Slow magic.


I want to dedicate this post on writing to my grandmother. She passed away on September 20, 2006. It’s been 11 years without her but there is never a day that I don’t remember her presence and how she told me first, before anyone else, that I would be a writer one day. She never let me doubt that and, in a world that is often too cynical, I am thankful for that belief. My grandmother– Dolores– is the woman on the left in this photograph. I write for her. Always. 


 

Hello Hannah,

I’ve been wanting to write a blog post for forever. Every time I sit down to write anything my mind goes blank. I think back on previous posts and expect something new and marvelous to appear out of thin air. As if the words magically formed sentences on their own and I was just a bystander.

I put a lot of pressure on myself, in every aspect of my life. If you don’t get this done today you never will. If you can’t come up with anything now, how do you ever expect to?  If you don’t make the time for this and that and the other thing you will always be stuck. It’s a torturous, stressful, overwhelming cycle. And a lot of the time I give in. I step back from what I know I should be doing because I’m tired. I’m tired of the uncertainty. I’m tired of the doubt that creeps in when I open a new document and attempt to form words into concrete ideas. I’m tired of feeling unimpressionable. I spend so much of my energy on the thought that my words are inconsequential to the world around me. As if what I’m trying to express has been beaten to death and all I’m doing is adding to the repetition of the chain of the same thoughts the world has already heard.

So, I close the document and start a new tv show. I open Pinterest and drown my insecurities in motivational quotes that don’t encourage me enough to create a world full of characters that haunt my dreams because I’m too afraid. Afraid they’re not good enough. Afraid I will fall short and never know or understand how to shape them into their full potential. Afraid I will forever be the girl with dreams that never made them happen because her creativity only lasted a few pages. Afraid I will be stuck in a routine I hate because I was too doubtful. Too stubborn to give me  a chance. A chance to prove that I can do more than stock shelves and tell people which TV brand is better.

I’ve been meaning to email you for awhile but I’ve also been avoiding it. Because I know there’s only so much you can say or do. I have to do the work. I have to believe in myself. I have to push myself.  I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English two years ago and I’ve yet to figure out what to do with it. The ultimate goal for quite awhile now has been to be an author. But in this day and age, you have to be making a steady income to live. And I’m tired of feeling sorry for myself but I’ve gotten into this awful habit of letting time pass by and saying I’ll figure it out tomorrow. I’m just worried I won’t ever figure it out. I’m turning 24 a week from today and I know everyone says I’m young and I have time but what happens when time runs out? When is it no longer acceptable that I have no career in sight?

Reading over those words out loud I started crying. Because I don’t know anything. I work 25-40hrs a week at a job that I hate because I need to be working and I’m too intimidated to apply anywhere else. I can feel my creative juices depleting and I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t even know what I’m qualified to do.

-M


Sweet M-

First off, thank you for writing to me. Your words are brilliant and bold. I can see you’re caught. You’re stuck. You’re standing at the end of a sidewalk, ready to cross the road, but Fear is holding up a “Do Not Cross” sign and you are listening to it. Even with no threat of cars coming, you don’t want to move. You don’t want to cross. However, you are reaching the point we would all be lucky to reach someday- the point of realizing it will break your heart to never cross and see what is waiting on the other side.

Fear has a well-plotted agenda for you. It wants to keep you safe at all costs. It doesn’t want your heart to be broken. It doesn’t want your knees to get scraped. And, while I think Fear is noble for trying to stay on mission, what your Fear might not understand is how badly it will be the culprit of breaking your heart if it doesn’t move out of the way. Your Fear will likely be stubborn and it won’t move out of the way. You are going to have to push into, M. You are going to have to wrestle that Fear to the ground, let that Fear watch you as you cross the road. Fear may always be a part of the story but that doesn’t mean you need to give it a trophy or let it win. You can honor your fear’s existence but you don’t have to give it a rose ceremony.

k

I know your fear feels very original to you but I can promise you this: hundreds of us have this same fear. Thousands of us go to sleep at night wondering if all of this matters. If our words will ever count. If we will ever just write the book or create the blog. There are words trapped inside of a lot of us, begging to just get past the Fear that guards the door.

