Category Archives: On Media & Art

Reviews and recommendations of any books/music/the such that I loved enough to share.

How I’m Replacing My Anxiety: On Power, Positivity, & Choices

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dsc05066When I picked up a dingy little book at a yard sale for a few cents, it was simply because the title seemed interesting to me: “Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway.”

I was struggling with questions about anxiety and how big a role it played in my life, so much so that it was nearly all I could think about every day. I knew nothing about this book, but I’d reached a point where I was willing to hear out anyone who might be able help me figure out what I could do about what I was facing.

During the time I read the book, not only did I receive deep convictions from its words, but I also had an open conversation with a counselor friend of mine about anxiety and its presence in me. These things paired together, following God’s revelation to me about the peace He’s made for me to walk in, have helped me find a grip on my peace and led me in the process of beating my fear.

If you struggle with anxiety, I want to share what I took away from “Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway” by Dr. Susan Jeffers with you. I know every experience is a bit different and not everything works the same in everyone. If these things end up not doing for you what they do for me, nothing is wrong with you; you are working hard and doing an incredible job, finding the best weapons and strategies for your own battle. Do not let shame lie to you, and do not give up. This is just my experience, and if you end up being able to share in it, it would be cruel of me to keep what I’ve learned from you.

Not everything I learned from the book is completely related to anxiety, but all of it has been transformative for me. These were my four main takeaways:

1) Fear is based on the lie, “I can’t handle it.”

When I become obsessive and fearful about something in my life, no matter how big or small, there is one common belief that fuels the anxiety: I believe that if the bad thing I’m anticipating happens, it will be too much for me and will overcome me. Usually I am not even aware that I believe this, but the presence of the fear reveals it about me.

A few months ago, I was overwhelmingly anxious about visiting my old stomping grounds. I didn’t want it to be a painful experience, and I’d had panic attacks the last few times I’d been there. But I asked myself: what would happen if my fears were true, and it was painful and I did have a panic attack? I’d have a few difficult hours in my day– and then I’d go home. It might take me a few days to recover, but I’d recover. Was that devastating enough to keep me away? Despite the anxiety I still hosted, I decided to go– and it ended up bringing a lot of healing for the bitterness I’d been hosting toward that place. I did have a panic attack, but afterward I had a lot of good moments, too. I’m glad I didn’t let fear keep me from them.

Two years ago, I was terrified to drop out of college, because I didn’t want to be occupation-less, lose relationships, or be looked down upon for it. But what happened when I did drop out… and I did become occupation-less, lose relationships, and get looked down upon? I cried. I was hurt. I grieved. I wrestled with armfuls of questions, for months. Then I made my peace with it, and realized I was healthier emotionally than I’d ever been before. I became grateful for the opportunity to live a life more true to what I was made for. My fears might have become reality, but it didn’t ruin me; in the long run, it healed me. I survived it and found treasure along the way. I needed things to happen the way they did.

When I accept my fears at face value, they seem giant and domineering. But when I look deep enough into them, I can see how small they are against the backdrop of everything else life holds. I can see that no matter what happens, positive or negative, it won’t be the end of me. I have experienced deeply painful, terribly oppressive times, lasting moments and lasting years– and I am still here. I’m actually the happiest I’ve ever been. What we’re scared of does happen sometimes. But we survive. We learn and we keep walking. Nothing is final or too much for us.

Nothing can come for us that is bigger than He who is for us.

2) We can hold fear from two positions: pain, or power.

How you view your circumstances is known as your locus of control, and there are two possible versions of it: an external one or an internal one. If your locus of control is external, it means that you believe life happens to you and there’s nothing you can do to alter your circumstances. However, if your locus of control is internal, it means that you believe you have the power to use what you have in your given circumstances to create the life you want.

I refused to consider this concept when I first learned about it. My locus of control was completely external; I believed I was stuck where I was in life, which was a terribly harrowing belief to have, because it was eating me alive to stay in my circumstances. When I was told I could change my situation if I wanted to, I immediately shut the idea out, because I didn’t believe I was capable of doing that. But multiple people from multiple areas of my life all began unknowingly asking me the same thing: “Have you ever thought about doing something else?”

And my answer, when I finally gave one, was: “…no. Is that possible?”

Once I opened myself up to the idea of making my own changes, once I realized I had power over myself– God showed me how to use it. He didn’t leave me floundering by myself, nor did He become angry at me like I feared. It turned out that He was the one who made me powerful in the first place. Using that power was not, in fact, a rebellion against Him, but rather a submission to Him and His design for me.

It took months for me to say yes to my new direction, and even longer to tell anyone about it and begin acting on it. But I did. I started making changes. I left old things and started pursuing new ones. It was still hard, but a different kind of hard than before; this was the kind I knew was going to birth good things.

I’m not stuck anymore. I know that, at any time, if what I’m doing is not good for me, I can change it and do something else. I have the power to do that.

