Soul Food

Soul Food {January 2018}

The first month of this year was already better than pretty much any month of last year, so that’s a big thumbs up from me. I’ve really been focusing on what I tell myself and what thoughts I let live in my head; thoughts are physical things in our brains that we either plant, water, or remove, and they affect how we live and how we interact with the world around us. As a result of learning that, my media intake has become a bit more sparse as I’ve been growing a bit more picky about it. These were some things that made the cut.

MusicJust-for-Us-Francis-and-the-Lights

  • Post Animal. I know I mentioned them last month, but I’ve still been listening to all their work pretty consistently. If a modern take on psychedelic 1970s rock sounds like your thing, you’ll love them. Some of my favorites include “Goggles” “Eel” “When I Get Home” and “You Were Not There.”
  • John Mayer’s “The Search for Everything” album. I’ve loved it since it came out last year, but this month it was something I listened to as a long lullaby as I went to bed. The ones special to me lately are “Emoji of A Wave” “Theme from ‘The Search for Everything'” (I’m a sucker for a good instrumental interlude) and “Changing.”
  • “I Want U” by Joseph Tilley. Happy, fun, young vibes I can’t get enough of. I also like his song “Mad,” too, for similar reasons.
  • “Morning” “Scream So Loud” and “I Won’t Lie to You” by Francis and The Lights. They’re all about two minutes long (like most of the album) and for some reason that’s just magical. I love his sound and his simple but punchy lyricism. It makes me want to make more music myself.
  • “Jack and Jill, Pt.2” by The Gray Havens. So joyous and uplifting to me.
  • Joey Stamper’s medley of “Perfect” and “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” I just need him to cover every song in existence, please, because he makes even the best songs better. His voice and his arrangements are simply incredible. And I love how seamless the medley is, down to the lyrics. Yes, yes, yes to every bit of this.
  • “Call It Home” by Jillian Edwards. Calm and sweeping and lovely.
  • Pretty much anything by Shakey Graves, but his iconic Audiotree session might be my favorite (though there’s an unsavory word in one song, if that bothers you). Every performance of his is a different take on his songs, so he just never gets old and his whole-heartedness continually shines. By the way, he just announced that he’s releasing a new album for the first time in four years!

If you want all of this music in a playlist, I already made it! It’s on Spotify and YouTube.

Movies/YouTube/TVthe-last-jedi-theatrical-blog

  • Esmee Heebing’s 2017 bullet journal flip-through. I love seeing inside other people’s journals and getting inspiration for my own. Her style is so lovely and fun.
  • You’ve Got Mail. The Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan rom-com we deserved.
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I’m not a hardcore Star Wars person so I don’t have a strong opinion about it in that sense, but I liked it! It was a really enjoyable movie experience and I thought it had a lot to offer.
  • Beat Bobby Flay. Am I saying it’s great? Not really. But did I watch it for hours and die laughing as we made absurd jokes about it? Oh, yes.
  • The Greatest Showman. The soundtrack is so so good and the visuals are colorful and gorgeous. The plot is pretty basic, but it’s still entertaining and definitely worth seeing. Hugh Jackman can adopt me.
  • The Spider-Man: Homecoming panel at ACE Comic Con with Tom Holland, Laura Harrier, and Jacob Batalon. I’ve missed getting new interviews with them! Watching this felt like a reunion with my friends.
  • The Office. A season and a half in one afternoon. So bad but so good.
  • Continued watching The Good Doctor and The Mentalist regularly.

Books/Blogs/Articlesnutcracker-mice-cover-final_orig

  • The Nutcracker Mice by Kristin Kladstrup. A cute concept and story. I wasn’t incredibly engaged, but I think it was just due to the fact that it’s meant for younger readers (ages 7-10, which I didn’t notice was clearly stated on the back, oops). This would be a fun book to read as a family.
  • The 21 Day Brain Detox program by Dr. Caroline Leaf. There was a toxic, painful thought that had been lingering in me for far too long. I wanted it out, but I just felt too haunted by it and tied to it. This program my grandma and aunt recommended and sent to me was such a helpful, eye-opening process to go through. I don’t feel haunted anymore, and that honestly is something I didn’t think I’d ever be able to say. I am so grateful to be transformed by His mercy and the renewing of my mind.

I’m on Goodreads if you want full reviews and bookish updates from me.


What has been feeding you lately?

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Life as a Wind Rider

Hopes I Lived in 2017 {Part Two}

I write lists of things to look forward to as a way of keeping hope and a spirit of anticipation strong in me. This year alone, I got to live in ninety-two of those things. I shared the first half last week; here’s the second.

Celebrating graduationsgraduated children!!!

My freshman class from college graduated in May. Although it did feel strange to know I wasn’t sharing in the experience, my pride in the growth and accomplishments of my dear friends was the most overwhelming part of it all. I was bursting for them.

Writing about some of the big things | Finding new things to write about | Writing poems that express what I want them to

A lot of my writing this year has stayed private, more than it has in many years. Things were confusing and tumultuous, and often I didn’t feel like I had the authority to speak even if I did possibly have something to share. But I still wrote often in my journals and to my close friends. I write a poem every evening, too, which helps me exercise the muscle as well as express feelings or thoughts still lingering at the end of the day, and that was so good for me this year.

On the blog it was a bit quiet apart from my monthly media roundups, but I did talk about Jesus’ heart for refugeesthe role of generosity in lovethe nature of submission being about choicethe mixed feelings that come with being in recoverythe importance of an awake church, and the difficult but vital work of discerning God’s voice from others.

