Embraces for Your Spirit · The Basics

On Submission, Choice, & Love That Stays

DSC09435God will not love me more if I obey Him. He will not love me less if I don’t. He loves me, every piece of me, completely, unwaveringly. I cannot change that.

In middle school, I told a friend that God couldn’t go with them where they were going. That was a blatant lie, and telling it is one of my biggest regrets, even after they’ve forgiven me. I believed what I said; I believed it about them and about myself. But it was a lie. He would leave ninety nine to find one that was lost.

I have been afraid of where He wants to take me. Sometimes because I’m nervous, but sometimes because no part of me wants to go there. It might make me a little angry, but more than anything it makes me confused and hesitant; it has made me scared to go to Him fully open. But then He told me:

“If you decide not to follow me where I want to take you, I will follow you where you want to go. It’s you and me. I’m not going to leave you.”

If God responded to our disobedience, to our no’s, by leaving us? It would not be love anymore. Love gives, and love allows choice. “Obey me and I’ll stay, refuse and I’ll leave” is not love– it is manipulation.

Love without choice is manipulation.

It isn’t love at all.

God does not give or remove His love or His presence in our lives based on our submission to Him.

Here’s the thing about submission: if it is forced, it isn’t submission– it’s control. In order for me to submit myself to Him, there has to be the option not to. Submission is a choice, and by giving us that choice, God also submits Himself to us. He wouldn’t ask us to love Him in ways He Himself does not love. Love is sacrifice, is generosity. And He embodies that. He is love.

He never forces me to do anything. He knows what is best for me and He has shown Himself trustworthy, so submission is something I get to do out of deep love for Him and out of that trust– not out of fear or duty. But I could always choose not to submit, because love does not force anyone to do anything; love is given, it doesn’t take. And because I see His love in the fact that He lets me choose, it is easier for me to choose to submit. I want to. He loved me first; I love Him in return. We both give, we both receive. No one has to take.

He has always said that He doesn’t want our sacrifice if He doesn’t have our hearts. Because sacrifice without love is theft; it is one-sided, duty-driven, an attempt at control. Love is given; it cannot be demanded. He doesn’t want what we have to give: He wants us. He wants to be genuinely loved by us, willingly, affectionately.

Because that’s the way He loves us.

“Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”   -Psalm 23:6

Blossoms of an Artist

I Started an Etsy Shop!

art drawerThe idea to sell my artwork and some of my other creative projects through Etsy has been in my head for over a year. But I immediately faced discouragement when I first began vocalizing it, so I mostly shoved the thought away.

In November, however, I was given an opportunity that I so wanted to take hold of. It was going to cost more money than I had (or would have any time in the near future), but I had such a desire for it that I was ready to start taking the idea of an Etsy shop seriously and see if I could raise funds that way. I began to research, ask friends who had experience, and work on what I was going to be selling.

But because my situation is unique (living with my family and working on creative pursuits from home, with no income to speak of), I faced a lot of setbacks during the process. Starting a business was intimidating. Okay: it was terrifying. I was determined to push through the fear, but running into roadblock after roadblock was becoming more spirit-crushing with every instance. And when the opportunity that had spurred me to start working on this in the first place fell through… I just kind of left everything alone. I didn’t intend to give up. But I did give up.

When I had been working to build the business and began facing discouragement, the Lord had been so clearly and openly supportive of me. He pointed me to the story of the Eiffel Tower; when it was being built, the art community in Paris was circulating a petition to stop the work, claiming it would be an ugly mark on a beautiful area in the city. The builders continued anyway, and created a piece of artwork so widely loved that it has become an icon. He told me this story, and encouraged me to keep building. I wanted to listen. For a while, I did. But eventually I let the discouragement get to me.

Lately I have been revisiting some of our conversations from that season, and seeing what He said and didn’t say… and what I did and didn’t do. Etsy was something He said was good. And something I have ignored. I don’t want that to be the case anymore.

Last week– I opened my Etsy shop. Tessa Maye Makes Things is alive.

logo

I know I will face challenges. But I will face them, as they come, instead of letting them cripple me or keep me from something that could be good. I am nervous. But when I put the final piece of information in and saw my shop go live for the first time? I took a deep breath. I felt relieved, and I felt hopeful. I’m not going to ignore that.

If you want to check out my artwork/projects, feel free to visit the shop! I am brainstorming more ideas for it already. But, if nothing else, I want to urge you: that thing that still invades your mind sometimes? That He placed a desire for in you? That maybe He’s even told you He’d support you in?

Keep building.

Embraces for Your Spirit · Testimonies · The Basics

On The Giving & The Receiving of Love

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

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

He doesn’t love like people do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You realize it is Him doing it.

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

Anything to love you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And you let Him love you.

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

Poetry · Practical · Responses

On Refugees: A Poem & A Few Ways to Help

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

Life as a Wind Rider

Hopes I Lived in 2016 {Part Two}

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

Watching sunrises and sunsets.lake-sunset-3

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

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

Having more music talks with my dad.

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

Attending the weddings of dear friends.heathers-wedding

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

Randomly running into my professors.

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

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

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

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

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

Having another birthday.

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

Filling more journals.journal-shelf

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

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

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

Drinking hot cocoa.

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

Praying with people.

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

Owning a Coldplay album.

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

Having solid interactions with kind strangers.

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

Having mango flavored things.coffee-run

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

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

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

Being able to teach people about MBTI.

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

Having confidence in going places on my own.

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

Observing the quirks of others.

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

Meeting public figures I admire.fleurie

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

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

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

Sharing pizza with someone I love at a picnic.

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

Tie-dying a shirt.tiedye-final-product

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

Owning Dinotopia books.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life as a Wind Rider

Hopes I Lived in 2016 {Part One}

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holding babies.

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

Seeing meaningful new movies. | Seeing new Pixar movies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taking a class from my beloved writing teacher again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adopting a pet. | Holding adorable little animals.dsc07779

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

Wearing more pretty dresses.

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

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

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

Coloring with children.

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

Making notebooks for friends.

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

Making prayer-art a regular part of my life.

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

Watching fireworks at our annual Fourth of July barbeques.

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

Playing Loaded Questions.

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

Making more quote signs.principles-painting

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

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

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

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

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

Finding a purse that suits me.

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

Driving in tree-filled areas during the fall.

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

Owning more band merchandise.

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

Watching more episodes of great web series.

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

Giving and receiving words of love on our message board.

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

Making food for people.

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

Drinking strawberry lemonade.gee-katie

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

Writing new poems that express what I want them to.

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

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

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

Embraces for Your Spirit · Testimonies

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

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.