A goodbye letter to Jack Pearson.

Photo Credit: NBC Photo Gallery
Photo Cred: NBC Photo Gallery

Dear Jack,

I thought we’d have more time together. Really, I thought the network would drag your storyline out for at least 3 more seasons before it came to this.

I was sitting at my dining room table the other morning, scrolling through my newsfeed while innocently eating my scrambled eggs, when I came across a clip of you seemingly surrounded by flames. It was then that I knew- you were leaving us. This Is Us would inevitably become This Was Us. I don’t feel ready.

Admittedly, I sobbed. Into my eggs, at nine in the morning, I lost it and it’s a little bit embarrassing because nothing really even happened in the clip. You were just being you, acting like the man I’ve grown to love more and more with each passing episode.

Jack, my mother has watched General Hospital for the last 30 years and I never really understood how she could be so invested in fictional characters. How she could pause the world for an hour every evening to hang out with “friends.” I didn’t get it until you showed up on my TV screen, with your mustache and slicked back hair. I think it was Pilgrim Rick… that was the point where I knew I would love you forever, that I would drop anything on a Tuesday night just to spend some time with you.

In all seriousness, I think you set a standard for us that I don’t think we ever expected. In our culture, it’s pretty typical to binge watch a lot of television yet rarely walk away changed, your mind reeling for days over something someone said or did. You’ve got a team of writers behind your words, Jack, but let me tell you: they gave you heart. They gave you spirit. They made you into someone who made us all think, “Now there’s a man who isn’t perfect but he sure knows how to show up for his people.” You had flaws, like all of us, but you never became them.

Dedication, Jack. That’s the spirit of who you are and who you’ve always been to me. You make us all want to be better friends, better spouses, better employees, better parents. You gave us an example of love that is both selfless and fierce, sacrificial and relentless. In a world that feels a little dark and crazy these days, you reminded us of the most basic tenets of a good life: investment in the family you’ve got. Hard work. A tenacious spirit. Speech that is kind. Love that serves without expectations. And great hair.

Because of you, I can look at my own flaws and confidently say, “They’re here. I see them. But I am not a bad person or a waste of space because of them. I’ll keep showing up. Messy and ready for whatever curveball life will throw at me next, I’ll keep showing up.”

You took risks every episode in the name of family- something we don’t stick up for enough in 2018. Like I said earlier, we weren’t expecting someone like you to come along. Like most unexpected people who show up in life, you don’t fully see realize the space they take up in your heart until you realize you’re going to lose them one day.

This is us, Jack. This is all of us.

Maybe it’s for the best that we say goodbye now. I’ve spent hundreds of dollars trying to figure you out in therapy sessions that are supposed to be about my own issues.  It’s getting a little ridiculous that I can’t seem to process my own junk and yet the floodgates open up when my therapist says two words: Jack Pearson.

Because of you, I’ve learned I’m not as emotionally stable as I thought. I walk into a Tuesday night feeling like I might be killing it at life (or at least doing a decent job) and I walk out with no makeup left on my face, a throbbing headache from all the inhumane sobs released from my body in the span of an hour. I find myself grieving for something I didn’t know I even needed to grieve for: past family dogs, old relationships, lost shoes, failed diets. It all comes flooding back to me when you say words like, “You are my purpose, Kevin.”

I threw out my Crockpot. I’m comparing you to my husband too much. I found out it’s not as easy as I thought to walk into a hospital and take home a baby that is not mine. I’m thinking about making a dent in the homebuilding industry (in your honor, of course). I am a woman on a solo mission to find her own “Big Three.”

I honestly don’t know what we’ll do without you, Jack. But I promise to face my junk. I promise to face it and make you proud, Jack. I promise to always buy batteries. When Sunday comes, I’ll be there and I’ll be wearing my Steelers jersey just for you.

I’ll never let go, Jack. I’ll never let go.

Love,

Me & the rest of us.

The Better Guide // January Edition

the better guide (1)

I’m a researcher at heart.

A lot of people don’t know this about me but I was a sociology major in college. I love everything about qualitative and quantitative researcher. I consider myself a hunter-gatherer of the Internet. I like to read, experiment, test and discover what is out there and how it can either make life better or worse, simpler or more complex. This is a great passion of mine: to tell people about the things I find, the things that are shaking up my world in a good way. So this idea has been brewing for over a year now. I kept waiting for the right time to just do it, just press publish. No time like the present!

Introducing The Better Guide.

This is a monthly guide, a most-random resource list of all things food, drink, faith, fitness— all of it. My intern Jo and I spent hours trying to come up with a name for this monthly guide last January and ultimately landed on “The Better Guide” for one simple reason: who has time for anything less? I’m digging for the better options so you don’t have to.