Seeing friendships grow deeper | Meeting people who will be significant parts of my story | Becoming friends with people I didn’t expect to | Rekindling friendships that became distant | Hugging people I love | Having conversations that make me laugh every time I remember them later

I love my people. I spent much of this year slightly isolated, so I’ve learned to treasure time with them even more than I did already and to seek out more of it. You all hopefully know who you are; I love you. Thank you for holding me up when it felt like I couldn’t stand anymore.

Playing with puppies | Holding adorable little animals

I got to meet (and be lavishly kissed by) my Uncle Terry’s puppy earlier this year. I also got to hold a bunch of tiny Siamese kittens at Kandy’s house, which was an absolute dream. And of course I held my own sweet animals, too. And (consensually) pet various dogs and cats I came across.

Driving in tree-filled areas during the fallpark trees (1)

I tried a new counseling office this year, and while that definitely did not work out, it was in the heart of a beautiful campus and I went in the middle of autumn. The drives ended up being better for me than the sessions I was driving to, and eventually I realized maybe that was a clue to what I actually needed.

Running into people randomly at the store | Randomly running into my professors

I love unplanned reunions and how they automatically become the highlight of the day for me.

Giving and receiving words of love on our message board

My mom writes a little note every morning before leaving for work. I love her.

Watching it snowwith snow tree

We started the year with a few inches of snow in Oregon. I’m not the biggest fan of winter so seeing snow is a redeeming quality.

Watching sunrises and sunsetsBeFunky Collage

A beautiful sky can genuinely turn a hard day around for me. One particular memory of a sunrise this year was in the winter, when my grandma and I were driving along the coast and the sky was full of color even after nine in the morning

Smelling roses and other wonderful smells | Having scents for my candle warmer that don’t make me feel sick

I can be sensitive to smell sometimes because of my anxiety disorder, so pleasant smells are a nice mood-lifter. I found a few wax melts with scents that don’t overwhelm me and now I can make my room smell nice any time I need to.

Attending the weddings of dear friendsBeFunky Collage

Two of my close friends got married this year! Katie got married in March (I got to see her at her home-state reception a month later, which was such a gift), and Cooper got married in September, both of them to wonderful and sweet people. Seeing people I love so much find their people is wildly uplifting.

Feeling noticed in the best way

Jesus romanced me so well this year, even when I was afraid and closed off. His love is so good. Dream-like.

Starting an Etsy shop | Making more quote signs | Giving my art to more people | Making greeting cards for friendslogo

I opened Tessa Maye Makes Things this year! Was it successful? To be frank: no. I didn’t make any sales through Etsy. But did it teach me to focus on what I like to make versus what I think I have to make? And did I learn a few new skills in starting a business? And did my mom and my grandma commission me more than once to support me? And did I make an effort to do the work my hands found to do? Yes. A hearty yes. For the time being, my art is best spread freely to the people in my life. Maybe someday, it will be the right time to spread it further.

Drinking hot cocoa | Drinking strawberry lemonade | Having mango flavored things

Some of my favorite beverages across the seasons (though I drink them all year round).

Praying with people

The isolation I lived in this year led me to pray with (and, more accurately, ask for prayer from) my family much more than I used to, and that’s a way God has already redeemed it before my eyes.

Having solid interactions with kind strangers | Observing the quirks of others

Genuinely some of my favorite things about life! I love making friends, even if it’s only for a day and we have one conversation. People are just amazing. I am blown away by how different yet akin we all are the more I keep looking at us and learning.

Exploring quirky shops

In the fall I had an hour long gap between meetings, so I’d walk through a shop in the neighborhood that had the weirdest, most random and creative things for sale. I never bought anything, but it was always fun to peruse and see what they had that week.

Having spontaneous dance parties

This is basically every day for me. But to be honest, what I’m really looking forward to is having a family that does things like dance around in the kitchen while we’re making dinner.

Having a cat that likes being a sweet companionsweet dusty headrub

I’ve had my cat for over thirteen years, but in most of that time she’s been aloof and mean. This has been such a good year for her personality softening and opening up to more to us; she’s been wanting to come in the house and take naps, and she lets me hold her and cuddle her for a few minutes at a time. I just love feeling her soft little body rest against mine.

Baking and decorating a lovely cake | Making food for people | Getting food with people in the middle of the night18034120_10208373454325638_5784276408660015306_n

I made a carrot cake this spring and it turned out great– apart from the buttercream flowers I attempted to make with my scratch frosting that was truly just colorful butter. I happened to mention the cake to Rachel when we ran into each other at an event, and in less than a minute we decided she was coming over that night to help me eat it.

Having a simple breakfast with people I love

For some reason sharing breakfast just feels more intimate to me than the other meals. I got to have many little breakfasts with my grandma during our back-and-forth visits as she works on moving into the neighborhood. I’m so excited to have her closer.

Happening upon street artSierra's art day

This is always a fun little surprise and it did happen to me this year, but one time it took an especially unique form: Sierra was creating street art and I, Johnny, and Jenessa got to keep her company as she did it. So many laughs, oh my goodness.

Owning sweatpants

It might seem like a small thing, but I’m telling you: game changer.

Reaching one year porn-free

I’m currently eighteen months porn-free. Recovery is such a weird process to be in, but I am so grateful to be in it and to be walking in this freedom. The temptation hasn’t gone away and neither have some of the effects; sometimes I’m still shocked by nightmares and impulses that show up. But my heart is healed and I know that. And I am fully loved, just as I always have been. I know that, too.


