Soul Food {November 2016}

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Art has been extra important to me lately, both the art I make and the art I’m taking in. Let’s chat about some of it!

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  • Audio Adrenaline’s “Until My Heart Caves In” album. This is one of my favorite albums of all time. Meaningful and melodically masterful. It is so nostalgic for me; I won’t pick favorites from it.
  • “When We Collide” by Jon Foreman. Sweeping and heart-grasping.
  • Anthem Lights’ “Magical Medleys” Disney covers ep. Exceeded my expectations! Super fun but also arranged so beautifully.
  • “Wild World” by Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors. We need this. I’ve been singing it to myself all month long as a reminder.
  • “When” by Dodie. Sometimes a song captures a feeling you didn’t even understand you had, and sings that knowledge to you with a comforting touch. This is one of those.
  • “Love Me Now” by John Legend. I might not ever be able to get over this man’s voice. There’s also a lovely version of this song by Kurt Hugo Schneider, Madilyn Bailey, and Blake Rose.
  • “Pop Out Revenge” by Social Club. I’d been needing a new jam with a solid beat and wow did this do the trick.
  • “Love on The Weekend” by John Mayer. So calm and lovely. I painted to it late at night, then woke up with it in my head; I loved it in both places.
  • “Do You Miss Me At All” by Bridgit Mendler. Just a nice little something to groove with.
  • “Brother” by The Brilliance. “When I look into the face of my enemy, I see my brother.”
  • I’m getting back into my Christmas music! All Christmas season I have playlist, and add to it if I find more songs I love. You can find that playlist on YouTube or (most of it) on Spotify if you want!

Speaking of playlists: if you want all of these songs in one playlist, I’ve made it for you! You can listen to it on YouTube or on Spotify.

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  • “Forgiveness in an Age of Anger,” a TED talk by Brant Hansen. Reminders I needed, and probably a lot of us need right now.
  • “Eddie Redmayne Plays ‘Heads Up!’ with Ellen.” My throat hurt from laughing at this! Eddie is one of my favorites. There’s also this video of him screaming in terror at a clip of himself singing as a child.
  • Barbie and The Magic of Pegasus. An animated film I grew up with that still puts me in the warmest mood.
  • Rewatched every “Craftversations” episode because it’s just so enjoyable and cozy.
  • Rhett and Link doing the “Crazy Cookie Roulette Challenge.” So funny! Mostly because Link’s gem of dad guest-hosts.
  • Pride & Prejudice. The 2005 film is so beautiful. What a timeless and lovely story.
  • Continued watching The Mentalist and Scorpion.

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  • Anne’s House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery. This series makes me so happy.
  • “Amy Grant’s Tennessee Christmas for The Bruised.” In case you still thought the Christian music industry was a lovely place where people are treated fairly. It’s an industry just like any other, except it pastes Jesus’ name over their choices, to add a little extra sting. I’m working on praying for it instead of being bitter toward it.
  • “The Kind of Christian I Refuse to Be” by John Pavlovitz. I’ve struggled with calling myself a Christian for a few years now and this explains why so well.
  • “The Lack of Gentle Platonic Touch in Men’s Lives Is a Killer.” So interesting and something I’ve seen to be true in my life and the lives of men I know. Our culture is in need of healing here and I think more people are seeing that.
  • The Veil by Blake K. Healy. Healy explains his giftings humbly and practically (yes, he explains seeing the spiritual realm in a way that makes it practical), with the intent being to simply share his story and impart insight to those who seek it. It made me think and it made me sit back in awe. There’s a lot to learn here about our role in the spiritual world that we’re living in and taking part in, and I’m really grateful to have read it. [You can see my reading progress and read my reviews in real time on Goodreads if you want to!]

When It’s Not What You Pictured: On Hamsters & Hope

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I’ve wanted a hamster for a long time. I grew up with hamsters in my home and they were such sweet little delights… but two years is not much time to spend with something you love so much. Their lifespan began to hurt me a bit more each time I experienced another loss. Eventually, I decided I didn’t want to go through those losses anymore. I stopped getting hamsters and for the most part shut them out of my mind.

But this year, my desire started peeking out at me again. Hamsters are so precious, and every time they crossed my mind I wanted one in my life. Yet I still couldn’t escape the knowledge that I’d have such a short time with my new friend… that I’d be left with a guaranteed heartbreak every two years. It scared me.

I used to think I was terrible at hope because I can be so cynical, but I’m learning that’s not true. I’m actually proficient in hoping for things. The thing I’m truly not good at is rejoicing in hope. That’s the hard part.

I hope for things all the time, but rarely am I joyful about it; usually, I am deeply afraid. Over the course of time, I have walled myself up and begun approaching opportunities and ideas with an already defeated attitude. It has led me to keep myself from even trying to purse the things I want.

