Should I stay or should I go now?

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Lane is the more organized one in our marriage. If ever I forget this truth, I need only look at my calendar for the next upcoming flight on my horizon. It will be the morning of that flight, as I am furiously trying to find things I need to be packed and shove them into my suitcase, that I will be reminded of this truth.

I want to be organized. I crave order. But I am the kind of packer who throws all of her stuff into the suitcase without folding and then sits on top of the case to try and zip it. I am also the person who packs chaotically (half-crying, half-cussing) and then, on the way to the airport, is surprised to find I need something in the suitcase. I will be standing there in the drop-off area of the airport unpacking and repacking as Lane kisses me goodbye and tells me all of this would be simpler if I would just take the time to pack my bag the day before.

Deep sigh. I can’t seem to get better in this area. I picture myself folding things neatly and really thinking deliberately about what I want to bring my trip. The reality is way more chaotic: I pack way more than I need. I pack all the things I haven’t worn in 2 years. I end up wearing approximately one outfit out of the 5 I’ve packed. I forget things. I bring the wrong shoes. I bring too many shoes.

I received an email the other day from a reader currently in the middle of “Come Matter Here.” She asked a really good question, one I’ve wrestled with a great deal.

She wrote to ask, “I was wondering where you draw the line between planting your roots down to grow and “being where your feet are” and let’s just say, for instance, moving to the beach for a year. I love to travel and be spontaneous and I guess I was just wondering if it is bad to do that?”

First things first: nope.

There is nothing bad or wrong about being a spontaneous person, wanting to travel, or liking adventure. My husband Lane is continually reminding me to change the language I use when addressing circumstances in daily life. He encourages me to stop wondering if things are always “bad” or “wrong.” Without even knowing it, I can begin to spread my worry and fear into all areas of life.

When I adopted the motto “be where your feet are” before moving to Atlanta, I was at a point where nothing could satisfy me. I could have picked up and moved to the beach for a year and still, I would have likely missed the present moment. I don’t think there is anything wrong with packing your bags and traveling if you can (I actually would highly encourage you going out and seeing the world) but I think you have to be willing to ask the question: Am I running from something? Am I going somewhere because I am ready for a great adventure or am I leaving because I think it would be easier than staying?

You’re either running from something or you’re running towards something. There’s a difference.

If you are running from something then I would encourage you to dig in before you decide to go anywhere. I would ask you to dig deep. I would tell you to deal with the baggage before you go somewhere new because that baggage will surely follow you. It will show up in your beach bungalow. It will wave to you from the back of the packed car.

Admittedly, there was a ton of baggage I did not unpack before moving to Atlanta and let me tell you this: it was so much harder to deal with it when I was 1,000 miles away from everyone who really knew me.

My first few months of Atlanta were full of meeting new people and awkward first coffee dates but there was limited depth and I appreciated that. I appreciated that because I honestly didn’t want to know or face the depth of my mess. I wanted to be okay— even if it meant only on the surface— and fool people into thinking I was doing just fine. I tricked myself into thinking I didn’t have to deal with the parts of me that were disappointed with God.

People who really know you— they know your darkest parts— will ask the scarier questions: are you running from something? Have you talked to God lately? What are you really afraid of?

I have one friend who answers all my whiny statements with the same answer, “Go back to God.” Gosh, this friend frustrates me sometimes. I want to kick and scream and say, “NO! I don’t want to go back to God! I don’t want to meet him in the quiet of my room. I don’t want to hash it out. I want to stay mad and distant. I want to keep my pain. I want to fix it myself.”

But friends, she is never wrong. In all the years I have tried to avoid what is truly bothering me or tried to avoid taking that thing to God like an offering, my friend has never been wrong. I have always needed to go back to God even when I think I haven’t walked away. I’ve got a heart that is prone to wandering and Lord, oh Lord, do I feel it.

We all have a bag. We all pack differently. Some of us are traveling light. Some of us are secret hoarders who’ve never parted with a memory in our lives. I think we are all called to figure out how to carry our bag to the best of our ability, how to unpack it, and how to face the mess. I think part of growing up is learning how to sit down the floor with all your things and figuring out what to take with you and what to leave behind. It’s learning to do the hard work that comes with dealing with the messy.  It’s being wise enough to take that inventory and ask yourself: am I being held back? Am I really free? Is there something I’m still refusing to let go of?

Mind you, “dealing with the messy” isn’t an overnight quest. You likely won’t put it on your to-do list and check it off within the week. Life is always getting a little bit messier but I think we learn to fold it. We learn to deal with it. We learn to find order in the chaos and peace in the storms.

