As you most likely know if you are reading this post, my new book On the Bright Side recently came out. It was to include a foreword by my dear friend Jen Hatmaker. It even said that RIGHT ON THE COVER.
However, my publisher somehow left it out of the book. You would think since her name was RIGHT ON THE COVER that there would have been some quality control that caught this before it went to print, but alas, dear reader, you would be wrong. This is where I take deep, cleansing breaths because I realize life happens, yet Jen Hatmaker was dear enough to write me the loveliest foreword and it got left out of the book.
Here’s why I wanted Jen to write my foreword for On the Bright Side. We have been friends for the last decade. I knew her before her monster success with her book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess that had us all frantically cleaning out our closets and before she’d ever filmed a show for HGTV and before she’d taken all the hits she’s taken over the last four or five years.
She was a delight then and she’s a delight now. But I will tell you – and she would tell you too – that we don’t necessarily agree on every single thing. There are issues that we just view a little differently. For starters, I’m an Aggie and she’s a Longhorn fan. And guess what? WE STILL LOVE EACH OTHER. WE LOOK FOR THE BRIGHT SIDE.
We can still sit down over a glass of wine and laugh and talk about our kids and our lives and fully agree on things like eighth grade being the worst and junior high kids being overly dramatic and our girlfriends being the saving grace of our life and that Hamilton is the greatest thing that has ever been written. I make her pizza crust and pizza sauce recipe at least three times a month. She recently shared with me that you can get already shredded chicken in the deli section of HEB and changed my life. We both believe that Jesus and loving our neighbor are the most important things. And she makes me think about why I believe things and to know where I stand and why. She challenges me to think deeply and I’m better for it. This is the type of friendship that makes the world go ’round. It makes us all better.
She’s a reminder to me that most of us have a lot more in common than it sometimes seems if we just listen to social media. I like spicy and Jen is, without a doubt, spicy. She is a bright side in my life that I’m so glad I didn’t miss.
Here is the foreword she wrote that made me cry.
“I was born to a man who is delighted to RISE AND SHINE every single day of his living life. His enthusiasm knows no bounds. And not just for his four kids, whom he overloved and overvalued our whole childhood, but for anyone. I am telling you right now, he would be equally as excited about your new pair of Nike’s as he was about the first grandkid I produced. It’s all great. All the things are great. Our careers, your new baby stroller, the weather, great. He is still stumped why none of us ended up in the Olympics or the White House as Rhodes Scholars (his theory: “Whoever interviewed/hired/decided on the award is a jackwagon”). If you need a cheerleader, my dad is your guy. We go to our mom when we need someone to tell it to us straight; we go to my dad when we need a clearly biased hype man.
Here is my point: my dad basically invented the bright side.
I found it difficult to escape my dad’s vortex of positivity. Thus, I entered adulthood pretty excited about almost everything. I inherited his big feelings and have been known to over-emote in ways both embarrassing and cringey like the time I threw my arms around Constantine Maroulis’ waist without permission after seeing his performance in School of Rock on Broadway; look, it’s not every day you see the sixth-place finalist on American Idol Season Four just walking down a NYC street.
I like my dad’s approach to life. Is it naïve? Too earnest? Too simplified? Probably. I still like it. I’ve yet to regret jumping feet first into a big, juicy experience or giving the benefit of the doubt or letting my enthusiasm hedge north of respectable. The majority of my greatest memories are located somewhere near the bright side, even when all light appears to be dimmed, for even there, hope lurks.
It is just a weird time to be alive, isn’t it? I have never been so tempted to give in to the beast of despair. I find myself searching the history books for comfort – as one does – asking: Is this the worst it has ever been or no? Turns out life has always been hard and people have always disagreed and injustice has always snuffed out human flourishing. This is, of course, not to say we throw in towel and let the tide of human misery just rush along; we must fight for goodness in a world gone mad. But there is solace in knowing we are simply the current generation searching for the bright side. Our parents did it. Our grandparents did it. Their parents did it. And lo and behold, it could always be found.
A quick word about Melanie. I wanted to bear a meaningful witness of her integrity, so I searched my mental rolodex and found dozens of stories. We’ve been friends for a decade. But I have no more significant example to hold out than this: I am a Texas Longhorn fan and Melanie is a dyed-in-the-wool Texas A&M Aggie, and every single fall, she sends me adorable fashion options in what is arguably the grossest shade in the history of the color wheel (burnt orange) so I will look cute on game day. Now for some of you, that entire sentence was gibberish, but for those who know, please find me a better example of Christian character. I’ll wait. People, she clothes her enemy in strength and dignity, and she can laugh at the days to come. I don’t know if Perry and Caroline are rising up and calling her blessed, but I am sure rising up and calling her for Anthropologie links. This is my sister in arms, and I love her.
As the daughter of a Bright Side Dad, I have a high standard for hope-bearers. I’m looking for a brand of joy that can celebrate the bejeebers out of life but can also cut through loss and pain and suffering. It’s a tall order. It seems so few are up for the task right now. But Melanie sure is. This book will delight you, encourage you, relieve you, and nourish you. Don’t read it in public because #laughter and also #tears. Close the last page then give it to the people you love most. Melanie is a gift to us right now. Play your cards right, and you might also get a grainy picture of her in a burnt orange plaid duster over yoga pants in the Target mirror because come what may on game day, she has your back.”
With great love,