Performing to please.
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Dawn broke on Nov. 28, I was finally 14. I rolled over in bed wiping last night’s jitters from my eyelids. Like curtains, they sprung. Immediately, I noticed a glossy, deep brown Ibanez acoustic guitar stood in the corner of my room. I snatched It by the neck and raced downstairs. The kitchen spewed a myriad of tempting smells. “Mmm,” the most tempting, bacon. My dad peeked over his shoulder and smiled, “Happy Birthday, Kiddo.” 

With pick in hand, I spent the rest of the day engrossed in YouTube tutorials. By evening, I‘d successfully put on my first show, performing the introduction to the Beach Boy’s classic, “California Girls.” My No. 1 fan was clapping and whistling, as I not-so-humbly bowed to my audience of one.

That was my favorite birthday. It was also my last birthday with countless claps and a splattered bacon breakfast. My dad died from heart disease nine months later.

 

Ten years later, my fickle fingers still manage to strum that intro. Less confident in my skills, I finagle a way to feel proud.

It’s tough. For 14 years, my father was my groupie.  No matter the activity, decision, or dream, he stood behind me cheering the loudest and holding the biggest, boldest banner.

I miss those days. Not only was my dad around, but I was also my purest, happiest self.  He wasn’t the core of my identity that my happiness spun around. No, he was my reflection. Day after day, my dad reminded me of who I was. He accepted the wrong notes I played and the mistakes I made. He clapped when no one else did. He showed me that it was okay to fail, that it was best to be myself. 

If I acted my life out on stage now, I’d garner some nice reviews. That’s because I’ve put on quite some shows and I’ve managed to gain a fan or two. Every morning, I wake up, and dress in the trendy, designer outfits I see on Instagram.  I hurry to work. For lunch, I eat organic soup and crackers specified on my diet plan. In the evening, I sit in my bed, scrolling through my friends’ Facebook feeds, critiquing their lives, and pay no attention to mine. Who was I fooling? 

I’m the jester. I’m the fool. Others are happy. I’m not.

I’m too consumed with people, with ideas, with thoughts. I delight in smiles, but I flee from battles I should have fought. I shrug my shoulders or I say short, soft words. I’m the jester. I’m the fool. Others are happy. I’m not. Performing is taxing, especially when I’m put on the spot.

 Who am I? Oh yeah, I forgot.

And when I look to the crowd, I hear those cheers. Then I see the big, bold sign.

 

Two weeks ago, while cleaning with my husband, I found a yellow, watered stained paper. My fingers fumbled as I tried to open it. He opened it for me and we read together.

Dear Lauren,    October 15, 2001

. . . I wish the best of life can give. Be strong, but most of all, be yourself. Age 8, 18, or 38, you’re still my little girl.

Love you,

Dad

My eyes widened. My husband’s teared.

“I wish I had one. I wish I had a letter,” he said. His mother had died when he was 13, of multiple complications.

I sunk deeper into a spot on the floor, sitting, thinking, analyzing his letter and my life. I heard my dad’s cheers. I picked up my notebook and attempted to write about my life on stage.

I began, “One-star performances won’t get you anywhere darling, especially if you’re not performing for yourself.” I wasn’t performing for me, but for others.

I knew what I had to do and I ran from it. But why be a mere jester when I could play a hit? I held on tight to my pencil in my hand and emptied my heart empty on the paper. I made my own guidelines. I was going to change my stage.

I wrote a letter, to me, to my husband, to us and perhaps to you.

We all need a reminder sometimes, and we all need love, too. 

Dear You, 

Can you remember the person you were, before the world told you who you should be? In this world full of pixelated screens and harsh words, the easiest way out is to put your heart in places of temporary fulfillment. And soon all our dreams and decisions reside in hollow spaces. Our dreams crumble. Our hearts break. We compromise our true selves and identities to make others happy. 

If you do this, there’s something you should know: You are so loved and you belong in this world. But most of all, you deserve to be your greatest, most unique self.

Your reminders:

  • Listen to your heart. First and foremost: do what you love. If you don’t know what that is, find it. Sit and let your mind wander. Find what makes you smile. Remember it.

  • Play your song. Listen to what your heart calls you to do. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Are you refraining from doing something you love because you are afraid of what someone thinks? Don’t. You can do this. Throw your heart on the line because it matters to you. Do it, because you’ll lose yourself, your happiness if you don’t.

  • Look to your groupies. This is key. Find them. Find those people who are going to love you no matter how many tomatoes are thrown. Look to them when times get hard or you just need a push.

