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Old Camel Knees. 9 parts.

hannah brencher.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 10.53.19 AM

Part 1.

We prayed for three hours.

Three hours. That is worth repeating once more: three hours.

There is little that I do for three hours. In fact, there is currently a list— a very short list— of things I am capable of doing for three-hours blocks of time. Those things include:

Reading a good book.

Eating copious amounts of nachos.

Watching anything Bradley Cooper related.

That’s about it. It’s a pretty short list. Prayer has never made the cut.

Still, in spite of me, we prayed for three hours. This is all because I found myself stumbling into a small chapel on Saturday. It was instantly myself and four students of a ministry in Atlanta. I didn’t know a single one. Sprawled out across chairs in a small chapel, tucked in the back of a white brick building, I eyed the plain walls covered in Sharpie marker prayers.


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The Art of Perfection



You know, when I think about that word I always think of someone who always has to be on top of their school work. Someone who has to always have their bed made and their desk organized to their utmost standards. Someone who has to have every strand of their hair in place and their pants pressed with so much starch that it never has a single crease in them.

That’s what I used to think. Because I was never like that or at least I didn’t think I was. Although I care about my schoolwork I don’t usually freak out when I get a bad grade. Sure, it’s a little discouraging, but I try to not let it get to me. And I could care less on whether my bed is made (like, please, when does that ever happen?) But I have come to realize that there are different forms of perfectionism (and now that I think about it what I was referring does sound awfully close to someone who is obsessively compulsive.)

And I have myself to blame for that. I will admit it. I am a perfectionist, especially when it comes to myself. Even right now as I write this blog post well past midnight I shake my head at myself, saying, “You know, this blog post could be so much better. What are you even saying right now? Do you even know where you’re going with this?” And I can tell you right now that I honestly don’t. I am trying to find a way to relate this blog post to my fellow audience. And maybe it will resonate with some of you or maybe it won’t. I just needed to let my feelings out (just let them go) in written form so that I might silence these nagging thoughts inside my head. And, you know, in the end you get to be the oh-so lucky bearers of my pathetic ramblings. But that seems to be what blog posts are for, right?

So, I’m going to be straight with you. I have an inclination to be a perfectionist as I said before. But I also have a tendency to become depressed. Not exactly a great pairing, in my opinion. Not like peanut butter and jelly, no, not at all. Man, that is a great combination though, isn’t it? Whenever I meet the man (or woman) responsible for that duo I am going to congratulate him/her. Unless they are dead then I suppose I’ll have to wait. Unless they are not in heaven…pssh, come on, they got to be if they invented the dynamic duo known as PB&J. ‘Cause that’s the stuff.

I’m getting off track now, aren’t I? But a little humor never hurt anyone. Sometimes I think I use humor to deter the fact that I’m talking about something serious for once. I like to think I can be a serious person, especially when it comes to others. When it comes to me, well, that’s a little harder. Because it’s easier to laugh at yourself, right? It’s easier to turn all those dark thoughts swirling around in your head into nothing with a quip and a smirk.

But now is the time to be honest. With you. With me. With everyone.

I struggle with my thoughts, my emotions, just being each and every day. And I know that I am not alone in this. I have heard many others going through the same exact things, even as we speak. Have you ever had a dull ache deep inside your chest for hours on end? Have you ever cried for some reason you know nothing about? (And no, it’s not that time of the month, I’ve checked.) Have you ever doubted your worth in this world? I’m sure you all have experienced this at one point or at many points in your lives and I know that I have experienced this off and on for many years (but even more so in the past year.)

I have so many thoughts currently twirling and tumbling through my mind right now. How do you expect to become your own person if you can’t survive living outside of college for more than one month? Oh, and do you really think you’re smart? Because you’re not, you’re an idiot. A lot of people from your past have told you so. Pssh, and what, do you really expect a person to like someone so stubborn and insecure, someone like you? Why can’t you just talk to guys? You know, guys only like confident girls and that is definitely not you. You’re not strong. And why are you crying? No one, not even your friends or your family want to be around someone so emotional all the time. They’re going to all finally be fed up with it and leave you some day. Don’t you know that?

