Tag Archives: The Bible

A Look at How I Journal

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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?

On Identity & Never Fitting Quite Right

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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 {October 2015}

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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.

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

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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!

Little Mentions

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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! Listen to the lyrics, watch the life-changing music video, watch the live performance video, and watch Mike Donehey’s short message on the song! You can go to their YouTube channel, tenthavenuenorth, to find the last two, and the link to the music video is on Forgiven and Loved’s sidebar. I loved seeing the struggle-turned-worship in Mr. Donehey’s face during the live video!
  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!

Summer Life Lessons, as told by my reading list and playlist.

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     This glorious though way too short summer of 2011 was a season of major growth for me. I could try explaining every little detail of it, but, being a spontaneous thinker-dreamer, I thought it would be fun to trust what I fed myself with all summer to tell you the results. I’m an avid reader and music-listener, and those things filled the past three months of my life, besides God and my friends, of course. Think about the crazy difference between the life I have now and the life I would have had without being led to these things. Thank you Jesus, for all the different ways you talk to me! I love you!

BOOKS:

  1. The Bible (NIV). I’ve always lived with maybe a dozen Bibles(my parents were Bible college students and have kept seemingly every single book they read in that time period!), but I didn’t actually just pick up a copy and read until a few years ago. It was hard to start, but now it’s impossible to end! I use the reading plan in the Pursue Journal by Pastor Poncho Lowder. There’s no shame in needing a little push to start reading; it really is puzzling to try starting in “the right place”. I encourage you to try different reading plans until you find the one that suits you. And once you have it, you aren’t bound by the list. You can read more than it tells you if you want to! Honestly, God doesn’t care how much you read as long as you spend time with Him. You could read the entire book of Psalms in one sitting, but unless you did it with Him, you just wasted a lot of time. One verse with Him is better than an entire book without Him. Don’t read just to get it done; the whole point of reading the Bible is spending time with God. He wants to be in communication with you! The books of the Bible that my reading plan took me through, entire or tidbits, in June, July, and August were: Isaiah, Titus, Psalms, Jude, 2 Corinthians, Philemon, 2 Kings, Hosea, Hebrews, Micah, James, 2 Chronicles, 1 & 2 Peter, John, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Matthew, Zechariah, Revelation, Ezra, Nehemiah,  Esther, Job, Mark, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Judges, and Luke.
  2. “The Appomattox Saga” by Gilbert Morris, books 1-4. I am a huge Gilbert Morris junkie; I have more than a rack on my bookshelf dedicated to his works. For my birthday last year I received from my parents a 3-in-1 book containing the first 3 books in the Appomattox Saga. I was so excited about reading it, but didn’t get around to it until summertime. My birthday is in October– thank you, school? Anyway, I found the 4th book in a rummage sale, so I was able to read almost half of the series. The stories are fantastic, set in Civil-War America in the perspective of a family separated by the north and south. I love the characters, as Mr. Morris always knows how to make them well-rounded. I fell in love with Clay Rocklin and Jake Hardin. Haha! In all seriousness, Raimey Reed (of “Gate of His Enemies”, book 2) was a very influential character for me, because she was a God-fearing young woman who was blind. I’ve always been curious about the blind, and sometimes wish I was blind myself so I wouldn’t judge by appearances. But I am very grateful to have my sight! It was just fun for me to read about a blind girl of faith; she was obedient when God put something on her heart and she was able to shine a light of love on a man who wanted to die because of the ugly war-scars on his previously handsome face. Raimey was the big inspiration for me in these books.
  3. “Even God Rested” by Kim Thomas. I did not expect to like it as much as I did! I kind of frowned on it as self-help book and read the first few chapters in disdain, but I finished the book with conviction to live it out! It is not a self-help book; it’s a like Bible study. Instead of pushing doing nothing and laziness, Mrs. Thomas spoke of Sabbath rest. Each chapter discusses “ceasing and feasting”, like “ceasing from noise, feasting on silence”. One observation I loved was that God didn’t HAVE to rest. He’s God, awesome in power, and never tires or wears out. He rested to show us that it’s okay. He was leading by example. Isn’t that cool?! It’s like when my mom took Spanish with me for two years! She showed me it was okay to struggle and how to study hard, because she did herself. I really benefitted from the truths and “rest ideas” in this book. One more quote she included that I have on my wall now: “Prayer and love are learned in the hour when prayer has become impossible and your heart has turned to stone.” -Thomas Merton.
  4. “Jacob’s Way” by Gilbert Morris. I’m telling you– Gilbert Morris! “Jacob’s Way” takes place soon after the Civil War, where a Jewish pair of grandfather-and-granddaughter have recently immigrated from Russia to escape religious persecution. The grandfather, Jacob, has been wrestling inside himself for many years about the Messiah: was He truly Jesus? I was both warmed and excited by the evidence he finds! This book showcases the influence of others, especially the influence that people with Jesus can have. Plus, it’s a fun story with lovable characters, especially their huge but loving friend, Dov!
  5. “The Shack” by William P. Young. I recommend “The Shack” to everyone! It starts out in gloom and depression, but ends in joy and triumph! The main character, Mack, is a man who can’t recover from the abduction/murder of his little girl, and still carries the pain of his past mistakes in his heart. When he receives a note, supposedly from God, to visit the place of his daughter’s murder, at first he thinks it’s crazy(wouldn’t you?). But he just can’t shake it; he accepts the invitation! What he finds there, you would ever expect. I can’t give too much away, because I encourage you: READ IT! God changed so much of my attitude through it, and told me a lot that I needed to hear. You’ll find that you and Mack ask the same questions, and most likely find some answers! If you enjoy it, you can find more at Mr. Young’s blog, http://www.windrumors.com/ . Aside from the Bible, “The Shack” was my most influential read of the summer! I can see God as Father now!!!
  6. “Lady In Waiting” by Susan Meissner. This book contains two intertwined stories spread across centuries but teeming with similarities. In our day, Jane Lindsay is perfectly content with her life until her husband tells her they “need a break” to “see if anything’s left” in their marriage. She crumbles, and the blunt words of her family don’t help at all. Meanwhile, in 16th-century England, Lady Jane Grey is a young noble whose life is dictated by the political ideas of her parents. From who she’ll be betrothed to, to what she wears, all of it is based on what her parents want to do to gain wealth and status. But she wants to marry her own love! The lives of both Janes include a special ring, first owned by Jane Grey and later discovered by Jane Lindsay. As we(and Jane Lindsay) see how Jane Grey’s life turns out, our modern Jane decides that her life will NOT turn out the same. Complex but fantastic story, and two important morals. 1: You are who you choose to be, and 2: Love is a choice you make every day. It was a great book to finish off my summer with. I read many more than I listed here, but these were the ones I connected to and learned the most from.

