Cheers | 7.28

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You made it. We’re here. I somehow managed to get to my favorite part of Friday this week and I am ready to break out the confetti.

I’ve missed you! Summer is the best for road trips, new ideas, and late nights, but maybe not-so-much for steady rhythms, staying in touch, and…ahem, consistent posts. So tell me, what’s new? What are you loving these days?

But first, I’d like to propose a toast to being reunited. (AND IT FEELING SO GOOD.)

To you, Texas, because it is taking every ounce of willpower to not move to this magical place. I visited Austin at the beginning of the month and seriously can’t quit grinning about how great it was. The city of dreams, you guys. Maybe one day I’ll write a complete gush post about all my favorites there, yeah? Yeah.

To you, dumb neck scarves and “table for one,” because I swore against both of you and here I am, eating alone while wearing a neck scarf. I honestly had the best time and will be doing both of these again.

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To you, Inner Light Yoga, for brainwashing me into a temporary yogi. I mean, who even am I? This is my latest #yearofbold adventure, and I am strangely obsessed. I am so bad at the poses it’s laughable, but for some reason I’m thrilled by the fact that I stay the whole class and try anyway. (Also if you’re in Nashville, this place is the best and plays music and has redeemed my experience with yoga, so get there and ignore the awkward girl in the corner.)

To you, friends who take cool road trips, because I am living vicariously through every moment. My friends Rebecca and Caleb are spending this month road tripping across the US with their five (five!!!) children. Not to mention Rebecca is my favorite writer of all time and she’s blogging about it — follow along here!

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(@Rebeccathefair‘s instagram photo from their trek in the Pacific Northwest! Isn’t it incredible?!)

To you, The Lipstick Gospel Devotional and Prayer Journal, for releasing into the hands of readers who love you! We were lucky enough to host Stephanie May Wilson on the blog a few weeks ago (click here if you missed it!), and order your copies! Mine arrived last week and I’ve been devouring them.

To you, creative nonfiction writing class, because, while my blog hasn’t seen any of it here (yet!), I’ve been writing some fun stuff that’s been rattling around in my brain for some time now. I’m in a night class of kind people who provide great feedback and I’m thrilled to spend time chasing my own creativity. (See also: phase 2 of #yearofbold is very fun.)

To you, gas station Icees, because WHY THE HECK NOT? I love you unapologetically.

To you, Where Am I Now?, my latest read. A memoir by Mara Wilson (You’ll remember her as the little girl in Mrs. Doubtfire, Miracle on 34th Street, and Matilda), it’s charming and insightful and smart. She wanted to be a writer before she became an actress, and girl can tell a story.

To you, the Enneagram, for stomping on my soul over and over again. I’ve been against the hype for so long, but dang it, I’m jumping in head first. I’m a 7 with a 6 wing. If you don’t know what that means, just move along and consider yourself blessed.

To allllll of the joy that brought us here and sustains us. 

I’m headed to a baseball game tonight to indulge in all of the summery bucket list things, most of which include Dippin’ Dots. Happy weekend, my friends! Cheers!

Life Is Too Hard and Too Short to Be Our Own Worst Critics: A Guest Post

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Friend, Kaitlin here. Today is the best and I bet you didn’t even know it yet. Today, I get to host my good friend Stephanie May Wilson on the blog because she has TWO books releasing today and you’re going to love them. Steph and I began as blog friends and then got to be real-life friends when we both moved to Nashville around the same time. One of my favorite things about this friend is how much she cares for her readers. She’s always talking about the smart things they say, worrying about them, answering their emails, praying for them — and every word of her writing proves it. Steph’s always the first to say “Me too” and remind us we’re all in it together. Enjoy hanging out with her and make sure to check out The Lipstick Gospel Devotional and Prayer Journal! 

Hey sweet friends!

I am so excited that I get to share this with you today! This is an excerpt from my new book, The Lipstick Gospel Devotional (which is now officially here!!). I wanted to just give you a little sample of it — to share one of the days of the devotional with you, so you can get a feel for what it’s all about.

In The Lipstick Gospel Devotional, we talk about God and our relationships with Him and how to find Him in our everyday lives. It’s about rest, and celebration, and learning to love ourselves. It’s about travel, and whimsy, and toes in the sand, about the transformative power of best friends, and a really great chocolate croissant. It’s a reminder that there’s never anything too broken for God to heal or redeem, and a dare to say yes to the plan He has for our lives.

