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


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}


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.


  • “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.


  • 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.


  • “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}


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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • “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.

When Peace Doesn’t Feel Close (A Climax in My Anxiety Story)


Their words had become daggers; I felt them in my chest, poking at my insecurities and fears. My lugs then began to empty of their air. The anxiety that was so familiar to me and that had been lurking behind me every day squeezed my lungs to increase the pang of the sharp wounds I was now hosting. I got alone just in time for my surroundings to become hazy and foreign, despite how truly familiar they were. I couldn’t sit down or stand still; I paced in the smallest possible circles, tension radiating throughout my body and spirit.

I wanted so badly to cry. So much had been going on inside and around me, and I knew I needed to release some of the pain I’d gathered from it. But the tears wouldn’t come.

I began singing His words.


I’m right beside you
I feel what you feel
And I’m here to hold you
When death is too real
You know I died, too
I was terrified
I gave myself for you
I was crucified
Because I love you
I love you, child

My voice broke a few lines in, and tears poured out of the cracks.

I stood still, arms around myself, weeping and releasing, praying that I would never let go of my grasp on those words.

flower walk, feet and potAs I stood and as the drops trailed down, I began to feel a tingling, tickling feeling in my feet at the base of my toes. It stretched further into my feet, then began slowly climbing through my legs. It reached the tops of my knees and remained there. Amongst my shaky, irregular sob-breathing, I heard a quiet whisper:

Shoes of peace.

I continued to cry, sinking into His closeness.

Anxiety and brokenness will never have the final say for me. Not when everywhere I walk, I genuinely carry peace with me in a physical way.

Spiritual armor is not a metaphor.

I didn’t understand it before. But then my Father physically placed these shoes on my feet. I felt Him do it, and He called them by their name. [I don’t believe everyone needs to have the same experience I had in order to put on their spiritual armor; it is available to all of us and He shows no partiality. I think He just knew what I needed in order to understand.]

The shoes of peace have become true and functional for me. Peace protects me from succumbing to what scares me and letting anxiety overtake my life; peace pushes me forward when I don’t feel like I can move; peace is His mark lovingly imprinted on me, like a forehead kiss. He has enabled me to be strong, to be powerful, to live in courage instead of fear. It is possible for me.

I didn’t know that before. I thought I would have to live with anxiety and the paralysis it can cause for the rest of my life. Now… now I have hope that it will get better. That it won’t always be as hard to overcome as it is right now. That anxiety is a lot smaller and a lot less powerful than I’ve made it out to be.

Anxiety is still something I face. But when I feel the fear creeping near to put its hands to my neck– I now try to remind myself of the reality of what I’m wearing on my feet.

And I choose to stand firm in the peace that is already mine to possess.

On Stewardship, Speculation, & Love’s Pursuits


“The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Tim. 1:5).

art drawerThese words are important, and it matters that we understand why they were penned.

We can read in Acts 20 (particularly verses 29-35) that pretty much from the beginning of his work in Ephesus, Paul was aware that the people there would experience and be tempted by false teachings, and that these teachings would be birthed from their own church– from them. He made sure to spend a good amount of time (three whole years) with them, teaching them that the truth and reality of grace had to be the source of their work and the way they treated each other, because from it they would be built up and brought into their inheritance.

About a decade after Paul left Ephesus, he sent this letter to Timothy, whom he had commissioned to oversee churches that were having trouble, including the one in Ephesus. Paul knew the false teachings he’d predicted had indeed come into the church. And he told Timothy:

“As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculation rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.” (1:3-4)

Speculation rather than stewardship. That is where the false teachings came from.

In their attempt to sharpen their minds, the Ephesians lost their focus. They forgot that the goal of everything they were called to was love; that instead of having to spend their energy discussing what-ifs and finer details, they had been given something substantial, something they were supposed to take care of and use: they carried grace in their chests. And that grace, even with unanswered questions, was enough to live a full life.

They didn’t need to speculate anymore– they already had something to steward.

