I am so grateful to be living in a new year! We definitely have many fresh starts throughout every year, but I don’t think the start of a new year is an arbitrary thing; I think being able to organize what happens in and around us with a timeline can be an empowering and healing practice. I innately remember specific dates for almost anything, so being able to live in a new January 24th and say to myself, “Last year on this day, I was unsure of how much I wanted what was in front of me. This year, I am sure of and nervous but excited about what I know I’m walking toward”– that’s huge. Here’s to more of those moments in 2019.
We’ve already gotten to enjoy so many great things this year; here are a few of my favorites.
“One Thing” by Post Animal. I listened to their album front to back when it came out last spring, but somehow I’d forgotten about this stunner of a psychedelic track. Emotion-laced and nostalgic. I love it.
“Let It Happen” by Switchfoot. This track from their latest album reminds me of old school Switchfoot (and also of the Goo Goo Dolls a little bit?), and I’m blown back by it. Lyrically it hits deep, and the rock anthem they created to carry it is such a great vessel. “Tomorrow knows what tomorrow knows; you can’t make it get here sooner.” I’m still digesting the album as a whole.
“Indefensible” by Scott Mulvahill. His whole album, actually. I mentioned it a few months ago but he is just so talented at what he does and I just keep listening (and getting a teeeeny little crush).
Scott Mulvahill and Stephen Day’s YouTube cover of “How Sweet It Is.” Obsessed.
“May I Have This Dance” by Francis and The Lights ft. Chance The Rapper. Francis is one of my biggest musical inspirations at this stage of my life and this song will never stop being just incredible to me. The succinct lyrics, the gorgeously passionate feeling in it, Chance’s guest verses… ugh, so good. Francis is a master of intricate simplicity.
“Young” by Parachute. I listened to them quite a bit in high school so they always kind of bring me back, in a positive way. Loving this new one from them.
Ripp + Rice’s “Songs We Wrote on Tuesdays” album. Chris Rice is a foundational artist for me. I grew up listening to him, being comforted and stretched by his work, and inadvertently learning about songwriting from him. He hasn’t released new music since I was in middle school, so when I found out he was releasing a project with Andrew Ripp, I was thrilled. And when it came out, I found myself almost in tears upon hearing him again. He is just home to me; his sincerity– in his writing, in his voice, and even in the instrumentation– continues to astound, embrace, and inspire me. Thank you for coming back, Chris. I missed you. The album alternates his and Andrew’s songs. Obviously I love Chris’, and my favorites are “This Ain’t No Love Song”“Nothin’ Like This” and “Gorgeous” and “See You There.” From Andrew my favorites are “Let It Burn” and “Frontlines.”
“Blind” by PRETTYMUCH. These boys know how to make a jam. Still stuck in my head.
If you want all of this music in one place, I have a Spotify playlist! I’ll be using it for all of 2019. Pumped to see the shape it takes!
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse. Such an enjoyable experience! The animation style is so unique and appealing (there are some awesome action shots that manage to be gorgeous somehow, too), the characters are diverse and interesting and fun to follow, the story is engaging, and I walked away just laughing at what a good time I had with it. I was happy with how they celebrated so many facets of Spider-Man’s world. Definitely go see it on the big screen if you can! [The epilepsy warnings are real.]
Coldplay: A Head Full of Dreams. I finally got to watch the Coldplay documentary! It was different from what I expected, but I loved what it turned out to be even more than I would have loved what I thought it was going to be. Following the journey of artists I’ve admired for a long time; seeing how they approached things from the beginning, and how it has evolved yet hasn’t quite changed; hearing about how they’ve managed to stay together for over twenty years even through disagreements and low points; discovering how true their team-mentality is and that they all are completely invested in what they’re saying to the world… I’m inspired and a little amazed.
Andy Serkis Breaks Down His Most Iconic Roles. He’s one of my favorite actors of all time; he’s genuinely played so many iconic roles, and because of performance capture technology and his mastery of it most people don’t even know it’s him. He’s humble about it, while also being passionate. What a man.
Ralph Breaks The Internet. I thought it was going to be cheesy and quickly date itself because of how rapidly internet culture moves from one thing to another, but it was actually a sweet story with legitimately funny jokes and fun adventures. I don’t think it will be outdated for a good while.
Mary Poppins Returns. Triumphant. Emily Blunt made me cry the second she came on screen, her voice is lovely, Lin-Manuel Miranda is a delight, it’s so colorful… yes.
Aquaman. I had low expectations, but it was surprisingly a really enjoyable film! The casting is great, the modern but fantasy-driven story is engaging, the water settings are pretty, and when it’s cheesy it’s on purpose. It’s in the running for the best DC film for me. I got a t-shirt the other day.
DrawingWiffWaffles creating her Spidersona. I’ve loved exploring #Spidersona on Twitter, and watching someone go through the process of designing theirs was really fun. Lately I’ve been getting into art channels on YouTube and letting them push me to just make stuff again. Cheyenne Barton (we all know I love her) recently did a sketchbook tour, and FurryLittlePeach is one of my favorites for stylistic creativity.
Worst Cooks in America. So dumb but makes me laugh so much!
Continued watching The Good Doctor and tearing up every week.
This article on why “We Can’t Keep Treating Anxiety from Complex Trauma The Same Way We Treat Generalized Anxiety.” I wasn’t aware that I’d experienced trauma until I was in my twenties, and I haven’t let myself take that very seriously until last year. I do have GAD, but exploring how that’s connected to trauma for me has been frightening and interesting work. This article points out a few things I’ve struggled to articulate, such as why grounding and mindfulness techniques aren’t always a good idea. It reminded me to be less harsh with myself.