When we’re in any situation, we are making a choice to stay there. We can choose not to stay there anymore if we want to. I used to constantly say, “I can’t do that because this thing is preventing me.” But the truth is that there is truly nothing I can’t do.

If I wanted to move to Los Angeles today, I could. I don’t have money, transportation, or a place to stay, but I could pack a suitcase and get on a bus, and once I arrived I could find a shelter somewhere. Would it be the wisest thing for me to do? Probably not. So I choose not to do it. But I don’t get to say that I can’t do it.

If I want something badly enough, I have ability to go get it. It is just that sometimes the payoffs of not doing it at this point in time might outweigh having it right now. That’s okay! It teaches me patience and trust. Life is largely about the process; waiting times are not times we have to despise or rush to escape. Sometimes it’s the right time to make a change; other times, it’s the right time to wait it out for a while. But we are never stuck. Once we understand that, we are living from a much more productive and positive place.

I think a lot of us grew up viewing power and control as negative things. I have known and been affected by controlling people my entire life, so I know it’s easy to have those negative connotations. But do you know why controlling, manipulative people do what they do? They feel powerless. The reason they are seeking to control you is that they see power in you and want to benefit from it; they don’t believe they can do what they want to do themselves, so they use other people. Controlling people have an external locus of control.

A healthy sense of power is so different from that. When you believe you are powerful, you believe in your ability to do what you want to do, not to make someone else do it. A truly powerful person is someone who knows they are in control of their own actions and attitudes, and exercises that control in order to make good choices and love well.

Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit; it’s something He gives us and wants to see in our lives. It is not simply the ability to keep yourself from bad choices, like we seem to teach all the time– it’s also using your power to make really good ones. When you use your power well, you are demonstrating spiritual growth.

This all affects our relationships with fear and anxiety because if you believe in your power, you will start using it. With an internal locus of control, you know that your circumstances don’t control you– you control you. Whatever fear is living in you, you know you are bigger than it and that you can combat it. You do not allow yourself to become a victim of anxiety, but rather a master over it. You might have anxiety, but it is you that owns it, not the other way around.

When I am afraid, I have a choice. I can choose to succumb to it and let it lead me, or I can choose to ride the wave out and get through it. Fear still exists for me, but it doesn’t have to win out over me.

It’s a cliché now, but it’s still true: when you learn you are powerful, you begin to realize you also carry responsibility. You realize you can’t blame others for your happiness (or lack thereof) anymore, because you are in control of your experience. No one can be responsible for your quality of life except for you.

There’s an important distinction between your experiences in life and your experiences of life. Things happen to us that we had no hand in. We don’t get to choose where we grew up, or what programs accept us, or who falls in love with us. But we do get to choose how we let those things affect us. Bitterness? Despondency? Entitlement? Those are responses. And while we may not be able to choose our initial feelings and it’s important for us to recognize them, we one hundred percent control what we decide to feed and sit in versus what we decide to let go of and move past. We have control over how we choose to live; we have the power to look at everything through a hopeful lens instead of a victimized one.

I have found that when I take responsibility for my feelings and my mindset along with my behavior, it is easier for me to be kind to others and to love my enemies. I can’t get mad at someone for not giving me something I have the ability to give myself. It doesn’t mean I’m condoning their negative behavior; it just means I’m not letting it change my positive behavior.

3) Being positive is not being in denial, it’s being perceptive.

Many of us have been told that when we look for the positive, we are not aware of the reality of the situation and are being oblivious to what’s going on. But let’s take a minute to think about this: what makes it so that a positive mindset is less realistic than a negative one? Both are perspectives, ways of viewing reality. And the way you view reality determines how you treat it. So if we choose a negative mindset in the name of being realistic, what we are really doing is determining to have a negative reality.

Choosing a positive mindset is not being unrealistic– it is choosing to have the best experience possible in reality. When we view life through a positive lens, we don’t need denial, because we can see possibilities for ways to make things better, and we are more likely to act on those possibilities because we believe they can make a difference.

Positivity is not weak, it is empowering.

It can be wildly hard to get rid of a negative mindset when you’ve been hosting one your whole life, or when you are in environments that are full of the kind of talk that fuels one. Perseverance matters so much in this. Our subconscious’  believe what they are told; if they are fed insecurities, lies, and thoughts of helplessness, and they aren’t also being fed a greater measure of affirmations, truths, and motivation, they will continue to operate out of destructive patterns.

We have to out-talk our negativity. When you feel insecure, name strengths and good traits you possess and point out to yourself how you’re doing a good job; when someone tells you something that is against your God-given identity, reaffirm your identity and what it means for you; when you start to feel helpless, tell yourself that you are powerful and remind yourself of all your options. Be kind to yourself. Be active and relentless about it, and have people in your life who echo these kinds of healing words to you. Let love, not fear, have the final word in you.

