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Category: Personal

Bullet Journaling: What It Is and Why I’m Trying It

 What is it?

A bullet journal is basically a calendar/planner/to-do list/shopping list/personal journal/trapper keeper in one notebook that incorporates artistry and organization in equal parts. It includes things like yearly book lists, monthly spreads (monthlies), weekly spreads (weeklies), and even dailies (if you’re that ambitious, which I’m not). It uses a system or key that can be catered to your specific needs, but essentially has one symbol for a to-do list item, one for events, one for appointments, etc. I also color code my journal.

Why do it?

For me, it’s because I can never find a planner that fits all my needs. With a bullet journal, you design the pages yourself. You can also switch up the layout at any time.

Isn’t it just a lot of work?

Yes, it’s work, but it’s also an art form. (Well, mine isn’t quite there yet.) It’s fun to see how ornate some people get with their illustrations (check out #bujo or #bulletjournaling on Instagram). I hope to get to a point where my journal incorporates more art someday, but for now I’m focusing on my hand lettering. I’m learning to letter with brush pens, and it’s a challenge but very rewarding! I’ve never been happy with my handwriting, and this is broadening my skills.

Bullet Journal

To see my personal efforts with bullet journaling, follow me on Instagram @annachenke.

Credit to the following Instagrammers for the use of their photos:








If you want a great introductory book on this hobby, I recommend Dot Journaling: A Practical Guide by Rachel Wilkerson Miller.


Blessings Amid Trials


I have been absent from the blog—and from many areas of my life—for the past few months due to a health situation. At times it felt like it would never end. But on the other side of the tunnel, there is light. There is life. And I’m returning to it at last.

For the second time in my twenty-eight years of life, I found myself in a debilitating health situation that was solely caused by that silent thief of time and joy: stress. I randomly started having what was later diagnosed (after many seizures, several ER trips, and a hospital stay) as psychogenic non-epileptic seizures. I was having up to five seizures a day at one point. I had no warning when they were coming on, and it was very frightening. I had no recollection of what happened during a seizure. I would just wake up wherever I either slumped or fell with no idea how long I had been out.

It was a terrifying period that lasted from the beginning of October to early December. I am still receiving treatment for the seizures and another issue that sprang up with the nerves in my left leg after my hospital stay. I should be off crutches soon!

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

This has been a very tough time for me for obvious reasons. But, more than anything, I have been reminded how blessed I am and how faithful God is through everything that’s happened. When I came home from the hospital and needed 24-hour supervision, I was able to stay with a friend for a week so that I wouldn’t be alone. After that, my other friends created a Google schedule and took shifts so that I wouldn’t have to be alone and in danger of falling and injuring myself. God has provided in ways I would never have expected. I have received gift cards from my coworkers and from anonymous sources in the mail to pay for groceries. I have received kind words and cheering visits. I have received so much love.

I have also been blessed with wonderful doctors, who have taken excellent care of me. I am so grateful to the friends who have gotten me to every appointment, as I am not able to drive until March because of the seizures. This will prove challenging once I start work again in January, but I know that something will work out.

Most of all, I am thankful for how much my faith and trust in God has been tested and grown throughout this experience. It has been hard, but it seems I needed a wake up call—and the message has been received. I need to stop being ruled by fear and rely on God more. I need to practice taking things one day at a time. I need to find joy in the little things. I need to focus on relationships rather than my circumstances.

I’ve read a lot about dealing with and eliminating stress and anxiety in the last few months. I’ve acquired some new methods of coping, as it seems my body just doesn’t process stress in the way that other people’s bodies do. But I’m ready now to start living normally again. I can’t wait!

Here are two recommendations from the books that I’ve read to help me through this time:

Becoming ResilientStress Cure

Becoming Resilient: How to Move Through Suffering and Come Back Stronger by Donna Gibbs

The Stress Cure: Praying Your Way to Personal Peace by Linda Evans Shepherd

May you find peace and stress-relief in your own life. I hope that my next lifestyle post on stress reduction, full of practical tips, can help with that. Look for it next Wednesday, January 3. Cheers to a better 2018!


P. S. To read about the first time my health was rocked by stress, read my previous post, “Walking in Step With the Lord.”




Dear Readers

My dear readers,

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted. You have my apologies. I have been away from the blog for health reasons and have been focusing on recovering. However, I’m happy to announce that I’m well enough to start writing again! I have some exciting posts in the works, including my best books of 2017, resolutions for 2018, book reviews, and a more personal post about the past few months.

Stay tuned for new posts in the upcoming weeks!

Merry Christmas!


Finding Hope in the Wake of Charlottesville

I’ve been thinking about what to write in the aftermath of this weekend’s horrifying display of humanity at its ugliest. I can’t fail to address something like this on my blog. It’s too important in the life of every American. But what can I, a privileged white woman, say in light of the criminal, racially motivated hatred that was displayed by white supremacists, including neo-Nazis and the KKK? After three tragic deaths and 19 injured victims?

