One of my favorite things is to hear people speak about what they are most passionate about, what inspires them, what makes them excited and energized and ready to tackle their dreams. In 2016, there were many dreams and experiences that had to be tackled: putting on a concert, writing a 100+ page book, graduating college, moving to my first place,  starting my career, and joining a new community.

Along this journey called 2016, there were things that helped me stay the course, stay inspired, stay excited about dreams. Below is my Inspiration Collection. It’s the things that inspired me most and changed me for the better. Music, design, a book, experiences, and an idea: these are the things that inspired me most this year.


| Inspiration Collection: 2016 |

MUSIC | Birdtalker

In both public and private life, for individuals and the world as a whole, 2016 was full of moments like these and more: ups and downs, trials and triumphs, discovery of vices and celebrations of victories, hellos and goodbyes. At times, 2016 felt heavy. Maybe you’d agree.  

But in moments of heaviness, I felt the truth of lyrics from a band called Birtdalker. “The only way to lose / That fearful feeling / Replace it with love that’s healing.” Birdtalker is a band that accompanied and summarized my 2016 as best as anyone could. They are one of the most special bands that have come along in the way that their lyrics speak honestly and beautifully about this experience we call life. 

I really enjoyed meeting the husband and wife at the core of the band—Zack and Dani—and was reminded about how important it is to let others know that their work matters. A woman who was also at the concert I met them at even told me that Birdtalker had truly helped her daughter as she worked through a period of dark depression. Songs like “Heavy” and “Blue Healer” spoke much truth and beauty into the dark times of 2016, and I’m so excited that this band has arrived on the scene at a time when honesty and hope are so needed.

DESIGN | Milkglass Creative

All throughout this year, one of my favorite musicians, Andrew Belle, put out a monthly newsletter with a custom design by Milkglass Creative, a Nashville based design company. Each design incorporated a monthly mood and song lyrics from AB’s catalogue. I loved getting the newsletter in my inbox each month to see what design they had come up with, and I found the selections to be both inspiring and timely for different things I was experiencing over the course of 2016. I am really excited that I will be able to continue my enjoyment of these designs throughout 2017 as well, because my brother got me a set of the designs printed on to postcards! *fist pumps to the sky* 

 

AB May 2016.jpg
So gorgeous.

 

BOOK | Tattoos on the Heart 

I was talking to a friend of mine back in October when he mentioned this book, and it piqued my interest. It took me a few weeks to pick it up at the library, and a couple of months to finish it (the consequence of having a puppy), but boy am I glad I read this book. Though it took me several months to finish it, life’s events unfolded in such a way during that period of time that made this book a timely, challenging, and inspiring source.

This book is a collection of stories and thoughts from Father Gregory Boyle drawn from drawn from twenty years working with gangs in LA. As one source puts it, the book explores ideas of compassion and kinship, and the simple yet transformative idea that no matter where people live or what their circumstances may be, everyone needs boundless, restorative love.

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Gregory Boyle praying over a man in his office at Homeboy Industries.

I could include a whole blog post of quotes from this book, but I selected just a few for now. I highly recommend you pick up this book and discover the amazing, inspiring, challenging truths within it. It’ll change the way you think about your life, your work, and your role in the world.

  • “Compassion isn’t just about feeling the pain of others; it’s about bringing them in toward yourself. If we love what God loves, then, in compassion, margins get erased. ‘Be compassionate as God is compassionate,’ means the dismantling of barriers that exclude.”
  • “How much greater is the God we have than the one we think we have.”
  • “Ours is a God who waits. Who are we not to? It takes what it takes for the great turnaround. Wait for it.”

EXPERIENCE | Concerts

I’ve said it once, twice, thousands of times: go to concerts, folks. If you have the means, the transportation, the interest: GO. If you don’t have the means: save your dollars. If you don’t have the transportation: harass someone until they take you. If you don’t have the interest: talk to me because I don’t understand how your brain works. In 2016, I not only got to attend over 12 concerts, but also have the weird, wild, wonderful experience of planning a concert.

