Soul Food

Soul Food {September 2018}

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.

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  • “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.
  • Jason Gray’s “The Kipper Gray Sessions” ep. Written by Jason and produced by his son Kipper, this ep is upbeat, positive, and a bit unique from the rest of the work he’s done (which I also love). My favorites from it are “Be Your Own Kind of Beautiful” and “Time.”
  • “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.

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  • “A Boy Band Styled Me For A Week, Feat. PRETTYMUCH.” Way too entertaining. I weirdly love seeing young guys have a sense of style.
  • 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.
  • “Elizabeth Olsen Tries to Keep Up With a Professional Chef” on Bon Appetit. I adore Lizzie and want to be friends with her so bad, and seeing her personality shine in this setting only confirms it.
  • 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!

 

Books/Articles/Blogs

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.


What fed you this month?

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Embraces for Your Spirit · Life as a Wind Rider · Responses · Testimonies

On Heartache, Healing, & Bowls of Fruit

I’d like to talk about this bowl of fruit for a minute.

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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 didn’t know God’s ways are higher than ours— not lower.

He has told us what is good.

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.

I began to realize that love does not insist on it’s own way; it is not irritable or resentful. It isn’t like the demanding voice I’d always thought was His.

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.

He gives us new things to dwell on, instead of our pain. He gives us reason to rejoice.

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

Soul Food

Soul Food {August 2018}

This has been a month of expanding and healing, mostly through resting. Which feels strange and almost contrary, but it isn’t. I’m learning time isn’t an enemy, but a friend. A tough-love friend that takes longer than I’d like, but that makes things right. God is so good to me, and time always shows me the truth of that– past, present, future. I’m taking heart, and resting.

Here are a few things that nestled in with me this month.

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  • “The Breakup Song” by Francesca Battistelli. I scream the chorus in my car on a regular basis.
  • “Known” by Tauren Wells. Beautiful lyrically, well-done musically.
  • “Home” by TheBandFoster. My sweet friends are such a talented trio of siblings and their new single is lovely.
  • “New Light – Zookëper Remix” by John Mayer. The song was already a jam and then they had to go and make a remix. Bless.
  • “Pink Moon” by Nick Drake. I heard it on my quirky local radio station and now it regularly sneaks softly back into my head. It’s just gentle and sweet.
  • Fleurie’s “Portals” album. A modern poet who puts her intricate words to dreamy, ethereal pop music? I am such a fan of hers. Her first full length release is definitely worth a listen. My favorite track is “Out of The Blue,” and I also love “Explosions of Grandeur” and “Future Signs.”
  • “I Forgive You” by The Truth Experiment. I really connected to this song because it felt like someone I used to know could say the words. I think it’s interesting that the verses talk about the wrongs the speaker has done, but the chorus is about them forgiving the other person; near the end it seems as if the speaker is about to ask for forgiveness, but then it once again goes into them doing the forgiving instead. I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but it feels like they’re coming from a place of wanting to humble themselves and be forgiven but not quite knowing how to get there. [A little profanity.]
  • “God Knows (Must Be Love)” by Andrew Ripp. The live one-take version he did with a choir is iconic and pumps me up in the morning as I get ready for the day.
  • Joey Stamper’s sixty-second covers. Follow him on Instagram and be blessed. He even recently released an album of them; “Mine” and “Otw/Psycho” are favorites from it. His voice is legitimately one of the best I’ve heard, and he’s talented in instrumentation and production, too.

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

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  • All six Mission Impossible movies. The first is slightly cheesy but completely iconic, the second is ridiculous but the let’s-jump-off-our-motorcycles-and-body-slam scene was worth it, and all the following movies are so engaging, interesting, straight up cool, and enjoyable. Such a good franchise. The latest installment, Fallout, is probably my favorite and seeing it was what pushed me to catch up on all the others (because apparently I grew up under a rock?); it’s even beautifully shot. I’m a fan.
  • Crazy Rich Asians. A cute rom-com that also manages to touch on themes like cultural family dynamics and struggling to find a place in them. [A few inappropriate moments but nothing that made me wince; it was mostly spoken.]
  • Jess and Gabriel‘s videos. I watch very few vloggers anymore, but Jess and Gabriel have a good balance with how much they share, and they make me laugh and warm my heart.
  • Worst Cooks in America. So scripted but still so funny.
  • The Great Food Truck Race. Basically I just watch Food Network at this point.

