What I'm Done Being Afraid Of

If you're afraid of things, you and I already have lots in common.

And for me, it's not just heights. I can get real freaked out over weather, germs, traffic, water where I can't see my feet, bugs, I mean...there's no end. 

On July 8th, 2017 at 2:15pm I was bouncing up a mountain in the back of a van. All 43 muscles in my face were fully clinched around my death-stare out the window towards the base of the zip line my family and I were headed to. 

It's not the fear of dying. Well maybe just a little. But this particular adventure group has been sending thrill-seekers down zip lines for a decade without so much as an injury. To me, that sounds way safer than I-75.

  • I was at least 80% sure that I would choke.

I would have to embarrass myself and slow everyone else down by declining to jump because I just couldn't get enough gumption to step off the edge of a mountain to dangle at high speeds over a canyon. 

I'm not a brave girl. I don't do anything big. I don't drink coffee that's too hot. I don't take risks. I get real crazy and try a new recipe off Pinterest sometimes but that's a banner day in my house. 

I just don't see myself even as brave as an average person. 

Stepping off the first platform (the easy "warm up" line) was made possible by looking at the ground just 8 feet below me and pretending that I would land softly there instead of flying down the mountain towards a much-higher tree platform. Once I was there, there was no turning back.

My little brother was testing the limits and leaning out over the edge of things and I was sitting indian-style in the tree house, face against the trunk, bargaining with God that I would never make fun of MLMs again and I would agree to take the word "authentic" out of my vocabulary, and that I was sorry for using someone else's Netflix for 3 years, if he would just magically get me out of that tree and back onto solid ground.

If you haven't been zip lining, let me also warn you that the sound a line makes as you zip across it... is brutal. Your zip-clip is metal and the line is metal so the high-pitched metal scraping sounds like the last thing you might hear before being decapitated by a rotary saw. 

The last line was long enough that even with traveling at 65 mph, dangling above the trees, one has time to scream multiple times. Or, in my case, scream once, cry some, do some delivery room style breathing, and then upon arrival, collapse on the ground in emotional exhaustion. 

Back in the gift shop, I realized it was over. I did it.

They could charge a hundred dollars for those t-shirts and people like me would still buy them because I did a thing I never thought I'd do. Immediately I was looking for anyone one their way to the lines to tell them they totally got this.

  • Deciding to step off the ledges

...felt a lot like deciding to walk up to a stranger and introduce myself, or agreeing to attend a networking event with mostly people I've never met, or deciding to move to a new city or visiting a church for the first time or waiting for the trigger getting a new ear piercing, or clicking "publish" on an honest rant or new services pricing, or just asking someone for help. 

Stepping off the ledge, even when we know we're safe, is terrible. 

And I know terrible because I was at a fundraiser once where they played Hey Ya! on repeat until the total was raised.

  • Fear wants to re-write the past and control the future. 

        It sounds like:

"You've never been brave enough to do something like this," &

"You won't be able to slow down or catch yourself from falling so this is disaster."

In the immortal words of The Office character, Robert California:

Fear plays an interesting role in our lives. How dare we let it motivate us? How dare we let it into our decision-making, into our livelihoods, into our relationships?

While I'm convinced my healthy fear of spiders keeps me from dying a spider-poison death, the fears I have related to my own abilities and beliefs that I'm less-of-a-person need to go. 

Do you feel that?

Being afraid to step over a line and operate in your God-given bravery is worth working on. And believe me, you'll live to buy the t-shirt. 

How To Get a Marriage License

     You are almost done planning the wedding and you're coming down the home stretch but the most unknown/scary part of the process can easily be something as easy as the marriage license. 

     We gotta make this thing legal and - turns out - getting a marriage license can be way easier than it sounds. 

Where do I even get a marriage license?

     Court. But not just any court. You'll want to go in the county you're getting married in, and you need to find Probate Court. So, for example, if I'm getting married in Bibb County, I need to Google "Bibb County Probate Court Marriage License" and the first thing that comes up will probably be the web page with the max amount of helpful info, like where in the courthouse you need to go and what you need to bring with you. 

Does it cost money?


Probably less than $100. It's different in every county.

Can I get a discount?


     Good news! If you did premarital counseling you can usually get a 60-70$ discount! How do you do that? Find that probate court website I mentioned in the paragraph above and look for the SPECIFIC FORM you need to print and fill out ahead of time. Sometimes they require you to get that form notarized, so read carefully. 

Do we both need to go to get our marriage license?

     Yes they are going to need forms of identification from both of you, so again, read that probate court website ahead of time.

Also - selfie or it didn't happen!

How should I get my ish together ahead of time...?

