Responses

A Letter to Pastors: On Adversity, Silence, & Us

Dear pastor,

Please: will you tell the church what happened?

I’m not asking that you share an entire sermon about it. And I’m not asking you to get up on stage and declare any political or polarizing opinions. That isn’t what this is about; it isn’t what so much of this has been about.

church ceilingI have struggled to find a home in the church for a while now. There have been a lot of reasons for that, and most of them I discover along the way as I keep seeking. That’s another story, one I’ll tell another day.

But as I’ve been going through this process, I’ve noticed something about the church and the different ways it handles the things happening around (and within) it.

I grew up attending one particular church. I haven’t been a regular member there since the beginning of this year. But when the first refugee ban was put into place back in January, I asked a friend still attending that church if anything had been brought up concerning it that morning. And he responded:

“About the what? Are you talking about that thing they mentioned on TV?”

I thought I would be angry or sad, but I ended up almost feeling numb. I didn’t expect the answer to be yes. But I also didn’t expect him to know nothing about what was happening. That was what stuck with me the most.

Some time later, I visited a different church. I had never been to the service of any tradition but my home church’s before, so much of it was new to me. But a time for corporate prayer came, and the clergy began with: “First, let us pray for the people recovering from the shooting.”

I knew that was right. I knew that was what the church of Jesus would do.

I attended a few services at that church, and a simple call to prayer for what was taking place around the world happened in every single one of them.

It wasn’t political, wasn’t polarizing, wasn’t angry, nor was it despairing– it was basic compassion.

It was looking at events taking place in the lives of others and recognizing: “I have a share in that.”

To the people in that church, because something affected humanity, it affected them, too. They were kingdom-minded.

I have no memory of the churches I grew up attending ever mentioning or praying for things like this.

But it isn’t a denominational thing to do– it is a biblical thing to do.

Again, pastor, I’m not asking you to preach a fiery sermon about anything, or to give your church a political label, or even to share your stance on how to fix things.

What I am asking is that you remind the church that people who care about other people are the true Jesus people.

The church has a messy reputation, and not for no reason, but I know there are so many lovely, Christ-like people within those walls. Let’s believe that the people in your congregation are wonderful people who do care about others. The thing is?

How many good, kind people are in churches right now, with hearts and hands ready to help– and they don’t know people need it?

The man I spoke to about the refugee crisis didn’t know what it was until I explained it to him that night. He’d heard a headline on the news while channel surfing (related: most people don’t watch the news), but he didn’t know it mattered. He didn’t know who he could pray for, let alone what he could do to help. No one told him. He had been in church that morning, but no one there said anything, pastor or otherwise.

That isn’t the only example. This weekend, a violent Nazi demonstration happened in Charlottesville, Virginia. One of the most compassionate people I’ve ever known didn’t hear about it until I mentioned it, assuming she already knew. Shock and tears filled her eyes immediately. She had gone to church that morning, too. But no one there said anything.

Is it the church’s job to make sure individual people are staying aware? I don’t know; I think we all should be actively seeking opportunities to pray for and contribute to the lives of the hurting.

But it is the church’s job to make disciples. And that means teaching people what Jesus meant when He told us to pick up our crosses and follow Him.

There are so many good, caring people in the church. But when those people don’t know about the problems, how can they fix them? When the only people who know about the problems are the ones contributing to them or the ones who do nothing, what can that help?

How is that keeping the peace, when there isn’t truly peace to begin with?

We aren’t called to be peacekeepers, but peace makers.

As someone that many people are looking up to as a leader, you, pastor, have the ability to directly affect how the people in your community will respond.

You are in a position to remind the church that humanity is a family, with fates all tied together, and you have the ability to inspire more prayer and more compassion and more action in people whose hearts Jesus has already built for it. You don’t have to tell people how to care; just teach them why they need to. He will do the rest.

Not only that: you get to tell the hurting that they are seen. That they matter. That you won’t turn away but instead will stand with and for them.

That Jesus loves them, and that’s why you are going to love them, too, with a generous, sacrificial love.

A simple announcement. A simple call to prayer. They don’t do everything, especially when there’s such a volume of work to be done. But they do so much more than you’d think. They’re a spark.

Please, pastor: will you tell them?

Will you tell the church when things happen to our family? Will you lead the church to pray and to seek?

Will you show the world the real church of Jesus?

 

“To ignore evil is to become an accomplice to it.”  -Martin Luther King, Jr.


[If you are not a pastor, I still so strongly encourage you to hear this. Bring awareness to the people around you; pray with people; seek a way to help. You are just as capable of sparking change as the people in power, because you give yourself to Jesus, and He multiplies what you bring Him. Love will always make a way to come in.]

Soul Food

Soul Food {July 2017}

We’re two-thirds into summer now, and I’ve consistently run into beautiful, fun, soul-feeding things that I would absolutely love to share with you. I’ve been taking a break from my regular writing (last month it was unintentional, this month it was on purpose because self care is real), so thank you for sticking around and enjoying some good art with me in the meantime.

