The Hope and Truth Behind a Pretty Picture

Hello Beauties! How are your brave hearts today? Honest: my heart was feeling less than brave this morning. Old fears were trying to steal my brave. I seem to be more susceptible to that on gray days, but I made a quick call to a friend and had a long sit-down with Jesus to be reminded of the truth. There’s no shame in forgetting what’s truest about you, Bravehearted Beauties. Just make sure you fight for ways to be reminded of who you really are. Maybe that’s what you’re doing when you come here. If so, I’m honored to be a truth speaker for you!

Okay, so here’s why I’m here today. I’ve been wanting to share the backstory of what otherwise appears to be just another pretty picture. Because in the backstory, there is HOPE for you in your hard.

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I think we do our stories, our God, and each other a disservice when we post a bunch of pretty pictures without revealing any of the backstory. There’s always a backstory. Does that mean you need to expose all things to all people all the time? Absolutely not. Some people aren’t safe for your heart and your whole truth. And sometimes it’s not the right time. But I think you’d be surprised by how much your truth is needed. If we knew more of the backstories behind the beauty, I think we’d all feel more hopeful in the midst of our own hard.

So here’s the backstory behind the photo that became our Christmas card….

The truth is, I didn’t want to send a Christmas card because JD and I were hanging by a thread. I didn’t want to fake a happy family when it felt like we were fragile. But there’s another truth, too. And that truth is, not one thing about this photo is fake. This is the beauty of my family right in the midst of our most broken place.

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It was a Monday afternoon in December when the girls asked about our Christmas card. They’ve grown up knowing this is what I do. But I told them I wasn’t feeling it this year. That I didn’t have a photo or a word. That it was too late to pull anything off in time for Christmas. I tried to sound hopeful about a “He’s making all things new” card in January, or a “how He loves us” Valentine in February.

But the girls would have none of that. With only 30 minutes of daylight left before the winter sun dropped behind the hills, they changed clothes, straightened their hair and put on some lipgloss. They’re easy for me to photograph, so surely I could pull off a photoshoot in record time if they were this quick and cooperative.

But that wasn’t enough. They wanted the whole family on the card. And not in separate photos as I had done before, but all of us in one photo. What?!?! Did they have any idea what they were asking? Of all times to insist on the whole family, this felt like the worst.

JD was in the middle of a nap, I wasn’t dressed for a photo, and the sun was going down fast. But that’s not the worst of it. The truth is, we were only a few weeks removed from the most painful week of our entire marriage. A combustible combination of reactions rooted in our childhood stories culminated in a week-long separation and crisis counseling. {I don’t want to dishonor or frighten our families. We love them deeply. But we also love the healing and freedom that truth brings. The truth is that childhood trauma isn’t something that happens to all those other people. It happens to people just like you. It happens because we live in a fallen world. And the truth is, unhealed trauma impacts your brain and wrecks longterm havoc…leaving you entirely confused about what’s happening later in life. Please don’t try to hide it or hope that it will go away on its own. It doesn’t. But here’s the hope: the effects of trauma are healable! Your brain is healable! And your relationships are healable! I shared a few resources for healing at the end of this recent post. I highly recommend The Body Keeps the Score for trauma survivors and their families.}

In the midst of all that mess, the last thing we wanted to do was smile together on a Christmas card.

But something about the hope I heard in my girls’ voices felt like God saying, “Trust me. I see things you don’t yet see.” So I brushed my hair, put on some lipgloss, pulled the tripod out of the closet and quickly relearned the frustrating self-timer feature on my camera. All before the sun disappeared.

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And the crazy thing is that we laughed. We smiled. We gathered in close and put our arms around each other. For real. Somewhere deep inside was something stronger than what our marriage felt like in that moment. Something more true than what we could see in the midst of our mess.

As I sat down to design our card the next day, I did what I’ve done for the last 12 years with every card I’ve ever designed: I stared at the photo and asked God for a word. And I heard it as clear as day in my spirit: HOPE. So I typed those four letters right onto the photo and agreed with God. I agreed to hope in what I could not see…to hope in what God sees.

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Hope doesn’t give you all that you desire in one fell swoop. It doesn’t drive out all the darkness and airlift you out of your hard places in an instant. But at the rock bottom of your hard, hope gives you a push toward the light. And on the way up, while things are still messy and muddled, hope is the voice that dares you to believe in the beauty that is coming.