But today, this part of the devotional is all about identity — about learning to feel comfortable and confident in our skin and learning to truly love ourselves instead of being our own worst critics. (Oof — I know that’s tough for me sometimes, and I’d bet I’m not the only one.) So you ready? Here we go!

Here’s an official excerpt from my newest book, The Lipstick Gospel Devotional:

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“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:5

There are seasons in life when I just cannot give myself a break. Do you ever have times like that? Every moment, every glance in the mirror, every action is a reminder of all the ways I fall short — of all the things I could be, could do, and ways I could look but don’t.

I think things like, “You really should go to the gym more. You are really looking gross these days. Of course you failed, you always do. Could you possibly be more annoying?”

I make a simple mistake like forgetting to bring my lunch, and my thoughts are entirely unforgiving. “You always do stuff like this! You are so forgetful and irresponsible! You can just be hungry until we get home. That’ll teach you to remember things next time!”

I crack down on myself hard. I think that if I am just a little bit meaner, just a little bit harsher, if I just raise the bar a little bit, I’ll be motivated enough to leap over it. I’ll meet the sky-high expectations I have for myself and stop being such a disappointment.

For years, more years than I can count, this is how I’ve talked to myself. I’ve been my own worst critic. I’ve criticized my body, and my mind, and my actions, and my skills. I’ve held myself up to my friends, and coworkers, and women I’ve never even met. “Why can’t you be more like her?” I’d ask myself. “You have got to get it together!”

As I say these words out loud to you, I feel like I’m peeking out from a dark corner. Anyone else? Does anyone else do this? Is it just me?

It feels totally vulnerable to admit to these thoughts. Mostly because I feel like I’m way too nice of a person to say things like this, and that’s true! I would never talk to someone else like this! I have all the grace in the world for other people — they’re human, they’re in process, they’re doing the best they can.

But I am the exception, the lucky winner that gets to be the object and source of all of my disdain, and it wasn’t until a girlfriend of mine uttered one simple sentence that I realized how ludicrous this whole thing really is.

We were getting ready to go to dinner, when I peered into the mirror and let one of my thoughts accidentally slip out. “I can’t believe I let myself gain so much weight. Seriously, I’m so big, I look terrible, and the worst part is that it’s my fault! If I was just more disciplined and not so lazy, I wouldn’t be in this mess to begin with.”

Mean, right? I still can’t believe I said it out loud, but I’m so glad I did, because my friend didn’t skip a beat. She didn’t ask for clarification or sweep it cleanly under the rug. She turned to me with glowering eyes and snapped, “Don’t talk about my friend that way.”

I was instantly both so embarrassed I could disappear and so grateful I could cry. I felt caught red-handed, and heroically defended all at once. I was the attacker and the victim. She was coming to my defense, ready to fight the one who was hurting my feelings, knowing full well that the assailant was me.

As we drove to dinner, we talked about the way we all talk to ourselves sometimes. “We think we get a free pass to be cruel because we’re being cruel to ourselves. But we don’t get a free pass to treat anyone that way, and we shouldn’t have to put up with treatment like that from anyone, especially not ourselves.”

She was right. Of course she was right. And her words have stuck with me ever since.

There are enough naysayers in the world, and the more I’ve thought about this, I’ve realized that I don’t want to be another one.

At least we can get away from the naysayers, but we’re stuck with ourselves. If we’re our own worst critic, we’re stuck with our own worst critic right there in our ear. Every time we brush our teeth, every time we take a chance at work, every time we fall asleep, she’s there, telling us we’re not good enough, that we should be different or that we’re a disappointment.

And I’ve just decided I don’t want to play that game anymore.

Life is far too hard, and far too short to be our own worst critics, and it never seems to help us get better anyway. Good things don’t come out of shame; good things come out of kindness, support, and encouragement.

So these days, I try to talk to myself the way I would a friend:

“Good job, sweet girl.”

“You tried, and that’s really saying something.”

“You are beautiful.”

“I’m so proud of you.”

Maybe you are never your own worst critic, and if that’s true, I want to give you a hug and a high five and ask you to teach us all of your ways. But if you are, if the thoughts in your head speak to you this way sometimes, let me grab them by their collar, look them straight in the eye, and say, “Don’t talk about my friend that way!” You don’t deserve to be treated that way, not even by yourself.

Take some time this week to start paying a bit more attention to your thoughts. What kinds of things are you saying to yourself throughout the day? Are you your own worst critic, or do you talk to yourself like a friend? Let’s start paying a bit more attention, and start making intentional choices with our thoughts. Let’s start talking to ourselves the way we would a friend.

