New Year, New Soundtrack

Monday, December 31, 2018

Photo by Josh Boot on Unsplash

Well, just like that, another 365 days have come and gone. And honestly, 2018 was a challenging year for me. These nine ditties are the ones guiding me into the new year with hope, love, and courage. I pray they will do the same for you! A link to the full playlist on Spotify is available at the bottom of this post. 

"Open Up Let the Light In" by Steffany Gretzinger

The six words in the title of this song also happen to be its only lyrics, sung meditatively in repetition. It's a beautiful call to action at the beginning of a new year, inviting me to cast out whatever darkness is lingering from 2018, and open myself up to God's love and light ahead.

"Fear" by Ben Rector

I learned to dance with the fear that I'd been running from.

I've been trying to mature in my relationship to fear for some time now, wondering if it's really possible to ever be fearless, or even (more realistically) face my fear and do the dang thing anyway. I'm learning that courage without vulnerability is just bluster, and that, as Brené Brown says, "Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we will ever do." I'm starting to realize that owning our stories looks like acknowledging the presence of fear -- even understanding that it likely won't disappear completely. And that's okay, because real courage simply requires learning to dance with fear, leading it in the dance, instead of letting it own me.

"Glorious" by Macklemore (feat. Skylar Grey)

I feel glorious, glorious -- got a chance to start again. I was born for this, born for this. It's who I am, how could I forget? I made it through the darkest part of the night, and now I see the sunrise. Now I feel glorious, glorious..."

This power jam, in addition to making me feel like rolling down my car windows and singing at the top of my lungs (which I would 0/10 not recommend in subzero Colorado wintertime temps, in case you were wondering), also speaks to the beauty of strength, resilience, and living your life's purpose. This year, get. it. done.

"Not Home Yet" by The Gray Havens

All of your days, if it's well understood, will be working together, forever, for good.

I discovered the Gray Havens about a month ago and have more or less been listening to their album, "She Waits," on repeat ever since. This song in particular resonates with my current season, though, because for one thing, it testifies to the power of changing direction and starting over new. The line I've quoted above also provides some reassurance to me in particular, who has wondered, more than I'd like to admit, if I've been wasting my life. If I should have "arrived" wherever I'm going by now. If the pain has a purpose. The promise that all of my days have been working together for my good is everything my heart needs to hear as I wrap up the year.

"Freedom" by Francesca Battistelli

Break open the doors; You made me for freedom.

Marching into 2019 with the solid sense that I am made for freedom -- not for anxiety, sadness, and fear -- gives me the courage to push through those struggles as they arise in the future.

"Flashlight" by Hunter Hayes

It's funny when I realize all the places that Your miracles can hide. 

I honestly feel as if this song was written for me. One of the things that never ceases to amaze me about God is how He relentlessly pursues my heart, capturing it even when I'm ready to give up on Him, even when I'm doubting and confused and frightened. He is still there, always, shining His flashlight, illuminating things that somehow always lead me back to Him in praise and thanksgiving.

"Trip a Little Light Fantastic" by the cast of Mary Poppins Returns

So when life is getting scary, be your own illuminary, who can shine a light for all the world to see...

This playlist was pretty much done... and then I went to see Mary Poppins Returns with my mom and my sister when I was home for Christmas last week. And I knew I had to add the film's eleven o'clock number. Without risking too many spoilers, I'll share that this song is sung when things are looking pretty bleak for our protagonists. Not a problem, though, when they have a lamplighter for a friend, who can belt this out while literally lighting the city of London with all of his lamplighting friends. Not too obvious of a metaphor about how we should light up our own lives when we've stumbled upon hard times, though, right?


The time has come to make a choice, and I choose joy!

Honestly, I feel a little weird about adopting well-intended mantras like, "Choose joy!" Because sometimes, when I'm feeling sad, joy is the last thing I want to choose. Moping around in sweatpants and eating all of the chocolate sounds like a much better option. But I think the reluctance I feel comes from equating joy with simple happiness, and the two are quite different. Happiness is often a fleeting emotional state, caused by circumstance. Joy, on the other hand, is a way of life that comes from trusting that God is good, no matter what. Now, I'm not saying that happiness doesn't have its place, or that I've got the whole "trust in God" thing down pat. I frequently fight sadness and anxiety, and I want to get better at reminding myself, in those moments, of God's faithfulness -- so as to build a joy that lasts.

