Misc.

45 Stand-Out Women in The Bible {Part Two}

mirror reflection 2Recently, I shared the first half of a list of women in the Bible I admire and that I feel we can all be inspired by. I have loved putting these together and seeing how clearly God loves and values women; even when everyone else seemed to be against them, God was for them and gave them His strength. He does the same today.

I hope you feel a measure of encouragement from learning about these ordinary women empowered by extraordinary love. Here’s the second half of them:

Lydia– She was a merchant who sold purple cloth, something expensive and reserved for the wealthy and regal, so she had some wealth and reputation of her own. She was with a group of women by a river near Philippi when Paul and other missionaries came and began speaking to them; Lydia already worshipped God, but hearing about Jesus opened her heart even further to Him and she was baptized, along with her household. She opened her home to other believers, eventually housing a large amount of Philippi’s church. Obvious leadership capabilities and a welcoming nature lived in this woman. [Acts 16:14-15, 40]

Martha– Many of us know about Martha in the context of when she was distressed trying to prepare dinner for Jesus while her sister sat and listened to Him; she eventually asked Jesus to tell her sister to help with the work, to which he responded: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.” We often hear this story used as an example of what not to do, and while it is incredibly important to hear His words to her in our own spirits (it’s one of the main verses I cling to in my life), we forget that she was distracted “with much serving.” Martha wasn’t doing something wrong (she served Him dinner again later without issue), she had simply lost focus and was seeking to please Jesus with her hands above her presence; we do the same, all the time. And later, we see that she must have heeded His words and spent more time being present with Him, because she and her siblings were friends of Jesus. When her brother died after they’d asked Him to come heal him, Martha didn’t shy away from Jesus; she confronted Him about how hurt she was, yet she also expressed faith in Him, not only to fix things, but to be the Savior. And her faith was met in both. I truly admire her. [Luke 10:38-42, John 11-12]

Mary (sister of Martha and Lazarus)– She was the sister who sat at Jesus’ feet and eagerly listened to Him teach; Jesus affirmed to her that by doing this she had chosen the one thing she needed. When her brother died, she wept and was at home surrounded by others mourning until she heard that Jesus came and wanted to see her; she then approached Him and fell at His feet weeping, telling Him if He had come sooner her brother would have lived. Jesus was moved so deeply that He wept, too. And when He raised her brother to life, the people who had gathered to mourn with her saw it happen. Later Jesus had dinner with their family, and Mary anointed His feet with an expensive perfume and wiped it with her hair; some thought it wasteful, but Jesus praised her for it. The way we see Jesus interact with Mary shows how much He cares about our emotions; she was a passionate woman, but He didn’t ever give her reason to believe that she was too much for Him. He loved and validated her. [Luke 10:38-42, John 11, 12:1-8]

Mary (mother of Jesus)– Many of us know her story: how she was a young girl when an angel appeared to her and told her she was going to have a baby that would be the long-awaited Savior; how she responded with questions but willingness and trust even though it would jeopardize her reputation, especially since she was a betrothed virgin; how she braved a long journey late into her pregnancy and gave birth in a cave surrounded by animals; and how she fled with her family to a different country for a few years soon after. All of that is wild. What the Bible doesn’t go into detail about is the years of raising Jesus (along with the other children she later had). I’m sure it felt like a lot of pressure raising the Son of God on top of all the normal pressures a mother feels. And I can’t imagine how it felt to see Him be crucified, and to hear Him making sure she was taken care of even as He was dying. Mary wasn’t perfect, but she showed up, and it was enough for Him. She was even there when the apostles met to replace Judas after Jesus ascended– a normal girl who would have lived a quiet life, and instead all know her name. [Matthew 1-2, Luke 1-2, Acts 1:12-14]

Mary Magdalene– She became one of Jesus’ female disciples after He healed her of seven demons (I wish we had more of her history, but maybe it’s even better that all we know of her is her redemption!). She supported and accompanied Him, even when it meant being present at His crucifixion. She was also there when He was placed in the tomb. Some gospel accounts say a group of women was first to discover His empty tomb and share the news, but John says Mary was there alone. At first she wept at the tomb, thinking His body had been stolen. But He appeared to her and put her heart at ease, giving her the mission and gift of speaking of His resurrection and ascension. Her transformation and the way she was always looking to Jesus instead of behind her is so empowering to read. [Matthew 27:56-61, 28:1-10, Mark 15:40-47, 16:1-8, Luke 8:1-2, 24:1-10, John 19:25, 20:1-18]

Michal– She was the daughter of King Saul who fell in love with David and became his first wife. Admittedly, she grew to be problematic when she began hosting bitterness. But the fact that she helped David escape when Saul sought his life, and that she survived being captured and sent off to a new husband for a while by her manic father, shows us she was more than just a spoiled princess. [1 Samuel 18:20-29, 19:11-17, 25:44, 2 Samuel 3:13-14, 2 Chronicles 15:29]

Miriam– She was the daughter of Jochebed who helped preserve her baby brother Moses’ life during a massacre; she later led the people with Moses and Aaron when the Lord delivered the Israelites out of Egypt. She sang powerful songs of worship which are recorded in the Bible, and she was so respected by the people that they deeply mourned her death and listed her name in genealogies along with her brothers (which was not normal). A natural leader with an earnest heart, even when she made mistakes. [Exodus 2:4-8, 15:20-21, Numbers 12:1-15, 20:1, 26:57-59, 1 Chronicles 6:3, Micah 6:4]