Things you will *probably* need:

+ Each other
+ Cash
+ Notarized premarital counseling completion form (if applicable)
+ A little time (sometimes you have to wait a few minutes but not always)
+ Two forms of ID. Just grab that file folder with your birth certif/passport/old highschool ID in it. You probably won't need all that, but can't be too prepared, right? It's like going to the DMV just bring a DNA sample and mail from every residence you've lived in. Kidding. 

     You can find a specific list of what you'll need to bring on your county's Probate court website. And let me apologize in advance for the lack of user-friendliness on most government sites. 

Who signs the marriage license?

     Once you have it in hand, just keep it until after your ceremony. If you have a wedding coordinator - even better! Give it to her at the wedding rehearsal. After the ceremony, your officiant needs to sign it. Bride and groom do NOT need to sign it, just your officiant. 

Once we say "I Do"... is that it?


     Once it's signed by the officiant it needs to be MAILED back to the courthouse. You have to complete that loop by mailing it in and saying, "Hey, courthouse, we got married, can you make this official?" 

     So then they make it official and mail you back a completed copy of the official document. 

     Fun, right? 

    From me and my official other-half to you and your almost-married selves, happy licensing. 



Elena Balkcom

Photo Credit: Britt Croft, Lauren Carnes

One Secret Every Bride Has + A Guest's Critical Choice

I'm 26 and I'm just now figuring it out. I'm figuring out what brides and grooms REALLY want from guests, and turns out, it's not expensive.

You know that feeling. 



An invitation in the mail, another weekend committed. Scrolling through the registry, fingers crossed for an item that costs less than 40 dollars and PLEASE JESUS let there be free shipping because ANOTHER PRESENT...

It feels like it's always someone else's turn to get celebrated, doesn't it?

Wedding, Birthday, Baby, new house, graduation...this is the part of #adulting I did NOT anticipate being SO DIFFICULT. 

And when it's YOUR turn to get celebrated you feel a little guilty because you're desperate for your guests/family/friends not to feel the above, so - is it avoidable?!

Fast Fact: Brides + Grooms spend an average of $30,000 on a wedding of 150 guests in normal little towns and guess what percentage of that goes towards the guests? Something like 70%.
That’s $21,000.


We're terrified

our guests are going to feel like that.

The problem:

Celebrating others can be exhausting, and when it's our turn, we feel guilty. 

The solution:

Well...it's way easier than I thought. 




with those who rejoice."

(Ashton Staniszewski Photography)
Romans 12:15

Celebrating someone else has taken on a whole new meaning since I've watched over 4,000 wedding guests make their way through wedding celebration days. 

We've changed the definition of truly celebrating someone. 

We've made it into showing up in a new dress, taking full advantage of the open buffet, lighting a sparkler and going home. 

Me. I've made it that. 

I go home thinking, "Go me, I celebrated someone tonight."

But I've found a pearl and I think it's worth sharing. 

Celebrating others starts with thankfulness. 

Thankful for their life, their gifts, and whatever good is happening to them right now.

It's as easy as a word of encouragement. It's as easy as a phone call, listening to hear a heart rather than listening to respond. If I pause long enough to get really happy for that person, I'll have a different attitude towards the registry. In fact, I might choose something really meaningful because of it. I'll show up to the wedding with a different presence about me, and it WILL affect other guests (trust the wedding coordinator on this one - I've watched some 4-5,000 guests). 

The other amazing thing that happens, taking on the gladness of another person's heart, is that suddenly the food and the temperature don't matter as much.

*Grace on this though. #Goals to be so selfless, right?!*

Being fully joyful is an inside job. No amount of fancy buffet food can make guests excited enough to celebrate the couple. In fact, sometimes I think the opposite happens. I've celebrated the wedding food before.


Practice on the people at work. Your desk buddy had a good weekend? Ask more questions. Get happy about it on their behalf. 

Next Level Ish...

Peter Scazzero in Emotionally Healthy Spirituality would call this an "I/Thou" relationship. An "I/it" relationship sees the people around you for what you can get out of them: affirmation, attention, a paycheck, etc. But an "I/Thou" relationship sees a person as our creator's handiwork. A vessel of life and light and experiences and gifts. I'm telling you, if you need a summer read...

On the Enneagram test I'm a 2. I am wired to feel other people's feelings and feel them deeply. I'm telling you - I'm built for celebrating others and this is still HARD for me, so let's all give each other some grace on this one, right? 

Who are You.jpg

And, hey...

I'm praying for you leading into wedding season that you will think hard about Romans 12:15 and unlock the joy and the fun that is available to you in empathetically celebrating. Get in their shoes, and dance for their thing.

Got anything to add?

Email me, I'd love to hear it. elena.balkcom@gmail.com