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 75 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.

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 75 total. Let’s do it.

Reading more books. | Reading the Jesus Storybook Bible. | Reading more fairy tales. | Reading the Anne of Green Gables series.

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!

On The Work of My Brain & My Heart

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clothes-4-4-13“I think I need to work on this,” I said, pointing to my temples. “Maybe if I get back into the habit of working on this, this,” I now pointed to the left side of my chest, “will start healing a bit, too.”

My head and my heart need work. They always do; I’m a human being living through the process, and that’s totally okay. It’s just that, especially lately, they haven’t been doing as well as I’d like them to. After I said those things to myself about my brain and my heart, the Lord chimed in on the conversation.

“It’s the opposite,” He said simply.

I was frozen in the realization of those words for a minute. Physically speaking, if the heart isn’t doing it’s job, the rest of the body can’t do it’s job very well (or even for much longer), either. The brain is wildly important, but it needs the heart to give it life in order to keep working. The heart is what it all comes down to.

I had told myself that if I could just take control of my thinking, I would feel a lot better and would start being a healthy spirit again. I viewed my brain as the primary problem. And yes, so much of the battle is in my thinking and I have a lot of power there.

But have it backwards if I think my brain is in charge of the state of my heart.

Have I been focusing so much on making my brain healthy and taking control of it, that I’ve made it my master, in a way? I’m naturally an emotional person, and have learned that often I have to tell my feelings the truth. But maybe I’ve been so cautious about making sure I tell my heart the truth that I’ve undermined all the good my heart does.

No, my heart doesn’t always have a grasp on reality. But it isn’t stupid. It has grown and learned; it listens, even if it doesn’t retain things for too long and needs to be reminded often. My intuition, my empathy, even my general everyday emotions– they all come from my heart, and they’re important. They make me a better person… make me a person at all. I need them. The darkest time of my life was when I didn’t have them.

I think I’ve forgotten what a gift it is to have a heart.

If my heart is healthy, the rest of me is going to be much healthier than if my heart wasn’t doing well. “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life,” the Lord says. If I want to take care of the rest of me, I have to make sure my heart is being cared for. I can’t let my brain do all the work, when my heart is what gives my brain its life in the first place. 

The brain is not superior to the heart; research tells us that they send signals to each other, and that the heart sends more than the brain does. I’m realizing the same is true spiritually, too. If my heart isn’t well, my thinking and my behavior will suffer. In order for me to live in the best quality of life I can, I need a healthy heart. I need to give it credit for the good it does and allow it to do those things.

I’m going to take care of my heart. And I believe the best way to do that is to give it to Him to care for, and submit to the work He wants to do. He is the only heart-changer, and I can trust Him to do it. He’s been doing it since there were human hearts to change.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me,” said a man who lived in the B.C. 1000s. That man had made a terrible choice, and his heart was in an unhealthy state. But when he sought a new heart from God, God didn’t turn away in disgust; God restored him, and gave him blessing after blessing throughout his life, even through the other bad choices he made and continual heart-healing he needed. Our healing, our good, is His desire. Whatever my heart might look like, it’s one that belongs to someone He loves and is committed to.

He’s the caretaker in here (I’m pointing to my chest).

And maybe when work happens in this, this (I’m pointing to my head) will start healing a bit, too.

 

Soul Food {November 2016}

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Art has been extra important to me lately, both the art I make and the art I’m taking in. Let’s chat about some of it!

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  • Audio Adrenaline’s “Until My Heart Caves In” album. This is one of my favorite albums of all time. Meaningful and melodically masterful. It is so nostalgic for me; I won’t pick favorites from it.
  • “When We Collide” by Jon Foreman. Sweeping and heart-grasping.
  • Anthem Lights’ “Magical Medleys” Disney covers ep. Exceeded my expectations! Super fun but also arranged so beautifully.
  • “Wild World” by Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors. We need this. I’ve been singing it to myself all month long as a reminder.
  • “When” by Dodie. Sometimes a song captures a feeling you didn’t even understand you had, and sings that knowledge to you with a comforting touch. This is one of those.
  • “Love Me Now” by John Legend. I might not ever be able to get over this man’s voice. There’s also a lovely version of this song by Kurt Hugo Schneider, Madilyn Bailey, and Blake Rose.
  • “Pop Out Revenge” by Social Club. I’d been needing a new jam with a solid beat and wow did this do the trick.
  • “Love on The Weekend” by John Mayer. So calm and lovely. I painted to it late at night, then woke up with it in my head; I loved it in both places.
  • “Do You Miss Me At All” by Bridgit Mendler. Just a nice little something to groove with.
  • “Brother” by The Brilliance. “When I look into the face of my enemy, I see my brother.”
  • I’m getting back into my Christmas music! All Christmas season I have playlist, and add to it if I find more songs I love. You can find that playlist on YouTube or (most of it) on Spotify if you want!

Speaking of playlists: if you want all of these songs in one playlist, I’ve made it for you! You can listen to it on YouTube or on Spotify.

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  • “Forgiveness in an Age of Anger,” a TED talk by Brant Hansen. Reminders I needed, and probably a lot of us need right now.
  • “Eddie Redmayne Plays ‘Heads Up!’ with Ellen.” My throat hurt from laughing at this! Eddie is one of my favorites. There’s also this video of him screaming in terror at a clip of himself singing as a child.
  • Barbie and The Magic of Pegasus. An animated film I grew up with that still puts me in the warmest mood.
  • Rewatched every “Craftversations” episode because it’s just so enjoyable and cozy.
  • Rhett and Link doing the “Crazy Cookie Roulette Challenge.” So funny! Mostly because Link’s gem of dad guest-hosts.
  • Pride & Prejudice. The 2005 film is so beautiful. What a timeless and lovely story.
  • Continued watching The Mentalist and Scorpion.