Naomi– She and her family had left their home due to a famine, but both her husband and her sons died before they could return. She struggled deeply with bitterness, yet she still did not treat herself like a victim: she decided to go back home alone. But when her daughter-in-law Ruth refused to leave her side, Naomi took her in and did what she could as a widow to make sure Ruth was well– even to the point of helping her approach a man and get married again! She later helped care for Ruth’s baby. I like that she was no-nonsense but still deeply caring. [Ruth]

Persis– She’s very briefly mentioned in one of Paul’s letters, but we know she was important to the church when he calls her “dear Persis, who has worked so hard for the Lord.” That’s a worthwhile sentence to have in your memory. [Romans 16:12]

Phoebe– She was a deaconess in the church in Corinth, known for her kindness and generosity. She was also the carrier of Paul’s letter to the Romans. I like to remember her when people speak negatively of women being in church leadership. [Romans 16:1]

Priscilla– She and her husband met Paul on one of his missionary journeys and ended up joining him; Paul later wrote that they’d risked their lives for him. They hosted a church in their home, and they also journeyed on their own. They once encountered a Jewish man named Apollos who was preaching in the synagogue but didn’t have all the information, so they privately spoke to him and explained what was missing, and he became adept at doing the same with other Jews. Because her name was often listed before her husband’s, it is believed she was a more prominent leader, but both were highly regarded in their maturity and wisdom. They set an awesome example for married believers. [Acts 18:2, 18, 24-26, Romans 16:3, 1 Corinthians 16:19]

Puah and Shiphrah– These two were midwives in Egypt when Pharaoh began fearing the growth of the Hebrew population, and he ordered them to kill any Hebrew baby boys that were born. But these women believed in God and did not listen to the orders: they delivered both the baby boys and baby girls. When Pharaoh confronted them, they simply said the mothers had their babies before the midwives arrived. God saw what they had done and blessed them with their own families. [Exodus 1:15-21]

Rahab– She was a prostitute living in Jericho when the Israelites came to scout the land. Two scouts stayed at her house, but when the king learned about it he sent orders for her to release them; instead, she had hidden them under the brambles of her roof and told the king’s messengers that the men had gone, sending them on a pointless hunt elsewhere. But she was also frank with the men she had hidden, telling them everyone was terrified because they knew the Lord had given the land to Israel, and she made them promise to spare her entire extended family when the time came. They promised, and she helped them escape. When Jericho was destroyed, those same men made sure to rescue her and her family. She lived among the Israelites from then on and her family line continued through them– into the line of Jesus. She was kind, yet she was also ruthless in the best way, and God honored that in her. [Joshua 2, 6:17, 23-25, Hebrews 11:31, James 2:25]

Ruth– After her husband died, Ruth was determined to stay by her mother-in-law Naomi’s side, even though it meant beginning life in a new city with no one to provide for them. She was active and sought opportunities to care for herself and Naomi, and ended up gleaning in fields owned by a kind man named Boaz; he took notice of her and continually blessed her with extra provisions and a seat at his own table, knowing her story and admiring her character. When Ruth told Naomi about him, it turned out that he was in line to be her kinsman redeemer (meaning he’d marry her to preserve her husband’s name since he was a relative). Ruth then approached Boaz and humbly yet boldly asked him to marry her. After Boaz went through the town elders to work out the complicated details, he joyfully married her; they had a son who would later be the grandfather of King David. I love Ruth’s forward-moving and optimistic way of approaching life, and the example she and Boaz set for healthy mutual submission. [Ruth]

Vashti– She’s barely mentioned, and she isn’t seen as a hero. But the one thing we know about her is that she was queen to King Xerxes, and when he drunkenly summoned her to appear before his party guests and show them her beauty (we can guess what that meant), she refused. She was banished for it, and these events led up to the search for a new queen, which is how Esther’s story begins. I just appreciate Vashti’s courageous and dignified response to the idea of being ogled, especially given how dangerous it was to respond that way. [Esther 1]

The woman at the well– She was at the well by herself, which is a clue to us that she was an outcast since there were particular times all the women drew water together. Furthermore, we know she had been married five times and that she wasn’t married to the man she was currently living with, because Jesus told her He knew those things. Add all of this to the fact that she was a Samaritan and Samaritans and Jews did not interact, and it helps us understand her (and the disciples’) amazement that Jesus was even talking to her, let alone having a conversation about the kingdom of God with her. And when she expressed faith in the coming of the Messiah, Jesus told her: “I am the Messiah!” Her response? She left her water jar, ran into the village, and started telling everyone about Him. Because of her testimony– which was obviously powerful, because the people listened to her despite her reputation– many Samaritans began to believe in Jesus and listened to Him themselves. Not only did Jesus love her well by showing her she was seen, but He also began restoring her life. [John 4]

