Fighting Forward: a book about living fearlessly in the light.

I found Hannah Brencher’s blog when I was a college student with a broken heart. It was as if she was sitting with me and listening carefully; she knew exactly the words to help me heal. I remember reading excerpts from her blog aloud to a friend in our dorm room one night. She looked at me like I was crazy. I realized she didn’t get it. The weight of these words.

Those early blog posts gave words to confusing feelings I held onto as I sought to grow and heal. Hannah Brencher’s words helped me to find my own voice. Her beautiful poetic prose assured me that God can be found in the words we write; I needed that message. That truth sits with me every day still.

Over the years, I’ve deeply enjoyed growing with Hannah’s works. Some seasons I keep up with her writing more than others, to be honest. But she’s like a Taylor Swift song or the Jonas Brothers. Always there for me.

We’re well past the heartbreak years – praise God – and we’re now in a place of learning how to be disciplined, consistent, and pushing forward into all that God has for us. I’m here for it.

When Hannah announced a new book set to launch, named Fighting Forward, I was stoked. And now that I’ve read it, I can confirm: it’s no coincidence God planned this book for this season.

Divided into sections of essays, Fighting Forward reads like notes of encouragement from a friend. It’s the guide you need to overcome hurdles and start new rhythms. Hannah’s writing is as beautiful as ever, her honesty refreshing, and her practical steps for reclaiming truth and fighting forward are life-giving. Hannah’s storytelling disguised as lyrical, poetic prose will give you the words you need to describe your struggles. Her wisdom will give you to the steps you need to make a change.

I wanted to share with you 3 quotes from this book I absolutely loved, and how they’re carrying me into another week of life and ministry:


“What do I love enough that I am willing to keep stepping into that love when the feelings fade or morph into something I don’t understand just yet?”

Hannah Brencher

Just because my feelings are different now than they were last year doesn’t make the calling any less valid. I’m still in the positions God has put me in. I still have a responsibility to be a loving wife. A humble friend. A patient teacher. A willing writer.

None of these places are new to me anymore. And although the initial excitement has worn off, His calling has not. At the start of every day, I keep showing up to these places. And at the end of the day, I know that’s real love.


“At the end of our lives, I don’t think we will compare to-do lists or stack our accomplished goals in a pile to show off. We won’t even really remember those elaborate gestures so much as we will remember people – what they said to us, how they made us feel, how God used us to stitch fight songs back into the hearts of others when all hope seemed lost.

Hannah Brencher

Note to self: the to-do lists and goal setting are meant to grow you into a stronger person for the sake of loving others better. If all my to-dos and goals are centered on me, I’ll never be satisfied. Everything is used to glorify Him in this life. And His way of doing that seems to be loving and taking care of people well.


“And then you take those small things and put them on repeat. Discipline stacks up, and those results will come with enough time and enough daily application. Eventually, your feelings of being overwhelmed will start to fade and you’ll miss fewer days and all the small things will morph into habits. And those habits will set you up for rhythms. And those rhythms become anthems you know by heart. And those anthems have the potential to power you into such greatness you cannot even fathom right now.”

Hannah Brencher

One of my hopes for this year is to establish a healthy, life-giving morning routine. It can be overwhelming to wake up late to my alarm again and think, Okay, tomorrow I’m going to read, write, pray, and exercise every morning.

Discipline doesn’t work like that. It doesn’t mean immediately waking up into the big things. That’s a recipe for shame and shortcoming.

Discipline is taking small steps every day. She says, “Small things on repeat.” And when you break it up like that, you grow. Change happens. Your brain gets clearer, your body strong, and your will more confident every day.


Because this book is divided up into small essays, I had intended to read a chapter each day. However, I loved it so much I read it over a week. I hope to read it in smaller chunks in the future because there’s so. Much. Here.

You could really read it either way and multiple times and gain new insight from it every time. Hannah writes the depths of truth in a way that is beautiful and accessible to all.

Over the last 8 years of following Hannah Brencher, I’ve learned so much at the foot of her teaching; Fighting Forward is no exception. She is a master storyteller, preacher of truth, the friend to sit with you over coffee, and the cheerleader to help you go for that first run.

If you’re in need of a pep talk. If you need to be reminded that you have a purpose that does not require your perfection. If you need to kickstart healthier routines and rhythms. If you want to be assured that the hurt you feel isn’t wasted – these words were written for you.

Grab a pen and a notebook. Be ready to mark up this book. It’s a good one, and exactly the message we need to propel us into living on mission in 2021.