You love her already, don’t you? Click here to order the books!

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Hope this added a little happy to your Monday. xo

Cheers | 6.30

Cheers is a weekly toast to celebrate the people, places and things that helped us make it to Friday.

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You guys! How did we let this many days slip away without hanging out?

And by *we* I of course mean *me*, and it just so happens that every text message thread in my phone reminds me of this very same theme. “I’m the worst!!!!!,” I reply to messages from weeks ago. Because it’s  much easier to throw a general, gray blanket over it all by saying “I’m the worst” than to admit “I’m having a hard time.” Yes?

So, for the sake of all that is real and good, I’ve been having a hard time and the aches of the world seem to be especially raw these days. I don’t know how to write about it yet. I don’t know if I will. But I am grateful to be back, reminded that celebration and hurt don’t have to negate the other. Just like a bouquet of flowers, we can bring our full selves unashamedly to both. So here we go, dear ones: A toast.

To you, spontaneous trip plans and plane tickets for this weekend. (!!!!!!!!!!) I mean. There’s not much that can cheer me up like being wheels-up on a plane, jet-setting to some new scenery. (Can you guess what my fight or flight response is?…Oops.)

To you, fourth of July, my absolute FAVORITE holiday of them all! Who doesn’t love a good popsicle-eating, firework-watching celebration? Fools, that’s who.

To you, full circle, for giving me the opportunity to show up for a grieving friend. Things I confirmed from the other side: a.) Seriously, JUST SHOW UP. b.) Of course, you will NOT know what to say. c.) They will remember it for sure. d.) So will you.

To you, first recurring topic on “Cheers,” because I finally finished this book and loooveeed it. It’s the first grief book that made me say “me too,” and I’m so thrilled Sheryl’s words are brightening up this section of the book store. Find it here: Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy


To you, clean room and fresh sheets, because wow, after a huge clothing purse this weekend, I had to coax my legs to walk normally (no stepping over piles!!), and relieve my toes of fear (no hidden sharp objects!!), AKA IT WAS BAD, YOU GUYS.

To you, transition, for finally starting to feel a little more like normal. That February shift of new job/new home/new everythangggg was no joke. By the grace of listening ears and guacamole binges, I am still somehow here.

To you, Emily McDowell, for creating THE BEST empathy cards I’ve ever seen. There’s one that literally says “I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch. I didn’t know what to say.”And another gem is “I’m so sorry you’re sick. I promise I won’t try to sell you on some random treatment from the internet.” OH, and my fave?:em_gc266_died_of_lemons_empathy_2_1024x1024

To you, sweet blog friends, for being the best and most supportive after my last post on Kendall’s birthday. It was a bittersweet day, full of stories and sorrow and friends to share them with. I’m so thankful.

I hope you have the best Fourth of July weekend soaking up sun and patriotism and time with your people. I look forward to seeing you here again soon. (Maybe we’ll both return with tans! Who knows.)

The Best Day

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It was not the first time I had performed “I’m A Little Teapot,” but it was certainly the most important. With hair that curled into q’s and fire station red Keds, I bounced down the hallway, locking hands with my grandmother. We’d run a few errands on the way there, including a visit to my favorite mailman, Oddly, but our final stop held enough excitement that even my two-and-a-half year old stomach knew to drop.

I marveled over the hospital’s automatic doors and abundance of latex gloves, turning the corner to see two familiar faces: mom and dad. His face covered in a scary-looking mask to conceal his perfectly-timed pink eye, my dad called me over to a tall box on wheels with a blanket placed inside. Unsure of what the box would hold, I did the only thing I knew to do–distract. “But have you heard my song?,” I said.

Without pause for response, the words slipped out, dripped in that hilarious Southern twang I mysteriously caught for a few years of my childhood. “I’m a little teapot, short and stayyyout. Here is my handle; Here is my spayyyouuttt.”

They politely listened to the tune, their attention obviously elsewhere.

The blankets inside the box held something much better than a teapot–my newborn baby brother.

The next day, my dad let me help him choose a cake from the bakery, and I of course picked the one with flowers. We stood in line as the baker topped it with the words “Welcome home, mom and Kendall!” in blue icing. Later, we sat on the couch–my mom holding the baby, my dad holding the cake. As soon as he put it down, I decided to help by removing the flowers so we could eat the rest. Reaching for a petal, my hand dove into a glob of icing. Previously, I had no mental category for icing flowers. I had no category for being a sister, either.

