Life as a Wind Rider

Hopes I Lived in 2017 {Part Two}

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

Celebrating graduationsgraduated children!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Playing with puppies | Holding adorable little animals

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

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

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

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

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

Giving and receiving words of love on our message board

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

Watching it snowwith snow tree

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

Watching sunrises and sunsetsBeFunky Collage

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

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

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

Attending the weddings of dear friendsBeFunky Collage

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

Feeling noticed in the best way

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

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

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

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

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

Praying with people

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

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

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

Exploring quirky shops

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

Having spontaneous dance parties

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

Having a cat that likes being a sweet companionsweet dusty headrub

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

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

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

Having a simple breakfast with people I love

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

Happening upon street artSierra's art day

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

Owning sweatpants

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

Reaching one year porn-free

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

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

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

Life as a Wind Rider

Hopes I Lived in 2017 {Part One}

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

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

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

Dreams are for life. For my life and yours.

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

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

Developing photos and scrapbooking them | Filling more journalsDSC00457

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

Watching fireworks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Going to more baby showers

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

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

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

Hiking a calm little forest trailhiking with mom

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

Visiting the coast againfamily trail walk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take heart, and enter the next year with hope.

Misc. · Practical

A Look at How I Journal

old journal stackWhen most people find out that I keep a journal, their response is along the lines of: “Wow, that’s impressive; every time I’ve tried to keep a journal it just hasn’t worked.” It’s always an interesting response to me, because I don’t believe a person can “fail” at journaling. It’s something you do for yourself: recording whatever you want to, however you want to, whenever you want to. There shouldn’t be any pressure to make your journal anything but the space you want it to be for you.

In the spirit of that, I wanted to share how I personally use my journal. Not simply to give you ideas, but also to encourage you about how limitless, personal, and valuable a practice it can be in your life.

What I Write

There are a few things I (currently) record in my journal through words and writing.

Gratitude lists. If you’ve known me for nearly any length of time, you know that I don’t shut up about gratitude [and if you didn’t know that, you can read this]. Cultivating a grateful heart has completely changed my life in the best ways. The only thing that is a guarantee for me to journal every day is a list of the things I’m grateful for throughout the day. Writing these lists is the highest form of self-care for me, and re-reading them over time is a delight all over again.

When I wake up, I write the day’s date, pen the words “Thank you for:” in the corner, and start bullet points down the side of the page. I fill in the list as things come, or in a moment when I need to focus on building up the good. Sometimes the list will fill the page, other times I’ll draw a dotted line to make it a separate column from something else I’m putting in. I don’t have a minimum or maximum daily count; I just let it happen naturally and allow myself to be pleasantly surprised.DSC00314

Scripture reading log. I don’t follow a reading plan. I tried to in the past, and sometimes it worked for me, but often the plan would ask me to read too much in one sitting, or would make studying scripture feel like something to check off my to-do list instead of something to pour myself into. Right now, I simply read one chapter of the Bible a day. There are some days I don’t read the Bible, such as when I had pulled a near-all-nighter doing homework in college and could feel my eyes closing but was still reaching for my Bible when I heard clearly in my spirit: “Tessa– go to bed. Your mental health matters to me. We talked today, it’s fine.”

I decide which book to read by alternating between the Old Testament and New Testament in their orders. Recently I finished reading Numbers, and I am now reading Matthew; next I will read Deuteronomy, then Mark, and so on. If it’s a more difficult book to read, such as the books of the Law, I will also read a Psalm.

In terms of recording my scripture study, I pen a bracket and the name of the book and chapter I’m reading that day. As I read, if something stands out to me, if I have thoughts, or if something confused me and I did some research, I will write notes on those things or even process them through writing. Once I’m done, I pen the other bracket at the end. Sometimes, there are days I read the chapter and simply don’t have anything to say about it. In those cases, I will still pen the other bracket after the book name and chapter, so I remember I read it. It’s okay to not “get something” out of scripture every time you read it; desire to learn is already a delight to Him.

