Soul Food

Soul Food {May 2018}

This was a month of good changes. It’s taken years, but I’m learning to believe in how well God loves me and how widely He opens the world to me, and it’s changing how I make choices and how I carry myself. I’m very grateful for my life and the good things He’s placed in it; I’m praying for the wisdom to steward well.

Here are a few things that walked with me into the new.

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  • “Everywhere All At Once” by Post Animal. Their first full-length album came out last month and the instrumental intro is the stuff of dreams.
  • “River” by Leon Bridges. Gently powerful, led by an incredible voice.
  • “New Light” by John Mayer. He did that. At first you cheerfully groove along to it, and suddenly he comes in with the guitar and your jaw drops. Or maybe that’s just me? Either way, thanks for the first tunes of the summer, John.
  • Cimorelli’s mashup of “No Scrubs” “Nice for What” and “Friends.” They killed this, especially in the second half. But I’ve come to expect it from these six gifted sisters.
  • “Guillotine” by Jon Bellion. Infectious and so well done. “The secrets you tell me, I’ll take to my grave. There’s bones in my closet, but you hang stuff anyway…”
  • Phil Collins’ “Face Value” album. My car plays cassettes, so I get to belt along to some of my favorite classics on my commute. I play Phil way too much; the song I currently belt the most passionately is “You Know What I Mean.”
  • “Video Sunshine” by Knox Hamilton. I’m so happy to be getting new music from these guys! This is a dancey yet relaxed summertime jam.
  • Pretty much everything by Joseph Tilley; I love his vibe and his youthful voice. Lately his song “Feelings” has been on repeat.

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

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  • The Fugitive. A engaging action movie with a well-paced, well-told story and great performances by Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones.
  • Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” music video. So much to unpack; every element means something. Brilliant.
  • The movie-length pilot episode of Father Dowling Mysteries. Cheesy yet engrossing.
  • This video from Emily Wilson about standing up for yourself and sharing your honest thoughts as a woman. So important to keep this truth close.
  • Continued watching Chuck (currently on season four) and Designated Survivor.

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  • The Amazing Spider-Man #1 by Nick Spencer, Ryan Ottley, Cliff Rathburn, and Laura Martin. Free Comic Book Day was this month and my mom found the Spider-Man comic they were giving away while I was at work. Comic books are short, especially when they’re still coming out, but I have a lot of fun reading them, especially Spider-Man.
  • Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. Such a helpful book with a lot of solid insight. I read it over a couple of months so I had time to let the principles take shape and to practice them. I did think a couple of times that it speaks a lot about how important it is to have boundaries and the effects of them in our lives, yet lacks a bit of instruction on how to actually go about creating them. Maybe it’s a very situational thing, though, so it would be hard to sum up? Regardless, I gained a lot of insight and assurance from reading it. [I would like to note: in some instances scripture is used a bit out of context, which bothered me.]
  • The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang. A collection of short, sometimes lovely, sometimes crazy fairy tales I slowly made my way through.

If you want bookish updates and full reviews from me, I’m on Goodreads.


What has been feeding you lately?

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Soul Food

Soul Food {April 2018}

This month was a whirlwind. I feel like it just began, yet a lot has happened. I’m thankful that Jesus has been with me for every bit of it, keeping me close to Him and assuring me I’m doing just fine. I honestly didn’t consume a lot of varied art/media this month, maybe because I already felt like things were all over the place, but what I did consume? Pretty solid.

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  • “Never Enough” from The Greatest Showman. The hands-down best song from the film; emotionally stirring, with absolutely stunning vocals. It’s my current piano practice piece so I hear it all the time, and I’m obsessed still.
  • “Stop It (Stripped)” by Sleeping Lion. Somber, yet passionate, too. I think it’s so lovely.
  • “I Don’t Want U Back” by BØRNS. What a jam. It makes me dance and also feel kind of empowered about moving on from things that don’t serve me anymore.
  • “Love You Like That” by Dagny. Infectious sound and sweet lyrics.
  • “Open Arms” by PRETTYMUCH. So much talent! And the song takes such unexpected turns musically and it works so well. I’ve been listening to a lot of their work lately. “Healthy” is an absolute jam, too.

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

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  • Avengers: Infinity War. It is so, so good. I expected to like it, but I did not expect it to be this high quality. I saw it twice opening weekend, which might have been too much too soon because it made me pretty emotional, but wow it’s good. The various characters in various settings could have felt choppy and all over the place, but it’s so well-written that it’s beautifully cohesive, clearly telling one big story. And we all know I love Tom Holland, but truly: if I had never heard of him or seen him in anything before, I would be an instant fan after his performance in this movie. He absolutely nailed it. Not to discredit anyone else, because I can’t really think of an actor that phoned it in; everyone shined. And Thanos is an incredibly layered villain, it’s wild to witness. I’m rambling now, please just go see it.
  • “The Cast of Black Panther Plays Would You Rather.” I want to be friends with everyone in this, please. “W’Kabi has a blanket…”
  • Jenna Fischer talking about the space we take up. Love this advice; it’s not just for artists, I think it’s for anyone who feels like they have to be small.
  • Honestly, so many interviews with the Infinity War cast. An embarrassing amount. It’s how I’ve been coping. I made a playlist of some of the ones I enjoyed if you want to cope with me.
  • The Sound of Music. Because sometimes I listen to the soundtrack when I clean and I wanted to see the lovely visuals, too. Let’s go visit Austria someday, please.
  • This video about getting triggered and how to manage it. So simple, so gentle, so comforting. “If you have strong feelings, it could mean you’re a compassionate person, rather than someone whose wound hasn’t healed… Go in the direction of comfort.” I needed this.
  • Captain America: The First Avenger. I hadn’t seen it in a while and wanted a refresher. Update: it’s still great.
  • Continued watching Chuck (currently on season three, with mixed feelings), Spring Baking Championship, and Designated Survivor.

