On The Giving & The Receiving of Love

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flower walk, pink and treesGod knows how to love you.

He knows what’s going to reach you. He knows how to show you love in a way that will connect with you and make its truest mark on you.

He doesn’t love like people do.

People have loved you, but not perfectly. Sometimes, their love has manifested as dominance and even control. And it scares you, makes you build your invisible boundaries so that people can see you but can’t know you. You are open and honest and don’t hide your true self from anyone… but never do you give yourself to anyone. You let them see, but don’t let them touch. Because if they can touch, they can hurt. You don’t want that to happen to you anymore. So you hold up your invisible boundaries, so that you are visible but not truly vulnerable.

You know love is giving. That love is always a risk. But the cost… you’re not sure you’re truly willing to pay it.

She tells you that to love is to be willing to be broken for their sake. And that in order to be loved, you must make yourself vulnerable to receive what they give… which makes you vulnerable to the risk of being hurt. You know she’s right. You want to listen to her.

But you realize that in your efforts to keep people from controlling you, you have begun to act controlling toward them. You’ve learned to maneuver conversations and interactions so that you can keep anyone at a subtle distance, to protect against the chance of them hurting you. And when He shows you that you’ve even extended that to how you relate with Him… it terrifies you. Because who is He, truly, if He isn’t the image you’ve crafted of Him for yourself? If you can’t ignore pieces of Him and pretend He’s someone He might not be?

You pray a prayer you can feel the danger pulsating throughout: “Reveal your true self to me. Help me to accept the way you want to love me, even if it’s not a way I’d ask for.”

He starts answering. But not in ways you expected. And you even expected the unexpected.

He shows you a young man. One who is sweet and humble, but not without being strong and bold. The young man leaves soon, but not without searing that image in your mind. Part of you slowly begins to believe those things can coexist, gentleness and strength. Part of you begins to see that strength makes you feel small, but doesn’t have to in the ways it has before. Instead of intimidating and scaring you, this strength can make you feel safe. You don’t have to feel powerless. You can feel wrapped in it, and it can warm the winter in you. Among the wild mess inside you, there’s a moment of clarity, and you realize that is what’s happening.

You realize it is Him doing it.

You see that His love is meeting you in ways that will get through to you. He’s been going at your pace. Instead of demanding you change so that you can be loved, He has been entering what’s there, even your vices, and loving you. Not simply in it, but with it. Anything, He says, to be with you.

Anything to love you.

He knew what would reach you. You hid, but He still saw you and knew you. He became the shape that would fit the hole you’d found yourself in.

He knew the deep desires you barely knew existed in your heart, and He entered them, met them in ways you wouldn’t have thought. You didn’t think to want these things, because you didn’t believe you were the kind of person who would ever have them. But He brought love home to you, in a bouquet of flowers bigger and more elegant than anything you’d ask for. It blew you into wide-open wonder and gratitude. But you weren’t looking at the flowers when you thanked Him– you just looked at Him. You met His eyes with your teary ones, and you just looked at Him. Because He was the gift. He didn’t only give you flowers; He had given you His heart. Himself.

Love is giving. The giving of yourself for their sake. And He knows that more than anyone. He always has.

He’s been doing it right under your nose this whole time.

You thought you had to do the hard work of breaking down all the lies that live in your core before you could let yourself be loved. You tried to take steps to do so, and it was beautiful and brave of you. But He chuckles, and He murmurs into your ear that only one thing has ever been necessary.

All you had to do was lean into Him, and let Him love you.

So that’s what you do. You close your eyes, lean against His chest, feel Him wrap you close.

And you let Him love you.

“Simple trust is your participation.”   –Eve by Wm. Paul Young

Soul Food {February 2017}

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This was a wild month in my life, filled with pretty much every emotion one can feel. I am so grateful to my family, my best friends, and the Lord, who have walked me through it. And maybe these songs and stories helped a bit, too.

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  • Kina Grannis’ cover of “You’re Gonna Live Forever In Me.” This song has meant so much to me and her serene voice does it such justice.
  • “In The Cold” by Haley Klinkhammer. Her voice is so pure and the emotion she puts in it hits just the right spot. This song reminds me of looking back on being a teenager and feeling bittersweet toward who you were.
  • “Bummin'” by Relient K. I saw them live at the end of last month, and it spurred me to listen to their latest album a bit more.
  • John Mayer’s “The Search For Everything – Wave One” ep. I mentioned it last month but it’s been a constant companion for me lately. So good. “Wave Two” just came out, too, and “Still Feel Like Your Man” is my favorite from it.
  • “Love Grew Legs” by Brolly. Ethereal. I’d listened to one song of his upon a recommendation, but only recently began listening to the rest of his catalogue. Stunning work; nostalgic, original, heartfelt.
  • “The Garden” “Speak to Me” and “Miracles” by Kari Jobe. Her voice, in terms of both singing and influence, is one of my favorites in CCM. While our styles don’t totally match up, her sincerity is so apparent and I think it inspires sincerity in the response of the listener. Her new album recently came out; these three are the songs from it that hit me in that deep place. Especially “Speak to Me.”
  • Jeremiah Daly’s “The Darkness Will Be Over Soon” album. I’ve mentioned it many times before, but it has become a pretty consistent presence in my life. I listen to it when I can’t sleep; it just calms me and leads me into sentimental thoughts I can soak into. He’s a wonderful songwriter. Lately the track sitting with me has been “In Those Days.”
  • “Let Go Of The Wheel” by Mako. Emotional, but in a way that lets you dance it out. “Leaving me behind was everything you feared…”
  • “Heartbeat” by The Fray. It came up on shuffle in my giant playlist and reminded me how much I love wildly dancing around to it.
  • “Forever Like That (Acoustic)” by Ben Rector. A sweet background for a long writing session I had, and late night journaling times for the next week, too. I’ve also been enjoying and connecting to his song “Moving Backwards.”
  • “See Me Through” by Theatre Breaks Loose. A bit cheesy, but in a way that connects me to old emotions, so I still think it’s lovely.
  • “One & Lonely” by Phangs. Infectious and emotional.
  • “Replay” by Zendaya. I don’t even remember how I found this but I just think it’s a jam.