MUSIC:

  1. Out of the Grey, the “See Inside” album. It’s amazing what you can find in a box of free items! I’d heard and enjoyed a few songs from Out of the Grey, so when I found the old(as in 1997) cd, I decided to try it out. Their style is a comfortable mix of praise/worship and bluesy-rock. My favorite song from the album is “No Leaving”, which expresses the amazing truth that, no matter where you run, you can’t leave God. He’s always with you! Where would I go?/ What would I do?/ Who would I be apart from You?/ I should have known/ what’s always been true/ There’s no leaving/ You/ It’s a great comfort when you feel like you’re far from God, reminding you that it’s not possible! Other songs I enjoyed include “Winter Sun”, “Joy”, and “Constant”. It’s easy to sing along with the album and mean what you’re singing. Very worshipful.
  2. Brandon Heath, the “Leaving Eden” album.  Brandon Heath is one of my favorite musicians; I own all his albums and forever had a crush on him! One of my best friends got the latest cd for me at a concert (thank you again, Miranda!), and it’s full of beauty and truth. I connect differently to each song, so I can’t get myself to choose a favorite. “Your Love” holds a special meaning to me, that when I’m having a hard time, the only thing that matters is/ Your love/ Your love/ is all I have to give/ Your love/ is enough/ to light up the darkness, it’s/ Your love/ Your love/ All I ever needed is Your love/. I’ve heard this song many a hard day, and it always lifts me up. All I ever needed is Your love! “Now More Than Ever” is also special to me because it was my prayer all summer. I was(and am) so desperate to go deeper in my relationship with Jesus, and this song was an excellent way to put a little of that hunger into words. It also has a great sound, so no matter how I feel, I can listen to it.  Other wonderful songs include “Leaving Eden”, “The Light in Me”, “Only Water”, “Stolen”, and “It’s No Good To Be Alone”. You can see what Mr. Heath says about many of these songs on his YouTube channel, brandonheath. Just look for “The Leaving Eden Sessions.”
  3. Relient K, the “Forget and Not Slow Down” album. Relient K is a fun and artistic band with deep as well as sometimes silly songs. I was excited to find a cd of theirs on clearance! I’m honestly not sure how to describe it, because they’re always so unique! Lead singer and main songwriter Matthew Thiessen has a vast vocabulary and is talented in using it. The overall theme of the album is letting God change you and help you move forward, and that’s especially clear in the title track. I could spend my life just trying to shift through what I could have done better, but what good do what-if’s do?/I’d rather forget and not slow down/ than gather regret from the things I can’t change now/ if I become what I can’t accept,/ resurrect the saint from within the wretch/ pour over me and wash my hands of it/. The song I connected to the most was “Over It”. Along with joyfully contagious sound, it’s full of looking ahead to a bright, God-written future, letting Him define you, and forgetting what tied you down. There’s much truth in it, and I always have to sing along when I hear it. I also love “Savannah”. It’s a love song, but I have the tendency to sing them to Jesus even if they weren’t written about Him. I love singing it to Him: Our backs supported by a hammock,/ we sum up perfection like a handbook/. I’m listening to nothing but this cd right now! Other songs I love on it include “Candlelight”, and “Part of It.”
  4. Additional songs of my summer: “I’m With You” by Nichole Nordeman and Amy Grant, which comforted me when I felt alone. “Closer” by Shawn McDonald, another prayer of mine. “You Are My Joy” by David Crowder Band, my anthem. “5:19”, “Everything’s Right”, and “I Just Realized” by Matt Wertz, a song I felt Jesus singing to me, a song that reminds me of youth group trips, and another love song I sing to Jesus. “Suitcases” by Dara MacLean, a fun and declarative song of mercy. “Someone Worth Dying For” by MIKESCHAIR, a God-send I heard on the radio right when I needed the reminder. And “This Is The Stuff” by Francesca Battistelli, because me and a few Bible study sisters sang it quite a few times!

What fed YOU this summer? What were the effects? Keep taking in what Jesus sends you, my friend. He gives the best gifts, and I thank Him so much!