If you want to read or use the lists where I recorded these hopes (among others), you can find them here, here, and here. Coming up with them helps me, but I’m finding that doing intakes like this yearly might be an even more helpful exercise. It’s the dose of perspective and optimism I need walking into a new year. I encourage you to start your own lists if this was any form of comfort to you today.

Your life is so big, and your Father gives good gifts. Be ready to welcome them.

Soul Food

Soul Food {December 2017}

This tweet pretty much sums it up: scooter to the ankle

What a wild year. I’m walking into 2018 hopeful about seeing the redemption and rest that will come from all that happened in 2017. That being said, this year also held a lot of good and brought many joys. I’ve been sharing some of the art and media that pointed me to that good every month, and I hope these posts have been bringing some good into your life, too. Here’s the last one of the year.

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  • My Christmas playlist. Like, almost exclusively. I don’t want to encourage you to listen to Christmas music outside the proper season, but you could save the playlist for next year, right? It’s on YouTube and Spotify. You do you. I trust you…
  • “WAYD” by Rusty Clanton. There’s something so sweet and nostalgic yet mature in it. I had it on repeat all day the first time I heard it.
  • “Windows Down” by Big Time Rush. Because my brother posted a photo of them as a joke but it reminded me they had some jams.
  • Post Animal. I’m obsessed with their 70s-inspired psychedelic rock vibe, how they take something classic yet make it uniquely their own. I’ve been listening to their entire catalogue over and over.
  • “Talk:Listen” by Zealyn. So beautiful and moody. I had a sudden burst of memory from a few years ago when she was on American Idol, so I decided to see what she was up to and was so pleased to find such lovely things.

If you want all this music (aside from the Christmas stuff) in one place, I have a playlist! I’ve been compiling it all year with my monthly favorites, and I love how it’s turned out. You can find it on both YouTube and Spotify.

Movies/YouTube/TVtimthumb

  • Actors on Actors interviews from Variety. I love getting to eavesdrop on such unique and intelligent conversations. Recent favorites include Jeff Bridges and Matthew McConaugheyGal Gadot and Kumail Nanjiani, Millie Bobby Brown and Evan Rachel Wood, and Hugh Jackman and Willem Dafoe; they all have great connections and obvious reverence for one another, and it’s just so nice to see, even if some of the topics go over my non-industry head.
  • The Little Princess. Shirley Temple is eternally lovely and this classic, wonderful story still shines.
  • Stowaway. Another Shirley Temple film I watched while visiting my grandma.
  • Many, many Hallmark Christmas movies. I don’t even care that the plot is always the same, I can appreciate movies that do not at all remind me of real life and let me escape into a cheesy love story for a little while.
  • My favorite Christmas movies. Jingle All The Way makes up half of my daily vocabulary, Santa Claus Is Coming to Town is just so cozy for me, and Eloise at Christmastime is one of my favorite Christmas love stories.
  • Joe Keery interviews. I just love him; I feel like we’d be good friends. Favorites include this one in which he and Gaten Matarazzo give advice to strangers, this one in which he just has an interesting conversation (I haven’t watched Stranger Things because I’m a baby but he makes things fun regardless), this one in which he makes a talk show appearance and shares some funny stories, and this one in which he plays Dungeons and Dragons between questions.
  • Good Mythical Morning with Jack Black as a guest. They played a game I need to figure out how to play with my friends, and they also remixed Christmas songs. But I’m pretty sure these three guys together would be absolutely hilarious doing anything.
  • Castle in The Sky. I saw the first little bit of this movie when I was in grade school, but I didn’t get to finish it. My mom knew I’d always wondered how it ended so she found it for me for Christmas! We watched it together along with my brother and enjoyed the fun, interesting, fantasy-laced story.
  • Thor: Ragnarok. Such a blast to watch! I love Marvel movies period, but it’s nice to see one not take itself too seriously and still be engaging and cool.
  • I continued watching The Good Doctor, Designated Survivor (both currently on winter breaks), and The Mentalist (I’m on season six and it’s gotten real).

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  • Messenger by Lois Lowry. Not my favorite installment of The Giver series; it was just a bit messy and didn’t explain things well enough for me. However–
  • Son, also by Lois Lowry, was so good. Claire is a loveable, strong character in every circumstance she winds up in and I was always rooting for her. It was interesting to see familiar territory through her unique perspective, as well as explore some new things. Not only did the book give explanations and closure I needed from the series, it was also just a good story.

I’m on Goodreads if you want to see full reviews from me and keep up with my reading progress.


What fed you this month? This year?

Life as a Wind Rider

Hopes I Lived in 2017 {Part One}

I started writing a list of things to look forward to when I was nineteen. I was a year through college, realizing that I didn’t like what my life looked like, and battling the terrible thought that maybe my life wasn’t going to be worth living if it couldn’t hold my hopes and see them through into reality.

But I became determined to keep living, and to believe that God had true life in store for me. Instead of fearing that my hopes would never come to pass, I started writing them down under the title: “Things to Look Forward To.”

A lot has changed since then; a bit hasn’t. But hopes keep existing in me. And I keep doing my best to give audience to them rather than to my fears. And the list? It’s grown to be over three hundred items long, and I got to live ninety-two of those items this year alone.

Dreams are for life. For my life and yours.

We get to keep living. We get to see that God really does give good gifts, even when we don’t yet understand how they’ll arrive.