What do I know of prejudice? The answer is nothing. I have never—and never will—suffer anything like the prejudice that a person of color experiences on a regular basis. However, after days of watching Twitter and reading the news, I do have something to say about how we can respond to these events.

Reflections on How White People (Like Me) Can Respond

The first thing we can—and SHOULD—do is to educate ourselves. Go beyond social media. Read the news reports. Watch the Vice documentary “Charlottesville: Race and Terror,” but be prepared to be disturbed. It’s vital to learn the truth about what’s going on in America and why we need to take a stand against it.

During that process, you will find—or, perhaps, have already found—that there is a lot of vitriol being spewed right now—against the president, against the perpetrators of these events. This anger is justified. I stand firmly against racism in all forms and degrees. As thoughtful and justice-conscious human beings, we should be infuriated by what happened this weekend—and by every act of racism that takes place in our world.

As a Christian, one crucial thing I need to point out is that the KKK claims to be a Christian group but THIS IS NOT TRUE. In the words of my friend, Darwin M. Dean II., “People with the ideology of racism and white supremacism could not be further from God’s light. They are not Christians; they are evil.” God created us in His image—black, brown, white, and all variations in between. We all share equally in His inheritance of eternal life, should we choose to accept His Son as our Savior.

But after the initial shock has passed, is rage and hate the way forward? Is it a helpful way to proceed?

I believe that we need to come together as a nation, in spite of everything that’s happened. But we have work to do first. We need to move forward, calling oppressors and aggressors by name and denouncing racism as a nation. We need to stand together against future extremist rallies like this one, as more are being planned even as I write (information taken from the Vice documentary previously cited). Step one is taking down the monuments that glorify slavery. Shout out to Baltimore for taking action on this already! These statues are the supposed excuse for these white supremacist marches, and they should have been taken down long ago.

I also think we should pray for our nation and its leadership, for those who were attacked and for their families, and for all enemies of human rights and dignity.

In Matthew 5:43-44, Jesus says: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Yes, I think we should pray for the white supremacists, controversial as that might be. God alone can change the hearts and minds of human beings—and this protest showed that a lot of hearts and minds need to be changed. More than any of us would wish to be the case in our country.

I believe we need to resist the temptation to fight hate with hate and respond with hope instead.
And in this case, hope means taking action and showing the world—especially our brothers and sisters of color—what we stand for.

I believe that we should . . .

  • Talk to our African American and Jewish friends about their thoughts on the events and learn from their perspective
  • Stay informed on current events
  • Be an active participant in conversations about race and racism in America and around the world
  • Call out racism when we see it
  • Take part in peaceful protests
  • Contact our state representatives about supporting rights for all, and call for the resignations of those who have spoken in favor of white supremacists in the past
  • Donate to worthy causes that further social justice and civil rights
  • And make a difference every day by doing whatever good we can.

What’s not helpful . . . I don’t believe it’s positive or productive for mobs to pull down monuments. The process of taking these monuments down can and should be mandated by each state’s government.

I don’t believe hate-filled tweets help either. Whether you’re black, brown, or white, there is great value in respect. For those who say some don’t deserve our respect, I have to admit that I agree—but I choose to show it anyway, because I strive to love like Jesus. That means treating people with the respect and kindness He would, whether they deserve it or not.

So, in the wake of Charlottesville, let’s find hope—in each other and in the Lord. Let’s find a way to be one nation under God . . . for real, this time.


Photo Credit:

Finding Balance When Life Gets Busy

Oh, the joys of summer. In Minnesota, it’s the time of year when everyone wants to get together, to be outside for these few months of bliss before the cold weather comes. It’s usually a time of relaxation and fun in the sun. And don’t get me wrong, I’ve had plenty of that this summer. It’s my first year having access to an outdoor pool, and I have been living it up! I LOVE IT. Maybe a little too much. 🙂

This summer, though, I also bit off more than I could chew. I tried to do it all, and it’s been great–up until now. Because today, I really started to feel some of the deadlines I have looming. I’m very excited to be contributing a piece to a devotional coming out this fall, but final edits are due and my creativity seems to have dried up. As I write for a living, this is kind of a problem. That’s also why the blog has been so quiet lately. Did I mention I have eleven books that I’ve committed to reading before September 15? Yes, It’s already August 6. Yikes. Talk about procrastination.

But what makes this summer different from any other? Why am I feeling such a crunch? I mean, aside from the fact that I had a serious case of overcommitment. The truth is that I have been feeling happier than ever before! God has blessed me so much this summer with health and relationships. This makes me want to be out-and-about, doing things with friends and family all the time. There has to be a balance, though, and I’m having trouble finding it.