The woman with the issue of blood– She had been bleeding constantly for twelve years when Jesus came to town. Because of cleanliness laws, she wasn’t even allowed in the main area of town: she lived on the outskirts with the other unclean people. So when she made her way through the crowds surrounding Jesus, not only was she taking a step of faith, but she was putting her life at risk. She finally reached Him and touched His hem– and, from then on, the bleeding stopped. And Jesus did something remarkable: amidst the crowd of people pressing in all around Him, He knew someone had intentionally touched Him and been healed, and He asked who it was. This woman, who had been apart from the rest of society for over a decade, was terrified. But she went to her knees in front of Him and told Him her story, and He blessed her for her faith. A humble woman with insane courage. [Matthew 9:20-22, Mark 5:25-34, Luke 8:43-48]

The woman in Song of Solomon– I know she’s a semi-fictional woman written by Solomon, but I still appreciate what the story teaches us about romantic love and how God views and values it. And the fact that the female character is the main narrator of the story is unique and special. [Song of Solomon]


Super helpful resources I used to put this list together:

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Misc.

45 Stand-Out Women in The Bible {Part One}

I grew up feeling valued by the church, but valued differently. I was under the impression that my job as a woman was to help with the work men were doing for the kingdom. While helping others in their ministries is incredibly important and no one needs to feel like they’re bringing less value if that’s a role that fits them well, I have learned that women are not the only helpers in the kingdom, and men are not the only leaders; Jesus simply calls His followers. And those followers have always been both men and women, in various capacities.

DSC05067The past few years, I have absolutely loved reading the Bible and finding women who were bold in who they were, walking with strength and courage through the Holy Spirit. They convince me further and further how important women are to Jesus, and how He loves to see them glorify Him in innumerable ways.

Today, on International Women’s Day, I thought it would be fun to make a CliffsNotes-esque list of some of my favorite women in the Bible. These women and their stories are definitely inspiring and empowering for other women to read, but I want to make it clear that this isn’t a list I put together exclusively for women. It’s also important for men to be able to draw inspiration from stories about women. Everyone growing up in Sunday school, male or female, learned from stories about David, Moses, Daniel, and Paul; everyone can learn from stories about Deborah, Esther, Ruth, and Mary, too. When all are represented, all are accessible. I love that the Bible displays that truth.

Without further ado, here is the first half of some of my favorite stand-out women from the Bible:

Abigail– She was married to Nabal, a rich but selfish and thoughtless man who denied David’s request to allow him and his men to participate in a feast day while they were passing through Nabal’s land as they fled from King Saul. David was preparing to bring retribution, but when Abigail heard about what happened, she and her servants took abundant provisions to David and implored him to be a more noble man than her husband. Not only did she convince him to stand down, but when Nabal learned about it and died from shock, Abigail married David and later became a queen. I love how she wasn’t willing to make excuses for her husband; instead, she used the authority and respect she obviously had among their servants (who knew to go to her with the problem) to fix what he’d done. [1 Samuel 25, 27, 30; 2 Samuel 2:2]

Achsa– She was given to a man as his wife, but before going to live with him, she told her father to give her two springs along with the land he’d already given her. She was willing to vocalize what she wanted. [Joshua 15:16-19, Judges 1:11-15]

Anna– She was a widowed prophet who never left the temple, continuously worshipping and fasting. She met Jesus when He was a young boy and rejoiced over Him, knowing He was the fulfillment of what she had been waiting and praying for, and she proceeded to tell others who carried the same hope that their rescuer had come. Her hope was longstanding, and did not disappoint. [Luke 2:36-38]

Bathsheba– I know some might be weirded out to see her on this list, but honestly: if the king summoned you to his palace, would it cross your mind to refuse him? And if the king was as respected as David, would you suspect that he simply wanted to sleep with you? I don’t think she was to blame for what happened, and the Bible is pretty clear that both David and the Lord saw it that way, too. She mourned when she learned her husband was dead (David’s attempt to cover the affair up); she cared. After many years of being married to David, when he was an old man and one of his haughty sons had taken the throne without his knowledge, she (under the wisdom of the prophet Nathan, whom she seemed to have a good relationship with) approached David and reminded him of his promise to make their son Solomon king. And Solomon became the wisest king Israel ever had, which might be partly due to how she raised him. Bathsheba endured a lot of undeserved pain in her lifetime, but she didn’t live as a victim of those things. She is even mentioned in the genealogies of Jesus, to honor her. [2 Samuel 11, 1 Kings 1-2, Matthew 1]

Daughters of Zelophehad (Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah)– These five women were the only descendants of a man of the tribe of Manasseh; he had no sons and recently passed away, leaving his inheritance and his name to be forgotten. But they stood in front of the entire community– Moses, Eleazar the priest, tribe leaders, everyone– and petitioned for the right to be their father’s heirs. Moses brought their request to the Lord, and the Lord responded with a clear “yes.” They not only stood up to receive what was theirs, but they were the first to operate under the new law that allowed this to happen for other women in their situation. [Numbers 26:33, 27:1-11, 36:11, Joshua 17:3-6]

Deborah– She was a prophet and the only female judge (military leader) in Israel’s judge era. She, by word of the Lord, summoned the warrior Barak into battle, but he would not enter into battle unless she went with him; they had victory and the land was peaceful for forty years. The reverence and respect the people had for her is obvious. I also like that the fact she was married is mentioned, but isn’t a part of her identity or the value she brought; she had an additional calling apart from her marriage. [Judges 4-5]