The Enemy Didn’t Win This Round

What I Would Have Told Myself Yesterday

Sometimes your 1st graders will ask you to hang out, so you’ll say where and they’ll say CiCi’s Pizza, and you’ll say when, and they’ll say Saturday morning.

You’ll think it’s crazy, but you’ll commit to it.

So when you show up on Saturday morning – promptly at 10:30, the exact time CiCi’s opens — the girls will be waiting in their apartment complex parking lot. They’ll be wearing their African and church dresses with puffer, winter jackets to protect them from the wind and sprinkling rain, even though it’s over 70 degrees. Their faces will light up when they see you. They’ll wave and run to your car, probably because a part of them feared you wouldn’t show up.

And before you know it, after checking in with parents and exchanging phone numbers, you’ll be buckling in 3 girls in booster seats in the backseat of your car. You’ll struggle, because goodness, can a car really hold 3 booster seats side by side? You’ll struggle a little more, and the girls will clap for you when you finally hear the click of the buckles. You’ll wonder how parents do it every time.

It’s only a 2 minute drive. Close enough to walk, and you probably would have walked if it wasn’t rainy. When they ask on that short drive over if they can roll the windows down and how much pizza they can eat, you’ll be so happy to tell them, “Yes, and as much as you want!”

And as you have a contest to see who can eat the most, you’ll play iSpy and teach them the words written on media scattered around the restaurant. They’ll ask you questions about life, and you’ll hold onto this moment, already excited to share these memories with them when they’re older.

You’ll be sad when their tummies are full, and realize it’s time to go back home. When they say on the drive to their apartment, “Ms. Brianna, are you driving us to Africa?” and giggle, your heart will break a little because they’re so little and have already been through so much.

What I’m Telling Myself Now

Really? This is crazy. I can’t believe I get the privilege of walking with little ones, with the unwavering hope that they will rise with resiliency into remarkable adults one day. Going to CiCi’s Pizza is a big deal, and not something they get to do often. I really can’t believe I get to be the one to stand in the gap, and do that for them.

But to be completely honest: it’s hard. This is my calling. And yet, a lot of times I don’t feel like going. I face inwardly, struggling to look through someone else’s lens. I just don’t want to go. I didn’t work it in my budget. My to-do list is long. Looking ahead, and knowing that these little moments have the potential to love these kiddos to a stable adulthood – it can feel hopeless.

I usually have to pep talk myself, and ask the Lord to help me. He does, every time, and I’ve never left disappointed that I chose to give time to my kids.

It’s no surprise to me that I can’t love or serve well without God. That – I’ve known that for a while.

However, what I’m also learning is I can’t love or serve well without people.

Those booster seats? Given to me by mommas who didn’t need theirs anymore. When I called on help to become more accessible to my students, women stepped in and offered to literally just give me theirs. Within minutes, I had enough seats for my car and to share with coworkers striving for the accessibility.

The idea to go in the first place? God giving my girls the courage to ask to hang out. I don’t know why they want to hang out with an “old lady” like me, but I’m glad they asked. This is not my work; this is Christ at work in me and my students to help us build relationships.

Encouragement along the way? My incredible coworkers who consistently give so much of themselves to their work and our kids. They are walking testaments of the power our Father can weave through us if we show up, trusting him to provide our way. I look up to, and model much of my work after them. They are my wise counsel, and the ones I strive alongside.  

And the motivation to go when I’m tempted to stay? Certainly born out of a prayer from family and friends who have surrounded me, and shown interest in my work. Undoubtedly, this is the answer of a God who has been faithful to both hear and act.

Go, But Not Alone

Do something today. Anything. Because we know that the enemy loves to rip us from sweet moments. He knows that by tempting us to stay away from the things we love – by filling us with exhaustion, fear, worry, and honestly, lack of motivation – that he has blocks us from loving what we love to love.

It’s so stupid. Don’t fall for it. Do the thing on your heart, the same one that you are the most least-willing to do today, knowing that it has been planted for a reason. Don’t reason your way out of it. Show up. The fruit waiting for you on the other side of it is so sweet.

We won’t make memories with our fast-growing 1st graders that make us eager to tell their older selves about this time together, if we don’t commit to going to CiCi’s Pizza in the first place.

And believe this: you need people to serve people.

Don’t go at it alone. You’ll go so much farther if you choose to invite people in. Let them give you booster seats. Let them pray over you. Let them ask question, and be patient enough to answer. Stand humbled and in awe of those wiser and admirable around you.

It’s hard to serve and love well; it’s even harder to do it alone. There’s more to say. But the best, most simple thought I have for you on this rainy, cozy Saturday is to let people love you as you love people too.