I’ve been trained to see the obstacles and trials in front of me as reasons not to continue, instead of reasons to believe what comes with them must be worth fighting for.

I’ve also been taught that I can’t have such high hopes if I don’t want to be crushed. I became so hurt by disappointment and lost hopes that I tried to stop hoping altogether. I tried to be satisfied with everything, even if it wasn’t what I wanted it to be. Soon, I started believing nothing would be what I wanted it to be. And it terrified me.

I remember calling a friend a few months ago and lamenting to her because I wanted so badly to be somewhere else in life, but knew the key to a truly happy life was contentment in all circumstances, and I just could not find the balance between those two places. She told me: “I think a little restlessness is healthy. If we were fully content with every element of our lives, we’d never grow or move into the better things laid out for us. Not that you should be ungrateful or impatient. But I think it’s okay that you want something new.” I ruminated over her words and found comfort in them. I realized that contentment does not mean you don’t ever want anything; it means you are grateful for what you have and are not demanding for more, as if you are owed anything. I can be content and grateful for my circumstances, even as I seek to enter different ones.

One of the biggest parts of hope is believing for the good in things. It is focusing on what could go right rather than what could go wrong, choosing to feed joy and love instead of cynicism and fear.

So when my birthday began approaching this year and my mom asked me what I wanted… I brought up hamsters.

A month later, my mom approached me the evening of my birthday with a little container in her hands. I could hear the faint scratching coming from inside it, and looked through the hole-poked plastic lid to see an incredibly tiny, fuzzy, nervous little friend.

I fell head-over-heels for him the minute we met.

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My first impression of him was spot-on: fragile and gentle, super soft– and incredibly anxious. I’d imagined I would get to hold him in my hands all the time, but that didn’t seem possible, especially after he jumped out on my first attempt and I had to rush to rescue him. I was so scared. What if I couldn’t take care of him as well as someone else could?

What if our brief time together wasn’t going to be a joy, like I hoped it would be?

The next few days, I researched training/taming techniques for nervous hamsters and began practicing them. It’s been about a month now since he came into my life; he still doesn’t want to be held much, but wow

He is such a light to me.

I love watching him burrow in his bedding; glimpsing him stretch after he wakes up from a nap; seeing him pull food out of his stuffed cheeks and start nibbling on it; giggling when he climbs the cage’s walls to the top level instead of taking the tubes; saying hello to him when he walks over to where I’m watching him and places his paws on the cage bars; murmuring nicknames and affection to him when he’s awake and just chilling in the corner; tricking him out of his cage with a treat in a mug and letting him explore the house in his ball. I absolutely adore my little guy.

I came so close to never opening myself up to him. To letting all of these things that make my life brighter and bring me deep joy pass me by, because I was afraid to get hurt by disappointment. I can tell you now:

Whatever hurt I might feel in the future is worth the absolute delight I get to live in right now.

He isn’t what I pictured. But he is still what I hoped for.

I named him Jonas, after the character of Jonas Blake in the third Anne of Green Gables book. Jonas Blake and Philippa Gordon feared loving each other because they were so different; they didn’t know how their worlds could come together. But they decided having each other was worth whatever struggles came along.

It wasn’t what they ever pictured for themselves… but it ended up being what they’d been scared to hope for.

Maybe that’s the way things happen.

And maybe we’ll get to see it for ourselves.

Maybe hope is worth the risk.

A Letter to My Friends on Election Day

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fireworks-2Dear you,

I am so grateful to be friends with you.

It’s Election Day. Some of you have voted for one candidate; some for another; some even still for another; and some of you haven’t voted at all. A lot of you have negative opinions of each other because of these differences. But I still love all of you. Honestly, one of the reasons why is because we’re so different.

It’s easy to dehumanize someone’s worldview and to see it as evil when you don’t know and love anyone with that worldview. In the past I have been prolific in dehumanizing others, belittling them and what they think simply because they were hard for me to understand. Since then, I have learned that seeking to understand is far more moral and loving than policing others to fit the mold I fit into… to fit my image.

We are all already made in a perfect image.

It has been a long road for me so far in realizing the depth of that truth.

Because each of you, my friends, has such a different worldview from the others, I have witnessed anger, hatred, and, more than anything– fear. These things are aimed at my friends… by my friends. One group cannot imagine any decent human being believing a certain way– and I can think of many lovely human beings in my life who do. Another group sees only ignorance and self-centeredness is those who believe a certain way– and I can point to intelligent, humble, kind friends of mine who host those very beliefs.

To me, political parties, religions, belief systems, races, sexualities… they aren’t institutions, or groups, or concepts anymore.

They’re faces I’ve looked into.

They’re souls I’ve come to know, and whom I have seen carry the same seal in their hearts as the one in mine… the one that declares I was made in love and am sustained in love by my Maker. My Maker formed every bit of me, called me “altogether beautiful.” And He did the same when He made every single one of you.