I’ll be publishing this guide at the end of every month (consider it a wrap-up of the last 30 or so days) and I am making a single promise to you in creating it and curating the resource list: I promise to seek the better. I promise to gather resources, apps, news, and test them out first. I’ll be the guinea pig, ready to report back my findings. I promise not to report things that are fake, way too much money, or will ultimately do nothing for your life but distract you. Life is precious and I ain’t toying with your hours nor could I ever, in good conscience, recommend a $600 gym bag to you.
I promise to be fair, real, transparent, and ultimately focused on the better. Better health. Better work. Better relationships. All the better. 

Better Reads.

  • My girl Alli Worthington just released a powerhouse anthem into the world this past week and you’re going to want to read it. I read this book at a time in my life where I felt like most of my steps were coated in a thick layer of fear. It’s faith-filled and I know will rock the lives of many, many women.
  • If you are a thriller reader like me (basically give me all the titles with the words “missing girl” in it) then the next read on your list needs to be The Wife Between Us. This thriller will confuse the heck out of you (in such a good way) and keep your suspense levels fueled. Does. Not. Disappoint.

Save Better.

Y’all know me- I am ALL ABOUT the finances. Don’t ask me why because I used to have a strong aversion to money talk but I can’t get enough of it these days.

  • I never shut up about this app but that’s because I really, really believe in it. I am not even being dramatic when I tell you: it has changed my life. Qapital is an app that thrives off this idea that we spend the money in our checking account impulsively just because it’s available to us. Qapital helps you save your own money, make goals, and conquer the world. Thanks to this app, Lane and I saved all our pennies for a beautiful anniversary trip and I saved all my Christmas money in July. ***If you want bonus instructions on how to have Qapital save a dollar for you every time Donald Trump tweets then send me an email with the subject line “the man tweets… a lot” and I will help you out.
  • Somehow I killed over $50,000 worth of student loan debt in 2016 and then the small adult inside of me said, “It’s time to start saving, baby!” Now I am a loyalist to my Aspiration Summit account. The wait list is worth it. I stole this website because they say it better than I ever could: Aspiration offers socially-conscious and sustainable banking and investing so you can make money while making the world a better place. And, unlike the Big Banks, we don’t use your deposits to fund oil pipelines or turn your fees into campaign contributions to the politicians that work against you. They’re basically a modern-day Robin Hood in the form of a savings account.

Better Subscriptions.

  • For all my married people who want to improve their bond while sitting at their desk. Subscribe to the Marriage Minute by the Gottman Institute. I love reading the weekly marriage tip and sending it over to Lane. These are smart and thought-provoking suggestions that really do help your relationship.
  • If you are a writer or someone who wants to write better, then definitely sign up for Slant Letter. It’s a monthly email so it won’t clog up your inbox and it’s all about finding your voice and killing your craft. Fun fact: Stephanie (the creator of the email) is my editor. She taught me so much in the editing process just this past year so I definitely believe in her wisdom and words. Get on it. 

Better Health.

  • I feel like I am really fickle when it comes to my workouts and people ask me all the time: where do you find them? A few months ago, I came across Alexia Clark. My life hasn’t been the same since. I recently subscribed to Alexia Clark’s fitness site ($29 a month) and I do not regret the investment. She sends 5 workouts a week and a mini pep talk the night before every workout. Her workouts are hard, REALLY HARD, and will push you to new levels in your fitness journey. Plus, look at this amazing article about her in Women’s Health (she’s on the cover this month!) about why she doesn’t post bikini photos. Girl freaking power.
  • Our crockpot broke this month. It was a devastating blow to my spirit and my faith to see my sweet little basin of joy crack down the center. But friends, God is in the business of upgrading. We caved. We saved our pennies. We bought an Instant Pot. And the rage is real. It’s the most amazing cooking tool I’ve ever possessed. It’s a slow cooker on steroids. This is likely how Jesus actually fed the 5,000. I’m smitten and in love and that’s all.
  • I’m doing a Whole30 this month so here are a few of the recipes we currently cannot get enough of:

Better Work.

  • My good friend Mattie came out with a little thing called Forth Guide last month and it’s pretty amazing. I would say it’s essential for a freelancer or someone who works for themselves! I wish I had this guide when I was just starting out, floundering around on Google trying to figure out where to find a graphic designer or how to start an email list. Mattie does the digging for you and the results are genius.
  • Most of the apps I recommend are free-free-free but this app is worth the $2.99 you’ll pay to get it on your phone. It’s called Forest. It’s a productivity app designed to keep you focused and not grabbing for the phone every five seconds. What’s cooler than that, you plant a metaphorical tree everytime you set the timer on the app. When the timer rings then your “tree” is planted! Metaphorical trees add up to real trees planted in the real world. It’s cool (and environmentally friendly) to be not distracted these days. Mother Nature thanks you.