Dorcas (or Tabitha)– Not a lot is said about her. But when the few words recorded about someone are that “she was always doing kind things for others and helping the poor,” that earns immediate admiration. People loved her so much that when she died and they found out Peter was in town, they begged him to help, and she was brought back to life. [Acts 9:36-41]

Elizabeth– She was the mother of John the Baptist, miraculously conceiving him in her old age, and that’s obviously cool. And when it came time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she didn’t lose her kindness, yet she was unwavering in the face of opposition to giving him the name the Lord declared he should have. But my favorite story we know about her is when she encouraged her cousin Mary about being pregnant with Jesus. Mary was young, unmarried, and, although willing, probably had a lot of fear about what was going to happen. But Elizabeth felt her baby leap at the presence of Mary’s baby, and, full of the Holy Spirit, spoke blessings over her and affirmed her. I also think it says a lot that Mary lived with Elizabeth for three months while pregnant with Jesus; it must have felt like a safe place. [Luke 1]

Esther (or Hadassah)– There is so much I could say about her; she’s one of the few women to have a book of the Bible named after her, and many of us know her story: how she was an orphan chosen among the captive Jews by the Persian king to be his new queen, discovered a plot to eradicate her people, and risked her own life to appear unannounced (i.e., unlawfully) before the king while he was with the man with the plot and plead for their lives– successfully. These events are still celebrated every Purim. Esther was a shining example of blooming where you’re planted, and of discerning when to be submissive and when to speak up. [Esther]

Eunice and Lois– These two are barely mentioned, but what we do know about them is beyond praiseworthy: they are Timothy’s mother and grandmother, who raised him with scripture, strengthening his faith as he grew up under an unbelieving father. They stepped up and refused to be passive about caring for Timothy in all ways. I can relate to Timothy in this so Eunice and Lois are obvious powerhouses to me. [2 Timothy 1:5, 3:15; Acts 16:1]

Hagar– She was Sarah’s servant, eventually given to Abraham because they hoped she could conceive a child for them. She did become pregnant, but being treated so poorly led her to run away into the wilderness– and God met her there beside a spring, encouraged her, and spoke promises over her. From then on she called Him “the God who sees me.” Later, after Hagar had returned but a few years later was sent away out of jealousy, she despaired once again in the wilderness, thinking her son was going to die, and the Lord once again met her there and promised to take care of her. They lived, and eventually she even arranged a marriage for her son; he became the father of the Ishmaelites. She just feels very tangible to me; she reminds me that even when I’m alone, I’m seen and cared for. [Genesis 16, 21]

Hannah– She was childless and achingly longed to be a mother, so she devoutly begged the Lord for a son, promising he would be dedicated to Him all his life. The priest Eli saw her praying and, thinking she was drunk, he rebuked her, but she graciously defended herself, and in response Eli blessed her prayer. She became hopeful, and soon she bore her son Samuel, who would become a favored and honored prophet and leader for decades upon decades; she kept her promise and he assisted Eli from boyhood. Her song of praise is wonderful, and her earnest, humble zeal for the Lord is, too. [1 Samuel 1-2]

Jael– When the commander of a Canaanite army fled to her tent because her husband was in good standing with the king, Jael welcomed him– then waited until he fell asleep, when she drove a tent peg through his skull and killed him. She handed him off to Israel, fulfilling Deborah’s words to Barak that the honor of the victory would go to a woman. This story is a bit strange and gruesome, but it’s interesting to see that she was willing to do what a lot of warriors had not done. Later a song calls her “most blessed among women.” [Judges 4:17-24,  5:24-27]

Jehosheba– The royal family was being massacred, but Jehosheba, sister of the recently deceased king and wife of the priest, took and hid away her brother’s baby and his nurse in the temple while the new wicked queen ruled. Six years later there was a revolt, and that baby, now seven-year-old Joash, became the youngest king to rule in Judah. He was a godly king and eventually restored the Temple. I love that Jehosheba was connected to people in power but knew her own power, and that it didn’t have to be over others but rather used for others. [2 Kings 11:1-3 , 2 Chronicles 22:10-12]

Joanna, Mary, Mary, Susanna, and Salome– These women are some of the named female disciples of Jesus. Many of them had been healed by Him, and some of them (such as Joanna) were married to men of influence and supported Jesus financially. They were also the first to go to Jesus’ tomb, intending to honor His body and instead finding it empty and meeting an angel who declared He was alive. They told everyone, including the eleven remaining disciples, what they’d seen. Not only did Jesus have female disciples, but He also had them be the first to deliver the news of His resurrection. Jesus honors and shares His glory with women. [Luke 8:1-3 , 24:1-12]

Jochebed– The Israelites were living in Egypt under a tyrannical ruler who feared their growing population and had begun a massacre of Hebrew baby boys, but Jochebed hid her baby, Moses. And when she could no longer hide him, she strategically placed him in a basket near where the princess would bathe along the river. The princess saw the baby, had compassion on him, and took him in, but she needed someone to nurse him. That was when Jochebed’s daughter approached the princess from the brush and offered to find a Hebrew woman to nurse him– and, of course, brought back his mother. Not only was Jochebed able to care for her son, but she preserved his life, and put him in a powerful position once he was weaned and the princess adopted him. [Exodus 2, Numbers 26:59]