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  • “13” by LANY. I have a few friends who listen to them so I tried out their new album, and this was the song that hit me in the right spot. Their sound is fresh while also being synth-infused and nostalgic, I really like it, but most of the time I was a bit torn lyrics-wise.
  • “Lovely Child” by Ghost Friendly. I’ve loved Nick’s voice since the Two Worlds days, and it’s wonderful to see him continue to make music; he’s always been fantastic and he only gets better.
  • “Cobalt” by Jessica Frech ft. Sarin.Us. Such a lovely, happy vibe to this! I’ve listened to it over and over.
  • “Fleeting Moments” by Nick Primuth. Came on while I was listening to my comfort playlist on a night I couldn’t sleep; it was a hug.
  • “Honey and Milk” by Andrew Belle. He’s one of my favorite songwriters, both lyrically and in the feelings he manages to capture in his sound. This new song stole my breath; there is something so special about it. Seriously can’t wait for his upcoming album.
  • “Goodbye” by Echosmith. I’ve enjoyed their work in the past and their new single is definitely up to par. I love how they mix gentle acoustic guitar with fun modern pop. “When you finally find yourself, tell him I said goodbye…”
  • “Stay Happy” by Broken Social Scene. It feels like I’m at a concert every time I listen to this. Passionate and fun with a bit of a 70s vibe.
  • “Wall” by James Droll. Moody in the best sense, laced with his smooth voice and thick with a kind of resolute emotion. “And my tears won’t fall for you, like I did…”
  • “Beth” by Kina Grannis. Stunning in every possible way. I am obsessed with this lullaby-like ballad.
  • “Judo” by Magic & Bird (Andy Mineo and Wordsplayed’s new project). What. A. Jam.
  • Relient K’s “Forget and Not Slow Down” album. It is always an essential summertime album for me. The vibe is fun and energetic, but lyrically it is so bittersweet, and I love how well that contradiction works. My favorite song from it is “Over It,” but I love all of them; one of the best things about this album is the story to be found in listening to it front to back.
  • “One More Light” by Linkin Park. In memory of frontman Chester Bennington.
  • “Moonlight” by Grace VanderWaal. This girl’s voice paired with her candor in songwriting… it’s a magic spell that makes you feel what she’s feeling. I love everything she puts out.
  • “Part of Me” by Good Old War. Their music is so often a home for me. “There’s always a place for you here in my wild heart…”
  • “Looking Too Closely” by Fink. Reminds me of thoughtful summer evenings. Beautiful and sweeping and something I needed.

If you want all of this music in one place, I have a playlist! It’s on YouTube and Spotify; scroll to the bottom for the newest additions.

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  • Spider-Man: Homecoming. I told Twitter all about how deeply I love this movie. I am so, so happy with it. Spider-Man is my favorite, and this film does it right.
  • Iron Man. I hadn’t seen this film since around the time it came out, so I wanted a refresher. I really enjoyed it, and knowing what all the Marvel movies since have grown into made it extra special to see the first piece of the puzzle.
  • “Rogue One Stars Answer the Web’s Most Searched Questions.” Every single one of Riz Ahmed’s answers kills me, and Diego Luna is precious.
  • Spider-Man 2. I glean something from every viewing of every Spider-Man movie. This time, Peter’s struggle to choose between what he wanted and what the world needed from him spoke loudly, as did his words that solidified his choice: “There are bigger things happening here than me and you.”
  • “You Are Not Your Sexuality,” a talk by Sam Allberry. Not everyone is going to like this, but I promise: it is so empowering. So many things we associate with our identity (whether it be our sexuality, our addictions, our hobbies/talents/occupations, anything) have no real say in who we are. You are not defined by anything apart from His love for you. Period.
  • Johanna Clough’s art journal flip through. I love seeing inside these things! She also has a series where you can watch her process as she makes individual pages in her journal, and I so enjoy it.
  • Collateral Beauty. A few friends came over and watched it with me after I raved about it; I love this film so much. Love’s second speech sticks with me.
  • Various interviews with the Spider-Man cast, such as: this one with Tom Holland that is just super fun; this one with Tom and Zendaya hosted by an adorable child; this one with Tom and Jacob Batalon that cracks me up (and also gives me big sister feelings, haha!); this one with Tom in which he admits “I am a walking meme”; this one with Tom in which someone finally gets him to sing; this one with Jacob in a comic book store that made me want to go comic shopping…
  • The Amazing Spider-Man, both the first and the second film. I wanted to rewatch them after all the recent Spider-Man hype. While they are probably the least Spider-Man-like of the different movies we have to choose from, I can still enjoy them if I don’t think too hard about it. I still want to cry with Peter at the end; Andrew Garfield is a solid actor, despite the writing.