I felt just like you graduating from college. I stepped out into the world with my English degree and I thought I would make something of myself in New York City. New York City is an intoxicating city, especially for young dreamers. What I didn’t know, what I would soon learn, is that I was so incredibly small. My thoughts were small. My movements were small. I felt like I could easily be swallowed up by the city and no one would notice if I was gone. I felt forgettable. I thought, in those first few months after college, that it was a lie to ever think I was memorable. I was really just one person in a sea of other persons. So many of us looked so unhappy trying to push upstream.

But I woke up, M. I woke up and I got to work. I had a blog. This same blog you see today. It was really small at the time but I realized I could probably help one person. One person because five people. Five people turned into 400. The numbers grew but only because I kept coming back and choosing words over fear. I don’t show up for popularity, I show up because I believe words can change lives and do it more effectively than any other tool in this world.

I surrounded myself with good people, people who desired to see me win. I became a student of life and I started interviewing every person I could find who would give me five minutes of their time. I interviewed countless people, all from a cell phone in New York City, on how they got from point A to point B. I honored every reader who sent me an email. I thanked them and read their stories. I wrote for them, just as I am writing for you.

I kept blogging. I kept writing. I said “yes.” I figured out what I had to say and I kept figuring it out. I gave myself permission to mess up and make a fool of myself for the art of words. I wrote things I didn’t want to write. I did health articles for $50 a piece about topics I didn’t care about. I freelanced for free just to get a byline. I was there. If someone needed me at an event to tweet or write, I was there. The biggest advice I can give to you is just this: say yes to every chance to write and say thank you for everything. Say yes to that small blog. Say yes to that volunteer opportunity. Say yes to writing the nonprofit’s Christmas letter to their donors. Just say yes and say thank you. More doors will likely open.

k

People will stop telling you to go after your dreams. They will tell you to get practical. They will tell you to get the big paychecks. They will tell you to work to prove yourself. We get older and we stop talking about dreams as much. I don’t want you to go there, M. The world is full of cynics and we don’t need any more naysayers as this current time.

Yes, you need to work hard. No, you cannot expect things to just be handed to you. Yes, you are going to take on some jobs that you absolutely hate. I’ve been there. I worked the jobs. I remember working at a call center for As Seen On TV. I would spend the night shift taking phone call after phone call of complaints about people’s Aqua Globes and Ab Rockets. I listened to a man cry to me about how 80 boxes of tomato planters were sitting on his front porch in brown boxes because the computer-automated voice messed up the order. In the moments where the phone wasn’t ringing, I would scribble stories down on pieces of blank paper. I would not sit in that little cube and wonder about the stories I could write one day, I just started writing them.

Do I have any of those scribbled stories today? No. I would probably look back on them and deem them useless but that’s not the point. The point is this: you need to be writing. Good words. Bad words. Words you never want to see again. Write. Write to figure out who you are. Write to figure if you have a voice and what that voice has to say. Write dumb, little stories. Write poems. I was so engraged with the call center I was working at that I thought I would write a tell-all book about the corruption of the “products sold on TV” industry. That idea was short-lived but it fueled me to start writing. In that way, it served its purpose.

The life of a writer doesn’t just appear one day like an Amazon package showing up at the door. You are going to have to build that life and you cannot build it out of productivity applications or followers on platform. The life of a writer is built out of scrap papers and words, not entitlement. It’s a lie to think you can sit down and watch the words show up like mythical elves ready to be aligned on the page. You’ve got to be willing to say: screw the instant magic, I’m ready to work. 

