Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Book Review: "If You Find This Letter.." by Hannah Brencher

So there's no confusion, the full title of this little number is "If You Find This Letter: One Girl's Journey to Find Purpose Through Hundreds of Letters To Strangers" by Hannah Brencher. Hannah is a blogger, entrepreneur, writer and essentially who I want to be when I grow up. (which is funny because she's only a year older..)

Technically this is my second book in my 25 biographies/memoirs challenge, but this is the official official start - yay!

The synopsis, according to Amazon.com is this: "A heartwarming memoir of love and faith from Hannah Brencher—founder of The World Needs More Love Letters—who has dedicated her life to showing total strangers that they are not alone in the world.

Fresh out of college, Hannah Brencher moved to New York, expecting her life to look like a scene from Sex and the City. Instead, she found a city full of people who knew where they were going and what they were doing and didn’t have time for a girl still trying to figure it all out. Lonely and depressed, she noticed a woman who looked like she felt the same way on the subway. Hannah did something strange—she wrote the woman a letter. She folded it, scribbled “If you find this letter, it’s for you…” on the front and left it behind. 

When she realized that it made her feel better, she started writing and leaving love notes all over the city—in doctor’s offices, in coat pockets, in library books, in bathroom stalls. Feeling crushed within a culture that only felt like connecting on a screen, she poured her heart out to complete strangers. She found solace in the idea that her words might brighten someone’s day.

Hannah’s project took on a life of its own when she made an offer on her blog: She would handwrite a note and mail it to anyone who wanted one. Overnight, her inbox exploded with requests from people all over the world. Nearly 400 handwritten letters later, she started the website, The World Needs More Love Letters, which quickly grew. 

There is something about receiving a handwritten note that is so powerful in today’s digital era. If You Find This Letter chronicles Hannah’s attempts to bring more love into the world—and shows how she rediscovered her faith through the movement she started." 

You know those books (or movies or photographs or paintings..) that make you feel everything at once? That's Hannah's story for me. I barely can put into words what this book means to me right now. Not many know, but I made the decision to get a dog, and give her away, break up with the man friend and lose my job within about a week and a half span. Those are pretty big life changes and I haven't been sure what to do with myself and my time.

I've never been one to stay down very long. There's always, always a surge of "Okay, there HAS to be something I can do" - whether it be a frantic internet search or reaching out to a friend of a friend of a friend. Something always comes along, but there's usually waiting..searching..and waiting some more. 

Reading Hannah's words, I felt completely understood in my pain. In my anger. In my anxiety. In my cheers of the small steps - and not just in this recent situation. In all situations/life stages. She went through a dark time and came out with this incredible opportunity to pour into others what she herself needed - which in turn, showed her that she was bigger than her pain, anger, frustration, anxiety, depression..all the things that keep you down. Keep you out and keep you wanting, craving and searching for anything and everything - except for the Lord and for love. 

Not the obsession kind of love. The love that requires you to give everything and have it ripped from your chest. Not the kind of love that you think you deserve. No, not that kind.

The kind that wakes you up. The kind that requires giving of yourself because God gave himself for us. And the kind that keeps you coming back whenever you can't do it alone. And most of all, the kind that shouts as loud as it can that "YOU CAN DO THIS" when all the other voices in your head - the kind that are ugly and harsh say that you can't. That all this pain will be here forever. That you're never becoming anything except this small thing.

A small spark is all it takes for a fire..you remember that.

I underlined everything in this book. I wrote in the margins, in the blank spaces of the pages. It's going to be hard to narrow down ones that I love, but I'll try.

1// "Some people are dotted lines and others are destinations. Some people get you somewhere and some people are just a place to be, all in themselves. But you cannot force the dotted lines into destinations. It doesn't really work that way."

Hannah talks a lot about letting go - something I don't think anyone is truly good at. We like to keep things, moments and people. We don't know when or how to let go, but we're forced to sometimes. Sometimes it's the only thing we can do - some are destinations and some are dotted lines - and just like you can't force dotted lines into destinations, you can't force people to stay. They aren't yours. They never truly will be.

2// "Things move slowly sometimes, but there will be little victories."

Boy, don't I know that. Little victories in this: having another job and actually loving it. The hours have picked up a bit too, taking the pressure off a little. And I found a church that I like and a place to volunteer my time. Little victories.

3// Hope can be a mighty powerful thing when you decide to tangle it into a journey. Hope can shake things up a bit. It'll convince you that even if you don't know what direction you're headed in, something will meet you in the end."

4// "We have very little control over where our hearts choose to root themselves."

5// "The point isn't to be above any work or grumble over any task; the point is to do the stuff others need of you and trust it will somehow matter. Do what needs to be done to keep something bigger than you moving and shaking. Show up for your role even if it seems small..Still show up. I think that is the real heart of doing something that matters."

I find that concept difficult, and yet totally attainable. I forget sometimes that even filing away papers helps someone. That taking things out to the garbage is one less step someone else has to make. We want to be in the thick of things, but sometimes being in the thick of things means we're doing the job. We're not glamorous. We're not the star of the show. The lights, the music, the stage hands - we're sometimes those people - and those people have to show up too.

6// "God is a lot of things to a lot of people but I don't think He is a cheap party host with limited grace to give out."

The church is always weird about grace - at least in my experience. Some seem to think there's more for them because they follow a certain way - some think there's less for them because they've messed up a little more than the person next to them in the pew. We're all a mess. I hope you read that last sentence again - WERE ALL A MESS. Grace isn't given based on anything except love. It's based on His love - his ever lasting, never changing, always available love. That's it. Nothing else.

7// "I've learned it's easy to be all-in with the things you can dictate and control. It's when you have very little control and no idea where life will take you that going all-in is so terrifying. But what if it's in those spaces of no control that a brave life actually begins?"

That's where I am. I'm in a space of no control. All I've learned that I can do is take steps. Take steps forward, take steps to the side, and take them back, if necessary. All I can do is reach out and say, that's it - that's all I got - what do you have for me? One step at a time.

I think that everyone should read this. Everyone who's stuck a little. Who's looking toward the sky and thinking that it couldn't get any worse - and then it rains. Anyone who's wondering if there's anything good left in a world of racism, of war, of fear. 

You should read it because it matters. You should always be in search of the good - and this book is good. What Hannah Brencher is doing in this world is good. And it matters. Giving a tiny bit of yourself to soothe others, it matters. Telling someone you love them matters. Being the person your mother always thought you to be, that matters. 

Because we're all good - I believe that to be true. We're all worth something to this world - we may just not know it all yet. Know how good. How big we can be. How our love can heal.

We are all not called to be missionaries. We're not all called to go out into the remote villages and war torn countries. Some of us are called to be an office manager. A hair stylist. A cashier. We're all called to do something, and we're all expected to show up. 

Show up. Love. That's it. Show up and love.

Show up and love, because that matters.

P.S. If you're wanting more information on Hannah and her wonderful letter writing campaign that's sending a little more love into this world, please check out moreloveletters.com 

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