This is my oldest memory. It includes all of the things that psychologists say fill out significant memories — hospitals, transition, fear and cake, of course. Our first memories hinge between what we value and who we are, setting the precedent for both to continue taking shape.

I can’t remember life before I became a sister. Of course, I have home videos on VHS to remind me of my first steps and birthday parties, but I could not recall these things on my own. Kendall and I have been commonly mistaken for twins, and I don’t think this is too far from the truth. In many ways, the day his life began was when mine did, too.

23 years later, it couldn’t be more true. I can’t think of a day that would define the rest of my life more than that one. Welcoming him home and into our lives felt like inviting joy to stay.

And 23 years ago, I would never predict that I’d be spending today alone. I couldn’t have stretched my imagination far enough to cover the misery, grief and death that would one day follow my brother’s birth. But more importantly, and the thing I see the most today, my little mind could never perceive the profoundly extravagant gift of being his sister. Even on my darkest day, it will always win.

The day those little blue blankets appeared was my first day worth remembering, so it would be wrong to drift through today just trying to make it through. Today commemorates the 23rd anniversary of the best day of my life. I sure wish I knew 23-year-old Kendall, but I’m thankful to hope that a little part of him lives within 25-year-old me.

Happy Birthday, sweet boy. Here’s to an eternity of days like these to spend together. Don’t worry, I’ll be bringing a little teapot, short and stout.

Cheers | 6.2

Cheers is a weekly toast to celebrate the people, places and things that helped us make it to Friday.

priscilla-du-preez-228220I don’t know how we got here already, but I LOVE IT. All of the caps lock for today and always. Last night, a new Jeni’s ice cream store opened down the street (DREAMS) and it was like our whole side of town dropped what they were doing to form a line to watch summer roll in once more. We waited for over an hour for free scoops of wildberry lavender and brambleberry sorbet, but it was more than worth it to support the cause of ice creamery, one near and dear to my heart.

Speaking of, if you have a Jeni’s near you, I need you to stop right now to try their Cookies In Cream. Last night, I declared that it’s my favorite ice cream flavor of all time, so this is serious business.

And with that, I’d like to a propose a toast to waffle cones and summer nights and all the things that delivered a little more hope this week. Can I just tell you that this week was hard, but taking note of these little hopefuls really helped me make it through? I never want this practice to get old.

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First of all, to YOU, dad, because it’s your birthday! Happy, happy day!

To you, Big Little Lies, for consuming my whole dang life this week. I have a strict only-happy-shows-and-books rule currently, but it was worth breaking it for this. I finished the book on Monday and am now happily making it through the show. Don’t let me watch any more murder shows after this though, you guys. #accountability

To you, Option B, for being the perfect recovery book from Big Little Lies and helping me sort through the trauma. But really, I mentioned the On Being podcast with Sheryl Sandberg before, and I’m still captivated by her story in the pages of this book. So far, this is the kind of grief book I can get on board with.

To you, empty edamame shells and salt sprinkles, for reminding us to slow down and enjoy our tables and the people around them. Also for being the perfect healthy-ish appetizer.

img_5588To you, long road trips, for hours alone with my favorite podcasts and audiobooks. My little-known introvert heart is thriving.

To you, Erin Loechner, for the most brilliant idea of a resource party. (Basically? Pick a goal, announce it to your friends and raise your hand with simple ways you can support them in their goal while they support you in yours. Best.)

To you, Kendall Sky, for always showing up and never letting us down. (Okay but seriously, usually I have an eye for these things, but when other people notice the beauty, it’s my favorite. Last night, standing in line for Jeni’s, everyone stopped to notice and take pictures and it took everything in me to not say “THAT’S MY BROTHER. IT’S A KENDALL SKY.” But we will all discuss these things in heaven, I’m sure of it.)

To you, reader, if it’s been a long week. I SEE YOU, friend. Keeping you in my prayers and fist bumping in solidarity. Also, if you want to reach out for a virtual “you’ve got this,” I’d love to cheer you on. Shoot me an email!

Wishing you joy and rest x a million this weekend. And free scoops of ice cream, while we’re at it. LOVE YOU, DEAR ONES.

Cheers | 5.26

Cheers is a weekly toast to celebrate the people, places and things that helped us make it to Friday.

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HOLLA AT US, LONG WEEKEND. That just deserves all the cheers in itself, doesn’t it? All the toasts to Memorial Day. The end.

But really, you guys. Isn’t this just the best? Whether this weekend finds you working or playing, let’s all vow to squeeze every ounce of the joy from it and be thankful. I hope it’s one of those weekends that keeps you cheesin’ all the way through next week. That’s your assignment, ok?