Most writers will be sure to tell you there isn’t real magic when you first sit down to start writing. There’s just you and a document or you with a notebook. You likely need to shower or change your clothes. There’s likely too much dry shampoo in your hair. The coffee is likely cold. The desire to walk away and go watch Netflix will dance around you like a temptress. You’ll feel the need to watch pointless Lifetime movies or go through all the seasons of Gilmore Girls for the second time. Rory and Lorelai won’t be there with you to bury your writer dreams if you keep choosing Netflix over your craft. It won’t be their fault at the end of the day if you don’t sit down and start to write. That’s on you, babe. That’s on you.

I’m sorry if I seem harsh. It’s not my intention. I just get into fierce, no-nonsense Mama-bear mode when it comes to people who know they have a voice. I want you to figure out all you have to offer to the world while you’re here. It breaks my heart to think we could go our whole lives without figuring out what we have to say.

k

M, there will be magic. It won’t strike during the first five minutes. It usually doesn’t make an appearance until late in the game. Slow magic. But there is a magic that any writer could tell you about. We like to say we are good with words but this kind of magic and the description of it fails us. All I can say is that the magic of writing fills your lungs and gives you purpose. It makes you feel like your hands are on fire, like you need to take a few laps. It will make you feel untouchable and invincible. It will fill your heart in a way people, places, exotic dishes, and good music never could. It’ll feel like coming home and being completely full, all at once.

I want this for you, girl, but I have to be straight with you: the world can never give it to you. The culture can’t promise you such a thing. Followers who want to be like you can never give you this feeling. You have to sit down, in all your spare moments, and you need to start writing. And I promise you something is going to happen. You are going to learn about yourself. You will feel so damn proud at certain points. But it won’t be instant and it won’t happen overnight.

The answer is small. Start small. Dig deep. Sit down. Start to write. Say yes. Go.

It’s in you already.

tying you closer than most,

hb.

 



THE YEAR OF THE BOOK

It’s that time of year again!

I’ll be offering my book writing course this November and I would love to see you there. I only offer this course once a year so grab your seat this year of wait for doors to open again in November 2018.

After writing two books (and working on two more), I am so ready to teach this course with new fire and new instruction. I love to talk about the writing process and I especially love coaching people to create works of 20,000 words or more.

This 3-hour course is for the ones who know they have a book they need to write. Whether it’s a fully cooked idea or just the start of an outline, this course will help you map it out, create a discipline of writing, and learn the steps it takes to move a book forward in the publishing world. You can grab your EarlyBird seat here. Prices for the course will go up at the beginning of October.

If you have any questions or want to ask me about the course, please send an email to info@hannahbrencher.com and we will get back to you shortly!

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Honesty Hour: Moving somewhere new.

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I’ve been in the thick of book rewrites this last month and I can finally see the light! So much of the book has to do with the transition- learning how to ditch this idea of “getting there” and just learn how to be here now. I am flooded with reminders of lessons I learned when moving to a new city and turning it into a home:

  1. Moving some place new is a rough process and it doesn’t happen overnight. Just because you show up doesn’t mean the hard work of “belonging “is done for you.
  2. Curtains are a major pain to put up so just find someone to help you before you lose your mind.
  3. You can stock a fridge with veggies but you still need to learn how to cook them.
  4. Sometimes it will take a really long time before you stop feeling homesick for the part of you that used to live and love someplace else.

These are things I wish someone had told me earlier.

Regardless, I still would have done the same thing. I would have still packed the car and moved somewhere new but it still would have helped to have that sound advice in my back pocket. Whether it’s moving to college, a new city, or even a new apartment complex– we all could benefit from some wise, big sibling advice from someone who has done it before.

So Honesty Hour:

In the comments, tell us a little bit about the move you made (the where, the who, or maybe the why) and one thing you learned through the transition that you’ll always carry with you. 

 

photo cred.

Helping After Hurricane Harvey

Watching the news after Hurricane Harvey hit has been a really difficult experience. My thoughts and prayers are with everyone impacted by the hurricane. To my readers who call Houston and other parts of Texas home, I love you. This community stands with you through thick and thin. 