I’m not promising anyone they’ll encounter a day where life doesn’t throw a curveball and deal you a healthy serving of mess. I’m simply saying this: you can learn to sort through your mess with God. You can learn to wade into the mess and through the mess and come out as someone different on the other side. You can learn to run towards the mess rather than run from everything that scares you.

I guess I haven’t done a very good job of answering that reader’s question: is it wrong to want to pack up my life and go somewhere new?

The short answer: no. No, it isn’t.

You were created with adventure in your bones. You were created to encounter miracles. You were created to rejoice. But there is deep and satisfying work in opening the suitcase and figuring out what you’re really carrying before you go.

The book is ready for pre-order!

To my readers,

I’ve written and rewritten this post about a dozen times.

Every time I think I’ve nailed it I sit on the backspace button and start over. My heart is thudding. My lungs are full of breath that I don’t know how to release. I am more nervous than that time Andrew U. asked me to be his girlfriend in the 8th grade and I fumbled to change my relationship status in my AOL profile (yes, I was severely nervous about that one).

I’ve come to the conclusion that I could either dress this post up in really pretty words or I could just come out, bite down hard of my bottom lip, and just say it:

It’s here.

It’s finally, finally here. 

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I am excited to share that my first book If You Find This Letter  (March 10, 2015) is available for pre-order!

Like, today. Like, right now. At all the major outlets where books are sold:

Amazon    B&N   Indiebound   CBD.com   Books a MIllion 

You can order it as a hardcover or ebook.

I’ll be honest: I’ve been crying all week. If you’ve followed along on my book writing journey then you know the truth already: I put my everything into this book. Absolutely everything. And you’re getting all of me when you get this book. It was exhausting & wonderful & a once-in-a-lifetime process to produce this book and I am just now getting the confirmation I prayed for this whole time: It was all so incredibly worth it. Thank you for that. 

So here’s the nitty gritty:

Pre-order sales matter a ton. They show booksellers and publishers that there is interest in what you’ve written. It would mean the world to me if you would preorder a copy of my memoir so that I can keep writing books for all of you. As a thank-you for pre-ordering, I’ll be continuously picking people out of the pre-order pile every month leading up to the release date of the book (March 10, 2015) to meet for half-hour online coffee dates. We will talk life, love, big plans, business, whatever you please! Just you + me + lots of coffee + heart stuff.

You can be eligible for a sweet, little coffee date by sending proof of purchase (a receipt, a screenshot, a selfie with your morning coffee, whatever!) to preorder@hannahbrencher.

And here’s another sweet thang:

I know March is a ways away, but I’ve got another project– a fold-and-mail stationery pad for writing love letters– that hits stores on December 23, 2014. It’s full of fun & funky prompts and it is perfect for the folks who adore snail mail.

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You can snag a copy here.

Sappy little side-note that doesn’t seem to fit anywhere else in this post: 

Each of you has no idea how much I’ve been encouraged by your comments, your tweets, your emails, and letters. Thank you for inspiring me to keep writing and keep pushing. I feel so blessed to have you in this community and I don’t know if I say it nearly enough: thank you for taking me just as I am. You are the gold that makes this whole life good.

hb.

One year ago today: 365 days and 550 love letters later…

One year ago today, life snuck up from behind me, handed me a black Sharpie, and announced to me that she was going to change forever. Right in Front of My Eyes.

Here, here, take this,” Life said, handing off the marker.

Why, what is this? What should I do with it?

Life rolled its eyes. “Draw a thick black line down the middle of me. From now on you are going to look differently at me, as if I am two people. One part of me exists as Before and the other now exists as After.

Before & After.

One year ago today, I wrote a blog post about the handwritten love letter, how I felt like the world probably needed more of these “Thank you for being alive” kind of notes and how I was finding a hobby in writing these kinds of letters and leaving them all New York City.

One year ago today, I made a promise to all of you that if you sent me your snail mail address I would write you a love letter. I didn’t know what I was getting into at the time. Not even after my inbox suddenly flooded with the most heartbreaking of stories that I had ever read, love letter requests from every pocket of this globe.

I didn’t know what to say to the lonely and broken-hearted in Japan or the struggling to look in the mirror Ivy-Leaguer. All that I knew was that there had to be something deeper behind all of this… there had to be something beyond a fun little project with nice stationery and postage stamps.

One year ago today, I was given a surreal glimpse at the poverty that gets us all.