These are the thoughts that haunt me almost every day. Some of them hold lies and some of them hold truth; sadly, the line between truth and fiction tend to blur together a lot of the time. Even so, these toxic words are what push me to be better. To work harder. Try and enhance the very little strengths that I do have. And if someone says I’m anything but what I picture myself to be (extroverted, funny, etc.), well, my self-esteem tends to plummet. It’s not healthy, I know. And it’s even worse if I act like someone I don’t want to be. I look at myself and I say, “I always want to be that happy girl. The one who is making jokes and laughing with her friends. I always want to be the go-to girl. The one who everyone entrusts their secrets with and leans on her shoulder to cry on. I always want to be that dreaming girl. The one who doesn’t have a care in the world, stretching her arms up high to the sky, her fingertips just grazing the tips of her dreams. I always want to be that strong girl. The one who knows she’s worth it and doesn’t care what others think of her. I always want to be that perfect girl.” So, basically I’m saying I can never be sad, never be dependent, never be calculating, never be scared, never be broken….I tell myself I can’t be any of those things because I don’t like that person.

Unrealistic, right? Because I am not perfect and nor was I made to be perfect. But that’s the problem with the perfectionist, isn’t it? A sinner trying to make amends with herself in a perfectly imperfect world. It’s funny how I can look down on legalistic churches for their strong belief in “salvation through works” when I do the exact same thing to myself. I believe that I can’t allow myself to be broken; I have to be fixed, refined even, in order for others to like me. For me to like me, really.

And that’s what I need to come to terms with. I am broken because that’s what makes me human. Or being human is what makes me broken. Either way, no human being is perfect. We’re not always going to be laidback and carefree. We’re not always going to be the person our friends see. We’re not always going to be trusting in God. We’re going to be cynical and stressed out. We’re going to have break downs alone in our room at two in the morning when no one else sees the darkness in our hearts. We’re going to doubt God and his plans for us.

But that’s why we don’t rely on ourselves in these hard times. That’s why we rely on God. Heck, it’s hard, trust me. I pray and sometimes I feel as if I’m just whispering into thin air. I ask him to take these thoughts away and here I am at almost two in the morning writing a blog post. Maybe this is just my way of getting rid of these persistent thoughts. Or maybe someone else needed to read this because they understand what it’s like wanting to be the perfect person.

And I don’t know if I heard this somewhere before or if God was telling me this to remind me that I can’t always get it right and that I’m always going to be broken. But what I thought before writing out this endless blog post was this: He is perfect so I don’t have to be.

And you know what? That gives me hope.

Something Beautiful

Do you see the lights inside her eyes?

The way the light dances in them when she laughs; the way she throws her head back in reckless abandonment, her smile splitting her face in two, as she trips over the pavement. But she doesn’t care because she’s running to grab his hand and pull him along with her. Because she’s got a secret to happiness that no one else knows and he’s curious enough to figure out just what that is.

Do you see the way she hides her face?

You peer down from your perch in this bustling city and spot a girl sitting on a ledge, covering her face with her hands as she tries to mask the pain. Another face in the crowd; another face shedding unwanted tears. Another pair of shoulders in the street; just another pair of shoulders shaking in fear. And now your heart breaks for her as she deals with her pain, all alone, and you wonder what tragedy could have caused such a beautiful soul to fall so far.

Do you see the way he loves her?

His face beams down at her as she tugs at his hand and tells him something of absolute brilliance, you can tell, because she seems smart and funny and full of wonder (like all children are.) And he looks at her with such wonderment as if he’s contemplating how God could give him a gift like her when he deserves nothing beautiful in this world or the next. He grasps her by the waist and lifts her high, high into the air until her fingertips can almost trace the clouds (and oh, how she wish she could.) But as he gazes upon her, her blonde hair and contagious laughter dancing in the wind, he realizes that all his wishes have already come true.

Do you see the way he dreams?

The way he dreams with his sparkling eyes and firecracker fingers as they light up the canvas with his passion for capturing natural beauties such as the sight before him. The varying shades of red, orange, and purple pouring out from his soul and the streaks of gold jumping out from behind his eyelids as he grasps the colors of the sky.  The bridge, the lights, the streets were no longer simply everyday scenes; they were woven into the page, connecting with the sky and the earth and any breathing being (because you cannot have one without the other.) But the most important part of the story was yet to be told; yes, because the dreamer did not see people as simply ordinary, just a passerby. Oh no, for people were very complex just as colors are very complex. Each color intermingling with one another in order to tell a story or captivate a heart with its endless beauty. And this is how people are, he mused. They are colors being splashed across the canvas of life, never knowing where they might end up, but being beautiful all the same. Some may not fit quite right or the paint might run off the edges a little bit, but none of the pictures are  perfect to the dreamer. Every painting is unique and complex in its own way, just the way people are. Sometimes they stumble off the edge of the canvas or they don’t’ quite mix with the rest of the colors, but the dreamer always knows what he is doing whether or not others can see it. Sometimes you just have to study the painting a little closer (search a little deeper) to see the story behind it all.