Our pieces are different. But they come from the same place.

We are all love children.

Because your pieces are different from mine, our friendship becomes that much more crucial. You see things I don’t; you have passions I don’t share; you have a different context than the one I come from. This means you understand things I don’t yet– things I may never be able to understand, if you don’t share them with me and I don’t listen to you. In order to grow in wisdom and compassion, I need you. And you need me and all of my other friends for the exact same reasons.

The things we let divide us are actually points for us to connect. What one of us lacks, another possesses and can share. We are wholly beautiful on our own, but what great measures of beauty are displayed when we stand side by side, a mosaic of what love looks like.

Today is a day so many of us have feared. No matter what happens in the election, I am going to witness friends celebrating, friends mourning, and friends sifting through armfuls of questions. And I have decided that the best thing for me to do is to enter into those places with each one of you, the best I can. Because we belong to a kingdom and a family much more than we belong to anything else. We belong to one another.

And because, to me, you aren’t an institution, a group, or a concept–

You’re a soul. Made of the same stuff as me.

You’re my friend. My family.

I pray for peace and an open, loving heart in you, in me, and in all we cross paths with. I love you, and I’ll talk to you again soon.

Your friend,

Tessa

[Listen to “Wild World” by Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors]

Soul Food {October 2016}

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“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”

Yeah, it might be cheesy to quote Anne Shirley in autumn, but October is my favorite month and I am basically Anne so I’m doing it anyway. You can easily forgive me, right? Because I’m sharing some of the media I took in this month!

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  • “This Town” by Niall Horan. Sweet acoustic heartache. I also like this version by Kurt Hugo Schneider, Kirsten Collins, and Mario Jose.
  •  “I Will Follow You” by Toulouse. I heard a short clip of this song, then went on a wild search to find the full thing. When I finally did, I sat inside it and just felt. It completely sweeps me away and brings me to the most beautiful place. Simple but stunning.
  • “All I Need Is You” by Hollyn. I love hearing female voices nail hip hop.
  • Switchfoot’s “Vice Verses” album. This album is huge for me. I listened to it while baking, and laughed and cried and was challenged throughout. I can’t possibly pick favorites from it because they all matter so deeply to me, but the ones that struck me this listen were “The War Inside” “Selling The News” and “Vice Verses.”
  • “Life in Technicolor II” by Coldplay. Cried while dancing to this. “Oh love, don’t let me go. Won’t you take me where the streetlights glow? I can hear it coming, like a serenade of sound, now my feet won’t touch the ground. Gravity release me, & don’t ever hold me down, now my feet won’t touch the ground…”
  • Tow’rs’ “The Great Minimum” album. So lovely and poetic. It puts me in a wintery mood I can nestle into. My favorite songs from it are “Porcelain” “Solace” and “The Kitchen.”
  • “22” by Taylor Swift. Because my 22nd birthday was this month and it had to be done.
  • “Open Skies” by The Band Foster. These are my friends and they released their song and music video this month, woo!
  • Cory Emery’s “A New Heart” ep. Cory was my youth pastor in middle school; I’ve always loved the music he’s made. This ep is his newest venture and I’m into it– church music with good vibes. I think “Light of Your Love” is my favorite from it.

If you want all of these songs in one playlist, I made it already! It has every song I’ve put in Soul Food posts so far this year, so scroll to the bottom for the newest additions.

And I know a lot of you would rather use Spotify than YouTube, so although not every song is available there and I am not a big Spotify fan, I finally made the playlist there, too, at least as much as I could. The best way to help artists on Spotify is to add their music to playlists, so if you like any of the songs on it, think about adding them to your own playlists, too! I cannot stress how important it is to support artists if you want them to continue creating.

Find the playlist on YouTube here and on Spotify here.

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  • Christian Collins’ recent vlogs. He’s just such a wonderful human and warms my heart; I love hearing his gratitude and his wonder and his thoughts in day-to-day life.
  • Scorpion. It’s back! I love these characters a lot.
  • Designated Survivor. An intriguing perspective on government and the big picture. I think it’s relevant.
  • Ancient Aliens. My brother and I spent a day watching it and laughing as we cleaned the house. It’s a cool culture study, that they happen to punctuate with “because aliens.”
  • Holes. It makes me emotional in a good handful of ways. For some reason I can’t quite pinpoint, I think it’s a really special film.
  • “Taming Your Hamster – Tips & Talk.” I know probably no one else needs this video right now, but I found it super helpful after getting a nervous little hamster this month. I didn’t follow it strictly, because all hamsters are different, but it was nice to have when I needed its advice.
  • Sleeping Beauty. Such a beautiful film experience. The art, the music, the fairy tale… ugh, I love it.
  • The first episode of “Rhett & Link’s Buddy System.” You probably already know I love Rhett and Link because I vocalize it a lot. They recently premiered their YouTube Red series, and, while I can’t afford the service, the first episode is free and it’s super funny. If you have YouTube Red definitely give the series a try!
  • Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade. I don’t know why I wanted to watch so many movies this month, but I was genuinely craving my favorite Indiana Jones movie (and by favorite I mean the only one I like, haha)!
  • I accidentally discovered episodes of “The Shirley Temple Show” online while looking for a short film version of The House of Seven Gables; not only did I end up enjoying her version of the story, I also found her version of The Princess and The Goblin. I’ve read both books, and I have to say the interpretation of The Princess and The Goblin is pretty loose, but it was fun to experience nonetheless. Her version of The House of Seven Gables, though, was pretty spot on, and less annoying the book.
  • Continued watching “Edgar Allan Poe’s Murder Mystery Dinner Party,” which concluded on Halloween. I am slightly obsessed and have seen every episode so many times.