  • Your critique over everyone else’s. Dig in. This is the toughest. Truth is, people will always have opinions. It’s what you do with those opinions that matter. Learn to take the criticism with a whole lot of grace and a smile. Yes, it’s hard. But don’t change something you do to please the other person based on their beliefs or opinions. Let them leave their lovely opinions with their shoes at the front door. Your heart stays in your home. Your opinions of yourself matters at the core.

Don’t hold back loves. Keep going. Sing louder. Strum faster. And you will give yourself your own standing ovation.

Hugs,

Lauren

 

{photo cred}

 

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I’m a girl who feeds off grace and strength. I write to empty the heart and exude love.  Beginning my own writing journey at  https://inyourshoesweb.wordpress.com/

 
Lauren Kaiser 1 Comment
Quiet voices get louder.
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There is a quiet voice inside you.

It whispers with potential. It tells you there is purpose here. It wants you to know that you are someone special and treasured. It holds out peace in its hands, because it says that everything will be okay in the end. It speaks phrases like “light at the end of the tunnel” and “you are enough” and “you don’t have to be perfect.” It is good, and it is true.

There are loud voices, inside you and around you and pretty much everywhere.

They scream with defeat. They force you to focus on your circumstances so that you can’t see the purpose inside your situation. They want you to believe that you are nothing, a no one, unloved, unneeded. They will forever screech that there is no light at the end of the tunnel, you are not good enough, and you must be perfect.

And the most important bit: Those loud voices are lies.

Why is it so much easier to slip into believing we are worthless or not good enough, or that we need to perform our way into belonging? Why is it so hard to believe that we are worthy and good enough, and that we belong here exactly the way we are? Because, a lot of the time, lies are so much louder than the truth. The truth can take us to imaginable places, push us to fulfill incredible dreams, and lift us up to new, amazing heights. But the lies will just try to push us down and keep us down, in their pit of loneliness and fear. What I hope for you is that your quiet voices of truth will get louder and louder in your life, so that you can reach those heights you’re longing for.

In the past several months, I’ve had some astonishingly clear, even (to me) supernatural, moments where the truth fights the lies and suddenly wins. I cling to those moments like a lifesaver when I’m drowning yet again in all the wrong voices. And over time, I’ve been learning to choose the quiet voices. Day by day, I’m learning how to let the truth be louder than the lies.

You are loved. You belong here. You are needed. You are enough. You are worthy of the light.

And so, friend and fellow fighter, here are the four things I want to say to you today, in the hopes that they will make your quiet voices louder:

  1. You are growing. You will not read this post and suddenly be completely, totally transformed. I’m sorry to say those mornings may still come when you don’t want to get out of bed. I’m sorry to say that you very well might cry again (if you’re like me, probably within the next couple days). Give yourself space to grow. If you need me to do it for you, here you go: I officially give you permission to grow. You don’t have to listen to your quiet voice of truth perfectly on the first try. You are good enough exactly the way you are. You don’t have to beat yourself up when the lies get you down; just keep moving forward. You’re going to be okay.

  2. Follow your quiet voice. Some days, I love others out of genuinely knowing I am loved. Some days, I act out of my quiet voice without believing what it says. Maybe I’ll go for a run in the morning, even though I feel guilty for taking care of myself before taking care of everyone else around me. Deciding to follow your quiet voice, even when you can barely hear it, may make you feel fake at first. But you’re not faking it: You’re being your best self, even when you don’t believe in your best self in the moment. You are actively choosing hope. No matter how you feel, that’s a strength, not a failure.

  3. If you can’t hear your quiet voice just yet, listen to the quiet voices around you. Don’t listen to that friend who always jokes about how you should lose five pounds, or the endless stream of advertisements convincing you that you just need their product to be content. Listen to the ones you trust, the ones you know love you unconditionally, the ones who surround you in your highs and lows, the ones who see your value. If you can’t think of any of those people right now, let me be your quiet voice for a minute: You are loved. You belong here. You are needed. You are enough. You are worthy of the light.

  4. Tell the lies to shut up and go to hell where they belong; then take a second to believe your quiet voice. This is definitely the one I need to work on the most. When I try to identify the lies as lies, my mind starts whirring with what-ifs: What if that is really true about me? What if this voice isn’t a lie? What if I ignore it, but it’s actually right, and I screw up everything because I listened to the wrong voice? When I start to go down this spiral, I like to think differently about the lie vs. truth I’m considering. Instead of asking about truth, I’ll ask: Which way of thinking gives life? Which way leads me to hope, joy, selflessness, compassion, dreaming big dreams and doing big things? Which way leads me to despair, selfishness, compromising my values, taking the easy way out, letting things rule my life that were never meant to have control? It’s usually a heck of a lot easier to answer those questions. Once you do, condemn the lies and claim the truth. You can do it.