It was neglecting that stewardship that brought about the issues the church was facing. After Paul reminded Timothy of their mission of love and what it’s fueled by, he said: “Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.” (1:6-7)

These false teachers were not necessarily menacing. They sought to be knowledgeable and to share what they found; they probably believed what they were saying. But they left out the true goal of the church: using love to spread the reality grace. They weren’t pursuing the mission. They lacked love’s pure heart and good conscience and sincere faith, so regardless of how many sources they searched and how many discussions they had, they could not reach understanding; they could only make assertions about the things they found in the endless process (things Paul recognized as myths and loose interpretations). These people were not rooted in love’s pursuits, so they could not find the answers, because love was what held them. What they needed was already in their possession– but they deemed their pursuit of finer theology more important.

We are so much like them.

We can have our questions and curiosities, and we can and should grow in our theology. But we cannot forget what our constant and consuming mission is, what demands our attention and our energy. When our focus shifts from pursuing love to pursuing ideas, we trade in stewardship for speculation; we lose something. With a focus of love, fueled by a pure heart and good conscience and sincere faith, we have what we need; we have the reality of grace, and it builds us up and brings us into our inheritance. Everything we need comes from grace, from Him. We are not lacking.

We cannot be so enamored by speculation that we forsake our stewardship. We have been charged with the spread of love and grace; neglecting that charge is not only foolish and disobedient, but it is destructive for us and for all who cross our path, because our theology always becomes our actions. We teach our ideas, with our words and by our example, every single day, even if we don’t intend to. And if our ideas are untrue, we become false teachers, instead of stewards of God’s deepest truth– the truth that He loves and has grace for us. If our theology isn’t rooted in love, our actions aren’t either.

And we must never forget what He calls pure and undefiled religion: “to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27). To Jesus, if we are seeking to be close to Him and to love others they way He does, we have the truest theology. When love is our theology and when we live it, it proves and grows itself.

May we participate in the dispersion of love instead of in useless discussions. And may we be so engulfed in love and grace and the spreading of it that we have no room left to speculate.

The way Paul ended his letter is a suitable ending for us, too:

If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain.

Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.

Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” for by professing it some have swerved from the faith.

(1 Timothy 6:3-6, 11, & 20-21, emphasis added)

Soul Food {July 2016}


This month carried so many different things for me. A lot of things came out in media this month, too, and I’ve been enjoying good handfuls, so let’s talk about some of it!


  • “Amazing” by Christian Collins. If this guy makes anything, you know I’m going to promote it. Love him and the positive presence he is in the world. [Also the video is so close to a million views oh my gosh!]
  • Anthem Lights, especially their Justin Bieber, Drake, and “Single Awareness” medleys. They also recently shared a Peace & Love medley, which I think is very special. They’re just good. These guys arrange things so well and all have seriously beautiful voices. I’ve been listening to a lot of their stuff lately. (Such as…)
  • Joey Stamper’s cover of “Jealous.” Killer. I don’t even the like the original song but I’ve listened to this so many times because dang that voice.
  • Switchfoot’s new “Where The Light Shines Through” album. This album… we need it. It could not have been released at a better time for us. My hands-down favorite from it is “If The House Burns Down Tonight” (dancing and tears at the same time), but I also like “Looking For America” featuring Lecrae and “Hope Is The Anthem.”
  • “Mountain” by Jeremiah Daly. There’s just something magical about it. Comforting yet somewhat heart-wrenching. The entire album is good, honestly; I use it as lullabies on anxious nights.
  • “Better This Way” by The Early November. A guy I went to college with basically goes to hardcore shows for a living (yes, I’m jealous, too), and this month he shared a clip of this band. I went on my little internet scavenger hunt, discovered this song, and kind of fell in love with it.
  • “Afraid” by Tenth Avenue North. People are coming out with such relevant music lately and I’m loving it. Pumped for this album. “Fear never told the truth.”
  • “Up In The Air” by Tilian. A friend played this for me during a car ride thinking I might like it; she thought correctly. The word “empowering” comes to mind.
  • Relient K’s “Air For Free” album. Why are so many bands putting out such good albums right now?! This might be Relient K at its finest; both uplifting and grounding. My favorite from it is “Man.” I also really like “Bummin'”, “Empty House”, “Flower”, and “Heartache.”
  • “You & I” by Colony House. Lyrically excellent, musically their signature alt-rock with some added retro vibes! I read it was recorded in one live take, which only adds to the retro factor. I’m loving what they’re doing. Their album comes out in September, and you can pre-order it right now!
  • “I’m Not Perfect. You’re Not Perfect. Let’s Hang Out!” by Tyler Ward. First: I think the title is super cute. Second, this song is fun and danceable, while also being a beautifully honest reminder that we’re all just doing our best and can do better together. I appreciate it so much.
  • “A Prayer” by Kings Kaleidoscope. Stunning, heartwrenching, powerful.