Now to the good stuff:

To you, assorted delicious food items, because you’re about to be ALL UP IN this post. Primarily because it’s currently 5 pm on a Thursday and I’m ready for you.

To you, cinnamon almond milk macchiato from Starbucks, for brainwashing me with all the sugary sweetness into believing you’re a healthy choice. We all know the truth and continue to deny it anyway, don’t we?

To you, Salad Palette with Mango from Trader Joe’s, because are-you-freaking-kidding-me? Mango and watermelon and all the summer joy topped with goat cheese. You heard me.

To you, plantains, because I really wanted to stop the food list there but couldn’t because I love you so much.

To you, TURTLE, because #FavoriteAnimalCrossing this week! I’ve claimed the turtle as my favorite animal for so long that I cannot even admit how gross-looking this is.

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To you, new patio furniture, because I’m in love! I’m in love and I don’t care who knows it!!!!!

To you, Hidden Brain podcast, primarily because when my mom recommended this to me, I thought she said “Kitten Brain.” Maybe you should rethink your branding. Expand your audience. Just saying. “Getting Unstuck” is my fave so far.

To you, Andrea Lucado, for writing English Lessons! I had the most fun guest posting on her site this week. (Here’s the link in case you missed it.)

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To you, “things I did” list, because you’re so much more fun than a to-do list. I created a list to list all of the bold things I’ve done in 2017 and it’s the perfect little “keep going.”

To you, seriousness, because you are absent in this post. SEE YA NEXT WEEK.

To you, my favorite readers, because some of you are starting your own end-of-week “Cheers” celebrations and I LOVE THIS SO MUCH. Heart eyes for days. Excited to follow along with you!

To you, weekend that’s going to last forever. It can’t hurt, right? #FingersCrossed

Happy Friday, friends! Cheers to you.

How to Squeeze Hope Into a Life Ridden by Fear

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This blog is part of Andrea Lucado’s series, “Notes To Your Younger Self,” celebrating the release of her new book English Lessons! When Andrea asked me to write a note to my younger self on a faith struggle, I knew exactly, exactly, exactly where this would go. Thankful for the privilege to share it! View the post on her site here.

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Dear 16-Year-Old Kaitlin,

We’re going to Sea World! Younger self, if we could cross paths at the same time, that’s exactly where I’d take you. We’d sit on the hot bleachers, watching seals wave hello as we welcomed memories of your first time there. You were four and it was the dreamiest preschool school field trip idea imaginable. Wearing your favorite denim jumper, it was finally your turn to experience the whale-shaped ice cream sandwich you’d been waiting for. But that’s not the part that stands out, is it?

Somehow, in the bustle of chaperone herding and sunscreen applying, you found yourself locked in the bathroom alone. All of your friends were outside watching walruses clap their hands and dolphins jump through hoops, but you were sitting on the stained cement floor, hearing the fun but feeling trapped and forgotten.

When you were finally discovered, your teacher was horrified but you were fine, brushing off your knees like you’d purposefully chosen to study tile grout instead of sea animals.

And while I’m happy to report that you haven’t been left in a bathroom since, at sixteen, you will find yourself in your own closet, trapped not by a lock, but by fear. Anxiety is your grown-up Sea World bathroom, keeping you in a dark space while your friends play without you. They will look at you strangely, wondering why you can’t just enjoy the penguins.

You may be disappointed to know that at 25 you still won’t have it all figured out, but I do want to give you a little pep talk about what to expect.

First of all, people are going to tell you a lot of things. They may tell you that the things you worry about rarely happen, that being afraid is a waste of time, or even ask you to stop your anxiety, as if it’s a piece of gum to spit out. This advice, while well-meaning, is about as valid as dating tips from your dental hygienist. Their entirely wrong words at precisely the wrong time will make you feel alone.

Before I go any further, sweet girl, I need you to know that there is nothing wrong with you. This is not a flaw, a malfunction, or a mistake you made. Fear is not a sign of weakness; rather, it’s a sign you’ve been strong enough to love. You’ve been bold enough to lend vulnerability and compassion, to give yourself to things you know you could lose. This is your biggest strength, and man, I can’t wait for you to see the places this takes you. Anxiety will huddle up to the things you adore most, but I hope you’ll remember that love always showed up first.