Mother Teresa said it best, that poverty of the soul- hunger and thirsting for something to pull a person away from loneliness– is far different than the need for bread and water. There are a lot of us living in poverty right now. Some of us don’t even see it or recognize it after so hastily assigning the face of poverty to that homeless man or that welfare mother.

Poverty, in all of its forms, has lived in my inbox for the last year. I’ve written to the sad, the depressed, the lonely, the near-suicidal, the struggling financially, the struggling to embrace sexuality, the ones just trying to just get up out of bed every morning.

Am I always equipped to write these letters? No. Not really. I’m just a girl, biting her fingernails, who knows only the first few chapters of life so far. But at the same time, I never promised advice and I never promised therapy. I think the only promise I can make is to be there, in a mailbox, giving the only thing I’ve known to surpass all loneliness and all tragedy and years of experience: Love.

One year ago today, I never had a clue MoreLoveLetters.com would be born. I never knew that a dear friend, Becky, would come up when I needed someone the most and offer to help me with projecting this letter-writing out into the world. I never thought you’d be on board, writing & leaving your own love letters. I never imagined over 550 love letters in just one year.

One year ago today, I desperately needed this, more than I knew it at the time and more than I ever let it show on this blog. I needed an After to place next to a time in my life where I could not script a single line of love to myself. Where I could not even manage to look at myself for more than two minutes without finding hatred somewhere in my own green eyes.

One year ago today, I thought I was just a girl writing love letters to extinguish her own loneliness, not someone tapping into an untouched movement. I would have told you that a love letter left on a train in NYC might be nice, might be sweet, but it would have no real impact. I would have told you that this would never be my thing.

One year ago today, I didn’t know a life surrounded by love letters & all the beautiful individuals who write them by the hour.

Today, I cannot imagine a life without them.

The world called…. it needs your love letters.

via weheartit.com

I decided to stop writing love letters on a Monday and a reporter from the Wall Street Journal called me on Tuesday to talk about… you guessed it: Love Letters.

That’s how it always works though, right?

We’re sitting before a pile of love letter requests from across the country, tapping a pen against a slab of stationery while simultaneously plucking syllables from the sky for a girl in Toledo who needs a lesson in Loving Yourself 101 when Divine Intervention cracks the back of our chairs like a whip. We sit up straighter. We pay attention the message we are getting.

Me: I am done…

Seamstress in the Sky: Excuse me?

Me: You heard me, Maker of the Universe and all the Cows and Zebras. Done. 400 love letters, finish up this pile, and I am done.

Seamstress in the Sky: (silence)

Me: I have tired fingers…

Seamstress in the Sky: Yes.

Me: Callouses the size of Kentucky.

Seamstress in the Sky: Yes.

Me: I need to focus on other things, I want to write books! I cannot write books if I am only writing love letters!

Seamstress in the Sky: Hm….

Me: Could you say a little more? I am drowning in my own pool of snot and ink right now.

Seamstress in the Sky: Who do you thinks a love letter right now?

Me: The world… duh.

Seamstress in the Sky: Beyond that… yo Daddy is no fool. You know who needs one, just say it.

Me: Me?

Seamstress in the Sky: Conviction… say it stronger.

Me: Ok, ME! There I said it, I need a love letter… I need to learn how to write myself a love letter… I can hide behind another 100 or I can be a little selfish, sit down and learn how to write my own life into a love letter. But, you don’t get it God, it is not so easy to just drop it, people need it. People have always needed these letters.

Seamstress in the Sky: Well, I gave you a recipe… didn’t I?

Me: A recipe?

Seamstress in the Sky: Yes, a recipe. You, leaving love letters on the trains in New York City and mailing them all over the world. A recipe if I’ve ever seen one.

Me: Love letters to those who need them? That’s a recipe?

Seamstress in the Sky: Yes, that was a recipe. I’ve used that one before, tweaked it a bit for your own Loneliness… Did you a lot of good, I’d say. And you wrote 400, bravo Little One! But does it stop there? Do recipes only get used by one person?
Me: I guess not…

Seamstress in the Sky: What did you put into the love letters?

Me: Love. Encouragement. A few funny jokes? Sometimes my own stories…

Seamstress in the Sky: Seems like a solid recipe. Could others follow it?

Me: Well.. yea, of course.

Seamstress in the Sky: Then post the recipe somewhere, you love those domain names of yours. And see if people use it… If it is a good recipe, honest and true, other people will use it. Don’t worry about who or how, just cross your T’s and dot your I’s. Leave the recipe and step away.