  5. Chase life. It’s possible: You can chase life by choosing your quiet voice. Over time, you will learn to listen, believe in, and respond to the truth. You won’t do it perfectly, and that’s okay. You will grow. I believe in you. Your quiet voice does, too.

 

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Hiya, I'm Haley! I'm an Auburn student who's passionate about words, helping others, and families. If I were a Harry Potter character, I would hands-down be Hermione, even though I've been Sorted into Hufflepuff. An Atlanta native, I've been scripting notes with More Love Letters for almost four years now. I love pretty flowers, cooking, Pride and Prejudice, and watching movie trailers on YouTube.

 
Hannah Brencher 2 Comments
355 love letters for Hannah!
 

You are doing some amazing work in the world and we adore sharing it here. We need your help to make this love letter bundles big and bright! You have a chance to write for these bundles today

Today we are sharing a story from a Bundle we delivered this summer to Hannah:

The original request: 

Hannah’s friend requested a bundle for her to offer some encouragement during a difficult time. She shared: “I am writing this request for my dear friend, Hannah. She is one of the most incredible people I have ever met–she is so full of life, positivity, and kindness. Through the seven years we have known each other, she has always been a faithful friend to me and many others. Hannah is a very gentle soul and always thinks the best of people. Oftentimes I feel that this is taken advantage of–she has had to break up many toxic friendships over the years, which has been really hard for her. Recently, my friend told me that Hannah has been struggling with depression and anxiety while going back to school and working as a waitress. Hannah is living away from her friends, so she does not have a strong support group. She told me she feels like she has changed from who she was several years ago because she didn’t used to feel anxious or sad. I know she may be facing new challenges, but anxiety hasn’t taken control of her life–and I am so proud of her because she is doing everything she can to fight it. I try to be there for her, but there is only so much that phone calls, messaging, and texting can accomplish. I would love to be able to remind Hannah that there is light in the world and that even though we can go through some very dark times, there are many people who care about her - even people that have never met her!”

Hannah received 350+ love letters from across the world. 

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I delivered the letters to Hannah earlier this week! She was completely blown away... She told me, "I've never received anything like this in my entire life!" She told me that she has really enjoyed reading them and that they have been very encouraging and "came at the perfect time."

In total, we received 355 letters (almost one for every day of the year! :)) from 37 different states and 12 countries (US, Japan, Estonia, Canada, England, Singapore, India, China, Germany, Scotland, Australia, and Brazil!)... Seeing these sweet letters arrive in bulk each day was an incredible experience for me... There were packages from church camps, individuals, several from my own state, and even a group of letters from students learning English in Brazil. I was so touched by how many people were willing to share their love and positivity with my friend, and even share some of their own struggles and vulnerability. There were so many letters that I thought were just spot-on, and I knew that when she read them they would speak right to her soul. Thank you so much for allowing Hannah and me to be part of this amazing experience - watching love show up on my doorstep (or in my mailbox) each day is something I will never forget. I was able to see how one person, one letter writer, can bring joy back into someone's soul and to see how many people writing together can create such a powerful movement.

There were packages from church camps, individuals, several from my own state, and even a group of letters from students learning English in Brazil.
— kara
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I was able to see how one person, one letter writer, can bring joy back into someone’s soul and to see how many people writing together can create such a powerful movement.
— KARA

I know that Hannah is truly blessed by the hundreds of people who took the time to write her. She told me the letters were a God-send... I am honored to have been able to help with her bundle and to be part of the MLL Community as well.

get involved today:

start writing love letters

Hannah BrencherComment
277 love letters for Mr. A.
 

The most beautiful work we get to do is contained in our love letter bundles. You have a chance to write for these bundles today

Today we are sharing a story from a Bundle we delivered last month to Mr. A. 

The original request: 

A student of Mr. A’s contacted us with a request for this incredibly deserving teacher. She shared: “This past year, but especially these last six months, I have struggled with severe depression, anxiety, and panic disorder. During this time, it got so bad that I completely lost my will to live. I suffered from many symptoms of depression, but one of the most prevalent and damaging was obsessive self-harm. I am much better now, and I tell you none of this to highlight myself, but only to show the severity of my situation was and how much help Mr. A provided. I can honestly say that I do not think I would be here without his consistent selfless help and genuine concern. He stayed in constant contact, kept me accountable for actions that my illness contributed to, and he helped me to fight against those urges. Mr. A has gone above and beyond what is required of a teacher, and because of that, he has truly changed and saved my life. He has become more than a teacher. Mr. A is a mentor, a parental figure, a friend, a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, and in my darkest times, he gave me a reason to live. I don't necessarily have a way with words, nor do I possess enough of them to express my gratitude and love for this extraordinary person in my life. So I'm really hoping that all the wonderful letter writers among this organization can help me spread all the kindness, love, and selflessness that Mr. A was able to share with me. He deserves it.”