Have a suggestion for the February Better Guide? Get at us. 

I will walk with you through the woods.

January is a month that hoards memories for me. I can hardly look at the word “January” scrawled thick across the banner of a new calendar and not remember all that happened in this month three years ago. It’s all still with me.

I remember the plane rides back and forth between Atlanta and Connecticut. I remember the multiple doctors, all with their differing opinions about treatment moving forward. I remember the hotel rooms, sitting on the phone for hours with friends because I didn’t want to be alone. I remember the drowsiness of sleeping pills and the feel of the carpet against my cheek as I got down on the floor once again and begged God for a shred of hope, one small poke of light through the thick fog of depression.

Depression is never an easy topic to write about but I know it’s necessary. Today, as I was reading in Isaiah, I noticed the words: I have been anointed to bring good news to the poor, heal the heartbroken, announce freedom to all captives, pardon all prisoners of darkness. 

There are prisoners of darkness. This is an accurate description of how depression feels. Sometimes you feel like you are in this small, stone box. You’re stuck at the bottom of it. There’s no light pouring through the cracks. You can’t find a window or a door and you’re gasping for breath, pounding on the sides of that box in the hopes that someone would just hear you and let you go free. You’re stuck. It’s scary.

I get emails all the time from people asking me to write about how, just how, to walk with someone through the woods. Through the pain of depression. Through a dark valley of an unseen illness that steals sleep and daily ambition.

I’m writing now but with great hesitancy. Mental illness is such a tender topic and it’s important to just come out and say it: there is no one-size-fits-all treatment. Each individual is different. Each experience with mental illness is unique. I don’t possess all the answers. Not even close. I am simply one person who deals with depression and it would be wise to gather the stories of others to make this narrative more complete. So here’s the little prayer I said beneath my breath as I wrote this: God, help me to be wise when writing about such a tough topic. Give me grace in the areas where I get it wrong. Highlight & amplify the places where I speak your truth the loudest. 

I’d so appreciate your grace on this topic too!

You are not a lifeboat. The signs of depression may be pretty straightforward. However, figuring out how to respond to those signs is a different beast. You love this person. You naturally want to make it better for the one who is stuck in a thick fog. The first thing to remember: your presence is appreciated and essential but you can’t heal a person of their illness. That’s not your role.

Don’t get frustrated by this. You have many other roles you can take on. You can make the tea. You can let them crumble into your arms and hold them why they cry. You can listen. You can learn.

More importantly, depression is a heavy thing. It can feel burdensome. Depression, itself, is the burden. The person who is suffering is just the host of the burden. Burdens, however, are not meant to be shouldered alone. Be mindful of your limits. Don’t try to hold this all on your shoulders. It is possible to be crushed under the weight of trying to show up for someone you love. 

Be mindful of your limits. Don’t try to hold this all on your shoulders. It is possible to be crushed under the weight of trying to show up for someone you love. 

Stay surrounded by a support system if you can. Be plugged in and be in communication with the other friends or family members who are walking alongside this person. Sometimes it takes a small village and hey, sometimes you may need to pull over on the side of the road and take a pit stop. That’s okay. I say this because it’s easy to start a journey with people but it’s harder to finish it. Take care of your health. Lean hard into your people as someone with depression leans into you. Exercise boundaries. Be aware of how you’re feeling as you offer another support.

 

Be a truth-teller. Much of depression is like hearing a soundtrack of lies blasting loudly in the background of everything you try to do yet being helpless to find the knob that turns the volume down. We need people to reach in and say, “Hey, I see you. I know the things you are believing right now but here’s some truth to sustain you.”

Remind that person of who they are. Remind them that they are not an illness or a failure. Depression is not a weakness. Remind the person you love that they are a fighter and that they, too, will come out of the woods. 

It might be tempting to say, “Snap out of it. Get yourself together and just move forward.” You have to remember that the person battling this mental illness wants to believe the same things as you. They’ve tried to snap out of it. They are likely trying as hard as they possibly can so coercion to “get over it” won’t work. Be kind and graceful.

Sometimes it won’t seem to make any sense. And that’s okay, too. Depression is a hard thing to understand and the best thing you can say sometimes is, “Hey, we both don’t fully get this but what is more important is getting through this.”

 

You’re okay. These are my two favorite words in the English language. I use them constantly to remind others of how strong and brave they are. This is a big one: help is sometimes necessary and there doesn’t need to be a glowing orb of stigma around getting it. Doctors exist for a reason. Medicine exists with a purpose. Not everyone needs medicine but it’s okay if the door gets flung open.