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  • The Forgotten Way Meditations by Ted Dekker. I was afraid to read this at first because I was emerging from a season that had been really difficult, in part due to a book that had influenced my thinking and personal theology in negative, destructive ways. But when I reached a point where I felt safe and firmly planted enough to read a bit of non-fiction again, I was very grateful for what I found in this book. It’s split into three parts, and the first two parts are remarkably gospel-centered and share things in a way that is unique and clicks. I will admit, the third part did not have those same qualities to me and brought me back to a bit of a cautious place. But it is definitely still a worthwhile read.

I am reading a couple more books right now, but I haven’t finished them yet. If you want to keep up with my progress and read full reviews when they exist, I’m on Goodreads.


What fed you this month?

Soul Food

Soul Food {March 2018}

It’s been a month of unexpected and hard things, but also of growth through those things. I’m finally learning God redeems every hard thing and uses it for a good purpose, but that He also doesn’t give the hard things to me; He gives good, undisguised gifts and He loves me well. He’s my rock. I’m so grateful to Him. In this hard month, one way He loved me was through music and art. Here are a few of those vessels.

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  • The Rodgers and Hammerstein Songbook. My friend Karli gave this album to me a few years ago, and lately it has been my go-to housecleaning soundtrack. Some of my consistent favorites from it have been “The Surrey With The Fringe on Top” and “Younger Than Springtime” (William Tabbert’s voice… swoon). [I dislike both Oklahoma! and South Pacific but it doesn’t ruin the songs for me.]
  • Kirsten Collins and Box of Beats’ cover of “Supernova.” Their vocals are insane. I actually like the original song by Ansel Elgort, it’s such a jam, but it does have a little profanity so I usually opt for this solid cover.
  • Vance Joy’s “Nation of Two” album. He’s a wonderful songwriter who brings a gentle, authentic air to everything he makes, and his new album is a delight. My favorites from it are “Saturday Sun” “Take Your Time” and “I’m With You.”
  • “June” by Briston Maroney. “Ain’t it funny how I wanted this all my life? Ain’t it funny how I got it here and it don’t seem right?” That line hit me deep. And the song is so interesting and unexpected instrumentally, too.
  • “gone.” by Day Bit. Something fun yet emotional to put on repeat and somehow feel motivated by.
  • NÄM’s “Umlaut” ep. I heard one song from it and was wowed by how it encompassed my musical taste from at least three different stages of my life; it was simply too special and made me look up the rest of their catalogue. This whole ep is absolutely lovely, mixing modern electronic sounds with homey singer-songwriter vibes.
  • “Favorite Mistake” by Regal. Nostalgic in an edgy way, if that makes sense? Like it reminds me of what I listened to in the early 2000s also lets me feel some 2018 angst?
  • “Please Don’t Leave Me Like This” by Edward & Jane. Feels warm and haunting at the same time. The title alone made me want to like the song, and I wasn’t disappointed.
  • “High Altitude” by Davis John Patton. So lovely and gentle. “Just keep your eyes locked ahead; I know the fear you feel. Every time you look down, know I’ve fallen farther than we could…”
  • Walk Off The Earth’s cover of “Hey Ya!” This song is already a jam and makes me dance every time, but these guys brought their own fun to it– along with killer vocals– and I’m into it. I’ve been listening to it every day. For sure check out the video, too!
  • “Part of It” by Relient K. Oldie but goodie. “It’s not the end of the world, just you and me.”
  • “I Think I See You Now” by Tina Boonstra. Calming and beautiful.
  • “Creatures” by Glass House Point. Such good vibes; cozy yet energizing.
  • “Better With You” by Jesse McCartney. Yes, that Jesse McCartney! His new song is so sweet.

If you want all of this music in a playlist, I’ve made it! It’s on Spotify and YouTube. I use it all year, so scroll to the bottom for the newest additions.

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  • Chris Evans’ Advice for People with Anxiety and Depression. I’ve adopted “shh” over the past few months, and it truly is weirdly profound. It quiets the brain noise, and allows me to hear Jesus whispering, “Peace, be still.”
  • Way too many videos about polishing a resumé. This one was the most practical and helpful for me so I’m sharing in case you’re in the same stress-boat. We’ve got this!
  • The Intern. Such an adorable film! Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway are wonderfully matched co-stars telling a delightful story. The characters face some hardships, but the tone manages to stay lighthearted and uplifting. By the way, can De Niro’s character be my adoptive grandpa? Because I love him to bits.
  • Thor: Ragnarok. Because it came out on dvd this month and it still makes me scream with how funny and good it is.
  • Chuck. My mom and I needed a new series to watch, and this one is fun, goofy, and heartfelt, with a bit of spy action for good measure. It also reminds me why I had that big crush on Zachary Levi in college. We’re on season two right now. [My only complaint is that the women in the show exist almost exclusively for the eyes of men; Sarah and Ellie are the two that have more substance.]
  • Spring Baking Championship. Because I’m a nerd and I can watch the baking and decorating process for hours.
  • The new Infinity War trailer. Giggles and tears simultaneously. I’m so ready to see this film next month!
  • Matthew Hussey’s advice videos. He’s a life coach who focuses on helping women navigate dating, and while a lot of his materials have cheesy/click-bait titles that don’t reflect the scope of the content, he really does have a lot of practical wisdom to share. He’s direct and tells the hard truth sometimes, yet it’s still somehow encouraging and leaves me feeling empowered to make good choices. Some videos I’ve gleaned from include this one on over-investing, this one on seeking closure, this one on pacing, this one on being ghosted, and this one on getting over a breakup. [Don’t worry, by the way, I’m doing well!]
  • Black Panther. Fantastic cast, relevant and tactfully approached themes, and one of the better Marvel movie villains.
  • Continued watching The Good Doctor, Designated Survivor, and Worst Cooks in America.

