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:

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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?

Misc. · Practical

A Look at How I Journal

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

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

What I Write

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How I Decorate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Misc. · The Basics

On Identity & Never Fitting Quite Right

DSC04999I am both and I am neither.

If there’s an extreme to reach, I can’t. If there’s a side to pick, I can’t. If there’s an ultimatum to meet, I can’t. I’ve looked into both; God has met me in both. I just cannot make myself believe that He only lives in one aspect of everything. I believe He is bigger than I have room to understand.

I was raised around conservative Christians. I grew up and found myself relating to liberal spirituality in some ways, too. I still don’t fit comfortably in any camp. The Bible is my firm foundation and I follow Jesus in relationship, so the latter believe I am religious and closed-minded; I talk about spiritual life on a grand scale and I practice tolerance, so the former believe I am loose and heretical. I don’t fit. I don’t think I am any of the things they think I am; I hope I’m not. I hope you don’t think I am, either. I think I’m just a person just trying to figure things out the best I can. We all are, aren’t we?

It scares me sometimes. Because when you realize no human being has it fully figured out, you don’t quite know who you can go to with your questions anymore. I can talk to someone about something and have such a deep connection with them– then we’ll take the conversation a step further. And we’ll reach a place where the connection ends, where we don’t see things the same way anymore. And I’ll feel alone again.

I realize I will ever fit into any of the categories offered to me.

I’m reading 1 Corinthians. Paul is speaking to the church there, and he mentions that the Jews were demanding signs while the Greeks were seeking wisdom. Two groups wanted two different things to answer their questions, to supply what they felt they needed. Paul then says:

“Christ [is] the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

In Jesus, both groups were met. Because of Jesus, they were no longer two groups, because everything each person was seeking was found in Him.

He was the deciding factor of their identity. Of their unity.

When we base our identity on what others say, on groups we can belong to, on categories to sort ourselves into– we are basing our identity on something other than Christ. And when we do that, division enters in as a natural result.

In the same chapter, Paul brings up how the church is experiencing conflict because different people in it claim to follow different apostles. His response is simple:

“Is Christ divided?”

When we follow teachings and ideologies, it’s easy to be divided, because there are so many options to choose from. But when we follow Jesus? There’s only His person. And we can shape ideas to serve us, but we cannot mold a person to fit us. When we follow someone, we serve them. We learn from them. We learn the truth about them because we are with them and we seek to know them.

I’m not choosing an extreme. I’m not picking a side. I’m not selecting a category I might fit into. I can’t.

I’m seeking Jesus. Because He is the answer I’m looking for. Always.

And… I’m loving you. Whatever you might have chosen to identify with. Because the answers you want are in Him, too. It binds us together as family.

And everyone has a place in this family.

[Listen]

Misc.

On Oppressors & Love: How Our Family Does Things

withered blackberriesWhen there is a difficult person in our lives– someone who is not kind, who upsets or oppresses us in some way, who just makes life harder– we come up with a lot of solutions and are given various pieces of advice. We can unfollow them online; we can confront them; we can tell others about them and what they’re doing; we can avoid them; we can even cut them out of our lives.

But our Father has raised us differently.

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” It’s hard enough not to speak badly of these people; it’s even harder to be generous of ourselves to them. Yet that’s what He wants us to do. He asks that we do nothing but good to those who do us wrong.

“Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.” We are not to simply tolerate difficult people; we are to intentionally plan how we’re going to be good to them. It is to be a mission of ours to treat them with kindness, something we’re supposed to spend time and energy on; we make a conscious decision not to pay them back for the wounds they’ve given us, and to value and respect them instead.

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” We must do all we can to create peace; we have to do our part. Theirs? That’s theirs to worry about. It doesn’t matter how they behave, if our kindness affects them or if it doesn’t; their behavior has nothing to do with ours. Love has no conditions. Love doesn’t act in hopes that the person will change, it acts because that is what love does. Our kindness is because of who we are, not who they are.

“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God.” Our Father knows when we are being mistreated. He sees it and it angers Him. And He is going to take care of it for us, with His own hands. We don’t have to fix it. He will do it Himself.