Leah– She was Jacob’s first wife, given to him instead of her sister, whom he loved and worked an additional seven years to marry. But the Lord saw Leah in her situation, and blessed her with six sons. At first, Leah’s reaction to having children was, “Now Jacob will love me!” But Jacob’s affections didn’t change. Eventually Leah’s mindset changed, and when she had her fourth son, her reaction was: “Now I will praise the Lord!” And after having her last son, she viewed it as God’s reward and said that her husband would respect her; not necessarily love, but respect. We often tell her story in an attitude of “poor Leah,” and that’s definitely valid; her story is full of struggling against her favored sister for affection. But her story also contains her learning that she was valued beyond how people treated her, because the Lord loved her. [Genesis 29-31]


The second half of this list will be up soon! In the meantime, I’d love to hear about some of your favorite biblical women. Who stands out to you and why?

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 it.flowers 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?

Misc. · The Basics

On Identity & Never Fitting Quite Right

DSC04999I am both and I am neither.

If there’s an extreme to reach, I can’t. If there’s a side to pick, I can’t. If there’s an ultimatum to meet, I can’t. I’ve looked into both; God has met me in both. I just cannot make myself believe that He only lives in one aspect of everything. I believe He is bigger than I have room to understand.

I was raised around conservative Christians. I grew up and found myself relating to liberal spirituality in some ways, too. I still don’t fit comfortably in any camp. The Bible is my firm foundation and I follow Jesus in relationship, so the latter believe I am religious and closed-minded; I talk about spiritual life on a grand scale and I practice tolerance, so the former believe I am loose and heretical. I don’t fit. I don’t think I am any of the things they think I am; I hope I’m not. I hope you don’t think I am, either. I think I’m just a person just trying to figure things out the best I can. We all are, aren’t we?

It scares me sometimes. Because when you realize no human being has it fully figured out, you don’t quite know who you can go to with your questions anymore. I can talk to someone about something and have such a deep connection with them– then we’ll take the conversation a step further. And we’ll reach a place where the connection ends, where we don’t see things the same way anymore. And I’ll feel alone again.

I realize I will ever fit into any of the categories offered to me.

I’m reading 1 Corinthians. Paul is speaking to the church there, and he mentions that the Jews were demanding signs while the Greeks were seeking wisdom. Two groups wanted two different things to answer their questions, to supply what they felt they needed. Paul then says:

“Christ [is] the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

In Jesus, both groups were met. Because of Jesus, they were no longer two groups, because everything each person was seeking was found in Him.

He was the deciding factor of their identity. Of their unity.

When we base our identity on what others say, on groups we can belong to, on categories to sort ourselves into– we are basing our identity on something other than Christ. And when we do that, division enters in as a natural result.

In the same chapter, Paul brings up how the church is experiencing conflict because different people in it claim to follow different apostles. His response is simple:

“Is Christ divided?”

When we follow teachings and ideologies, it’s easy to be divided, because there are so many options to choose from. But when we follow Jesus? There’s only His person. And we can shape ideas to serve us, but we cannot mold a person to fit us. When we follow someone, we serve them. We learn from them. We learn the truth about them because we are with them and we seek to know them.

I’m not choosing an extreme. I’m not picking a side. I’m not selecting a category I might fit into. I can’t.

I’m seeking Jesus. Because He is the answer I’m looking for. Always.

And… I’m loving you. Whatever you might have chosen to identify with. Because the answers you want are in Him, too. It binds us together as family.

And everyone has a place in this family.

[Listen]

Soul Food

Soul Food {October 2015}

I tried to narrow these lists down this month, but October brought a lot of good things to feed my soul with! It was a full month in a lot of ways. These things helped me ride the wind through it a little more smoothly.