If you want all of this music in one place, I’ve made a playlist! It’s available on YouTube and on Spotify, and the newest additions are near the bottom.

Movies/YouTube/TVkinopoisk.ru

  • “OMG We Bought A House!” A super fun couple decorating and renovating their house to be lovely and quirky and cozy, bit-by-bit. Their creative instincts are on point and I love watching the process.
  • KeKe Palmer ranting about Titanic. Cracked me up so bad on a hard day.
  • Alice in Wonderland (the animated version). One of my favorite films, a familiar place for my spirit to rest.
  • “Chattin’ About Therapy With Tessa Violet.” And what a solid chat! I remember when I made my first counseling appointment; I was deeply upset because I thought it proved something was wrong with me. But the person I was with when I made the appointment told me: “Tessa– I am in counseling. Not for the same reasons, but I am in counseling. It’s not something everyone does, but honestly it’s something everyone needs sometimes.” She was right. I’m so glad I did it.
  • The Rescuers Down Under. I hadn’t seen it in years, so I wanted to refresh my memory. It’s delightful.
  • The newest volume of Craftversations with guest Clayton Snyder. So so so fun! I always enjoy the show, and Clayton definitely brings some extra charm to it.
  • An embarrassing amount of Tom Holland interviews. Most notably this one and this one from when he won at the BAFTAs this month. But here’s one about The Lost City of Z in which he explains how he broke his nose in the jungle, one about In The Heart of The Sea in which he’s just so intelligent and respectful, and I’m not hiding this crush very well am I
  • Angel’s Egg. My brother sent me this Japanese animated film, and I’ve been thinking about it since. Gorgeous artwork and score, and so rich with complex symbolism that leaves no definitive answer, leading you as the audience to bring your own interpretation to what’s there.
  • The Rocketeer. A feel-good classic I hadn’t seen before.
  • This video discussing whether or not the end justifies the means. Honest and thought-out and just good.
  • Always watching The Mentalist; currently in season two.

Books/Blogs/Articlessamekindofdiff

  • “Learning to Pray From a Place of Desire, Not Duty” by Trent Sheppard. A lovely story and some beautiful reflections from it.
  • “Why Lent Matters to Me” by Sarah Bessey. It matters to me, too. Sometimes, a little liturgy can do a lot of good.
  • “One Surprising Way I Found Relief From Anxiety” by Emily P. Freeman. Such a beautiful and encouraging piece.
  • Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore with Lynn Vincent. A startling illustration of the underlying privilege and prejudice still present in our culture. It’s difficult to read at times because of the painful memories relived in the pages, and because it forces you to look in the mirror at your own biases and misconceptions. But it is so important, I think especially in a season like this. Very thankful to have read this book.
  • You can keep up with what I’m currently reading and see full reviews I write by visiting my Goodreads!

I am continuing to work on different, more in-depth things for this blog, but none of them are saying it’s their time to be shared yet. Thank you for being gracious with me.

Soul Food {January 2017}

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The first month of the year brought some wonderful new media my way. Let’s talk about it!