What’s that, you say? “Tessa. Come on now. I just want one convenient playlist with all of these songs.” No worries! Not only does this playlist have this month’s music choices, but the rest of my choices from this year so far are there, too! I know: “Tessa! That’s amazing! You’re the best!” I gotchu. [The Tyler Ward song isn’t on it because it is not on YouTube.]

Movies/ YouTube/TVthe-vet-life-animal-planet

  • These brothers attempting to make artsy pancakes. Weirdly entertaining (teenage boys crack me up so bad, it’s probably a disease), and I kind of want to do this with my friends now.
  • America’s Got Talent. People are so diverse and interesting, and this show displays it. I love seeing people living in their passions.
  • Collins Key and the Merrell Twins doing the “Smoothie Challenge.” It’s gross but I laughed way too much. Their “Eat It or Wear It Challenge” is also gross and great.
  • Mike Donehey’s video journal for “Afraid.” He always speaks such truth. “Fear is just a consequence of believing a lie.”
  • The Vet Life. My dad told me he was shocked I wasn’t watching this, since it’s about veterinarians and I’m obsessed with animals. I wasn’t too interested in trying it, so imagine his surprise when I spent five hours one Saturday just enjoying seeing these fellow animal lovers take care of creatures and build relationships. They even share details about animal health and anatomy, which is just really interesting to me. [Although when they operate I definitely shield my eyes because I’m a sensitive nugget.]
  • “Tour of My Brain.” So clever. I definitely want to make something like this.
  • Christian Collins (yep I’m gonna talk about him again) creating a song out of instruments he’s never played before. First of all: how did he get so good at new instruments so fast?! Prodigy. Secondly: he makes me smile so, so much. The song is fantastic.
  • Still consistently watched Food Network Star as well as The Mentalist (although I might take a break from The Mentalist for a while because anxiety is dumb).


  • “Dear You: 5 Brave Things to Keep in Your Pocket for Hard Days in a Hard World” by Ann Voskamp. This… this feels like someone lifting my chin up, looking into my face, and speaking life into my body. Such simple but HUGE things to remember and be in awe of. “Promise yourself you’ll remember this because you will need this most: You can always have as much as God as you want.”
  • “Love Looks Like: Choices” by Sarah Bessy. I’m not even close to married, but this moved me so deeply. A stunning exploration of being two people with different perspectives still unified in love. “Now it’s funny when people ask us sometimes, how do you weather major theological differences in your marriage? I don’t know if we did it the right way. Is there even a right way? I don’t know the right answer for every marriage but here is the answer that worked for us then and seems to still be working now: Choose each other. Turn towards one another.”
  • “Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from The South of France” by Kristin Espinasse. A fun coffee table book to pick up and get a taste of France and the French language every once in a while. [You can keep up with all of my book progress on Goodreads if you ever feel stalkerish; no worries, I get it.]
  • “Guard Your Gates,” also by Sarah Bessey. I love her way of explaining the balance of being guarded while not letting fear win in you. It is so important to understand.
  • “Book of a Thousand Days” by Shannon Hale. Hale wrote what my younger self craved in fiction, and I’m finding my current self still craves those things: a mystical setting, strong/complex characters, lovely thoughts sprinkled throughout the story, questions that make me keep reading because I must know the answers, even a little non-mushy love mixed in. This book pleased me so much.
  • “When We All Ache for Justice in The World” by Tim Stafford. This has lingered in my brain since I read it; it is ringing so true to me. When we want to talk about justice, so often we immediately shift the conversation to focus on injustice. What if, instead, we sought to focus on what justice actually looks like– restoration, healing, things set right?

