Author Archives: Tessa

About Tessa

I love, I feel, I explore, & I make things out of it. Also I really like Spider-Man.

Soul Food {May 2017}

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

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

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

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

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

What fed you this month?

A Look at How I Journal

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

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

What I Write

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How I Decorate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thoughts from Being 10 Months Porn-Free

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Soul Food {April 2017}

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

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

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

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

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What fed you this month?

On Submission, Choice, & Love That Stays

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DSC09435God will not love me more if I obey Him. He will not love me less if I don’t. He loves me, every piece of me, completely, unwaveringly. I cannot change that.

In middle school, I told a friend that God couldn’t go with them where they were going. That was a blatant lie, and telling it is one of my biggest regrets, even after they’ve forgiven me. I believed what I said; I believed it about them and about myself. But it was a lie. He would leave ninety nine to find one that was lost.

I have been afraid of where He wants to take me. Sometimes because I’m nervous, but sometimes because no part of me wants to go there. It might make me a little angry, but more than anything it makes me confused and hesitant; it has made me scared to go to Him fully open. But then He told me:

“If you decide not to follow me where I want to take you, I will follow you where you want to go. It’s you and me. I’m not going to leave you.”

If God responded to our disobedience, to our no’s, by leaving us? It would not be love anymore. Love gives, and love allows choice. “Obey me and I’ll stay, refuse and I’ll leave” is not love– it is manipulation.

Love without choice is manipulation.

It isn’t love at all.

God does not give or remove His love or His presence in our lives based on our submission to Him.

Here’s the thing about submission: if it is forced, it isn’t submission– it’s control. In order for me to submit myself to Him, there has to be the option not to. Submission is a choice, and by giving us that choice, God also submits Himself to us. He wouldn’t ask us to love Him in ways He Himself does not love. Love is sacrifice, is generosity. And He embodies that. He is love.

He never forces me to do anything. He knows what is best for me and He has shown Himself trustworthy, so submission is something I get to do out of deep love for Him and out of that trust– not out of fear or duty. But I could always choose not to submit, because love does not force anyone to do anything; love is given, it doesn’t take. And because I see His love in the fact that He lets me choose, it is easier for me to choose to submit. I want to. He loved me first; I love Him in return. We both give, we both receive. No one has to take.

He has always said that He doesn’t want our sacrifice if He doesn’t have our hearts. Because sacrifice without love is theft; it is one-sided, duty-driven, an attempt at control. Love is given; it cannot be demanded. He doesn’t want what we have to give: He wants us. He wants to be genuinely loved by us, willingly, affectionately.

Because that’s the way He loves us.

“Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”   -Psalm 23:6

Soul Food {March 2017}

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So many lovely things came with this month for me. Some of them are works of art and media; let’s talk about them!

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  • “Perfect” and “Hearts Don’t Break Around Here” by Ed Sheeran. I never really got on the Ed Sheeran train, but I’ve been trying to listen to the new albums the people around me get excited about, and his latest is one of them. I definitely understand why he’s so widely loved. While there are occasional things content-wise that bother me (aka romanticizing excessive drinking/clubbing), he is a wonderfully genuine songwriter and I think he meets a generation where they are in a lovely way. I’m sharing my two favorites from the album. The man can write a love song.
  • I’ve also been listening to Ed Sheeran’s older song “Kiss Me.”
  • “Call Me Out” by Sarah Close. Happened upon it and immediately put it on repeat all day. Chill and a jam at the same time.
  • “Falling Into You” by Hillsong Young & Free. Dancey and positive. “I wanna love you like you love me…”
  • “Dreaming With a Broken Heart” by John Mayer. Yeah, I’ve mentioned John Mayer every month this year; his new album comes out next month so he’ll probably be in that one, too. Deal with it.
  • Mat Kearney’s version of “Dancing In The Dark.” Wrap up in a blanket, close your eyes, and lean into this one. His version brings out the sadness behind the desperate words.
  • Lindsey Stirling’s “Brave Enough” album. Violin + dubstep/electronic vibes + a good handful of talented guests + exploring love and loss = a stunning album I should not have waited so long to lend my ear to. My favorites from it are “Brave Enough (ft. Christina Perri)” “Those Days (ft. Dan + Shay)” “Gavi’s Song” and “Love’s Just a Feeling (ft. Rooty)” (also, definitely watch the music video; it’s unique and sweet and tells a huge story in under four minutes, and was what got me to listen to the full album).
  • Jetty Rae’s “Can’t Curse The Free” album. Her voice is one of my favorites, period; she manages to do so much with it. I enjoy her organic style interlaced with the beautiful melodies and poetic, honest songwriting. My favorite from her latest album is “The River” (stunning songwriting), but I also love “Can’t Curse The Free” “Another Town” and “Coast to Coast.”
  • “Diazepam” by Turnover. An interesting story inside an infectious song. I really like the 70s/90s soft rock vibe that carries it.
  • Andrew Belle. Basically everything by him. I love the entire “Black Bear” album, and his single “Dive Deep” is amazing, too. He can combine feel-good tunes with a perfect amount of moodiness, and I think it’s unique and lovely.
  • “The Best Things in Life Are Free” by Sam Cooke. I’m learning that classic big band music is one of my favorite genres out there! This short and sweet recording gets me every time. His voice is killer.

