I used to write an insane amount of Star Wars and Marvel fanfiction. I plan to get back into the Star Wars storylines I was working on at some point soon. 

How long have you been writing? Last time I cleaned my room, I found a “book” I wrote in second grade. 

Are you published? On the internet? Yes, hello, this is my blog. 

What was the first story you ever wrote? I think it was about an island girl named Maya or something about Thomas the Tank Engine. 

Why do you write? A lot of the time I feel like my brain is spinning with a billion words. I write to get them out. 

How do you find time to write? At the moment, panic procrastination is how I have been writing. Ideally, I would like to spend time in the mornings writing after I spend time reading my bible. Hopefully we will be able to get back into that routine soon. 

When and where are the best times to write? When: when I don’t have Spanish homework. Where: give me a local coffee shop with decent wifi and we’re in business. 

Favorite food/drinks while writing? See above (just give me hot coffee and I’m set)

Your writing playlist? The “Monsters Inc.” and Star Wars scores are my long time favorites, but I recently got into Alec Benjamin’s work. 

What do family/friends/loved ones think of you writing? I think they like it? 

Parts of writing you enjoy the most? I love writing fight scenes and witty banter scenes. 

Parts of writing you find challenging? I hate writing transitions, man. 

What do you write with and on? I prefer writing in a notebook, but I have recently become addicted to Google Docs as my saving grace. 

How do you overcome writer’s block? Ha ha. 

How do you motivate yourself to write? Freaking deadlines. I thrive on deadlines. 

Writers who inspire you as a creator? John Green, JK Rowling, Stephen Edmond, Christine Riccio, David Auburn, Alex Hirsh, Rachel Hollis, W.T.R. Shaw (Sweet Ben) and Nathan Gonder

Books that inspire you as a writer? “Winter Town,” “Again, But Better,” “Turtles All The Way Down” and the Harry Potter series. 

Best advice you’ve gotten as a writer? Never stop writing, even when you don’t like your work. 

Writing goals this year: In 2020, I want to write a new short play and have a friend at Missouri Western direct it. 

 

Life is crazy, but writing is always a wonderful escape, even if it’s just a self-reflection on the craft. 

Thank goodness for Fall Break. 

Until Next Time, 

Abby

 

Hard Days

There are mornings that I don’t want to get out of bed. I lay burrowed under my blankets and stare at the alarm on my phone. I know all of the things that I have to be responsible for and wonder who would notice if I didn’t show up for those responsibilities. I pull myself up and sit on the edge of my bed, looking down at the floor as I try to decide if I want my feet to touch the floor. I look back at my pillow one last time, wanting to head back to blissful sleep. But I don’t, because I know there is joy to be awake for, even in the hard days.

 

There are afternoons when I find myself wondering why I am doing what I am doing. I feel as if everything I am doing is absolutely wrong and that everyone around me thinks I am a huge idiot. I feel that I will never move forward because whenever I make progress I seem to also take steps backwards. I often times consider giving up on the plans I’ve made and the dreams I’m chasing. But I don’t, because I know I am capable of pressing on, even on the hard days.

 

There are some nights when I just stare at my open pill bottle. I hold it as I stand barefoot in the bathroom and I glance up at my reflection in the mirror. I sigh. I look back into the bottle wrapped in washi tape and begrudgingly take a dose. The whole time I’m thinking, “I don’t want to take this. I shouldn’t need to take this. I hate taking this.” There are nights I want to dump all the little white pills into the toilet and send them swirling away. But I don’t, because I know they help with the hard days.

 

There will always be hard days. I accept that there are periods of life where there will be more hard days than easy ones. Sometimes, the best thing you can do for yourself on hard days is remind yourself that they will pass. It may take time, but our hard days show us how great that easy days are. To anyone dealing with a difficult season: keep pushing forward, even if it means just taking one step each day.

 

Until Next Time,

Abby

 

You Might be a “Mom Friend” if…

Me: “Hey, maybe we shouldn’t climb over the room dividers on the balconies in this hotel.”

Friend: “Okay, thanks MOM.”