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  • Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” album. I’ve loved Coldplay for years but never actually owned one of their albums, so owning this one now is special. Such rich and layered songwriting with sweeping melodies. I love pretty much every song on it, but this month “Lovers in Japan” really spoke to me. “They are turning my head out, to see what I’m all about; keeping my head down to see what it feels like now. But I have no doubt: one day we’re gonna get out…”
  • “Magic” by Thomas Gold ft. Jillian Edwards. Jillian is one of my musical inspirations, so to see her collaborate with a DJ was especially cool to me; it reminded me of how limitless the possibilities are for artists. Plus, what a great jam.
  • “Why Georgia” by John Mayer. There’s just something about it. “Four more exits to my apartment, but I am tempted to keep the car in drive, and leave it all behind…” I was led to this song by a lovely John Mayer acapella medley, also worth checking out. When they hit those harmonies on “hearrrrrtbreaaaak…”
  • “You’re Gonna Live Forever In Me” also by John Mayer. New and incredible, laced with emotions. “Parts of me were made by you…” His entire new ep is great.
  • Kenzie Nimmo’s cover of “It Ain’t Me Babe” (ft. Harris Heller). So calm and melancholy, with beautiful voices. Love it.
  • “The Perfect Parts” by Shakey Graves. I’ve had this album for like two years but I still go back to it and find more to like about it. Story-telling and solid jams. The Audiotree session of this song is great, too. My dad and I listened and gushed.
  • Colony House’s “Only The Lonely” album. They are my boys, and I am elated to have new music from them. They go a bit more retro rock-n-roll on this one, but I’m into it. And lyrically? Masterful and soul-reaching. My favorites are “Where Your Father’s Been” “You & I” “You Know It” “3:20” and “Cannot Do This Alone.” I think I just named half of the track list but it’s fine.
  • “Ocean Eyes (Blackbear Remix)” by Billie Eilish. Beautiful, emotional, with cool beat-driven moments. I can’t listen to it just once.
  • “Vibes Vibes Vibes” (ft. Aha Gazelle and Chris Durso), “Usual Suspects” (ft. Willow Stephens), “Time 4 That” and “Extra Wavy” by Social Club Misfits. I’m always kind of torn about these guys. The tracks they produce are super fun and get me hyped up, but lyrically it’s almost all reminiscent of a messy humblebrag. I’ve been listening to their new album trying to figure out if I like it; I’m still not sure. But these songs are the ones I end up enjoying in the midst of that conflict.
  • “Hold On” by Jet. This song is in Spider-Man 2 and hit a sweet spot in me the last time I watched it.

If you want to listen to all these songs in one place, I’ve made a playlist! It’s on YouTube and on Spotify (neither are complete, which bothers me, but I had to work with what was available).

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  • Pete’s Dragon (the 2016 version). I had no expectations for it, but it was lovely and magic-filled. I loved the gentle and soft yet powerful design of Eliot.
  • The Joy of Painting. I grew up with Bob Ross’ art; my grandparents were both certified instructors of his and taught classes in oil painting, and we have many of their pieces hanging in our house. I feel such an affection for him and his work. This month, watching episodes of his show was an accidental daily thing for me, so I decided to make it a purposeful routine. Every season is on this YouTube channel in playlists; I’m on season one right now. I love his positivity and how deeply he appreciates everything. He truly created his own world. Plus I just enjoy the solid painting advice. “You have the fun; let the brush do the work.”
  • This bullet journal flip-through. Though I don’t follow a bullet journal format, this inspired me to try out some more creative ideas in my own journal.
  • “Amy Adams & Andrew Garfield – Actors on Actors.” Two wonderful people (Andrew is one of my absolute favorites) sharing such interesting thoughts. I want to sit in on their conversations for hours.
  • Bull. It gives me a few vibes like The Mentalist did, in a courtroom instead of a police station. Though no character comes close to Patrick Jane or his crew.
  • This video about a man who paints without his sight. Stunning and inspiring.
  • George of The Jungle. My ridiculous favorite. “Thor! Are you arguing with the narrator?!”
  • “OMG We’re Coming Over!” I was obsessed with interior design shows when I was little, and watching this cute couple continue on that legacy with their series makes my heart happy.
  • Spider-Man (the 2002 version), Spider-Man 2, and Spider-Man 3. My ever-present Spider-Man love has been extra powerful lately, so watching the films that started it all for me was almost necessary.
  • Captain America: Civil War. Because Spider-Man.
  • Continued watching Scorpion and The Mentalist regularly.

Books/Blogs/Articles41h3k7jitxl-_sx332_bo1204203200_

  • “In Which I Write a Letter to Women’s Ministry” by Sarah Bessey. Spot. On.
  • Jesus Outside The Lines by Scott Sauls… and I didn’t like it. Which was so disappointing, because I thought I would find such a life-speaking voice in it. I wrote a full review on Goodreads if you want specifics.
  • Quite a few Andrew Garfield interviews, because his spiritual journey was making me giddy. His interview with The New York Times is a stand-out.
  • The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. I wanted to read it purely because Wells was such a gem in Poe Party, but I ended up really liking it! Engaging and interesting, just the right amount of sci-fi for me.
  • “Have We Overplayed the Sermon Card?” by Wayne Jacobson. A hearty yes to this.
  • “The Phenomenon of The Dones” also by Wayne Jacobson. I have been aching to hear someone say these words for such a long time. So grateful for this and what it spoke into me. If you know me personally and we’ve talked about church-going before, I’d love for you to read this; it articulates everything I’ve wanted to and more.
  • The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp. Sometimes, a book looks you in the face and tells you what it sees in the depths of you. It shows you things inside you that you’d suppressed for so long you weren’t even aware they were living in you anymore. And once it does that, it tells you– you have the capacity to live abundantly even with those things. You are broken, and you are loved for it. Life changing book. I cannot recommend it enough.
  • “Nobody Wants To Be a Refugee” by Ben Stiller. Nails it. “Compassion and security are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, they are mutually reinforcing.”

What’s been feeding you lately?

On Refugees: A Poem & A Few Ways to Help

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dsc08915I could have been you.
I could have entered the world at war,
Could have seen horrors that echo,
Could have known nothing but danger and the desperation for escape.
But, somehow, I’m me.
I’m not where you are,
Don’t understand suffering the way you do,
Don’t know what it’s like to be hated in my core.

I could have been you.
But, somehow, I’m me.
So I choose to be your sister,
And fight so you’ll have a seat.
Your heart is safe with me.