People are displaced. Homes are ruined. There will be millions of hours of rebuilding in the days to come. The crisis is far from over. It can be hard to figure out how to step out and help after a natural disaster like Harvey. The best thing we can do right now to support people impacted by the hurricane is to donate to credible organizations who are also close to the communities most affected. It’s easy to be intimidated by such large organizations. You are left feeling like you don’t have much to give but I promise you, every little bit counts.

I encourage you to be safe with your money and use credible organizations. I wish we could wipe all the scammers away but the sad reality is that some people try to profit off of tragedy. When it comes to knowing where my money is going, I use Charity Navigator to do my research before donating. It’s a simple site. I’ve been using it for 6 years now and it was the go-to site for credibility when I worked at one of the world’s largest nonprofits.

Want to help meet the needs of individuals impacted by Hurricane Harvey? Here is a list of local and national organizations with good hearts: 

Help a Family

If you are looking to donate to an individual cause related to Hurricane Harvey, check out all the campaigns GoFundMe gathered together in one space.

Give Shelter

If you are someone in the Texas or Louisiana who can offer shelter to people in need, Airbnb has lifted all service fees now through September 25. You have the chance to get or give shelter.

Save the Pets

Houston Humane Society is an accredited charity helping save those pups and other animals after flooding hit the area.

Amazon Wishlists

I read this Bustle article about helping fulfill the Amazon Wishlist created by a law firm in Texas that rallies to meet needs whenever a crisis such as this one happens. Hop onto Amazon and add a few items to your shopping list today.

Hygiene Kits

MAP is working with trusted partners to provide hygiene kits to those in need after Harvey. These kits include soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste and other essential items to help prevent the spread of disease.

Diapers

As we all know, babies need diapers (and lots of them). Give to the Texas Diaper Bank to help families with little ones.

Undies

In a crisis like this one, we rarely think about underwear. It’s a vulnerable need but someone has to take care of it. I’m loving Undies for Everyone and how they spread their mission around Houston.

Cribs + Kiddies

I love and support Save the Children for their work all over the world. I worked for them after college and got to see, firsthand, the impact they make on the lives of children everywhere.

Food Banks

There are a ton of local food banks in and around the most affected areas. We need to stay mindful that areas outside of Houston are recovering too! Corpus Christi Food Bank is one of the many credible nonprofits to support during this time.

Texas Needs More Love Letters

Lindsey Meeker– a longtime supporter of More Love Letters who became a friend of mine when I visited Tulsa– is collecting love letters for those devastated by Hurricane Harvey. While we know nothing can take the place of monetary donations at this time, affirmation and tangible support

While we know nothing can take the place of monetary donations at this time, affirmation and tangible support are still critical when it comes to our local communities around the world.

We encourage you to rally friends, family, your college community and write love letters to those impacted by Harvey. You can send the letters to the following address:

Texas Love Letters
c/o Lindsey Meeker
948 S. 91st E. Ave.
Tulsa, Ok, 74112
tying you closer than most,
hb.

Don’t miss the call.

Callings.

I want to talk about them for a few minutes. We use this word a lot. When I first started going to church, that’s what everyone talked about. People spoke about callings like they were waiting on a legitimate phone call from God with specific instructions. As if God were going to mouth into the phone, “Go to the closet and pull out a black shirt. Put it on. Grab your bag. Go outside. Take the A bus to downtown and wait for me there.”

Do I think God is mysterious and weighty? Yes. Do I think there are some things we can’t know right now? Sure. But I don’t think God holds out on people. The God I know doesn’t dangle a “calling” in front of your face and taunt, just try to figure this one out! I can’t imagine a God who tells us to put our life on pause and just for the calling to show up.

The calling talk exhausted me. It made me feel like maybe I missed the phone call. Like this phantom “calling” everyone talked about was visiting everyone but me. 

And then I learned something pretty valuable. It maybe took me 5 years of working for myself to let it sink in but I think I am grasping it now. My calling isn’t some castle in the distance that, if I work hard enough and pray even harder, I will suddenly get to. My calling could very well be a castle but it’s not in the distance and it’s not just going to appear. I must build it. Brick my brick, I have to build the life I want. I can’t just expect it to arrive without the work.