Also Worth Mentioning
My sketchbook. I like having a purse-sized sketchbook I can take with me so I can brainstorm, practice, or squeeze in a little creative time whenever I have the impulse to. However, the one I’ve had for the last few years was advertised as mixed media but did not take to watercolors, which is my favorite medium and what I often use to color in my sketches. I recently found this one for super cheap, and so far I am so pleased with it! It takes watercolor very well, and it also lets me erase over and over again without rubbing off a layer of the paper. I colored in all my Inktober sketches recently, which was a blast to do.
The All About It podcast. A sweet, intelligent, witty couple just chatting about things for an hour? Yes, please. It makes cleaning my house way more enjoyable.
Banana bread. Easy to make, amazing to have with peanut butter for breakfast. I made two loaves within a week.
I normally write these lists at the end of the year to remind myself that life is vast and good things happen for me. I still am doing it for that reason– perspective– and I still believe in more good to come into my life and be long-lasting. I love this project and I love being alive, and all the potential everywhere for good.
I am also aware that this year, I lived some hopes, then got crushed. And it was really hard for me, and I kept going back and forth about whether I’d share this year because I am still speaking back to the discouragement it gave me. But I so believe, still, in a good that will come and stay. What is coming is even better than what is gone. So I’m sharing, and hoping you’ll be reminded of how vast life is, too.
I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. I already have. This year, more than ever, I have felt so loved and supported by Him, and safe with Him, because I know He isn’t disguised good– He’s freaking good. I’m only going to see the truth of that more and more in the new year, and in the years to come.
Here are 85 ways I saw it this year:
Developing photos and scrapbooking them | Filling more journals
I managed to keep up a monthly scrapbooking habit all year and really enjoyed it. There weren’t always a ton of photos, but I would make a little list of what happened that month and decorate the page with any mementos I had, too, so usually it still turned out cute. I keep those monthly scrapbooks in my everyday journals; I’m on my third one for this year. I’m so, so grateful for journaling and the processing space it provides, as well as the important reminders it can give.
Reading more books | Reading more fairy tales
I did read a few great books (such as Boundaries and Between Heaven and The Real World), but I’ve also learned that it’s okay to not be filling my brain constantly. I honestly used to be a glutton for insight and would go to books looking for direction and specific ways to make specific choices, and it wasn’t healthy. Life is a little simpler than I thought, in a weird way. I’ll touch on that a bit later.
As for fairy tales, I found a vintage Beauty and The Beast picture book with the most interesting, almost psychedelic illustrations and really enjoyed it.
Going to more concerts | Meeting people I admire
I got to see Mat Kearney and Andrew Belle early in the year, two of my absolute favorites I was trilled to see not only touring together, but also coming to my hometown! They were both wonderful. Mat and I have the same hometown, and at one point he roasted every high school in the area; he was so fun and incredibly talented, an inspiring performer. Also, Tyler Burkham (of the original Audio Adrenaline, one of my favorites growing up!) was playing guitar in his band and I was starstruck.
I got to say hello to Andrew afterward, and I was such a dork about it but he was super kind; his performance was beautiful and his welcoming spirit was, too.
Other concerts I got to see this year– Rend Collective (always fun), Tedashii, tobyMac– were at a free festival in the park I went to with my mom. I attempted to go to a show that got cancelled, too, but let’s not dwell on that.
Holding babies | Watching fireworks
I got to hold a sweet and chatty baby at my family’s 4th of July barbeque this year.
Coloring with children
I do the scheduling for the preschool room at my church, so sometimes I have to fill in when no one else can. Do I like working with kids? No. But do I make friends with humans of all ages? Yes. And coloring with my four and five year old friends every once in a while doesn’t ruin my life.
Finding a job I enjoy | Getting better at projecting my voice | Having a great answer to the dreaded “what do you do?” question | Being able to pay for things | Having solid interactions with kind strangers | Becoming braver at making conversation | Feeling more skilled in things I feel like an amateur in
I lived at home unemployed for almost three years, because I thought God had asked me to. But after learning about His voice and His goodness, I realized He couldn’t have, not in the way I thought He had and not for the purpose I thought He’d shared with me. I still was a little scared and doubtful, but I started applying for jobs in February and asking Him to bless what would be good for me. I got hired at the local movie theater at the end of April. I was at the point where I would have worked nearly anywhere if they’d hire me, but I am so grateful that He blessed me with the movie theater. It has stretched me in so many ways and given me so many gifts. It changed my life, truly. I genuinely enjoy the work most of the time; interacting with customers is sometimes tough but often I just really like seeing the image of God in everyone. And I get to be around movies (and see them for free), and my managers are great people who actually care about me, and a good handful of my coworkers are fun to talk to. It’s a good job. It has made me more bold and well-rounded; I care less about how awkward I might me, and more about connecting with other people. God gives such good gifts.
And: I got a second job in July. Out of the blue (to me), my pastor asked if I’d consider interviewing to be his new secretary. So I did, just to see where it could go. Apparently he hadn’t been talking to anyone else; I was a specific choice, and I’ve been part of the team ever since. It is so fulfilling to be part of the work we do at this church. If you told me last year that I’d be a church secretary and love it, I’d think you were annoying and a liar. I didn’t think I’d return to institutional church period, let alone end up working at one and truly supporting (and being supported by) it. It’s wild. Having two jobs is tiring and not what I want long term, but the fact that I like both of them does not slip by me as a huge gift. I am so grateful that God is so good.
Owning my own car | Having confidence in going places on my own | Driving in tree-filled areas during the fall
I applied for jobs not knowing how I was going to get there. If I had to hitch rides, take the bus, use my first paychecks to simultaneously pay for rideshares and save for a car… I just had to start doing something. So when I got my job at the movie theater, told my dad about it, and he said they’d give me their car and get a different one, I was so grateful (and a little annoyed that this plan had never been communicated to me, but mostly grateful). I love my little 1990 Camry. I love the opportunities having it gives me, to try more things and to grow in my independence.