I ache for my refugee brothers and sisters. But I also burn liquid hot with a growing passion to help them in every possible way I can. Here are some of the ways I have found, and encourage you to engage in as well:

Share the facts. Don’t let the voice of fear be the only one speaking. Be a voice of truth and of love. Share that the screening process for refugee entry into the US is already intensive, more rigorous than that of any other form of immigration. Share that the odds of being killed by a refugee-disguised terrorist in the US are 1 in 3.64 billion per year; you are more likely to be struck by lightning– while drowning. Share that “compassion and security are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, they are mutually reinforcing.” Share that the overwhelming majority of terrorism in the US has not come from foreigners. Share that “in cases where the religious affiliation of terrorism casualties could be determined, Muslims suffered between 82 and 97% of terrorism-related fatalities over the past five years.” Share that banning any human being from anything solely based on their religion or nationally is discrimination and an attack on religious freedom, period. Share that ignoring the helpless is ignoring Jesus, and He will not tolerate it. Fear is a liar. Love tells the truth. Let love win in you.

Contact your officials. It is actually wildly easy to reach your government officials and let them know you want action on an issue. This form lets you email the president, your representative, and your senators all at once and helps you figure out what to say. You also have the option to see their phone numbers and call them with your concerns. The greater the volume of voices speaking the same thing, the more likely they are to take notice. Do not relent.

Support those working on the front lines. There are a few main organizations my friends who work in humanitarian efforts have recommended to me:

  1. Preemptive Love Coalition. They are based in the countries facing ISIS right now, providing real-time relief and aid to the people there. You can also directly donate to the work they’re doing specifically in Aleppo. They do things right; their mission and their methods are simply holy.
  2. World Relief. From their website: “Through partnerships with local partners and churches, World Relief is providing help, temporary shelters, hygiene items, and psychosocial counseling to displaced refugee families, as well as sponsoring child-friendly spaces for mothers and children. In addition, World Relief has been empowering local churches to resettle refugees in the United States for more than 35 years.” Explore their website to find the specific way you feel led to help.
  3. My friend, Delaney. She works with refugees and is currently getting ready for a trip to Germany to meet physical and spiritual needs of the refugees in the camps in Berlin, specifically the unaccompanied children. This woman shines bright, and supporting her work is something you can be proud of.
  4. I am also adding the ACLU, the group that brought this weekend’s executive order to court and put it on hold just one day after it had been signed. They appear before the Supreme Court more than any other organization besides the Department of Justice, giving voice to those who wouldn’t otherwise have one. A different kind of refugee aid, but still important, especially given our current circumstances. The immigration ban is still being enforced despite the court ruling; we still have much work to do.

Be an advocate. You can sign petitions of solidarity, but you can also simply speak kindly of every race and religion, no matter what the people around you are saying. Align yourself with the marginalized; if someone wants to oppress refugees and/or Muslims, let them know they’ll have to face you first, not in an angry stance but in a poised, firm one. I am learning that we can be angered for righteous reasons, but our anger itself is not the righteous thing. Feel the anger– then let it go, instead of feeding it. Let the passion it awakened in you lead you forward, in love and in peace. We don’t fight fire with fire; we don’t fight fear with fear; we don’t fight hatred with hatred.

Keep creating. This one may not sound important, but it’s a way of pushing back darkness with light. I’ve talked about this before, about how putting our deepest loves into action in the world is how we kill the fear. Keep doing that. I don’t know what your passions are, but live them. We need that from you. We need what you have to give, whatever form that takes.

Pray. Genuinely, this is not a cliché or a cop-out. Your prayers reach the Father. And when you pray for refugees, you are praying straight into His own heart, because He is near to the broken, He takes up the cause of the oppressed, He avenges His children. Pray. It is not a fruitless thing. It is fuel for everything else you are doing. God is working, today. And He will not stop until every single one of His children is safe with Him.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

-Matthew 25:31-46

Hopes I Lived in 2016 {Part Two}

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I lived some hopes this year, hopes I wrote down because I was determined to look forward to them rather than fear their likelihood of happening. Here’s the second part of all 77 of them.

Watching sunrises and sunsets.lake-sunset-3

I saw many sunsets, but I’ll tell one story: on the way home from a barbecue this summer, the sunset I saw in my rearview mirror was just too much. I pulled over and watched it from the covered bridge, accompanied by a dozen strangers who’d had the same impulse. There’s still something in us that wants to stop and sit in wonder at sunsets. I love that about humanity.

5-sunriseI also got up early to hike with friends one day and caught the sunrise; I attempted to paint it later that night.

Having more music talks with my dad.

He’s often called me in to listen to music he grew up with or a random guitar riff. But we had a different kind of music talk last month, one about my place in music. He’s doesn’t fully understand what it’s like for me, but he’s trusting and excited about what I tell him I feel. And that’s one of the best things he’s ever done for me.

Attending the weddings of dear friends.heathers-wedding

Heather and Josh’s wedding had such a contagious sweetness in it, because they have it in them. So happy for my childhood friend.

Randomly running into my professors.

I’m counting this story, even though it wasn’t random. I wrote to my public speaking professor, and we ended up spending a lovely autumn afternoon together a few weeks later, taking drives and having lunch and catching up. She is such an encouraging and adventurous woman, and I love that I’ve been able to keep her in my life.

