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.

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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.

Responses · Testimonies

What My Old Lyrics Taught Me: On Authenticity, Shame, & Growing Up in Church

Music is my home, something I was made to live in. But I’ve faced rejection, limitations, discouragement, and over time I allowed those things to bury my passion. It still lived, but I wouldn’t listen to its outcry for my attention; I pretended it was small and didn’t matter too much to me. But it always did.

About a month ago, I began listening to an artist whose music was more genuine, passionate, and soul-meeting than I’d experienced in such a long time. I’d forgotten that music could be a vessel for such powerful things. It blew on the flames inside me; my passion was no longer trapped in muffled cries, and instead it roared at me until I would look it in the face once more. I then wrote and played and sang like I’d been released from a cell and given permission to love my calling again. Somehow, I had fallen into the trap of viewing my purpose as a burden I must bear, instead of a gift I get to treasure.piano werkin

Now I’ve moved into a difficult place of not being able to do everything I would like to do in my music. My resources and abilities are so very limited right now. I’ve responded to this situation in various ways already, many of them painful and unhealthy. But there’s one way that’s been bringing a lot of closure and healing to me: I’ve been reading through notebooks of my old lyrics. And I’ve been discovering some big things in the process.

1) I can do it.

I began writing my own music when I was eleven. Which means, yes, there are some absolutely terrible, cringey pieces that embarrass me just by existing. But there are a lot more potential-carrying verses than I thought there would be. For a young girl with no one helping her, I could write. I expressed myself well. Based on the kind of music I listened to at the time, I wasn’t too far off from what I wanted to be making. I see an anointing in the girl who wrote those songs. I’m trying to remind myself that she’s me, and that anointings don’t go away. Despite what I often believe, I am capable of being a music-maker.

 

2) Shame has been a giant presence and loud voice in my life. 

For a large portion of my life, I never felt I was doing enough, was pure enough, or was passionate enough about the Lord. My music from those times expressed that shame; I didn’t intend to express shame in my verses, but, unbeknownst to me, it wove itself into each one.

Discovering this in my old music unearthed some anger in me toward the Christian youth culture I grew up in. I love the people that led me in youth group, and I’m not bitter toward them; I know we’re all just doing our best, and I still carry many good things they did for me. But the things unintentionally ingrained in me? To be honest, they’re still infuriating sometimes.

I was taught that my friends’ salvations were dependent upon my boldness; that I had to be on fire, with a wildly passionate missional lifestyle, for my faith to be valid; that I had to perform well for the Lord, or else He would be disappointed in me. All of these things were said outright at some point in my experience, but they permeated teachings I received all the time. And it all said the same thing to my soul– “You are not good enough for God to love you the way you are.”

I didn’t know that humans cannot save others humans; that my only job has always been to love everyone. I didn’t know that feelings sometimes need to be told the truth; that burning passion is not necessary for whole-hearted work, and sometimes we do what we don’t want to do because we know it’s right and good. I didn’t know that God wanted me, as I was, no matter how well I was or wasn’t doing.

Why didn’t any youth ministry make it a point to teach me that?

Why did they lead with the need to evangelize, when I didn’t know the fullness of the gospel in my own soul first? Why didn’t they teach me about my belovedness, about who I was? Why didn’t they recognize that I didn’t need solutions as much as I needed people to walk with me through my dark places?

[This isn’t completely related, and I’ve considered cutting it out of this post countless times, but I think it’s important to put it out in the open: no one in my church was able to recognize depression in me, during the more than two years I lived in it. Whenever I tried to vocalize anything about what was happening inside me, I just ended up being confused by the faith-isms they gave me with sympathetic expressions on their faces. I became convinced that it was my fault I was suffering. A leader once approached me and asked me to help another student who expressed numb sadness like I had once done, because it was assumed I’d found a way through it; the leader didn’t know what to do when I replied I was still in it and had no solution to give them.]