4) When it comes to making decisions, there is no loss, only gain.

I am the queen of indecisiveness. If there are multiple options, I pretty much go into paralysis until it’s narrowed down to two, at which point I will toss the two options every possible way they can be turned, then make a very hesitant choice. I will proceed to doubt my choice for weeks. What a fun cycle, eh?

But making decisions is actually a lot less complicated and dire than I’ve believed it to be. No matter which option I choose, the truth is that there is not a losing decision. On any path I walk, there is a wealth of lessons, experiences, and treasures for me to find. I think often we fear making a bad choice because we don’t want to miss out on something good. But what if we had a different perspective when making a decision? What if we focused on what the different options have to give instead of what we’d potentially lose? When we do that, we are no longer looking for the least costly option, but instead for the most rewarding one. It is much more productive to function this way.

And if you end up being unsatisfied with your decision? You can still make a different one! It is okay to make mistakes. No matter how many zigzags you make on your path, you’ll still be able to get to where you’re going. We gain lessons and experiences from everything we go through. God’s business is redemption; nothing is wasted. And He knows what you’re going to choose before you choose it, so you can rest in knowing it’s all part of something bigger, something that will always work out for your good.

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Phew! There is so much to unpack in these concepts, so much we can reap from them. I encourage you to keep ruminating on them. And, if you’d like, I so recommend reading “Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway.” The last two chapters are a bit out there and I admit I only skimmed them because they were more opinion-based, but the rest of the book was such a transformative tool in my life.

Anxiety doesn’t own me anymore. I am better equipped to face it than I knew I could be. All of this is my story; I’m not going to present it as the cure or the never-failing balm for anxiety. But I wanted to share my experience and the tools I’ve found useful, if there’s any chance you might be helped by it, too. I am rooting for you and fully believe in a breakthrough for you, however in comes into your life. Thank you for being interested in how in came into mine.

Notes from “One Thousand Gifts”

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Multiple people told me about “One Thousand Gifts” and about the power of gratitude. I knew I’d end up reading it because I already loved Ann Voskamp’s writing, but I wasn’t sure how much she was going to convince me that gratitude was something that was going to shape my life. I thought I’d be encouraged, but not changed.

I was so wrong.

Gratitude has so much more power than we could think… could hope. The way Ann explained gratitude and it’s relationship to grace and to salvation itself… I’m tearing up writing this, because I don’t know how much longer I would have lived in the dark, cynical world I’d found myself in if Ann hadn’t shared her raw stories of experience that give her credibility and undeniable evidence for how true her life-breathing words are.

All is grace. No matter how much I want to believe otherwise, I know. All is grace. What I experienced as I read this book will not leave me. I hope everyone finds what I found because of it. I see my intimacy with Jesus growing infinitely, as I thank Him for his grace-gifts.

I like to share pieces of books I love so that they end up recommending themselves. I took many more, but here are some of the notes I passionately scribbled as I read.

1000 gifts 11000 gifts 21000 gifts 3“When I’m present, I meet I AM, the very presence of a present God. In His embrace, time loses all sense of speed and stress and space and stands so still and… holy. Here is the only place I can love Him.”

“Only the Word is the answer to rightly reading the world, because The Word has nail-scarred hands that cup our face close, wipe away the tears running down, has eyes to look deep into our brimming ache, and whisper, ‘I know. I know.’

“… that I’d day after day after day greedily take what looks like it’s good from Your hand– a child gloating over sweet candy… but that I’d thrash wild to escape when what You give from Your hand feels bad– like gravel in the mouth. Oh Father, forgive… should I accept good from you, and not trouble?”

You may suffer loss but in Me is anything ever lost, really? Isn’t everything that belongs to Christ also yours?

1000 gifts 41000 gifts 51000 gifts 61000 gifts 7“To lack faith perhaps isn’t as much an intellectual disbelief in the existence of God as fear and distrust that there is a good God.”

“My own wild desire to protect my joy at all costs is the exact force that kills my joy. Flames need oxygen to light. Flames need a bit of wind.”

The “Inside Out” Book Tag {Blog Edition}

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I found this video recently and was immediately inspired by it.

While I’m definitely not an in-front-of-the-camera person (believe me, I’ve tried), I like the idea of recognizing books through the lens of the main feeling they evoked in me. I’ve always been a bookworm and I’m such an empath, so this was essentially made for me; I’m simply writing about it instead of talking to a camera about it. Each question covers the five basic emotions/characters of the movie: Joy, Disgust, Fear, Sadness, and Anger. Let’s do this!

the_secret_gardenWhich book brings you the most joy? The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I wanted to think long and hard about my answer to this, but I think this gut answer might be correct. The first time I ever declared a book as my favorite, it was The Secret Garden. It was the first book intently looked up in the library after reading a short portion from it in school, the first book in which I felt deep kinship with the characters, the first book that brought me a fictional crush, the first book that just felt like home when I read it. I have re-read it multiple times, and I only love it more. I think of it with such affection.