I do these intakes yearly as a reminder for myself, and for you if you need it. Without further ado: here is the first half of the hopes I got to live this year.

Developing photos and scrapbooking them | Filling more journalsDSC00457

I’m notoriously bad at printing out my photos (in other words: I’ve had the same camera for nine years and haven’t developed anything, ever). But this year I took up a more creative approach to my daily journal and started recording the highlights/main events of every month, and it felt natural to add photos to those pages. Now I just print out a few favorites at the end of the month and stick them in as a more relaxed scrapbook; it works well for me, since my journal already hosts everything else.

Watching fireworks

My family lives on a lake and we get to watch the fireworks show every Fourth of July from our backyard barbeque. My grandma was with us this year, so that was extra special.

Reading more books | Reading more fairytales | Becoming a good bookworm again

I used to think that I was a slow reader– then I started reading books I actually enjoyed. Giving myself permission to stop reading books I wasn’t getting anything from was a great decision and allowed me to read some fantastic stories this year. Goodreads kept track of them all for me if you’re interested in seeing more of my thoughts on them; the Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness and Eve by Wm. Paul Young were powerful favorites.

Writing lyrics again | Learning an instrument | Putting my lyrics to music | Feeling more skilled in things I currently feel like an amateur inrandom piano

Music is the thing for me, even if I don’t always act like it; I think knowing how important a role it plays for me has made it feel almost too pure to pursue, if that makes sense. I’m really going to work on pushing through that hesitancy in 2018. However, I’m not going to let what I haven’t done keep me from being in awe of what I have done. Watching clips I’ve taken of my piano practice from early in the year and comparing them to what I can do now gives me a rush of happiness. I started to add very simple piano backing to some of my lyrics, too; I can’t wait for my skill in that to grow. I know I’ll get there. It’s the thing for me.

Going to more concerts | Seeing Colony House | Owning more band merchandiseDSC09748

I got to my see my absolute favorite band this year, and it’s hard to explain how that feels; when they started playing the first song, a sound came out of me that was half laughter and half sobbing. If you ever get a chance to see Colony House (or whoever your favorite artist might be), do it. Huge thank you to my mom for making the trip with me and to Karen for letting us stay with her while we were in town.

I also got to see Switchfoot, Relient K, Andy Mineo, MercyMe, Jordan Feliz, and Matthew West this year. Mostly old favorites, which was unplanned but nice.

Seeing meaningful new movies | Seeing my favorite actors in great new movies | Seeing new Marvel moviesspiderman with rachel

My interest in film has grown quite a bit and I’ve stretched myself in terms of the kinds of movies I see, which has been overall very rewarding! I finally watched Interstellar (so good, wow!), Arrival (surprising; I might need to rewatch it), The Sixth Sense (fantastic), and Guardians of The Galaxy (I felt like a fake Marvel fan for waiting this long to see it), among other films I’d somehow avoided. As far as new ones go…

La La Land was wonderful and so was my beloved Emma Stone; Hidden Figures was delightful, inspiring, and important; Hacksaw Ridge was one of the most powerful films I’ve watched in my lifetime and made me so proud of Andrew Garfield; War for The Planet of The Apes was incredible (as is the whole trilogy) and Andy Serkis is a powerhouse of an actor; Doctor Strange was such an awesome, interesting piece of the Marvel universe; Wonder Woman was cool, and reminded me that femininity and strength are not mutually exclusive but rather are intertwined; the fifth installment of Pirates of The Caribbean was engaging and introduced me to the wonderful Brenton Thwaites; Collateral Beauty wrecked me; Thor: Ragnarok was super fun; and, yes– Spider-Man: Homecoming made me so ridiculously giddy (I saw it in the theater more than once, which is not something I ever do) and Tom Holland is one of my favorite people.

Watching movies with dear friends | Receiving a bouquet of flowers | Having flowers in the houseflowers from brandon and meigan

Meigan, Brandon, and Josh came over to watch a movie over the summer and brought flowers for me; my friends are the best and love me so well. Josh and Rachel have come over for movies a few other times, too, and Sierra and I spent a lovely evening together watching La La Land for the first time.

Getting better at painting | Learning new ways to make things | Making art that gets me excited when I finish it | Spending more time in my sketchbookrandom art

Discovering through practice is one of my favorite ways to grow. I really enjoy creating without pressure, and having a random sketchbook that I’m not afraid to mess up in or throw random scraps into has helped me do that a bit more.

Going to more baby showers

My sweet friend Kayla is having her second little boy soon and I loved being able to celebrate and anticipate with her.

Going on a road trip | Seeing a real castle | Taking walks in new places | Sitting by the lake in the summer | Dangling my feet over a dock for a calm while | Staying in hotelsBeFunky Collage

This summer I got to visit Port Townsend, Washington with my family. Such a fun trip, featuring my first ferry ride, walks in town and inside the Manresa castle, game nights with cry-laughs, a giant stairway leading to nowhere, street cats, chats on the docks, and a lot of beautiful things to see.

Hiking a calm little forest trailhiking with mom

My mom and I went to a local butte she’d never hiked before. A lovely summer morning.

Visiting the coast againfamily trail walk

My grandma lives on the coast right now so I got to see it a few times with her, including Easter weekend when we stayed with her. We often walk a particular trail and I feel a strange partial ownership of it now.

Getting letters from people I love | Writing letters | Getting packages in the mail

My dear sweet Katie still sends me letters, no matter where she is. I love having that correspondence with her and knowing we’re still touching the same things even when we’re on opposite sides of the country. She even sent me a Christmas package!