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  • “How Emotional Abuse From My Childhood Makes It Hard to ‘Take Up Space’ Now” by Juliette Virzi. Relatable and articulated so well.
  • A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. Enjoyable and thought-provoking, though I’m not sure how much I actually agree with the main thesis. I wrote a full review on Goodreads if you’re interested in that.
  • “That Time I Said, ‘Yes,’ When I Really Meant ‘No'” by Rebecca Reynolds. The circumstances that brought this piece about are messy, but I just love the way the author captured what confusion through our convictions is like and shared what she’s found to be true there. So aptly worded. “I didn’t wonder if there were exceptions to the rules because I wanted to defy God. I didn’t waver because I wanted to be a relativist. I wavered because I was overwhelmed watching someone I loved suffer at close range.”

What fed you this month?

Soul Food

Soul Food {June 2017}

This month was a weird one for me. Thank you for being patient and gracious as I’ve been taking a little non-intentional break from publishing any of my writing. Be assured that I am still writing and will share again soon. In the meantime, here is a look at the media and art I’ve enjoyed this month.

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  • “Down” by Andrew Belle. He’s one of my favorite songwriters and I’m excited about the new things he’s releasing!
  • “Release The Panic” by Red. I rediscovered the album while looking for something to play as I baked banana bread; I’d forgotten how much I like heavier music.
  • The La La Land soundtrack, especially “City of Stars” (both the duet and the first solo) and “The Audition (The Fools Who Dream).” There’s magic in it; influenced by classic instrumentation and laced with emotion.
  • “Just For The Record” by Lucie Silvas. Beautiful and emotional. The vibe reminds me of cloudy summer days in my lakeside hometown.
  • “Nothing Can Separate” by David Baloche. Simply rich.
  • “Altar” by Sweater Beats ft. R.LUM.R. What. A. Jam. I love R.LUM.R a ton.
  • “Fields and Pier” and “Sweet Adeline” by Avriel & The Sequoias. The first line of the first song I heard from the ep was enough to capture me and make me a fan.
  • “KIDZ” by Andy Mineo and Wordsplayed (Magic & Bird). Such a tight song, just straight up fun to listen to.
  • Christian Collins and Kurt Hugo Schneider’s cover of “Malibu.” Such a lovely, moody rendition that elevates the words. “I always thought I would sink, so I never swam…”
  • “Native” by KYKO. I’ve been listening to KYKO’s entire catalogue, actually; I’m convinced he can’t put out a bad song. But this one in particular is relevant to me right now and has a pleasant anthem-like quality to it.
  • “Good Rain” by Trevor Hall. So beautiful and uplifting and cheerful. An immediate mood boost.
  • “I Should Go / Thinking of You (Live)” by Good Old War. Really their whole “Live From The City of Brotherly Love” album has been playing through my house recently. I love their calm, homey sound and their sincerity. “I can only think of one reason why I should go, but I should go…”
  • “Run” by Foo Fighters. When I was growing up, my dad would introduce me to his my favorite bands and we’d listen to them together. Most of the time it didn’t end up being my style, but Foo Fighters always struck a chord with me. This is their new song and it’s dang good.
  • “You Might Be” by Autograf ft. Lils. One of the new additions to my work out/dance playlist, with a lovely emotional undertone.
  • “Something Just Like This (Tokyo Remix)” by Coldplay and The Chainsmokers. I love Coldplay with my whole heart. Something about the live version of this song just adds some extra magic.
  • Michael Bolton’s version of “Yesterday.” I found his covers album on tape at a thrift store, and it is definitely my go-to for car singing right now. This song in particular melts me.
  • “Sometimes I Wonder” and “Knock Kneed & Lead Lunged” by Zach Winters. His new “To Have You Around” album comes out today, actually! These two songs he released beforehand are lovely and poetic and deep, as I’ve learned to expect of his work. Excited to become familiar with the rest. “Our love won’t survive on the words of others…”

If you want all this music in one place, I made a playlist! It’s on YouTube and Spotify; scroll to the bottom for the newest additions.

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  • Tom Holland visiting a children’s hospital as Spider-Man. He’s my favorite. I love how passionate he is about visiting children in hospitals everywhere he goes; he’s already done it numerous times, in numerous countries, and the movie hasn’t even come out yet.
  • This video that I’ve watched probably a hundred times but still laugh at. “IT’S TROY BOLTON’S DADDDDDD”
  • The Shack. I read the book in high school, and (from what I remember) the movie does it justice. Beautiful, healing thoughts and truths illustrated.
  • La La Land. Visually gorgeous, musically sweeping, carrying a story that leaves you pondering when it’s over. I love Emma Stone and she does some fantastic work here.
  • Cheyenne Barton‘s bullet journal plan-with-me videos. Her creativity and style always inspire my own journal spreads, and I also enjoy her chats she adds in. Her Instagram is great, too.
  • Now You See Me 2. An enjoyable watch. I have fun with films about clever people who commit clever crimes for non-malicious reasons. Also, Dave Franco is significantly less creepy than James Franco? Like, not at all creepy?
  • “A Fan’s Guide to Spider-Man: Homecoming.” This convinced me I’m gonna cry through the whole movie and I’m so excited about it.
  • The Spider-Man: Homecoming Audi commercial. So cute!
  • Various interviews with the Spider-Man cast, like this one with Tom Holland, Laura Harrier, Zendaya, and Jacob Batalon (“Let’s go! Gotta get riiipped!”); this one with Zendaya, Jacob, and Laura (“Did he really?! What a loser!”); and this one with Tom and his dog. Tom was also on various TV spots and I really enjoyed tuning in to those. The movie comes out July 7th, you guys! I’m just a little excited.

