{Guest Post} Hello Goodbye We Meet Again

Freshman year of college I walked into Brooke Anderson's Communication's class incredibly unsure of...well everything actually. Brooke was patient, full of joy, and hilarious. Our conversations swirled around crocheting wedding dresses, our shared dislike of hiking (she has since changed her tune), and our love of all things chocolate. It was with her influence that I decided to major in Communication. It has been a blessing to be able to keep in touch throughout college and beyond—seeing her pursue her diverse range of dreams (from communication, to science, to writing). When I found out Brooke had taken a huge leap of faith and written a Novella, I knew I had to feature her on the blog. I hope her post encourages you to live big, real, messy lives in the midst of the beautiful and the painful. (Oh and today's the last day you can support her Novella on Kickstarter, so now's your chance!)

I didn’t exactly mean to be a fiction writer. If my undergrad creative writing professor were still alive, I’m pretty sure she’d be raising her eyebrows at this unexpected turn of events. But in the many years since I sat in her class, if I have learned one thing, it is that life is unexpected if it is anything at all.

I also didn’t exactly mean to write this book. I would open my computer and close my eyes, and then I’d be there in the middle of the lives of my characters, feeling their hurt, laughing at their funny moments, breathing in the air that settled around them, and writing their lives.  

A month after I graduated from college, I had the opportunity to work in a nursing home. Between having an English degree and graduating in December there were not exactly a flood of job options. That brief time in my life was perhaps one of the most defining I have ever known. It was in the moments spent caring for people who could no longer care for themselves that I came face to face with life as it wraps up—the final act. I cared for a woman who no longer spoke, a man who trudged through dialysis, a young man there because he was sick, not elderly, a woman full of stories of her exotic life that seemed very far away from the dingy cream colored walls that now defined her days and my evenings. I learned in that experience that these moments, so often unseen, are just as much life as the ones when we dance through our days. 

But these moments of pain and hurt are often lost, hidden behind walls and doors, sequestered away until they are lived and over and we can return again to the happy people that we think we are supposed to be.  

Sometimes life is beautiful. There are wildflowers and people who delight our souls, drawing us out and helping us dance. There is pasta and coffee and chocolate cake and comfy couches. There are hikes through fields of perfectly shaped boulders and quiet spaces where you can watch the clouds change with the wind.  

But even in the most beautiful life, there are moments when our hearts cry out and feel like they will contract until they are no more, pressed into a space so small that our chest hurts with the change and we wonder, silently and aloud, if we will be ok.  

When I delved into the world of fiction again so many years after that creative writing class, I found that I fell in love with it because fiction wraps itself around the hardest truths so that we can hold them without burning our hearts.  

In stories we can live out our hurts and fears, letting characters guide us through the pain, knowing that we are not alone, that someone has gone before.  

And in stories we can write about those parts of life that are so often seen only at a distance.  

I am learning that like life, writing is full of the unexpected. Characters take on lives of their own, and as they grow to fill the pages, we are surprised.  

I guess in a way I didn’t really choose to write about grief and loss. I chose to tell a story about people, and as I did the reality of what it is to be human emerged with them. Living in community, facing our disappointments, being surprised, awkward, kind, and quirky. Wishing we had done differently, telling stories and holding hands, being sad, letting go, and learning to be who we were made to be. Writing is a place where we can write about the things we might be inclined to keep hidden, and therein lies the power to give us new ways of seeing the world.  

Life is unexpected. Unexpectedly beautiful. Unexpectedly surprising. Unexpectedly tough. Unexpectedly real.  

And as a writer, I hope that somewhere in the real and unexpected stories we tell and read, we can begin to see not only characters, but more of ourselves and our lives and our beautiful, painful, surprisingly unexpected world. 

As a writer, I care deeply about words and using them to create a picture that shows the world both in a way that is so familiar and also reveals what we had never noticed before. I think that is why I write. To describe a world that is near and dear and still a little bit unseen. 

The book I ended up writing is called Hello Goodbye We Meet Again and is being launched on Kickstarter here.