Discovering more musicians I’ll cherish forever | Unexpectedly hearing songs that bring me to the most beautiful place of nostalgiawith only the lonely

So many wonderful musicians out there creating such meaningful things. I’ve been compiling a playlist all year long, and ended up listening to it probably almost daily. Notable new finds for me this year were Kina Grannis, Phangs, Ed Sheeran (definitely not new, but new to me), John Mayer (ditto), Knox Hamilton, Isla Roe, Francis and The Lights, LANY, and Post Animal. Plus, old favorites like Colony House, Pen Pals, Good Old War, Nick Voelker, and Andrew Belle released new work!

Exploring art galleries | Seeing my best friend again and going on a random adventure with her | Drinking bubble teabirthday museum visit with Sierra

Sierra gifted me one of the best afternoons of the year for my birthday. She took me to the art museum on her university campus, taught me about the Barberini tapestries we saw there, led me on an autumn walk, bought me bubble tea, and was the listening ear I needed. Such a good time.

Being reunited with college family | Wearing more pretty dresses | Wearing red lipstick | Taking adorable and/or dorky photos in a photo booth with loved onessenior banquet all 3

Some of my best friends were seniors in college this year, and Meigan invited me to her senior banquet. Brandon was nice enough to share his date with me (haha) and I had a lovely time with them and the other friends I got to catch up with there.

Also, I’d never worn red lipstick before this year and I think it’s so fun!

Flying in a plane | Traveling to places different from where I liveDSC01408

I definitely did not expect to embark on my first ever flight this year, but my Aunt Cheri invited my grandma and I to visit her this summer, so we did! I can’t tell you how many times I googled “can I pack _______ in a carry on” before we left. I was nervous, but it ended up being relatively painless. And being up in the sky… insane. The world is so big and I forget that sometimes; it’s such a comfort.

My aunt lives in a city unlike the ones I’m used to, and I was grateful she took us exploring during our stay. But I have to say: our backyard meals and movie marathons and laughs were just as fun as the “bigger” adventures.

Having painting parties | Having craft days with friends | Painting/carving pumpkinsDSC02225

Meigan, Ariel, and Rachel came over near my birthday to paint mini pumpkins with me. I so enjoyed the company and seeing everyone’s unique brand of creativity.


Next week I will share the second half of the hopes I lived in 2017. If you want to read or use my “looking forward to” lists, you can find them here, here, and here. I encourage you to write your own if you think there’s any possibility it might bring some hope into your life.

Your dreams? They’re made for you to touch.

Take heart, and enter the next year with hope.

Soul Food

Soul Food {November 2017}

What. A. Month. What a year, actually. I’ve spent a lot of it in accidental isolation, so this next month (and the upcoming year) for me are going to be about ending that. Part of the isolation has meant the companionship of art and media to help me feel somewhat connected and awake. But I’m learning that having a plethora of information and ideas around me all the time isn’t always a good thing, so I’ve been reducing my intake a bit. Here are some of the things that felt worthwhile.

Musicpromisingpromises

  • “To Have You Around” by Zach Winters. Almost like a daydream. I’ve been singing it under my breath a lot.
  • “Better Than I Used to Be” by Mat Kearney ft. AFSHeeN. Mat has been one of my favorite artists for a long time, and he is still consistently good. His new single is a fun pop anthem with his own unique flair. I’m hoping to see him on his upcoming tour next year!
  • Jon McLaughlin’s “Promising Promises” album. A classic for me. I forget how absolutely in love I am with it; it makes me physically smile and tear up. So, so good. He’s just a master at what he does. My favorite songs from it might be “Promising Promises” “You Never Know” and “If Only I.” But seriously, listen to them all, please. I’ve been listening to so much of his music lately. He just released a Christmas ep, by the way, and it’s wonderful!
  • “Show Me (Like It’s My Birthday)” by Christian Collins. If you’ve been keeping up with me for a while, you know how much I adore Chris. He’s recently resolved to put out more of his music, and not only am I proud of him, but I’m also pretty happy to hear new things from him. This is a jam.
  • “Easy Love” and “Paris in The Rain” by Lauv. I love his fresh sound and his youthful yet knowing voice. You can tell he puts a lot of thought into every element of his music; both of these songs are fun to listen to, but they go deeper, too. “Easy Love” in particular has made me think a lot, about the tendency we have to sell ourselves short and deny ourselves good things because they seem too easy to be real.
  • Kevin “K.O.” Olusola’s cover of “Sign of The Times.” One of the best uses of a loop pedal I’ve witnessed; gorgeous and a jam at the same time. Plus, his voice is killer and he’s simply talented in general.
  • Jillian Edwards’ “Daydream” album. She’s a songwriting inspiration to me. Nearly everything she creates is like a warm and comforting lullaby, but with more complexity and finesse. Her voice just feels so kind. Some of my favorites from this album include “Apologies” and “Daydream.”
  • I just pulled my Christmas playlist out of storage! I try to update it on both YouTube and Spotify throughout December.

If you want all of this music (minus the Christmas stuff) in one place, I have a playlist for that, too! It’s on YouTube and on Spotify; scroll to the bottom for the newest additions.