Books/Blogs/Articleswhen-we-were-on-fire

  • CNET’s interview with Tom Holland. Because he’s my favorite.
  • “One Christian’s Reflections on Encountering Death” by Russ Ramsey. Beautiful. “Suffering is not an event. It is a path.”
  • “Finding Lost Things” by Casey Tygrett. Incredible and truth-filled perspective on our theology of “the lost.”
  • When We Were on Fire by Addie Zierman. I am so thankful this book exists, if for no other reason but to prove that spiritual abuse is often subtle but still so very real. I have mixed thoughts and feelings about the book as a whole, mainly because I am currently in a process that somewhat resembles the one Zierman expressed so well. I love her unabashed honesty. I also wish that some things had been spoken into after they were spoken about. But that’s my selfish desire; I know the book is a memoir, meant to tell me a story and not to directly teach me.
  • If you want to get regular book updates and full reviews from me, I’m on Goodreads!

What fed you this month?

Soul Food

Soul Food {May 2017}

This month, the word “interruption” was showing up everywhere I looked. Soon it started becoming reality, and I am now learning to face the unexpected boldly and with resolve. This is some of the media that came with me and helped me find a sense of steadiness and companionship.

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  • “Frustrated” and “Love Less” by R.LUM.R. I discovered him when he was featured on Phangs’ new single, and wow he’s good. Passionate and full of slow-groove.
  • “First Love” by Holly Ann. Came up on shuffle on my comfort playlist and met me right where I was. “In your perfect goodness, you pull me out of where I feel safe…”
  • “Don’t Cry, 2020” and “Are We Alone?” by COIN. I have a few friends who really like COIN so I listened their new album when it came out. These two songs were my favorites; fun to listen to while also somehow a little sobering.
  • KYKO’s “Wildlife” ep. I enjoyed his first ep a lot so I was excited to see he’d released another! He mixes happy electronic vibes with thoughtful lyrics carried by his unique voice, and I’m into it. The live session of “Dive In” is wonderful, too.
  • “Meet Me in The Hallway” and “Sweet Creature” by Harry Styles. Moody and interesting. I didn’t end up liking most of his new album lyrically (sorry, Harry!), but these two hit me in a sweet spot.
  • “Seven” by Authentic Fiction. Authentic Fiction was the name taken by Jordan Watts, whom we lost four years ago this month. He saved my life. I will always listen to his voice and hear his words, telling me the kingdom is right here in my chest.
  • Cimorelli’s cover of “Symphony.” These sisters all have such beautiful voices and nail their harmonies. This song was a perfect choice for them. They also covered “The Night We Met,” a song I’ve loved for a few years now, and it’s equally stunning.
  • “May I Have This Dance” by Francis and The Lights ft. Chance The Rapper. Overwhelmingly lovely vibes and some beautifully poignant lyrics. I’m obsessed. “All the things we carried, now we’re down to our bare feet…”
  • I also checked out Francis’ album, and “See Her Out (That’s Just Life)” and “Friends (ft. Bon Iver)” were stand-outs. He’s like a reincarnation of Phil Collins and James Blake. Both of whom are still alive and making music but whatever you know what I mean.
  • “Immanuel” by Loud Harp. Something to soak into and harmonize with.
  • “Wasted Time” “Hindenburg” and “Excuses” by Cereus Bright. Cozy indie-folk to spend an afternoon with.
  • Caleb’s “To The Ends of The World” album. These guys are now known as Colony House. They’ve been my absolute favorites since this ep from 2011. And rediscovering it was so special for me. My favorite song from it is “Better Off,” followed closely by “The Hardest Part of Losing You,” but all of them are so, so good. Please do give it a listen.

If you want all of these songs on one playlist, I already made it! It’s on YouTube and Spotify. Scroll to the bottom for the newest additions.