It’s one of the most powerful things in the world to remind a person who is fighting through the dark: you’re okay. You’re okay and if you need me to, I will go to the doctor’s office with you. I will hold your hand. I will help you pick up the medicine and take that first pill.

Again, treatment is not a one-size-fits-all thing. I reached a point in my own journey where medicine was the only option to recovery and I still remember the friend who dropped me off at the doctor’s office. I remember her bringing me back to her place, tucking me in on the couch, and going to Target to pick up that first prescription for me.

It’s tempting to want to think you are crazy for having to take pills to make your brain better but that’s the last thing you are. You are not crazy. You are not a lost cause. I had to remind myself that each small pill was a step towards recovery. It didn’t mean I would take the pills forever. It simply meant that, in this moment, there was a little extra assistance and that was perfectly okay.

Another thing you might have to say: you’re okay. And it’s okay if you need to go somewhere like a hospital. It’s okay if you need more help.

It was two weeks into my medicine that my community and I made the decision to go to the emergency room. I wouldn’t have gone if people hadn’t surrounded me and said, “It’s perfectly okay to go where there is help. Don’t be afraid. Don’t believe the lie that you are broken beyond repair.”

“It’s perfectly okay to go where there is help. Don’t be afraid. Don’t believe the lie that you are broken beyond repair.”

Thoughts of suicide are a reality for some of those battling mental illness. It is imperative that we ask the hard questions and we follow-up with help options: Are you thinking about hurting yourself? Are you thinking about hurting other people? These are not silly questions and they need to be asked sometimes even if it feels uncomfortable.

 

Little victories. I owe so much of my recovery to a small band of women who surrounded me and refused to let me be alone. There were days where I just wanted to be left alone. They would invite me over. They would call and ask me to join them for errands. This is huge. Really huge. It would be easy enough to sit with a person experiencing depression and let them talk all day about their worries and fears. This won’t always be helpful though. Instead, plan something active. Propose going for a walk or doing a yoga class together. Ask them to join you on a trip to Target. These activities help a person get out of their own head and enter into the world. The depression will likely scream, “No! Just stay home. Just stay alone!” but it’s okay to be a little insistent. Even if you don’t feel it, your presence is a breath of fresh air to someone who is worn down by the prison in their brain.

There were days where all I wanted to do was run myself in circles around lies I couldn’t piece together. I wanted answers but that’s the thing about depression: it wants you to obsess over things you cannot change and it wants you to be helpless to move forward.

I wanted answers but that’s the thing about depression: it wants you to obsess over things you cannot change and it wants you to be helpless to move forward.

One of my girlfriends, Chrisy, stopped me in the middle of obsessing one morning. She said, “Okay, we are not going to wallow in this anymore. I want you to get up and I want you to do something.” She instructed me to go to Target and buy a pack of thank-you notes. She told me to write a thank-you note to any person who’d been with me in this dark pit. She asked me to write down every tiny thing I did from now until the end of the day, in monotonous fashion: Went to Target. Wrote thank-you notes. Took a shower. Met with Heather. 

Little victories are one of the best things you can point a person towards when they are in a pit. Little victories, stacking upon one another, help a person climb out of themselves and see the world once again. Depression is an illness that wants you to focus inward but action steps propel you forward. This is also a great chance to encourage self-care. It’s easy to neglect things like bathing, working out, or eating right when you are depressed. Just the thought of a shower can seem so overwhelming but breaking the self-care into baby steps, little victories to be met, helps a person feel empowered and capable of trying again the next day.

Help the person in your life count the little victories, no matter how small. Write them down or track them in a phone. Rejoice with them. Celebrate the smallness. Grab their hand and assure them, “Little victory upon little victory, I will walk with you through the woods.”

 

I would love to read your words and thoughts on this topic in the comment section below. The comments section is often a bright light for others, all on its own. I invite you to contribute- your words are appreciated in this space. 

Be wild, ridiculous, and at peace, sweet girl.

hey you, 

How do I start this letter?

I always feel a little awkward when writing letters to younger versions of myself but today it makes sense. Today I know this letter is necessary. Today you are six months into being 21. You are a senior in college. You are applying for programs across the country because you have a dream of helping others your first year out of college.

It is one of the last nights before you go home for holiday break. You’re so close to being done with finals. Chances are, you just piled into the back of a car with your closest girlfriends and came out of Starbucks with peppermint mochas in hand. You are heading back to the campus center to study together. Years from now, you will look back and you will be thankful you took the study break. You’ll be thankful for this group of girls because they helped you become who the world needed you to be. Sit in the moment and don’t wish it away. Don’t bully yourself with thoughts of how you could be doing more, or how you should have your life figured out by now, and just go with it. Say yes to the midnight breakfast. Blast the holiday music. Stay up way too late. Be young. Be wild, and ridiculous, and at peace, sweet girl. Stay that way as long as you can.