I’m a little angry, yes. But anger is a secondary emotion; mostly, I am sad. I’m sad because we’re so unpracticed in dealing with rawness and the incomplete things in our own souls and the souls of others, when it is something so vital to being a healthy person. And I’m sad because younger Tessa was given one-size-fits-all advice and pats on the head, instead of something real.

 

3) Music was always my taste of what was real.

I expressed things I didn’t even understand or recognize in my life, but somehow knew when I began writing my verses. I could say what I most genuinely meant there. I could discover what I meant there. And I could find healing in the process. No other place was like that.

It’s still true for me. He always meets me intimately in my music. It’s still the place I find the most safety and comfort and hope.

NF has this line in his song appropriately entitled “Real:” “You gave me music as medicine.” I feel that so deeply.

 

4) Because shame wouldn’t let me have compassion on myself, I didn’t know how to give it to others.

I treated so many of my friends as projects in my mind; I expected perfection from them. If they “failed” in some way, I saw it as my fault. These are lies that grew from what I believed about my own unworthiness, and the perfection I demanded from myself. It was surprising to see just how many songs I’d written about people I knew who were “lost,” and how firm I was in my judgements of them. For a while, it was pretty much all I wrote about.

I wish I could go back to every person I’ve ever condemned (some verbally, I’m sorry to say). I wish I could tell them that they are holy, one hundred percent holy, because it was His gift to them. I wish I could tell them He already fully loves and welcomes them, as they are. And I wish I could tell them that I have my own vices… that I am not better than them in any way, never have been and never will be.

I was so wrong. I know I was a different person back then, that I can’t be angry at younger Tessa because she was doing the best she could. But I wouldn’t blame anyone else if they chose not to forgive me. I am so sorry for the damage I might have caused in people I just wanted to love.

Hurting people hurt people. I didn’t know I could be such a clear example of this, but I know it now. And wow am I grateful that He’s teaching me how to be kind, to myself and to others.

 

5) I was genuinely, madly in love with Jesus.

One of the greatest things I felt shame about was my relationship with Him. I lived daily life with a sharp ache inside because I didn’t think I was loving Him well, or that I was worthy to be with Him. It is so wild to read my old verses now and see that I’d dedicated songs to Him, writing His name at the bottom of each page, with a heart drawn next to it in complete sincerity.

The love I had for Him seeps through every word I penned. I was enamored. I loved Him with the deepest passion I’ve ever known. I hope I’ve only in grown in that, but it was wildly evident in me when I was a teenager; I wouldn’t shut up about Him.

Despite how she felt, teenage Tessa was in such a good place with Jesus. Yes, she had flaws and made mistakes; she still does as a grown up. But she didn’t need to fear a lack of love for Him inside her. She was dripping of it.

And she didn’t need to fear a lack of love for her inside Him, either.

I know these thoughts are messy. But I’m sharing them because I’m learning messy is okay because it’s what’s real. We don’t need to struggle make our words relatable to everyone; we just need to come from a place of vulnerable, awkward, scary authenticity. After all, people can only relate to things that are actually real. Some of the most life-speaking songs in my life have been ones that were unique and probably not relatable for everyone. They sat with me in my mess and my darkness; they told me I wasn’t the only one, and that it was okay to be unkempt inside… showed me there’s beauty in unknown, deep waters because that’s where the answers are hiding, ready to be sought out.

Reading my old verses has further convinced me just how important it is that I keep writing new ones, keep recording what’s in me, keep being fully real. I needed it. I still do.

And there are others who need what I find just as much as I do.

Testimonies · The Basics

On Letting God Do His Work (Or, That Time I Accidentally Observed Lent)

“Change comes not from striving in our own strength to be like Jesus, but by developing a habit of being and communing with Him.”   -Scott Sauls

easter bloomsI had no intention of observing Lent this year. It has always just seemed too religious to me; the idea of religion is something I wrestle with, something I consistently need to find balance in. But in February, the day after the Lord asked me to let something go and I (hesitantly, painfully) obeyed, I discovered He had done so on the first day of Lent.

Religion is not bad, and I constantly have to remember that. On the way to church Easter Sunday, I was thinking about the past forty days, and I articulated to myself: “It’s so funny that He used Lent to do all this for me, when it’s such a religious thing.” And I heard inside me a chuckle carrying the words:

“Tessa, you love religion.”

