So many lovely things came with this month for me. Some of them are works of art and media; let’s talk about them!
- “Perfect” and “Hearts Don’t Break Around Here” by Ed Sheeran. I never really got on the Ed Sheeran train, but I’ve been trying to listen to the new albums the people around me get excited about, and his latest is one of them. I definitely understand why he’s so widely loved. While there are occasional things content-wise that bother me (aka romanticizing excessive drinking/clubbing), he is a wonderfully genuine songwriter and I think he meets a generation where they are in a lovely way. I’m sharing my two favorites from the album. The man can write a love song.
- I’ve also been listening to Ed Sheeran’s older song “Kiss Me.”
- “Call Me Out” by Sarah Close. Happened upon it and immediately put it on repeat all day. Chill and a jam at the same time.
- “Falling Into You” by Hillsong Young & Free. Dancey and positive. “I wanna love you like you love me…”
- “Dreaming With a Broken Heart” by John Mayer. Yeah, I’ve mentioned John Mayer every month this year; his new album comes out next month so he’ll probably be in that one, too. Deal with it.
- Mat Kearney’s version of “Dancing In The Dark.” Wrap up in a blanket, close your eyes, and lean into this one. His version brings out the sadness behind the desperate words.
- Lindsey Stirling’s “Brave Enough” album. Violin + dubstep/electronic vibes + a good handful of talented guests + exploring love and loss = a stunning album I should not have waited so long to lend my ear to. My favorites from it are “Brave Enough (ft. Christina Perri)” “Those Days (ft. Dan + Shay)” “Gavi’s Song” and “Love’s Just a Feeling (ft. Rooty)” (also, definitely watch the music video; it’s unique and sweet and tells a huge story in under four minutes, and was what got me to listen to the full album).
- Jetty Rae’s “Can’t Curse The Free” album. Her voice is one of my favorites, period; she manages to do so much with it. I enjoy her organic style interlaced with the beautiful melodies and poetic, honest songwriting. My favorite from her latest album is “The River” (stunning songwriting), but I also love “Can’t Curse The Free” “Another Town” and “Coast to Coast.”
- “Diazepam” by Turnover. An interesting story inside an infectious song. I really like the 70s/90s soft rock vibe that carries it.
- Andrew Belle. Basically everything by him. I love the entire “Black Bear” album, and his single “Dive Deep” is amazing, too. He can combine feel-good tunes with a perfect amount of moodiness, and I think it’s unique and lovely.
- “The Best Things in Life Are Free” by Sam Cooke. I’m learning that classic big band music is one of my favorite genres out there! This short and sweet recording gets me every time. His voice is killer.
If your music taste is all over the place like mine and you want to listen to every song I’ve talked about today, I have a playlist on YouTube and on Spotify. I use this playlist for the whole year, so the latest additions will be near the bottom.
- Dinotopia: The Series. My favorite show from middle school. It’s so cheesy and cringey but the nostalgia still makes it super enjoyable for me. I also still kind of want to live there.
- Sho Baraka’s response to being removed from Lifeway Christian Bookstores. So well stated and respectful. Ironically, this situation is what led me to listen to his album, and I think it’s pretty powerful.
- Doctor Strange. I had no prior knowledge of his story– and now I think it’s so cool. The process of becoming humbled and looking outside himself was a treat to see unfold. Plus, the film is visually intricate and engrossing, and it’s a superhero movie in my beloved Marvel universe, and it’s just… cool!
- “What’s On My Head? Challenge (ft Mayim Bialik)” on Good Mythical Morning. So freaking funny. “Is it one of those, like… chefs?”
- Andrew Garfield holding a baby while on the set on Amazing Spider-Man 2. Because why I would not watch this if it exists?
- Father of The Bride. Ridiculous yet heartwarming.
- “Hoping for an Airport Reunion: One Refugee Family’s Story.” We need these stories to be shared everywhere. We need everyone to know the facts and humanity behind the refugee crisis.
- Designated Survivor. It just returned this month after a winter hiatus, and the suspense is still high for me.
- That Thing You Do. Super cute and witty film about a rock band finding stardom in the early sixties. Tom Hanks is a favorite of mine and he’s great in it.
- “What Winter Feels Like” by SoSonia on SoulPancake. I have friends who deal with seasonal affective disorder; hearing these words from that perspective was inspiring.
- Moana. I didn’t have expectations for it, really; I tend to be cynical about things that have a lot of hype. But I ended up loving this film. Beautiful music, fun characters, and inspiring lessons about being fully present in the powerful person you are.
- Collateral Beauty. Holy. Cow. You have to see this. It is so poignant and powerful and lovely. I don’t cry over movies beyond a moment of watery eyes, but this? Sobs that lasted into the credits. I will keep thinking about it, and it will be an enduringly important film to me.