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  • “Why We Should Share Our Stories of Loss and Disappointment,” a TED talk by Rebecca Peyton. Moving and full of truth.
  • Tips on creativity in songwriting from Tessa Violet. Solid advice and perspective.
  • Hidden Figures. Such a powerful film! I’m so glad these amazing women are being highlighted so that more of us can be inspired by them and learn from them, as well as so that more can see the realities of what they went through.
  • Tom Holland’s interview with Ellen. He’s precious, I’m over the moon for him, his dog has the same name as me, everything’s great.
  • Katie Gregoire taking on the purity movement. She nails it. Wow she nails it.
  • Tessa Violet’s video about the Enneagram. I love personality studies, but I never really “got” Enneagram. After seeing her passion for it, I decided to follow her advice and read the descriptions until I found my heart-tug– and I found it! I am a six. Here’s the website with the type descriptions she mentioned if you want to explore. Make sure to share yours with me if you find it!
  • This wonderful simplified explanation of the overarching story of the Bible and humanity, courtesy of The Bible Project. Their work is incredibly valuable and I highly recommend pretty much every video they’ve made.
  • Cinderella. The original animated Disney film is a masterpiece. I also watched Cinderella II, and I don’t care if it’s cheesy and not at all on par with the original; it’s nostalgic and I still love it.
  • Kati Morton’s video on repressed memories. Kati is a licensed therapist, and her videos are so helpful and informative.
  • “How to Road Trip! 48 States in 110 Days.” A little less than eight minutes of living vicariously through these fun people.
  • Basically everything by Brad and Hailey Devine. Their travel videos are amazing, their Instagrams (his, hers) are gorgeous, and their relationship gives me butterflies. And their wedding video? Ugh. Swoon.
  • Andy Mineo talking about anxiety and self care. I love when people with influence talk openly about their mental health experiences. Andy’s perspective is important and he shares it eloquently.
  • Hacksaw Ridge. I’ve wanted to watch it since I first heard about it, but I didn’t think I ever would because I’m so sensitive and the unanimous report was that it is horrifyingly graphic. But the story sounded so special (and I am such a fan of Andrew Garfield) that I finally decided to try it. And yes, the reports are true. But getting to witness the remarkable actions of Desmond Doss? Worth it. Because the story and the love all over it are also true.
  • Continued watching Scorpion and Designated Survivor, and both had their season finales this month. The latter’s was good, the former’s was “meh.”

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  • “You Know How Hurt People, Hurt People? How To Stop The Cycle of Hurt” by Lauren Casper. So, so good. “That’s what love does in the face of cruelty. It surprises, confuses, and then teaches.”
  • “About Who’s In Charge of The Blogosphere: An Ongoing Conversation” by Ann Voskamp. I’d been eavesdropping on this conversation from the beginning, and Ann’s insight is spot-on. When we say it’s okay to silence someone because we don’t agree with them, we create a dangerous gray area where anyone can silence anyone, and soon no one has a voice except for those in power. Censorship does not bring healing.
  • Random comic books. It was Free Comic Book Day on May 6th, so I found and read the new edition of Marvel’s Secret Empire and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic. I also read a bunch of random classic Spider-Man comics my brother passed down to me. I didn’t realize how into comic books I could be; I might seek out more.
  • Undaunted by Christine Caine. Good, just didn’t leave any lasting impression on me. However…
  • Unashamed, also by Christine Caine. Such a timely, helpful book for me. It’s so important to be able to recognize shame so we can reject it and move forward into abundant life without it, and this book has some helpful insights for that process.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Volume One) by Akira Himekawa. I don’t normally read manga, but my brother owns the Legend of Zelda series and I’ve really enjoyed them (plus I was in the mood for a graphic novel after Free Comic Book Day). Pretty artwork and interesting concepts.
  • “Sermon Notes for Cynics” by Addie Zierman. It was good for me to read something from someone a bit further into the process of healing from church baggage than I am. I’ve been using her print-out, and it truly does help.
  • The news that we found a dinosaur fossil that still has armor, skin, and guts! I cried.
  • If you want regular bookish updates from me, I’m on Goodreads!

What fed you this month?

Misc. · Practical

A Look at How I Journal

old journal stackWhen most people find out that I keep a journal, their response is along the lines of: “Wow, that’s impressive; every time I’ve tried to keep a journal it just hasn’t worked.” It’s always an interesting response to me, because I don’t believe a person can “fail” at journaling. It’s something you do for yourself: recording whatever you want to, however you want to, whenever you want to. There shouldn’t be any pressure to make your journal anything but the space you want it to be for you.

In the spirit of that, I wanted to share how I personally use my journal. Not simply to give you ideas, but also to encourage you about how limitless, personal, and valuable a practice it can be in your life.

What I Write

There are a few things I (currently) record in my journal through words and writing.

Gratitude lists. If you’ve known me for nearly any length of time, you know that I don’t shut up about gratitude [and if you didn’t know that, you can read this]. Cultivating a grateful heart has completely changed my life in the best ways. The only thing that is a guarantee for me to journal every day is a list of the things I’m grateful for throughout the day. Writing these lists is the highest form of self-care for me, and re-reading them over time is a delight all over again.

