Soul Food

Soul Food {January 2017}

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


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

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


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


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

What’s been feeding you lately?

Soul Food

Soul Food {July 2016}

This month carried so many different things for me. A lot of things came out in media this month, too, and I’ve been enjoying good handfuls, so let’s talk about some of it!


  • “Amazing” by Christian Collins. If this guy makes anything, you know I’m going to promote it. Love him and the positive presence he is in the world. [Also the video is so close to a million views oh my gosh!]
  • Anthem Lights, especially their Justin Bieber, Drake, and “Single Awareness” medleys. They also recently shared a Peace & Love medley, which I think is very special. They’re just good. These guys arrange things so well and all have seriously beautiful voices. I’ve been listening to a lot of their stuff lately. (Such as…)
  • Joey Stamper’s cover of “Jealous.” Killer. I don’t even the like the original song but I’ve listened to this so many times because dang that voice.
  • Switchfoot’s new “Where The Light Shines Through” album. This album… we need it. It could not have been released at a better time for us. My hands-down favorite from it is “If The House Burns Down Tonight” (dancing and tears at the same time), but I also like “Looking For America” featuring Lecrae and “Hope Is The Anthem.”
  • “Mountain” by Jeremiah Daly. There’s just something magical about it. Comforting yet somewhat heart-wrenching. The entire album is good, honestly; I use it as lullabies on anxious nights.
  • “Better This Way” by The Early November. A guy I went to college with basically goes to hardcore shows for a living (yes, I’m jealous, too), and this month he shared a clip of this band. I went on my little internet scavenger hunt, discovered this song, and kind of fell in love with it.
  • “Afraid” by Tenth Avenue North. People are coming out with such relevant music lately and I’m loving it. Pumped for this album. “Fear never told the truth.”
  • “Up In The Air” by Tilian. A friend played this for me during a car ride thinking I might like it; she thought correctly. The word “empowering” comes to mind.
  • Relient K’s “Air For Free” album. Why are so many bands putting out such good albums right now?! This might be Relient K at its finest; both uplifting and grounding. My favorite from it is “Man.” I also really like “Bummin'”, “Empty House”, “Flower”, and “Heartache.”
  • “You & I” by Colony House. Lyrically excellent, musically their signature alt-rock with some added retro vibes! I read it was recorded in one live take, which only adds to the retro factor. I’m loving what they’re doing. Their album comes out in September, and you can pre-order it right now!
  • “I’m Not Perfect. You’re Not Perfect. Let’s Hang Out!” by Tyler Ward. First: I think the title is super cute. Second, this song is fun and danceable, while also being a beautifully honest reminder that we’re all just doing our best and can do better together. I appreciate it so much.
  • “A Prayer” by Kings Kaleidoscope. Stunning, heartwrenching, powerful.

What’s that, you say? “Tessa. Come on now. I just want one convenient playlist with all of these songs.” No worries! Not only does this playlist have this month’s music choices, but the rest of my choices from this year so far are there, too! I know: “Tessa! That’s amazing! You’re the best!” I gotchu. [The Tyler Ward song isn’t on it because it is not on YouTube.]

Movies/ YouTube/TVthe-vet-life-animal-planet

  • These brothers attempting to make artsy pancakes. Weirdly entertaining (teenage boys crack me up so bad, it’s probably a disease), and I kind of want to do this with my friends now.
  • America’s Got Talent. People are so diverse and interesting, and this show displays it. I love seeing people living in their passions.
  • Collins Key and the Merrell Twins doing the “Smoothie Challenge.” It’s gross but I laughed way too much. Their “Eat It or Wear It Challenge” is also gross and great.
  • Mike Donehey’s video journal for “Afraid.” He always speaks such truth. “Fear is just a consequence of believing a lie.”
  • The Vet Life. My dad told me he was shocked I wasn’t watching this, since it’s about veterinarians and I’m obsessed with animals. I wasn’t too interested in trying it, so imagine his surprise when I spent five hours one Saturday just enjoying seeing these fellow animal lovers take care of creatures and build relationships. They even share details about animal health and anatomy, which is just really interesting to me. [Although when they operate I definitely shield my eyes because I’m a sensitive nugget.]
  • “Tour of My Brain.” So clever. I definitely want to make something like this.
  • Christian Collins (yep I’m gonna talk about him again) creating a song out of instruments he’s never played before. First of all: how did he get so good at new instruments so fast?! Prodigy. Secondly: he makes me smile so, so much. The song is fantastic.
  • Still consistently watched Food Network Star as well as The Mentalist (although I might take a break from The Mentalist for a while because anxiety is dumb).


