Soul Food

Soul Food {January 2017}

The first month of the year brought some wonderful new media my way. Let’s talk about it!


  • Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” album. I’ve loved Coldplay for years but never actually owned one of their albums, so owning this one now is special. Such rich and layered songwriting with sweeping melodies. I love pretty much every song on it, but this month “Lovers in Japan” really spoke to me. “They are turning my head out, to see what I’m all about; keeping my head down to see what it feels like now. But I have no doubt: one day we’re gonna get out…”
  • “Magic” by Thomas Gold ft. Jillian Edwards. Jillian is one of my musical inspirations, so to see her collaborate with a DJ was especially cool to me; it reminded me of how limitless the possibilities are for artists. Plus, what a great jam.
  • “Why Georgia” by John Mayer. There’s just something about it. “Four more exits to my apartment, but I am tempted to keep the car in drive, and leave it all behind…” I was led to this song by a lovely John Mayer acapella medley, also worth checking out. When they hit those harmonies on “hearrrrrtbreaaaak…”
  • “You’re Gonna Live Forever In Me” also by John Mayer. New and incredible, laced with emotions. “Parts of me were made by you…” His entire new ep is great.
  • Kenzie Nimmo’s cover of “It Ain’t Me Babe” (ft. Harris Heller). So calm and melancholy, with beautiful voices. Love it.
  • “The Perfect Parts” by Shakey Graves. I’ve had this album for like two years but I still go back to it and find more to like about it. Story-telling and solid jams. The Audiotree session of this song is great, too. My dad and I listened and gushed.
  • Colony House’s “Only The Lonely” album. They are my boys, and I am elated to have new music from them. They go a bit more retro rock-n-roll on this one, but I’m into it. And lyrically? Masterful and soul-reaching. My favorites are “Where Your Father’s Been” “You & I” “You Know It” “3:20” and “Cannot Do This Alone.” I think I just named half of the track list but it’s fine.
  • “Ocean Eyes (Blackbear Remix)” by Billie Eilish. Beautiful, emotional, with cool beat-driven moments. I can’t listen to it just once.
  • “Vibes Vibes Vibes” (ft. Aha Gazelle and Chris Durso), “Usual Suspects” (ft. Willow Stephens), “Time 4 That” and “Extra Wavy” by Social Club Misfits. I’m always kind of torn about these guys. The tracks they produce are super fun and get me hyped up, but lyrically it’s almost all reminiscent of a messy humblebrag. I’ve been listening to their new album trying to figure out if I like it; I’m still not sure. But these songs are the ones I end up enjoying in the midst of that conflict.
  • “Hold On” by Jet. This song is in Spider-Man 2 and hit a sweet spot in me the last time I watched it.

If you want to listen to all these songs in one place, I’ve made a playlist! It’s on YouTube and on Spotify (neither are complete, which bothers me, but I had to work with what was available).


  • Pete’s Dragon (the 2016 version). I had no expectations for it, but it was lovely and magic-filled. I loved the gentle and soft yet powerful design of Eliot.
  • The Joy of Painting. I grew up with Bob Ross’ art; my grandparents were both certified instructors of his and taught classes in oil painting, and we have many of their pieces hanging in our house. I feel such an affection for him and his work. This month, watching episodes of his show was an accidental daily thing for me, so I decided to make it a purposeful routine. Every season is on this YouTube channel in playlists; I’m on season one right now. I love his positivity and how deeply he appreciates everything. He truly created his own world. Plus I just enjoy the solid painting advice. “You have the fun; let the brush do the work.”
  • This bullet journal flip-through. Though I don’t follow a bullet journal format, this inspired me to try out some more creative ideas in my own journal.
  • “Amy Adams & Andrew Garfield – Actors on Actors.” Two wonderful people (Andrew is one of my absolute favorites) sharing such interesting thoughts. I want to sit in on their conversations for hours.
  • Bull. It gives me a few vibes like The Mentalist did, in a courtroom instead of a police station. Though no character comes close to Patrick Jane or his crew.
  • This video about a man who paints without his sight. Stunning and inspiring.
  • George of The Jungle. My ridiculous favorite. “Thor! Are you arguing with the narrator?!”
  • “OMG We’re Coming Over!” I was obsessed with interior design shows when I was little, and watching this cute couple continue on that legacy with their series makes my heart happy.
  • Spider-Man (the 2002 version), Spider-Man 2, and Spider-Man 3. My ever-present Spider-Man love has been extra powerful lately, so watching the films that started it all for me was almost necessary.
  • Captain America: Civil War. Because Spider-Man.
  • Continued watching Scorpion and The Mentalist regularly.