When I wake up, I write the day’s date, pen the words “Thank you for:” in the corner, and start bullet points down the side of the page. I fill in the list as things come, or in a moment when I need to focus on building up the good. Sometimes the list will fill the page, other times I’ll draw a dotted line to make it a separate column from something else I’m putting in. I don’t have a minimum or maximum daily count; I just let it happen naturally and allow myself to be pleasantly surprised.DSC00314

Scripture reading log. I don’t follow a reading plan. I tried to in the past, and sometimes it worked for me, but often the plan would ask me to read too much in one sitting, or would make studying scripture feel like something to check off my to-do list instead of something to pour myself into. Right now, I simply read one chapter of the Bible a day. There are some days I don’t read the Bible, such as when I had pulled a near-all-nighter doing homework in college and could feel my eyes closing but was still reaching for my Bible when I heard clearly in my spirit: ‘Tessa– go to bed. Your mental health matters to me. We talked today, it’s fine.”

I decide which book to read by alternating between the Old Testament and New Testament in their orders. Recently I finished reading Numbers, and I am now reading Matthew; next I will read Deuteronomy, then Mark, and so on. If it’s a more difficult book to read, such as the books of the Law, I will also read a Psalm.

In terms of recording my scripture study, I pen a bracket and the name of the book and chapter I’m reading that day. As I read, if something stands out to me, if I have thoughts, or if something confused me and I did some research, I will write notes on those things or even process them through writing. Once I’m done, I pen the other bracket at the end. Sometimes, there are days I read the chapter and simply don’t have anything to say about it. In those cases, I will still pen the other bracket after the book name and chapter, so I remember I read it. It’s okay to not “get something” out of scripture every time you read it; desire to learn is already a delight to Him.

“Proper” journal entries. When I have a lot of feelings I need to sort through or when something happens in my life that I want to remember, I write a journal entry that resembles what most people probably think of when they picture journaling: straight up writing, stream-of-consciousness.

I think what intimidates most people about keeping a journal, what makes them feel like they’ve “failed” to keep theirs, is that they imagine they need to write entries like this every day. I definitely don’t write entries like this every day; I only write them when I want to, when I have something to say or process. If I tried to write entries like this every day, I would probably start getting discouraged and feel like my life was boring! They’re helpful and enjoyable when they’re written out of desire rather than duty. I just write what I care about; it isn’t for anyone but myself, so there’s no pressure.

Drafts. Occasionally, if I want to write something for my blog but am unsure about how much of my personal story and feelings to include, I’ll write the first draft in my journal. Sometimes it truly is a first draft. But sometimes, once I’ve gotten it all out in my journal, that’s where it stays, because that ends up being the best place for it to live. Starting blog posts in my journal has become a healthy habit for me because, to be honest, I’ve probably avoided some conflicts by doing it.flowers and journal

Book notes. Every once in a while, I will read a book so impactful that I want to take notes on it. When that’s the case, I write the name and author of the book, then below that I’ll record quotes or what I’m learning. When I stop reading for that sitting, I might write down which chapter(s) I read in case I want to find something in context again. I draw a little swirly line to separate my book notes from any other journal entry that might go on that page. It’s interesting to re-read later and see how my book notes have similar themes to my regular journal entries and scripture studies from the same timeframe.

Beginning-of-the-year thoughts. I don’t really set goals at the beginning of the year, but I do like to dedicate the first page of the year to writing out a few hopes for it. If I start a new journal in the middle of the year (which is a guarantee for me because I fill them with so much), I rewrite those hopes on the first page of the journal as a reminder.

Calendar notes. I have a calendar on my desk and do not at all ask my journal to function that way, but I do like to make a note of holidays, birthdays, and milestones next to the day’s date, just so I can easily remember if I look back.

[I also use a prayer journal and a poetry journal, but I like to keep those separate from the rest of my writing.]

How I Decorate

A colorful, thrown-together journal might not work for everyone, but it adds some extra sunshine to my life to be able to decorate my pages. Most of my decorations end up serving a purpose, too! I use a few different things.

Quotes. I’ve always collected quotes from anywhere I find them, so incorporating them into my journal pages makes a lot of sense for me, and also makes it a bit easier to find one if I want to go back to it.

I write them on any blank spot on the page I’m currently using. I prefer to use fun gel pens or markers, but if I only have my simple black pen with me I don’t mind using that, either. Cursive hand lettering looks pretty regardless of the pen you’re using.

I don’t really go looking for quotes to add in, because I regularly find a good amount that leave an impression on me in everyday life– from songs I hear, tweets, Pinterest, books or blog posts I read (I don’t often take notes on whole books like I mentioned earlier, but sometimes there are just lovely lines, aren’t there?), movies I watch, Tyler Knott Gregson’s poetry blog (swoon), and anything else relevant for me at the time.