MockingjayWhich book grossed you out the most? Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, Book 3) by Suzanne Collins. First of all: I love this book. The Hunger Games is a series that moves me and affects me deeply, and it holds a special place for me. But, although I would argue there’s purpose in it, I will not pretend that there isn’t graphic violence throughout. In this book, she thinks about her scar various times (which wasn’t weird to me until I started writing this…), and for some reason it always made me shudder to remember how she got it. There are a lot more gory situations in the book, as well, and seeing as a major plot point revolves around creative deaths, it can be detailed. I love the book, but when I re-read it I’m going to have to brace myself.

9780590407557The book that scared you more than anything? Ghosts Beneath Our Feet by Betty Ren Wright. I know this is a really stupid answer, but it’s completely true: this super short teen paperback from the nineties is the book that has enduringly terrified me. I found it at a book sale for maybe a quarter when I was in elementary school, and I thought that because I’d read some Baby-sitters Club mysteries (hahahaha), I would enjoy this, too. Wrong. So wrong. For years, I was terrified that knackers were going to burn my house to the ground from underneath. The only reason I can come up with to explain the lasting impression this book made on me is that this is the first book I read set in our world in which the ghosts ended up being real. [Spoiler? You weren’t really going to read it, were you, though?]

Choosing-to-SeeWhich book made you cry the hardest? Choosing to SEE by Mary Beth Chapman (with Ellen Vaughn). I’ve written a review of it before, but this book is just beautiful. It’s a look at depression, joy, grief, pain, questions, and hope, and how they can all somehow exist together. I love it. But when I read the chapter that retells the accident… it was one of the most empathetic moments I’ve had. I saw everything that was happening with my mind, and it was just too much. I had to put the book down twice to allow myself to sob, only to pick it up again and cry with a bit more composure as I continued to read. I wasn’t even truly there, but I ached enough to know that no one should have to live through what the Chapmans so courageously did.

0802436935Runner up: The Final Kingdom (The Seven Sleepers Series, Book 10) by Gilbert Morris. I have no explanation for this. All I know is that when I finished this series in middle school, I was actually depressed for two straight weeks. I didn’t cry, but I’d say finishing this book was one of my most sadness-laced book experiences.

Redeeming loveWhich book completely ticked you off? Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. I understand that this book has changed countless lives, and I know quite a few people that are included in that group. But I just couldn’t like it. I wanted to, but I couldn’t. The sex scenes were just too much; in my opinion they were unnecessary, even distracting. I didn’t even like the main male character (who was supposed to represent Hosea/God, so oops?). The story had so much potential, but elements within the story forced me to be adverse to the book and kept me from being touched by it. [This review on Goodreads (and a few comments on it) expresses my thoughts well.]

1400071992Runner up: Painted Dresses by Patricia Hickman. It’s been years since I read this book so I don’t completely remember the details of it, but I do remember how much it angered me. The immoral actions of the main characters were never really addressed, and as a teenager reading it I wasn’t given even a cautionary tale; I simply got to read in detail things that the “heroines” did and see that there weren’t really any consequences they faced aside from being completely unlikable people. There were a few deeply powerful moments in the story, but I mostly just remember how gross the characters made me feel.

I would love to hear more people answer these questions and share about the books that brought them such strong emotions. If you end up doing it, let me know! And thank you again to Kristina Horner for the great idea.

2014 According to My Reading List

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I am a passionate bookworm, and even though I’m in school and don’t usually have time for pleasure reading, I still squeeze it in when I can. Being in Bible college points me to some pretty good reads, too, which is a plus! I thought it would be fun write a few short little reviews about the most impactful books I read this year.

Reay - Dear Mr_ KnightleyDear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay is about a orphaned young woman named Sam, who has always used books as a way to escape real life, so much so that she often finds herself acting like her favorite characters rather than herself; she hardly knows who she truly is. But when an anonymous person, choosing to go by the infamous title of Mr. Knightly, offers to pay for her schooling on the condition that she writes letters like journal entries to him, she finds herself processing things she’s been hiding from for years, and discovers things hidden in the depths of herself and other people. The book is formatted like her letters, and I honestly still feel like I’m friends with her even though I finished the book almost a year ago. I don’t re-read books often, but I know I’ll being doing so with this one. It was such a delight for me; it brought me into a period where I was better at journaling frequently and honestly.

The End of Sexual Identity by Jenell Williams Paris is a heavy but important book. I know it’s not at all a book that people would see and think, “Ooh, I should read that!” But when I was working on my term paper about the church and homosexuality, it was such a helpful, insightful, raw perspective to have. It not only helped me with school, it helped me process my own thoughts. If homosexuality and being better informed about it is something that deeply interests you, I would very much recommend this book. It has information about history, culture, psychology, anthropology, and various other important factors when seeking answers. The concept that our identities are much too special to define with isolated aspects of ourselves changed my life, especially in the way I see others and the way I treat myself.