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  • “Climbing Clouds” by Jetty Rae. Not only is it gorgeous musically, but this song has a radiant heart in it. I haven’t been able to make it through the video without breaking into tears. I’ve cried to the song itself for my own reasons, too, reasons that don’t really make sense, but the tears can’t lie. I can’t express how special it is.
  • Nick Pitera’s cover/mash-up of “Stitches” by Shawn Mendes and “Should’ve Been Us” by Tori Kelly. I looked up both of those songs (because I’m uncultured and only hear popular music through covers), thinking they’d be incredible because Mr. Pitera’s mash-up was beyond captivating– and they were “meh” in comparison. He nailed it.
  • “Down” by Dodie Clark. Maybe you’ve heard me say my favorite kind of music is the kind that inspires me to make my own. This is like that. Beautifully raw.
  • The Piano Guys’ cover of “A Sky Full of Stars” by Coldplay. Sweeping and lovely. I didn’t know I could like Coldplay more.
  • Aaron Tveit’s cover of “One Song Glory.” Because it’s Aaron Tveit, duh. This is my morning jam and starts me out happy.
  • Following the Aaron Tveit theme, he did a cover of a song from Wicked with current Broadway cast member Rachel Tucker, and it’s very good. I have basically zero exposure to Wicked, but I’ve heard the song before, and this version is such a lovely take on something that didn’t really pull me in before.
  • “The Oak Tree” by Emily Hearn. A hug. “I’m old enough to leave home, but way too young to know what I should do. I’m treading water, I’m trying to keep my head above the ground…”
  • Andy Mineo’s “Uncomfortable” album. I’ve mentioned my respect for his music before, but my mom gave me his new album for my birthday and I’ve been listening, grooving along, and pondering over it ever since.
  • Heath McNease’s “Salem Songs” ep. He wrote, recorded, and released this in practically a week– and it is brilliant. A little brooding, a lot thoughtful. “Rev. Hooper (The Minister’s Black Veil)” made me gasp. Get it!
  • “Hello” by Adele. Just stunning. You’ve probably heard it and been enraptured by it already.
  • Jon Foreman’s “Dawn” ep. I know I’ve mentioned Jon Foreman’s “The Wonderlands” project multiple times, but it’s completely released now and I’m just taken aback by the way it’s come together. The final ep may be my favorite of all of them; multiple songs on it make me laugh out of the purest joy. And the full effect of all 25 songs together, in order, is almost like a journey I get to embark on. This project is going to stand the test of time.
  • “Ghosts” by August Burns Red, featuring Jeremy McKinnon. This song hits hard, with sound and with truth. Hardcore music can be so special; I think it’s a powerful way to deliver something. “You and I, we were once the same.” Huge shiver. [The video is heartbreaking, so be warned.]
  • “Be Kind to Yourself” by Andrew Peterson. Some of us forget this; I have recently. His songwriting is like a reassuring arm around my shoulders.
  • Andrew Ripp’s cover of “Mirrors” by Justin Timberlake. He is so talented; I’m obsessed.
  • “Good Good Father” by Chris Tomlin. Because I need this perspective daily.

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  • “Mat Franco’s Got Magic.” I forgot to share this last month so BAM! His magic tricks are mind-blowing and he’s adorable. I’ve been a fan since his America’s Got Talent audition. Maybe my favorite trick from the special was the one with the ramen. How?! How?!!
  • The “Craftversations” Series by Mary Kate Wiles. I enjoy each episode so much! Genuine conversation between two creative friends that I get to listen in on. As a bonus, the things they craft always look so cool and inspire me to make my own! [Occasional innuendo? Maybe? I’m not really sure I just have such a good time!]
  • “Heroes: Reborn.” I started watching it because of Zachary Levi’s presence in it, but the premiere was genuinely gripping. I continue to watch all the different story arcs within the one grand plot and feel invested in nearly each. [Violent. Quite violent. It’s the thing I don’t like about it.]
  • This video from Schizophrenia Awareness Week. Ever since reading a novel written from the perspective of a girl with schizophrenia when I was young, I’ve cared a lot of about those who suffer from it and wanted to combat the misconceptions/carelessness most people carry about it. This video is a great introduction.
  • “Animated Explanation of The Law” from The Bible Project. The videos they make remind me of Bible college courses I’ve taken; I highly recommend them! This one about The Law is one I wish a ton of people in the world would watch.
  • Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. This is one of my favorite films. I always relate to Mahoney in some aspect, and the way she learns about life and the joy to be found in it is a light to me. Plus, there are so many lovely lines and special little story-telling devices the filmmakers implemented. I just love it. We watched it on my birthday.
  • Tom Hanks and Jimmy Fallon performing skits written by children. I laughed so much! Tom Hanks is a gem.
  • Tomorrowland. I didn’t really have any expectations for this film, but I ended up being enamored by the ideas it shared with me. Those who hope are those who make the future bright; power lives in dreamers. I can get behind that.
  • This video on Myers-Briggs types and figuring it all out. This explains it in a way I’ve never heard before, and I ate it up. I took notes on a YouTube video, guys. [A little language.]
  • “The Lion’s Blaze 3” by Olan Rogers. It’s hilarious no matter what, but if you like video games/know gaming lingo you will want to give this a hearty hi-five.

Books/Articles/Blogsreading Just Jane music

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

Thanksgiving Projects

Words, Relationships, & The Little Things (Week 3)

taken November 10, 2013November 10– knitting in church, my Brandon Heath t-shirt, 1 Corinthians 9:12, and sunshine. [Remember to click on any picture to enlarge it!]

I enjoy knitting, especially when the weather gets colder. I get most of my knitting done on Sunday mornings at church; I’m learning that I listen better when I’m not taking notes, for whatever weird reason! Knitting gives me something to do that helps me pay attention. The project I’m working on right now is a scarf for my mom (which I was supposed to finish last Christmas, but…). My Brandon Heath t-shirt is positive thing, first of all, because I simply adore him. Have you seen his Christmas videos?! Haha! But the bigger reason I made it a positive thing is that my college has a strange dress code; it’s hardly strict, but we can’t wear t-shirts with logos on them unless it’s the school logo, so wearing this shirt isn’t normal for me anymore. Plus, a beloved toddler at my church pointed at and sounded out every single letter, then proceeded to ask me what each word said, so that’s a sweet memory now. The verse in the third picture says, “Endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.” It was a convicting reminder to not nit-pick others. What if by addressing the little things that bother me, I’m undoing something Jesus was working in them? I can’t do that! And lastly, the sun is a rare thing now, so it was wonderful to see it on Sunday!

take November 11, 2013November 11– colorful pattern, driving, Abriannah, and Mario Party 7 with my family.