 

You ever deal with conversations like this? Well my friend, you most likely can be categorized as “The Mom Friend.” This special type of person possesses abilities that can be both a blessing and a curse. Over the years, I have found myself in this category, and I have identified ten traits that might help you too realize that you indeed are “The Mom Friend.” 

 

 

  • You know other people’s schedules better than they do. You know when they’re free to hang out because you know when they have classes and what days they work late. When making plans, you’re the one to remind people not to double-book themselves. Bonus points if you have a color-coded planner for your own schedule. giphy (6)
  • You’re usually the sober one. I’ve only gone to four parties over the past two and a half years and have sober at 75% of them. Most of the time, the Mom Friend can also be known as the “DD,” aka, the Designated Driver. Thankfully, I’ve been blessed with college pals who don’t make me feel like a loser for drinking my Diet Coke at a get-together. tenor (1)
  • You check in on friends when they have a long drive home. Oh Lord, I cannot tell you how many times I have stayed up waiting for a friend to text me that they have gotten home and have freaked out irrationally that they have died when they don’t tell me they are indeed safe. Y’all, just send me a snap so I can go to sleep.  giphy (5)
  • You’re the one to get the phone call. On the flip side, if a friend is in distress, you best know that the Mom Friend will be the one to get a phone call. Whether it’s letting someone vent over the phone or coming to show up when someone needs you, you’re the one who will always pick up the phone to lend a hand. giphy (4)
  • You take on the weight of your peoples’ problems. And here’s the thing: you’ve also got a ton of problems. However, you more often than not will set aside your own issues to help others work through their struggles. You gotta be careful with this though, because you will often forget that your problems are just as valid. giphy (3)
  • You experience burnout about once a month. When you inevitably forget to take care of yourself, you experience a phenomenon called Burnout. You’re overly tired, lack motivation to be your normally chipper/organized self and end up snapping at people you love. This is when you take a step back from everyone and have a magical thing called, “Me-Time.” I spend my Me-Time scrapbooking, watching cartoons and/or reading something that does not involve school. It is so helpful and needed to avoid burnout. tenor
  • You don’t understand the term, “Letting Loose.” See #2. ‘Nough said. In all seriousness, it’s not just at parties involving adult beverages I’m referencing. I’m talking about going to the movies with pals, playing games or just sitting still for 30 minutes. It’s hard to relax when you feel like you always have to be taking care of other people.  calm-down-gif
  • You have a really hard time not telling people that they are making stupid choices. When your friends are being dumb, most of the time you just want to smack them and tell them to fix their life. While it is needed at times to call people out when they are making bad choices, sometimes, you have to let people learn from their mistakes. You can’t fix everyone else’s problems. *GASPS* I know, right? giphy
  • Your friends ignore your well-thought out ideas. And then they end up doing your idea in the end after they spend 30 minutes trying to figure out a plan. source
  • Your go-to question to ask when people walk into your home is, “Can I get you a *INSERT HOT BEVERAGE*?” Literally whenever any person walks into my dorm room whether it’s to study, watch Gravity Falls or play rowdy card games, I will offer them some form of hot beverage from my super cute coffee bar. This especially comes into play when someone walks into my dorm room with a sad look on their face, though there are many other reasons someone would need a hot drink. I follow the Sheldon Cooper Beverage Social Protocols, which are as follows: 

 

Upset: Tea

Upset about an unannounced house guest / Outraged: Cocoa

Angrier than ever and filled with despair: Hot apple cider with cinnamon sticks

Drunk: Coffee

For Jewish guests: Chicken broth

For Indian guests: Chai tea. If cardamom seeds are unavailable, English breakfast tea.

(See https://the-big-bang-theory.com/sheldons_beverage_protocols/ for more details on how to properly serve hot beverages) 

tumblr_meu5b7TJQA1r2nz2so1_400

We all need at least one Mom Friend in our lives, even people who fall into the category of companionship. Take time today to encourage the Mom Friends in your life; they’re probably the reason you’ve eaten, had enough water today and have a smile on your face. As the cover photo shows, Mom Friends are Superheroes! 

 

Until Next Time, 

 

Abby

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. 

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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