Catching up with my old art teacher. | Seeing how people decorate their houses to suit their personalities.

I visited her this summer; she showed me her current projects and her art journal, we had tea in her garden, I pet her new cat, and she let me play her harp. The stuff of dreams. Her house is a haven of colors, memorabilia, projects both completed and in-progress, and life. There is a lot about her and her lifestyle that I hope to emulate.

Owning wind chimes and hearing them fill the air.chimes-1

My mom got a set of wind chimes and hung them on the porch, right next to the sliding door. They’re an even greater source of joy than I expected.

Having another birthday.

Birthdays are weird for me. I have this on my lists because I know every birthday has a chance to be a redeemed one; that’s what I truly look forward to. Meeting my hamster on my birthday this year was a nice start.

Filling more journals.journal-shelf

I filled a total of 8 journals this year, with prayers, poetry, gratitude lists, scripture study, and records of my thoughts.

Seeing animals outside and having small moments of quiet eye contact and connection with them. | Seeing bluebirds.

This does not get old for me. Something I’m wildly excited about is our ability to have friendships with animals when the fullness of the kingdom comes (and if you don’t believe in that, totally fine!), so when I get to have a moment with a wild animal now, I get a bit giddy. Bluebirds have a lot of personal meaning for me, so seeing so many of them this year has been a gift.

Drinking hot cocoa.

My brother and I spend a lot of time at home together; tea, coffee, and hot cocoa are being made constantly in our little Oregonian house.

Praying with people.

Sometimes it’s over the phone, sometimes it’s in person, sometimes they don’t even know I’m doing it. But it’s always powerful, and I believe that. I was part of a small church group this year, and we’ve had one or two non-planned prophetic times of prayer. I’m not going to forget those.

Owning a Coldplay album.

Recently got Viva La Vida. A masterpiece, in my opinion.

Having solid interactions with kind strangers.

One of my favorites things about life– getting to know the rest of my family.

Having mango flavored things.coffee-run

Dutch Bros has the best mango smoothies. I rarely go, but when I do I always get that glorious smoothie. [P.S., the photo is from when I went on a coffee run for some volunteers, I didn’t drink all of those!]

Dressing as Mabel from “Gravity Falls” for Halloween.dsc07959

I painted the sweatshirt myself (which I now wear way too often) and was so happy to emulate one of my favorite cartoon characters! We’re basically the same person anyway.

Being able to teach people about MBTI.

I wrote a little series about introductory MBTI here on the blog! I also got to chat with a church group about MBTI and our different types; I guessed a few of them and was surprised by others (but I’m secretly pretty sure I’m still right about one of them).

Having confidence in going places on my own.

I’m still growing in this, but I’ve definitely become better at it. I kicked anxiety’s butt in so many ways this year.

Observing the quirks of others.

I hope this doesn’t sound too creepy because it’s honestly one of my favorite things. People are so diverse and wonderful. However, I’ve learned this year that no matter how many things I notice about someone, there is still more; I will never be able to sum anyone up. I’ve also learned I really love that.

Meeting public figures I admire.fleurie

I saw Fleurie in September, and she was so beautiful and kind. She’s doing what I want to be doing– killing it as a female singer-songwriter– so it was exciting for me to get to chat with her, someone I already glean from often.

Having a cat that likes being a sweet companion.sunshine-rub

My cat is about twelve years old and has always been pretty skittish, not wanting to interact with anybody. But the past few years, she’s been mellowing and becoming a bit more affectionate. I’ve had some sweet cuddle time with her.

Sharing pizza with someone I love at a picnic.

I had pizza at a park with my mom and brother over the summer one day; we played basketball afterwards.

Tie-dying a shirt.tiedye-final-product

My grandparents gave me some tie-dye for my birthday and I tried it out on an old shirt from my camp counselor days– I love it. My mom also let me dye some of her socks. In case you were wondering if she’s a cool mom or not, I think you just got your answer.

Owning Dinotopia books.

I got The World Beneath, my favorite one, for Christmas!

Having flowers in the house.roses-from-mom-1

My mom gave me flowers on a bad day; they were by far the loveliest part of it, and brought me happiness for days afterward.

Find part one of the hopes I lived this year here.

Find the lists these hopes are from here, here, and here.

Thank for you listening to my stories. I hope you’re beginning to remember some of your own. Here’s to the new ones we’ll live this next year!

Soul Food {December 2016}

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Another year completed! I am so ready for the new things. But first, I’m ready to talk about some of the art and media I consumed during the final stretch of 2016.