It’s all right there in Romans 12, and there is no fighting it. I know, because I tried to. The very day I read these verses, I dealt with various offenses from a difficult person in my life. I wanted to avoid them; I wanted to show them that I didn’t deserve to be treated that way; I wanted them to know what they were doing wasn’t okay; I wanted them to feel guilty. Then my Father pointed me to what I had read that afternoon, and I heard His soft, knowing whisper:

“Tessa… what’s our way? How do we do things in our family?”

Our family is one of grace and forgiveness. No one gets what they deserve– they are given gifts instead. We love people in ways that shouldn’t make sense. That’s what this family does.

It’s what my Father does for me every day. I deserve His wrath, yet I receive His arms.

I have to display loving acts and carry a loving attitude for the difficult people, the oppressors, the hurt-inflictors in my life. I don’t want to; my anger tells me I deserve to be upset and defensive. But I have to love. Because there is one thing I do want to do– I want grow into a way of life where I can look at myself and know: “I get this from my Father. He taught me this.”

I want to look like my Father. To love other people like He loves me.

Love is so counter-intuitive to what I’ve always known and done. I still find myself kicking and screaming about it daily, because it is so much easier to sink into my anger and self-pity than it is to love someone who doesn’t even like me. I’m learning something new, and that means I’m messing up all the time. But knowing that He has already nailed love and extends it lavishly toward me in this process? That makes me get up every day and keep trying.


[Important note I need to make: these verses do not ask us to stay in harmful, abusive relationships. They simply ask us to be kind, peaceful, honorable, and forgiving, no matter how someone treats us. If you are in a harmful relationship, you do not need to stay there, and I beg you not to. Be kind, seek peace, honor the human being, forgive them; you can do all of these things outside of the depths of that relationship.]

Misc.

World Suicide Prevention Day {2015}: A Recap

September 10th was World Suicide Prevention Day, and I couldn’t escape the feeling that I needed to engage in it somehow. The theme To Write Love On Her Arms gave for this year was “We’ll See You Tomorrow.” I saw people writing on pieces of paper why tomorrow was an important thing for them, and I decided to do the same. It was so much more interesting than I thought it would be; it made me think about a few of the specifics of how lovely life is and how much exists in it for me. I ended up with six little signs, and took photos of each one to share in some way.

I didn’t think Facebook would be that sharing platform, because I don’t really talk about my experience with sadness much to the people in my life unless they ask me about it or are struggling themselves. Maybe… maybe it’s a fear of mine that the people I love will see me as someone troubled and withered, rather than just seeing Tessa. It’s happened before. And it can wound for a long time.

But on World Suicide Prevention Day, I shared myself anyway.

I shared the photos, and I shared stories that went with them. And I’m glad I did, because I need to learn to talk about it bravely. People need to hear from those who have experienced it. I keep wanting to say here that I don’t currently wrestle with sadness, because I don’t want people to be concerned for me… but what if I was struggling right now? If I was depressed right now, what would your perception of me morph into? Why would what I’m saying be different?

I wish we didn’t have to do this. I wish we didn’t have to change our minds about people we know and love when we hear about their struggles. All of us struggle. The person we love is that same person even when they reveal their brokenness to us. We all have it. So, please, when someone courageously shares with you their most swept-under-the-rug broken pieces… listen. Listen to your friend. Love your friend. Tell them they are your friend. That’s what they need from you. They need your love, not your fear. Your love is what will help them. Walking with them is what will help them. Do nothing less.

“Imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together.”    -Brené Brown

I’m going to keep sharing, despite my fear and despite the reactions that suggest to me maybe I should stay quiet. Because so much of shame’s power comes from secrecy. And I am not ashamed of my story, because I love and trust the one penning it.

Here are the photos I posted:

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And here are the stories I shared with them:

  • “A Train Ride to Life.”
  • “Seeing The Dots Connect.”
  • “100 Things to Look Forward To” and “100 More Things to Look Forward To.”
  • “I was talking with a friend, and she was telling me that she never really wanted to have kids until she realized she could change a family forever by being the generation of it that chose love and health. My family is wonderful, I love them so deeply, but there are unhealthy pieces, too. And knowing that I have a chance to heal from those pieces and pass health into my family history… it gives me shivers and makes me feel strong.”
  • Authentic Fiction‘s music.
  • “If there is love in my heart, there are recipients for it. I don’t want to deny anyone the love I have for them, even if they can’t return it. I want to keep giving it out. Because giving without payment is part of kingdom life. I’m already in eternity when I love people.”