If your music taste is all over the place like mine and you want to listen to every song I’ve talked about today, I have a playlist on YouTube and on Spotify. I use this playlist for the whole year, so the latest additions will be near the bottom.

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  • Dinotopia: The Series. My favorite show from middle school. It’s so cheesy and cringey but the nostalgia still makes it super enjoyable for me. I also still kind of want to live there.
  • Sho Baraka’s response to being removed from Lifeway Christian Bookstores. So well stated and respectful. Ironically, this situation is what led me to listen to his album, and I think it’s pretty powerful.
  • Doctor Strange. I had no prior knowledge of his story– and now I think it’s so cool. The process of becoming humbled and looking outside himself was a treat to see unfold. Plus, the film is visually intricate and engrossing, and it’s a superhero movie in my beloved Marvel universe, and it’s just… cool!
  • “What’s On My Head? Challenge (ft Mayim Bialik)” on Good Mythical Morning. So freaking funny. “Is it one of those, like… chefs?”
  • Andrew Garfield holding a baby while on the set on Amazing Spider-Man 2. Because why I would not watch this if it exists?
  • Father of The Bride. Ridiculous yet heartwarming.
  • “Hoping for an Airport Reunion: One Refugee Family’s Story.” We need these stories to be shared everywhere. We need everyone to know the facts and humanity behind the refugee crisis.
  • Designated Survivor. It just returned this month after a winter hiatus, and the suspense is still high for me.
  • That Thing You Do. Super cute and witty film about a rock band finding stardom in the early sixties. Tom Hanks is a favorite of mine and he’s great in it.
  • “What Winter Feels Like” by SoSonia on SoulPancake. I have friends who deal with seasonal affective disorder; hearing these words from that perspective was inspiring.
  • Moana. I didn’t have expectations for it, really; I tend to be cynical about things that have a lot of hype. But I ended up loving this film. Beautiful music, fun characters, and inspiring lessons about being fully present in the powerful person you are.
  • Collateral Beauty. Holy. Cow. You have to see this. It is so poignant and powerful and lovely. I don’t cry over movies beyond a moment of watery eyes, but this? Sobs that lasted into the credits. I will keep thinking about it, and it will be an enduringly important film to me.
  • Waaaaay too many videos about running an Etsy business (because I started my own!). I collected some of the more helpful videos in an unlisted YouTube playlist if that’s something you could use.
  • The new Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer! I squealed over/shared every new poster they revealed, friends tagged me in the trailer when it was released, and I already have people I’m seeing the movie with when it comes out in July, because I am not playing around, this is Spider-Man, you guys! I’m elated.
  • Continued watching The Mentalist and Scorpion.