Although you grew up in church, you’re just learning what it means to open your Bible and believe it for yourself. When you do this, you may be tempted to think that anxiety is due to a lack of faith. You may find it hard to take your fears to a God who allows such bad things to happen. Because you’re desperately afraid of suffering, you’re reluctant to follow a faith that guarantees it. Before today, you’ve always had the Truth to discuss in Sunday School or write in a notebook, but from now on, it is your lifeline. Yes, suffering is unavoidable, but hope isn’t. Please don’t miss it.

As you grow closer to God, you will give Him ultimatums, saying you’ll leave if He lets bad things happen to you. But at the root of all your fears, you’re afraid He will be the One to leave first. The bad things are still going to happen, but He won’t leave you, not for a second. Your worst fears may come true, but the Gospel will ring truer.

And finally, you may not be able to control the darkness, but you can control whether or not you face it alone. Don’t be afraid to go to the scary places that make you feel like the only one, because that’s the only way to find out you aren’t. Because love showed up first on The Cross, loneliness is never the end.

You have a lot to look forward to, and most of it has to do with hope. Keep looking for it. There’s a room for you there, too.
XoXo,
25-Year-Old Kaitlin

P.S. You don’t have to enjoy the penguins, but please eat the ice cream sandwich.

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I’m so thankful to help celebrate the release of my friend Andrea Lucado’s memoir, English Lessons, with this note to my younger self. You may recognize her last name, as she is daughter to pastor and author Max Lucado. His books were foundational to my faith growing up, and I can say exactly the same about her book now! I’ve enjoyed writing alongside her at She Reads Truth and am honored to introduce you to her work, knowing you’ll absolutely love it! Her book, which is now available at your favorite retailer, is about a year she spent in England when she was 22. It’s the perfect combination of rich travel descriptions and genuine, searching vulnerability.

In her own words, “English Lessons is about one of the most formative years in my faith. I was going through a dark season of doubt and I wrestled a lot with the beliefs of my childhood, wondering if the Christian faith was simply something my parents had passed down to me or something I really believed in. If I could go back to Oxford and sit down with my 22-year-old self, I would tell her a thing or two about what she was going through and what purpose it would serve.”

Order your copy and visit the rest of the “Notes to Your Younger Self Series” at AndreaLucado.com. Congrats on this beautiful work, Andrea!

THE BEST PART: Andrea is graciously giving FIVE of my sweet readers a free copy of English Lessons! Enter and subscribe below, then I’ll choose the winners on Friday, May 26! Update: Contest is now closed and winners have been notified. Subscribe to be notified of future fun giveaways! 

Cheers | 5.19

Cheers is a weekly toast to celebrate the people, places and things that helped us make it to Friday.
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My annual trip to the post office happened last week. Since I do not frequent it often, when I do, it’s with precisely nine oversized packages. That need to be overnighted. Yesterday.

“Nobody told me Mary Poppins was coming today!” the postmaster exclaimed, referring to my seemingly bottomless bag of boxes. I’ve resolved to try taking this as a compliment.

So if you’re feeling more procrastination than Poppins this week, I’M SO WITH YOU. But it’s Friday, so cheers, friends! Let’s do this.

To you, Garden Fresh Gourmet salsa, for rebranding. What does this say about my life that this is the top of the list? I don’t even care. This salsa. Is my favorite salsa. And it no longer looks like…well. It’s better. Just trust me on this one. Sweet Onion, I love you.

To you, friends with perfect porches and better hearts. Thanks for creating a mid-week happy.

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To you, On Being podcast, for bringing all the joy to my ears. How did I not listen to you until now? Smart, pleasant, approachable, and turning me into a nerd about All The Things. Which brings me to my next point:

To you, Sheryl Sandberg, for leaning in to another topic. Has anyone read her new book Option B yet? After listening to her On Being interview, I picked it up right away and am excited to get started. I’m allllll about listening to powerhouse women talk about grief.

To you, outtakes, for keeping us humble. And also for channeling the perfect “I need a weekend” vibes.

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To you, Fruit of the Loom tank top multipack from the men’s section at Target, for being my best fashion purchase in a while. And you guys wonder why I’m not a fashion blogger. #LiketoKnowIt

To you, Scott Sauls, for the sermon “Rescuing Our Souls From Digital Captivity.” 10/10 would recommend. Not cliche. A refreshing, truth-filled perspective. Do you have any soul tips for approaching technology? I’m listening!

To you, Nashville Predators, for doing a good job at sports. Hashtag bandwagon fan.

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To you, reader, for all of your pre and post-half-marathon encouragement. I was thinking about you guys while I was running and am just so thankful for your sweet support!