There’s a reason “future me” is writing to 21-year-old you. The year is 2009. You are sitting at your small Acer computer, the one you bought at the start of this year to invest in your “writing career.” You just created a blog on WordPress. You are calling it “As Simple As That.” You don’t really know what you will do with the blog– what you will say– but you know you want to help people. Keep that conviction.

Words have always meant everything to you. They’ve been balm to you. Healing for you. Words have convinced you that you mustn’t live ordinarily. You must be wild enough to go after your dreams and then, maybe then, you will become those dreams.

So go for it, girl. Publish that first blog post. Don’t be fearful and don’t hold back. You’ve got a voice inside of you but you will learn, in the next 8 years, that a voice must be honed and trained. it must be poured into and refined. Create as much as you can when no one is watching. Read as much as you can.

A voice doesn’t show up one day, it develops through tiny, miraculous experiences and mistakes. Make all your mistakes, girl. Don’t be afraid when life knocks the wind out of you. The first time you learn how to breathe again– after the first big heartbreak comes–  is when you’ll realize you are alive and it’s a gift to be here. Write it all down, girl.

 

You’ll see pretty soon, in the next few years, that you were quick to name your blog “As Simple As That.” The thing about life is that some days it feels simple and other days it is anything but. Don’t grow up and hate the girl who believed in world peace. Don’t divorce yourself from her in your mind or wish she wasn’t so naive to think things like love letters could change the world. Who you are, right now, is beautiful. It’s necessary. Like I said earlier: stay young as long as you can. Believe that people are generally good. Develop hope over cynicism. Develop a voice of love over one of fear. Make the world better by and because of your love.

 

So many good things will come to you, girl, because of this one blog. So dig in. Do the work. Invest. Put in the long hours. Meet other bloggers. Maybe even fall in love with one or two of them. Get your heart-broken. Get back up. Forgive your ghosts. Say “yes” to things that will make you work harder than yesterday. Put your skin in the game. Lead with honesty. Possess a spirit of integrity. You are going to walk into so many experiences in the next few years where you will meet people who lead with anything but integrity. Don’t let them get you down. Remember how your mama raised you. Be a light in a dark world.

Never believe you deserve what is coming to you. It’s a gift. It’s borrowed things from God. Always stay humble and faithful to what He gives you. If you take care of the little, more will come. This is the truest recipe for success. Don’t play a numbers game. Don’t care about the metrics. Instead, find the broken hearts. Sew into those. Answer as many emails as you can from people who need to know someone is reading them. It will never be about who, or how many, like your content. Stay true to creating content for the sake of creation.

 

Be a lighthouse but never a lifeboat. The two are very different. A lighthouse stands there tall and shining. A lifeboat is hellbent on saving people. There is a savior mentality stitched into most of us. We want to save. We want to fix. 

You will learn in the next few years that you were made to love and protect, dig and dream. You were made to stare at the sky and ask questions about God. But you, my girl, were never created to save anyone. Be careful not to drown in the effort of trying.

 

What you are creating will require sacrifice in the years to come. Not everyone will understand it. Some people will give you crazy eyes, tell you not to care so much. You caring too much isn’t your weakness, it’s actually your greatest strength. Lean into it. Vow to learn as much as you can about the world you live in and the life you want to create.

Be good to people. Keep the ghosting to a minimal (if you can). Don’t Taylor Swift people on the Internet. In the words of the wise prophet Beyonce: don’t diss people on the internet because your mama taught you better than that. Leave space and room in every sentence you write for grace and redemption. The most beautiful thing about characters is their ability to change. Don’t ever steal that from someone by writing a story they can’t grow out of one day.

 

I’m writing to you from eight years away. Oh, so many stupid things you’ll do. You’ll kiss people when you shouldn’t. You’ll walk away even when you’re not sure. It’s all field work, babe. In the next years, you will fall in love and fall out. You will say stupid things for the ones you love. This is growing up.

You will get a diagnosis of depression and it will rock you, steal from you, and then give it all back to you in a newer, more durable package. You will find your dream job but then you will learn that the dream job isn’t that something you walk into, it’s something you create.

You will move to new cities. You will tweet the dumbest stuff. You will say “yes” when you mean “no.” You will try yoga. You will shake hands with celebrities and you will sign books for strangers. It’s going to be wild, beyond what you think you ever could have. And here’s the wildest part: it begins here. It starts right here, on this last night of finals, as you publish that first blog post.