Maybe that was true, I began to realize. I make boundaries for myself all over the place (if it’s necessary or not). Symbolic acts and ceremony matter greatly to me and help me process and remember. In some measure, maybe my soul needs religion.

Religion isn’t bad. The problem comes when I begin telling Jesus He has to operate within the boundaries of it. When I try to fit Him into a mold, to make Him follow the rules, to make sure He never deviates from the established way things are done, I am making religion my god. And that is the opposite of the point.

By religious standards, I failed Lent. For weeks after I gave that thing up, I would check in on it multiple times daily, and I picked it back up before the forty days were over. But God was present for every single thing that I did, and I acted according to His lead. He was proud of me. I felt it.

On days when I cracked under the pressure, He would scoop me into a long hug and tell me it was okay. He wasn’t exasperated or disappointed in me. He told me this was His work, not mine. My work was trusting Him enough to let Him do it.

We feel like we’re being lazy, like we’re not doing enough, when He tells us the only thing necessary is to sit at His feet. Those feelings are from the voice of shame, and it’s lying. Redemption is His work. Our work is believing and saying yes. Shame told me I had to do more, that I needed to make Him more proud.

The lie I believed was that He could be more proud of me than He already was.

He is proud of me even when I stumble, because He knows He is teaching me to walk. He lets me learn at my own pace; leads me through a process. I gave up that thing piece by piece, and each moment was led by Him. When only one piece was given up, that was all He’d asked of me. He wasn’t glaring at what was left, He was pleased with the one thing that was gone. Because I’d said yes to Him despite how it hurt me. He never rushed me; He knew what I could handle.

I blamed myself and my lack of discipline for my pain, when He was waving me over to gratitude for the growth that was happening in me. I made it about my shortcomings, instead of His lavish grace and love. There is so much more freedom in Him than I allow myself to believe. His way is so much kinder than mine.

During Lent, I learned to trust Him. I learned that I can trust Him. I learned that I am fickle and that He’s not mad at me for it– He loves me. He loves me enough to hurt me in order to remove something that is killing me inside. That thing? It was an idol to me. I needed my Father to be my God again. And He knew the best way to make that happen.

Weeks later, when He told me I could pick that thing up again… I didn’t want to.

I didn’t think I was ready. I was afraid of myself. I had turned a vessel into an idol, and it had taken so much for me to cut those ties and to see those altars start crumbling. That thing’s importance in my life was decreasing, and although it was so painful, I knew it was redemptive. I knew my Father would never ask me to do something painful if there wasn’t purpose in it; it was hard and holy work. He was not being cruel, He was protecting me. Now, I was afraid to give myself too much leeway and go back to where I was before, back to the obsession and the distress. I didn’t trust myself. But then He asked me:

“Do you trust me?”

So I said yes and picked it up again.

I asked Him why He let me pick it back up. His only response was a hug that wouldn’t let go. Grace is not about what makes sense; it’s about His love for me.

I wasn’t perfect about it, and I’m still not; to be honest, it’s been a struggle, and I’m still learning what it looks like to have this thing in a new place in my life. But I’m better than I was. Because I ask Him to take over now, and He is doing the work. Lent reminded me that being with Him is the most powerful thing I can do. I didn’t give that thing up for Lent; God entered into me so I could let go of that thing during Lent.

He did Lent for me.

Maybe that’s what religion is for. It gives us tools. It creates spaces and opportunities for us to find it in ourselves to let Him in so He can do His work in us. Maybe religion isn’t us doing the work– it’s a reminder that we can’t and that He can. And will.

“I keep my eyes always on Lord. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”   -Psalm 16:8

[Listen]

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.