It’s time for me to recharge, refocus, and reconnect with what’s really most important to me. My faith, the people in my life, and the daily decisions I’m making. It might even be time to make some changes. I’m not sure what those are yet.

Do you have any suggestions for me on how to balance my time? How do you manage in your life? Leave a comment below!


Memory Care: Being a Friend to Those With Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Over the past year or so, God has given me a heart for the elderly. This January, I really wanted to get involved in a ministry, so I signed up for VolunteerMatch’s email list and started sending out inquiries to local care programs.

I ended up becoming a memory care friend—and this was definitely a God thing given what happened next. Being a memory care friend consists of spending time with people with Alzheimer’s and dementia, giving them care and companionship while offering their caregiver a break.

This is very fulfilling and fun work at times. It is also harder than I expected.

Days before I went to serve at my first memory care group event, I learned that my grandpa had been admitted into a care facility for his Alzheimer’s. The transition has not gone smoothly, and it’s been very troubling for my grandparents and the entire family.

So I went into the memory care meeting with a whole new context for the disease. Doing the training was one thing, but now it was personal. I had a vague concept of what Alzheimer’s meant from the training and general knowledge. However, seeing it impact  my family was so sad. My grandpa was the joker, the sweet one, the one who loves ice cream. He always likes things just right. He was never confused. The truth was that I had no idea how bad things had gotten. It had been too long since I’d been to see my grandparents and now I felt terrible about that.

The first day of my memory care experience was tough. I was new and ended up being matched with the person (S) who had perhaps the most difficulty participating in the event.

S had trouble following along with the activities and flat out couldn’t do several of them. She also wasn’t much of a talker that particular day, so I felt lost. Most of the morning was spent in awkward silence. I tried to help her as best I could, but there was so little she could manage. Was I hopeless at this? How was I going to connect with my grandpa now? What was I doing wrong?

Thankfully, things got better. The next time, S was much more herself. She was talkative and took part in the activities as best she could. I also realized that she’s pretty deaf so part of the problem was that she just couldn’t hear anything I was saying last time.

Then I realized my mistake. I had been so concerned with following the care guidelines and not making her uncomfortable that I wasn’t responding to her as an individual. What were her specific needs? She couldn’t hear me. She needed help walking but not too much. She’s still the same woman she was before the disease—it’s just more difficult for her to shine through. I need to keep that in mind with grandpa. He’s still at the stage where he remembers his loved ones, and that is a huge blessing . . . mostly. It also means my grandma has to constantly tell him why he can’t just come home.

The next memory care visit was so much more enjoyable for S and me. We smiled and laughed more; we even did a crossword, with some help from yours truly. It was a relief to see that there could be such a difference based on the day, at least in S’s case. It leaves hope for everyone involved that tomorrow will be better.

I’m still hoping that tomorrow will be better for grandpa, even though things are not going well. He’s so focused on getting back home to my grandma that he can’t settle. He also has very little interest in the activities at the home.

I visited grandma this weekend. She was so happy to see my sister and I, but decided that we shouldn’t see grandpa yet. She said it would be too upsetting for us, and I wanted the decision to be hers. She is kind of lost without him, and it was hard for me to see that. My grandpa and grandma were always together. It’s so strange—and tragic—to think of them forced to live separately, even though I know it’s the best thing for them both right now.

I am confident that, even amid this trial, God has a plan. He will provide. I keep praying my grandpa will have just one day like the last day I spent with S. I know my grandma needs it as much as he does.

I’ll leave you with this Spring haiku—a bit of hope—composed by the memory care group clients at our last gathering:

Flowers blossom sweet.

They are very feminine.

She is beautiful.

Isn’t it amazing that even though their brains are confused in some ways, these individuals are still able to create a work of art? I find it remarkable and soothing. All is not lost. There is hope. God is good. And flowers are sweet.


Walking in Step with the Lord

“We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.” Proverbs 16:9

If you grew up in the church, this verse is probably familiar to you. It’s nice and comforting. Maybe you’ve heard it so many times it even sounds cliché—not so for me. This verse became my lifeline during one of my hardest trials.

I consider myself very blessed. I grew up in a loving Christian middle-class home, received an excellent education, and have been able to pursue my passion for writing as an adult.  But like everyone, I have had my struggles. The greatest—and ever ongoing—trial of my life is chronic illness, which I was diagnosed with at just ten years old. From that time on, I have lived with pain. And sometimes, it’s hard.

The truth is I was an absolute wreck in high school. Oh, I seemed fine. Perfectly well adjusted. Type-A personality, good student, extra-curricular activities, involved in church. But inside, I was hurting. And it got to a point where the combination of the physical and emotional pain that I was in—and not dealing with—just boiled over. And my body turned on me—or so it seemed. I didn’t know that could happen. But as Psalm 139:14 tells us, we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” God designed our bodies to protect themselves—and both my body and spirit were under siege. So my body rebelled against the stress it was under, resulting in a medical condition in which you show psychological stress in physical ways. For me, it was my legs that took the hit.