  • “In Which I Write a Letter to Women’s Ministry” by Sarah Bessey. Spot. On.
  • Jesus Outside The Lines by Scott Sauls… and I didn’t like it. Which was so disappointing, because I thought I would find such a life-speaking voice in it. I wrote a full review on Goodreads if you want specifics.
  • Quite a few Andrew Garfield interviews, because his spiritual journey was making me giddy. His interview with The New York Times is a stand-out.
  • The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. I wanted to read it purely because Wells was such a gem in Poe Party, but I ended up really liking it! Engaging and interesting, just the right amount of sci-fi for me.
  • “Have We Overplayed the Sermon Card?” by Wayne Jacobson. A hearty yes to this.
  • “The Phenomenon of The Dones” also by Wayne Jacobson. I have been aching to hear someone say these words for such a long time. So grateful for this and what it spoke into me. If you know me personally and we’ve talked about church-going before, I’d love for you to read this; it articulates everything I’ve wanted to and more.
  • The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp. Sometimes, a book looks you in the face and tells you what it sees in the depths of you. It shows you things inside you that you’d suppressed for so long you weren’t even aware they were living in you anymore. And once it does that, it tells you– you have the capacity to live abundantly even with those things. You are broken, and you are loved for it. Life changing book. I cannot recommend it enough.
  • “Nobody Wants To Be a Refugee” by Ben Stiller. Nails it. “Compassion and security are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, they are mutually reinforcing.”

What’s been feeding you lately?

Soul Food

Soul Food {February 2016}

This month was wild in a lot of ways. It was good, but I am ready for something new. You’ll see in these lists a lot of the diverse things that I needed to hear and know.

But first, a quick announcement! A few people have asked me about where they can find the music I’m listening to on a regular basis. These monthly lists are the best way to do that, but I share individual links because I’m aware my taste is all over the place and that not all of it will be everyone’s cuppa (which is totally cool). I wanted to make it easier for you if you want to listen to all of the songs without having to click on each individual link, so I’ve started a YouTube playlist of the music recommendations I make in Soul Food each month. You can find it right here!


  • This instrumental medley of “Wildest Dreams” and “Bad Blood.” Absolutely stunning. This is what I want the soundtrack of my life to sound like.
  • Rusty Clanton’s cover of “Neptune.” The mood he brings to all his music is lovely, and this one is a bit more on the thoughtful, haunting side of things. I always enjoy seeing something new from him.
  • “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall” by Coldplay. Everyone talking about Coldplay made me remember how much I adore them. This song brings me into my joys and hopes, as so many of their songs do.
  • “You and Me” by Ben Rector. The vibe is happy, the lyrics are bittersweet, and I love all of it. I needed it with me.
  • Tenth Avenue North’s “Cathedrals” album. This album expresses truths and provokes thoughts for me like very few albums have before. I am so grateful for it. My favorite songs on it are “I Need You, I Love You, I Want You” “Heaven’s Sound” and “We Won’t Numb The Pain.”
  • “Slow Motion” by Matt Wertz. I’m a longtime fan of his, and the way his sound has evolved into this chill groove is totally okay with me. Had his new single on repeat the entire day it released.
  • “Never Forget You” by Zara Larsson and MNEK. I accidentally listened to the wrong radio show for 45 minutes (I know: how?!), but this song being played was the highlight of that experience. Gorgeous vocals and a cool, modern sound, with lyrics I felt.
  • “100 Years” by Five for Fighting. This song randomly showed up in my life three times within a week; you bet I listened to it a lot more, with an open heart. I guess I needed to be told that every season is good and must be savored. Beautiful song.
  • “The Banjolin Song” by Mumford & Sons. I listened to my favorite Pandora station a lot this month. This is one of the songs that would pop up and make me smile.
  • “Runaway” by Jess Ray. Listening to this on a bleak day was bliss and comfort.
  • “Mess is Mine” by Vance Joy. I adore this song; a love that is willing to get into the messes with you is beyond value. Beautiful, homey singer-songwriter sound.
  • “Stained Glass” by Jon Guerra. He opened for Rend Collective when I saw them in concert this month, and his music swept me away. So lovely, in sound and in heart.