Do you really look at people?

We often miss it the first time. The hurt, the joy, the love. Take a second glance. You might be missing something beautiful.

(This little blog post was inspired by my time in London. These are actual scenes I encountered while I was visiting there, and let me tell you, it is a wonderful place to do some people watching. Well, that’s if you’re into that sort of thing. The “dreamer” was based off this lovely painter I met there and in this interpretation of him [now that I read it more closely] he is a symbol of God. God created us all uniquely, and none of us are perfect, but we are all complex and beautiful in many ways. I think that’s what I was trying to get at. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed it.)

God Makes Nowhere into Now Here

I’ve been hit with a lot the past few weeks.

Guilt. Struggle. Pain. Depression.

But out of all those emotions, the emotion I felt most deeply was loneliness. I felt as if God had forgotten me. I couldn’t hear his voice telling me what I should do; I couldn’t feel his presence. Nothing. And that scared me. It scared me to think that I may have been abandoned by my one and only Savior. I knew in my head that he would never leave me, especially in my darkest times, but in my heart that’s what it felt like and I felt it so strongly that I almost lost hope.

Maybe it would be better to understand a little where I was coming from. I felt useless. Like, why would anyone need me? Why would God need me? I wanted to grow into someone better; I wanted to learn new things. I wanted to mature. What I didn’t realize is that I was looking toward the future and not focusing on the now.

I remember just a few nights ago, praying and asking that God would change me. That he would help me grow into the person he wants me to be. That I would do everything I could to glorify him. And it’s not bad to ask that, right? But I think what I didn’t realize is that God uses all of our circumstances for good; he uses the now to change us. Because what happened the next morning is what really got me. There’s this sin in my life that crops up every once in awhile and I always feel awful after doing it. I usually feel so disgusting and each time I do it, I hate myself more and more. Except…this time was a little different. It happened. I fell. I cried. And I repented. That’s usually what always happens after I give in to my temptation, except that I felt a new determination. To fight my struggle. To go at it, kicking and screaming. But that’s not the key here, oh no. What I felt for the first time in a very long time was forgiveness. For myself. And in that moment I realized that God has never left me. He’s always been there for me, even when I felt lost and alone. Even when I believed I was stumbling blind in the middle of nowhere, having no idea what to do with myself and wondering how someone like me could be used for him. When I felt like my situation was completely hopeless and when I couldn’t wait for the day that I overcame everything, completely.

God turns our nowheres into now here.

When we think we’re lost. When we think we’re alone. When we think we’re nothing, he’s still here.

God gave me forgiveness before I even knew what forgiveness was. God was walking beside me while I was still stumbling by his side. He has never left my side and I don’t think he’s going to stop any time soon. My pastor said today that we need to be “content without becoming complacent.” In other words, there is nothing wrong with looking toward the future, but the now is where God works in and through us. If we’re always looking toward the future, we’ll never be content with the now.

I am where God wants me to be right now. I am the person he wants me to be right now. God is working through me, little by little, whether I realize it or not. God has turned my nowhere into now here.

He is still here. Because he has never left you.

Genesis 35:3
Then, come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.

(P.S. When they post the sermon my pastor did today online, I’m going to post it here because it explains this concept a lot better than I did. It truly was an amazing sermon and something a lot of people need to hear including me.)

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?


 “Are you afraid of the big bad wolf, Doctor?”