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  • Anne of Windy Poplars by L.M. Montgomery. Absolutely delightful. I adore this series. [If you want to keep up with the books I’m reading in real time, you can follow me on Goodreads!]
  • “How We Could Get to Be The Kind of People The World Needs Right Now” by Ann Voskamp. “Regardless of nationality, of worldviews, of politics, we all belong to each other, we all belong to the family where our faces reflect the image of God and at the end of the day — we have to learn to live with each other, be neighbours with each other, heal with each other.”
  • “Dear Fears Trying to Break Us All” also by Ann Voskamp. Just so good.
  • Colony House’s tour journals. One of my favorite bands sharing some stream-of-consciousness thoughts while on the road? Yes. Yes to that.
  • “My Son, The Prince of Fashion” by Michael Chabon. This piece is a bit long and a little sweary, but it’s just such an interesting, personal story I felt privileged to hear.”He was not flying his freak flag; he was sending up a flare, hoping for rescue, for company in the solitude of his passion.”
  • “How Do I Engage Honestly With Respect to Other’s Spiritual Journey?” A “Dear Addie” letter with Addie Zierman. Many of us feel like the negative rainclouds living among people of sunshine; this response and assurance is wonderful.

 

How I’m Replacing My Anxiety: On Power, Positivity, & Choices

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dsc05066When I picked up a dingy little book at a yard sale for a few cents, it was simply because the title seemed interesting to me: “Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway.”

I was struggling with questions about anxiety and how big a role it played in my life, so much so that it was nearly all I could think about every day. I knew nothing about this book, but I’d reached a point where I was willing to hear out anyone who might be able help me figure out what I could do about what I was facing.

During the time I read the book, not only did I receive deep convictions from its words, but I also had an open conversation with a counselor friend of mine about anxiety and its presence in me. These things paired together, following God’s revelation to me about the peace He’s made for me to walk in, have helped me find a grip on my peace and led me in the process of beating my fear.

If you struggle with anxiety, I want to share what I took away from “Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway” by Dr. Susan Jeffers with you. I know every experience is a bit different and not everything works the same in everyone. If these things end up not doing for you what they do for me, nothing is wrong with you; you are working hard and doing an incredible job, finding the best weapons and strategies for your own battle. Do not let shame lie to you, and do not give up. This is just my experience, and if you end up being able to share in it, it would be cruel of me to keep what I’ve learned from you.

Not everything I learned from the book is completely related to anxiety, but all of it has been transformative for me. These were my four main takeaways:

1) Fear is based on the lie, “I can’t handle it.”

When I become obsessive and fearful about something in my life, no matter how big or small, there is one common belief that fuels the anxiety: I believe that if the bad thing I’m anticipating happens, it will be too much for me and will overcome me. Usually I am not even aware that I believe this, but the presence of the fear reveals it about me.

A few months ago, I was overwhelmingly anxious about visiting my old stomping grounds. I didn’t want it to be a painful experience, and I’d had panic attacks the last few times I’d been there. But I asked myself: what would happen if my fears were true, and it was painful and I did have a panic attack? I’d have a few difficult hours in my day– and then I’d go home. It might take me a few days to recover, but I’d recover. Was that devastating enough to keep me away? Despite the anxiety I still hosted, I decided to go– and it ended up bringing a lot of healing for the bitterness I’d been hosting toward that place. I did have a panic attack, but afterward I had a lot of good moments, too. I’m glad I didn’t let fear keep me from them.

Two years ago, I was terrified to drop out of college, because I didn’t want to be occupation-less, lose relationships, or be looked down upon for it. But what happened when I did drop out… and I did become occupation-less, lose relationships, and get looked down upon? I cried. I was hurt. I grieved. I wrestled with armfuls of questions, for months. Then I made my peace with it, and realized I was healthier emotionally than I’d ever been before. I became grateful for the opportunity to live a life more true to what I was made for. My fears might have become reality, but it didn’t ruin me; in the long run, it healed me. I survived it and found treasure along the way. I needed things to happen the way they did.