Rock bottom isn’t fun. But there’s this beautifully broken surrender that happens in that place. You stop running and resisting. You stop trying to manage your story and figure things out. You stop hiding your mess, ignoring your pain and denying your desperate need for a Savior. It’s dark at the bottom of a pit. But just when it seems like the lights are out, hope flickers and dares you to believe beauty will rise out of this broken place. 

And it will.

Only a few weeks after Christmas, I had another chance to express the hope that God spoke over our marriage. It was our 18th anniversary. We were on our way to dinner, and I was just so crazy proud of us. I wanted to honor the beauty and the broken, so I wrote this:

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Yes, I shared a cute picture. {It’s the only one we have from the last year. Taken in a picturesque Italian village on a trip where we were both broken and beautiful.} I’m all for pretty pictures. But I also shared some truth. Not the whole truth, but enough to let people know there’s more to the story that what you see. And in sharing that backstory, people find out they aren’t alone. And that, my friends, is what we all need to know. We aren’t alone in our hard.

Today, as I look back on that Christmas card photo, I remember the brokenness. But I also see the beauty. And I’m so proud of both. In the end, your brokenness becomes your beauty. In the end, you will shine like the stars. In the end, hope will not shame or disappoint you. {Romans 5:5-8}

Here’s to HOPE in the midst of your hard.

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  • Niki - Linsey,

    That was good, that was really GOOD.
    Thank you for being so honest, so broken, so beautiful.
    Because this helps ME, to get more honest with me and all the others, less afraid to be broken, and certainly more beautiful…

    In Truth and in Love,


    • Bravehearted Beauty - Thank YOU for reading and responding, Niki. I couldn’t write these things if it weren’t for people like you on the other side. Thankful for you!ReplyCancel

  • Eloise - Wow! I don’t know you, but I absolutely love and admire your honesty. Not only were you brave to honor your daughter’s request and take that family photo, you even rose higher and put your very personal journey and thoughts to words and then hit Post to publish. I often look at family pictures and you are correct, I immediately focus on certain aspects of pictures that I do not have. “Look at them, they are always happy” “They must never fight” “I bet their daughters are always respectful and mindful”. I know every family have their flaws (I know mine, I keep a running list in my mind), but it is nice to be reminded that there is more to a picture than just sometimes forced happiness. Bless you!ReplyCancel

    • Bravehearted Beauty - Eloise, thank you for your WOW and your encouraging words. To read your words right after bearing my heart wide open in public felt like a sweet gift. I wish we knew people’s stories better. I think we’d all see each other with so much more compassion and love. Thank you for reading my raw heart and taking the time to reach out through a comment. Blessings to you!ReplyCancel

  • Amy - Thank you for honesty. Thank you for reality. Thank you for being brave. My love to you.ReplyCancel

    • Bravehearted Beauty - Sending love right back at you, sweet Amy! Being brave is so scary, but I’ve decided that’s the way I want to live. In constant trust and dependence on the One who makes me brave! xoReplyCancel

  • Ardith - Linsey, you are indeed a bravehearted beauty. You shared the hard in an ethical and sincere manner, beautifully worded.

    The body does indeed keep score of every trauma. It seems the emotional scars we bury do more lasting damage than many physical hurts. So becoming conscious of these memories and working to undo the long-term damage is the path to well-being and healthier relationships. Hope is the candle that brings the light.

    Thank you for sharing such a personal journey. Best wishes, ArdithReplyCancel

    • Bravehearted Beauty - So well said, Ardith. And thank you for using the word “ethical” to describe what I wrote. I wouldn’t have considered that word, but I really do want to be honoring as I tell the truth. Praying I always will be. Blessings to you, and thank you for taking the time to encourage me today.ReplyCancel

  • Kathy - Oh, how I need hope for my marriage today. It’s been some really long hard years. Thanks.ReplyCancel

  • Jamie - Linsey- you are what the world needs more of! You are the truth. You are the real that we all live but don’t see in others. In your words, I see me, and it makes me feel not so alone in this era of “perfectness” that is on every Facebook page, Instagram, and magazine cover. Thank you! I only wish I could walk next door to have a cup,of tea with you!ReplyCancel

    • Bravehearted Beauty - Oh, Jamie…thank you! What a kind thing to say the world needs more of me and my real. I was feeling some fear about dropping the bomb in a blog post that we sent a week apart, but am thankful it can be used to encourage others. Believing God will get the glory in all of this…even the broken parts. And wishing I could have that cup of tea with you!ReplyCancel

  • Beverly M - Having been married for over half a century, please allow me to be the ‘voice of experience’ here. Look all around you and you’ll have no trouble seeing many fractured families. We decided long ago that whenever we hit a rough patch, we’d seek counseling and believe me when I say that although we’ve spent a lot of money on that through the years, it’s been a much better investment than paying opposing attorneys. We’ve fought hard to stay married even though we’ll readily admit that at times it would have been much easier to have walked away from our conflicts.