“Proper” journal entries. When I have a lot of feelings I need to sort through or when something happens in my life that I want to remember, I write a journal entry that resembles what most people probably think of when they picture journaling: straight up writing, stream-of-consciousness.

I think what intimidates most people about keeping a journal, what makes them feel like they’ve “failed” to keep theirs, is that they imagine they need to write entries like this every day. I definitely don’t write entries like this every day; I only write them when I want to, when I have something to say or process. If I tried to write entries like this every day, I would probably start getting discouraged and feel like my life was boring! They’re helpful and enjoyable when they’re written out of desire rather than duty. I just write what I care about; it isn’t for anyone but myself, so there’s no pressure.

Drafts. Occasionally, if I want to write something for my blog but am unsure about how much of my personal story and feelings to include, I’ll write the first draft in my journal. Sometimes it truly is a first draft. But sometimes, once I’ve gotten it all out in my journal, that’s where it stays, because that ends up being the best place for it to live. Starting blog posts in my journal has become a healthy habit for me because, to be honest, I’ve probably avoided some conflicts by doing and journal

Book notes. Every once in a while, I will read a book so impactful that I want to take notes on it. When that’s the case, I write the name and author of the book, then below that I’ll record quotes or what I’m learning. When I stop reading for that sitting, I might write down which chapter(s) I read in case I want to find something in context again. I draw a little swirly line to separate my book notes from any other journal entry that might go on that page. It’s interesting to re-read later and see how my book notes have similar themes to my regular journal entries and scripture studies from the same timeframe.

Beginning-of-the-year thoughts. I don’t really set goals at the beginning of the year, but I do like to dedicate the first page of the year to writing out a few hopes for it. If I start a new journal in the middle of the year (which is a guarantee for me because I fill them with so much), I rewrite those hopes on the first page of the journal as a reminder.

Calendar notes. I have a calendar on my desk and do not at all ask my journal to function that way, but I do like to make a note of holidays, birthdays, and milestones next to the day’s date, just so I can easily remember if I look back.

[I also use a prayer journal and a poetry journal, but I like to keep those separate from the rest of my writing.]

How I Decorate

A colorful, thrown-together journal might not work for everyone, but it adds some extra sunshine to my life to be able to decorate my pages. Most of my decorations end up serving a purpose, too! I use a few different things.

Quotes. I’ve always collected quotes from anywhere I find them, so incorporating them into my journal pages makes a lot of sense for me, and also makes it a bit easier to find one if I want to go back to it.

I write them on any blank spot on the page I’m currently using. I prefer to use fun gel pens or markers, but if I only have my simple black pen with me I don’t mind using that, either. Cursive hand lettering looks pretty regardless of the pen you’re using.

I don’t really go looking for quotes to add in, because I regularly find a good amount that leave an impression on me in everyday life– from songs I hear, tweets, Pinterest, books or blog posts I read (I don’t often take notes on whole books like I mentioned earlier, but sometimes there are just lovely lines, aren’t there?), movies I watch, Tyler Knott Gregson’s poetry blog (swoon), and anything else relevant for me at the time.

Photos. At the end of every month, I look through my photos and print out a few highlights from that month to make a page or two into a mini scrapbook. I write “[Month] Moments” at the top of the page, arrange the photos to my liking, attach them with regular scotch tape rolled on the back, then add any little commentary I want to below the photos. Sometimes I won’t have a photo from something that happened, so I’ll bullet point those moments somewhere on the page. If there are photos from a particular event and I also have a little memento from it, such as a concert ticket or wristband, I like to pair those together.DSC00457DSC00323

If I have strips from a photo booth, I like to add those into my journal, too, but I probably wouldn’t wait until the end of the month. I would instead just add them when I got them, on the journal page from that day. I do the same with movie tickets.