To you, Chuy’s, for creating creamy jalapeno dip and being the sole light at the end of the tunnel this Friday. (Started with salsa, ended with dip. Pro writer tip: bookend everything with Mexican food.)

To being Mary Poppins or totally rejecting it. In the most delightful way.

CHEERS, friends! Happy weekend. xoxo

what bold means

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I’ll always remember the night we saw
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. With popcorn kernels stuck in our teeth and drowsiness in our eyes, I slumped into the passenger seat of his gold Jeep, counting down the minutes until I could cannonball into my bed.

Kendall, on the other had, had another idea. Many of them, in fact.

To me, this movie starring Ben Stiller had been an enjoyable summer late-night activity. It soon became clear that to my little brother, it had been 90 minutes of complete life change.

“KAIT!”, he exclaimed. “It’s just that…I don’t have to do things the way I thought I did. We don’t have to! How did I not see this before!”

With freedom in his lungs and determination in his eyes, he began devising a plan and I realized we weren’t going to call it a night anytime soon. These moments happened frequently with Kendall. No one could catch inspiration quite like he could. Except for his sister, that is.

Although I’m usually a New Year’s resolutions kind of girl through and through, this year was different. This year, I chose one word: Bold.

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I wasn’t sure what it would be like to lean into one word for all of 2017. Would it be an excuse for me to get away with off-the-wall antics? Was it too vague to execute realistically?

What began as a wild hair idea for my word of the year quickly turned into a much more intense personal challenge. When everything began to change around me, it was a hearty joke. And then, as things tend to do, it became spiritual.

After years of life happening to me, I wanted to happen to my life. I would reclaim myself in the “family of things,” as Mary Oliver would say, grabbing the reins of my favorite role, bossy big sis.

“Bold” wasn’t the motivation behind running a half-marathon, starting a new job, pursuing writing full-time or moving into a new home; Bold is, however, my own personal Walter Mitty–a permission slip to see and experience each of these differently than I had before.

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Bold is my year-long experiment in being brave enough to find what lies beneath a thick blanket of grief. It’s calling joy by name unashamedly and reclaiming the uninhibited concept of fun. It’s noticing the muscles that have become stronger and the backbone grief has grown and counting myself better because of it. It’s knowing that in doing these things, I don’t miss Kendall any less, but I can release myself from performing my grief to convince others I am still sad.

Bold is a no-pressure first draft of rewriting my narrative and brainstorming what genre it may live under next. And at the same time, it’s all just reclaiming the freedom and grace that has been mine for the taking all along. Yes, it’s a process of reinventing, but in doing so, I think I’m coming home to myself. I’m so happy that, after all this time, she’s right where I left her.

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Photos by Simon and Moose

I Ran A Half-Marathon (!!!)

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“Pusher Love Girl”: The Backstory

I’ve listened to “Pusher Love Girl” four times since Kendall passed away. The first, on the way to visit the cemetery the first time by myself, when flowers didn’t seem to suffice. The second, it becoming my little tradition, the next time I visited the cemetery alone. Although I do usually bring flowers, I feel like they are more for myself—Justin Timberlake seems a better offering to a 20-year-old brother than tulips ever will.

Both the third and fourth rounds of “Pusher Love Girl” happened Saturday.

The song was never officially dubbed “ours” or “his” persay, but it’s the most current reminder I have of him in my head. I imagine others who have unexpected loss may feel the same way about a cereal they saw their loved one eat before leaving home or the reading glasses left on the bedside table. “Pusher Love Girl” is my favorite because, well, it’s slightly explicit and full of pop, and a memory that is solely mine.

The last summer we had together, both back in our childhood rooms across the hall from one another, he’d listen to it in the mornings, his electric razor buzzing and falsetto voice unashamedly belting. I was the only one who ever woke to a voice-cracking “I’m just a j-j-j-junkie for your love” from the next room. Unlike the heaviness of tombstones and obituaries, this song reminds me of life. The song is full and peppy, just like those mornings filled with spritzes of cologne and scents of waffles. It’s the unscathed joy we didn’t know to savor from our side-by-side life, the one before we became separated by tragedy. The safe and sound version of us.

My running was not motivated by reminders of his death, but of his life. And that half marathon? I did the dang thing.