    Your family will be in my prayers. Keep fighting for your marriage.ReplyCancel

    • Bravehearted Beauty - Beverly, what an honor to have you speak into marriage after over 50 years of experience! We’ve spent a small fortune on therapy in the last several years, but I am so with you: I’d rather invest in counseling than spend a fortune on opposing attorneys! I’m so thankful my husband feels the same way and is willing to fight for our marriage. Couldn’t do it without him…or without our faith in a very good God. Thank you for chiming in and for your prayers! I consider prayers from a woman who’s been married over half a century to be a HUGE gift!ReplyCancel

  • Krista - We have such a good, good Father who loves us more than we can even fathom. What an honor it is to read your honest & transparent post. You are sharing what God can do with brokenness, in us individually & in our relationships. He is the one that can heal, redeem & restore when we allow Him to. By sharing your journey you are truly given hope to others, myself included. As a recent married couple that are local dj’s on our Christian radio station say, “there is no healing in hiding”. Bless you for rising out of the ashes to share your story. I will be praying for you & your marriage. God Bless!ReplyCancel

    • Bravehearted Beauty - “There is no healing in hiding.” I like that! And SO true. I heard God whisper this to my heart in January: “Tell your story so I can tell mine.” If He gets glory and I get healing and others get encouragement, I call that win! SUCH a good, good Father.ReplyCancel

  • Kelly George - Thank you Lindsey for sharing your beautiful scars and not being ashamed or embarrassed of the brokenness that we all share. Thank you Jesus that you put band aids, if we allow you, and in result make our scars beautiful.ReplyCancel

  • Pate - LOVE THIS!! Love everything about it and needed to read it. Thank you for being BRAVE!!!ReplyCancel

  • A Walk Through The Winter Woods » Bravehearted Beauty - […] top of my heart today, I want to say THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for your response to my last post. Your comments and emails buoyed my heart. Not only did it encourage me to know that my story […]ReplyCancel

  • Ashley - You are a very brave and your stories do help me and give hope as well. Trauma is a strange thing. As a child I experienced it, yet I was happy, smiley, even keeled and very high achieving. I thought I was a rock and was proud I could carry on so well. Not one person ever guessed my secret. Now in my 40’s it is breaking out in so many places and I realized I just buried my feelings very deep down instead of dealing with them.

    I am so glad you brought up family. I adore my family, do not want to hurt them or expose anyone in a negative light. Therefore, I have shared my experiences to only my husband, one friend and a therapist. I am healing, but still feel do not feel authentic because my outward presentation isn’t the whole truth and never has been. Such a hard line to know how to approach when it comes to trauma and those you care about.

    Thanks for being brave enough to share publicly.ReplyCancel

  • The Beauty of Blackberry Farm + Honoring Sam Beall » Bravehearted Beauty - […] A visit to Blackberry Farm is unforgettable. It’s also unaffordable to most. That fear also kept me from sharing. But if you’re a farm fresh foodie, a beauty hunter, and a detail lover, a splurge at Blackberry Farm will speak so much love to you. JD and I have considered it an investment in our marriage. An expensive one, yes. And we almost ran out of cash in 2015 thanks to massive amounts of trauma therapy and an unexpected fall visit to Blackberry Farm. But in the end, every penny we’ve spent has been worth it to get to this place of hope in our marriage. […]ReplyCancel

  • Alisha - Love this! I love your honesty, and the hope that you have:) There is such freedom in truth, and also our friends/family will know how to pray for us as well. What a privilege it is to hold each other up in prayer, and support one another during hard times:) My thoughts and prayers are with you all.ReplyCancel

  • Christi - Lindsey. I’m exactly four months late to this “party” but I’m so thankful for this post. Your words are so soothing and your honesty is refreshing. I needed every word! I just happened to be clearing out my email and saw old email threads between the two of us shortly after your move from Houston and before my move TO Texas. It’s been a hard move and I am thankful to reaquaint myself with your blog. I will subscribe right now because I don’t want to miss anything else.

    By the way, I keep talking to my husband about Blackberry Farm and making a visit to Tennessee in general. We have a niece that is about to start college out there so there may be an even better excuse for getting out there.ReplyCancel