When I accept my fears at face value, they seem giant and domineering. But when I look deep enough into them, I can see how small they are against the backdrop of everything else life holds. I can see that no matter what happens, positive or negative, it won’t be the end of me. I have experienced deeply painful, terribly oppressive times, lasting moments and lasting years– and I am still here. I’m actually the happiest I’ve ever been. What we’re scared of does happen sometimes. But we survive. We learn and we keep walking. Nothing is final or too much for us.

Nothing can come for us that is bigger than He who is for us.

2) We can hold fear from two positions: pain, or power.

How you view your circumstances is known as your locus of control, and there are two possible versions of it: an external one or an internal one. If your locus of control is external, it means that you believe life happens to you and there’s nothing you can do to alter your circumstances. However, if your locus of control is internal, it means that you believe you have the power to use what you have in your given circumstances to create the life you want.

I refused to consider this concept when I first learned about it. My locus of control was completely external; I believed I was stuck where I was in life, which was a terribly harrowing belief to have, because it was eating me alive to stay in my circumstances. When I was told I could change my situation if I wanted to, I immediately shut the idea out, because I didn’t believe I was capable of doing that. But multiple people from multiple areas of my life all began unknowingly asking me the same thing: “Have you ever thought about doing something else?”

And my answer, when I finally gave one, was: “…no. Is that possible?”

Once I opened myself up to the idea of making my own changes, once I realized I had power over myself– God showed me how to use it. He didn’t leave me floundering by myself, nor did He become angry at me like I feared. It turned out that He was the one who made me powerful in the first place. Using that power was not, in fact, a rebellion against Him, but rather a submission to Him and His design for me.

It took months for me to say yes to my new direction, and even longer to tell anyone about it and begin acting on it. But I did. I started making changes. I left old things and started pursuing new ones. It was still hard, but a different kind of hard than before; this was the kind I knew was going to birth good things.

I’m not stuck anymore. I know that, at any time, if what I’m doing is not good for me, I can change it and do something else. I have the power to do that.

When we’re in any situation, we are making a choice to stay there. We can choose not to stay there anymore if we want to. I used to constantly say, “I can’t do that because this thing is preventing me.” But the truth is that there is truly nothing I can’t do.

If I wanted to move to Los Angeles today, I could. I don’t have money, transportation, or a place to stay, but I could pack a suitcase and get on a bus, and once I arrived I could find a shelter somewhere. Would it be the wisest thing for me to do? Probably not. So I choose not to do it. But I don’t get to say that I can’t do it.

If I want something badly enough, I have ability to go get it. It is just that sometimes the payoffs of not doing it at this point in time might outweigh having it right now. That’s okay! It teaches me patience and trust. Life is largely about the process; waiting times are not times we have to despise or rush to escape. Sometimes it’s the right time to make a change; other times, it’s the right time to wait it out for a while. But we are never stuck. Once we understand that, we are living from a much more productive and positive place.

I think a lot of us grew up viewing power and control as negative things. I have known and been affected by controlling people my entire life, so I know it’s easy to have those negative connotations. But do you know why controlling, manipulative people do what they do? They feel powerless. The reason they are seeking to control you is that they see power in you and want to benefit from it; they don’t believe they can do what they want to do themselves, so they use other people. Controlling people have an external locus of control.

A healthy sense of power is so different from that. When you believe you are powerful, you believe in your ability to do what you want to do, not to make someone else do it. A truly powerful person is someone who knows they are in control of their own actions and attitudes, and exercises that control in order to make good choices and love well.

Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit; it’s something He gives us and wants to see in our lives. It is not simply the ability to keep yourself from bad choices, like we seem to teach all the time– it’s also using your power to make really good ones. When you use your power well, you are demonstrating spiritual growth.

This all affects our relationships with fear and anxiety because if you believe in your power, you will start using it. With an internal locus of control, you know that your circumstances don’t control you– you control you. Whatever fear is living in you, you know you are bigger than it and that you can combat it. You do not allow yourself to become a victim of anxiety, but rather a master over it. You might have anxiety, but it is you that owns it, not the other way around.

When I am afraid, I have a choice. I can choose to succumb to it and let it lead me, or I can choose to ride the wave out and get through it. Fear still exists for me, but it doesn’t have to win out over me.

It’s a cliché now, but it’s still true: when you learn you are powerful, you begin to realize you also carry responsibility. You realize you can’t blame others for your happiness (or lack thereof) anymore, because you are in control of your experience. No one can be responsible for your quality of life except for you.

There’s an important distinction between your experiences in life and your experiences of life. Things happen to us that we had no hand in. We don’t get to choose where we grew up, or what programs accept us, or who falls in love with us. But we do get to choose how we let those things affect us. Bitterness? Despondency? Entitlement? Those are responses. And while we may not be able to choose our initial feelings and it’s important for us to recognize them, we one hundred percent control what we decide to feed and sit in versus what we decide to let go of and move past. We have control over how we choose to live; we have the power to look at everything through a hopeful lens instead of a victimized one.