- Waaaaay too many videos about running an Etsy business (because I started my own!). I collected some of the more helpful videos in an unlisted YouTube playlist if that’s something you could use.
- The new Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer! I squealed over/shared every new poster they revealed, friends tagged me in the trailer when it was released, and I already have people I’m seeing the movie with when it comes out in July, because I am not playing around, this is Spider-Man, you guys! I’m elated.
- Continued watching The Mentalist and Scorpion.
- Eve by Wm. Paul Young. Refreshes an air of magic and wonder for the story of Creation/Eden/The Fall to those of us who grew up with it, and breaks down lies we believe about God and ourselves to replace them with the truth of what Love is and does. The sweet and dynamic characters and the gripping plot are an added bonus. I’d take a little bit of the content with a grain of salt, but it is a work of fiction so I’m not sure the author is asking us to believe some of the elements of the story to be reality in the first place. Definitely worth a read.
- “Good News: God Will Not Use You” by Carolyn Watts. I think it’s important to refine platitudes from our personal theology, and am grateful for writing like this that helps us do that. “God made us not for his use but as an overflow of his love. “
- “The Church We Leave Behind” by Amy Sondova. I have been going through a similar process; hearing someone speak into my situation with clarity and a “me, too” was a deep need met. “Change can’t happen in hardened hearts, so sometimes we need to dust off our sandals and move on. It happened to Jesus and the apostles and we can expect the same.”
- The Violet Fairy Book edited by Andrew Lang. Weird and wonderful, with illustrations that give me heart eyes. I spent a whole year reading it, though, not gonna lie.
- “Dear You Who Feels Wounded” by Ann Voskamp. Ann writes warm embraces you can crumble into. This is so, so good.
- This review of The Parent Trap. So. Freaking. Funny.
- “So I Quit Drinking” by Sarah Bessey. Beautiful thoughts on conviction, holiness, and finding balance in the extremes. “Conviction is less about condemnation than it is about invitation.” [She also wrote this post-script which is important, too.]
- “Lie #3: God is in Control” by Wm. Paul Young. I’m not sure about my full thoughts on this yet. But it sure has made me think. I think agree with a lot of it.
- “Of Lent and Emptiness” by Addie Zierman. Her writing always seems to put words to the hidden tensions we might feel. “’This year,’ she suggested. ‘I think you should give up trying to muster up any response at all. Say to yourself I am free to have emotions, but I refuse to generate them.‘”
- You can keep up with my reading progress and see my full book reviews on my Goodreads if you want to!
What fed you this month?
This month has been one full of changes and transitions, but I know it’s all working toward the positive, so I am (slowly) learning to open my arms to it instead of walling myself up. Here are some of the things I’ve been taking with me.
- Philip Serino’s renditions of “All Love Can Be” and “Annie’s Song.” This month I could be found lying on my bedroom floor, soaking these in. Stunning in every way.
- Spencer Kane and Alexis Slifer’s cover of “This Is Living.” The arrangement and their voices are so lovely. Ten times better than the original.
- The Gray Havens’ “Ghost of a King” album. They make such special music; it’s lovely, it’s dynamic, and they put so much thought and meaning into their lyrics. Sometimes it almost feels like reading the Chronicles of Narnia. My absolute favorite from the album is “At Last, The King.” I also like “Take This Slowly” “Diamonds and Gold” and “Go.”
- Heath McNease’s “Who Knows? Who Cares?” album. Honest, real, hopeful, thoughtful. I love how he can marry chill sound with hip-hop so seamlessly. My favorite from it has to be the title track, but I also love “Wide-Eyed Skeleton.”
- “Top of The World” by Anthem Lights. Super fun. Also, I know it’s like two years old, but I didn’t know about it back then, okay?!
- The sped-up version of Fifth Harmony’s cover of “Red.” [Complicated enough?] I heard a snippet of this on a video and searched the internet until I found the whole thing. There’s just something lovely and heart-wrenching about it for me.
- “Dive Deep” by Andrew Belle. I’ve loved his work, so of course his new single would be fantastic to me, too. Stuck in my head and sung under my breath often.
- “The Man” by Aloe Blacc. I have to dance when I hear this. Have to. “Been through the worst but I still give my best; God made my mold different from the rest, then He broke that mold so I know I’m blessed.”
If you want to listen to all this music in one place, I’ve got a playlist for you! All of my music recommendations from this year are there, but if you want only this month’s you can scroll to near the bottom.
- This stupid clip oh my gosh! I mostly use my “watch later” list on YouTube as a place to put music I’m not sure belongs to a playlist yet, but I put this there because someone sent it to me and I truly did intend to watch it later. It now interjects a playlist otherwise made of music, and makes me laugh way too hard to want to remove it. It seriously surprises me every time.