Getting better at painting | Setting up outside and painting | Having painting parties | Having craft days with friends | Making greeting cards for friends | Painting pumpkins
I don’t have as much time to paint as I used to, but I still feel like I’ve grown and found my style a little more this year. I favor watercolor because it has been my main medium for so long, but I’m starting to really enjoy acrylics and understand how they work. In this season of my life, the thing that gets me to paint is usually setting aside a specific time to do it with a friend. It’s so fun and gives me some breathing room, and even if I don’t have an idea it pushes me to come up with something. Shout out to Rachel and Sierra for the art days, and to my grandma for the paper flower crafting day.
Heather suggested my pumpkin design this year and it was so fun and turned out adorable!
And my Christmas cards were fun to letter and doodle; I’m obsessed with using white pen on dark backgrounds lately so I embraced that.
Writing lyrics | Writing about some of the big things | Finding new things to write about | Writing poems that express what I want them to
A few years strong on writing almost daily poems, and it is such a helpful practice for me. It lets me express and process, and it helps me stay creatively exercised. I would have honestly crumbled without it this year; it let me say things I was afraid to say to anyone else. Sometimes it ends up being a song instead, which always delights me; a few anthems came out of me this year. In the new year, I’d like to be more intentional and focused about songwriting. It’s the most exciting thing I get to do; it feels like I’m aligning with myself the most when I make music.
Going on a road trip | Traveling to places different from where I live | Attending the weddings of dear friends | Exploring quirky shops
My cousin Jillian got married in Poulsbo, WA this year and my family spent a few days in town for the wedding. Their union is one of the loveliest I’ve witnessed. Getting to traverse the area a little was fun, too; I tried pickled herring at a euro pub, so there’s that.
I also got to attend the weddings of a few other sweet friends: Kaitlyn and Drew, and Carlie and Trey. I love these couples and the examples they’ve set for others.
Hiking a calm little forest trail | Sitting by the lake in the summer | Visiting the coast | Having bonfires with good people
One of the best days of the entire year. It was so dreamy and fun and I felt alive, not in an adrenaline junkie way but in a warm and content way. Sierra and Weston invited me to tag along on a coast trip with a few of his friends; we got along so well, laughing and sharing thoughts and dreams. We sand boarded, swam for probably a mile in a lake, hiked barefoot through an unmarked forest for over an hour because Weston swore the other lake was just through the trees, were wowed by a magical water lily cove on the other side, made s’mores on the beach… and it just felt like thriving. So grateful for the reminder that days like that exist.
Meeting people who will be significant in my life | Feeling noticed in the best way | Going on a date to the movies | Knowing someone is in love with me | Holding hands | Being half of an adorable couple
I did not expect to live these hopes this year, but I did. I went on a date (my first, actually) in the winter that didn’t go anywhere, which was sad but okay and taught me about how I want to approach dating. And then, at the end of the spring, I met my first boyfriend. I hadn’t been looking for him, but he showed up and showed me love with candor, and time and time again the Lord assured me I could just be grateful for the gift of him (and of mutual feelings, which I’d always struggled to even understand the existence of before because I’d never experienced it) and take it moment by moment. It was a joy and taught me so much. We didn’t end up making it, and it was sudden and heartbreaking to end things. But with every month that passes, I am more assured that nothing about it was a mistake– not dating him, not breaking up, not even still being a little sad about it sometimes. I’m grateful for what we had, and grateful we ended it when we did. I know the Lord is still looking out for me, and working all things for my good. I’m where I’m supposed to be.
Holding adorable little animals
My pastor’s cat adopted me this year and I’m obsessed with her. I also got to visit my Uncle Terry and Aunt Maxine, and cuddle with their sweet dog.
Finding a true church home
This was another hope I didn’t expect to see, especially not at this point in time. I thought it would take years of searching and endurance. But at the end of last year, after spending a year without a church because I’d left a toxic one, I felt so alone. I rarely got to leave my house, so any interaction outside my family was rare. I didn’t want to go to church, not after I’d undone a lot of the negative work they’d been part of in me and I was now fighting to believe the real gospel truth about Jesus. But I needed a community.
The only church I was able to go to because of my transportation situation was down the street from my old one (which my family still attended). I was too afraid to go by myself, so my mom went with me. I observed everything cautiously and critically… and couldn’t really find a red flag. So I came back. And I kept coming back. And I joined a small group, and so did my mom. And now we’re both members, and I work there, and I’m still kind of amazed. Sometimes, we really have to seek the good; other times, God knows we’re too weary to go through that. Grateful that He knows me and seeks my good for me.
Seeing friendships grow deeper | Hugging people I love | Running into people randomly | Observing the quirks of others | Having conversations that make me laugh every time I remember them later| Seeing how people decorate their houses to suit their personalities
Most of the people closest to me are people I’ve kept close for a long time; when you find good ones, ones who are loving and loyal and present, you treasure them and you hang on to them. But I’ve also found some pretty special new people at my church and my jobs. I’ve always believed I could make friends with people across the board, but I’m finding how true that really is. I get to be part of lives from various walks and I love it. I’ve got some great people in my life; they’re the best part of it.
Seeing my best friend again and going on a random adventure with her
Going to a concert venue and seeing an “event cancelled” poster on the door is an adventure, all right. But we made it work; we always do. And while we’re 0/2 for going to concerts together (I know– how?!), to quote Sierra that night: “At least this time our lives are good.”