  • “Dear You: 5 Brave Things to Keep in Your Pocket for Hard Days in a Hard World” by Ann Voskamp. This… this feels like someone lifting my chin up, looking into my face, and speaking life into my body. Such simple but HUGE things to remember and be in awe of. “Promise yourself you’ll remember this because you will need this most: You can always have as much as God as you want.”
  • “Love Looks Like: Choices” by Sarah Bessy. I’m not even close to married, but this moved me so deeply. A stunning exploration of being two people with different perspectives still unified in love. “Now it’s funny when people ask us sometimes, how do you weather major theological differences in your marriage? I don’t know if we did it the right way. Is there even a right way? I don’t know the right answer for every marriage but here is the answer that worked for us then and seems to still be working now: Choose each other. Turn towards one another.”
  • “Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from The South of France” by Kristin Espinasse. A fun coffee table book to pick up and get a taste of France and the French language every once in a while. [You can keep up with all of my book progress on Goodreads if you ever feel stalkerish; no worries, I get it.]
  • “Guard Your Gates,” also by Sarah Bessey. I love her way of explaining the balance of being guarded while not letting fear win in you. It is so important to understand.
  • “Book of a Thousand Days” by Shannon Hale. Hale wrote what my younger self craved in fiction, and I’m finding my current self still craves those things: a mystical setting, strong/complex characters, lovely thoughts sprinkled throughout the story, questions that make me keep reading because I must know the answers, even a little non-mushy love mixed in. This book pleased me so much.
  • “When We All Ache for Justice in The World” by Tim Stafford. This has lingered in my brain since I read it; it is ringing so true to me. When we want to talk about justice, so often we immediately shift the conversation to focus on injustice. What if, instead, we sought to focus on what justice actually looks like– restoration, healing, things set right?
Soul Food

Soul Food {June 2016}

The first month of my summer was both weird and wonderful; I hope the rest of my summer is even more so. I learned quite a bit about the kind of art that’s special to me, so you’ll see some of that represented here.


  • NF’s “Therapy Session” album. Yes, I mentioned him last month; yes, I’m still 100% obsessed. Every track is truly so good and so powerful. I am such a big fan of his. A few current favorites from the album are “Real”, “I Can Feel It”, “Wish You Wouldn’t”, and “Got You On My Mind.”
  • I’ve also been listening to NF’s “Mansion” album. I was going to list my favorites from it and had actually started to, but I genuinely was naming nearly every song on the album. It is just so good. Although I will say, if you only listen to one song from this album, make it the title track. I love all the others, but this one… we need it. [P.S., I might see him live in the fall and am so giddy about it!]
  • “Fireflies” and “Verge” (ft. Aloe Blacc) by Owl City. Nostalgia and just fun (I have to dance to “Verge” every single time). I can’t hate on Owl City.
  • Louisa Wendorff’s cover/mashup of “Never Forget You” and “Close,” featuring Anthem Lights. “Hey Tessa when are you gonna stop talking about Louisa–” NEVER! She is a huge inspiration to me. Beautiful harmonies on this, in which she created a cohesive story from the songs like she always does because she’s the queen of mashups.
  • Speaking of Anthem Lights, their Drake medley is fantastic. I’m not a Drake fan but I really enjoyed this.
  • “All Of God’s Children” by Jon Foreman. The lyrics are so, so important.
  • “Waking Up Again” by Emily Hearn. Sweeping, homey, uplifting; the kind of music I can nestle into.
  • “Bluebird” by Esme Patterson. I don’t quite know how to explain it, but the sound itself of this song is encouraging to me; it’s just a kind and welcoming melody that picks me up. Lyrically lovely, too.
  • “Stone Cold” by Demi Lovato. I don’t normally listen to Demi, but when I heard this song I was stunned by it. Her vocals are crazy, the piano is haunting, and the emotion is so transparent. I’m working on learning the piano!
  • “You Know It” by Colony House. My favorite band released a new single, from their upcoming new album, so of course I’m going to share it! They’re putting out some 1960s rock vibes, and I’m into it.

If you want a playlist with all this music, I have one for you! It features all my 2016 Soul Food picks so far, so this month’s are near the bottom.