"Something Big" by Shawn Mendes

Something big, I feel it happening.

I'm not sure what 2019 will bring. But I am sure it will help me grow into myself even more. And that feels... well, pretty big, honestly.


Here's a link to the whole playlist -- hope you find these songs as empowering, encouraging, and energizing as I do! Happy New Year, all! 

Merry Christmas (We are Loved)

Monday, December 24, 2018

Photo by Mike Labrum on Unsplash

I don’t always “get it,” Lord.
            But tonight, I did.
            Tonight, I got it when Fr. Joe spoke of the dual nature of gift-giving at the heart of our Christmas celebrations. Of Mary gifting our humanity to God by giving Jesus a physical body, and of God gifting Himself to humanity, so that they might share in His divine, blessed life:

God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life. (CCC 1)

            I don’t often permit myself the space to roam this mystery, to wander the halls of its significance, to feel the weight of its life-changing implications settling, soothing, over me like a sweet perfume.
            I do not have to exist.
            And yet.
            I do.
            And not as if by happenstance. God willed me to exist. He has always wanted me.
            In a plan of sheer goodness, I’m told.
            And He loves me so much that He wants me to return to Him, wants me to give my heart back to Him.
But He doesn’t force me. Quite the opposite.
He comes as a baby, meek and mild, so needy He who is so needed, dependent on others He upon whom we depend for the very breath in our lungs.
He came that we would know Him.
Born to die someday.
And still, years later, at the Last Supper with His disciples, He gave of Himself. Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.
He does so still.
In the Eucharist at every Mass, He willingly mingles His divinity with our humanity, humbling Himself again and again, hundreds of thousands of times each day in parish churches around the world.
All for the sake of knowing us, of loving us.
In the words of Fr. Joe, it’s awesome.
And I cannot, will not, keep silent about this reality.
I want to sing it from the rooftops:
We are loved, we are loved, we are loved!

Merry Christmas, dear reader. I hope you feel loved and hopeful today.  

No Use Crying Over Spilled Tomato Soup.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Photo by Heather Schwartz on Unsplash

...Even when you spill it all over your beautiful Blessed Is She planner.

Because it was lying open on your coffee table and you just couldn't wait until after lunch to watch the 2017 finale of the Great British Baking Show on Netflix.

I'm embarrassed to admit how angry I got with myself for my over-confident bowl handing. I leapt up, grabbed a paper towel, began desperately rubbing the stains out of the pages, all the while saying many unkind things to myself.

"How could you do this, Sarah?!"

"Dangit, Sarah. You're such a spazz."

For the next seven months (I'll get a new planner in August), I'll have to write on pages rimmed with orange, all sad and waterlogged. And all because I'd forgotten Mom's cardinal rule to be extra careful not to spill red things. To keep superfluous items off of eating surfaces.

I could have kicked myself.

But then.

I remembered how my therapist has been speaking with me recently about self-compassion -- about learning to be kind to myself in those moments when I move automatically toward self-criticism.

Moments like, um, this one.

So I changed the way I was talking to myself.

"It's okay. You're only human, and sometimes humans spill things! Besides, you can still write in it. And, you know, you do write a lot of things in it, but you only spend a few minutes with it at a time. This isn't something that will ruin the rest of your life." I even tried to laugh at myself.

And it's not like it brought about an instant transformation. But I can't change the past. I can only change the way I speak to myself about a completely human mistake.

And -- I also thought of this: God wants to meet me in my mess, in a general sense. But usually I don't want Him there. So sometimes He has to force Himself in in a very literal way, I guess.

God wants to meet me in the ordinariness of my daily life, which is one of the reasons I was drawn to a Catholic planner in the first place. And what could be more ordinary than tomato soup splattered on its pages?

Long (melodramatic?) story short, I'll be okay.

I'll even try to smile when I open my planner every day for the next seven months.

Because God is still there, in all my mistakes and humanness. And He's there for you, too.