Life as a Wind Rider

Another 100 Things to Look Forward To

shoes daisies dandelionsI am thrilled to have written another list of one hundred things to look forward to. These are not just trivial lists I create in attempt to make me feel better about the future. These lists are a pair of corrective lenses for me; they awaken me to all the joys yet to be had in my life, all the things I have the potential to experience. Life gets dark, life gets hard, and it’s easy to get stuck in the cycle. These lists remind me that my Father gives me more than the cycle. He gives me countless expressions of His love, every single time I get to experience something that feels like someone switched on the lights in me, for even a moment.

I’ve written two lists like this one already, which you can find here and here. If you’re stuck in the cycle, I hope you find some of your own hopes here, or that you feel the nudge to begin dreaming again. Dreams are for life. Life is for us.

Owning wind chimes and hearing them fill the air.

Going to a rap concert.

Having another birthday.

Owning a Twenty One Pilots cd.

Having friends over for holidays.

Creating photo-a-day challenges.

Wearing red lipstick.

Reading the Jesus Storybook Bible.

Filling more journals.

Taking hipster-y pictures.

Seeing my brother do what he loves.

Watching the toddlers I know grow up into world-shaking adults.

Baking things with friends.

Sitting in front of a fireplace in the frigid winter.

Recording a Christmas album full of nostalgia.

Being a guest on a fun, comfortable web show or podcast or something of that nature.

Making music in collaboration with wonderful people.

Kissing my husband.

Growing my own herbs.

Becoming a vegetarian.

Feeling no trace of sadness.

Meeting public figures I admire.

Running into people randomly at the store.

Feeling noticed in the best way.

Finding a little community of emotional safety.

Starting an Etsy shop.

Learning new ways to make things.

Making memories with my husband before I know he’s my husband, then looking back on them later.

Writing letters.

Being able to closely observe people play the piano so I can learn chords better.

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

Drinking hot cocoa.

Retreating completely on my own for a day or two.

Traveling with my best friend.

Running some kind of advice column.

Watching my children be caring siblings to one another.

Sleeping next to my husband and feeling the security in that.

Having a for-real session of professional author/album/promotional photos.

Having a colorful wall in my home.

Seeing a wedding ring on my finger that someone I love placed there.

Praying with people.

Having solid interactions with kind strangers.

Having mango and watermelon-flavored things.

Refining my wardrobe.

Going on a date to the movies.

Going to a drive-in movie.

Sitting in a nook and reading/writing/thinking for hours.

Singing background for a song on someone else’s album.

Making art that gets me excited when I finish it.

Seeing soul-healing happen in people I love.

Going sledding with my family and with friends.

Becoming braver at making conversation.

Feeling more skilled in things I currently feel like an amateur in.

Spending time in a secluded house in the countryside.

Filming a music video.

Dressing as a fairy and as Mabel from “Gravity Falls” for Halloween.

Reading more fairy tales.

Singing lullabies over my babies.

Being able to pay for things.

Seeing my husband be a father.

Exploring quirky shops.

Getting to know the family I marry into.

Rekindling friendships that became distant.

Having spontaneous dance parties.

Holding the children of my best friends.

Writing an amazing love song.

Taking walks in new places.

Leaving notes for strangers in public places.

Being able to teach people about MBTI.

Going on tour with incredible people.

Holding adorable little animals.

Seeing my children react to seeing animals in zoos/wildlife parks for the first time.

Having confidence in going places on my own.

Exploring a wallpaper center for hours.

Happening upon street art.

Dangling my feet over a dock for a calm while.

Seeing blue birds.

Visiting a butterfly garden.

Knowing someone is in love with me.

Seeing someone be someone else’s muse.

Observing the quirks of others.

Spending more time in my sketchbook.

Having a cat that likes being a sweet companion.

Owning a settee and spending a good chunk of my time on it.

Laughing harder than ever before.

Opening my home to people who need it.

Seeing which genetics my children inherit from me and from their father.

Sharing a pizza with someone I love at a picnic.

Having my passion for music be known by the people around me, instead of being bottled within myself.

Holding hands.

Tie-dying a shirt.

Getting food with people in the middle of the night.

Making connections with people going the same direction as me.

Drinking strawberry lemonade.

Finding new things to write about.

Writing new poems that express what I want them to.