Books/Blogs/Articles

  • “Why You Should Embrace The Forgiveness Mindset” by Dr. Caroline Leaf. I love her work. She takes her research as a neurologist and shares it plainly with practical application, and she even points us to where we can find those same concepts in scripture and use them to grow not only mentally but spiritually. This article on how forgiveness affects our brains and our well-being is so, so good.
  • Tifforelie‘s Instagram. Not only does she take lovely photos, her captions are full of honesty and non-cheesy insight about thriving in life, cultivating joy, and healing in the midst of heartache and grief and pain. This post of hers from last month has been sitting in the back of my mind as a comforting presence since I read it.

I have two jobs now and haven’t been prioritizing reading, but as I figure out how to manage my time better you can keep up with my book progress on Goodreads.


What fed you this month?

Soul Food

Soul Food {July 2018}

This month was hard. I can’t and won’t pretend it wasn’t. But I also can’t and won’t pretend that I haven’t been learning, loving, receiving love, and growing into greater measures of mental and emotional health, to the best of my ability. Loss is hard. Change is hard. Processing so many things at once is hard. But we don’t have to do it by ourselves. We can’t, and we don’t have to.

Here are a few of the little things that managed to ride along with me.

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  • Vance Joy. Everything by him. The man can write a poignant, innocent, intimate love song. His album “Dream Your Life Away” is such a great work; “Straight Into Your Arms” was particularly special to me this month.
  • “Jumpsuit” by Twenty One Pilots. A highly anticipated comeback I didn’t know I’d care about as much as I do. These guys create such unique and meaningful things that make me want to be passionate with them.
  • “Bad” by Lennon Stella. The lyrics capture a feeling that’s hard to put into words– still loving someone who hurt you, because before they hurt you they actually loved you well. I’m obsessed with the way the music is modern and has a strong backbeat, making it feel less victimized and more observational. And her voice is so cool. Basically she just nails everything in this. “I wish that you woulda treated me bad; truth is you couldn’t have loved me better. Now I’m left feeling twice as sad…”
  • “Just For The Record” by Lucie Silvas. Insightful lyrics I needed sung over me.
  • “Little Things” by One Direction. Sweet and cozy. And I know it’s a little old now, but I didn’t have a 1D phase so I didn’t know it before; sue me
  • “On and On” by Christ Church Manchester Music ft. Jake Woodward. Warm, dreamy, comforting.
  • “Out of the Blue” by Fleurie. This song was special to me from the moment she released it; it honestly shocked me just how much I loved it and felt connected to it. She creates such consistently lovely things, but this might be my new favorite. Gorgeous and heart-meeting in every aspect.
  • “Storehouse” by The Gray Havens. I love everything these guys do. Even when it has a more somber vibe it is still always uplifting. Their work just feels very safe for my heart and I appreciate it so much. I’m into this new single.
  • Andrew Belle’s version of “Fade Into You.” It’s like something that would be playing during a slow dance in a gritty teen movie, and for some reason I cannot get enough of that vibe.
  • “no place like hope” by Zachary Knowles. A chill jam I had on repeat for days, complete with buttery voices and a melancholy sweetness. “You’ve been trying to figure out true love; you’ve had it all from the start.”

If you want all of this music in one place, I’ve made a playlist! It’s on Spotify and on YouTube. I use it all year, so scroll to the bottom for the newest additions. [Some of this month’s music was only available on one platform or the other, so unfortunately neither of the platforms have the complete list.]

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  • Ant-Man and The Wasp. Y’all know I love Marvel and see every movie they release as soon as I can. This movie was no exception, but I admit I wasn’t as excited for it as others (especially now that Infinity War just has me waiting in agony for part two); however– it was so good! I laughed a lot, I gasped a few times, and I screeched at the end. Super enjoyable and a good contribution to the Marvel universe.
  • Ocean’s 8. A fun film with a stellar cast. Also, blonde Sandra Bullock slayed me, I wasn’t ready.
  • “Hilary Duff Plays With Puppies While Answering Fan Questions.” A lot of love for our forever big sister.
  • “Natalie Portman Tries to Keep Up With a Professional Chef.” Gold. Also I want to cook with Natalie Portman now.
  • Won’t You Be My Neighbor? I don’t watch documentaries that often, but the theater I work at was showing this one and I had a free afternoon so I was able see it. I grew up watching Mr. Rogers, like many of us did, and learning more about his life experiences and the mindset and heart he brought to his work was inspiring and uplifting. I legitimately pulled a notepad from my purse and wrote down a few lines during the film because they struck such a chord. If you get a chance to see it, I say do it!

