You’re The Meaning Of My Life, You’re The Inspiration

For the longest time I didn’t consider myself a creative person. In fact, as recently as five years ago I would have told you that I wasn’t creative even a little bit. In retrospect I think what I really meant was that I’m not a crafty person. And believe me: I’m REALLY NOT a crafty person. In fact, I can’t think of a quicker way to send myself into a mental / emotional / lo, even spiritual spiral than standing in a room with about eight other people and then hearing someone say, “Okay, everyone – tonight we’re going to have a three-hour group crafting session, so to get started, go ahead and grab the big bucket and pick out the 25 buttons that you like the most!”

Tell you what: let’s don’t and say we did.

Or, come to think of it: let’s just don’t. Period. The end.

Now, though, I think that everybody is creative. It may show up in different ways and in different areas of our lives, but we all create something (plus, you know, we’re made in the image of our Creator, so there’s that). And over the last few years, I’ve paid more attention to what inspires my creative side. In the past I don’t know that I’ve even been terribly aware of feeling inspired – I might have just told you that I really liked this or that or the other thing – but around the time that I started working on my first book, I realized that certain music, certain performances, even certain colors made me want to do better and work harder as a writer.

I know. I can’t even believe I wrote that last sentence. The apathetic 23 year-old that I used to be is absolutely mortified and wants you to know that she still doesn’t care about anything other than The Real World and Popeye’s Fried Chicken.

So. Because I’ve been thinking about all of this inspiration stuff (and also leadership, but that’s another topic for another time) way too much lately, here’s a not-at-all exhaustive list of some things that really inspired me in 2015. They’re in no particular order. And I probably mentioned some of these things as they happened, but maybe putting all of them in one convenient spot will transform this very boring blog post into a go-to inspirational resource. Or maybe not. But at least I’ll have all these things in one place and won’t have to click around the interwebs nearly as much.

1) A January sunset

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January was something else, y’all. Mama went in the hospital the day before Home is Where My People Are unexpectedly released two weeks early, and the combination of those two things – plus a big pile of new book vulnerability – left me feeling like a basket case only not really that stable. It was the weirdest thing, trying to manage that early book release while camping out in Mama’s hospital room for four days and nights, and by the time I got back to Birmingham, I was as exhausted as I’ve ever been. This sunset was a reset button for me, the thing that reminded me to keep on keepin’ on because it was all gonna be okay. That being said, if you ever offer me a million dollars to re-live all the emotions of January 2015, you can rest assured that NO. NOT GONNA HAPPEN.

2) Wes Hampton – “Because He Lives”

Our friend Wes is crazy talented. I rarely get to see or hear him perform, though, because I mostly just see him being a husband to Andrea and a daddy to his awesome boys. So when I saw this video right after Easter, it LAID ME OUT. Encouraged me like crazy. Reminded me how powerful it is when our gifts are an offering.

Because He Lives Easter Special from Church of the Highlands on Vimeo.

3) Jen Hatmaker at Trinity UMC

I don’t have a video or a link. I just know that Jen spoke here in Birmingham back in April, and she talked about how, when we were growing up, most churches either knowingly or unknowingly depended on a model of “Believe / Belong / Behave.” Then she asserted that in our current culture, a more effective model might be “Belong / Believe / Become.” Her words struck me like a lightning bolt. Since I work with teenagers, I spend almost every single day trying to connect with kids, and Jen’s words reminded me to meet them where they are and love them right there.

4) Garth Brooks at the BJCC

I wrote all about the Garth Brooks concert right here. HE WAS THE ABSOLUTE BEST.

5) My favorite Pen & Paint print

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This print hangs in my office, and it has been with me every step of the way with this latest round of writing. The colors, the lettering, the words – every single bit of it speaks to me. One of my all-time favorite things.

6) SEC Storied: Shaq & Dale

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I just happened to see this documentary one night when I was flipping around on the remote, and MY GOODNESS. What great lessons about loyalty, influence, and the power of relationships. I was relationally weary when I watched this – last spring was a doozy, y’all – so I cried a lot as I watched. But I’ll tell you what: it put some spring back in my relational step, and it reminded me how important it is to love our people well.

7) One Wild Life: Soul – Gungor

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Without a doubt this is my favorite studio album of 2015. In some really weird ways the themes of this album cross over with what I hope the big ideas of the new book will be (imagine that! actual themes!), so this music totally spurred me on with writing. Perfect words at the perfect time.

8) Live from the Woods at Fontanel – NEEDTOBREATHE

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This is my favorite live album ever. EVER. IN MY WHOLE LIFE. I have listened to it so much that Alex hears the opening lines of “Wanted Man” and says, “Really, Mama? AGAIN?” And I say, “Yes. Again. And again and again and again.” It is SENSATIONAL, and it makes me so grateful for the gift of music. This album is such a happy place for me.