Now some people are going to be real dumb and try to convince you that you need to walk cautiously in everything you do. They will try to fill you with this “don’t step on the crack or you’ll break your grandma’s back” kinds of fear and tell you that IF YOU MESS UP THEN YOUR CALLING ISN’T GOING TO HAPPEN.

Pause the crazy.

Let’s talk about Jonah for two seconds. Jonah is that character in the bible we all know from that one time he got swallowed by a whale after trying to run from God. The moral of that story always was: listen to God, don’t make him angry, or else a massive Orca is going to come and eat you.

Admittedly, I never grasped a deeper meaning to that story until recently when I read it for the first time as an adult. I honestly didn’t even know it was a book in the bible. Jonah has his own book. I mean, the dude there has to be a story bigger here than “man meets whale” if he got his own book. 

What we never talk about in the story of Jonah is how he clearly messed up because he allowed fear to take over. Turns out, it was fear and a little bit of pride. God gave Jonah a clear mission and Jonah didn’t really want it to go that way. He had bigger plans. He had different plans. This is me often: God, I want it to look different. Yes, use me. But wait… I have clear guidelines. 

God does not need to subscribe to our guidelines.

God used Jonah anyway. Even though Jonah ran as far from this calling as possible, God picked up right where he left off and had Jonah do the exact thing he wanted him to do before the whale drama. God didn’t give up on Jonah. He allowed Jonah to be human and he still picked him for his team.

The story doesn’t end when Jonah the human messes up, misses the mark or gets spit up by a whale. This is a story about redemption and it’s also a reminder: keep your eyes on God above the calling. 

I don’t think we can treat this idea of “calling” as if it were the 4 pm train that only stands still for a minute before it roars off into the distance. Your calling isn’t something you step into once. Your calling is something you are constantly stepping into.

You are in the middle of your calling right now. If you are in a bad job, you are in the right place. If you are in the best season of your marriage, you are in the right place. If you are suffering and shaking, you are STILL in the right place. In the bad and the good, your GPS location is not an accident and every space will be a teacher if you allow it to be.

Some stretches of time in your life are going to feel more meaningful than others. Some will herald more celebration than others. The mistake gets made when we belittle our current location in the journey because we just want to be “there” now. I think “there” is really just “here” with more wrinkles in its face. I tell myself, stop waiting to arrive and just be here now. This day counts. This hour. All of it.

Daily vitamins made simple & personal.

(pssttt… there’s a treat for my readers at the end of this post. Don’t miss out!)

Sometimes I like to write about the things I care about— faith, relationships, love, necessity. Other times, I like to write about the things and products in my life that are changing my life. This is one of those other times. .

I deal with depression and anxiety. I see a therapist every three weeks and a psychiatrist every 6 months. The therapist and psychiatrist talk to one another. They collaborate to figure out how to walk me into the best life possible. With depression, it is sometimes hard to believe in that “best life possible.”
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They talk to me separately about the importance of whole foods, exercise, routines. I’m like a parrot- rattling off all the right answers until we get to the part about vitamins.
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“Do you take vitamins?”
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I answer, “Yes, of course, I take vitamins.”
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They ask, “Which ones?”
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I get nervous and I say a bunch of things.
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“Well, I dabble in fish oil. I occasionally take a multivitamin but it truly makes me nauseous. Sometimes I take sketchy pills I see on Doctor Oz but that’s always pretty short-lived.”
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Let’s be honest: The whole process of vitamins overwhelms me. I know I need to be taking them but which ones? And what brands? Can I just have the gummies? Why does health feel so hard sometimes?
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My friend Lindsey posted about this company Care/of two months ago. It was an image of a packet of vitamins with her name on it. I was instantly intrigued. I checked out the company and the love affair really began.
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Instead of spending an hour staring at the rows of vitamins in Target, I took a quiz. The quiz asked me about my lifestyle, my goals, my values, and all the things. Sleep patterns. Activity. Skin issues. Illnesses. The quiz took about 5 minutes. I personally loved it because it made me feel seen and known as an individual. If I have learned one thing through my health journey it’s this: there is no one size fits all solution. Each person is different. My needs are different than your needs. I am thankful for companies who call out our differences instead of trying to remedy us all with sameness.
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My quiz tells me I need the following:

  • Rhodiola- The Cosmonaut: Supports stress and mood. I’m down for anything that chills out my brain.
  • Multivitamin- The One: I added this one to my packet after the quiz because my doctors are constantly saying, “MULTIVITAMIN! MULTIVITAMIN! MULTIVITAMIN!”
  • Probiotic Blend- The Harmonious Gut: My mama talks endlessly about probiotics and that I need them. Hey mom- I am doing okay now!
  • Astaxanthin- The Coral King : This is a biggie for me because this little pill helps me with my psoriasis. Skin problems, see you later!

A few days after I ordered the vitamins, a little box showed up with 30 individual packs for each day of the month. I must have shown Lane the packaging at least thirty times because I was just so tickled with the presentation. As crazy as it might seem, I love having my name on all the little packets. It feels personalized and custom-made for me. It’s the little things, guys.
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I’m one month into the experience and I can proudly scream about how much I love the following:

1) It helps with creating healthy habits.
I keep the little box at my desk in a place where I can see it every day. There are no excuses, really. I grab a pack from the box and take it with a meal. No fuss, no excuses. I’ve only missed a few days and that’s because I am still getting used to the process.
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2) It’s trustworthy.
I like honest companies. I don’t know how to figure out who is honest in the industry of vitamins. I am always wondering if I need a different brand of multi vitamins or if I should be trying a different probiotic. In this case, the vitamins are all coming from one place. The tough decisions (the ones I was never good at making anyway) have left the building. I am free to trust the experts and go with my gut (dumb probiotic joke).
3) It’s perfect for traveling. I give it an A+!
I can’t tell you the number of pill boxes I’ve bought in the last few years. I think each one is going to be the solution. I imagine myself refilling it and taking my little pill box on all my travels with me. It has yet to happen. When I went to New York City and Tampa the other week, I simply grabbed 5 packets from the bag and threw them into my carry-on. Again— no fuss, no excuses.
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4) It simply inspires me.
I love innovative companies. I love people who see an everyday occurrence like taking vitamins and try to make it simpler. This sort of stuff fires me up. Overall, subscribing to Care/of feels like an experience more than anything else. I love the branding and the simplicity of the packaging. It’s taken the stress out of vitamins for me. For that, I am pretty stinkin’ grateful.

 


.This isn’t a sponsored post. I am passionate about sharing the things that matter to me with all of you.  I reached out to Care/of and I asked if there was something I could offer to you guys. They were kind (and really speedy), giving me a coupon code for 50% off your first subscription of vitamins. Just use “BRENCHER50” as your promo code at checkout and enjoy half off your first month of vitamins! 
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When media stops being social. Pt. II