Books/Blogs/Articles

A bit like last month: I didn’t have the time or the brain power to read very much. I’m hoping that soon I’ll be in a place where I’m able to catch up on some of the books I’ve stuck bookmarks in. Until then, I’m on Goodreads if you want to see my reading updates in real time.


What fed you this month?

Soul Food

Soul Food {June 2018}

Such a wild month for me, filled with open doors and curiosity and good gifts. I’m really focusing on not combing through God’s blessings, turning them every angle they can be turned to test if they’re truly good. God gives good gifts. Now is the time to be thankful and to walk in them and to let my heart leap. He’s declared that over me, and I believe you can take that promise as your own, too. He’s so good to us.

Here are a few things that went with me on this trip of a month:

Music

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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.

Movies/YouTube/TV

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  • Solo: A Star Wars Story. I wasn’t sure if I kind of glazed over the movie because of the story or because I saw it on a date, but friends have since confirmed that the movie has that effect, haha! It’s fun, it just doesn’t ask you to invest that much in it.
  • Chuck. My mom and I finished the series this month, with giggles and misty eyes. Such a fun show. The characters snatch your heart. [Admittedly: there were some slightly inappropriate moments we didn’t think were necessary. I personally enjoy the show enough otherwise to have grace for it in that area, but I know I could also be in a place in my life where I would decide to avoid it.]
  • Pollyanna. The scenery and costumes are lovely, and the display of the power of where we place our focus is surprisingly powerful.
  • The Princess Bride. I’m at the point with this movie where I think everything in it is funny and brilliant, and I’m okay with that.
  • Incredibles 2. Super fun, with some hilarious moments and some sweet ones, too.
  • Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. The Jurassic Park franchise isn’t my favorite, but the trailers for this installment made it seem different and interesting enough for me to give it a chance, and overall I enjoyed it! Of course they had to linger on a few gruesome moments of people being eaten by dinosaurs, but there was still a (basic) storyline. And shout out to the sixty seconds we got of Jeff Goldblum.

Books/Blogs/Articles

I thought I was going to crush it with the summer reading, but I haven’t finished anything yet. I’m reading a few books right now, though, and I’m on Goodreads if you want to keep up with my progress and see full reviews from me once they exist!


What fed you this month?

Embraces for Your Spirit · Recovery

Realizations from 2 Years Porn-Free

from pokemon go walkI haven’t intentionally looked at pornography in two years now. I don’t talk about it as often as I did in the beginning of the recovery process, which is kind of a comfort to me because it shows the impact of it in my life has become smaller and smaller. But even though it feels kind of vulnerable to bring up now, I don’t want to grow silent. I want you, whatever your struggle is, to know you aren’t the only one who faces temptations that feel dark and overwhelming, or who struggles to walk in their integrity. We are all with you. And I think the more we bring those things into the light, the less power we feel they have in our lives. That has been part of my experience, at least.

I’ve talked before about how, even though I’ve been porn-free for a decent length of time, I don’t quite know how to respond when people ask me for advice, because I genuinely don’t know how or why I’ve reached this place. That’s still completely true. So today, on my two years free mark, I’m not writing a “how you, too, can do this!” post. I just have a few things I’ve come to realize along the way that I’d like to share, if you’d like to hear.

1) I am fully loved and welcomed by God no matter the state I’m in.

This is the one thing that I know has been the key to my recovery. The first time I looked at pornography, I sobbed and asked God to forgive me, over and over– and He did not say one single thing about what I’d done. He wrapped me up close, and reminded me of His promise to teach me to renew my mind, and that was all. He loved me, all of me, unwaveringly. If I didn’t have that, I know I would not have been able to enter into recovery, let alone make any progress in it.

If you take one thing from reading my words today, take this: God is not ashamed of you. He isn’t angry with you. He doesn’t bring up your mistakes. He loves you. He is on your side. He is faithful to you and will never, ever withhold one bit of Himself from you. And your healing is His desire and joy to bring to fruition. Nestle in, without fear.