Seeing how people decorate their houses to suit their personalities.

Having a simple breakfast with people I love.

Seeing my family interact with my kids, as grandparents and an uncle.

Doing something a little wild on Leap Day.

Testimonies

Realizations from Dyeing My Hair

red hair drawingI have wanted to be a redhead my entire life. If you look at my childhood drawings, almost every girl has bright orange hair. It has always been an option for me; my parents were pretty relaxed when it came to my appearance and what I wanted to do with it. But I just never took the leap.

A piece of me was afraid that if I dyed my hair, it meant I was trying to fight the way I was made.

You’re probably expecting me to say I had a revelation that caused me to finally dye my hair this year. That didn’t happen. Really, I just came home to a world of complete newness and confusion after the semester ended, and I figured that this time of changes was a good time to implement just one more. So I got a box of hair dye and hesitantly did the deed. My mom helped (i.e., did it for me), because I was still pretty scared. But she’d never dyed her hair before, either, so I’m sure we looked and sounded hilarious. Especially when we misread the directions and dyed only my roots and had to get more the next day. Oh, dear. I’m still laughing about that.

But yes, I am a redhead now, and have been for almost two months. My roots are starting to show my natural color. And I’ve learned a little about what makes me Tessa.

I never hated my hair color, but I never really thought about it enough to know if I truly liked it, because I just knew I wanted red hair so badly. But, the day before I dyed it… I felt a little sad, nostalgic. And because I am much too sentimental, I wrote a letter:

Dear hair:
I’ve never hated you. Yes, you’re too heavy on me sometimes, and you love frizz and static, and right now your ends are split;
And yes, as a child I cut you too short too many times, for painful and kind reasons.
But, when you’re long, I feel more like Tessa;
When I put flowers in you I feel lovely;
When you dance in the wind I think of the Lord;
And when you shine in the summer sun, I simply smile.
I didn’t expect this…
But I even like your color.
No one can agree on it, because no one else has it.
I’ve always wished you were a rusty red sheen, and tomorrow we get to try that.
But I didn’t realize just how much I appreciate you.
The red will take over, but it will leave soon.
I’ll be ready to greet you in all your natural glory when you return.

Strange? Yes, definitely. But it still makes me smile a little bit. Because I remember what it was like to finally be struck with the understanding–

I had been so focused on what I wanted that I didn’t realize I was enjoying what I had.

And that’s something to remember in areas way beyond hair color. Dreaming doesn’t mean right now isn’t glorious, too. Enjoy the present, and enjoy the dreams. Both are for you. Both are good.

It has finally connected for me that my physical appearance in no way makes me the person I am. I liked the way my hair looked naturally, but I like being a redhead, too; every time I see my hair in the mirror, it makes me happy. I’m glad I finally decided to just do it, because I know now that I might actually prefer my hair this way. I thought I would feel guilty about that, but I don’t. Because whatever I do with my outside doesn’t make my insides any different. Changing my hair color didn’t mean I was getting rid of anything that made me myself; the make-up of my soul hasn’t changed.

red hair brown band half face 1When I’m having a down self-image day, it says nothing about who I truly am. I am a soul. I’ve been having quite a few low self-image days lately, and I’m trying to remember that I shouldn’t treat those feelings as truths. I’m Tessa. And being a redhead is an added joy to my life, and other things about myself are added annoyances sometimes. But I’m always Tessa, in wholeness.

And I’m grateful for the way I was made. Because I was made.

I didn’t know I needed to affirm that to myself; I’m glad I finally have.

I hope you like you. I hope you’re in awe that you have a body that allows you to live here and do things you love, that receives hugs and takes scenic walks and is even capable of sparking life. I hope you feel deep in your soul that your body isn’t you, it’s just your carrying case, the contents of which are beyond valuable. And if you want your case to have some decorations? I hope you know that it doesn’t do anything to change the value or make-up of what’s inside it. I hope you enjoy living so much that your outside looks better to you because of what you hold inside it.

And I hope, soon… you realize you like yourself more than you knew you did.