The Fuel of Temptation: On Shame & Grace


DSC05087I haven’t had to carry shame like what I’ve carried this week in such a long time. It’s been so loud.

This time last week, I had just told the world about my struggle to fully remove pornography’s influence from my life. Many were kind and life-speaking in response, and I’m so grateful for that; some had a harder time. I love them all, and this is still true: I heard once that if a person makes you feel fear or shame, it’s because that’s what they’re carrying. I think I believe that. And some accidentally passed shame and fear on to me when they said what they did.

When I stumbled and looked at porn three weeks ago, I was broken over it. Then I went to my Father, He held me close, and we started moving forward again. I was doing okay; I was focusing on things that were good and healthy for me and He was doing work in me. But after hurt-filled conversation about the fact I even had to recover from this… I started feeling afraid.

I felt so close to stumbling again, constantly on the edge, even though I had no desire for it. I began standing stagnant where I’d left off; shame was crippling my ability to move on, but more than that– the fear of stumbling was pushing me closer to actually stumbling. When I let fear and shame live in me again, they told me I was weak and dirty. It led me to believe I was likely to continue stumbling, because it was part of who I was; I was too weak and dirty to be different. I was incapable of doing better, they said.

Fear and shame never tell the truth. They were (…are) lying to me. The truth’s words are so much different.

Truth says that God loves to enter weakness; He has even been known to refuse the removal of weakness so that He can show His power through it. Truth says that God has led us to put on our new selves, and that He renews us consistently. Truth says that fear cannot live inside perfect love. Truth says that my judgement day has been moved from the future to the past because Jesus stood in my place and declared me holy and clean. This is the gospel. Anyone who believes shame has any place in me doesn’t know that shame cannot live in God’s house– or that I am that house.

At church this morning, I was in the worship service, and began remembering what worship services used to be like for me. I remembered how scared I used to be that I wasn’t meeting the standards God expected of me or that I was still far from Him whom I loved. And I realized that I used to struggle so much more frequently and intensely when shame and fear were part of my daily baggage. When I believed I was filthy and unworthy even after repentance, I stumbled much more often; I despised myself even more often than I stumbled. Shame was the fuel for my temptation. Just like what I experienced again this week.

When my focus shifted and I began to believe in and abide in God’s love for me, I stumbled remarkably less. I felt more full of life. And when I stopped believing God could be more proud of me and in love with me than He already was, I didn’t have to fear anything anymore. Nothing could touch who I was. God declares no shame for me, so none exists for me; He is God and He establishes what is true.

My mission was no longer removing my sin so He could love me; it was resting in His love so He could remove my sin. I’d had it backwards. I feared my sin, when I could have told my sin to fear what was being done in me.

The focus has to be grace. Anything that gives a “but” to grace doesn’t know what grace fundamentally is. Grace doesn’t follow any rules; it follows love. And love is what God is made of.

I am done with the false, finger-wagging, works-based god that was handed to me. Give me Jesus. Give me the healer and redeemer and lover of humanity, who doesn’t say “get out of that place” but “I will take your place.”

Yes, God wants the best for me; yes, my life should be lived in a manner worthy of the gospel; yes, I need to put in my best effort to overcome my struggles. But what I do is secondary to what He does. What I do cannot and will not save me. Christ and only Christ stops the flesh. It is all grace. All of it. We are not saying effort has no value. We are saying grace is of infinite value. Grace must be the focus. It must. Where you place your focus is what you walk toward.

When my focus is that He loves me and has my best in store, I am no longer afraid; instead, I rest. And He works in me, and when He asks me to do something I do it. But I no longer try to do everything. Because He tells me I don’t have to. I just listen and obey. And because of that, I no longer face anxiety but intimacy.

This week, I am going to my Father. I am going to submit to His work in me, for that is my work. And instead of drowning in the shame and fear others might try to place in my hands, I’m going to swim in the grace He’s given me to carry in it’s place.

“Grace is God’s best idea. Rather than tell us to change, He creates the change.”  -Max Lucado