Apart from my monthly scrapbook page, I regularly add in a random photo or two to most of my journal pages, simply because it brings me a little burst of joy; I’m very visual and love having lovely images around me. These random photos aren’t usually my own, instead I scroll through my Pinterest and find a handful that I want to print out. I print them wallet-sized on regular office paper from my home printer and save them in an envelope I’ve attached to the back page of my journal (if the journal doesn’t have a built-in pocket) until I want to use one. Sometimes the photo fills in an empty space on the page, other times I add the photo first and work around it. How I execute all my creative journal additions depends on my mood, which I like, because my feelings seem to be reflected on the page visually even if I didn’t write a journal entry about how I felt.journal spread photos

Washi tape, doodles, & stickers. These things generally serve as space fillers and just add a nice bit of color and interest to the pages.oooooooooooooo

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into my journal, and that maybe you’ve even found a spark of inspiration for your own. Don’t succumb to any pressure you feel to be a daily writer, or make every page a work of art, or do anything a certain way. Just do it for you.

Do you journal? What works well for you? What about it makes you happy?

Life as a Wind Rider

On Reading My Life’s Story

journal and cpr shelfI have this strange habit of staying up until at least midnight because I want to see the memories Facebook saved for me in the “On This Day” app. I’ve been using Facebook since I was about fourteen, so there’s some cringey gold to be found.

But I was also deeply depressed for a little more than two years in high school. And Facebook reminds me of that, too.

Except those things aren’t memories. That’s the wild thing about depression: I am aware, because of photos and journal entries, of the things that happened to me. But I don’t actually remember them. Reading my journal is like reading a novel. I sympathize with my younger self on a human level, but I can’t remember what those moments felt like; I just remember the constant despair or numbness I carried. Looking at photos from that time is like looking at photos of a sweet, familiar teenage girl; it’s like I was friends with her once. Those years are like stories to me, instead of memories. I know they’re my stories. I try to take good care of them.

Lately, the memories showing up in the app have been inside those stories. A song I didn’t remember existed was there yesterday, from when I was sixteen. When I clicked the link and listened to it, I knew every word. It was a song speaking of light, and it had a joyous air in it. Pride for the girl who listened to that song in the dark swelled up in me. I don’t know what made her do it, but I want to be like her when I grow up.

Today, the memory was from three years ago. Three years ago today, I was rejected from the creative arts program at the college I knew the Lord wanted me to attend. I’d auditioned through a video, the first time for me to sing a solo for anyone. A few weeks later, I received a phone call informing me my voice was “underveloped.” I’d been accepted to the college, but not the program I hoped for. I knew I was supposed to go to the school, so I was glad to be accepted there, at least. Yet I also knew I was supposed to make music. Suddenly I didn’t know how those callings could exist together anymore.

I had been scrolling through Facebook when I received that phone call. I don’t vent about personal situations on the internet, but I didn’t know what to do with the news I’d just received. So I typed through my tears:

Didn’t get accepted into the Creative Arts program; my voice is underveloped. Crushed.

People came beside me and exhorted me. Months later, I would go to that college. But my sense of hope in my dreams of making music was gone. My heart was broken over this twist in my story, and my dreams now felt like burdens I’d have to uselessly carry for the rest of my life. It took a long time to heal from this.

Three years ago, I didn’t know that I wouldn’t finish college; that the Lord would lead me to living at home, figuring out how to make music on my own. I didn’t know that my story was to be even more unconventional and wild.

And I didn’t know that I’d eventually love my story that way.

I love that my Father knows me. He knows an easy, conventional story wouldn’t suit me. “Tessa is my unconventional shining star of a daughter.” He declared when He dreamed me up. “She doesn’t do things the way everyone expects her to; she finds new, creative ways that feed her soul and the souls of others like her. She needs a life that reflects that. It’s going to be so unique, such a delight to unfold.”