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  • The Goo Goo Dolls’ “Boxes” album. I’ve loved them for years but I recently discovered their latest album, and not only did I greatly appreciate it for what it was, but I also appreciated that they’ve still never lost the comforting perspective and soft-rock vibes that make them the Goo Goo Dolls. My favorite from the album is “Flood” (ft. Sydney Sierota), but I also love “Over and Over” “Souls in The Machine” “The Pin” and “Lucky One.” Honestly, I’m fond of the whole thing. They’re one of my favorites.
  • “Put A Label On It” by Ryan Follese. Not the typical style I listen to, but it’s just so sweet and fun. In a time where people are afraid to fully commit themselves to much, a guy declaring he wants to put a label on a relationship is literally music to my ears. Also, the music video is one of the cutest I’ve seen in a while.
  • “Things That Keep Me Up at Night (Live)” by Brolly. So, so gorgeous.
  • “The Love You’re Given” by Jack Garratt. Such a cool groove, laced with emotion. “If you won’t take the love you’re given, then at least let me go…I’ve been trying to give you my love, but you won’t let me…”
  • “Northbound Train” from the “North and South” soundtrack. My best friend and I were talking about our favorite songs at the moment and she shared this one; it had met her spirit more than songs with words could. And wow I love it, too.
  • “Go Alone” by Colin & Caroline. Dreamy, lovely, calm yet full of life.
  • “Ain’t Ready” by Christian Collins. My guy released another jam– and the video is on his own Vevo channel. So excited about all the crazy stuff he’s getting to do.
  • Twenty One Pilots’ MUTEMATH sessions. Amazing. I discovered it late at night, and the passionate sound mixed with being able to see them create it met me somewhere deep. Making music is magic that doesn’t stop wowing me.
  • “Billion Years” by Trip Lee (ft. Taylor Hill). Makes me smile and makes me want to dance. So good!
  • “At Last” by Jeremiah Daly. I listen to his album when I can’t sleep, and this song is the one that makes my heart feel the lightest. So special.
  • “42” by Colplay. Obsessed. I got the “Viva La Vida” album for Christmas, and this is my favorite song I hadn’t heard from it.
  • My Christmas playlist! The full thing is on YouTube and a lot of it is on Spotify. But Christmas is over now so don’t listen to it for the next eleven months (hahaha).
  • Amy Stroup’s “You Make The Cold Disappear” Christmas ep. Some of my absolute favorite Christmas music for the past two years now. The second half mesmerizes me.

All year, I’ve been collecting my music favorites from these monthly lists into one big playlist. You can find the final product on YouTube and Spotify, and let my 2016 jams be some of your 2017 jams!

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  • The Amazing Spider-Man. My favorite portrayal of one of my favorite characters.
  • This interview with Rhett & Link about what’s on their phones. Cracked me up so bad!
  • Jordan Taylor’s video about alcohol. Describes and explains my own experience so accurately.
  • Eloise at Christmastime. Possibly my favorite Christmas film; humorous and heartwarming.
  • Ann Voskamp’s videos for advent, especially the one about joy. So many vital life-truths.
  • Tom Holland’s Facebook live Q&A. I’m hesitant to be excited about the new Spider-Man movie based on the trailer, but the young man playing him is so funny and charming! This Q&A is thirty minutes long but it flies by because he’s so enjoyable to listen to. [Also I found out his dog is named Tessa, WHAT]
  • Tessa Violet’s video on music copyright. A super informative introduction to the copyright world for songwriters and recording artists, explained in layman’s terms as much as possible. Definitely saved it for future reference.
  • “Christmas Time Boy,” from Olan Roger’s live story tour. So. Freaking. Funny.
  • Rogue One. I’m not a huge Star Wars person, but wow this film is good. I didn’t expect it to make me feel so deeply.
  • Bas Rijksen’s “Why I Don’t ‘Go to Church’ Anymore” videos, Parts One and Two. A non-angry, reasonable explanation that I relate to in my depths. Please: put yourself in an open-minded place, and listen. For me.
  • It’s a Wonderful Life. George Bailey continues to be one of my favorite characters in film.
  • Mike Donehey’s “No One Can Steal Our Joy” video journal. So important!
  • In The Heart of The Sea. A sad, heart-wrenching, sometimes gross film, but wow it is good. I might not be able to watch it again, but I really think it’s well done.
  • Continued watching Designated Survivor. I am super invested and awaiting the return in March!
  • And of course I watched The Mentalist all the time because I always do.

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  • “The Secret Truth That Cures Feelings of Abandonment & What Has to Be Said About Advent” by Ann Voskamp. “You are never abandoned in a place to be forgotten — you were placed in this place to be found.”
  • “12 Reasons Millennials Are Over Church” by Sam Eaton. Please read this. I don’t relate to every reason, but so many of them are right on for me and other people I know. We aren’t trying to be rebellious or heretical; we just want what’s real.
  • Anne of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery. This was my first ever read-through of the series, and it has now become a treasure to me. I love it so, so much.
  • If You Feel Too Much by Jamie Tworkowski. Jamie is a wonderful writer and has some important things to say, I just didn’t come close to tears or a heart-wrenching moment like everyone I’d heard from who read this book. Worth the read, just not the life-changing experience I thought it would be. My hands-down favorite chapter was “Telling Ghosts to Go.” [If you want to keep up with my reading progress and see full reviews, I’m on Goodreads!]
  • “The Best Habit to Cultivate When Joy Is Eluding You” by Dandi Daley Mackall. Such a powerful, convicting concept. “And I prayed that God would show me how to share joy in other areas, instead of competing for only one joy—mine.”

Hopes I Lived in 2016 {Part One}

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My greatest fear is that what I hope for will not come to pass. There are so many good things I want to experience, and with every disappointment I face I become terrified that they won’t work out. That is why I keep a list.

I have an ever-growing list of things I hope for. I call them my “looking forward to” lists, to keep me trusting. Last year I decided to see how many things I’d lived from them– and found the number was fifty-six.

