It's time for my favourite post of the year - my annual playlist that captures the emotions of my past twelve months through a variety of songs. This year's list seemed pretty easy at the start, but I always find it difficult to finalise because so many things can happen during the course of a year. Here's a link to the 2021 Playlist blog post which also includes links to previous years. This year's songs can be found on YouTube and Spotify playlists as usual; fortunately, all songs were available on both platforms.
1. High Hopes by Panic! At the Disco
This year has been a doozy. The past two years have been, actually, but I chose to have high hopes for what God can still do with my story. I had a lot of hopes dashed the past two years, but I also am keeping them up because I still believe in a God of all hope, a God who heals, a God who sees me. The lyrics are actually quite fabulous for a lot of other reasons as I expect more and live with what I have for now.
2. Waiting on a Miracle by Stephanie Beatriz (from Encanto by Lin Manuel Miranda)
Can you imagine what I would do if I could walk again? I can. I can imagine a miracle, but I can't make it happen. I'm waiting for now - and waiting is a huge theme in this year's playlist. But hope comes first - so let's keep that in mind as we move to the next song. I'm ready, and it's not too late for a miracle.
3. Wait for It by Leslie Odom Jr. (from Hamilton by Lin Manuel Miranda)
I had two students over to watch Hamilton a few weeks before the end of school, and one commented that this was her brother's favourite song but it was about infidelity. The first verse references infidelity, yes, but this is on my playlist this year because "I am the one thing in life I can control." I've had lots of conversations with God about how I can't force a miracle (that one [two.. three...] I hope and wait for), but I can use this life I have intentionally. "If there's a reason I'm still alive when so many have died, then I'm willing to wait for it."
4. The Rain Keeps Falling by Andrew Peterson
I listened to this song for forty-eight hours on repeat when I got the news of Bryce's death last year. I didn't include it on the playlist last year despite that deep wound being so significant. I have included it this year because the wound is still open. I had a couple students around this past school year who were close to Bryce, but now I head into a year where no one else shares the closeness to me in Kandern. I still miss Bryce. Regularly. I did get that beautiful tree tattoo and have already had two of the three artists take a picture with their art on my arm, but the tattoo doesn't erase my sadness. It celebrates a life, but I still feel a huge hole where Bryce used to call me in the middle of the night and tell me goofy anecdotes about his day and process deep theological questions.
5. Crawl (Carry Me Through) by Superchic[k]
Every year I include a song by Superchic[k] and by Demon Hunter. There always seem to be a plethora of Superchic[k] options. I went with this because it begins with "How long will this take?" And some other reasons. There are lines about crying to God and feeling left alone in the silence but also recognising that God will meet us in our suffering. I know that to be true in my experience of crying out to God in the silence; I know I've not been left alone. Bryce's death is not the only struggle I've gone through this year, but even when I'm at my lowest, I talk to God and say in my heart "the wonder of it all is you see me through." I don't feel through all this heartache and grief, but I know the Lord has not forgotten me here.
6. The Getting Through by JUDAH.
"Maybe the point is not the getting over but the getting through." Alyssa shared this song with me a while ago when I was lamenting the struggles I was wrapped up in. I found a lot of solace realising that God is able to more than I can ask or imagine. I may be led to the river of my trials and think I'm going to drown - because I can't make it across in my own power - but I do know that God can open up ways to cross rivers that I can't imagine. Complicated problems call for creative solutions; step in, God, because I've got nothing to fix this.
7. Honest Wage by Penny and Sparrow
Okay, so I recognise the vibe of this year's post is way different than most - and I considered throwing in some wild other stuff, but I've actually spent most of the past two years listening to the Struggle Pretty album by Penny and Sparrow or similar sounding music (plus Maverick City, but they'll come later as well). There has been a lot of struggle, and I have found some amazing growth through it, and this song rips into my heart when I listen to it from the perspective of the older brother in the story of the prodigal son - and when I listen to it from my perspective of the story God is writing with me. My relationship with God is stronger than ever before, and it's due to the fact that I can ask hard questions and sit with the mystery of why God doesn't do things how I want or expect. I wanna know there's hope.
8. What Do I Know of Holy by Addison Road
This nice throwback showed up a lot in my music this year because in my honest conversations with God where I railed like Job, I also sat back and worshipped a God who's bigger than I can control (I guess I could have thrown in a Newsboys one here, but this actually does go better with the vibe of my year). "I tried to hear from heaven, but I talked the whole time." I learned this lesson painfully well in my prayer journey over the past two years. I can't force God to move; I can sit in the Lord's presence and be faithful to what I'm called to each day.
9. Hopeless Wanderer by Mumford & Sons
There's still hope in here: "I will call you by name / I will share your road." I am not alone in this craziness. And it is crazy. Which is why I hope you are all watching the YouTube playlist because this music video is hilarious - and yes, that is Ed Helms, Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, and Will Forte lip syncing rather than the actual band. Because it's hilarious. Chaotic neutral in the face of the deep things at play that I don't understand. I have the hidden track here because I really couldn't pass up "I Will Wait" in this season of waiting I'm in. Who knows if I'll regret not saving it for next year, but I've got to hope I'll be on to something new by then. I am still waiting, and I'm wandering with Jesus in this season of trust.
10. Peace by Demon Hunter
Every year has a Demon Hunter song, and I considered their new release because it sounds amazing, but, honestly, the word "peace" is much more appropriate for my year. I didn't mention in in "The Rain Keeps Falling," but the refrain of "peace, be still" at the end has become a breath prayer during this time of waiting. This song says, "I can see the forest for the trees... I can't wait for peace." I have a broader vision of what the Lord is doing in my life even if I don't understand the current details: I will live to glorify God, but I don't understand why I can't walk yet. I'm not waiting for peace though; I live with it because I have confidence in God who has given peace that passes understanding.
11. A Place Called Earth by Jon Foreman (with Lauren Daigle)
This is a hauntingly beautiful song, and my heart cries out for the restoration, reconciliation, beauty, and grace of heaven to be brought to earth. "I had a dream that I finally saw your face / dancing in the arms of grace / dancing through the joy and pain / on the borderlines" carries special weight for me: I am ready to dance. I do want to mention at this point that I have a lot of joy, and there have been so many beautiful moments this past year. I write this post to give a sense of what I've gone through, and I'm being rather transparent to say that my heart has carried a lot of lamentation through this past year.
12. Breathe by Maverick City Music
On that note of lamentation, there is a place for heaviness and a place to leave behind the weights of the world and be in the presence of the Lord. That's a huge celebration of this year is that I've been able to release a lot of burdens and help others to do the same as they come to my table and we share our hearts honestly. One of the students I mentor in America sent me this song shortly after it was released on the EP, telling me he thought it was an encouragement I needed. The song starts with "this goes out to the worried / this goes out to the stressed." That's me for sure, but the encouragement is don't hold your breath for the world to sort itself out; instead breathe and know that Jesus is at work.
Bonus track Five by Sawyer Whitted
I actually spent a lot of time looking for an upbeat track that would wrap this up and make sure everyone knew I was doing okay, but this feels like a much better wrap up. This song is about me. As in, the composer interviewed me and let me give input in the writing process as he wanted to capture the heart of fives. So it's pretty personal. I am a complex person, and Sawyer honoured that in this beautiful song. I'm strong, resilient, thoughtful, and growing.
So while I'll still crank up Tombollywood or any other rock, pop, rap music students might bring my way along with my old school metal, this year has had a lot more Penny and Sparrow sounds which is reflected in the song choices in this post. Some years just have less P!nk or Chumbawumba, and that's okay.