I have found that when I take responsibility for my feelings and my mindset along with my behavior, it is easier for me to be kind to others and to love my enemies. I can’t get mad at someone for not giving me something I have the ability to give myself. It doesn’t mean I’m condoning their negative behavior; it just means I’m not letting it change my positive behavior.

3) Being positive is not being in denial, it’s being perceptive.

Many of us have been told that when we look for the positive, we are not aware of the reality of the situation and are being oblivious to what’s going on. But let’s take a minute to think about this: what makes it so that a positive mindset is less realistic than a negative one? Both are perspectives, ways of viewing reality. And the way you view reality determines how you treat it. So if we choose a negative mindset in the name of being realistic, what we are really doing is determining to have a negative reality.

Choosing a positive mindset is not being unrealistic– it is choosing to have the best experience possible in reality. When we view life through a positive lens, we don’t need denial, because we can see possibilities for ways to make things better, and we are more likely to act on those possibilities because we believe they can make a difference.

Positivity is not weak, it is empowering.

It can be wildly hard to get rid of a negative mindset when you’ve been hosting one your whole life, or when you are in environments that are full of the kind of talk that fuels one. Perseverance matters so much in this. Our subconscious’  believe what they are told; if they are fed insecurities, lies, and thoughts of helplessness, and they aren’t also being fed a greater measure of affirmations, truths, and motivation, they will continue to operate out of destructive patterns.

We have to out-talk our negativity. When you feel insecure, name strengths and good traits you possess and point out to yourself how you’re doing a good job; when someone tells you something that is against your God-given identity, reaffirm your identity and what it means for you; when you start to feel helpless, tell yourself that you are powerful and remind yourself of all your options. Be kind to yourself. Be active and relentless about it, and have people in your life who echo these kinds of healing words to you. Let love, not fear, have the final word in you.

4) When it comes to making decisions, there is no loss, only gain.

I am the queen of indecisiveness. If there are multiple options, I pretty much go into paralysis until it’s narrowed down to two, at which point I will toss the two options every possible way they can be turned, then make a very hesitant choice. I will proceed to doubt my choice for weeks. What a fun cycle, eh?

But making decisions is actually a lot less complicated and dire than I’ve believed it to be. No matter which option I choose, the truth is that there is not a losing decision. On any path I walk, there is a wealth of lessons, experiences, and treasures for me to find. I think often we fear making a bad choice because we don’t want to miss out on something good. But what if we had a different perspective when making a decision? What if we focused on what the different options have to give instead of what we’d potentially lose? When we do that, we are no longer looking for the least costly option, but instead for the most rewarding one. It is much more productive to function this way.

And if you end up being unsatisfied with your decision? You can still make a different one! It is okay to make mistakes. No matter how many zigzags you make on your path, you’ll still be able to get to where you’re going. We gain lessons and experiences from everything we go through. God’s business is redemption; nothing is wasted. And He knows what you’re going to choose before you choose it, so you can rest in knowing it’s all part of something bigger, something that will always work out for your good.

——-

Phew! There is so much to unpack in these concepts, so much we can reap from them. I encourage you to keep ruminating on them. And, if you’d like, I so recommend reading “Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway.” The last two chapters are a bit out there and I admit I only skimmed them because they were more opinion-based, but the rest of the book was such a transformative tool in my life.

Anxiety doesn’t own me anymore. I am better equipped to face it than I knew I could be. All of this is my story; I’m not going to present it as the cure or the never-failing balm for anxiety. But I wanted to share my experience and the tools I’ve found useful, if there’s any chance you might be helped by it, too. I am rooting for you and fully believe in a breakthrough for you, however in comes into your life. Thank you for being interested in how in came into mine.

Soul Food {September 2016}

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A lot of transition and change happened in my life this month, and I’m learning that’s a good place to be in. These are some of the things I carried with me, though a few probably carried me instead.