Learning an instrument | Being able to closely observe people play piano so I can learn chords better
I started taking piano lessons in November, the first since I was nine years old. I simply googled piano teachers in the area and started messaging the one I found. Now Nancy is such a treasure to me; she gets so excited for me and is personally invested in my growth so that I can pursue songwriting. I can’t wait for the day we get to put my words to music, or for the day I thank her in my album liner notes.
Seeing meaningful new movies | Watching movies with dear friends | Seeing new Pixar movies | Seeing my favorite actors in great new movies | Seeing new Marvel movies
Infinity War came out this year so that’s all I really need to say. That movie was groundbreakingly incredible. Ooh, but Mission Impossible: Fallout came out, too, and not only introduced me to the franchise (much too late), but also instantly became one of my favorite movies. And shout out to the spy movie night I got to have with Meigan and her parents (who will never stop bringing up the fact that I used to think they were spies, but that’s fine)!
Getting letters from people I love | Writing letters | Getting packages in the mail
I love it when a bit of joy comes right to my door.
Flying in a plane | Having tea parties
I visited my Aunt Cheri and Uncle Rob in Washington state this winter, which was cozy and lovely. We went to a bed and breakfast for high tea one day and had a great time together.
Discovering more musicians I’ll cherish | Growing more associations with albums and seasons of my life | Unexpectedly hearing songs that sweep me
I discovered just how much I adore Phil Collins, firstly. But newer artists I liked this year include Joseph Tilley, CASS, Lennon Stella, and Scott Mulvahill. Some amazing albums dropped this year, too, and I made this Twitter thread about them.
Wearing more pretty dresses | Wearing meaningful jewelry | Getting better at doing pretty eye makeup
I got a dress that looks like a picnic table cloth and I wore it to everything this year. In general, I started to look a little more like a grown up; people now guess I’m 19 instead of 17, so we’re getting there (I’m 24, y’all).
Having a smart phone | Getting a new camera
Again, I didn’t expect this to happen this year! But everyone in my house is working now, so we went in together on a family plan. It’s so helpful to have communication, maps, and a camera always handy. And my relationship with social media has definitely changed (I left Facebook this year), but I still generally have fun with it.
Owning a bunch of cute, special mugs amassed over the years
When my family puts the tea kettle on, they ask how much tea I want by naming the various mugs. “Do you want an Elvis amount of tea?”
Making food for people | Baking and decorating a lovely cake
Baking my favorite carrot cake recipe for Easter is something I’m fine turning into a tradition. I’ve also kind of perfected my tuna salad recipe and make it weekly at this point.
Watching sunrises and sunsets
On my drives home from work in the warmer months, I’d get on the freeway ramp and see the sunset and just say “thank you.”
Taking family car rides to the small town like we used to
I needed it that day. I wanted it, but didn’t ask for it, and I was heard anyway.
Having guidance for the next step
One of the biggest lessons of this year was that God does guide me, but often it’s through the sound mind and loving principles He’s given me. He lets me choose, supports me, protects me, assures me. For the most part, I’ve stopped being so desperate for insight, and instead try to focus on Him and honoring Him in whatever choices I face. We’ve complicated it, when He’s made it simple. I still forget that, and revert to my old patterns often. But now I know and aim for a truer, better way.
Having another birthday | Having friends over for holidays
I classically have made too big a deal out of my birthday and been disappointed by the fact that it’s a mostly ordinary day. The past few years, I’ve lowered my expectations. And not in a sad, defeated way, just in a way that lets me embrace whatever comes. And, in keeping with what I’ve learned this year, I also started putting forth efforts to make what I want to happen a reality. My birthday was a really fun day this year– I lettered a sign for the coffee shop in our church building, and I had Sierra over for tacos. Pro tip: don’t make pudding with coconut milk, it won’t work.
Having a cat that likes being a sweet companion
We’ve had Dusty since she was a kitten, and she’s fourteen now. She used to be mean and avoidant, but old age has softened her and she’s actually cuddly and somewhat friendly now! I love her to bits.
Drinking strawberry lemonade | Eating a doughnut
It’s the little things. Also, my brother works at Walmart now and he buys discount doughnuts to share sometimes, love him.
Sierra graduated with her BA in history this year, and Abriannah graduated from high school! Love these warm, kind-hearted, powerful women I’m so grateful to call friends.
Redeeming old places with new memories
There are definitely times to leave old places in order to take care of yourself. There are also times you can’t leave yet, and you have to do your best to make it a livable place for now. I had to do a lot of the latter this year. And honestly, I killed it.
I started writing lists of things to look forward to when I felt like my life wasn’t going to have any of the things I hoped for. I wrote them so I could reframe my thoughts from depression to anticipation. I didn’t expect that when I started doing these yearly intakes, it would encourage me so much to see that I do live dreams and life is very much something I’m lucky and grateful to have. I’m going to keep writing them and going through them each year, and I so encourage you to do something like this if you also struggle to view your life as vast and promising. I’m proof it is. And I can tell you right now:
The month is over already and I am weirdly overwhelmed by how little it felt like I did in it; I actually did so much, at both of my jobs and with my loved ones. In the new year, I want to focus on not giving in to my newly discovered workaholic tendencies as much as I have been. I want to rest and to be diligent about remembering who I am and how simple things actually are.
That being said, I barely had time to enjoy art or media this month, but here’s what I made the time for:
My Christmas playlist. All the time, pretty much exclusively. I used to be one of those “no Christmas music before or after December” people, but now I might keep listening just to have a little extra cheer during the winter; we’ll see.
“Love Has No Limits” by Fleurie. Dreamy and lovely (as to be expected from her), with a sweeping quality.
I’ve been keeping a playlist of my monthly music favorites all year, and it’s officially complete! I have it on Spotify and on YouTube if you want to listen in on the soundtrack to my 2018.