He’s crafted all of it. Just like He’s crafted me.

I never thought I’d be thankful for that rejection. But I am. I’m grateful for my crazy, messy, gorgeous story full of twists no one can anticipate. All of it is connected, matters, has purpose. I can trust Him with the hardest parts, knowing they’ll make sense to me someday. I can dream again, because He gives me His eyes when I do. Nothing is irredeemable or immovable– not the darkness, not my mistakes, not my circumstances, not my broken heart. It all matters.

It’s all part of the story. The one He made to fit me just right.

Testimonies · The Basics

On The Lifestyle of Forgiveness

flower walk, pear treeA random, harmless little event caused me to run somewhere I could be alone and shake with tears. I didn’t understand why.

I began writing to my counselor-friend about what happened, asking her questions the same time I asked them of myself. By the time I hit send on that e-mail, I understood why that small moment broke me apart: I had been wounded by similar means as a child. I’d blocked it out, but I remembered now. And it felt like large hands were squeezing life from my heart.

She e-mailed back, said I was on the right track. She also suggested that a good next step would be to list “what the locusts had eaten” so I could recognize the restoration– and that I should write a forgiveness letter and burn it. I wrote the list almost immediately, but the letter… I told myself I’d write it soon. “Soon” became over a month and a half later.

I didn’t even plan on writing it when I did. But a song came on that day, one that made tears spill out when I tried to sing along. It made me think of the person who hurt me. I began to write, teardrops splashing on the page. And when I was done… I loved.

Before I wrote the letter, I knew I might not feel my forgiveness toward them, that forgiveness was a choice instead of a feeling, so I’d resolved to be okay with however I felt. I didn’t think I’d feel the forgiveness. But I did. I did feel it. And it had wings.

I loved what the letter had done for me, and when I remembered I was supposed to burn it, I didn’t want to. But two days later, when I tried to read it again… something in me just couldn’t. The forgiveness was completed, it was all done. So I burned the letter. It crumbled slowly and blew away to nothing.

It was finished.

Jesus uttered the words, “It is finished” when He died for the forgiveness of humanity. After forgiving someone who might never be different, but whom I choose to love still… it started to mean something more to me. He wasn’t just saying, “There, you’re forgiven, I did what I had to do.” When Jesus said it was finished, He was saying, “We don’t have revisit it. I forgave you. It’s done. I just love you.”

Two months later, when the same person hurt me in the same way as before, I had to forgive them again.

And I didn’t want to.

I’d forgiven them for the past, for the thing that I thought was over. But could I forgive them for something they were still doing? Something they might never stop doing? I felt anger envelop me like a heavy cloak, because I knew I didn’t deserve what they did.

But the bitterness was eating me up inside. No matter what they did to me, I still loved them in my depths. I was hurting every single day, but I didn’t realize it wasn’t entirely because I was unjustly treated… it was mostly because I didn’t want to be bitter at someone I loved.

It took time to make the choice to forgive a second time. But when I finally did, it was like I had been given permission walk again. I hadn’t been aware of how confined and constrained the bitterness had made me. This time, I didn’t feel forgiving. But I possessed love. So I forgave anyway.

I didn’t forgive them because they deserved it; I forgave them because I didn’t deserve it, either.

I didn’t deserve to be treated that way. But I also didn’t deserve to let my bitterness eat me from the inside because of it. I forgave them because of love, but I also forgave them to begin the healing process for myself.

My Father forgave me when I didn’t deserve it. No one here gets what they deserve– we all get grace. That is how my Father’s family does things. And I love this a whole lot better than the way others have been doing things.

I am learning this person has influenced me in so many ways, over such a length of time, that forgiveness is something that must be a daily practice for me. I often find myself using a flawed thought process they taught me, or believing a lie they unknowingly told me, or maneuvering an obstacle they placed in front of me. And when that happens, I stop everything for a moment and make a strong-willed statement inside myself: “I forgive you for ______.” I name it. I forgive them for it. And I begin walking forward, away from it. Every day, I do this. And when the anger begins to bubble up, making a specific statement of forgiveness changes me.