In the month of October, Mr. A received 270+ love letters from across the world. 

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Hello!

I cannot thank you all enough for giving me this opportunity to show my gratitude towards Mr A! So far I've received a little over 213 letters all from 5 different countries and with every single one I am so touched these people have all taken time out of their lives to spread joy into me and my loved one's lives'! The letters far surpassed my wildest dream; In fact, I bought a basket at the beginning of the request that can now not contain all the wonderful letters I received! Talk about being overflowing with blessings!! I have laughed, I have cried and above all, I have been truly blessed because the world does need more love letters but my life is now so fulfilled with so many letters. These letters contained words of encouragement, kindness, and thanks and all I can do is try to express my thanks in return! I'm delivering my bundle to Mr. A tomorrow morning, I thought it was fitting because he helped me through the 'scariest' part of my life! I am filled with so much excitement and so much joy thank you all so very much and I hope you enjoy the pictures I've sent along as much as I've enjoyed this entire project and experience!

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I have laughed, I have cried and above all, I have been truly blessed because the world does need more love letters.
— ABBIE
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Hello again! I gave Mr. A the basket yesterday and we were both in tears at some point. It was such a beautiful moment, probably one of the most I've ever had the pleasure of being apart of. He was quite literally speechless at my delivery and told me how he was truly overwhelmed by my act of kindness. But my act wouldn't have been possible if not for the kindness of hundreds of other strangers who helped, and the kindness of your organization for helping fuel the love! He told me it "emotionally railroaded" him, I can truly see he now that I've been able to physically articulate my thanks to him, and for that opportunity, I give thanks to you. 

Much love,

Abbie

get involved today:

start writing love letters

Hannah BrencherComment
You are here.
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Wow, it's crazy to be writing in this space today. It feels like the start of something new.

Over the years, we've read powerful testimonies and linked arms with people in need of encouragement. We've seen you grow and empower one another. We've heard crazy stories where only love could possibly be the culprit. We've realized through our movement that this isn't just a movement about stamps or stationery. That would be playing it much too small. In fact, it's not about that at all. 

This movement is about love. It's about what happens when people come together to help one another get through the dark. It's a movement where we all show up for others and we learn how to love one another better through our words and our actions. It starts with a letter but it definitely doesn't end there. 

When I started More Love Letters six years ago I didn't expect any of what ended up happening. I thought it would be a small project. My friends and family tried to warn me but I just didn't see it. My doubt was quick to taunt me by asking: Do you really think a love letter can make a difference? Do you really think you can change the world?

If you've ever grappled with that feeling then know you are not alone. There's a thing called fear and it wants to badly to keep you quiet and shoved in a corner. The best weapon I've found to use against the fear is a simple tool I've had forever: my voice. Using your voice to speak out and against fear is how I believe love gets the chance to be louder. 

We have a choice: we can build of out fear or we can build out of love instead. 

We have a choice: we can build of out fear or we can build out of love instead. 

So why start the blog again? Well, there are a few reasons:

1) We want to update you on the good you are doing: We get so many testimonies from people who get love letters from our community and we need a place to put them! From now on, you can expect regular updates in this space about Bundles we give, what Campus Cursive is up to, and how to become more involved with our tribe.

2) We believe you've got a story to tell: We want to use our platform to share the voices of our movement. We are rolling out diary posts from different people, all over the world, who are learning how to be brave and capable every single day. We would love for you to join us and write some pieces! We are planning to dig deeper into the following (but not limited to): 

  • friendships & relationships
  • growth & spirituality
  • work & life balance
  • mental health 
  • world-shaking & movement making

3) We think this world needs more love letters: And each of these entries is going to be just that: love letters written from the heart. It is our hope these words will find you on hard days and good days. We hope to meet you in the mess and when your head is in the clouds. We want to cheer you on in the tough conversations and the real moments. We are for you and we are going to use this space to prove it over and over again.

Be well. Love hard. Keep reading. 

xoxo,

hb. + the MLL team

 

 

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Hannah Brencher is the founder of More Love Letters and the current blog editor. She blogs at HannahBrencher.com about honest faith, health, and relationships. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband Lane. Follow her on Instagram here.

Hannah BrencherComment