And so here I am, crossing my t’s and dotting my i’s and finishing up my own pile of love letters and then passing the work on to you. Many of you have asked me how to get involved, how to leave your own love letters, how to be there for someone in need. It’s simple, really so simple, and all it requires is an honest and true passion to help another person, someone you might never meet, along with a stamp and your very best cursive.

So please check out MoreLoveLetters.com, or follow us here;  I created the site to be a guide for those looking to do what I did for the last nine months. I can so honestly say that is an art that will fuel you, inspire you, fill you and turn you into a very bright spot that the world needs so desperately right now.

And if you do nothing with the site today, nothing at all but this, please consider signing up for the Love Letter Email Alert List… Each month we will send out a call for love letters and then bundle and give them to a person who needs it most that month. The first call for love letters will come out this weekend and so I would love to have you involved.

Please send all love letters to PO Box 2061, North Haven, CT 06473 with one additional stamp (the gods of postage have not blessed me just yet).

I can promise you that your love letter will be mailed out to someone in need today.

Or shoot me an email today at Hannah@moreloveletters.com and we can get you leaving love letters around your parts of town…

There will be them days

There will be them days when all that will seem reliable is a sapphire blue dress hanging in your closet that, to your knowledge, has never let you down before.

On them days, pull the blue over your head, tie the sash on the side and invest faith in stitching and cool cotton on a summer day.

There will be them days when you wish you could pull sentences from the sky, make words out of treasures you’ve found while sifting through the Lost & Found bin, to tell a person how you really feel. But all that will come out are fragments.

Incomplete.

Sentences.

You.

Don’t.

Know.

How.

To.

Complete.

On them days, find a sweet rhythm in the stuttering and the stammering. Delight in the person who makes the simplest syllables–I miss you, I love you, I need you– the hardest to recite. Maybe even say this: You Make All the Letters In My Alphabet Shake. The Q’s Quiver. The R’s Rattle.

There will be them days when the only adoration you get is from a John Mayer song that he recorded seven years ago about daughters. And you’ll think to yourself, Wouldn’t it be lovely to be the girl who puts the colors inside of the world? On them days, keep your earphones plugged in until the end of the song, until Mr. Mayer tells you straight, “boys would be gone without warmth from a woman’s good, good heart.”

There will be them days where the Missing gets thick.

Thicker than molasses. Thicker than the chocolate current that took Augustus Gloop down. You’ll curse songs on the radio that bring him back. Your bones will ache for conversations where his name sits beside more than just some past tensed verbs.

On them days, let the Missing keep you.  People will tell you not to look at old photographs or cry over love letters;  I say, get your salty groove on but promise to let it go at the end of the night. For your own good. For the doors that need to close before God props open that window people always talk about. We are human beings… looking back is laced somewhere in our DNA, even if sometimes it holds the nutritional value of chewing gum.

There will be them days when all you will wish for is someone who knows your name.

You’ll grow tired of being The Girl on the Train. The Young Woman in the Cafe. On them days, give people a good mystery. Find that man with the notepad and glasses. Sit down right on his lap, swipe a hand across his cheek and put a pencil between your teeth. And then get up. And walk off the train.

Give people a reason to write you into story lines and poems that gets recited in the underground coffee shops of Chicago. Make him wonder if your  name is Clare. Rita. Siobhan. Rachel. Anything but the letters your mother stacked alongside one another to call you home when the street lights came on.

There will be them days when all you have the strength to do is sit–square in the middle of the kitchen table that still holds your initials from childhood– and pair spoonfuls of peanut butter with a carton of vanilla bean ice cream. One more bite, that’s it. Just one more bite.

On them days, go for creamy until the gentle reminder pushes inward: Food won’t heal you. Food won’t fix you. Put the Big Spoon down, Little One. I love you too much to watch this pain.

There will be them days when you’ll scrape the polish right off of your fingers. Freckles of Gold and Blue falling to the floor of the car. And you’ll look down at your hands in discouragement. What do you want of me? The question will sit in your throat. What am I here for?

On them days, take out a piece of paper and write it down. All The Places Your Hands Have Been. The letters they’ve written. The wrists they’ve touched. The wounds they’ve bandaged. The children they’ve held. The stories they’ve grasped in their Tiny Palms.

And marvel… just marvel at the good Two Hands can bring to a world in need.

Then place those Hands of Yours upon your hips. Straighten out the creases in your sapphire blue dress. Go outside. And face the world.