Do you ever wonder where your fears come from? Personally, I’ve always been fascinated by the different phobias and their names. During my computer class in high school I would always look up the weirdest phobias (shhh, don’t tell anyone that. Personally, I think I was educating myself for better purposes. Like who else knows these phobias? Sadly, me. :p) One of my favorite ones would have to be Tristadekaphobia which is the fear of pickles. Like, seriously, there are people out there who are afraid of pickles. FREAKING PICKLES. Now I’m not one to judge too quickly, but seriously, how can anyone ever be afraid of a cucumber soaked in vinegar (or as my roommate would say “a cucumber soaked in evil”)? I mean, dude, have you ever tried fried pickles? You are seriously missing out if you haven’t. Then there is Pogonophobia, the fear of people with beards. Now I can understand maybe not particularly liking beards because I personally always hated it when my dad would kiss me goodnight and his beard would scratch my cheek. It’s like trying to kiss a porcupine. Then my dad shaved his face free of the nasty beard and I was frightened because I thought there was a creepy stranger in my house (in my defense, I was only five.) Some of my favorites though would be these: Hippopotonomstrosesquippedaliophobia, the fear of long words (very, very ironic), Phronemophobia, the fear of thinking (I actually think there’s some people who would have the exact opposite of this phobia because they think too much. 😉 Nevertheless, there is no way of avoiding thinking. Unless, you know, you’re brain dead. In that case, be a vegetable!), Francophobia, the fear of French people (I find this extremely amusing because I can’t stand French people. I may not have a fear, but to those who do…I feel ya…I truly feel ya), and lastly…Caligynephobia, the fear of beautiful women (yes, men, there is a fear out there of beautiful women. You never thought you would hear that one, did you?) Then there are more rational fears like Trypanophobia, the phobia of needles; some will even faint at the sight of needles or just completely freak out where as I’m just like, “Go for it, have a field day. I don’t care.” Then there’s the fear of the dark, Nyctophobia which I think we all catch when we’re children and afraid of monsters, but somehow that fear still lingers in our adult years (at least it somewhat has for me. That Doctor Who episode has scarred me for life.) Although I may laugh at all these “ridiculous” phobias, I can’t always explain why my fears are so rational. Here are mine (if you really care to know):

1. Thalassophobia, the fear of the ocean (now it’s not like I can’t go to the beach, but I definitely don’t like going in the water at all. Ever since Soul Surfer…well, let’s just say that I don’t want to be a shark’s mid afternoon snack. It isn’t just sharks though, I just don’t want any sea creature touching me. Gross. :p)

2. Arachnophobia, the fear of spiders (now I know that I don’t have a severe case of it, but I will scream at the top of my lungs if I see one near me or in the household. Especially if it’s the size of a cat. Like, no, that’s not normal.)

3. Dystychiophobia, the fear of accidents and Tachophobia, the fear of speed (these fears are related to a fear of driving, although there isn’t a specific name for just the fear of driving. I know, I know, the source of this fear. I’ve been in two car accidents in my life [none caused by me, I promise], but the one I had a really bad experience with by breaking my collar bone and it took me a long time to recover from that physically. I’m still dealing with it mentally, hence why I don’t have my license yet.)

4. Hypochondrisasis, the fear of medical illness (this is the closest I could get to what my phobia is. My real fear is of the human body. Like, it could spontaneously combust out of nowhere for all I know. Pain in my stomach? Oh gosh, this is it, I’m gonna die. That is seriously one of the first things that goes through my head, I’m not even joking. It is sad, but true. I also get extremely nauseated and dizzy when someone is talking about the body like explaining cancer or surgery or anything that could lead to death, really. This is probably my second worst fear.)

5. Autophobia, fear of being alone (Again, closest name I could get to what my actual fear is: fear of abandonment. I don’t fear being alone because at times that can be nice to get away for a little while and relax. What I really fear is that some day the people I care about are going to leave me. I have had many dreams where my friends leave me to be friends with other people or even my own mother dropping everything and leaving [the one dream I had she drove away in a taxi with a bunch of cartoon characters so she could start a job with them. I can’t say I blame her for that one, though. That would be pretty awesome.] I guess the reason why that dream has always been so significant is because I woke up bawling. And in that brief moment after waking up I was so mad at her. And sometimes I wonder how I might actually react if someone left me. I cannot tell you how many dreams I’ve had related to abandonment, though, and that is probably why this is my number one fear.)

Now, I can step back and look at my fears and say, “Okay, that one is kind of ridiculous” or “I really need to get over that so I can get on with my life”, but I know that I will never fully overcome my fears. As the Doctor once said, “Courage isn’t a matter of not being frightened, you know. It’s being afraid and doing what you have to do anyway.” Not saying that I have to go in the ocean or hold a tarantula in my hand to get over my fear, but it also doesn’t mean that I should stop living my life and surrender to my fears, especially ones like the fear of driving and abandonment. Those will always hold me back if I give in to them. How else will I get to places? How else will I build relationships? How am I going to react if someone actually does let me down and walk out the door?

The one man in my life who has never let me down (although I know I’ve had my struggles with him, especially recently) is my God, the great and awesome creator of the universe. The one who died and rose again for me and lives on and on, forever and ever. It is only when I surrender my fears to him can I get on with my life, step by step. I’m still working on that with a couple of my fears because it is not an easy task; but I’m sure, no, I know, that if I trust in Him, anything is possible. I can’t allow myself to live in fear; I can only allow myself to live my life to the fullest.

Isaiah 41:10
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will  you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:13
For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.