Photos. At the end of every month, I look through my photos and print out a few highlights from that month to make a page or two into a mini scrapbook. I write “[Month] Moments” at the top of the page, arrange the photos to my liking, attach them with regular scotch tape rolled on the back, then add any little commentary I want to below the photos. Sometimes I won’t have a photo from something that happened, so I’ll bullet point those moments somewhere on the page. If there are photos from a particular event and I also have a little memento from it, such as a concert ticket or wristband, I like to pair those together.DSC00457DSC00323

If I have strips from a photo booth, I like to add those into my journal, too, but I probably wouldn’t wait until the end of the month. I would instead just add them when I got them, on the journal page from that day. I do the same with movie tickets.

Apart from my monthly scrapbook page, I regularly add in a random photo or two to most of my journal pages, simply because it brings me a little burst of joy; I’m very visual and love having lovely images around me. These random photos aren’t usually my own, instead I scroll through my Pinterest and find a handful that I want to print out. I print them wallet-sized on regular office paper from my home printer and save them in an envelope I’ve attached to the back page of my journal (if the journal doesn’t have a built-in pocket) until I want to use one. Sometimes the photo fills in an empty space on the page, other times I add the photo first and work around it. How I execute all my creative journal additions depends on my mood, which I like, because my feelings seem to be reflected on the page visually even if I didn’t write a journal entry about how I felt.journal spread photos

Washi tape, doodles, & stickers. These things generally serve as space fillers and just add a nice bit of color and interest to the pages.oooooooooooooo

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into my journal, and that maybe you’ve even found a spark of inspiration for your own. Don’t succumb to any pressure you feel to be a daily writer, or make every page a work of art, or do anything a certain way. Just do it for you.

Do you journal? What works well for you? What about it makes you happy?

Recovery · Testimonies

Thoughts from Being 10 Months Porn-Free

I didn’t plan on this today; I thought maybe I’d write something about how I was doing once I reached the one-year mark. But today is my ten-month mark of being pornography-free, and I have a lot of thoughts about it. I spent some time in my journal last night, wrestling. I would like to share that journal entry.

This month was probably the hardest temptation-wise out of all ten so far. I’m not sure why, but I’ve had to be extra proactive and cautious with myself lately. I fought for this month.

Here’s what gets me: in ten months of freedom, you’d think I would know what was working, would know why I’m doing well and what got me here. But I really don’t. And people ask me, and it feels weird to not have any answers.

I don’t want to invalidate my addiction story; I truly did do things I didn’t want to do, repeatedly/routinely, and I still face repercussions. It was real. But I also don’t want to tell people that grace, candor, and hard work will cure their addiction. I know it is not that simple. It’s just all I can pinpoint that has contributed to my own recovery. I really do not know how I got here.

Though I am so grateful for the way things have worked for me, I understand not everyone who does the same things I’m doing fares the way I somehow have. I don’t have the explanation for that. I fully believe God heals and restores all who come to Him, that He is strength in our weakness, that He shows absolutely no partiality. I trust His timing for everyone. I just don’t know why some of us find visible healing sooner than others, why the timing varies from person to person. Or why I get to be one of those who is seeing my healing already.

Not that I don’t still face temptation, as this month especially has proven (though I can’t exclude the other nine, either). I do face temptation, often. I don’t have it “easy.” But I know I have it easier than many. Maybe I caught my addiction in earlier stages than most who enter recovery.

tiny buds and bloomsI think that’s what I want to stress most: recovery doesn’t stop.

“Porn addict” is in no way part of my identity, and never was. But it’s something that has been/is part of my life. And recovering from being a porn addict and remaining in that recovery? It is an almost guaranteed lifelong process. This is something that will probably always be part of my life. I believe it gets better. But as long as I live in this skin, I have potential to act out of it and I have a lot of choices to make.

I truly do believe in full recovery. I am just not naïve enough to tell anyone, including myself, that there’s a point of arrival. God heals, and He also doesn’t take away our freedom of choice. It’s constant; it’s maintenance; it’s abiding. And I am also not so privileged as to believe people who do what I’ve been doing are guaranteed to see the same outcome I’m seeing. It is different for everyone. Honestly, I really wrestle with that sometimes. Timing is so beyond us, and I don’t understand it.

I think finding the balance of celebrating where I am while commiserating with those in an overwhelming place in the struggle is something I will have to work through for a while. Today, I don’t feel like celebrating, though I know it would be okay for me to. I know the highs and lows of this process, and I want to honor everyone in every stage of it. I am still learning how.

I’m so grateful for these ten months. I don’t take it for granted. I know it’s a gift I don’t deserve, one that puzzles me to be in possession of sometimes.

To my brothers and sisters who are in recovery– be it day one, month ten, or year five– you are in the midst of something holy. He is proud of you. He is working in you. He is there in the mess of the process with you, day by day. And if you have to start over again? Nothing about this changes. There is nothing you can do to change the love He has for every bit of you. Lean into that.