Movies/YouTube/TVwalter mitty

  • “Chris Martin Carpool Karaoke.” I think this series in general is so fun, but I got way too excited when I saw the lead singer of Coldplay was the next guest; I am quite the Coldplay fan and I just really enjoy his spirit for life. This car ride would be such a blast!
  • Jack Frost, the 1979 animated special. My brother has informed me that I am the only human being who enjoys it, but whatever. I’m determined to watch it every Groundhog Day. I think it’s a lovely little film with a sweet air and the theme of greatest love– laying down your life for your friends.
  • Jefferson Bethke unpacking the objectification of women. This instantly became my favorite anything about this subject, and that’s big, because I am deeply passionate about this subject. Such good information on our brains, on scripture, on where our hearts need to be. He speaks of all human beings, not just women, and I love it. This, this, this.
  • “Live Your Song,” a TEDtalk by Jon Foreman. I love what he has to say about how we live our lives and how we fit with the world around us. He sees and thinks in poetry, and hearing him describe his perspective is a privilege.
  • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. One of my favorite films. Walter was never a coward, but he sold himself short, and seeing him leave the boxes he’d lived in his whole life always makes me cheer.
  • The “Song of Songs” installment of The Bible Project’s “Read Scripture” series. I appreciate The Bible Project so much; their exegesis is thorough and they just genuinely want to share the knowledge they’ve found to open more eyes to the heart of God. Some great information here.
  • Rhett & Link singing “A Song For When You Want to Say ‘I Love You’ But You Can’t.” So weird, but somehow great. Which is a good description of my general thoughts on these guys and what they make, haha!
  • Also by Rhett & Link, I watched basically every episode of their daily show, Good Mythical Morning, that was “Will It?” themed and cried laughing for hours. Why does two grown men dry heaving after eating weird food entertain me? It probably shouldn’t…
  • The Good Dinosaur. I heard quite a few people saying they didn’t love this movie; you will not be hearing that from me. It touched me so much. It was beautifully animated, it brought emotion out of me, and it was cute enough to make me giggle.
  • “Simon Beck – Snowartist.” I am always inspired by artists who do things unconventionally, who put their entire being into what they make, who do what they do out of love. This man’s giant-scale art made in the snow with his feet? Breathtaking.