  • The music video to “I Luv Rap Music” by dc Talk. It’s horrible in the most wonderful way. Friends might say it captures my essence (hahaha!).
  • Zootopia. Both a cute film with clever design and writing, and an important film sharing that we don’t need to fear others and treat them differently; we’re all the same inside. I love what Disney has been telling our kids lately.
  • Mike Donehey’s new video journal. I love this. I’ve always been bothered by Christian culture telling me I have to be a leader; the fact that Jesus asks for followers brings such comfort.
  • Sleeping Beauty. Its art and music are such consistent sources of wonder for me; I watch it when I need to get into an inspired headspace.
  • Robin Hood. I fall into a classic Disney animation mood sometimes. This lovely film captures fairytale wonder and the influence of 1970s art/music, which happen to be two things I really enjoy.
  • “The Inspiration Shake” on New Age Creators. A practical yet poetic and cute look at some simple self care for creatives.
  • “Food Network Star.” Because I’m a nerd and the contestants are interesting. Also Rhett and Link were guest judges once and it was incredible.
  • Lecrae’s TEDtalk, “Heroes and Villains: Is Hip-Hop A Cancer or A Cure?” I think this history of hip-hop and the culture it was born from is so, so important. He articulated it excellently.

Books/Blogs/Articlesmy afternoon

  • “Me Before You” by Jojo Moyes. I have a slight rant about this novel. You can read it on my Goodreads if you’d like.
  • “Rejoice and Be Sad” by Shannan Martin. I just found comfort in this reminder that sadness is an emotion we have to feel and isn’t an indicator of how well we’re doing in life.
  • “About Those ’20 Minutes of Action:’ 20 Things We’d Better Tell Our Sons Right Now About Being Real Men” by Ann Voskamp. The truth living in this post is powerful and vital.
  • “Anne of Avonlea” by L.M. Montgomery. My first experience with this series is going so well; every character is such a delight, and Anne teaches me about myself.
  • The Bible Students Say Twitter account. An anonymous Biblical Studies professor tweets cringey lines from students’ papers, and it’s gold. And sometimes terrifying.
  • “Reclaiming ‘That Girl'” on Dear Woman. “‘That girl’ has become the poster child for too much. Too emotional, too loud, too needy, too picky. And I am convinced it has to stop. Every time we negatively refer to ‘that girl,’ there is an actual girl we are condemning.”
Soul Food

Soul Food {November 2015}

I needed some hugs this month, so a lot of my media intake was feel-good or life-speaking. Maybe these things will be pseudo-hugs for you, too? There are also a few random, fun things thrown into the mix, because life is still good.


  • “Truce” by Twenty One Pilots. Speechless. Just listen.
  • Tow’rs’ new album, “The Great Minimum.” It came out last month, and I listen to it all the time; folksy singer/songwriter fans (my kindred) will fall slowly in love with it and it will be a wonderful experience. I think my favorites from it are “The Kitchen” “Solace” and “Porcelain.” Download the album here!
  • “Merewif” by Willow Beats. This song is written from the perspective of a siren, and written brilliantly, because it’s persuasive and you want to believe it. Combined with the modern melodies, strong-yet-lovely voice, and water-inspired instrumentation, I think this is an artful piece of music.Louisa Wendorff
  • Jason Gray’s “A Way to See in The Dark” album. I wrote a review of it years ago (so it’s probably written badly, let’s be real), but this album just holds a lot of truth and encouragement in it and I always come back to it. I think the title is so fitting; the song “Without Running Away” is an old friend who would hug me in the deepest dark, and still does when I need it.
  • “Prone to Wander” and “Sometimes Love” by Chris Rice. He’s my favorite artist and I recommend everything he’s ever made, but these two were especially big for me this month.
  • “The Truth is a Cave” and “Valley (Reprise)” by The Oh Hellos. These songs are the last two on the album, and although they’re both excellent on their own, listening to them consecutively is so satisfying. It feels like a glorious conclusion that makes me want to dance.
  • “Ready to Be Myself” by David Dunn. His voice is killer, and this song is a blast to sing along to loudly when I’m in the car by myself.
  • Louisa Wendorff’s mashup of “Stay With Me” and (her original) “Every Little Thing.” I’m just obsessed with her. She is gifted in so many aspects– singing, writing, bringing sounds together– that lead her to create gorgeous music. She shines so bright, straight from the inside. Huge fan.
  • Colony House’s “When I Was Younger” album. When people ask me what my favorite song is, I mention three albums, and this is one of them. This band has helped me hold onto hope and truth and joy when things are oppressive and hard. I recommend them with all my heart.
  • Madison Cunningham’s cover of “Moon River.” I first heard her this spring, and her homey voice is a warm mug of tea to me. I love her style. This cover is simply beautiful.
  • Chris Collins’ cover of “Where Are U Now.” It’s hard to find an upbeat cover of this song, but this one is fun while still maintaining some of the melancholy, and his voice is unique and cool. Plus he’s adorable. I also like his take on “Fight Song;” it’s lovely and has a moody vibe.
  • I can’t forget to mention my Christmas playlist, here for you to enjoy if you’re looking for some new holiday jams! I only just now started listening to it again, but I’m finding new stuff I love already and I’ll definitely be adding more throughout the month.