Stay faithful. Say yes. Move the damn mountains for whoever you love. Find your truth. Pray for wisdom. Run towards the storm and see what it makes you into. In Macklemore-fashion, put your skin and bones into everything you produce. Be a participant. Choose to create over complaining. Fall on your face and let grace lift you back up. And then come back here, come right back here, and write it all down.

I’m cheering loudly for whoever you’ll become.

tying you closer than most,

hb.

 

<<image cred>>

Paper memories + an Artifact Uprising giveaway.

I’m almost ashamed to admit the lack of printed photographs I have in my possession. The last thick pile of them I have in my possession are from my senior year of college in 2010. After that, the paper memories get thinner. I stopped printing things. I got lazy. I relied on a platform like Facebook to rehash memories.

When Lane and I got married, I realized how important it is to print memories. I am such an advocate for the tangible when it comes to handwritten letters that I cannot believe it took me this long to get it together and start printing photos.

Enter Artifact Uprising– a company I love, respect, and will choose again & again when it comes to printing our best moments. I love products made in the USA and I am also an advocate for small companies who build great things & great people. I will do everything I can, for as long as I have, to support these brands and their ventures.

“We believe that doing good is more important than doing well – and that kindness makes the world right. We believe in travel and the things you can learn from getting lost. And we believe the best lessons come from the listening. We try to laugh when light is needed and persist when the path requires it. We love wide open spaces and campfires and the kind of quiet that allows you to hear the snow crunching below your feet. We believe in those who wake up every day to choose joy. And we believe in the underdog. We believe in always remembering where you came from. We believe each of us will – in time – do something really, really nice for the world.”  -AU manifesto

We tried the company out when we ordered New Year cards, then ordered some of their everyday prints, and we topped off the experience by creating 3 wedding books and a calendar. Creating the wedding books was my favorite experience. I made myself a cup of hot cocoa and spent an evening going through photos, custom-making each book to fit the recipient. One for Lane & I. One for his Mama. One for mine.

To say the books are beautiful is an understatement. These books are a work of art. They’re something I will keep forever. I love the timeless look & feel. We keep our wedding book by the record cart in our home and I love watching people wander over there, grab the book, and flip through it.

I realize I will probably never be like my mother, filling albums with photos from all sorts of random occasions. But these wedding books are a start for us. Printed photos on the fridge and placed into frames is a beginning to documenting our love story in a tangible way. Baby steps, I tell myself. This is a beautiful start to a paper legacy for when we are old & gray.


In the spirit of holiday giving, I wanted to bless my people with a chance to have an Artifact Uprising experience. I am gifting one individual with a $75 gift card to Artifact Uprising. Entry is simple- hop on over to my Instagram (@hannahbrencher) and make sure you’re following me + Artifact Uprising. Leave a comment on my most recent Instagram post for your chance to win! I’ll be picking a winner at the end of this weekend!

Happy Holidays!  

Taming baby elephants: the annual comment about marriage.

This weekend, Lane and I will hit the one year mark of marriage. That’s a whole 365 days of trying to love one another well.

Right after I got married, people started asking me to write posts about marriage. I’ve had to politely decline each request with the same answer, “I know little to nothing about marriage. I’ll write a post about marriage in 30 years.”

It’s true. I’m the most amateur when it comes to marriage. I’m still in marriage preschool and likely will be for a long time. Lane and I are not even on the cusp of figuring out how to be good stewards of this marriage thing.

I joked last December and said I would write a marriage post– just one– every anniversary. So here it is… my annual marriage post.

We’re not in the “honeymoon” season but I find myself telling people we are and I’m not sure why. It’s just an easy response. It sifts out the people who really want to know how the marriage is doing and the ones who want to nod their heads and agree, fine to know what they know about us.

There are “honeymoonish” things but I like reality better. I think about last year how, coming home from our honeymoon, we got stuck in the Denver airport for 36 hours. We slept on the floor beside all these other people wanting to go home for the holidays. I roamed the airport at 5am to find Lane a biscuit. We turned the seats of one of the crowded gates into a mini-movie theatre and binged on Stranger Things. When we arrived in Tampa, just one more flight away from our destination of Atlanta, my heart couldn’t handle one more canceled flight.  But there it was: our flight home canceled. We fought for a minute about getting a hotel in Tampa, threw our hands in the air, and got a rental car. We drove through the night, six hours home. It was there in that rental car, shoving Zaxby’s french fries into my mouth and listening to Christmas music, that I knew real life was better than the honeymoon. I like who we are, who we can be to one another when things don’t go perfectly.

My friend says those who say they’re in the honeymoon stages haven’t started really communicating yet. I laugh. She might be right. We’ve started communicating and we are figuring out, every dang day, how hard that one part of relationship really is.

 

It all boils down to communication. It comes down to what you believe you are articulating and what you are truly saying underneath all the language.