Books/Blogs/Articles

  • “For Two Months, I Got My News From Print Newspapers. Here’s What I Learned.” by Farhad Manjoo for The New York Times. An interesting look at how the culture of online news can cultivate anxiety and a sense of false insight in us. I think there’s pros as well as cons, but it’s important to understand the cons and make choices with them in consideration.
  • “When Your Soul Has a Bad Idea” by Emily P. Freeman. Such an important and valuable insight. “The answer to dealing with the shocking thoughts that come into my mind isn’t to try to stop having bad thoughts. The answer for me is to refuse to be shocked in the first place and instead, be loved. Be small. Belong to Christ.”

I’m still reading those five books I said I was reading last month and I’ve honestly made no progress in any of them; I simply haven’t been in a place where I want to put extra thoughts into my mind. If you want to keep up with my reading progress when I eventually start making some again, I’m on Goodreads.


What fed you this month?

 

Embraces for Your Spirit · Testimonies

On Anxiety, Shame, & Unexpected Self-Care

tea on 5-19I thought I was going to start this month out fresh, with February’s confusion and stress behind me and fresh optimism and motivation in front of me. But when I woke up on March first, I was immediately overwhelmed by panic.

I got out of bed to assess what might be wrong, and started becoming faint. My face and my hands felt numbed. With blurry tunnel vision, I slowly crawled downstairs before my parents left to go to work; I told them what I was experiencing, while struggling to take full breaths. My mom called in late to work and drove me to urgent care.

When we got to the clinic, filling out paperwork was hard with how weak and distant I felt, but I managed to do it. They soon called me back to the exam room. I answered questions about my symptoms the best I could as the doctor checked my breathing and heartbeat. She asked me how long I’d had anxiety.

At the end of the exam, she told me she wanted to have my blood tested just to rule out anything else, but that I was probably having an anxiety attack. I went out to the waiting room, told my mom, and sobbed.

My mom went back with me because I asked her to. When the nurse entered the room, he said in a pleasant voice, “Do you do okay with needles and blood?” I was still crying a little and whispered a teary, “No.” I don’t like needles at any time, but every hesitancy I had about them felt almost intolerable then. The nurse was kind and spoke gently with me, even as I started sobbing again when I had to lie down and let him push up my sleeve. Both he and my mom led me in calming breathing and in trying to shift my focus. I still panicked the whole time, but my blood was successfully taken. At first, the nurse said cheerfully, “That wasn’t too bad, was it?” But he quickly added, “Actually, it was probably hard for you. But you did a good job.” I tried to laugh, but I don’t think I did.

The doctor sent me home a few minutes later. And a few hours later, she called with results of my blood test: everything was fine. It really had been anxiety.

I struggled to accept the fact that any of this happened. I didn’t believe it was okay– didn’t believe going to urgent care for anxiety was a good enough reason. I thought it made me weak, unstable, and immature. Did I think that about anyone else who’d done so? No; just me.

The tears in urgent care had been about how scared I was of needles, that was true. But, mostly… they had been about how ashamed I was to even be there.

I knew my anxiety was a disorder. But I thought that because I worked so consistently hard to walk in truth and courage, anxiety wouldn’t be too much of a factor in my life. Sure, I still had it, but I could live as if it was a small thing.

It is true that I am more powerful than anxiety, and that it doesn’t have to rule me. And after my visit to urgent care, I’m realizing maybe another thing is true: maybe acknowledging and accepting the anxiety isn’t the same as giving it power over me.

In my desire to be completely better and completely rid of it, maybe I’ve ignored caring for myself. Not that I don’t take good care of myself, because I do: exercising daily, drinking lots of water and teas, taking important vitamins, avoiding caffeine, using breathing techniques, making gratitude lists, having creative outlets, talking to my safe people, studying scripture and telling myself the truth, praying without ceasing… the list goes on. I know what to do to manage my anxiety, and I do it diligently.

But when I’ve been consistent in all these things and I still end up having an anxious day, week, or even couple of weeks? That’s where I’ve been getting stuck. Because I’ve blamed myself for it. I blame it on not doing enough, not taking good enough care of myself, not giving my worry to the Lord often enough… even when those things aren’t true.

Last year was hard for me. One night I called a friend, crying and asking if I could just talk. She was a gracious listener, and after I let out what I could, she began speaking into me. There’s one thing she said that has since stowed away in my mind, because it was unique and hadn’t sunk in before: “There is delicate and complicated chemistry in your brain, and it doesn’t always do what it’s supposed to do, but you are not less than anyone else for it.”

It wasn’t my fault.

When it comes to anyone else’s struggles with their mental health, I know it isn’t their fault. But with myself, my low points have felt like failure, like falling short physically, mentally, and spiritually… like defeat. But I’m learning, slowly, that not only is that perspective skewed and untrue, but it helps nothing.

I apologized to everyone I interacted with at the urgent care office that day. I felt like an inconvenience, like I was taking time away from real issues with my inability to handle my own. But when I apologized to the nurse taking my blood after he informed me he’d have to try another vein since I was dehydrated, he looked me in the tear-covered face and immediately told me:

“No, don’t apologize! You came here because you needed help.”

I needed help.