Movies/YouTube/TVexclusive-interstellar-poster-167987-a-1411053060-470-75

  • Interstellar. I went into it thinking it was just another drama set in space, but I was so wrong. This film is incredible. The actors are top notch, the twists are unexpected and emotion-stirring, and it’s such an original, interesting story. I loved it.
  • La La Land. It’s just so lovely, and easy to nestle into on a melancholy day.
  • “Breaking Thor with Chris Hemsworth” on The Tonight Show. Stupid but made me laugh when I needed to laugh.
  • Rhett and Link’s “Cockroach Cuddling Challenge.” I cried laughing.
  • The Snow Queen, a Russian animated film from 1957. I happened upon it somehow, and it is just gorgeous. I can’t get over the backgrounds and the all the details in the artwork; the character design of the Snow Queen especially is beautiful and intimidating. It’s a magical escape to take with a unique story for an hour. There’s a 1995 English re-release in which the voice actress does an incredible job bringing the Snow Queen such power and grandeur, but the original is also available with English subtitles and I much prefer its soundtrack (and the dialogue isn’t as cheesy).
  • Benny and Joon. Unexpectedly adorable. The characters are fun and interesting and I rooted for them. Its portrayal of mental illness isn’t groundbreaking, but it also isn’t romanticized or too exaggerated. [Disclaimer for those of you like me who’d want to know ahead of time: there’s one scene where you know things are getting a little spicy, but you don’t witness it happen.]
  • The Giver. I wanted to see the film version after reading the book (and after becoming a fan of Brenton Thwaites). I’d heard mostly disappointed reviews, but I personally really enjoyed it. The changes they made didn’t change the core of the story. I teared up during the montages of memories, reminded that living with both joy and pain is far better than living with neither. And, of course, I thought Brenton was a wonderful Jonas.
  • Arrival. I feel like I need to watch it a second time to better grasp it, but at the same time I love that my first reaction when the credits began rolling was to put my hands to my temples and repeatedly whisper, “What…” The twist was so unexpected. I love when sci-fi stories are eerie and use fantastical elements elegantly, instead of just screeching, “LOOK! ALIENS!” I loved these aliens! Because they were mysterious characters lurking in shadow, but they truly were characters and contributed so much. And Amy Adams did a stellar job in her role and for sure deserved an Oscar nomination for it.
  • The first trailer for Avengers: Infinity War. Tears of joy came to my eyes. I am so, so excited about this film. We’ve been enjoying movies in this universe for ten years now, and to see it culminate in something like this is mind-blowing and just makes me feel so profoundly happy.
  • Continuing to watch The Mentalist (on season five right now), The Good Doctor (it’s beginning to capture my heart), and Designated Survivor (mixed feelings but overall I’m enjoying it).

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  • The Giver by Lois Lowry. I was drawn to it because of the super interesting premise, and while it wasn’t fast-paced like I expected, I still enjoyed it and its cozy yet apprehensive tone; I like it more and more the longer I linger on it. Making seemingly common discoveries along with Jonas brought a renewed sense of wonder and appreciation.
  • Gathering Blue, also by Lois Lowry. I love the way Lowry writes unspoken questions into her stories. While this book doesn’t have direct connection to its companion The Giver (that I know of so far, at least; I’ve just started the third book), there’s still the presence of a society that is accepted by those living in it but is also unsettling and highly controlled. The questions a story of societies like this bring up are huge and important. Yet I also like that Lowry doesn’t necessarily provide answers in her stories. Instead, she provides moments of waking up to the presence of the questions, and optimism for the future. And she uses loveable, humble characters to be the vessels of that optimism as we follow them in their journeys of waking up and becoming determined to make things better.
  • “Secrets of The Marvel Universe” with Vanity Fair. I’m just such a fan of Marvel and the films they’ve been putting out the past ten years (as you well know by now), so getting to hear from the people behind it and see the new photoshoot was fun and interesting.
  • I’m on Goodreads if you want to see full book reviews from me and follow along as I read.

What fed you this month?

Testimonies

On Discerning, Suffering, & Trusting Myself to Know

outside breakfast 1Hi.

It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

This has been a strange, raw year for me, almost as if I’ve been in open heart surgery this whole time. It’s honestly still that way nearly every day. I know that someday I’ll probably tell you every little detail, but not today; the surgery still isn’t over. And recovery takes time, too. I’m beginning to accept that healing is a process, instead of attempting to push it to go faster. Hurt doesn’t usually go away by any force except for the force that time is. But it does go away. I’m beginning to learn that, too.

There is something I’d like to talk about right now, though. I haven’t written (to you, at least) in months, so I hope we’ve still got our cozy atmosphere for conversation and that I’ll still be able to articulate my insides decently on the outside. I want to share it now because it is what’s getting me through this tumultuous year, and, if no one else, I need to have it written down so I can go back to it and tell myself the truth.

Where should I start? Well…

This summer, I was facing a difficult decision. Actually, it wasn’t that difficult; I knew I wanted to say no, and I knew that the path He’d pointed me down years ago wasn’t down the route a “yes” would take me.

But… I struggled to trust myself to know those things for sure anymore.

Because a few months prior, the enemy broke into the lovely home Jesus and I had been building, and he tried to take it from me by attempting to imitate Jesus, treating me in ways I deeply hoped Jesus wouldn’t treat me and saying things I just couldn’t imagine Jesus saying.

Jesus had been shattering the false images I had of Him and replacing them with truth, so I wanted to be open to Him, because in this process I had been learning He was more loving and more kind and more passionate and more absolutely irresistibly good than I ever knew He could be. I didn’t know I could be this in love (with anyone, let alone Him), or that He would be this deeply in love with me. It was the richest I’d ever felt.