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Comparison is a sneaky thing. It’s like added sugar.
You think added sugar is no big deal until you set out to do something like a Whole30. Suddenly, when you are finally paying attention to labels, you realize sugar is added everywhere. It’s in everything. It’s even in bacon.
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I think that’s how comparison works, too. It starts small. You almost can’t spot it. Before long, it’s taking more territory. It’s taking the script of your life and stealing lines from it. It’s convincing you to play small. It’s trying to whisper in your ear, “I’ve got a better part for you. Just watch that person a little bit longer. If you just keep measuring yourself against other people then eventually you’ll find what you’re looking for.”
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I’m reading this book on Galatians by Tim Keller. In his book, Keller dissects the letter Paul wrote to the church of Galatia. Paul is usually a somewhat chipper dude but he is evidently not happy with these people in Galatia. He’s frustrated in the letter. He doesn’t understand why, after hearing the gospel, they would choose to go back to their own gods.
As he wrings his hands, he basically says, “Only crazy people believe they can step in and finish what God started.”
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But that’s what these people tried to do— they tried to take the salvation portion of the gospel and claim they would work for it. It’s something many of us have faced, this belief that God is going to love us if we add up and we do critical things on his behalf.
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Keller introduces this idea of “functional saviors.” Functional saviors are everywhere. Functional saviors are anything we believe might be able to save us, fill us, or keep us from the darkest parts of ourselves.
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A functional savior is anything we use to try and plug the gaping God-sized hole inside of us. 
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I have a list of functional saviors I’ve tapped into the ring on multiple occasions throughout my life. They are the things I readily choose over God.
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Comparison. That’s a functional savior.
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Comparison, as nasty as it is, keeps me from having to look at the real issue. I can become so fixated with comparison that I never think to acknowledge the root of it. Every little thing has a root, a starting place. So I dig for the bigger questions: What am I so afraid of seeing in my own life? What feelings am I trying not to face? 
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I think I was more afraid to find out what was at the root of my comparison issues. That was going to much messier and harder to assess than just sitting back in the lanky arms of comparison for one more day.
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I stopped watching my friends’ Instagram stories back in March. I’ve not been perfect since then but I decided to see what would happen to me if I didn’t indulge in those stories for a month. As long as I watched other people’s days unfold, mine felt stagnant.
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For the 30 days ahead, I made a better plan.
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I decided to take action. Every time my friend’s face would pop up at the top of my feed, prompting me to check their story, I would resist the urge and check in instead. I’d send a text. I’d write them a note. I’d say a prayer. I would do something other than watching them go to the Farmer’s Market or kill an ab circuit.
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It’s no surprise that the real story isn’t usually on social media. We claim to want it but we also know that we don’t show up to social media for people’s messes. We come for the curation. We come for the eloquent copy and the cute pictures. We come to be amused and receive what is the equivalent of a side-hug on the internet.
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When you stop checking in on your friends online and you start reaching out, you learn the real story. You see how awful their day has been or you get to join them in celebrating something new. You no longer participate in their story through a bird’s eye view. You are in the story. You are real to the story. You are suddenly a character, not a spectator.
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I eventually stopped watching stories altogether. I found myself not really needing to watch the stories of people I didn’t know. I followed some people because they inspired me but that inspiration wore off eventually and comparison stepped in like an understudy ready to roll.
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I think it is almost impossible to be the best version of you when you are constantly measuring yourself up to someone else. Other people cannot be my standard. Their success does not determine mine. If I am looking to people to serve as a benchmark for me then I have clearly missed the point of people. People are meant to be loved, not measured. I know this for certain. I would go out on a limb and tell any human they don’t need to try to reach a measurement to be worthy. So why can’t I tell myself that? 
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I got an email from a reader a few months ago who recently got engaged. Engagement is a fun season if you remember to have fun with it. This girl wasn’t having fun. She found herself stuck in the muds of comparison. She found herself becoming overly consumed with the weddings of other people and how hers was going to match up.
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This was never meant to happen. We were never meant to sacrifice our lives on the altars of comparison. We can’t even blame social media for this kind of comparison because it’s always been here. The second story in the whole bible is about a man who kills his own brother because of some deep-rooted comparison issues. Social media did not turn us into people who compare, it just provided a shortcut.
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So what would I tell the girl who isn’t enjoying engagement because she’s too busy comparing her life to other brides, and friends, and family?
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I’d tell her comparison is the easy road. It’s the default setting. The harder posture to reach in your heart? The posture of celebration. Secure people are able to celebrate other people getting exactly what they wanted. Secure people know there isn’t just one good wedding or one good love story, there are millions. We should all get the good things. Secure people know there is always more room at the table.
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I would tell her to guard her friendships more than she guards this brewing itch to outshine her friends. The weddings won’t always be there. You won’t always be talking about color palettes and dessert bars. There’s going to be a day when the fireworks fade and life tries to knock you over. In those moments, you’ll want real friendship. You’ll want pure, sturdy friendships.
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Invest in the celebration of your friends, I would tell her. Invest in the stuff that is going to hold you and keep you when the weddings end and the babies grow up. When the gray hair comes and the funeral songs play. 
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I would tell her to open her eyes and do her best to keep them open. If she doesn’t, she will likely miss a million moments that were meant to be all hers. They won’t be shared. They won’t be documented. We are so quick to say God isn’t here but his hands are suddenly in all the little details when we finally look up, take our eyes off the screen, and just vow to be here now.
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I would tell the girl that, sadly, it will be her loss if she wastes these precious moments watching other people and doesn’t step into her own story. I would tell her to fight like hell to keep fear away from her love story.
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When the lights cut out and the credits roll, you’ll either have watched someone’s story or you’ll have lived your own. The choice is yours. So what’s it going to be?
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TO BE CONTINUED >>>