In Which We Talk About The Race and Not “Pusher Love Girl”:

Saturday morning brought a 4:30 am wake-up call and the hottest morning Nashville’s seen in quite a while. I’d never trained in this kind of heat, in addition to never before wearing the knee brace and tank top I decided to wear on race day. AKA I basically broke all of the “running world” violations before getting out of the car, watching the odds stack up against me before my eyes. Anxious runners filled Broadway, pushing through the crowds to locate their running corrals. I was supposed to be in corral 38, but in a blackout moment of sheer naivety, I made the oh-so-obvious determination that I AM NOT A CORRAL 38 KIND OF GIRL. And thus, my corral 10 career was born. Split seconds after making that decision, I heard the announcer say the number 10 and FELT MY LEGS MOVING WITHOUT MY BRAIN. Like, hello? Stretching? What’s that? Beyonce? Is that you?

It wasn’t until the end of Broadway that I realized I hadn’t started my music or running app and remembered to take a beginning-of-the-race selfie. With expletives dancing in my head, I rounded the country music- filled corner with flashback memories of all the 5Ks I’ve ever hated filling my steps with angst. And then, the Space Jam theme song came on and I WAS BUGS BUNNY WITH THE ALLEY-OOP. “Welcome to your jam,” the honky-tonk heavens sang. (Don’t quote me on this theology, but I BELIEVE THEY EXIST, OK?)

The angst was gone and the first five miles were like Christmas morning. I passed the 5K mark with a confident scoff at my formerly-lacking self with internal shouts of YOU ARE DOING THE THING, GIRL. GET IT. I had no chill, and why yes, I sang all the songs that were blasting in my earbuds with complete choreography while running, loving my life. I decided that since I had already set a personal record of “showing up to a half-marathon,” I was going to also have the most fun ever. And I did.

But did I mention it was hot? And there were hills? It was entirely, hilariously toasty, and I downed unidentified glucose packets and running goo all along the way. On mile 10, they gave out wet sponges and it was a definite highlight. (Did I just say that mile TEN was a highlight? You guys. I think I’ve been hacked.)

I’m not going to tell you that it was all butterflies and roses, except, in retrospect, it was. I did the thing I didn’t ever ever ever think I could possibly do. It was HARD and it was HOLY and it was life-altering.

Post-glorious sponge distribution, I’m starting to feel like I will not live to see the finish line. Until this point, I have diligently timed my run/walk ratios, but with three miles to go, my body takes over and I do everything I can to just keep going. I’m delirious and see ambulances and stretchers occupied with runners in the distance. NOT TODAY, I tell myself. NOT TODAY.

In the midst of my delirium, I hear someone in the crowd shout, “Last mile! You can do it!,” and suddenly wonder if I’ve lost track of the mileage or a true marathon miracle has occurred. Although I thought I was just beginning mile 11, I am terrible at geography and am extremely gullible, thus whipping out my last mile playlist like I was born for this moment.

Back to “Pusher Love Girl”

I am wearing a wristband that says “Make Him Proud,” a reminder of the brother I started running for. Because I was unable to emotionally prepare for the last mile, I was suddenly overcome with emotion at the start of “Pusher Love Girl.” The buzzing, the falsetto, the waffles, my brother–it was all there, aching into my muscles. I sped up, ready to finish strong, but the song kept going and going, with no finish line in sight. The tears were streaming, and for the first time, my physical pain matched the brokenness I’ve felt all along. My feet were bleeding, my knees throbbing, and my patience thinning.

And then I began the actual last mile. I’d run mile twelve as if it were my last, with nothing left for mile thirteen. Pro tip: Don’t listen to spectators, friends. With my heart set on the playlist, I clicked “play” again, but this round was different. I was slower, softer, exhausted. I was weak, I was out of control, and by grace, I was straight-up joyful. I fist-pumped and sang my own falsetto to “I’m just a j-j-junkie for your love.” Steadying myself, I crossed the real, genuine finish line, in complete and total shock. It wasn’t just victory; it was redemption.

Death isn’t the end. Sadness isn’t the end. In Christ, we cross the finish line stripped of our own strength, with joy renewed and darkness removed. He will play back the sad songs we’ve written and show us their worth. This is our story. This is our song.

I am overwhelmed. He has overcome.

I can barely walk today, but it was worth it. The training, the blisters, the soreness, it was all so, very worth it. And I wonder if this can help me navigate suffering, this in-between life that feels like a never-ending race without my brother. Maybe healing begins when we intentionally show up to our brokenness, expecting it to be hard and pushing forward anyway. I walked away Saturday feeling a little more whole, a little more

Kendall, I hope I made you proud, buddy. See you at the finish line.

“Do not let it cross your mind that you do not have what it takes to pursue your dreams.”
-Kendall Wernet