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  • “Stuff We Did” from the Up soundtrack. It’s wordless, but it spoke so loudly to me. Playing it on my piano helped me heal.
  • “Where Is The Love” by The Black Eyed Peas featuring “the world.” I can’t begin to explain how moving and powerful this is. I’ve listened to it so many times and I still can’t do so without crying. We need to internalize it. “If you never speak truth then you never know how love sounds, and if you never know love then you never know God.” [The video has disturbing images and there’s a little profanity.]
  • “Worst Way” by Christian Collins. If you don’t know that I’m always gonna promote and support what he does then you haven’t been following me for very long. Proud of him.
  • “Empty House” by Relient K. I talked about the new album two months ago when it came out, but I had this particular song on repeat for a while. It was a lovely companion for me in the beginnings of the morning.
  • Spencer Sutherland’s cover of “Ride.” His voice is insane; I can’t get over his range. Plus this is a fun interpretation of a song I like. When he covers good songs, I listen over and over.
  • Millie Thrasher’s cover of “How Deep Is Your Love.” This came to me at a time when I was discovering a few lies ingrained in me about love and relationships, and helped me feel a bit more healthy. Also her voice is so beautiful and the production on this is stunning.
  • “The Upside Down” by Andy Mineo. Just a solid jam.
  • “Jack and Jill, Part Two” by The Gray Havens. An anthem for me recently. “And we were feeling new, as if everything sad came untrue…”
  • “Can You Hear Me?” by Fleurie. She recently released a new album and this song is my favorite from it. She’s a big inspiration to me; she writes such meaningful, dreamy music, and her voice is gentle yet soul-piercing. I met her at a concert this month and she was so warm and kind. Love, love, love.
  • “Warm Up” by NF. He released this song to celebrate the beginning of his tour; I got to go to my state’s show with two of my best friends and it was so much fun.
  • “Clay” by Grace VanderWaal. She was on America’s Got Talent and stunned me with her heartfelt original music every single performance. I was so happy to see her win. This song from the finals gets stuck in my head every once in a while.
  • “Thinkin Bout You” by Aaron Krause. I have spent probably hours jamming to this, genuinely. The sound is infectious and right up my alley, the theme is down-to-earth and sweet, and I just think it’s such a great song. [There’s a profanity in it, which bothers me a little, but I just love the song too much to let a word ruin it for me. If you want a non-explicit version there’s an acoustic live session, but I don’t like it as much.]

If your taste in music is all across the board like mine and you want to listen to these songs in one place, I’ve made a playlist! It has all of my music picks from this year so if you only want this month’s they are near the bottom.

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  • Chicken Run. Because my mom found it and it’s a ridiculous classic.
  • Still watching “Edgar Allan Poe’s Murder Mystery Dinner Party” and laughing with every episode; Lauren Lopez as George Eliot slays me. The longer the series goes the more invested I am in the mystery. Who is killing all these authors?! And why?!
  • Captain America: Civil War. Not my favorite Marvel movie, but Spiderman is in it and he’s one of my favorite characters from anything. [Some profanity and lots of punching/shooting/throwing stuff at each other.]
  • Beauty and The Beast. I forgot how stunning it is. I love watching classic Disney films because the animation and music are lovely, but this one… there’s just something about it. Enchanting in every sense.
  • “The Voice.” I’ve never tuned in to this particular singing completion before, and so far I’m a fan of the format: coaches instead of judges, with blind auditions and kind words and a genuine love for music.
  • Rhett and Link playing with a Bop It. Way too entertaining.

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  • “Loving Your Enemy, Even When It’s ISIS? Yes, Even Then” on Preemptive Love Coalition. An incredible story with truths I can’t get out of my head. “ISIS beheads and burns its enemies. That’s why we must feed and clothe ours.”
  • “This is Not How I Pictured Jerusalem” by Emily P. Freeman. I love the scripture she paired with her experience. More people need to know what she discovered.
  • “The Performance Principle” by Richard Rohr. He and I don’t come from similar backgrounds, but I still gained some necessary soul-checks from this. “One of the only ways God can get us to let go of our private salvation project is some kind of suffering.”
  • “The Unlikely Thing You Have to Believe When You’re Living a Life You Didn’t Choose” by Ann Voskamp. She writes the real stuff. I am so grateful to her. “The cross you’ve been given– is always God’s kindest decision.”
  • The “Stories” page on Joshua Harris’ website. He’s opened himself up to receive feedback on his books and the effect they’ve had on people’s lives, and he shares these anonymous stories with us. Some of them are a bit blame-heavy, but some of them are very honest accounts of experiences a generation can relate to. I confess I’ve taken the time to read every single one of them, and even to submit one of my own (have fun guessing which).
  • Anne of The Island by L.M. Montgomery. Wondrous moments, relatable moments, humorous moments, with such loveable characters. So good. [You can keep up with my reading progress on Goodreads if it tickles your fancy.]
  • “The Powerful Reason Why We All Have to Get Out of Bed– That Changes a Broken World,” also by Ann Voskamp. This showed up during a week I struggled to get out of bed each morning. You bet I listened. “What you are in love with decides what you live for.”

I promise I am still writing and will be more active here soon! In the meantime, thank you for letting me rest for a while.

Soul Food {August 2016}

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This month has been one full of changes and transitions, but I know it’s all working toward the positive, so I am (slowly) learning to open my arms to it instead of walling myself up. Here are some of the things I’ve been taking with me.