“You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”  -C.S. Lewis

Testimonies

Thoughts from Yellowstone

My grandparents had planned a trip to Yellowstone National Park, and they decided that they would love to take us along with them if they could. Only a few weeks after I heard about it, I was in a car on the way to Yellowstone. It was a beautiful place with beautiful stops along the way, and I got to witness it with my grandparents, my mom, my cousin, and two of my aunts and uncles. You can take a look if you’d like!

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Yes, Yellowstone and the other places we visited on the journey were the reason I went on this trip. And those places were beautiful, and “kind” is an adjective I somehow want to give to them, too. But when I got back home, I realized the thing that would stick with me most wasn’t going to be the trip itself– it was going to be all the thinking I got to do.

I hadn’t realized that I wasn’t being as thoughtful or analytical as I once was. I’m a deeply introspective person; most of my testimony, most of my life, has been internal and thoroughly thought out. But when I entered college a few years ago, I started absorbing so much information, and having so many heart changes, and growing in so many areas, that maybe I didn’t have enough time to just… think. To consider daily what was happening in my life. It took a few 10-hour drives on the way to and from Yellowstone to begin learning how to simply think again, but the muscle memory has started kicking in, and I am grateful. Would it be okay if I shared two of the things I was able to process in Yellowstone with you?

This first one is pretty personal, but I haven’t heard anyone really mention this concept to me, so I’m mentioning it. After hours of thinking through my friendship with a man I had feelings for, I came to the conclusion that we were not meant to have a romantic relationship. And oddly, I became grateful that we didn’t have one, and that he didn’t have the same feelings for me. I imagined what our married relationship would look like, and as I watched those daydreams, I saw that our marriage would be cute. He would be a beautifully sweet husband and would take care of me the best he possibly could. But… something would be lacking. I couldn’t see the logical reason why it didn’t work, but I saw that it didn’t work. I saw that we were simply meant for more. That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t have a good relationship; it simply means that marriage would have more potential for us that we wouldn’t be able to tap into, because we just don’t belong together. It was hard to process, but… I’m so glad I know that. And I’m so glad I get to share in a sweet friendship with him still.

Sometimes things don’t work because of a pin-pointable reason or list of reasons. But sometimes, things don’t work simply because something else works better. Jesus has been teaching me that in a few areas lately. He doesn’t say no– He says, “This is better.” He doesn’t take good things from us; He replaces them with something greater. That’s how deeply He loves us.

One more thing I was able to think through in Yellowstone was the concept of daydreaming. I’ve never been able to daydream without feeling convicted, and it has only been a year or two since I understood the reason for that was my daydreams always took me places I shouldn’t have gone in my brain. I’m not saying it’s wrong for you to daydream; I’d say listen to your conviction and seek His guidance on that. I just know that, for me, it is destructive and something He wishes for me not to do. As you read above, however, He led me to daydream in order for me to come to a conclusion about my beloved friend. I think He knew what I needed, and I trust Him with that.

I found myself tempted to continue daydreaming after I processed those thoughts, for sure. But whenever I felt myself slipping, I would somehow remember what Donald Miller wrote in Blue Like Jazz:

“When a person has no other persons he invents them because he was not designed to be alone, because it isn’t good for a person to be alone.”

–and I would instead invest in the people around me.

Feeling alone is one of the more difficult feelings we experience, and I’ve always gone to daydreaming as a coping mechanism. Now I know that when I find myself wanting to spend time with imaginary people, it means I’ve started feeling isolated and need to talk to someone I love, to a real person. So many of our battles happen in loneliness. If we’re alone and fighting temptation, we must reach out to someone, even if our inner critics tell us we’d be annoying them. Our spiritual health is worth it. And once we do it, we will be reminded that we aren’t alone. We are not at all alone.

“Every day, I write a poem titled ‘Tomorrow.’ It is a handwritten list of the people I know that love me. And I make sure to put my own name at the top.”    -Kevin Kantor

Thank you for listening to my little introspective thoughts. I’m glad I’m having them regularly again. And I pray you find somewhere, sometime for a little quiet in your soul, too.