Dreams are made for life. Sometimes, it really doesn’t look that way. But I still believe it’s true.

And to strengthen that belief, I’m sharing some of the dreams I lived in 2016– of the 77 total. Let’s do it.

Reading more books. | Reading the Jesus Storybook Bible. | Reading more fairy tales. | Reading the Anne of Green Gables series. | Reading If You Feel Too Much.

I set my reading challenge to thirty books this year because I thought, “I was in college half of last year and I still managed to read 18 books! I can read thirty this year for sure!” I didn’t quite realize that I like taking my sweet time to read; I didn’t even reach 18 this year. What I did read, however, was overall wonderful. My favorites were probably The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones, Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale, Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway by Dr. Susan Jeffers (I wrote about it), and the last four books in the Anne of Green Gables series. You can see everything I read this year on my Goodreads Year in Books.

Going to more concerts. | Going to a rap concert.concertssssss

I was surprisingly able to go to a handful of shows this year! Meigan and I saw Rend Collective in February, which was a wonderful time of what felt like a family gathering; my mom and I took a mini road trip to Fish Fest in August with Cindy and Jamie, where we spent all day in the hot sun to see many acts, including Switchfoot (they played the song I secretly hoped they would and my heart soared); and in September I got to take a fun trip with Meigan and Brandon to see NF and Fleurie, two artists I admire so much.

Holding babies.

I did this often because I volunteered in a nursery. I also realized that working with children is not my passion, and stopped doing it. It was a weird discovery, but I think I’m relieved to not be guilting myself into serving a certain way anymore.

Seeing meaningful new movies. | Seeing new Pixar movies.

I’m not as much of a movie person as I once was; I do a lot more rewatching of films I already love as opposed to exploring new ones. But I still got to watch quite a few stories that touched me in some way this year. It terms of new films/Pixar films? Finding Dory was so, so wonderful and Rogue One shocked me with how much it made me feel.

Getting better at painting. | Making art that gets me excited when I finish it. Getting better at art-journaling. artttt

I practiced with acrylics a lot more this year and have become much more comfortable with them. Working in an art journal was a great way to try out different ideas and expand the ways I create. Something I’ve learned this year is that the greater volume of things you make, the more okay you are with making imperfect things, because you know there’s a lot more to come and that you’re getting better all the time. [The prompt journal I’ve used is the Wreck This Journal, if you’re interested in trying it out!]

Hiking a calm little forest trail. | Being reunited with college family. | Having a simple breakfast with people I love.spencers-hike-group

I got to spend a day last month with most of my little group of friends from college. It was refreshing to see them again. It’s also becoming refreshing to feel less tied down to what things were like in college and to welcome what’s here now. I’d never hiked this particular butte, and the view was wildly wonderful even on the cloudy day. I love Oregon. [Photo by Cooper]

friendiverseryIn August, I also happened to be in the same place with the three original friends I met during orientation years ago! We’re still cuties, aren’t we? [Photo by Meigan]

Buying scented candles and lighting them all the time. | Smelling roses and other wonderful smells.

I actually started using a candle warmer this year! I like how long the wax cubes last (much longer than a regular candle), and discovering where to find new scents.

Visiting the coast again. | Camping with people I adore.coastttt

I spent a night in a yurt with my grandparents. It was rainy and cold, but we found graffiti under a bridge and cried laughing while playing Jenga and Bananagrams. The next day was much more sunny; we visited a lighthouse and a lookout point. Oregon, man…

Taking a class from my beloved writing teacher again.

I wrote this on my first “looking forward to” list. I wasn’t sure at that point in time if I’d ever go back to college or not, but now I’m sure I won’t (which is completely fine with me; preferable, actually). But when I found it in my lists as I was preparing to write this post, I stopped for a minute and sat in all the emotions that came. My writing teacher died this summer. I’d experienced grief before, but not like I experienced it for her. She was supportive of me and invested in my growth during a time when I could have given up myself. I still remember what she taught me, both in writing and in being a person, every single day. I love you and miss you, Ms. Lee.

Learning an instrument. | Feeling more skilled in things I currently feel like an amateur in. | Having my passion for music be known by the people around me, instead of bottled within myself.

Last year, if you had asked me what I do, I would vaguely mention art; I was ashamed of my skill level in music, didn’t feel like a true music-maker. That has changed this year. I’ve discovered songs in my ancient Casio’s keys during my frequent playtime with it, and teaching myself to play a few songs through YouTube tutorials has been helping me train my ear and get better at using both hands. I love saying, “I play with piano.” It’s truly like a delightful game for me. I have so much more to learn, but I am learning, and I love it. Music is home.

Setting up my easel and painting somewhere outside. | Having painting parties.artttt-oopsssss

When your best friend calls you asking if you can come over “like, right now” and paint with her from a birdwatching tower, you say yes. Such sweet times with her. Thanks for getting me to dip my toes in the world of oil paints, Sierra. It inspired me to go and paint the lake grew up next to the next week.

dsc07810I also had a few friends over to play around with watercolor near my birthday. Look at how great they did (mine’s the one that looks like it’s framed by fruit loops ignore that one)!