So when the enemy tried to deceive me, it nearly worked. Because I was so (beautifully) vulnerable and trusting, that even when I knew in my core this couldn’t be right, I didn’t want to hold the one I loved to a false image I might have of Him if He was trying to shatter it.

It took the persistent presence and affirmations of the people close to me to keep me grounded, to shake me out of the paralysis, and to get me to understand that the haunting, deeply unsettling image couldn’t be Jesus. But damage to my sense of trust had already been done. Because it had taken me so long to rest on the truth of who it was that had spoken… and because my (courageously) open heart had been so open that I almost let the enemy trick me into believing a terrible lie, about Jesus and about myself.

Ever since then, I have struggled to be open to trust anyone, even myself, to tell me the truth. I trust Jesus, with all that I am. But most of the time, I don’t trust myself to discern what He’s saying to me. And I can’t explain how terrifying that is. I’ve tried, so many times; I attempted seeing a counselor about it for a while, and I still haven’t found the words to express how helpless and rotten this has made me feel. No words feel sufficient.

So over the summer, when I faced a decision I thought deserved a no but was afraid should be a yes, I didn’t know what to do. I’d still been speaking to Him, even when I didn’t understand His end of the conversation, so I told Him about it. About how scared I was. About how I’d do anything He wanted me to do, and how I so hoped He didn’t want me to do this. About how confused I was and how lost I felt.

A few days later, I read the story of when He faced the enemy’s lying, imitating voice Himself.

Before Jesus began traveling with the disciples, He spent forty days alone in the wilderness– isolated, exposed, and without resources. He faced consistent temptation every one of those days, and He had no food during them. By day forty, He was weary and starving. The enemy saw that vulnerability, and said to Jesus:

“If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”

Jesus could have done it. Jesus probably wanted to do it. And most interesting of all: the act itself, of turning a stone to bread so He could nourish His starving body? It wasn’t an inherently bad, sinful thing to do. It even made sense.

But Jesus didn’t do it.

Why?

Because He knew who was telling Him to do it.

The voice telling Him to do it was telling Him to prove Himself– “If you are the Son of God,” it had said. And Jesus knew He had to do no such thing. He knew who He was already. And He knew His Father wouldn’t make Him question that or ask Him to prove it. Jesus knew that in His Father He had security and safety. So when the voice speaking to Him didn’t display those truths, He knew to reject it.

The enemy presented many more temptations to Jesus during that time, but the last one was unique. He brought Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple, and told Him:

“If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'”

The “if” statement was there again, but there was something more complicated in play, too: the enemy had quoted scripture.

It is wildly unsettling to know that the enemy can use scripture, but I’ve witnessed it so many times, in my culture and my church experience and my own mind. I struggle so much to trust anyone’s interpretation of scripture, my own included, because deception isn’t exempt even there. But Jesus experienced this, too. And He knew how to face it head on. The enemy used scripture, yes–

But he didn’t use love.

Because he doesn’t have any. That is his dead giveaway:

God is Love.

Love is the defining context of all of scripture, because love is God’s character. If it isn’t love, God doesn’t do it and He doesn’t ask us to do it. When the enemy told Jesus to jump off a building as a sign of faith, Jesus knew that His Father who loved Him would not do that to Him or ask that of Him.

He also knew scripture; that while it did host the words the enemy said, it hosted other words, too. He knew scripture required context to be properly understood. And He knew the words Love had for Him were not the ones that had been spoken; instead, the correct words were: “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” So He spoke those words back to the voice, the enemy’s voice. Eventually, the enemy saw his efforts weren’t working, and he left.

Jesus knew His Father. He knew He was well-loved by His Father. And that was the pillar of truth for Him, who is Truth. That was what kept Him firm.

It is still so hard for me to trust that I’m walking in the truth. But I stick by Him. I study scripture intently, to see what love looks like manifested through Him. And though I admit I approach the Bible and His presence with a measure of fear every day, what I find there is not crushing– it is life-breathing. It is Him. It is love. I see that love is patient and kind, doesn’t insist on its own way. And that greatest love does not push us down– it lays down everything for us. Like He has always done.

I’d had it wrong. I knew that love leads us to suffer for the other person, but I didn’t understand what that meant. I wasn’t even aware that I thought this… but I thought that Jesus wanted me to love Him by suffering. I thought He was telling me to suffer and that it would prove I loved Him.

He was not. He would not.

Jesus knew it when He refused to jump from the temple roof, and I am finally learning it for myself.

Love does lead us to suffer for the other person. Love does not lead us to tell the other person to suffer.

That is not love, that is manipulation and cruelty and fear. When anyone else acts that way, it’s usually obvious to us that they aren’t being loving. Why do we automatically assume God, who is Love, might be the cruel and controlling exception?

Why do we continue to think that God, who is Love, would be less loving than we are?

Jesus laid Himself down to suffer for those He loved. He told us to follow Him in doing the same for others. He did not tell us that in order to love Him, we must suffer. Instead, He told us that when we love Him, suffering will come and He will be with us in it. He is not the source of the suffering; He is not behind it, He does not bring it on, and He does not want it for us. He faces the inevitable suffering with us, even after He suffered for us. That’s what love does.

Love doesn’t hurt others– it hurts for and with others.

Love lays itself down– it doesn’t push others down.

That’s what I hold to. That’s the heart I seek behind every voice. And if that heart isn’t there, I reject the voice and I wait for His. For the truth. I sit with Him, let Him wrap me up wordlessly, nestle in close.