We think we are saying things like “can you do the dishes?” or “Do you like this outfit?” but it really is something so much deeper going on. We are asking essential questions of one another beneath the surface: Can you help me? Am I attractive to you? Can you be with me? Can you rally for me right now? 

Too easily, we get caught up in what is on the surface. The dishes. The suede pants. The hair in the drain. The budget. When we peel the layers of these things, I realize we are always asking the same question of one another over and over again: Are we in this together? Are you choosing me?

Marriage is not a honeymoon, where all the problems can be shelved for another week. Marriage is a building site where hard hats are required and not all of the construction crew is guaranteed to show up. Marriage is hard and holy work, each new day a chance to communicate better and find common ground. Marriage is honoring the vow we made to choose one another, and forsake all the others, to build something together that didn’t exist before.

 

Our friends Nate and T gave us some of the best marriage advice a few months ago and I find myself wanting to scream it from mountaintops. They told us it is okay, and probably smart, to spend an obnoxious amount of time with one another during these first years of marriage. This isn’t so you become obsessed with one another or hermits in your own love story. When you spend a ton of time together, you learn how to communicate well. You learn how to face the baby elephants in the room before they grow up, become too big, and stomp all over you. You learn how to fight and fight well. You learn fighting isn’t a bad thing nor does it need to become your default, the thing that sucks your joy away, but it’s a way of sorting things out and getting to the root of who you truly are as one.

You don’t shove things under the rug. Instead, you learn to look one another in the eye and face the disappointments. You forgive. And forgiveness is this tiny yet sprawling miracle that makes you think the stuff of the Bible is still happening all the time.

 

Beware of baby elephants. I guess that’s all the marriage advice I have gathered so far. Baby elephants will grow up to be bigger elephants if you don’t pay attention. Right now, Lane and I are training baby elephants. We are noticing the things about us that, if we don’t pay attention to them, could grow up to be a big disaster. In an effort to not trample one another, we are figuring out how to face the baby elephants. We are communicating about the baby elephants.

There’s a temptation every single day to not talk about the baby elephants and just let them roam. There’s a temptation to coast on by and not sweat the small stuff. But the small stuff grows into big stuff when you aren’t watching. Like weeds in a garden, the smallest “plants” learn how to suffocate the whole lot of beautiful things when you give them a chance to sprawl.

So you talk about the baby elephants. And you tame the baby elephants. And you love the other in spite of the baby elephants they walked into the marriage with. This is us one year into the marriage. It is him, and I, and elephants, and what God is doing in the midst of our messes. I love it.

Lane was named after the narrow road in the Bible, the one that so few people take because it’s harder and grittier than just going your own way. I love being married to a man who was named after a narrow road.

I was given a thousand roads to choose and they all looked pretty good. But this one, this narrow one where we wear the same jersey and cheer for the same team, is by far the best road.

Single for the season.

I spent the last hour googling “single during the holiday season” and clicking in and out of articles. The stories were pretty much all the same. How to survive the holiday season. Things to do when you’re single. The articles start the same way, with cheesy puns about adding extra fa-la-la-la into your season. The slew of articles is really pretty pathetic for how weighty this feeling of “singleness” can be when December rolls around.

So you’re here. And you’re reading this. And maybe you’re the single one.

Valentine’s Day is one day on the calendar but, for some reason, the holiday season feels like two long months of social awareness for the single people in the room.

And maybe Hallmark Movies don’t make it any better because all these fiercely handsome men and seemingly perfect women keep colliding into one another in the old haunts of their hometowns while you’re just shoving more cookies into your mouth and ordering pizza from UberEats.

Scoot over on the couch, pass me a cookie, and let’s do this thing. 

 

First things first, you’re fine. If I had a quarter for every person who tried to tell me to be jolly about my singleness then I wouldn’t be writing anymore. I would likely be retiring and celebrating my newfound wealth on a beach in Mexico.

Reminder #1: Don’t cut the person who tells you this. 

Reminder #2: you don’t have to be jolly. It doesn’t have to be a thing.

People mean well when they say this sort of stuff. But if the awkwardness were to be stripped from every
“single at the holidays” conversation then I would just come out and tell you this: Hey, it’s absolutely okay if you’re hurting. You can be disappointed. You are allowed to want to shove couples frolicking together at the mall. Your rage is welcome here.

It’s okay to think it should be your turn by now. No one is going to hate you if you turn off the notifications this Christmas Eve. If seeing pictures of rings at Christmas is going to make you go ballistic then let’s take a step back and go from there.

You are allowed to grieve for what you don’t yet have. Singleness sometimes looks like mini skirts and cocktails. Sometimes singleness feels like grief and longing we haven’t learned to manage yet. We need to have better conversations about singleness. It’s okay to be single and yet waiting to not be. Just because you’re waiting doesn’t mean life hits the pause button. There’s a difference.