Getting letters from people I love. | Writing letters.skinners-with-katie

Always writing to Katie from across the country, except now she gets to write about her wedding plans! Love her so much. She came to visit during the summer.

Discovering more musicians I’ll cherish forever. | Growing more associations with albums and seasons of my life.

The most impactful discoveries this year were NF, Fleurie, Anthem Lights, Jeremiah Daly, and Kings Kaleidoscope. You’ll find them all on the playlist I made throughout 2016, which is on both YouTube and Spotify if you want to eavesdrop.

Adopting a pet. | Holding adorable little animals.dsc07779

Jonas came into my life in October. I wrote about him.

Wearing more pretty dresses.

I became a little obsessed with my black and white striped dress, and may have just gotten a navy and white striped dress with longer sleeves because I like the look so much…

 Seeing my best friend again and going on a random little adventure with her.

Our adventure this year didn’t go as we planned. But with all the children’s books, car talks, tea, bad karaoke, borrowed pajamas, and Eloise at Christmastime gushing? We’re still my favorite.

Coloring with children.

My dad had me watch his friend’s granddaughter on the fourth of July; her adventurous spirit and ability to color way beyond her age’s typical skill level were wonderful surprises.

Making notebooks for friends.

I don’t make them for my own school notes anymore, so I like being able to still put them in schools somehow. Having my friends be the vessels is the best way I can think of.

Making prayer-art a regular part of my life.

In high school I met a woman who “prayed in color;” she’d paint in a journal whatever came to her mind as she prayed, and was able to express some of the wordless things she was feeling. I was inspired and wanted to do the same thing, but it didn’t really connect for me like it seemed to for her. I’ve learned that it serves a different purpose for me. When a friend asks me to pray for them in a specific way, sometimes I’ll feel like I’m supposed to paint about it, so I’ll do that as I pray, and will often send them the artwork afterwards with a note about any impression I was getting. I also feel driven to create when tragedy hits the world in some way.

Watching fireworks at our annual Fourth of July barbeques.

I went through a video-making phase during the summer, so I have this year’s fireworks set to music. You can watch it here.

Playing Loaded Questions.

We played for hours at a church group I go to; I laughed harder than I had in a very long time. We’re good at being a bit intense in our discussions, so it was nice to have a light-hearted night and get to know each other’s personalities a bit more.

Making more quote signs.principles-painting

A pretty common practice for me, but always fun. And the past month or so, I’ve been working out some plans concerning my little encouragement posters! Hopefully you will hear about it soon.

Writing about some of the big things. | Finding new things to write about.

I wrote about being kind to myself; about having flaws, and how maybe that’s okay; about forgiveness that doesn’t stop being necessary; about getting defensive on the internet; about using religion as a tool instead of a fence; about being hopeful despite the fear of getting crushed; about not finding a place shaped like me; about love being the cure; about shame, and what it was like to grow up in church; about my pornography addiction and honesty; about God’s revelation to me concerning anxiety and the tools He’s given me to replace it; about my promise to be your friend in our differences… yeah. Some of the big things.

Seeing friendships grow deeper. | Hugging people I love.dsc07791

Two of my favorite things about life. Enjoy this photo of my sister and I near our birthdays.

Finding a purse that suits me.

I haven’t had good luck with purses because I don’t want to lug around something big, yet I want room for a sketchbook or journal amongst my other little things. Finally found something in a good size that’s also pretty cute (and it was on sale)!

Driving in tree-filled areas during the fall.

My situation is a little different from what it was last year, and I was a bit downtrodden when I realized I probably wasn’t going to be able to drive much, if at all, this fall. But I did get to drive a few times. And one particular day, I drove under so many trees that I was able to be in the dance of what felt like hundreds of leaves by the time I reached my destination. Grace.

Owning more band merchandise.

The concerts I went to this year helped! I super enjoy my t-shirt with some of my favorite Switchfoot lyrics, and my NF hat (I’ve discovered a love a good ball cap, by the way).

Watching more episodes of great web series.

Oh my goodness, Edgar Allan Poe’s Murder Mystery Dinner Party came out this year and I loved it! Not only is it hilarious, but it’s super well-written with a mystery that I couldn’t nail down until the very end. If you want to see classic authors blame each other for murder in the most hilarious ways, but also be curious and in the dark along with them, definitely check out Poe Party!

Giving and receiving words of love on our message board.

We do this super often now that only two of us are home during the day. My mom writes little notes every single morning; sometimes there are puns…

Making food for people.

I put the frozen pizza in the oven every Monday night. I’m saying that counts.

Drinking strawberry lemonade.gee-katie

I’m not the biggest fan of Roadhouse Grill, but we go there once a year for my parents’ anniversary and I get the strawberry lemonade every single time. Wow it is good. I also had watermelon lemonade at a little picnic with Katie and G’ma Edie this summer.

Writing new poems that express what I want them to.

I’ve written a poem every day this year. Not only has it helped me as a writing exercise (if you’re a writer of any kind, study/read/write poetry; it teaches economy of words and gets your head voice familiar with what sounds right), but sometimes it’s my opportunity to get what’s inside me out and find the starting point of some closure or insight. Gems have come from it, at least in my perspective. I’m working on figuring out what to do with them.

You can find my “looking forward to” lists here, here, and here.

Next week I will be posting part two of the hopes I lived this year!