It wasn’t a silly outburst, wasn’t a pointless inconvenience, wasn’t all the things I felt like it was– it was a real anxiety attack. Part of my real disorder. I needed help. And it was okay that I’d asked for it. Actually– it was good and brave that I’d asked for it. I was already crying, but his words made me cry a bit more.

I have generalized anxiety disorder. Sometimes my brain reacts to things in ways I know are unreasonable; sometimes my body takes on every little stress to full capacity and makes me feel ill; sometimes I feel completely paralyzed and stuck in one terrible thought pattern or circumstance, and don’t know how I’m going to get out. I still feel shame about these things, and going into any detail about them makes me feel like I’m just being too negative and sensitive, like I’m making excuses. But that’s not true.

Anxiety is not an excuse— it’s a reason.

The things my symptoms tell me are not real, and that is so important and empowering to remember. But my symptoms themselves? They’re real. I truly do experience them. They show up, and not because of any lack of effort— physically, morally, or spiritually– on my part.

Having anxiety symptoms isn’t losing the battle.

Victory isn’t found in not having them at all— it’s found in how I respond to them and live through them.

I won’t let myself think otherwise anymore. I’ve taken care of myself, yes. But it’s time I care for myself, too.

I’m not completely sure what that looks like yet; it’s only been a few weeks since I went to urgent care (and proceeded to experience some painful and confusing life stuff that same day), so I’ve been taking things slow. But maybe that’s part of it. Maybe recognizing that I’m not at full capacity and refusing to beat myself up for not doing more than I have the mental energy to do is okay; maybe it’s even good and brave.

I might not be able to stop anxiety from showing up in my life. But caring for my spirit and not allowing shame to stick around makes those appearances a little less devastating, because I’ve removed an extra enemy– my own critical voice– from the equation.

I kind of feel like I don’t really have a strong conclusion to share right now, but I wanted to talk about this a bit, because it’s hard to do, so not a lot of us do it. And we need to remind each other:

The symptoms of our mental illnesses are not our fault, are not signs of failure, are not pretend little things we should feel guilty about facing or needing help with. And we’re probably doing a much better job than it feels like we’re doing.

Let’s start caring for ourselves, okay?

Misc.

45 Stand-Out Women in The Bible {Part Two}

mirror reflection 2Recently, I shared the first half of a list of women in the Bible I admire and that I feel we can all be inspired by. I have loved putting these together and seeing how clearly God loves and values women; even when everyone else seemed to be against them, God was for them and gave them His strength. He does the same today.

I hope you feel a measure of encouragement from learning about these ordinary women empowered by extraordinary love. Here’s the second half of them:

Lydia– She was a merchant who sold purple cloth, something expensive and reserved for the wealthy and regal, so she had some wealth and reputation of her own. She was with a group of women by a river near Philippi when Paul and other missionaries came and began speaking to them; Lydia already worshipped God, but hearing about Jesus opened her heart even further to Him and she was baptized, along with her household. She opened her home to other believers, eventually housing a large amount of Philippi’s church. Obvious leadership capabilities and a welcoming nature lived in this woman. [Acts 16:14-15, 40]

Martha– Many of us know about Martha in the context of when she was distressed trying to prepare dinner for Jesus while her sister sat and listened to Him; she eventually asked Jesus to tell her sister to help with the work, to which he responded: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.” We often hear this story used as an example of what not to do, and while it is incredibly important to hear His words to her in our own spirits (it’s one of the main verses I cling to in my life), we forget that she was distracted “with much serving.” Martha wasn’t doing something wrong (she served Him dinner again later without issue), she had simply lost focus and was seeking to please Jesus with her hands above her presence; we do the same, all the time. And later, we see that she must have heeded His words and spent more time being present with Him, because she and her siblings were friends of Jesus. When her brother died after they’d asked Him to come heal him, Martha didn’t shy away from Jesus; she confronted Him about how hurt she was, yet she also expressed faith in Him, not only to fix things, but to be the Savior. And her faith was met in both. I truly admire her. [Luke 10:38-42, John 11-12]

Mary (sister of Martha and Lazarus)– She was the sister who sat at Jesus’ feet and eagerly listened to Him teach; Jesus affirmed to her that by doing this she had chosen the one thing she needed. When her brother died, she wept and was at home surrounded by others mourning until she heard that Jesus came and wanted to see her; she then approached Him and fell at His feet weeping, telling Him if He had come sooner her brother would have lived. Jesus was moved so deeply that He wept, too. And when He raised her brother to life, the people who had gathered to mourn with her saw it happen. Later Jesus had dinner with their family, and Mary anointed His feet with an expensive perfume and wiped it with her hair; some thought it wasteful, but Jesus praised her for it. The way we see Jesus interact with Mary shows how much He cares about our emotions; she was a passionate woman, but He didn’t ever give her reason to believe that she was too much for Him. He loved and validated her. [Luke 10:38-42, John 11, 12:1-8]

Mary (mother of Jesus)– Many of us know her story: how she was a young girl when an angel appeared to her and told her she was going to have a baby that would be the long-awaited Savior; how she responded with questions but willingness and trust even though it would jeopardize her reputation, especially since she was a betrothed virgin; how she braved a long journey late into her pregnancy and gave birth in a cave surrounded by animals; and how she fled with her family to a different country for a few years soon after. All of that is wild. What the Bible doesn’t go into detail about is the years of raising Jesus (along with the other children she later had). I’m sure it felt like a lot of pressure raising the Son of God on top of all the normal pressures a mother feels. And I can’t imagine how it felt to see Him be crucified, and to hear Him making sure she was taken care of even as He was dying. Mary wasn’t perfect, but she showed up, and it was enough for Him. She was even there when the apostles met to replace Judas after Jesus ascended– a normal girl who would have lived a quiet life, and instead all know her name. [Matthew 1-2, Luke 1-2, Acts 1:12-14]