- The videos that the New Age Creators have been putting on Soul Pancake. These young adults make such thoughtful, heartfelt content and it’s been a joy to see what they want to talk about, whether it’s happiness, travel, creativity, passion, insecurity, learning a second language, anxiety, being a grown-up (possibly my favorite), or the internet.
- Ben Rector’s music video for his song “Brand New.” I already really liked the song, and the fact that he spent his music video budget on a trip to Six Flags makes it that much better.
- This video from Twitter. I cried laughing. “Ya’ll mind if I praise God?”
- Edgar Allan Poe’s Murder Mystery Dinner Party. This comedy webseries about a gathering of classic writers has been long-anticipated, and it’s finally here! It’s an eleven-part series and only two episodes are out right now so I can’t give much of an opinion yet, but so far I think it is so funny, as well as just a well-written, visually gorgeous piece. Clayton Snyder (freaking Ethan Craft!) as Dostoevsky is everything.
- “Singing Without Sound,” a short glimpse into the life and methods of singer/songwriter Mandy Harvey, who lost her hearing. Music is my passion so losing my hearing is a terrifying thought, but she has lived it and risen so high above it. And she makes such lovely music.
- “HOW IT’S MADE: Christian Music.” Hilarious and too real.
- Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. Because it’s one of my favorite films and I’m thankful to Gene Wilder for bringing so much magic to it.
- “This Is the Cure for Awkwardness, If You Are Awkward, Which I Am Sometimes, and You Might Be Too. Sometimes” by Nika Maples. I love this. “We would be surprised what God would call good, if you and I brought it to Him and thanked Him for it.”
- “How to Catch a Falling Star: An Adoption Story” by Ann Voskamp. The way she found herself in her new daughter… and finds all of us in the process… wildly moving. Tears showed up for me.
- Deborah Apy’s retelling of “Beauty and The Beast.” It’s a picture book, but it’s almost like it was made for grown-ups to enjoy. The language is beautiful, and I think it’s a lovely, well-focused version of the story. A true fairytale.
- “Spiritual Warfare In The Better Covenant” by Jonathan Welton. So interesting and groundbreaking. I personally have seen people become so much more alive and powerful in the most healthy, humble ways because they decided to accept the authority Christ has given them, stop giving the enemy such attention in their life, and walk in truth with themselves.
- “Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway” by Susan Jeffers. So impactful for me. A few parts of the book are a bit out there, but so much of it is transformative truth about our abilities to make good choices, be in control of ourselves, and handle whatever we face. I so recommend it. [Psst, I review all my books on Goodreads if you’re into that!]
- Joshua Harris’ apology for “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.” This is huge. I feel bad that people have been rudely outspoken with him, but I still teared up reading this because I never expected him to recant what he’d written to millions of people. He has gained a lot of respect from me, and forgiveness I didn’t know I needed to give him. Thankful.
I am so grateful to my Father for giving me so many things that spoke comfort and assurance to my soul. He never leaves us to fend for ourselves. Everything on these lists this month was grace.
- Christian Collins. I mentioned him last month, but– and this is way exciting– he just released his first single, “You Don’t Have to Go.” It is just so good, musically and thematically; the heart of safety, coming home, and belonging is powerful to me. I listen to it all the time. Huge, huge, huge fan of his.
- “Don’t Mess With My Girl” by Jon McLaughlin. This song is a blast and I love knowing that he wrote it for his little daughter. His song “These Crazy Times” was also a helpful thinking-space for me this month. Close your eyes and listen to the lyrics, especially the second half.
- “Echo” by Jason Walker. Sad, lovely, a lament. Sometimes I need music like it.
- Andrew Belle’s “Black Bear (Hushed)” ep. His songwriting has such depth and beauty in it; lyrically it is profound and thoughtful, melodically it is comfortable and down-home. “Hushed” is his slowed down ep of a selection of songs from his full “Black Bear” album, which I also really enjoy, but “Hushed” just hits me. My favorites from it are “Pieces” and “Sister.”
- “No Answers” and “Eight Long Months” by Zach Winters. His music is a cathedral for me. Musically ethereal, lyrically insightful and thoughtful and poetic.
- “Blue” by Vocal Few. I wanted to cry the first time I heard this, because sometimes I fear there isn’t someone in the world who would say these things. It whispered hope to me.
- Holly Ann’s “Light & Bloom” album. Gorgeous, thoughtful, and raw. I fall for it more every time I listen to it. Get it on Noisetrade! My favorite from it is definitely “Rivers End,” but I also love “First Love” “Dead Alive” and “Carry You.”
- Mat Kearney’s “Just Kids” album. He is one of my favorites, and this album is equal parts fun and haunting; I smile and get misty-eyed throughout. It’s strangely therapeutic, in the best possible way. My favorite songs from it are “Just Kids” “Ghost” “One Heart” “Shasta” and “Air I Breathe.”