The loss of motion seemed to happen gradually . . . then all at once. I’m not even sure how long the process took. I was walking normally one day. Then it got harder. My legs were heavier. They didn’t want to move. So I moved slower—until suddenly, I could hardly move them at all.

This was not part of my plan. Didn’t I have enough to worry about already? Wasn’t constant pain enough for one person to handle? It already felt like too much. As I faced down hours of physical and talk therapy, feeling completely overwhelmed, I came across Proverbs 16:9 in my Bible. And I realized: If the LORD determines my steps, He also determined this stop. He alone knew I needed help. He saw my hurt. He felt the deep need that I was so desperately trying to hide. And . . .

He brought my plans to a stop, so He could redirect my steps.

Leaning on the Lord’s strength took on new meaning for me. I was literally counting on him for every step—and it took me about five minutes to take just a few. I had to think through every motion. Use this muscle. Flex that. Move that forward. It was painful and agonizingly slow. And I was afraid every time that I might not be able to take another. But I did, praying and trusting him to carry me through.

“He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.” Psalm 40:2b

During those very slow walks, I dwelt in God’s presence more than ever before. God taught me patience. He taught me humility. He taught me strength. And most importantly, he was always faithful. Through all the doctors, pain, sweat, and tears, God never left my side. It took months, but I was able to walk normally again—and still do to this day. And most importantly, I received the help my spirit needed for the emotional pain that I was feeling—the isolation from my peers, the resignation, the hopelessness. God took that and lit a fire in my heart through this crucible. I began speaking at youth groups, sharing my story—and feeling more alive than I had in years. God gave me a purpose for the pain He brought me through, and I was blessed enough to see the fruit from that purpose almost immediately.

Is there an area in your life that’s spinning out of control? Are you going through the motions, all in a whirlwind, with “no time” to rest and refresh? I challenge you to press pause and examine your life today. Is it likely that you will develop a conversion disorder and have the dramatic life reset that I did? No. But it is almost certain that you will miss out on God’s best for your life if you don’t check in with God and make sure you’re walking in step with him.

Who Am I? Big Questions. Short Answers.


I am a . . .

child of God. follower of Jesus. overcomer. daughter. sister. aunt. friend. roommate. coworker. volunteer. writer. reader.

I love . . .

God. books. really good pens. sunshine. blankets. tea. antique decorations. memories. England. clean sheets. candles. chocolate chip cookies. coloring.

I struggle with . . .

insecurity. fear. shame. “should-haves.” chronic pain.

I dream of . . .

traveling. being a mother. serving Jesus. loving well. partnering with a ministry for kids/teens living with chronic illness. writing a book.

Any questions, comment below!




#NonfictionNovember – On Moving and Change

This month has been crazy busy as I’ve moved to a new place! I’ve been very occupied with setting up and settling in. Naturally, my bookshelves were one of the first things I unpacked! Shocking: I added a shelf, so I have empty space. This must be remedied ASAP.


I have to be honest: I’m TERRIBLE with change. I don’t like it and I don’t know how to deal with it. So there’s a definite theme in my nonfiction choices this month.


Full Disclosure: I work for a different division of this publisher. This is my personal review.

A great book at the perfect time! I needed this and would recommend to anyone who, like me, struggles with transitions. There were parts that felt a bit slow to me, but that’s likely because she was talking about being a mom and that doesn’t apply to my life. Other chapters, specifically “Settling in the Home Where Your Heart Thrives,” were phenomenal and applicable for any reader.

“We need to be okay with not getting over it and give ourselves permission to feel the upheaval.”—Kristen Strong, from Girl Meets Change


I learned so much from this book! It’s about being present just as you are—with God, with those around you, and with yourself. Niequist has some interesting things to say about prayer that really spoke to my heart. She talks about a model of prayer where you basically get confession and repentance out of the way first before broaching other topics with God so that you can speak freely and focus on connecting with Him. This is such a refreshing approach. I also really liked what she had to say about grace, forgiveness, and shame. Highly recommended! Now I’m trying to get my hands on everything else Shauna Niequist has written.


While I think the “thank your possessions” and “spark joy” concepts extremely materialistic and slightly ridiculous, there are a lot of practical tips in this book that are very useful. The section on how to fold properly was particularly interesting. My sock drawer has never looked better! This content of this book should be taken with a grain of salt, but there are some nuggets to be found within. I will say that I got rid of more stuff than I probably would have if I had not listened to this book while packing.

That’s all for now! Glad to say I’m finally feeling a little more settled. Until next post!


P.S. I’m currently listening to SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard. It’s fascinating and very accessible. Any fellow history nerds would enjoy!