Books/Articles/BlogsJesus Storybook Bible

  • “When You Always Feel a Strange Homesickness: How to Find Your Way Home” by Christie Purifoy. “The great promise has always been, not that we would go to live with God, but that God would come to make His home with us.”
  • “Why and How You Daydream” on Psychology Today. This was just an interesting subject to me that I wanted to learn a little bit more about. Crazy (and, to be honest, a bit convicting) to read that those who daydream about unattainable things are generally less happy and content in their lives.
  • “What You Focus On Is What Becomes Powerful– Why Your Thoughts and Feelings Matter” on Hey Sigmund. I am becoming a fan of this blog more and more the longer I’m subscribed to it; I so appreciate that it shares important psychology information in simple language, making the information accessible and applicable. This article in particular speaks of the brain science behind positivity and the effect it has on our contentment in life. Huge.
  • The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones. It might be a children’s Bible, but reading it for myself was a time of growth and learning. The theology is so solid. It points to Jesus in every single story, showing that the Bible and the story of humanity is unified and centers around Him and His love for us. I am so excited about the generation that is growing up with this book!
  • “When You’re Struggling: Who Can You Really Trust These Days?” by Beth Moore. Real talk about how fear is the driving force of all that hurts us, and how we can “trade it in for trust.”
  • “When You Don’t Feel Good Enough to Really Be Loved” by Christa Hesselink. I relate so deeply to her story. The difference between knowing something to be true and believing it in your core is huge, and I love the hope she shares– that someday I’ll believe what I know, because my Father is going to change my heart to believe it.
  • A Little Princess, the adaptation by Tania Zamorsky. A friend told me to read this story and pay attention to Sara. Sara displays that no matter how badly you are treated or how terrible your circumstances are, you can rest in your value and identity with dignity and strength. Her story is such an encouragement. I couldn’t find the Frances Hodgson Burnett novel anywhere, but this little adaptation was a good summary.

Taking part in Leigh Kramer’s “What I’m Into” link-up, as usual. Be sure to browse around there if you like seeing what other people have been taking in and enjoying.

Responses · Testimonies · The Basics

Precious, Not Shameful (Or, Why Learning About Modesty Made Me Cry)

This year, an intensely complicated subject has continued to show up in my life. Jesus has been sending me ideas and perspectives that make me stand up and cheer “Yes, yes, yes, yes!”, make me gasp and say “That is so backwards!”, or even make me genuinely question what I’ve always thought. I’ve been learning so much, and I think it’s time I start voicing these things that have changed my life radically. What is this subject that has been affecting me so deeply?


I know what you’re probably thinking: “But, Tessa, we’ve already got this all figured out; you don’t need to question anything.” I used to think so, too. But what I’m finding is screaming otherwise. I’ve grown up in the church and wouldn’t change that at all; I love where I’m from, and I still attend the church I did when I was a baby. But I realize now that modesty is a much bigger issue than we think, in different ways than we expect. Can I share a bit of my story with you? There’s a part of me I wasn’t aware of until a few months ago–

I have sexuality.

That’s kind of a “duh” statement, isn’t it? I am a human being; I have sexuality. The end. But no one has ever simply told me that it’s okay to have sexuality. Do you want to know what people did tell me when I started growing up? “You need to be modest to keep boys from stumbling when they see you.”

And that’s all.

When that mixed with my inaccurate perception of sex, the message was incredibly clear to me that my sexuality was something to be detested and hidden away. I was still not fully aware of the reality of Jesus’ forgiveness at this point, so I associated my shame with who I was. To me, I didn’t have shame; I was shameful. I’ve always been modest with my clothing, more modest than anyone required of me. But it was never enough to me. If I was wearing a t-shirt, I would also be wearing two tanks tops under it. No matter how hard I tried, I was afraid that because I was a girl I was going to be a stumbling block.

A few months ago, I was still living in fearful modesty when I found an article someone had written– and almost cried because I related to everything she said. I hadn’t realized these things hurt me so much. While I didn’t agree with every argument the writer made after she shared her story, it brought an awareness to me that has been shaping every aspect of my life ever since, and that is–

Having sexuality is not sinful.

I know how obvious that is, but that just makes it even more terrible that I subconsciously believed it for so long. When my Bible study and youth group leaders would tell me to be modest, it was never for any reason but to keep boys safe or do my husband a favor. That implied to me that if I was seen, I was stealing someone from a deeper relationship with Jesus, and that terrified me. Cue t-shirt with two tank tops.