May we all find the courage to be who we are: beloved broken people, being tenderly pieced back together.

Misc.

To Myself at Age Thirteen (Part Two)

[Read Part One first!]

On your birthday, you have the tendency to be sad. It’s weird, isn’t it? I still don’t quite get it. But I know it doesn’t have to be that way. Just remember that ANYTHING can happen– but not everything. Accept and enjoy what comes. You lead a blessed life.

There will be a few people you’ll need to forgive. The good news? You’ll do it! The bad news? It will take years. It’s deeply buried inside you and you won’t even notice it for a long time. But once you do, you will have people that you can go to for advice. Utilize that!

There’s an element of your life that becomes your ENTIRE life, and I cannot wait for you to realize it! I just can’t give any of this away, it’s too perfect! I have no desire to change it. None at all. I’ll say this: camp is going to be amazing this year. You’ll see. Not right away, but when you’re about fifteen you’ll realize what it meant. And the pieces will come together, and your life will actually FEEL like it means something!

In a few years, in the SAME year, two people you love from two areas of your life will let you and a lot of people down. And it will be okay. Your reaction will be perfect; I still cannot believe how strong you were, or understand why. I wish I was still reacting to things that way; I could learn a thing or two from you! Things will mend, especially in one area. I’m excited for you to see that unfold. You will meet some of the best people in your life.

taken December 2009When you get your hair cut in 2011, make sure she knows exactly how short you want it. Or it won’t be pretty. Everyone else will say otherwise, but I still am not so sure!

I’m not sure what to say about this. I don’t know how my life would change if I told you all the details, since I don’t see the entire purpose behind it yet. I guess I will just say that feelings are a gift, but aren’t always telling you the truth. Sometimes you will feel nothing at all but pain, and you will survive. Things will get better. It’s not a dark room, it’s a tunnel, and God is there. He will never leave. You will leave the tunnel together and be in a better place than before, because you will know Him more intimately. It hurts so badly, but it will get better. There is hope. Journal about everything you have inside you everyday, or you’ll get bottled up.

In high school you’ll meet a group of girls that will become a sisterhood for you, and it will be AWESOME. They will love you and you will love them, and you will grow together. They will hold you accountable, they will pray over you as you sob, they will make you belly laugh, and they will simply LOVE you. It’s going to be very hard to feel lonely!

You will be rejected by something you thought would help you live your dreams, and it will affect you quite a bit for a while. But here’s this piece of advice: don’t take it personality, and don’t be bitter about it. You can feel mistreated, or you can feel protected. I promise, Jesus uses it. You’ll come out of it with more confidence than before, and better grasp on what you really want from yourself. He believes in you.

College is not the land of perfection you imagine it to be. It’s overwhelming and stressful and you have to ask a boatload of questions daily. But it’s a good thing, I’m still adjusting; just be ready for the unexpected. You might want to start looking for a job the month before you start. Oh, and have a good attitude about graduating high school. Treasure your years of homeschooling. Believe it or not, you’ll miss it.

You’re allergic to penicillin. I learned that after a week of taking it three times a day. You’re welcome.

When someone asks if you want to watch “The Notebook”, RUN! Actually, just say no. They will respect you, it won’t be embarrassing.

You get to travel! I mean, to a super near-by state, and only for a week (twice, though! at least!), but you’ll still have so much fun! And who knows where else you’ll get to go, I’m just out of high school!

You have a spiritual gift. I promise. And it’s unique, so it’ll take a little time to figure it out. Don’t rely on what you’ll read in that Charisma article.

Your best friend will always live in a house. Tell her that when you can tell she needs it. You will know. But, really, don’t try to comfort her or anyone with words very often. You’ll learn how futile that usually is. Just be there.

I think I’ve covered enough; I’m sure it’s overwhelming and barely makes sense. Just one more thing: there is a lot I COULD tell you, but won’t. Why? Because there are so many wonderful surprises coming your way! And just as many lessons that you need to learn. I cannot steal them from you. You need them. I see that Jesus does the same thing– He likes to give me hints on how to react and tell me the general outcome, but rarely is He very specific. Why? He wants to surprise me, to see my face when He blesses me. And He knows the things I’ll need to learn in order to live better. Trust Him. If you will, I will. Literally.

You are being loved and taken care of!

-Tessa