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  • Anne’s House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery. This series makes me so happy.
  • “Amy Grant’s Tennessee Christmas for The Bruised.” In case you still thought the Christian music industry was a lovely place where people are treated fairly. It’s an industry just like any other, except it pastes Jesus’ name over their choices, to add a little extra sting. I’m working on praying for it instead of being bitter toward it.
  • “The Kind of Christian I Refuse to Be” by John Pavlovitz. I’ve struggled with calling myself a Christian for a few years now and this explains why so well.
  • “The Lack of Gentle Platonic Touch in Men’s Lives Is a Killer.” So interesting and something I’ve seen to be true in my life and the lives of men I know. Our culture is in need of healing here and I think more people are seeing that.
  • The Veil by Blake K. Healy. Healy explains his giftings humbly and practically (yes, he explains seeing the spiritual realm in a way that makes it practical), with the intent being to simply share his story and impart insight to those who seek it. It made me think and it made me sit back in awe. There’s a lot to learn here about our role in the spiritual world that we’re living in and taking part in, and I’m really grateful to have read it. [You can see my reading progress and read my reviews in real time on Goodreads if you want to!]

When It’s Not What You Pictured: On Hamsters & Hope

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I’ve wanted a hamster for a long time. I grew up with hamsters in my home and they were such sweet little delights… but two years is not much time to spend with something you love so much. Their lifespan began to hurt me a bit more each time I experienced another loss. Eventually, I decided I didn’t want to go through those losses anymore. I stopped getting hamsters and for the most part shut them out of my mind.

But this year, my desire started peeking out at me again. Hamsters are so precious, and every time they crossed my mind I wanted one in my life. Yet I still couldn’t escape the knowledge that I’d have such a short time with my new friend… that I’d be left with a guaranteed heartbreak every two years. It scared me.

I used to think I was terrible at hope because I can be so cynical, but I’m learning that’s not true. I’m actually proficient in hoping for things. The thing I’m truly not good at is rejoicing in hope. That’s the hard part.

I hope for things all the time, but rarely am I joyful about it; usually, I am deeply afraid. Over the course of time, I have walled myself up and begun approaching opportunities and ideas with an already defeated attitude. It has led me to keep myself from even trying to purse the things I want.

I’ve been trained to see the obstacles and trials in front of me as reasons not to continue, instead of reasons to believe what comes with them must be worth fighting for.

I’ve also been taught that I can’t have such high hopes if I don’t want to be crushed. I became so hurt by disappointment and lost hopes that I tried to stop hoping altogether. I tried to be satisfied with everything, even if it wasn’t what I wanted it to be. Soon, I started believing nothing would be what I wanted it to be. And it terrified me.

I remember calling a friend a few months ago and lamenting to her because I wanted so badly to be somewhere else in life, but knew the key to a truly happy life was contentment in all circumstances, and I just could not find the balance between those two places. She told me: “I think a little restlessness is healthy. If we were fully content with every element of our lives, we’d never grow or move into the better things laid out for us. Not that you should be ungrateful or impatient. But I think it’s okay that you want something new.” I ruminated over her words and found comfort in them. I realized that contentment does not mean you don’t ever want anything; it means you are grateful for what you have and are not demanding for more, as if you are owed anything. I can be content and grateful for my circumstances, even as I seek to enter different ones.

One of the biggest parts of hope is believing for the good in things. It is focusing on what could go right rather than what could go wrong, choosing to feed joy and love instead of cynicism and fear.

So when my birthday began approaching this year and my mom asked me what I wanted… I brought up hamsters.

A month later, my mom approached me the evening of my birthday with a little container in her hands. I could hear the faint scratching coming from inside it, and looked through the hole-poked plastic lid to see an incredibly tiny, fuzzy, nervous little friend.

I fell head-over-heels for him the minute we met.

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My first impression of him was spot-on: fragile and gentle, super soft– and incredibly anxious. I’d imagined I would get to hold him in my hands all the time, but that didn’t seem possible, especially after he jumped out on my first attempt and I had to rush to rescue him. I was so scared. What if I couldn’t take care of him as well as someone else could?

What if our brief time together wasn’t going to be a joy, like I hoped it would be?

The next few days, I researched training/taming techniques for nervous hamsters and began practicing them. It’s been about a month now since he came into my life; he still doesn’t want to be held much, but wow

He is such a light to me.

I love watching him burrow in his bedding; glimpsing him stretch after he wakes up from a nap; seeing him pull food out of his stuffed cheeks and start nibbling on it; giggling when he climbs the cage’s walls to the top level instead of taking the tubes; saying hello to him when he walks over to where I’m watching him and places his paws on the cage bars; murmuring nicknames and affection to him when he’s awake and just chilling in the corner; tricking him out of his cage with a treat in a mug and letting him explore the house in his ball. I absolutely adore my little guy.

I came so close to never opening myself up to him. To letting all of these things that make my life brighter and bring me deep joy pass me by, because I was afraid to get hurt by disappointment. I can tell you now:

Whatever hurt I might feel in the future is worth the absolute delight I get to live in right now.

He isn’t what I pictured. But he is still what I hoped for.

I named him Jonas, after the character of Jonas Blake in the third Anne of Green Gables book. Jonas Blake and Philippa Gordon feared loving each other because they were so different; they didn’t know how their worlds could come together. But they decided having each other was worth whatever struggles came along.

It wasn’t what they ever pictured for themselves… but it ended up being what they’d been scared to hope for.

Maybe that’s the way things happen.

And maybe we’ll get to see it for ourselves.

Maybe hope is worth the risk.