I want to take younger Tessa into my arms and let her cry about the shame she feels trapped in. I want her to hear C.S. Lewis when he says, “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” Most of all, I want her to realize that she isn’t being modest to save boys–

She is being modest because Jesus values her.

taken March 21, 2012The famous Bible passage that speaks of being a stumbling block is Romans 14:13-23. It’s a beautiful passage that speaks of loving others through what you do with yourself. It says that if you wonder if something is sinful, for you it might as well be, and then relates that concept to other people; if you are doing something that isn’t sinful, but someone sees you doing it and they have never been able to without believing they are sinning, it is as if you are sinning in front of them, which places conflict inside them. We must not do that. However, when Paul penned these words, he didn’t happen to pen the word “modesty” in with them. This concept can definitely apply to modesty, but it is not at all saying that women have the responsibility to be modest in order to keep men from sinning; if anything, it is saying women should be modest to help other women.

Verses that do speak of modesty actually have quite a different take on it. First Timothy 2:9-10 says, Women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness– with good works. And 1 Peter 3:4 says, Let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. Both of these verses are on my closet and I deeply hold to them, but not for the same reasons I used to. I used to read them daily and tell myself, “Okay, Tessa. Don’t let anyone see you.” Today, I read them and tell myself: “Okay, Tessa. Let people see you.”

Yes, these verses tell me to be modest, but not because I need to protect the men I meet. These verses say that modesty is a way to practice self-control; that beautiful actions should be my focus; that the things about me worth noticing come from inside me; that Jesus adores my spirit. I honestly have no clue where we got the idea that modesty is for the protection of other people. Modesty is a virtue that involves humility and kindness, not something that is meant to be found solely in women and what we put on our bodies; it’s the unwillingness to draw attention to yourself in order to win praise. These verses speak to women, but that’s because women were seen as objects and Jesus wanted to say, “No! I see inside you, and I love the you that exists in there. You are not an object and need no decoration; you are precious, and you have the ability to do beautiful things in my name. I am in love with your spirit. With you.” Do you hear Him saying that to you? Because He is. The hidden person in you is His dearest treasure. He wants your spirit to shine brightly from your physical body. That’s why He asks you to be modest. Not to keep boys from sinning, not to give your husband a gift– to be a soul instead of a body. Your existence is not a stumbling block.

One more thing: because all we were told as girls in youth group about our sexuality was that we needed to be modest, I felt like a disgusting, lustful monster for having sexual desires.

If I ever voiced this, I might have been corrected. But I was too terrified, because… well, I felt like a disgusting, lustful monster, and I didn’t want to tell someone that I was! But I wasn’t. And I’m not. I have desires sometimes, because I have sexuality, but I am not a monster. And the girls in your church’s youth group, maybe even the grown women in your congregation, need to be told this about themselves. I passionately hate that we forget men aren’t the only ones who have desires. We hear about sex being “what men want” (which is another stereotype I detest), and whenever I heard this I would internally crumble into a pile of pain as I whispered, “I want it, too. Not right this moment and not in a weird obsessive way, but I want it.” I cried about it sometimes, in quiet moments by myself as I thought, “I shouldn’t be feeling this. Jesus doesn’t want me to feel this.”

So, precious girl, this is for you: having desires is normal, not sinful. Acting out of them right now or obsessing over them may be wrong, but having them does not make you wrong. The key is surrender, giving your entire self to Jesus to care for. This isn’t something you can go through without Him. Accept what you feel and ask Him to give you patience, not simply in your actions but in your soul, too. Your sexuality was His idea. He made you; He knows how to take care of you. Beloved, there is nothing wrong with you, and I don’t ever want you to feel that way again.

And church, I have a question. I’m not asking out of bitterness, although I was when I first learned these things. I just ache to know: why didn’t you tell me? Why did it take so many shame-filled years for me to finally understand that I could have desires without being a monster? That all it took was trusting Jesus to take care of me? And why did you put effort into teaching me about modesty, yet ignore teaching boys to see me as a soul? Why did you talk to me and boys about their desires, yet say nothing about mine? And why didn’t you explain that modesty goes way beyond clothing?

Be modest, yes. But remember that modesty doesn’t stop at what you put on your body; you can be modest in your words, your actions, your spirit. And He’s teaching you to let your spirit, your soul, shine out of you and be what everyone remembers after they see you. You are not a stumbling block or a monster. You are precious. Allow that be seen.