125e3648b9df693a700d737732c28466Love Is An Orientation by Andrew P. Marin is another book I used to research for my term paper, and was also life-changing for me. I wasn’t able to completely finish it because of deadlines, but what I did read of it did not feel like research– it was a message I needed to hear. Again, if you want to become more informed about homosexuality and what it should mean for you as a Christian, read this book. You’ll get to hear perspectives from homophobes, former homophobes, the gay community, and everyone in between, and it will help you see the humanity in each person you meet. The way of love is glorious, and this book will help you see it a little more clearly.

Love Does by Bob Goff is the most impactful book I read this year. It changed my heart and the way I think in so many ways. I can’t recommend it enough, I think everyone should read it! I want to live the way this book says I can live, and the best part is the book’s main premise: I can. I wrote a full post about it earlier this year, which you can check out here!

Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller is a sort of memoir about a man who struggled with religion until he was able to internalize the love of God. I love reading testimonies, and Mr. Miller’s is full of thoughts and ideas, which I also love hearing and weighing. He uses quite a bit of sarcasm and I didn’t pick it up at first, but other than that I really enjoyed reading this book. Seeing experiences through his eyes and even being able to sometimes find a kindred spirit in him was comforting and felt natural. His perspective is very real and honest. I made a few quote photos from this book because I think they’ll be the best recommendation.don miller 3don miller 2don miller 1

A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman was a book the Lord wanted me to read, and the second most impactful of the year. He gave me so much guidance and confirmation through Mrs. Freeman’s words and truths. I wrote a full review of it here that I would love for you to read. I recommend this book so very highly.

Nine Things a Leader Must Do by Dr. Henry Cloud is a completely unexpected gem. Not only was it easy and fun to read, it was so very insightful and spoke into my situation with nearly every chapter. The title fooled me; it isn’t as much about leaders as it is about people who strive to be successful and live abundantly, whatever they do. This book (and the class it was for) helped me understand that a leader isn’t someone in charge of a large group– a leader is someone exemplary. This book shares encouraging and challenging truths to use in order to navigate life with grace and wisdom.

th244NNODDThe Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander is a book that was turned into a horrendous Disney movie in the 80s. But for some reason when I saw it in a thrift store, I decided to get it and see if it was better– and it was! It’s about a boy named Taran who wants to be seen as a hero. He ends up becoming part of a colorful troupe searching for the dreadfully powerful black cauldron so they can destroy it, but on this journey the temptation to feel heroic fights his ability to be truly brave and selfless. He has to learn from both an admirable king and an darkly oppressed prince that being a hero is not about glory, but about giving yourself for others. I really enjoyed reading it. Magic, quests, quotable statements about being brave in every day life– it’s a book that, had I read it as a child, I know would be an incredible source of nostalgia and wonder today.

Heaven Is For Real by Todd Burpo is a beautiful book. I didn’t learn until afterwards that there’s a children’s version as told by Colton (the little boy who visited heaven), and I really want to find it now because hearing his stories was my favorite part of his father’s book. I would probably prefer that version, actually, because the first half of this book was background stories. But, I did really enjoy it! I truly do believe that Colton got to see heaven, and hearing even the tiny hints about what it’s like and what Jesus said to one of His little children renewed my love for Him. Colton’s story is a vivid picture of child-like faith, and illustrated it to me more clearly than I ever understood it before. It reminded me that heaven is indeed for real.

1501748_607157172682696_406821981_nFrom the Adventures of Ellyora Greenleaf by Lael Silver is the first book in a series a friend of mine is writing! The second book is already out and I’m a horrible friend because I haven’t bought it yet, but the first one is great. If you’re into slightly allegorical fantasy, check out the Facebook page for the series and hook yourself up! There are creatures made by a girl’s imagination, warrior angels in disguise, supernatural war between fantastical kingdoms, unresolved mystery… I don’t know why I haven’t bought Book Two yet because I am itching to go back to this world and see what happens next!

The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway is a classic I read for a literature class and ended up loving. It’s about a fisherman who spends many days attempting to catch the same fish. But the fish is beautiful and majestic, and it hurts the man’s soul that he has to kill it. In the end he pays an even greater price than he thought he would, and his reaction makes the reader wonder how he truly feels about life and glory. I read it in a day, which I think helped me enjoy it more because I could see the parallels and foreshadowing. I think the main thing I saw in it was a reflection of us. How often do we do things that hurt our souls simply because that’s what we think we have to do? There are countless interpretations of this story and it’s significance, which is why I like it, I think: it’s thought-provoking and stays with you. That, and Hemingway’s prose sounds like poetry.

What did you read in 2014 that impacted you or stuck with you?