The Avengers: Endgame trailer. The amount of noises that came out of me when I first saw this is embarrassing but I’m not trying to hide it: I am so pumped for this movie.
Mission Impossible: Fallout. Possibly one of the best movies I’ve seen? It’s so cool and so pretty and the characters are so lovable.
My favorite Christmas movies. Jingle All The Way makes up half of my daily vocabulary, Santa Claus Is Coming to Town is 100% magic, and Eloise at Christmastime is an adorable little love story I also quote fairly often.
Countless Hallmark Christmas movies.
Venom. Weird, but also a funny and interesting take on a comic book movie. My family laughed at how much we enjoyed it. [a lot of language]
I’m not sure what to say about this month; it has hosted so much, both inside and outside of my brain, that I kind of just want to take naps all the time (though I never actually do it). I’m exhausted. I want to make December a month of being kinder to myself and setting aside time to rest and to enjoy things a bit more.
Here’s some of the art and media that entered the rush with me in November.
“Fighting for The Wrong Side” and “Himalayas” by Scott Mulvahill. Multiple artists I admire recommended him when his album came out, and I finally got around to listening. I didn’t know he was a bass player, but he really lets that talent shine, giving his songs a homey, almost old-timey feel while still being current. And what a voice, both in singing and in writing.
“Confidence” by CASS. She is hands down my queen of the indie Christian music scene, with her modern R&B flair and her succinct songwriting; I love pretty much everything she puts out. This song is an empowering slow-jam.
“Moonwalking” by Kwassa. Formerly KYKO, he still has not put out a song I don’t absolutely love. Such cheerful vibes and so well-crafted; you can tell he puts a ton of work into what he does. This song has been on repeat for me since he released it.
“Good Life” by The Young Escape. A feel-good jam I dance to in the car.
Lennon Stella’s “Love, me” ep. So well done. Her voice is unique and soul-filled, and this ep from front to back tells a story I was so grateful she vocalized. This is one of the biggest things music is for. [A little profanity in one song.]
“Water Fountain” by Alec Benjamin. Alec has been blowing up lately (I discovered him when John Mayer praised him on Instagram), and the main reason is his songwriting abilities. His mixtape is titled “Narrated for You” because it truly is him telling stories, with visual descriptions and simple dialogue. I also think his gentle voice and the way he pronounces his words adds a bit of a conversational, “listen in” quality. “Water Fountain” is hands down my favorite song of his; I recommend the version on YouTube over the “official” one on the mixtape just because the production is a bit different.
“Wild Love” by Cashmere Cat featuring The Weeknd and Francis & The Lights. I’m here for Francis, and boy does he show up! The list of faces I make during this song is endless.
My Christmas playlist. I’m in the process of revamping it a little bit, but I still love what I’ve got on it right now– classics, reimaginings, newer originals, and a few VeggieTales songs for good measure.
Want all of this music in one place? I have a playlist! It’s on Spotify and on YouTube; I use it all year, so scroll to the bottom for the newest additions.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. I loved this movie in high school, but when I saw it while randomly browsing this month I expected it to not be as good as I remembered. Plot twist: I still think it’s great. The story is unique, not too fantastical but just enough to be fun and interesting, and the action and cinematography are still quality. There’s also a nice sprinkling of genuinely funny jokes, too.
The Money Pit. Hilarious and my mom had never seen it before so we had to watch it. The bathtub scene, guys.
Smallfoot. Made me emotional multiple times for some reason? A cute all-ages movie with a fun concept. Also, the music is great?!
The Guardian. My mom and I are huge fans of The Mentalist, so when we found out Simon Baker had been in a different series earlier in his career, we were eager to try it out. So far? I like the character he plays, but honestly the episodes as a whole tend to bring me down. The subject matter (cases coming into Child Protective Services) is naturally more somber, but I think the way its handled creates a general vibe that messes with me; I might not see it through to the end.
Ant-Man and The Wasp. My brother and I noticed a lot of “that wouldn’t work” flaws this time, but it’s still so funny and clever that we didn’t really care.
Like twenty Hallmark Christmas movies.
Continued watching The Good Doctor. Update: I’m starting to not hate Lea?
Between Heaven and The Real World: My Story by Steven Curtis Chapman. Audible laughter and heavy tears in response to his stories. I grew up listening to Steven and have referred to him as my “music dad” for most of my life, so getting to read about what has gone on in his life that served as the backdrop for his music was so special for me. And his perspective on grief was impactful, too– living in the tension of honest and hopeful.
I’m on Goodreads if you want to follow my reading progress as it happens.
This month was so full, wow. I’m tired, but at the same time being busy is good for me; it helps me to not overthink things so much and also to feel a bit of a sense of making forward motion in my life. And I’ve really needed both of those things. It’s been a rough few months, but it’s becoming easier to quiet the hurtful thoughts and more natural to seek the good. Time really does do the trick.
Here are a few things that met me in the process this month.
“You Say” by Lauren Daigle. For when I need the reminder that our feelings don’t always tell us the truth, that the truth is better than I think.
“Always” by Tyson Motsenbocker. I heard it playing during the reception dinner at my cousin’s wedding, and it added to the magic I was already feeling from her and husband’s union. So beautiful.
The Gray Havens’ “She Waits” album. Last year, I was in such a vulnerable thought space that almost nothing felt safe, not even most “worship music.” But somehow, the gospel-love focus that this talented husband and wife duo maintains in all of their writing was a place of rest, allowed me to breathe and not feel on guard for a few minutes. They just released their latest album this month, and they haven’t deviated from the cozy, safe, hope-bringing atmosphere they manage to cultivate. So grateful for them. My favorites from this album are the title track, “Storehouse”“Return” (gorgeous instrumental postlude) and “Not Home Yet.”