Mary Magdalene– She became one of Jesus’ female disciples after He healed her of seven demons (I wish we had more of her history, but maybe it’s even better that all we know of her is her redemption!). She supported and accompanied Him, even when it meant being present at His crucifixion. She was also there when He was placed in the tomb. Some gospel accounts say a group of women was first to discover His empty tomb and share the news, but John says Mary was there alone. At first she wept at the tomb, thinking His body had been stolen. But He appeared to her and put her heart at ease, giving her the mission and gift of speaking of His resurrection and ascension. Her transformation and the way she was always looking to Jesus instead of behind her is so empowering to read. [Matthew 27:56-61, 28:1-10, Mark 15:40-47, 16:1-8, Luke 8:1-2, 24:1-10, John 19:25, 20:1-18]

Michal– She was the daughter of King Saul who fell in love with David and became his first wife. Admittedly, she grew to be problematic when she began hosting bitterness. But the fact that she helped David escape when Saul sought his life, and that she survived being captured and sent off to a new husband for a while by her manic father, shows us she was more than just a spoiled princess. [1 Samuel 18:20-29, 19:11-17, 25:44, 2 Samuel 3:13-14, 2 Chronicles 15:29]

Miriam– She was the daughter of Jochebed who helped preserve her baby brother Moses’ life during a massacre; she later led the people with Moses and Aaron when the Lord delivered the Israelites out of Egypt. She sang powerful songs of worship which are recorded in the Bible, and she was so respected by the people that they deeply mourned her death and listed her name in genealogies along with her brothers (which was not normal). A natural leader with an earnest heart, even when she made mistakes. [Exodus 2:4-8, 15:20-21, Numbers 12:1-15, 20:1, 26:57-59, 1 Chronicles 6:3, Micah 6:4]

Naomi– She and her family had left their home due to a famine, but both her husband and her sons died before they could return. She struggled deeply with bitterness, yet she still did not treat herself like a victim: she decided to go back home alone. But when her daughter-in-law Ruth refused to leave her side, Naomi took her in and did what she could as a widow to make sure Ruth was well– even to the point of helping her approach a man and get married again! She later helped care for Ruth’s baby. I like that she was no-nonsense but still deeply caring. [Ruth]

Persis– She’s very briefly mentioned in one of Paul’s letters, but we know she was important to the church when he calls her “dear Persis, who has worked so hard for the Lord.” That’s a worthwhile sentence to have in your memory. [Romans 16:12]

Phoebe– She was a deaconess in the church in Corinth, known for her kindness and generosity. She was also the carrier of Paul’s letter to the Romans. I like to remember her when people speak negatively of women being in church leadership. [Romans 16:1]

Priscilla– She and her husband met Paul on one of his missionary journeys and ended up joining him; Paul later wrote that they’d risked their lives for him. They hosted a church in their home, and they also journeyed on their own. They once encountered a Jewish man named Apollos who was preaching in the synagogue but didn’t have all the information, so they privately spoke to him and explained what was missing, and he became adept at doing the same with other Jews. Because her name was often listed before her husband’s, it is believed she was a more prominent leader, but both were highly regarded in their maturity and wisdom. They set an awesome example for married believers. [Acts 18:2, 18, 24-26, Romans 16:3, 1 Corinthians 16:19]

Puah and Shiphrah– These two were midwives in Egypt when Pharaoh began fearing the growth of the Hebrew population, and he ordered them to kill any Hebrew baby boys that were born. But these women believed in God and did not listen to the orders: they delivered both the baby boys and baby girls. When Pharaoh confronted them, they simply said the mothers had their babies before the midwives arrived. God saw what they had done and blessed them with their own families. [Exodus 1:15-21]

Rahab– She was a prostitute living in Jericho when the Israelites came to scout the land. Two scouts stayed at her house, but when the king learned about it he sent orders for her to release them; instead, she had hidden them under the brambles of her roof and told the king’s messengers that the men had gone, sending them on a pointless hunt elsewhere. But she was also frank with the men she had hidden, telling them everyone was terrified because they knew the Lord had given the land to Israel, and she made them promise to spare her entire extended family when the time came. They promised, and she helped them escape. When Jericho was destroyed, those same men made sure to rescue her and her family. She lived among the Israelites from then on and her family line continued through them– into the line of Jesus. She was kind, yet she was also ruthless in the best way, and God honored that in her. [Joshua 2, 6:17, 23-25, Hebrews 11:31, James 2:25]

Ruth– After her husband died, Ruth was determined to stay by her mother-in-law Naomi’s side, even though it meant beginning life in a new city with no one to provide for them. She was active and sought opportunities to care for herself and Naomi, and ended up gleaning in fields owned by a kind man named Boaz; he took notice of her and continually blessed her with extra provisions and a seat at his own table, knowing her story and admiring her character. When Ruth told Naomi about him, it turned out that he was in line to be her kinsman redeemer (meaning he’d marry her to preserve her husband’s name since he was a relative). Ruth then approached Boaz and humbly yet boldly asked him to marry her. After Boaz went through the town elders to work out the complicated details, he joyfully married her; they had a son who would later be the grandfather of King David. I love Ruth’s forward-moving and optimistic way of approaching life, and the example she and Boaz set for healthy mutual submission. [Ruth]

Vashti– She’s barely mentioned, and she isn’t seen as a hero. But the one thing we know about her is that she was queen to King Xerxes, and when he drunkenly summoned her to appear before his party guests and show them her beauty (we can guess what that meant), she refused. She was banished for it, and these events led up to the search for a new queen, which is how Esther’s story begins. I just appreciate Vashti’s courageous and dignified response to the idea of being ogled, especially given how dangerous it was to respond that way. [Esther 1]