When media stops being social. Pt. I

When Instagram stories first popped up on my radar, I thought to myself: I am not getting involved with this. This is just another form of media that will suck away my time and attention span. I am going to resist.
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I resisted for about two months before I was right, up in the front, consuming and producing stories for my Instagram followers. Suddenly, everything became important. Making soup became important and worthy of documenting. Going for walks with my husband became important and worthy of documenting. Little things– things that used to be simple and all my own– became packaged and delivered out into the world. My life was ready to be consumed.
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We’ve seen the good, the negative, and the somewhat weird effects because of that delivery. We’ve been in public places where people come up to us and classify us as “couple goals.” We get the “I love watching your life” comments.  I don’t fault these people. We put it out there. As much as we think our actions won’t affect people, they do. Somehow, I have thousands of people who watch me cook dinner or go out on a date night. I give them peeks into my life. It’s on me.
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But recently, I started to feel tired. I noticed that even though I was creating my own Instagram stories, I went spending just as much time (maybe more) consuming the stories of other people. Rarely, unless it was a food blogger, did I walk away feeling like I retained any of the information. More than that, I was consuming the stories happening in the lives of my friends. I was peeking in throughout the day to see what they were up to, how their work was going, or what funny things they’d discovered about life that hour.
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Instagram stories became a regular habit in my life. I watched them in the morning, sleep still stuck in my eyes. Lane and I would sit up in bed and you could hear the voices of friends and family floating over the railings of our lofted bedroom.
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I found different feelings starting to sprout up inside of me: exhaustion, sadness, and envy. Never joy though. Envy was a big one for me. There would be nights where Lane and I would both be sitting on the couch, watching stories when we should have just been talking to one another, and our moods would suddenly switch. We’d see our friends on the screen, hanging out and laughing with one another. We’d witness hang-outs we never got invited to. Suddenly our nights became the sagas of Why is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
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More feelings came up. Deeper feelings of bitterness or sadness. Insecurities. It’s crazy how social media turn us on or off in this way. One minute we are golden and the next we are in a pit of despair because of something that happened on a screen. You start to ask yourself questions: What is wrong with me? Do they not like us? You question the things you post online: Am I being inclusive? Am I only posting this to let people know I am doing it? Am I purposefully hoping this story will leave someone else feeling left out?
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It’s a nasty cycle. More and more, we are beginning to have honest conversations about social media and how it is transforming our lives. We are reciting the statistics back and forth to one another. There has been a rise in anxiety and depression in the last few years, thanks to social media.
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My friends and I were talking about this other day while we grabbed a coffee. My friend Liz said something that I believe is crucial: we are in control. No one is forcing us to consume social media. It’s on us if we are allowing the snapshots of other people’s lives to make us insecure, bitter, resentful or jealous. At the end of the day, we are responsible for how much we consume and if we keep consuming it after it makes us feel nasty inside.
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So a few months ago, I started taking my life back. Little by little. Piece by piece. It began with Instagram stories.
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And let me tell you, something in me shifted. Something changed and it was beautiful.
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TO BE CONTINUED >>>

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