Discovering “A Million Little Ways”

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Everyone is an artist. It may not be in the arts of paint or clay or music. Our art is simply what we were meant to do, the way we were meant to live as our completely genuine selves. It doesn’t have to be something we do in the future; it’s something inside us that we learn to release. Emily P. Freeman’s book A Million Little Ways is dedicated to helping us discover our art and learn to create it courageously.

The first portion of the book focuses on believing that you are an artist, that you have art you were born to create. Many of us have stuffed down our dreams for so long that we barely remember them. If we do remember, we simply call them our dreams. We don’t see them as part of us, or as anything to put stock in. Mrs. Freeman pleads that we allow ourselves to dream again; that we look at what has made us feel the most alive and fulfilled, and pay attention to it, to let it grow us as people.freeman 1

The second portion of the book focuses on finding a firmer grasp on what exactly is the art we were created to make. So often we believe that when Jesus asked us to lay down our lives for Him, it also meant that we have to forsake our dreams and our desires. But Mrs. Freeman reminds us that He is the one who placed those things in us, that they are part of us. Our dreams and desires are indicators of where He wants us to go and what He wants us to do. We are allowed to dream and we are allowed to love things. We don’t have to forsake them; we simply need to hold them with open hands.freeman 2

The third and final portion of the book focuses on the act of seriously pursuing and living in our desires, what makes us come alive. We are built to be dreamers, we are allowed to believe in those dreams, and we should trust in those truths enough to live in our dreams. We are meant to be present and whole where we are, and that means not hiding from or waiting on what we love. It means that our dreams are meant to be used, and not in the future— right now. Because we are artists right now, and we have the art inside us. It just needs to be released into the world, with bravery and heart.freeman 3

The Lord knew I needed this book. For a while, He wasn’t really speaking to me through the Bible. I continued to read it anyway, but when I would read A Million Little Ways. . . He was always so loud. He let this book be His main form of communication with me for that period in time, because I needed to know that my dreams are good. I needed to understand that I am supposed to follow my dreams despite what people have told me, because my dreams are His gifts and direction for me; they’re a huge part of me. I’m slowly learning how to do that, and Mrs. Freeman’s book has helped me so much. I would so recommend it for anyone who struggles when they think of the future or their dreams, who feels stuck in their life. Mrs. Freeman and her book are going to be life-speaking friends for you.

Notes from “Love Does”

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I’ve read two (and a half!) books from my summer reading list so far, which is sad compared to the overwhelming amount I usually read in the summer. But I am completely okay with that. Why? Because one of the books was “Love Does.”

“Love Does” is a part-memoir-part-devotional written by a man named Bob Goff. My Aunt Cheryl sent me a copy because it’s one of her favorites, and I am so thankful that she did, because it’s become one of my favorites, too. I had been working through some legalism in my heart, and my aunt knew. When I told her how much I was enjoying the book, she wrote back, “We make things too hard but God makes his love for us very simple!” She captured a big piece of the essence of the book in that sentence, I think. As I continued to read, I repeatedly discovered how uncomplicated things are when I believe Jesus is who He says He is– my lover, my compass, my provider, my dream-giver. The way I think and the way I see my own circumstances have changed since Mr. Goff told me his stories.

It’s hard to explain all that I learned from the book and what I do differently because of it, so I think I will just share the notes I took as I was processing everything. They will all be quotes, some on photos I’ve edited and some simply typed here in this post. I desperately want you to read this book, and hopefully these quotes will push you to go find a copy. Thank you for all that you have done for me, Aunt Cheryl and Mr. Goff!

Fully loving and fully living are not only synonymous but the kind of life that Jesus invited us to be part of.

Being engaged is a way of doing life, a way of living and loving. It’s about going to extremes and expressing the bright hope that makes us brave and expels darkness with light. That’s what I want my life to be all about– full of abandon, whimsy, and in love.Love DoesLove DoesThe only thing Jesus said He couldn’t serve up were people who were full of themselves or believed the lie that they were who they used to be before they met Him.Love DoesWill you take what you think defines you, leave it behind, and let Me define you instead?Love DoesLove DoesLove DoesI wonder if the people listening for voices or looking for cloud shapes miss the whisper of God’s creation, somehow thinking it’s a lesser form of communication.

Getting passed by can feel like a great injury. But it’s not. It’s people like us who can be secretly incredible and get the most done.

Instead of closing our eyes and bowing our heads, sometimes God wants us to keep our eyes open for people in need, do something about it, and bow our whole lives to Him instead.Love DoesWouldn’t it be a horrible thing if we studied the ones we loved instead of bonding in deeper ways by doing things with them?

I can’t make a real need matter to me by listening to the story, visiting the website, collecting information, or wearing the bracelet about it. I need to pick the fight myself.

Just agreeing isn’t enough. I can’t think of a single time where Jesus asked His friends to just agree with Him.