I wore mostly neutrals this day, but I had a short dress with tons of colors under my sweater, which brightened my person outwardly and inwardly. Driving… this might be a subject that deserves a post of it’s own someday. But to sum up: the enemy has been plaguing me with fear about driving since I was a little girl. Every time I drive, I am filled with anxiety. Why is it a positive thing, then? Because I did it anyway. “To try to be brave is to be brave.” If the enemy has been putting fear in this situation, it must be an important one, one that he doesn’t want me to succeed in. I am punching him right in the face when I drive, so I will keep doing it! Please take this as my encouragement to pursue the scary things; fear is from the enemy, but love casts out fear, and God is love. (And don’t worry, I took the picture in a parking lot!). The cute face you see next to mine in the third picture is my neighbor Abriannah. She is 13 and super creative, and on this day we planned ahead a little for our vlog. And Mario Party is an addicting game that I love playing with my mom and brother; we shout, we laugh, and I get to spend time with them. I’m trying to be more intentional about spending time with my family, now that I’m in school and all I usually do is finish my homework and sleep.

taken November 12, 2013November 12– washed dishes, playing video games with my family, sparkly nail polish, and Les Miserables music.

Firstly, I apologize if you didn’t want to see my dishes, haha! But they’re clean, right? The picture represents getting things done: homework, dishes, journaling, cleaning, whatever. It’s always a relief to feel like I’ve been efficient at the end of the day. I didn’t realize until now that I have video games with family as a positive thing twice in a row! At least this is a different game? My brother recently bought an extra controller for our Wii, so we played a game with our mom that we can usually only play with two people; hilarious failures ensued. I painted my nails with this nail polish Abriannah gave me for my birthday, and I’m enjoying the sparkles! And I have been listening to the Les Mis soundtrack all week because I’m obsessed. Go listen to One Day More! OR, better, watch the movie! OR– read the book. It cannot be topped. “Tomorrow you’ll be worlds away/ and yet, with you, my world has started/…”

taken November 13, 2013November 13– a random earthworm, short hair, a hilariously bad “comic,” and my pillow.

This was not the best day ever, but as I was walking to a building for my next class with the thought, “What’s the use of this Four Positive Things challenge, really?”, I saw this worm wiggling his way along the sidewalk. I don’t know why it made me smile, but I took this picture of him and was a little more positive for the rest of the day. Only Jesus would ever know that a worm could make my day! I also got my haircut 10 inches shorter, and now my hair is healthier and less annoying to deal with. I told myself I wouldn’t post any more pictures of my sketchbook, but this day’s drawing challenge was “a comic” and this one was too terrible not to put in my positive things! I almost cried because I was laughing so hard at my sad art and unfunny punch line! And, as I mentioned, this was not my favorite day, so my pillow was calling my name and I came running. Sleep is wonderful.

taken November 14, 2013November 14– Les Miserables, 2 Corinthians 1:7, an old journal entry, and Teddy and Derby.

This day was especially hard, so I took all these pictures right before bed; I’m sorry they aren’t very thought-out. My copy of Les Mis represents the concert versions of the musical that I spent all day watching. I cannot get enough of this story, ever! The verse in the second picture says, “Our hope for you is not shaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.” This was Jesus talking right to me, saying that He doesn’t think I’m hopeless; He has confidence in my love for Him, and because I hurt I will also be comforted. I wrote the day’s date next to that promise. I’m thankful that I keep a journal, because I can look back on what I went through and see if I’m going through it again, and how I conquered it. And Teddy and Derby are my life-long stuffed animals; Teddy was given to me the day I was born, and I found Derby when I was five. I still sleep with them, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to stop, my husband is just going to have to deal with them! (Haha!)

taken November 15, 2013November 15– speaking freely, my great-grandpa’s sweater, the freedom of no homework, and being able to listen.

These pictures are all kind of symbolic because I didn’t get to take pictures during the day, sorry about that! The first and last pictures go together to represent my small group. We meet every Friday, and they are always the highlight of my week. I love every single girl, because they’re loving and REAL. We do “rose and thorn,” basically the high and low of our week, around the circle. Being able to listen to what these girls are rejoicing in is encouraging, and hearing them share their struggles is, too, because I love honesty and sharing in those things with them. I also accidentally shared things deep inside my heart as my “thorn” this week, things that a lot of people don’t know how to respond to– and they responded with genuine sympathy and loving prayer. Takes notes, everyone; THAT is how you comfort someone! The sweater is my great-grandpa’s. He died in 2007. When we were helping my great-grandma downsize, we were going through all their things and I found his sweaters. My grandma said I could take what I wanted, so I took this one and the one I have many memories of him wearing; I only wear this one, and rarely, because I don’t ever want to wash it. When I smelled it during school on this day, immediately my heart began to flutter as I remembered him. And the slightly hilarious picture of me in my old fairy wings? I have NO homework over the weekend, so basically I have wings. (And yes, I have a costume box in my closet.)

taken November 16, 2013November 16– time with Abriannah, the wise words of Gandalf, quiet time, and a rainbow.