Because, while I still struggle to be sure of His voice… I can always be sure of His presence. His overwhelmingly soft and kind presence.

He keeps my feet on solid ground, even as He lifts me up off my toes.

He’s love.

Soul Food

Soul Food {October 2017}

I am always channeling Anne Shirley, but it’s especially apparent when I obsess over the natural beauty of October all month long. Inwardly, this month has been weird, but also good; I’m ready to enter into a new one with a fresh mindset. Here’s a peek at some of the art and media that kept me company as I grew.

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  • “The Sky is a Neighborhood” by Foo Fighters. This is going to be a classic someday. What a solid, meaningful rock ballad.
  • “Diving” by Bridgit Mendler ft. RKCB. Everything about it feels so dreamy and unreal, yet it’s vulnerable, too. I’m obsessed. The music video is also cool and ethereal.
  • Nick Voelker’s “Ghost Friendly” album. I so enjoy his unique acoustic-driven style and charming voice, and he pairs it with some sincere and poetic songwriting. I think every song on the album is worthwhile and good; my favorites might be “Distance” (so beautiful) “The Afterglow” “Momentum” and “Temporary.”
  • Emily Hearn’s “Paris, or Wherever We Are” ep. I celebrate female artists who have rich voices, poetic lyrics, and cozy melodies. Representation is important; when we see people like us doing things we wish we could do, we start to believe we can do them. Emily is one of those inspirations for me. This is ep is lovely and tells a story between the lines.
  • “Do You..” by CASS. Her passionate and modern style pairs well with her non-cliché faith-based songwriting, which isn’t something I feel a lot of CCM artists have pulled off lately; I really enjoy what I’ve heard from her.
  • Will Champlin’s cover of “Angel Dream.” Gentle, emotional, and lovely laced with his wonderfully raspy voice.
  • “Hericane” by LANY. I feel like I mention a song from this album every month, but I’m okay with that. “I love you still, I always will, but you’re the one in the wrong…”

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

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  • Pirates of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. I didn’t have expectations for it, since this is the fifth film in the franchise and we didn’t honestly need the fourth, but I ended up really enjoying it! The new characters are loveable and that ending was so satisfying. Also, I’m not unconvinced that Brenton Thwaites wasn’t created in a lab to play Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley’s offspring. Speaking of which…
  • I’ve watched quite a few Brenton Thwaites interviews. Because after seeing him in Pirates I thought this young man had a bright future in film and I wanted to see what he was doing next. It turns out he’s not a child, he’s 28 and has a child. And he’s been acting for years and has already done a bunch of big projects both in the US and Australia; I’ve just been oblivious. Anyway, I really enjoyed this interview with him. He seems intelligent and free-spirited and fun.
  • Designated Survivor. I’m not as invested this season as I was last season, but there’s enough to keep me watching for now.
  • The Good Doctor. Although I stopped following his career when he landed Bates Motel (much too creepy for me), I’ve always thought Freddie Highmore was a fantastic actor. I like seeing him take on this new role of a young surgeon with autism; so far he’s nailing it! Not every episode is great writing-wise, though. And sometimes the surgery footage is too much for me.
  • The Mentalist. Just started season five, and it’s getting real.
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming. Because it came out on dvd and I own it and I’m so happy about it.
  • Kati Morton’s video on handling flashbacks. Kati is a licensed therapist and her videos on mental health/self care are such a helpful resource.
  • This Andrew Garfield interview. I get proud little sisters feelings for him often, even when he’s a goof.
  • War for The Planet of The Apes. A stunning end to a stunning trilogy. My family unanimously loved it. Caesar is such a cool character and his story holds so much.
  • The Sixth Sense. My brother introduced me to it this Halloween. Compelling, entertaining, and surprising. I’m not at all a fan of scary movies but this was more eerie than scary; I really enjoyed it.

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  • The Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness. I went into it not knowing if I’d like them– and I fell in love with them. They begin with a boy named Todd who lives in a town of all men, where everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in endless streams of Noise. He’s been told their history, about a virus that killed all the women and gave all the men their Noise, but when he finds a pocket of silence (and the source of it) out in the woods, he starts learning maybe he wasn’t told the truth, and seeing how dangerous the truth might be. These are so gripping, thematically valuable, and special. I wrote in-depth reviews on my Goodreads for each book– The Knife of Never Letting GoThe Ask and The Answer, and Monsters of Men— if you’re interested. I so recommend these books. There are also three short stories that go with the series and are meant to be “half-books,” and they’re interesting, too, though not necessary to understanding the trilogy.
  • “Rumors of the Real” by Sarah Bessey. “Someday we may stand before Jesus like I stood before Van Gogh’s paintings in that gallery. We will be overwhelmed with beautiful reality, tears falling down our face, all arguments and timelines and histories and opinions and theologies cast down to roll away to the corners because their insufficiency to fully see and understand and touch the clarity of God.”
  • “The Reverse Side of Hospitality” by Addie Zierman. Vulnerable and lovely insight about being on the receiving end when you’re used to being the giver. “I can invite others into the spaciousness of my own heart. I can receive the gift of a place to stay.”
  • “There’s Blessing in the Longing” by Glenna Marshall. A friendly, knowing voice to sit with you in the ache for a few minutes.
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Engaging, witty, sweet, heartbreaking, and important.
  • I also gave up on two books this month, because I finally realized I am not obligated to keep reading something I’m not enjoying or learning from.

What fed you this month?