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{Guest Post} Give If You Have Plenty // Take If You Have Need

I started this blog four years ago after I graduated college. I was in the midst of big, hard change. I was moving to a new city, redefining my community, starting a new job, and to top it all of, I was asking people for money so I could do what I felt like the Lord was calling me to do. At the same time, I was mentoring a high school student named Karianne Larson, who four years later would be in a very similar position to me. The only difference is that Karianne is much wiser, much more joyful, and much more adventurous than I was four years ago. Oh, and much more talented. I am beyond excited to have her share her new adventure with you on the blog today, and what she's learning in the midst of it. I hope you learn a little something too and leave this page excited to take more risks.

My favorite place to perform is on the street. I love that people have the option to stay and listen as long as they want, or pass on by. I love that it provides an opportunity for people to be generous. I love watching kids break in to smile and dance.I love seeing strangers sing along to songs they know. The street allows for interaction, connection, and an opportunity to sing and dance and invite others to do the same.

A few months ago I was in Berkeley and had some time to perform. I borrowed a pizza box and a marker and on a whim decided to write, “GIVE IF YOU HAVE PLENTY, TAKE IF YOU HAVE NEED.”

My favorite part of the day was when I was forced to realize how judgmental I can be. An obviously homeless woman on crutches was walking toward the sign and I thought to myself, “Yes! I am doing such a good thing! She’s going to take money and have a need met.” I was excited that the experiment was going to work both ways, with people giving and taking. I watched her approach the sign and was immediately humbled. Instead of taking money like I assumed, the woman dropped a handful of change on the plate. I was so taken aback by her generosity, her selflessness, how she exposed the judgment in my own heart about who I believe to have “plenty” and “need” and how we don’t get to decide that for others, but only for ourselves.

My favorite thing about the sign is it causes people to ask themselves:

“Do I have plenty, or am I in need?”

The truth is we are both, all the time, and what we have to offer and what we need varies season to season.

(To read more about what I learned you can click here.)

Right now I am in a season of need, specifically financially. Almost all of my friends have started careers—working for fancy companies, doing what one would expect of someone with a college degree. In contrast, I am working on an extensive Spotify playlist to have my producer listen to, to provide direction for how I want my songs to sound. I am a songwriter, who just moved to Nashville, and I am making an album! I have no job lined up, other than to make music that brings Life and Goodness to people. CS Lewis said it best when He said, “We are the most ourselves when we think the least about ourselves.” One of main objectives with moving is to help others in their endeavors, whatever that looks like. 

Making and marketing quality music is a full time job, so I’m crowdfunding my album...which essentially means I’m asking for money. It’s a humbling task, and through it I've realized that when someone gives you money, that’s not all they are giving you.

When someone sacrifices their own money on behalf of something or someone else, they are declaring, “I support this. This is important. This is a good thing.” There are limitless options of what we can spend money on, and what you spend your treasure on, you consequently invest your heart in it to.

People have been so generously giving me money (primarily through Kickstarter), but what I've received is not only the financial support, but also the heart behind it. People pledge money, and I take in encouragement, support, and a sense that I can actually do this.

When I went into the studio to record today, I brought with me an overflowing “account" of encouragement—the mental peace that there are hundreds of people who believe I should be making music. I have to believe that changes how I sing, how I create.

So I encourage you. Give your money to something. Find something you support and believe in and throw a few dollars toward it. It isn’t a strictly financial transaction—someone on the receiving end of your gift will know you believe in their cause.

As someone who prefers to give (because you have control) rather than receive (because it is humbling and awkward), I encourage all of us to become better at both. 

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Just Drive

My Mom and I recently made a little detour to the Grand Canyon on our road trip back from California. In my 25 years of life as a US citizen I felt it my obligation to make the trip, and even though as a family we're not great surveyors of nature, my mom graciously agreed.

We packed up my parents' car, popped in a book on tape, and took a million photos.

I was planning on writing some great analogy about road trips and heading toward a destination. But instead, on this Mother's Day, I'm just going to share a little advice my Mom gives me.

You don't have to overanalyze everything. Often the most important thing you can do is move forward without dwelling on the past. And sometimes...you just need a drive.

PS- You can see more photos from this trip under the photography section.

No joke, this was my Mom's favorite part—Mexican Hat rock. Can you see it?

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