Andrew Belle’s “Dive Deep (Hushed)” ep. I so love that he makes these slowed down, dreamy eps based on his full length albums. He doesn’t remix; he completely re-records and reimagines his original songs and makes them feel like a worthy companion rather than something to compare. You can’t compare magic to magic, right? The most gorgeous tracks to me are “Honey and Milk (Hushed)” and “When The End Comes (Hushed).”
“Everything” by TobyMac. I have to dance to it every time it comes on in the car, it’s a rule. When the horns come in near the end? Yes.
Twenty One Pilots’ “Trench” album. These guys are unique and poetic in a subdued, melancholy way, making both piano ballads and scream-along anthems live together on the same album, sometimes in the same song. It has worked really well for them, and this new release shows it still does. My favorite is “My Blood” (the music video is wow), and I also like “Jumpsuit”“Levitate” and “Neon Gravestones.”
“Native Tongue” by Switchfoot. They’re a rock-roll staple and their new single is going to be, too; the lyrics are just true. “Love’s the language; love’s your native tongue.”
“Sunflower” by Swae Lee and Post Malone. This is from the upcoming Into to Spider-Verse film and it’s wonderful; vibey and sweet. When it ended I was sad it was a little short because I was enjoying it so much. It’s okay, though, I just hit replay.
“Lost” by Jon McLaughlin. Jon’s been one of my favorites since middle school, and he still puts out beautiful and heart-tugging music; I think he just gets better and better. This is a single from his album releasing this coming month and I’m pumped. I’m seeing him next week!
“Goku” by Jaden Smith. Sometimes the guys in the office down the hall from you blast their workout jams and you realize you don’t mind it one bit.
If you want all of this music in one place, I have a playlist! It’s on Spotify and on YouTube. I use it for the whole year, so scroll to the bottom for the newest additions.
Good Mythical Morning. Sometimes Rhett and Link really get into a groove where they make me laugh every single episode, and that’s where we’re at right now. Their senses of humor are so weird and they’re definitely dads with dad jokes, but it gets to me.
The official video of Coldplay performing Viva la Vida live in Sao Paulo. It’s rare for me to be as inspired by a performance as I am when I watch these guys. I was smiling, dancing, yelling, crying. It just feels like everything they do is so meaningful, I can’t explain it. I feel like the Holy Spirit has to be a part of it. I’m so excited to see their upcoming documentary.
It feels like this month was two days long. I don’t know if I did a lot or if I did little, but I do know that time is a friend. A tough-love friend, but a friend, one that knows what I need in order to heal, flourish, and grow. And I’m learning to trust that.
Here are some of the things I took with me on this blurry trip of a month.
“My Blood” by Twenty One Pilots. The vibe is somehow happy in an edgy way and I’m super into it. “Levitate” is such a jam, too. Their new album comes out in less than a month and obviously I’m ready.
Joey Stamper’s cover of “In My Blood.” It brought a little boost of strength on a rough day.
“My Refuge” by Rivers & Robots. Vibey and thought-aligning.
“Fine” by Spencer Sutherland. The sound reminds me of “Dela” from George of The Jungle for some reason (which is more than fine with me), and the lyrics are just good, because we have all been able to relate at some point. “I’m afraid of being honest cuz my honesty ain’t nice.” [A little profanity]
“Take This Slowly” by The Gray Havens. Y’all know I love The Gray Havens and the atmosphere of safety they create in their music. The lyrics of this one particularly hugged me this month. “Still I’ve heard all that I have in a moment is hardly a sign, of everything coming my way; I believe when I need it, it will be mine.”
If you want all of this music in a playlist, I already made it! It’s available on Spotify and YouTube. I use it for the whole year, so scroll to the bottom for the newest additions.
The House With a Clock in Its Walls. A Halloween movie that isn’t scary or gross, just fun and a little spooky. I think kids are the target audience, so there are definitely cheesy moments, but I still enjoyed it as a grown up.
This video from Emily Wilson about self-pressure in dating. So important. I once started sobbing because I felt so guilty about dating someone when I didn’t know if was going to marry him or not, and I hate that this is a mentality ingrained in so many of us. We are allowed to not know everything. We are allowed to see potential in someone and want to know them more, see what might happen. We are allowed to enjoy the moment we are in with someone without pressuring ourselves about how long it will last. It doesn’t mean we aren’t being wise or discerning, and it certainly doesn’t mean we’re transgressing.
The Good Doctor. It just came back for season two! I really enjoyed the first season and all the growth we got to see happen in the characters, so if it continues that trend I’m going to be a happy camper. Fingers crossed!
I was going to make fun of myself for not finishing any books since May, but honestly? I’m slightly proud of myself. My best friend and I were talking and somehow we coined the term “intellectual obesity;” I used to feed myself so much information from so many different sources, and it wasn’t actually good for me. Instead, it cluttered my thoughts and didn’t allow me time or clarity to regulate what got to stay in my brain and what needed to be shown the door. I’m taking care of myself a bit better now, and part of that (maybe not forever, but at least for right now) means I’m not reading much. That’s okay.
I’d like to talk about this bowl of fruit for a minute.
A little over a year ago, I unexpectedly faced something that brought hurtful memories back to the forefront of my mind. Because I had spent most of my life believing I couldn’t have difficult or negative emotions and be righteous at the same time, and later learned otherwise, I went to the other extreme: I embraced the trigger. In fact, after it randomly came into my life, I intentionally began putting it in front of my face at least daily, sobbing every time, because I believed it was healing me. I believed I was facing what had hurt me and in turn was becoming a healthy person.