There’s nothing like it.

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One of my favorite photos from this year: at The Oh Hellos concert I helped plan at my college.

This year I saw Judah and the Lion, The Oh Hellos, Penny & Sparrow, Corey Kilgannon, Kevin Garrett, Lucius, Delta Rae, Coldplay, Birdtalker, Ivory Lane, Switchfoot/Relient K, and John Paul White. Each one brought their own special moments and memories, like high-fiving with a super sweaty Jon Foreman (Switchfoot), meeting and hugging Zack and Dani Green and discovering kinship and mutual encouragement (Birdtalker), giving a book of pugs dressed in costumes to Corey Kilgannon in the basement of a jazz club, capping off a Nashville trip by seeing a powerhouse of a vocalist that’s sure to grace the radio as time goes on (Ivory Lane), and screaming/transforming into a  total emotional wreck of a fangirl as Chris Martin walked like 10 feet away from my seat (Coldplay). 

To stand amongst a crowd of people—people from different places, with different beliefs and backgrounds and lifestyles—and all sing along to the same music is a truly exhilarating, uniting experience. Concerts have gone on to inspire my personal and professional life, and I can genuinely say that each time I leave a great concert, I feel like a better person. Concerts have a way of reminding me who I am, what’s worth fighting for, and how creativity has the power to change the world, one moment at a time.

CONCEPT | Strangers

“The more I traveled the more I realized that fear makes strangers of people who should be friends.” —Shirley MacLaine

Just after graduating from college, I gave myself the goal of doing one thing a week that pushed me out of my comfort zone and/or required “boldness.” More often than not, this challenge meant I would find myself in situations where the company was complete strangers. This was a new sensation, having been at a college where even the strangers weren’t strange, because I least recognized their face or remembered witnessing them square dancing at one of those awkward freshman orientation events four years previously.

Now seven months later, the Shirley MacLaine quote above captures my thoughts and feelings about the concept of strangers. It is very easy to let strangers continue to be strangers, but when you look fear in the face and tell it “Not today,” something really neat happens: strangers become friends.

Examples that are cool/funny: 

  • I met my pastor in line at a coffee shop...He overheard my conversation with another stranger, realized we had shared past experiences in common, and I have been going to that church ever since! I love it there! Hooray!
  • I met my super cool designer friend Jerry basically by accident...I went to a design networking event with like 300+ people because #NoPainNoGain, and wanted to meet the guy whose agency was helping put it on. I think he misread me tripping over my trendy wedge sandals that I wore to look cooler than I actually am as my attempt to hug him (even though I had met him like 5 minutes ago), but it all turned out okay! (If you’re reading this Jerry: I’m sorry). I’ve since enjoyed sitting down with Jerry a few times to talk about design and dogs: two topics we both love.
  • I met an awesome person who inspires the heck out of me who I followed on Instagram in real, actual life+time+space and we ate a real burger together on a real picnic bench in the real Nashville, TN. If you’re were around me at all in the earlier half of 2016, you know that I am a super fan of a music company/community called Cause A Scene. I even wrote a blog about Larry, the head of it all. Flash forward to October 2016, when my friends in Nashville met Larry at a party, eventually leading to us all getting lunch together when I was down in TN on my solo-girl power eating vacation!
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Me with my church friends in the very coffee shop where I first met my pastor. Full circle, y’all.

See! Strangers can become your friends! The kind of friends who you eat a burger with, purposefully instead of accidentally hug, and attend potlucks with.


As you read what inspired me, I hope your memory was jogged about what inspired you this year. Maybe write it down on a scrap of paper. Stow it away for years down the line. After all, as my friend Marilynne Robinson likes to say: “This is an interesting planet. It deserves all the attention you can give it.”

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Posted by:Grace Leuenberger

"I want to make beautiful things, even if nobody cares.”

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