. . . strong enough to be vulnerable even with your enemies. . .Love DoesThat’s the way the chemistry of God’s love and our creativity work together when combined. No reservoir can hold it, no disappointment can stop it, and no impediment can contain it. It can’t be waved off, put off, or shut down. It doesn’t take no for an answer. Instead, it assumes yes is the answer even when it sounds an awful lot like a no to everyone else.

He made us to be good at a few things and bad at a couple others. He made us to love some things and not like others. Most of all, He made us to dream.

My 2014 Albums {January-June}

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Young LoveMat Kearney’s “Young Love” album. You know those artists on the radio you always enjoy but never really look into? Mat Kearney was that for me until last fall, and now I am a dedicated fan of his. My grandma found his most recent album for me. It’s upbeat and clever, but it’s also raw and soul-touching. My favorites from it are “Ships in The Night” “Count on Me” “Sooner or Later” “Learning to Love Again” and “Young Dumb and In Love.” “Ships in The Night” has a great sound (the acoustic version is just as lovely, if not better!) and speaks into couples who are beginning to see that relationships aren’t just blessings; they can also bring about some difficulties. It voices the hurt of those difficulties existing, but at the end stresses never giving up on each other. “Count on Me” is just so brilliant and creative; you’ll simply have to listen to it to catch it. I have a blast and (awkwardly) dance throughout the whole thing. “Sooner or Later” is a hopeful anthem for those of us who don’t feel like we’re going anywhere. “The fear inside, the hills we’ve climbed, the tears this side of heaven/ all these dreams inside of me, I swear, we’re gonna get there/.” “Learning to Love Again” is beautiful; I was speechless the first time I heard it. It tells a story all of us can relate to in some way, of how time has brought us fear and pain so that we lost much of our freely-flowing love, hiding what’s left behind walls. It reminds us that everyone is learning how to love, and we don’t need to hide. And “Young Dumb and In Love” has to be my favorite on the album; it is so cheerful, I can hear him rejoicing in it! I smile brightly because of this song. I love that I can tell every love song is about the same girl. Major points for Mr. Kearney. [Tiny disclaimer: “Rochester,” the last song on the album, has one mild profanity. I normally get annoyed by that, but honestly, I don’t think a different word could be used. The song is a biography from the perspective of his father who had a very difficult childhood, and if he were to tell me the story in person and say that “he beat the h— out of Timmy/ Timmy beat the h— out of me/,” I wouldn’t flinch. Not my favorite song, but I think that it is art and has probably brought a lot of healing.]

Homemade Worship for Handmade PeopleRend Collective Experiment’s “Homemade Worship for Handmade People” album. These worshipers from Ireland are refreshingly genuine and unique. My favorites on this album (a gift from my mom) are “The Cost” “Second Chance” “Build Your Kingdom Here” “Desert Soul” and “Shining Star.” “The Cost” is a powerful song that speaks of the hardship that comes from obedience– and Jesus being worth it. “I do not need safety/ as much as I need you/ You’re dangerous, but, Lord, you’re beautiful/ I’ll chase you through the pain/ and I’ll carry my cross/ ’cause real love is not afraid to bleed/.” “Second Chance” is a lovely reminder that although we fail, Jesus will let us try again, and not simply because He humors us; rather, “a second chance is heaven’s heart!” “Build Your Kingdom Here” has a fun, infectious sound, and begs Jesus to give us His strength so that we can be a glimpse of His kingdom right here on earth. “Desert Soul” is my hands-down favorite; I’ve spent a lot of time in the desert, and this song captures much of what I long to say when I’m there. It cries out for life that can only be found in Him, in times that make us feel like we’re not breathing. “All that I am is dry bones without you, Lord/ a desert soul/ I am broken but running toward you, God/ you make me whole/.” It’s hard for me to express the power in this song. And “Shining Star” is a song of celebration, both of who He is and who He tells us we are. My favorite thing about Rend Collective, besides their overwhelming variety of instruments, is that they are worshipful, but never theologically unsound or ignorant.

Release The PanicRed’s “Release the Panic” album. I know I’ve written about every album of Red’s I’ve gotten, but. . .  they’re so good, guys! They have the rare ability to capture such difficult, indescribable feelings, and because they share I am able to express some deep pains I normally have a hard time expressing. Red’s songs are very open to interpretation, but that’s something I like about them; the meanings I’m sharing are the ones I’ve connected with (that goes for every album I talk about, actually!). My brother bought this cd for me, knowing all this; he’s the best. My favorites on the album are “Release the Panic” “Perfect Life” “Damage” “So Far Away” and “Glass House.” The title track speaks of things that make us feel alive for a moment but actually contribute to death inside us. It tells us to be aware and to let sin terrify us, saying “it creeps upon you, without a warning/ you think you’re thriving, but you’re decaying/ you’re gonna lose it all, there’s no escaping/.” “Perfect Life” warns against pretending we don’t have problems, because eventually the walls will crumble, and already we are “perfectly broken.” To me personally, this song also speaks against fantasizing out of discontent. “Damage” has incredible sound and is incredibly heartbreaking. It comes from a place of having sinned and feeling like nothing good is left inside. Yes, that’s a bit of a hardcore topic, but I have been able to relate to this song many times; it’s an odd comfort to have the words laid out for me, set to music that matches what I feel. I love that a small plea for healing is included in it. “So Far Away” is my favorite. Have you ever been in a place where you know that Jesus is with you and things are okay, but you do not at all feel close to Him? Here are your words. The first time I heard it, I cried. And “Glass House” expresses that to Jesus, our walls are just glass; it asks Him to break them and “make us whole again.” It also has great sound. Red deals with pain in a way many Christian artists are afraid to, and I am so thankful for them.