2) There isn’t an answer or a formula, there’s only grace and a process.

I’ve touched on this before so I won’t repeat myself too much, but I’d just like to clarify that while this can be scary, it can also be an encouragement.

There are a lot of tools and resources offered to aid people in their recovery, and I am not at all against trying to utilize them. But in my own experience, as well as the experiences of many of my friends in their own struggles? Those things often don’t work, at least not for long. It can be so discouraging and shame-bringing, especially when we’re trying so hard to grow. But we have to remember: our efforts are important, but they are not our saviors.

I still can’t pinpoint what got me here. Maybe the timing has simply been right for me, or maybe I’ll discover later down the road what the specific tools were, but right now? I can only attribute it to God’s love for me and the process of learning to live out of that place of belovedness. And He has that same kind of love for everyone else.

So, please, don’t be ashamed of whatever hasn’t worked for you. You’ll find the things that do. And you might not even know what they are when you finally do find them, and that’s okay, too. I can’t stress this enough: lean into how loved you are, before you start anything else that could help you, because that is what will carry you through whatever your process looks like.

And if you’re reading this and you don’t have experience with addiction or struggles of this nature, please: still remember these things. The people around you who are struggling don’t deserve to be shamed for the tools that didn’t work for them. See them for who they are– someone deeply, unwaveringly loved by God– and let that lead your behavior and your speech.

3) Temptation is NOT sin or failure. And it doesn’t go away– but it does lessen.

I’ve spent two years without looking at pornography, but that does not mean I’ve spent two years without being tempted to do so. It makes me uncomfortable to say that, and I know it might make some uncomfortable to hear it, but I’m not about to pretend or lie about this. This is one of the biggest things I’ve learned as I’ve emerged from a church background that preached guilt and fear, and I don’t want to stop telling anyone who will listen:

Being tempted is not the same as giving in to temptation.

Jesus was tempted, and was without sin— and now the same can be true of us. This is part of the gospel, the world-shaking truth He wanted us to know so badly that He died to prove it to us. How graciously we view ourselves is hugely important to Him.

I used to think facing temptation meant I was already sinning, and having that belief in my core was so crippling to any forward movement in my life. I am so grateful for His truth, and that, even when it hasn’t fully sunk in, I can make the choice to bank on it anyway and He will be faithful to show me the reality of it.

I still have graphic dreams sometimes. I still have to occasionally unfollow certain accounts on social media, not because they’re posting anything wrong but because my mindset isn’t always right toward what they do post. I still catch ugly thoughts suddenly popping up in my head. But none of this means I’m failing. In fact, it is all a normal and natural part of recovery. It’s okay to make progress and still have more to make; not being at the finish line (which, again, I’m honestly not sure exists this side of eternity) doesn’t mean you’re not walking on the right path.

[Side note on the graphic dreams: scientifically, one function of dreams is your brain processing things so it can store them in less prominent places and bring more finality to them. If/when you have those dreams, it’s okay to be unsettled, but don’t let it lead you to believe that you’ll never be rid of those things. Pornography affects the brain in a lot of different ways, but your brain is also such a powerful organ and can heal itself with the right care; sometimes, dreams are a part of that healing. It’s difficult, but as much as it feels like a bad sign, it’s actually a good one. Take heart.]

You’re going to face temptation in your recovery. Guaranteed. Sometimes, it’s going to feel nearly unbearable. But don’t let the fear take over. Don’t let yourself give into the feelings of shame and guilt and condemnation, because God never hands out those feelings. And don’t let yourself believe that because you’re drawn to something again it means you’ve already taken steps backwards. I promise: you’re doing a better job than you think.

Things will get better for you. Those thoughts won’t always be in the forefront of your mind; they’re going to shrink and shrivel and fade, and you’re going to feel the reality of your freedom stronger and stronger in you. Believe in who you already are: a person deeply loved by God. Everything else will flow from that, with time and a lot of grace.


Thank you to everyone in my life who has supported me, cheered me on, walked with me, and shared their own struggles with me in these two years. I know I wouldn’t be the same without you, and I know I still need you.

And thank you, Jesus, for being my rock, my biggest fan, my comfort, my true north. I wouldn’t be doing any of this without you. I love you with my whole heart.

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?