 

Your singleness is not a scorecard. It doesn’t have the permission to rate you or degrade you. You are not defined by a ring-less left hand. I’m married now so maybe you think I don’t get to say these things anymore but I’ve been taking notes. I took notes throughout my singleness and now I am taking notes throughout the marriage and I can tell you one thing that never changes, no matter how your marital status may shift: a person never fills the holes only God, himself, was made to occupy.

In some ways, I believe God made the holes on purpose. Chiseled them deep. Dug them wide. Gave us a spirit to want, so badly, to fill those holes with something of value and worth. When we see the holes, we realize we are in need of something. We are in need of something better than this mediocre world. I think we were created with a need to taste heaven, even in the smallest doses.

 

There was a time when I thought a guy would change that. I thought the right combination of blue eyes and 5’8 stature would fix me. I found myself craving all the attention I could get. I found myself wanting to be wanted. I thrived off of desire. It didn’t matter to me if I wasn’t planning longterm with the man, I just wanted someone to see me, call me beautiful, and hold the door open.

Wanting isn’t wrong. Where I went wrong was picking any man, any guy off Tinder, to make me feel valuable. I could never stand in front of an imperfect man and ask him to give me worth. Your value, dear, will never come from someone sitting across the table from you. A person can accentuate your value. A person can call you to a higher confidence in yourself. A person can call out your greatness and make you feel beautiful. But a person cannot hand you all the validation you so desperately want.

I would learn eventually– after a series of bad dates– that another person could never complete me. We were made to complement but not complete someone else. That’s too big of a role and our backs would break trying.

 

I’m not going to jettison a list of 5 activities you can do while being single this season because, honestly, reading a list like that when I was single would have depressed me. I was single out enough already. I didn’t want to be singled out by stigmas too.

So here’s all I’ll say: wallow if you want. Cry if you need to. No one is going to stop you. The greatest freedom I ever claimed from the most wonderful time of the year was the ability to say, “It’s okay if I don’t feel wonderful. I’m still here and that’s what matters.”

Your purpose isn’t on pause just because you’re single this year. You could be single your whole life, and still, this world would need something from you. It would tap its worldly foot and look at its worldly watch and wonder, “Is that person still waiting for the relationship to come? There was so much we could have done in the meantime.”

The world still needs you to pick up the phone and do your thing. Not an inch of your passion need be drained away based on a relationship status. There are still cards to write out and people to encourage. There are still shelters in need of extra volunteers and people who feel so heartbroken they aren’t sure if they will be able to handle the season this year.

Whether you see it or not, you’re like this tiny gold thread that’s bobbing and weaving through the stories of other people. You might not be in every story but, if you keep your eyes wide open this year, then you won’t miss the ones that need your touch. Your golden thread.

 

Eyes wide open. No matter what. Whether you are single or married, dating or engaged, we all need a reminder to have eyes wide open this time of year. The season will go by fast. I’m probably the 12th person to say that to you this year. But I think back to the reason why I celebrate Christmas. I tell myself, don’t miss the point. Don’t miss the point of this.

I’ve lived too long at this point– seen too many things– to believe in coincidences and accidents. I know there is purpose here. I know God is at work. But I also know that every conversation I avoided could have taught me something and every event I go to has the power to change me. That’s what happens when you step out into the world and you look around– you start to change. You morph. You become someone new. And maybe, just maybe, that “someone new” is the person you were meant to be when you meet the “someone new” who ends of wanting to partner with you. You never know. I know it took a lot of fights, battles, friendships, and moves to get me to the place where I met Lane and felt ready to love him with all the selfish and unselfish parts of me. I had to let the world change me before I could change the way I loved someone else.

We get this one chance. It’s this one, rare chance to be living, breathing creatures for a little while on this planet. And as we go, we get this chance to love people until it breaks our hearts and we go mad for one another. We get to scour the planet for treasure. We get to make bucket lists. We get the chance to commune. We get to define the purpose and make plans. There is a massive list of “get to”s that we get to do and we waste so much of that time on feeling like we are incomplete. Feeling inadequate. Feeling underqualified.

This is it for me. This is it for you. We might not get this season again so we should try to shake the fear off our shoulders and get busy with love. Fear wants to keep us isolated. Love wants to keep us busy.

Tis’ the season of joy. And maybe you won’t feel it the whole way through. Maybe it will only come in quick spurts. But calm your little, worried heart and keep on the lookout for peace and light. Repeat this truth beneath your breath as you go:

you’re not missing any piece of you. 

you’re not missing any piece of you. 

you’re not missing any piece of you.