But after over a week of this gut-wrenching new habit, I felt physically sick and more emotionally and mentally unwell than I’d felt in quite some time. I wondered if maybe it was okay for me to stop waving the trigger in my own face. Yet the feeling in my stomach– the knots, the burning, the heaviness, the dread– wouldn’t leave me alone.
I thought it was the Holy Spirit.
And I did not want to disobey Him.
So I continued, until my body and my heart simply couldn’t take it anymore. I prayed He would understand as I started saying no to the urging I felt. But the guilt was heavy.
I spoke to and prayed with the safe people in my life, and they all agreed passionately that the God who loved me would not do this to me. But I had it in my head that God’s love could come in forms like this, could be torturous in the name of strengthening and healing.
I started to believe what my safe people said… until I saw a therapist, who would not deviate from the subject of the thing that had triggered me, no matter how many times I asked her to or how many ways I showed her I truly had processed what I’d gone through.
She didn’t understand, nor did I fully, that you can fully process and understand and heal from something– and still ache at the thought of it.
The ache is not a sign of unfinished work. Sometimes, it’s simply a sign you have a heart that still works.
Remembering deep pain and heartbreak isn’t necessarily like remembering other events in your life. These are things that affected us and imprinted themselves into our brains, often undetected for however long, and it took time for us to recognize them, look them in the face, understand their impact, then release them and begin walking forward. It’s okay if the memories still hurt. It’s okay if tears still come sometimes. It’s okay if you occasionally have to remove reminders from your life. It doesn’t mean you’re still stuck in it.
It isn’t weak to say no to invasive thoughts. It’s bizarrely hard to give up the sense of security the familiar pangs give us, but the further we walk away, the clearer we see that the pain wasn’t embracing us– it was gripping our necks.
I didn’t understand these things quite yet, and having a relentless and unkind therapist who didn’t, either, made things even more confusing. Even when I broke things off with her and recognized the false in her words to me, the thoughts and doubts had been planted and watered. I spent the fall and winter months wrestling intensely with myself and with what I thought was the Holy Spirit, genuinely all day, every day.
In the church I grew up in, we were always encouraged to listen for the still, small voice of God inside us and to do what it said. But we were never taught how to recognize what was Him… and what wasn’t. Add to that a lack of understanding of mental illness, and they had unintentionally trained me that the voice of anxiety that pushed me toward my heartache and gave me physical pain when certain ideas would enter my mind– was God. And if God was love… that must be what love was like.
But God’s ways are higher, not lower.
And He has told us what is good.
I thought making me hurt because of that trigger over and over again was God’s way of loving me, of bringing healing to me by teaching me endurance and bravery. I thought it was a gift in disguise, if only I would prove I trusted Him.
Then I began to dwell on the gospel.
I began to repeat over and over again the succinct words of Jon Acuff:
“It is finished.” May those words land on your bones for the nights when fear tells you the cross was a beginning and you must finish grace.
My healing isn’t mine to accomplish– it’s His. And He has already done it. My job is to accept it from Him, declare it over my life, and thank Him for it, over and over and over until I see it. And to rebuke any voice that tries to convince me of any other reality.
And I finally began to understand what Jesus was getting at when He said:
Which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is heaven give good things to those who ask Him!
Remember when Jesus was facing temptation in the wilderness, and the enemy told Him to command the stones to become bread? Jesus said no. He later added He wouldn’t put God to the test. He knew their relationship didn’t work that way.
God gives good, undisguised gifts.
I had to memorize those words, along with many more scriptures. I had to repeat them to myself literally countless times a day. I had to continue renewing my mind day after day, changing the old patterns I’d built into my brain by creating new ones through telling myself the truth, even when my gut didn’t believe it yet.
But do you know what I didn’t have to do?
I didn’t have to trigger myself.
I didn’t have to focus on my pain.
I didn’t have to keep digging in search for more to heal.
Many of us grew up the way I did: suppressing things so much that we barely knew of their existence until they burst out of us much later in an ugly mess. And now I see so many of us going the other way and doing what I’ve just explained I had done– grabbing our pain by the shoulders and shaking it vigorously, demanding answers and healing and finality, and not letting go even when it’s given us all it can. Because we know what it’s like to avoid our pain, and we don’t want to do that anymore. But, now, I can say from experience– the other extreme is not better. It could actually be even worse.
Our minds are the control center of every other part of us. When we are focused on something, that’s the fuel we’re choosing to use at that moment, what we’re feeding ourselves with. Sometimes, there’s something negative that needs to be dealt with, and understanding it in order to start moving forward from it is important and healthy.
There simply comes a cut-off point. There comes a time when we’ve learned what we can, and the transition is made from processing to recovering. And if we don’t allow that transition to happen, we can get stuck. We see and understand our pain, but neglect to do anything more. We keep looking at it and it’s unchanging face, instead of shifting our focus to what’s next and letting the face fade into a faint memory. We grip it tightly, wringing it out like a dishrag in expectation of a few more drops of insight, but never getting anything truly new.
We don’t have to ignore our pain; we shouldn’t. But that doesn’t mean it gets the stage or the reigns, especially not forever. Its lingering presence doesn’t mean it has anything to teach us. Often, it simply means our brains are delicate organs that do so much work it takes a while to get through the pile. Those things will go to the back files. We have to trust the (sometimes lengthy) process our brains were built to carry out.
We don’t think we need to keep doing things to heal our bodies when we break an arm and it still hurts for a while; we know it takes time to fully recover. The initial pain was an indicator, but the lingering pain is remains, a reminder that something affected you and now you need to be gentle with yourself for a while. Tampering with the wound would most likely make it worse, and make the recovery time even longer. Most of the healing process is simply letting things get better. Our brains don’t have to be viewed differently; they’re part of our bodies, too, they just also happen to host our minds.