The woman at the well– She was at the well by herself, which is a clue to us that she was an outcast since there were particular times all the women drew water together. Furthermore, we know she had been married five times and that she wasn’t married to the man she was currently living with, because Jesus told her He knew those things. Add all of this to the fact that she was a Samaritan and Samaritans and Jews did not interact, and it helps us understand her (and the disciples’) amazement that Jesus was even talking to her, let alone having a conversation about the kingdom of God with her. And when she expressed faith in the coming of the Messiah, Jesus told her: “I am the Messiah!” Her response? She left her water jar, ran into the village, and started telling everyone about Him. Because of her testimony– which was obviously powerful, because the people listened to her despite her reputation– many Samaritans began to believe in Jesus and listened to Him themselves. Not only did Jesus love her well by showing her she was seen, but He also began restoring her life. [John 4]

The woman with the issue of blood– She had been bleeding constantly for twelve years when Jesus came to town. Because of cleanliness laws, she wasn’t even allowed in the main area of town: she lived on the outskirts with the other unclean people. So when she made her way through the crowds surrounding Jesus, not only was she taking a step of faith, but she was putting her life at risk. She finally reached Him and touched His hem– and, from then on, the bleeding stopped. And Jesus did something remarkable: amidst the crowd of people pressing in all around Him, He knew someone had intentionally touched Him and been healed, and He asked who it was. This woman, who had been apart from the rest of society for over a decade, was terrified. But she went to her knees in front of Him and told Him her story, and He blessed her for her faith. A humble woman with insane courage. [Matthew 9:20-22, Mark 5:25-34, Luke 8:43-48]

The woman in Song of Solomon– I know she’s a semi-fictional woman written by Solomon, but I still appreciate what the story teaches us about romantic love and how God views and values it. And the fact that the female character is the main narrator of the story is unique and special. [Song of Solomon]


Super helpful resources I used to put this list together:

Misc.

45 Stand-Out Women in The Bible {Part One}

I grew up feeling valued by the church, but valued differently. I was under the impression that my job as a woman was to help with the work men were doing for the kingdom. While helping others in their ministries is incredibly important and no one needs to feel like they’re bringing less value if that’s a role that fits them well, I have learned that women are not the only helpers in the kingdom, and men are not the only leaders; Jesus simply calls His followers. And those followers have always been both men and women, in various capacities.

DSC05067The past few years, I have absolutely loved reading the Bible and finding women who were bold in who they were, walking with strength and courage through the Holy Spirit. They convince me further and further how important women are to Jesus, and how He loves to see them glorify Him in innumerable ways.

Today, on International Women’s Day, I thought it would be fun to make a CliffsNotes-esque list of some of my favorite women in the Bible. These women and their stories are definitely inspiring and empowering for other women to read, but I want to make it clear that this isn’t a list I put together exclusively for women. It’s also important for men to be able to draw inspiration from stories about women. Everyone growing up in Sunday school, male or female, learned from stories about David, Moses, Daniel, and Paul; everyone can learn from stories about Deborah, Esther, Ruth, and Mary, too. When all are represented, all are accessible. I love that the Bible displays that truth.

Without further ado, here is the first half of some of my favorite stand-out women from the Bible:

Abigail– She was married to Nabal, a rich but selfish and thoughtless man who denied David’s request to allow him and his men to participate in a feast day while they were passing through Nabal’s land as they fled from King Saul. David was preparing to bring retribution, but when Abigail heard about what happened, she and her servants took abundant provisions to David and implored him to be a more noble man than her husband. Not only did she convince him to stand down, but when Nabal learned about it and died from shock, Abigail married David and later became a queen. I love how she wasn’t willing to make excuses for her husband; instead, she used the authority and respect she obviously had among their servants (who knew to go to her with the problem) to fix what he’d done. [1 Samuel 25, 27, 30; 2 Samuel 2:2]

Achsa– She was given to a man as his wife, but before going to live with him, she told her father to give her two springs along with the land he’d already given her. She was willing to vocalize what she wanted. [Joshua 15:16-19, Judges 1:11-15]

Anna– She was a widowed prophet who never left the temple, continuously worshipping and fasting. She met Jesus when He was a young boy and rejoiced over Him, knowing He was the fulfillment of what she had been waiting and praying for, and she proceeded to tell others who carried the same hope that their rescuer had come. Her hope was longstanding, and did not disappoint. [Luke 2:36-38]

Bathsheba– I know some might be weirded out to see her on this list, but honestly: if the king summoned you to his palace, would it cross your mind to refuse him? And if the king was as respected as David, would you suspect that he simply wanted to sleep with you? I don’t think she was to blame for what happened, and the Bible is pretty clear that both David and the Lord saw it that way, too. She mourned when she learned her husband was dead (David’s attempt to cover the affair up); she cared. After many years of being married to David, when he was an old man and one of his haughty sons had taken the throne without his knowledge, she (under the wisdom of the prophet Nathan, whom she seemed to have a good relationship with) approached David and reminded him of his promise to make their son Solomon king. And Solomon became the wisest king Israel ever had, which might be partly due to how she raised him. Bathsheba endured a lot of undeserved pain in her lifetime, but she didn’t live as a victim of those things. She is even mentioned in the genealogies of Jesus, to honor her. [2 Samuel 11, 1 Kings 1-2, Matthew 1]