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  • Philip Serino’s renditions of “All Love Can Be” and “Annie’s Song.” This month I could be found lying on my bedroom floor, soaking these in. Stunning in every way.
  • Spencer Kane and Alexis Slifer’s cover of “This Is Living.” The arrangement and their voices are so lovely. Ten times better than the original.
  • The Gray Havens’ “Ghost of a King” album. They make such special music; it’s lovely, it’s dynamic, and they put so much thought and meaning into their lyrics. Sometimes it almost feels like reading the Chronicles of Narnia. My absolute favorite from the album is “At Last, The King.” I also like “Take This Slowly” “Diamonds and Gold” and “Go.”
  • Heath McNease’s “Who Knows? Who Cares?” album. Honest, real, hopeful, thoughtful. I love how he can marry chill sound with hip-hop so seamlessly. My favorite from it has to be the title track, but I also love “Wide-Eyed Skeleton.”
  • “Top of The World” by Anthem Lights. Super fun. Also, I know it’s like two years old, but I didn’t know about it back then, okay?!
  • The sped-up version of Fifth Harmony’s cover of “Red.” [Complicated enough?] I heard a snippet of this on a video and searched the internet until I found the whole thing. There’s just something lovely and heart-wrenching about it for me.
  • “Dive Deep” by Andrew Belle. I’ve loved his work, so of course his new single would be fantastic to me, too. Stuck in my head and sung under my breath often.
  • “The Man” by Aloe Blacc. I have to dance when I hear this. Have to. “Been through the worst but I still give my best; God made my mold different from the rest, then He broke that mold so I know I’m blessed.”

If you want to listen to all this music in one place, I’ve got a playlist for you! All of my music recommendations from this year are there, but if you want only this month’s you can scroll to near the bottom.

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  • This stupid clip oh my gosh! I mostly use my “watch later” list on YouTube as a place to put music I’m not sure belongs to a playlist yet, but I put this there because someone sent it to me and I truly did intend to watch it later. It now interjects a playlist otherwise made of music, and makes me laugh way too hard to want to remove it. It seriously surprises me every time.
  • The videos that the New Age Creators have been putting on Soul Pancake. These young adults make such thoughtful, heartfelt content and it’s been a joy to see what they want to talk about, whether it’s happiness, travel, creativity, passion, insecurity, learning a second language, anxiety, being a grown-up (possibly my favorite), or the internet.
  • Ben Rector’s music video for his song “Brand New.” I already really liked the song, and the fact that he spent his music video budget on a trip to Six Flags makes it that much better.
  • This video from Twitter. I cried laughing. “Ya’ll mind if I praise God?”
  • Edgar Allan Poe’s Murder Mystery Dinner Party. This comedy webseries about a gathering of classic writers has been long-anticipated, and it’s finally here! It’s an eleven-part series and only two episodes are out right now so I can’t give much of an opinion yet, but so far I think it is so funny, as well as just a well-written, visually gorgeous piece. Clayton Snyder (freaking Ethan Craft!) as Dostoevsky is everything.
  • “Singing Without Sound,” a short glimpse into the life and methods of singer/songwriter Mandy Harvey, who lost her hearing. Music is my passion so losing my hearing is a terrifying thought, but she has lived it and risen so high above it. And she makes such lovely music.
  • “HOW IT’S MADE: Christian Music.” Hilarious and too real.
  • Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. Because it’s one of my favorite films and I’m thankful to Gene Wilder for bringing so much magic to it.

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  • “This Is the Cure for Awkwardness, If You Are Awkward, Which I Am Sometimes, and You Might Be Too. Sometimes” by Nika Maples. I love this. “We would be surprised what God would call good, if you and I brought it to Him and thanked Him for it.”
  • “How to Catch a Falling Star: An Adoption Story” by Ann Voskamp. The way she found herself in her new daughter… and finds all of us in the process… wildly moving. Tears showed up for me.
  • Deborah Apy’s retelling of “Beauty and The Beast.” It’s a picture book, but it’s almost like it was made for grown-ups to enjoy. The language is beautiful, and I think it’s a lovely, well-focused version of the story. A true fairytale.
  • “Spiritual Warfare In The Better Covenant” by Jonathan Welton. So interesting and groundbreaking. I personally have seen people become so much more alive and powerful in the most healthy, humble ways because they decided to accept the authority Christ has given them, stop giving the enemy such attention in their life, and walk in truth with themselves.
  • “Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway” by Susan Jeffers. So impactful for me. A few parts of the book are a bit out there, but so much of it is transformative truth about our abilities to make good choices, be in control of ourselves, and handle whatever we face. I so recommend it. [Psst, I review all my books on Goodreads if you’re into that!]
  • Joshua Harris’ apology for “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.” This is huge. I feel bad that people have been rudely outspoken with him, but I still teared up reading this because I never expected him to recant what he’d written to millions of people. He has gained a lot of respect from me, and forgiveness I didn’t know I needed to give him. Thankful.