- “Sing Brave” by Brandon Heath. I love his narrative songs, and this one is so personal and moving. It uplifts me.
- “Clumsy” by Chris Rice. Because it is so relevant to what I’m learning about being a flawed, broken person, and being loved anyway.
- Of course I listened to Christmas music this month! Three gorgeous eps in particular I found this year have become favorites I’ll be enjoying for many more years to come: Evan Wickham’s “Christmas Music Vol. 1” (“End of Exile” is my favorite), Jetty Rae’s “More Than December” (her version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is like a cozy blanket), and Amy Stroup’s “You Make The Cold Disappear” (“Love’s a Light” nearly made me cry with it’s gorgeousness).
- Evynne Hollens’ voice lessons series. She has been such a blessing to me by making these. I learn little tips on strengthening my voice and my confidence each time she uploads a new one. Thank you, Evynne!
- The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part II. This story has so much to teach us about humanity, peace, war, and brokenness. It’s hard to see but I think it’s worth it. Grateful to see it with my best friend and hold hands with her. [Graphic/violent.]
- “A Shadow of a Doubt”— a spoken word by Joseph Solomon. This met me right where I was, in my hurt and my questions. It’s wildly, beautifully real.
- These guys making up Christmas pick-up lines. They’re so cheesy and cringey but I was still cracking up. And that one about the Christmas list? Honestly, I’m sold.
- “You Are Who You Are in The Dark.” My friends directed, wrote, and starred in this short film/spoken word, but I’m not sharing it for that reason. I think it’s incredibly powerful. I cried over it.
- Santa Claus Is Coming to Town. I’m not quite sure why, but this movie is a place of bliss and light-hearted happiness for me. When I dream of winter or hear certain songs that take me into quiet, cozy moments, scenes from the forest in this film come to my head. I treasure it.
- This video unpacking what it means to take the Lord’s name in vain. Someone finally said it!
- “Resolutions: I Promise”— a spoken word by Natalie Patterson. I love these promises she makes to herself. These matter.
- Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. I’m not generally a Star Wars person, but the new film is just a solid piece of work. Wonderful characters and interesting plot points. I genuinely enjoyed it and don’t regret seeing it!
- The Book of Ember Series by Jeanne DuPrau. These stories may be written for tweens, but I had a wonderful, thoughtful experience with them. They are such simple yet lovely insights into humanity and learning to use what we all have to carry hope and to make the world better. My only word of caution: book three of four is a prequel, and it’s good, but I wish I had read it last instead; it interrupted my time with my sweet characters!
- “God Has a Surprise for You” by Micha Boyett. A beautiful, honest way to ponder the unexpected. “What do we say? Well, yesterday an angel arrived and called me blessed among women. So that changes everything.”
- “Everyone’s Screwed Up, Busted Up, and Catching Up: And That’s Okay” by J.S. Park. I needed this so badly. “There’s this Secret Guilt going around that we’re all halfway hypocritical frauds who will maybe one day catch up to an awesome version of ourselves. It’s a desperate hope that we’ll eventually do what we’re preaching with our mouths and our blogs. And then we blow up or flip a table or punch a wall and that monster comes out, and we think ‘Where did that even come from?’ — and the Guilt chokes the pit of our stomach again.”
- “When Your Heart’s Aching for a Bit of a Christmas Miracle in The Midst of a Lot of Mess” by Ann Voskamp. I cried reading this. When we run out of hope, He does not. He meets us in our emptiness, and gives us His own heart to take the place of our failing one.
- Sarah Bessey’s series inspired by advent. The one about joy was just so pure and spot-on, and the one about love met me where I was. She links to all of the posts in series at the bottom.
- Addie Zierman’s first Dear Addie advice column. Being lonely or feeling different within a church community isn’t rare, and I learn that more and more over time. These words of advice and comfort on that topic feel like they were written by a loving big sister.
- “Before You Make That New Year’s Resolution” by Scott Sauls. Ignore the cheesy name of the post; there are so many solid pieces of truth and guidance here about true change and gospel-centered growth.
- “16 Uncomfortable Feelings That Actually Indicate You’re on The Right Path” on Thought Catalog. My best friend sent this to me as food for thought. It encouraged me. Discomfort doesn’t mean your situation is bad. Sometimes we have growing pains. And that’s okay.
- “Don’t Waste Your Weaknesses” by John Piper. I have been thinking about the concept of our flaws being important to our purposes almost all month, and this reminded me that it’s actually a biblical concept! Things are starting to click a little better in my brain now. Please give this a few minutes of your time.
I’m taking part in Leigh Kramer’s “What I’m Into” link-up. As usual, if you want to see more content along these lines written by a diverse group of people, give it a look! Looking forward to more discoveries in 2016.