Daughters of Zelophehad (Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah)– These five women were the only descendants of a man of the tribe of Manasseh; he had no sons and recently passed away, leaving his inheritance and his name to be forgotten. But they stood in front of the entire community– Moses, Eleazar the priest, tribe leaders, everyone– and petitioned for the right to be their father’s heirs. Moses brought their request to the Lord, and the Lord responded with a clear “yes.” They not only stood up to receive what was theirs, but they were the first to operate under the new law that allowed this to happen for other women in their situation. [Numbers 26:33, 27:1-11, 36:11, Joshua 17:3-6]

Deborah– She was a prophet and the only female judge (military leader) in Israel’s judge era. She, by word of the Lord, summoned the warrior Barak into battle, but he would not enter into battle unless she went with him; they had victory and the land was peaceful for forty years. The reverence and respect the people had for her is obvious. I also like that the fact she was married is mentioned, but isn’t a part of her identity or the value she brought; she had an additional calling apart from her marriage. [Judges 4-5]

Dorcas (or Tabitha)– Not a lot is said about her. But when the few words recorded about someone are that “she was always doing kind things for others and helping the poor,” that earns immediate admiration. People loved her so much that when she died and they found out Peter was in town, they begged him to help, and she was brought back to life. [Acts 9:36-41]

Elizabeth– She was the mother of John the Baptist, miraculously conceiving him in her old age, and that’s obviously cool. And when it came time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she didn’t lose her kindness, yet she was unwavering in the face of opposition to giving him the name the Lord declared he should have. But my favorite story we know about her is when she encouraged her cousin Mary about being pregnant with Jesus. Mary was young, unmarried, and, although willing, probably had a lot of fear about what was going to happen. But Elizabeth felt her baby leap at the presence of Mary’s baby, and, full of the Holy Spirit, spoke blessings over her and affirmed her. I also think it says a lot that Mary lived with Elizabeth for three months while pregnant with Jesus; it must have felt like a safe place. [Luke 1]

Esther (or Hadassah)– There is so much I could say about her; she’s one of the few women to have a book of the Bible named after her, and many of us know her story: how she was an orphan chosen among the captive Jews by the Persian king to be his new queen, discovered a plot to eradicate her people, and risked her own life to appear unannounced (i.e., unlawfully) before the king while he was with the man with the plot and plead for their lives– successfully. These events are still celebrated every Purim. Esther was a shining example of blooming where you’re planted, and of discerning when to be submissive and when to speak up. [Esther]

Eunice and Lois– These two are barely mentioned, but what we do know about them is beyond praiseworthy: they are Timothy’s mother and grandmother, who raised him with scripture, strengthening his faith as he grew up under an unbelieving father. They stepped up and refused to be passive about caring for Timothy in all ways. I can relate to Timothy in this so Eunice and Lois are obvious powerhouses to me. [2 Timothy 1:5, 3:15; Acts 16:1]

Hagar– She was Sarah’s servant, eventually given to Abraham because they hoped she could conceive a child for them. She did become pregnant, but being treated so poorly led her to run away into the wilderness– and God met her there beside a spring, encouraged her, and spoke promises over her. From then on she called Him “the God who sees me.” Later, after Hagar had returned but a few years later was sent away out of jealousy, she despaired once again in the wilderness, thinking her son was going to die, and the Lord once again met her there and promised to take care of her. They lived, and eventually she even arranged a marriage for her son; he became the father of the Ishmaelites. She just feels very tangible to me; she reminds me that even when I’m alone, I’m seen and cared for. [Genesis 16, 21]

Hannah– She was childless and achingly longed to be a mother, so she devoutly begged the Lord for a son, promising he would be dedicated to Him all his life. The priest Eli saw her praying and, thinking she was drunk, he rebuked her, but she graciously defended herself, and in response Eli blessed her prayer. She became hopeful, and soon she bore her son Samuel, who would become a favored and honored prophet and leader for decades upon decades; she kept her promise and he assisted Eli from boyhood. Her song of praise is wonderful, and her earnest, humble zeal for the Lord is, too. [1 Samuel 1-2]

Jael– When the commander of a Canaanite army fled to her tent because her husband was in good standing with the king, Jael welcomed him– then waited until he fell asleep, when she drove a tent peg through his skull and killed him. She handed him off to Israel, fulfilling Deborah’s words to Barak that the honor of the victory would go to a woman. This story is a bit strange and gruesome, but it’s interesting to see that she was willing to do what a lot of warriors had not done. Later a song calls her “most blessed among women.” [Judges 4:17-24,  5:24-27]

Jehosheba– The royal family was being massacred, but Jehosheba, sister of the recently deceased king and wife of the priest, took and hid away her brother’s baby and his nurse in the temple while the new wicked queen ruled. Six years later there was a revolt, and that baby, now seven-year-old Joash, became the youngest king to rule in Judah. He was a godly king and eventually restored the Temple. I love that Jehosheba was connected to people in power but knew her own power, and that it didn’t have to be over others but rather used for others. [2 Kings 11:1-3 , 2 Chronicles 22:10-12]

Joanna, Mary, Mary, Susanna, and Salome– These women are some of the named female disciples of Jesus. Many of them had been healed by Him, and some of them (such as Joanna) were married to men of influence and supported Jesus financially. They were also the first to go to Jesus’ tomb, intending to honor His body and instead finding it empty and meeting an angel who declared He was alive. They told everyone, including the eleven remaining disciples, what they’d seen. Not only did Jesus have female disciples, but He also had them be the first to deliver the news of His resurrection. Jesus honors and shares His glory with women. [Luke 8:1-3 , 24:1-12]