The Tarzan Soundtrack. Tarzan YEEEEEEEHaha, kidding! But not kidding. Phil Collins should be allowed to write every soundtrack ever.

Ahem. Anyway:

Not Myself AnymoreJessa Anderson’s “Not Myself Anymore” album. I first found Jessa’s music online, and only listened because her name sounds a lot like “Tessa” and I want to be friends with anyone who shares it, haha! Over spring break I found her album at a sale, brought it home, and made friends with it. Her voice makes me jealous and her style is a little jazzy, a little singer-songwritery, which is enjoyable. My favorite songs are “Not What I Thought” “The Same Place” “Not Myself Anymore” and “Return.” “Not What I Thought” is a fun song that reveals a role reversal– the things we expect to fill us simply don’t, while Jesus does more than we could expect. “The Same Place” has an infectious sound and reminds us that although we’re different, we all have some common ground. “Not Myself Anymore” is my absolute favorite; I think it can give multiple impressions, but the one it left on me was one of knowing it’s a good thing that someone has left your life, yet still wondering why it had to happen; having the rational reason, but feeling like it’s not good enough. Gorgeous song. And “Return” is lovey both in sound and lyric, expressing the sadness and pain that comes with walking away from Jesus. I debated writing about this album because it’s not my favorite, but it somehow reminds me of some beautiful places I visited in my childhood, and that always tells me when something is art.

The White RoomJonathan Thulin’s “The White Room” album. My mom loved what she’d heard from Mr. Thulin on the radio, so I bought her the cd– and fell in love with it myself. His style is violin-laden yet upbeat, a bit electronic, and for some reason I want to say it carries a Middle-Eastern vibe, which surprisingly all works well together! Plus, his voice is killer. My favorites on the album are “Masquerade” “Coat of Arms” “Graveyard” “Bombs Away” and “Peeta.” They all make me flail around passionately (what, you don’t do that?). “Masquerade” made me gasp at the depth when I looked at the lyrics; it transparently says that not being genuine about ourselves when representing Jesus hurts people more than it helps, because we’re trying so hard to be perfect. “We are wearing our masks in the truth parade/ we are waving our flags, upholding this charade/ we are hiding/ while You’re watching/ and it’s killing me./” Wow. “Coat of Arms” reminds us of the importance of knowing what you stand for, because that will be what you fight for. “Graveyard” is gorgeous; it comes from having your heart broken by someone, and prays, “Can you raise me from the dead and/ lay my heart to rest so/ I can love again?/” “Bombs Away” has to be my favorite, it is so beautiful! It sits in the place of having desired and chased after sin, bleeding out the hurt battles of flesh and soul bring when flesh seems to be winning. I love when people write about this. And “Peeta” is based on The Hunger Games! What?! It takes many of Peeta’s admirable qualities and turns them into a sweet declaration we can share! Mr. Thulin, I am obsessed with your gorgeous poetry!

Fading WestSwitchfoot’s “Fading West” album. Switchfoot is infallible. They are one of my favorite bands of all time, and this cd is one of their more cheerful, I think. My favorites from it are “Who We Are” “When We Come Alive” “The World You Want” and “Slipping Away.” They all have great sound. “Who We Are” is a fun anthem that reminds us of the reckless dreams we had when we were kids and asks us to believe in them again, because that is still who we are. “When We Come Alive” tells us that even when we feel sparkless, simply continuing and trying proves that we have fire in us! “The World You Want” can be summed up by it’s poignant chorus: “Is this the world you want?/ Is this the world you want?/ You’re making it/ every day you’re alive/.” It explains that our actions are our religion. And “Slipping Away” is my favorite; it makes me soar. It captures a circumstance I find myself in all the time: not being able to express things the way I long to. “Remember that kid with the quivering lip/ whose heart was on his sleeve like a first-aid kit?/ Where are you now?/ Where are you now?/ Remember that kid didn’t know when to quit?/ I still lose my breath when I think about it/ Oh, where’d you go?/ Oh where’d you go?/” I will listen to these words for hours. This isn’t their best album, but when one of the songs is good, it’s good!