  • J House Vlogs. They are such a sweet family, and they’ve found a golden balance so that they don’t overshare but still feel like your friends. If getting a daily glimpse of family life is something that interests you (like it interests me, for whatever reason), their videos are one of the best in the category.
  • This video that touches on why validating someone’s feelings, even if they’re not completely reasonable, is so important. Validating does not equal enabling.
  • The “That’s What He Said” series by Soul Pancake. I am fascinated by each video of these diverse men coming together to talk about their insecurities, their pasts, their feelings, their journeys of emotional health, and other subjects that men aren’t commonly encouraged to talk about. I think this series matters. [Occasional language. And I don’t agree with every view expressed, but there’s a lot of value in listening anyway.]
  • “Kid President’s 25 Reasons to Be Thankful!” Because we all need to make lists like this, and sometimes seeing someone else’s opens us up a bit to more of the world.
  • This illustrated video featuring Brené Brown speaking about the difference between empathy and sympathy. She is so eloquent, yet real; I love what she has to say. The visuals in the video help things click in my brain a bit more, too.
  • “Green Gables Fables.” I mentioned this a few months ago, but season two is happening right now and I’m getting more and more invested. My favorite literary-adaptation web series, hands down. The actors are wonderful and make me feel a lot of things. Each main character has a channel where episodes are featured: Anne (main channel; if you only want to watch one, watch hers) – GilbertDiana & FredPhilippaRuby
  • Kit Kittridge: An American Girl. Kit was one of my favorite American Girl stories when I was little, and not just because I adore the 1920s; she was tenacious and brave and joyful even when her circumstances were hard. The movie based on her is a delight.
  • “Breathless Choir.” This… I am so glad this exists and that it happened. The man who said he hadn’t sung since 2001 hit me hard; I can’t even grasp how painful that would be on someone’s soul.
  • “Tongue Twister Challenge” on Good Mythical Morning. I was in tears laughing at this. “UNH”
  • Inception. This is film is just so thought-provoking. I love the conversations it incites about the mind, reality, dreams, and the power of an idea. The score is wonderful, too. [Quite a bit of language and violence.]


  • “When You’re Facing Giants… & You Need More Than Some Good Advice” by Sally Lloyd-Jones. I’ve never heard these thoughts about the story of David and Goliath before, and that saddens me, because maybe this is one of the main things it’s meant to tell us. Overwhelmingly of ember in bed
  • “On Learning to Love My Cynic Voice” by Addie Zierman. “My faith has turned out not to be a straight path at all but a spiraling mountain road full of switch-backs and turns….and maybe my Cynicism was never a road-block that I needed to get past…but rather, an essential part of my heart. Maybe she is more beautiful and complicated than I thought.”
  • “How Controlling People Use Fear to Manipulate” by Donald Miller. Manipulation comes in many forms, some that are hard to detect. This article addresses fear-based manipulation churches/Christian communities subconsciously use, and wow it hits home.
  • Sarah Bessey’s synchroblog spurred by her new book, “Out of Sorts.” So many honest people here, sharing about perspective/heart changes they’ve undergone. Honest people are my favorite. I browse this list sometimes and read a blog or two from it. Always good.
  • “The City of Ember” by Jeanne DuPrau. I’d seen the movie so I knew what was coming, yet I still was itching to keep reading to see what happened. The characters were engaging and drew empathy from me; the descriptions were easy to visualize and written in a lovely voice; the setting was dystopian, but not like the rest of the genre because it was simple and non-violent and almost comfortable. I just loved it. So ready to start the next book in the series!
  • “A Prayer for The Waiting Times” by Emily P. Freeman. I needed this. “May we hear Your silence as kind company rather than as rejection. May we see our sorrow, our grief, and our difficulties as they are without trying to extract meaning or closure before their time has come.”
  • “Causes of Students’ Emotional Fragility: Five Perspectives” on Psychology Today. I found this super interesting and read it attentively. Having recently come out of the academic/university system myself, I have a few opinions about its relationship with emotional health. Maybe I’ll get back to you on that.

Psst: I’m taking part in Leigh Kramer’s “What I’m Into” link-up again this month, so feel free to check that out if you like this kind of content! Lots to explore there.