Books/Blogs/Articleseve-9781501101373_hr

  • Eve by Wm. Paul Young. Refreshes an air of magic and wonder for the story of Creation/Eden/The Fall to those of us who grew up with it, and breaks down lies we believe about God and ourselves to replace them with the truth of what Love is and does. The sweet and dynamic characters and the gripping plot are an added bonus. I’d take a little bit of the content with a grain of salt, but it is a work of fiction so I’m not sure the author is asking us to believe some of the elements of the story to be reality in the first place. Definitely worth a read.
  • “Good News: God Will Not Use You” by Carolyn Watts. I think it’s important to refine platitudes from our personal theology, and am grateful for writing like this that helps us do that. “God made us not for his use but as an overflow of his love. 
  • “The Church We Leave Behind” by Amy Sondova. I have been going through a similar process; hearing someone speak into my situation with clarity and a “me, too” was a deep need met. “Change can’t happen in hardened hearts, so sometimes we need to dust off our sandals and move on.  It happened to Jesus and the apostles and we can expect the same.”
  • The Violet Fairy Book edited by Andrew Lang. Weird and wonderful, with illustrations that give me heart eyes. I spent a whole year reading it, though, not gonna lie.
  • “Dear You Who Feels Wounded” by Ann Voskamp. Ann writes warm embraces you can crumble into. This is so, so good.
  • This review of The Parent Trap. So. Freaking. Funny.
  • “So I Quit Drinking” by Sarah Bessey. Beautiful thoughts on conviction, holiness, and finding balance in the extremes. “Conviction is less about condemnation than it is about invitation.” [She also wrote this post-script which is important, too.]
  • “Lie #3: God is in Control” by Wm. Paul Young. I’m not sure about my full thoughts on this yet. But it sure has made me think. I think agree with a lot of it.
  • “Of Lent and Emptiness” by Addie Zierman. Her writing always seems to put words to the hidden tensions we might feel. “’This year,’ she suggested. ‘I think you should give up trying to muster up any response at all. Say to yourself I am free to have emotions, but I refuse to generate them.‘”
  • You can keep up with my reading progress and see my full book reviews on my Goodreads if you want to!

What fed you this month?

“Jesus Loves You More Than a Man Ever Could” – On Guilt & Falling in Love

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I was listening to a love song. A person came to mind (or maybe to heart) when I heard it. And I immediately felt guilty.

back at the pianoI grew up in a culture that told teenagers their romantic feelings and desires were something they needed to get rid of. And if they couldn’t shake those feelings and desires no matter how hard they tried, they had to direct them toward Jesus instead.

“Jesus loves you more than a man ever could,” I was told innumerable times. And when I’d have a crush and it just wouldn’t go away, I would reprimand myself for not letting Jesus be enough for me. I loved Him so deeply. But I didn’t have confidence that He was satisfied with me; I believed He was demanding I love Him more and love Him differently. I didn’t believe my genuine love was enough for Him.

When I was told Jesus loved me more than another person could, the application was always: “So you better give Him credit for that.”

Back in October, when I heard that love song, I felt guilty. Because I wanted to sing it about a person, and what’s left of teenage Tessa immediately pointed an accusing finger and told me I couldn’t. I had to sing it to Jesus, or I shouldn’t be singing it.

But then I heard the whisper:

“What if I sang it to you?”

A bit of all of it happened. And He healed something in me that day.

Jesus loves me. More than anyone else ever could. But instead of the response to that truth being guilt, He wants something different.

When He sang that love song to me, He wasn’t shaming me for any lack on my part (and He certainly wasn’t angry at me for having feelings toward a person). He helped me understand by using a song I could relate to: the way I felt for that person? It resembled how He felt about me. And the response He wanted– the response it naturally elicited from me– was not guilt or forced praise.

It was awe.

I had so much in me for that person; it swept me up just to be in possession of it. They didn’t have to do anything to maintain it. It was something living in me, for them. I loved them because of who they were, not because of anything they felt (or, more accurately, didn’t feel) toward me. It was overwhelming in a beautiful way. And finally it was beginning to connect– God goes through that concerning me?

I am a wildly imperfect person, yet I am able to love in measures like these. Why have I believed that God who is Love… would do less?

It would take more time for me to unpack these things. I’m still in the process; He’s still teaching me how to let Him love me. But I wrote in my journal that night, after the song ended:

“Maybe the whole reason we fall in love is so that we can grasp Him better.”

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