9) Chef’s Table – Netflix

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Somewhere on social media I read a recommendation for this series, and since it was summertime and I needed a break from writing and I’m forever fascinated by the kind of creativity that’s specific to chefs, I decided to watch. I was hooked within five minutes of the first episode. IT. IS. FASCINATING. It’s also absolutely gorgeous. I’ve since seen all six episodes, and while I identified with some chefs more than others (and as you’d probably imagine, there’s a pretty wide range of world views represented), I so appreciated the commitment that the chefs have to the work they were clearly made to do. The music is also full-on dreamy.

10) Justin Timberlake & Chris Stapleton at the CMAs

I know that I linked to this performance a few weeks ago, but y’all, I bet I have watched it 100 times. You can read my initial reaction on Instagram, and my down-the-road reaction is that mainstream entertainment hasn’t given us anything better this year than this unexpected duo. My favorite part is at the very end – because not one person on that stage is hogging the spotlight or seeking any glory for themselves. Everybody on that stage is looking at someone else, applauding someone else, pointing at someone else, encouraging at someone else. I’m more convinced than ever that this is the very best way to live.

11) Flash – Rachel Anne Ridge

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The stories in this book are sweet, they’re tender, they’re funny, and they’re thoughtful. When I started the book that I expected to relate to Rachel’s efforts to take care of Flash, but sure enough, I related to the donkey. Flash and I have way more in common than I expected. I loved all the practical takeaways, too, and there are certain phrases that I’ve thought about again and again.

Merry Christmas, y’all!

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  1. Merry Christmas, Sophie!
    What a year you’ve had. I love the list.

    “Let’s don’t and say we did” is my husband’s favorite phrase. Sometimes I just want to hit him… after 35 years I have learned to restrain myself. ;0)

  2. Oh, Sophie. This is my favorite post of yours EVER!! You make me laugh, you make me cry, you make me think, you make me feel. I’m familiar with some of the things you mentioned, but I’m gonna have to check out some of the others. And I can hardly wait for your new book release. Wishing you and all your family a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

  3. WhewI You spoke to my heart in many ways this morning! “Let’s don’t and saw we did” is one of my favorite phrases to use and the video of your incredibly talented friend singing my mother’s very favorite hymn “bout put me over!” : ) Thank you for all that and from one who has walked the road you are on with my parents, take care of yourself, it pays off in the end. Merry Christmas! Love and hugs Sophie!

  4. Sophie! Outstanding! I’ve read several list written by bloggers/others in the last few weeks. Your list has substance. “Reminded me how powerful it is when our gifts are an offering” – a great reminder! Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  5. This year has grown me so much too! So much awful has happened around us but I have grown spiritually in so many ways. I have given up so much of the stuff that I used to think made me happy and invested my extra time in new things (yes Bible study is unfortunately newish to me) and I’ve been so blessed by it. I have to get that book and some of those albums you suggested. I love NEEDTOBREATH’s live album too!

  6. “Let’s don’t and say we did”….haven’t heard that in forever! Made me smile this morning…as you always do. Wishing you a Merry Christmas & a blessed & wonderful 2016!

  7. Thank you for your words on creativity. I, too, am not crafty, and so have been somewhat ostracized from my Pinterest-loving friends for not wanting to make my own sachets/sweaters/memory book/etc.

    But my creativity isn’t in the physical – it’s in the thinking. Now that I’ve embraced that, I feel so much better about myself and less apart from my friends. Does that make sense?

    I hope my kids and the younger women around me don’t wait till they are in their 50’s to figure that out. I’m going to make it my life’s mission for them, for sure.

    You’ve had a year. Thanks for sharing so much of it with us with humor, grace, and love.

  8. Jennifer Bridges says:

    That #3 from Jen Hatmaker is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Trying to raise a teenage girl from a different place than the view of church/relationship with Christ that I was raised with. Not that it was bad, but just legalistic and very “put on your happy church face.”
    Thanks for your list!

  9. Merry Christmas Sophie and your family! I love your blog for your honesty and humor. This list is just the best!!!

  10. Love all of this Sophie!

    I am going to send the NeedToBreathe CD to my sister.
    She is not saved (yet). She just happens to love owls & I
    am praying it speaks to her.

    Merry Christmas to you & your family.


  11. You are quite right not to be crafty. You know where crafts come from? Satan. It’s all right there in Genesis 3…”now the serpent was more crafty than any other creature.” I don’t do crafts at all myself.

  12. I used to read your blog quite a lot years ago and decided to check on you again. I love you have not changed a bit – meaning you are still you. I love this post. Thank you for sharing your inspirations and Merry Christmas to you too! Looking forward reading your blog again :)