I still ache sometimes. I still get triggered. Today, I started sobbing on my drive home because I was just so sad over a memory and what came with it. But triggered doesn’t mean unhealed; it simply means reminded.
Thoughts that enter my mind can be welcomed, or they can be told to leave. I am the gatekeeper, and I get to choose. Even if it’s a choice I have to make a hundred times a day sometimes.
What empowers us to do this? In my experience this year, it has been knowing God loves me, with actual love, that is lavish and obvious and heart-warming and joy-bringing. He doesn’t disguise it, or use pain as a messenger. He certainly brings good out of my pain, but He is not the one who gave the pain to me in the first place. He gives good gifts, undisguised, and that is all.
And He has told us what is good.
He has taught us about goodness and about love through the ways He’s told us are best to live. Somehow, I’d been convinced His definitions for Himself could be different. But He’s the one who gave the definitions to us; they originated in Him. They aren’t standards He created for us– they’re His already established character. They’re what He is and does. He is goodness and love, in wholeness, and He gives those things to us. Not in ways that first rip us apart and are cruel to us, but in ways that embrace us and give grace to us. Because that’s what love does. We know this with human beings; we can know it even deeper and more assuredly with Him.
His ways are higher, not lower.
When I began to understand that… I don’t know how else to say it, so I’m just going to embrace sounding cliché and tell you the truth: every single aspect of my life changed.
I started living as if I was loved. I started saying no to the voice of anxiety, knowing it wasn’t at all reminiscent of the God who loved me. I started making choices as if He believed in me and wanted my good. I started becoming less concerned with my image and more concerned with being genuine and seeking the genuine good in others. I even got a job, after living at home unemployed for three years because I’d thought He asked me to through those gut-pains I’d felt at the thought of it. And the freedom, health, and quality of life I’ve experienced since are evidences of His true character, of what love is actually like.
My life has changed completely, all because I started believing what He’s proven from day one: He loves me. He gives me good, undisguised gifts. And in His love, I am safe and I am free. Not a twisted version of safe and free that comes through painful, hurtful means– truly and obviously safe, truly and obviously free, already paid for in love on the cross.
As I was learning to release the trauma that I kept mentally returning to, a new heartbreak showed up. And it hurt, and I had to process it. But you know what? It was so much different this time.
Because I knew now that I didn’t have to shake it by the shoulders: I just had to look it in the eyes. I had to acknowledge it was there and understand why, then shift my gaze toward what I wanted to build in my life next. Time did the rest.
So now, as I face another fresh heartbreak, one that admittedly stings quite a bit more than the last one… I remember these things.
I remember pain points out the tenderness of my heart and the places it’s been bruised; I also remember pain isn’t something I have to ask to stay.
I remember it’s okay to cry and ache and feel heavy; I also remember I don’t have to force myself to lean into those things in the name of not avoiding how I feel or wringing out insight or healing.
I remember it takes time; I also remember there comes a point when that’s all it takes, when there’s nothing for me to fix and I just have to let my brain do its organizing.
Mostly, I remember God loves me. With an obvious love, in undisguised ways. And that’s why I get to walk forward, whole.
By now, if you even remember at this point that I mentioned it, you might be saying, “Tessa, what about the bowl of fruit?”
Oh, yeah, that.
I’m doing well, overall. Walking forward from this most recent heartbreak has been deeply painful and difficult, but I know I’m where I need to be in the process and I know the ache will lessen the further I walk over time. It’s just still hard right now. I still miss what I lost often, even as I understand why it couldn’t be part of my life anymore. My thoughts are all over the place and I have to journal, vocalize, and/or replace them all the time. And when there are days that are overwhelmingly heavy, I pray for help. Not in grand, pleading prayers, but usually just in the literal words, “Please help me.” And He hears that, and He wraps me up and gives me forehead kisses and assurance.
I was talking to my mom (one of my safe people) about it recently, and she said she personally, in response to chaotic thoughts that threaten her peace, prays that she will see Him in something. He always responds; something little will happen, and it will light up her spirit in joy for a minute and she’ll recognize Him and His love for her, ever present. I’m noticing the same thing happens with me.
Last week, my morning started out with a handful of upsetting things, which was not pairing well with the fragility I was already feeling. As I entered the kitchen to find some breakfast, I noticed a bowl of fruit. It had the usual oranges we keep on the counter, but it also had pears and a banana. And something about it just made my heart leap for a moment and feel a sense of abundance, and I remembered Him. I took a breath, and I faced my day feeling a little lighter.
Am I saying to just focus on the little joys and your trauma will go away? If you know me, you know I don’t shut up about the power of gratitude, but no, I’m not saying that. What I am saying is that where we focus is where we go.
When we focus on loss or lack or pain, that’s what we’re going to see. That’s what life is going to consist of for us. When we focus on gifts given and on potential and on our hopes? That’s what we’ll see. That’s what we’ll build on and that’s what our life will end up being about. God has given us such powerful minds, and His love gives us the safety to use them. We get to build our lives with the good He constantly places around us.
So I’ll let bowls of fruit make my heart leap. I’ll squeal at sunset clouds. I’ll jot down words that resonate a sweet note with me. And I’ll give my time to people who need a hand or a presence, and I’ll hug my loved ones tightly and often, and I’ll pursue chances at love when they come along. And when I do this– when I choose to cherish and build up the good around me and make that what I dwell on– that’s what my life will be made of.
I get to choose what stays and what simply visits. I am the gatekeeper, with my sound mind.
And He has storehouses of good, undisguised gifts, steadily on the way to me.
“To rest through it and look outside ourselves to the beauty around us gives sadness the space to finish up.” –Tiffany Mitchell