Jochebed– The Israelites were living in Egypt under a tyrannical ruler who feared their growing population and had begun a massacre of Hebrew baby boys, but Jochebed hid her baby, Moses. And when she could no longer hide him, she strategically placed him in a basket near where the princess would bathe along the river. The princess saw the baby, had compassion on him, and took him in, but she needed someone to nurse him. That was when Jochebed’s daughter approached the princess from the brush and offered to find a Hebrew woman to nurse him– and, of course, brought back his mother. Not only was Jochebed able to care for her son, but she preserved his life, and put him in a powerful position once he was weaned and the princess adopted him. [Exodus 2, Numbers 26:59]

Leah– She was Jacob’s first wife, given to him instead of her sister, whom he loved and worked an additional seven years to marry. But the Lord saw Leah in her situation, and blessed her with six sons. At first, Leah’s reaction to having children was, “Now Jacob will love me!” But Jacob’s affections didn’t change. Eventually Leah’s mindset changed, and when she had her fourth son, her reaction was: “Now I will praise the Lord!” And after having her last son, she viewed it as God’s reward and said that her husband would respect her; not necessarily love, but respect. We often tell her story in an attitude of “poor Leah,” and that’s definitely valid; her story is full of struggling against her favored sister for affection. But her story also contains her learning that she was valued beyond how people treated her, because the Lord loved her. [Genesis 29-31]


The second half of this list will be up soon! In the meantime, I’d love to hear about some of your favorite biblical women. Who stands out to you and why?

Soul Food

Soul Food {February 2018}

Normally, I count down to the end of winter because nothing seems to happen during it. But this month was full of events and experiences, both externally and internally. I’m learning a lot and taking steps forward that I’ve been afraid to take; it’s scary, yes, but it’s honestly beyond time I braved a greater extent of life. Here’s some of the art and media I’ve been taking with me.

Music268x0w

  • “Clear Picture” by Montell Fish ft. CASS. I love when a song is a jam and full of uplifting truth at the same time. These two artists are some of my favorites in the indie Christian music scene right now, so I was excited to see they’d collaborated.
  • “Counting Sheep” by Shakey Graves. Happy to be hearing new things from him! This song is dreamy yet gritty and I love that he’s mastered that marriage.
  • “So Good to Me” by Cory Asbury. Something helpful and encouraging for me to play on repeat as I learn more about God’s goodness.
  • Johnny Cash’s version of “You Are My Sunshine.” For the cheesiest reasons. Although most of it is definitely a sad song, the guitar and the calm air are lovely.
  • “Good Now” and “I Forgot You” by Phangs. His new ep “Happy Season” came out this month and these two songs are my favorites from it (though the whole album’s concept is such a sweet one). Both are so lyrically on point for me; the first is wonderfully happy, the second wildly empowering in the most emotional way. And he injects such a good vibe into it all.
  • “Dance Forever” by Allstar Weekend. A no-shame high school jam I rediscover every once in a while.
  • The Hunts’ “Darlin’ Oh Darlin'” album. Tears came to my eyes after the first few notes, and I danced and smiled before I even knew what was happening. Listening to this album is like taking a retreat to the mountains and being filled with the assurance that everything will be okay. I am awed by it. I tried but I genuinely couldn’t pick favorites from it.
  • “Ralphie” by Post Animal. They announced a new album and tour for this year, and this single that came out with the announcement is a fun hint of what’s to come. We can always count on them to take us back to the 1970s. Not that I was there to begin with but still.
  • “Butterflies” by Kacey Musgraves. Such a joyful and heartfelt song about unexpected love.
  • “Slide” by Chris Howland ft. Joey Jewish. Another lyrically solid jam.
  • “Kings and Queens” by Mat Kearney. This is his latest release from his upcoming album and I’m a bit obsessed with it at the moment; I got to see him play it in concert this month and he was wonderful. He’s still on tour (with Andrew Belle, whom I also love and was able to chat with!) if you want to check out if he’s coming to your city!
  • Cimorelli’s cover of “Now or Never.” Palpably passionate and makes me want to scream along.

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

Movies/YouTube/TVmovieposter

  • Worst Cooks in America. Ridiculous and probably over 80% staged but I crack up every week.
  • The Mentalist. We finished the final season this month, and I already miss spending my weekday evenings with the characters! I have to admit, the mid-season bombshell that was dropped in season six wasn’t what I expected and felt like a bit of a let down for a while, but I grew to accept it and see it was somewhat realistic, as even Jane had been surprised. And I love where the series went from there and getting to fall for some wonderful new characters. I’m glad I spent the time I did in this series.
  • Bullet journaling videos. If you’ve been keeping up with me the past few months, you’ll know that I love peeking into others’ journals and seeing their creative ways of formatting and decorating everything. This month I enjoyed Kristan Makl’s 2017 flip-through and Sarah Swan’s video on how she collages her spreads (I am obsessed with her style), among others.
  • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Inspiring, but not in a superficial way. I hear people talk about it like it’s a movie that says, “Go travel the world!” But I see it as a movie that encourages us to be who we are and do what we long to do despite the setbacks we face. Walter is a wildly relatable, tangible character and it’s special to see him learn that lesson.
  • Zozaleenie. I’ve only opted to get notifications from two of my YouTube subscriptions ever; Zoe is one of them. I cannot get enough of her content. She’s hilarious and so creatively artistic and I don’t know how she balances those things so well in her projects but I am into it.
  • Kids Baking Championship. I literally refer to it as “my kids.” Like, “Ooh, my kids are on tonight!” Maybe I have a problem? But they’re all so sweet and talented, and even though it’s a competition they’re always encouraging each other in their projects. We need to get on this level, adult world!

Books/Blogs/Articles

I’m reading five books right now but I haven’t completed any of them yet because I’m trying to take care of my brain and be gentle with myself. In the meantime, I’m on Goodreads if you’d like to keep up with what I’m reading (and see my full reviews once they exist).


What fed you this month?