It reminds me we’re all just doing the best we can. And there’s grace for all of us.


Because We Love You

Today has just been one of the hard days internally, and that’s okay. There are hard days, and there are beautiful people who make me laugh and give me hugs and rejoice in life for me when I forget to. Life is a great thing. Wow, it is.

And I know it’s probably really cheesy… but I randomly looked this song up yesterday.


I remembered hearing it on one of those cd sample machines in Target when I was a lot younger, and finally decided to see if it was as warming as I remembered. Normally I hear a song from childhood and find I got the melody and lyrics almost completely wrong, but this song? I remembered. I only heard it once in passing, and I remembered.

“Lalala la lala/ it’s a beautiful world/ we’re all here/”

I’ve never stopped singing this one line to myself when I feel joy or when I want joy; that one moment in Target, of pushing a music sample on a machine no one ever uses, mattered. And it makes me think that all these little things I’m living in– laughter, hugs, games of Frisbee, art projects, study groups, afternoon hikes, singing often– they matter. They’ll stick. They’ll be with me for a long time.

I don’t know what’s in tomorrow. I thought I knew what was going to be in today and I was wrong. But I once heard someone say, “The best things in life are unexpected, because there were no expectations.” I think about that a lot. And maybe instead of placing hope in what I want to happen or who I want to be with or what I want to feel or where I want to go… maybe I should just remember that He is my hope, and I have Him, and I’ll never lose Him. And maybe I should keep singing:

“Lalala la lala/ it’s a beautiful world/ we’re all here/”

I have such beautiful people in my life. I just want to talk about them all the time. They remind me who I am, that it’s okay to be her– that it’s wondrous to be her, actually. They pray with me and for me, and help me hear His voice. I used to think that I didn’t need people; that if I had Jesus I didn’t need to talk to others about my heart or rely on them for anything. But I do. He’s here with us; He’s the reason we’re together. He teaches me about His love by teaching me that I can be loved by people I think are amazing. It’s hard for me to truly believe, down in my soul, in the love that exists for me. But it was harder before I had these people. And that is something I never knew I’d be able to say.

Today… today, I don’t need to know where I’m going. I don’t need to have it all together and I don’t need to impress anyone with how okay I am emotionally. I’m a bit sad today. But I was with some beautiful people today, and they lifted me up and just existed with me and treated me like Tessa.

“Lalala la lala/ it’s a beautiful world/ we’re all here/”

Tomorrow… tomorrow, I don’t need to be afraid of how I look to other people or how they feel about me. I don’t need to do anything out of character or have excellent answers to anyone’s questions. I don’t need to be an amazingly productive person who gets everything done quickly and easily. I don’t know how I’ll feel tomorrow or what will happen; anything can come for me. Pain? Joy? I truly don’t know. But this I know:

“Lalala la lala/ it’s a beautiful world/ we’re all here/”

I am loved. This world is beautiful and I get to be in it with people I couldn’t dream I would have in my life. I never expected them, but now I feel the weight of my deep love for them in my chest. And being present in this world with them, living in it and riding the wind through it together, I am finding my heart softening. And spending time with Jesus– just being with Him as I drive to school and work on homework and paint and write– that’s when I know I’m okay. He never fails to make me carry faith in how safe I am with Him.

The past few days… I’ve dared to hope that my soul is learning to believe in how loved she really is.

“Your winter skin/ warming in the summer sun/ we know within/ you will stay forever young/ you fell asleep under the/ starlit sea/ it’s time to wake up, the moon is high above you/ we’re all here ’cause we love you/ and when you finally open your eyes and ears/ you’ll see and you’ll hear us sing// Lalala la lala/ it’s a beautiful world/ we’re all here/”