You know the planning I said me and Abriannah did? We carried it out on this day. We successfully filmed three episodes for our vlog and laughed a lot during the process. An explanation of the picture itself… well, that will have to wait until this week’s episode! I also caught a little bit of “The Fellowship of The Ring,” and something Gandalf said almost felt directed toward me (you can watch the scene here if you want.). Frodo has said, “I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.” Gandalf’s response? “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are others forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the ring, in which case you, also, were meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.” Gandalf’s words said to me, “You are not alone. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. There is purpose here; this was supposed to happen, and that means there is goodness here.” Thank you, “Gandalf.” (I know it was you, Jesus!) Journaling/overall quiet time was a nice thing to have near the end of the day, time to ruminate over what I’d heard this week. And the rainbow? Promises.

What kept you positive this week? Let me know if you need prayer about this!

Older Posts · On Media & Art

Little Mentions

Lately I’ve been finding more and more things I’ve wanted to just mention to you that won’t make an entire piece, so I’ve decided to compile this, a collection a little recommendations! I encourage you to take the time to check a few of these things out– I found them worth writing about!

  1. The Bible, English Standard Version. I received a new Bible for my birthday, and I am absolutely adoring it! It’s the ESV, not my usual NIV, and there’s actually a list of events that led me to the desire for this particular version! I wanted a Bible that was as close to the words of the original manuscripts as possible. Awhile ago, I was watching a Tenth Avenue North Q & A; someone asked Mike Donehey what his favorite version of the Bible was, and he answered the ESV, for the reasons I listed! I started thinking about getting one. THEN, I found out that one of my Bible study sisters has an ESV, and she told about how much she liked it. Finally, after youth group one night I asked my youth pastor which version of the Bible he had used, and he told me what I already knew: the ESV. I’ve had mine for a few weeks now, and I recommend it; I love it! One thing I’ve noticed that was exciting to me is that a lot of times where the NIV says God’s love or anything like that, the ESV says STEADFAST love!
  2. Brandon Heath’s Leaving Eden: The Conversations. I just found a sort of devotional video from Brandon Heath, someone I greatly admire. It’s short, but it’s poignant, and I plan on answering the questions he asks. I think this is what I’ve been needing to ask myself!
  3. Switchfoot’s “Vice Verses” album. Switchfoot is one of my favorite bands; they are so talented and unique! Every album they put out is another reason to love them, because they add a little more to their style each time. The latest album, Vice Verses, has a little more hard rock, but it’s also a relaxed sound. The overall tone of the songs is bittersweet; you can tell this has been quite the season for them. You might find it a little gloomy at first, but it’s relatable and real, and when going through difficulties yourself it’s actually possible to smile when you hear the slightly depressing songs. I did last night: no, I’m not alright/ I know that I’m not right/ feels like I travel but I never arrive/ I wanna thrive, not just survive/. BUT, it’s not a sad album. There is an undertone of hope and the drive to change. I know that there’s a meaning to it all/ a little resurrection every time I fall/. My favorite songs on the album are “Afterlife”, “The War Inside”, “Thrive”, “Souvenirs”, “Vice Verses”, and “Where I Belong”. Plus, I think front man Jon Foreman has a connection to the ocean like I do!
  4. Tenth Avenue North’s “The Light Meets the Dark” album.  Believe it or not, this is my first cd of theirs! It’s excellent, a wonderful birthday present! The style is unique and the songs contain amazing truths, like listening to encouraging messages at church but in music form! My favorites are “You Are More”, “The Truth is Who You Are”, “Any Other Way”, “On and On”, and “Oh My Dear”. There’s so much to learn here! One of my favorite lines is from “Any Other Way”: it’s not enough, it’s not enough just to say that you’re okay/ I need your hurt, I need your pain, it’s not love any other way/. I also like that a few of the songs are in written in “God’s voice”. It’s so wonderful to worship Him, but sometimes we need to hear Him singing over us, and He always is, but we don’t always hear it. These songs help a little. Lastly, I must further advertise “You Are More”! It’s my favorite song of all time, and that’s HUGE for a music junkie like me to say!
  5. Shawn McDonald’s “Closer” album. Mr. McDonald says in the “thank-you’s” of the cd jacket that he wrote the songs on “Closer” during a storm in his life, and knowing that makes them take on their own little lives. I love his sound, with pop, R & B, and soul all blended together; I could listen to this cd and enjoy it even if I wasn’t worshipping along, but I usually am! My favorites are “Closer”, “Faithful”, “The Space Between Us”(LOVE!), “Something Real”, “Control”, and “Rise”. I’m kind of in a storm right now, too, so listening to these is comforting. Some songs, like on Vice Verses, are comforting simply because you can relate to them, but with Closer, the comfort comes from the way Mr. McDonald reacted to his storm. It’s best explained in the song “Storms”: I will not fear/ when the storms of life appear/ cause You’re holding me, holding me tight/ You’re keeping me alive/ when the storms of life arise/ and You’re helping me, helping me to fight/. If you’re in a storm right now and need a model for worship-filled prayer, listen to this album! You’ll like it no matter what season you’re in!