[This video on recovery/sobriety is so eloquent and echoes a lot of my feelings, and also carries some solid encouragement. I highly recommend it.]

Soul Food

Soul Food {April 2017}

Sunshine-filled spring days met me somewhere deep this month. I found a lot of light in the art I consumed, too. Let’s talk about it!

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  • Knox Hamilton’s “The Heights” album. I saw them live at the end of the last month when they opened for Colony House; when I got back home from my trip I downloaded their album and started listening to it on repeat. They are so much fun, and not without being meaningful, too. My favorites from the album are “Washed Up Together” “Set It On Fire” “Pretty Way to Fight” “How’s Your Mind” “Sight For Sore Eyes” and “The Heights.”
  • “Rapper” by Heath McNease ft. Keyes. In my head for dayzzzz.
  • Isla Roe. Her voice is stunning, and she pairs it with poetic songwriting and simple, haunting arrangements. She has an album called “April,” and I can’t pick favorites from it; they’re all so lovely. I also enjoy her songs “Still Your Girl” “Thirty Thousand Feet” and “Hazel (demo)” scattered across the internet. She is just incredible.
  • “Goodbye” by filous ft. Mat Kearney. I’ve been obsessed with Mat for such a long time and nothing he does changes that; he is so consistently good. A huge inspiration to me. “My heart is on the table; somebody’s gotta try. I’m willing and I’m able, don’t you know it? I don’t wanna say goodbye…”
  • “11:47pm” by Montell Fish. Good vibes, especially in the second half. Just something to sit with.
  • Elvis Presley’s version of “In The Garden.” My car only plays cassette tapes, and my Elvis hymns collection is becoming my go-to. This song in particular captures me every time. One of my favorite hymns.
  • “Time Flies” by Lykke Li. Makes me feel like I’m in a fairyland, a somber but still lovely one. So beautiful and stirring.
  • “In The Blood” by John Mayer. His new album “The Search for Everything” came out this month. He released it in three separate waves, so only four of the songs were new to me, but it’s such a great album all around; I listened to it almost exclusively for a while. The song I’m sharing is my favorite new one. It hits so deep.
  • Derek Minor’s “Reflection” album. I found a list of rappers who were Christians and checked them all out, to find that I enjoyed Derek far above the others. Relevant, convicting, and uplifting all at once, surrounded by solid beats. My favorites from this album include “Look At Me Now” “Hold Up” “You Know It” “Until I’m Gone (ft. BJ The Chicago Kid)” “Judo” and “Good Enough (ft. Camille Faulkner).” That’s like half the album but shhhh it’s fine.
  • “In The Name of Love” by Martin Garrix and Bebe Rexha. Emotional and heart-thumping at the same time. I turn the volume way up on this one.
  • “Always Been U” by Phangs ft. R.LUM.R. If you saw Relient K on their last tour, you also saw Phangs in their band. His new single just dropped, and what. a. jam.
  • “Fallen Short” by Youth. Such comforting spring vibes in this. If you follow Fleurie on all her social media, your playlists will quickly fill with her shout-outs.
  • “On A Night Like This” by Dave Barnes. I spent a late night with it and it was just what I needed. Dave writes so beautifully.

If you want to listen to all of this music in one place, I have a playlist on YouTube and on Spotify. Scroll to the bottom for the newest additions.

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  • Andrew Garfield dancing for charity. No comment necessary.
  • John Mayer’s interview with Charlie Rose. This made me want to go for coffee with John to chat about music and personal growth. I didn’t know if I’d watch the whole thing, but I was so engaged that the time flew by before I knew it. One of my favorite things he said: “There’s a difference between writing a song because of somebody and for somebody.”
  • Guardians of The Galaxy. I know it’s been out for almost three years now, but I just had never been able to see it until this month! I think it’s a great marriage of a comedy and a cool superhero/sci-fi movie. Looking forward to volume two soon!
  • This Tom Holland interview. He’s one of my favorites. All his interviews are fun to watch because he’s just charming, but this one was also a genuinely great chat (shout out to skilled interviewers who ask good questions) about Marvel and the upcoming Spidey film. And I swear: he gets more handsome every week.
  • Jen Campbell’s analysis of Peter Pan. The day I declared I simply didn’t like Peter Pan, I watched this video and repented. It convinced me to put it on my re-read list.
  • Brad & Hailey Devine’s “Kyoto Travel Guide.” Goals.
  • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and Battle of The Five Armies. Why not part one? Because I’ve seen part one a hundred times, y’all. Also I had to google who the fifth army was.
  • This video about falling in love, heartbreak, and learning to be firm in who you are. I love the way she tells her story and how much wisdom she has for us to glean. “I was a different person, and that person didn’t need him, she wanted him.”
  • The cast of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries playing Marrying Mr. Darcy. I need this card game and I need to play it with these people right now, please.
  • Continued watching Designated Survivor and Scorpion.

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What fed you this month?