An Open Letter to Socality Barbie.

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Dear Socality Barbie,

I broke the Chemex coffee maker this morning trying to take a photo of it. It’s dumb to even ask why I was trying to document the experience– I wanted people to know that I’d gotten up, made my own coffee, and was now preparing to conquer the first Monday of the fall in a flannel. Why else would I need the perfect morning lighting and my cellphone at 6am?

The cone of the Chemex cracked as I abruptly hit it against the kitchen cabinet and watched the spout shatter into three thick pieces. My dad got my mom the Chemex for their anniversary. She looked at me and blinked twice like, “Why are you even taking a picture of this?” Now I have to buy her a new coffee maker before I fly back to Georgia on Sunday.

Now not a single soul knows how authentically I managed to live this morning with my coffee and my journal and my bible. If you felt like your day was missing something then it was probably that photo. Happy to solve the mystery for you, Socal.

But do you know what happened after the glass cracked this morning? Life moved forward without the documentation. I sipped my coffee. It was still good and piping hot. No one was made better or worse because of some inspirational caption I planned to pair with a photo softened by VSCO Cam. I tasted real life for a second and it felt pretty foreign on my lips. I wrapped myself in a blanket and a little bit of conviction for this day: why is it necessary to obsess over making life look perfect for the others? We all know it isn’t. Why does the charade play on until something breaks? Glass or a heart, why can’t I actually show you my real mess?


You weren’t made to have my actual, day-to-day mess.

It’s you and a couple hundred or thousand followers who are not equipped for what happens when my junk actually hits the fan. You and I both know it, Socal: the day you get drunk and verbose, leave Ken, and act like an angry train wreck with a megaphone on all your social media streams then people on the fringes won’t want you anymore. It’s harsh but probably true. Ken’s friends will unfollow you. You’ll figure out if Skipper isn’t just some Judas with long hair and high heels when she goes after Ken like hot bait.

So manage your mess, Barbie. We want a mess we can monitor from the people we follow. We want honesty without the bruising. We want the kind of pain that is digestible and won’t disturb our days. The day you use social media as a megaphone for your pain– the kind of pain latte art can’t touch– people will leave you.

Some people will start talking in their circles the day you start to let the anger and the rant statuses flow. They will start psycho-analyzing and putting the pieces together from a safe distance. They will take social media and turn it into a soap opera, sigh out of relief as they say, “At least I’m doing better.” But when did tiny glimpses of our lives– cropped to perfection– become the measuring stick for who is doing better and who is doing worse? When did life, and managing to live it, become a competition and a comparison? When did we confuse the real with fake and the fake with real?

My mom thinks I’m being a little too cruel to you, Barbie, seeing as you aren’t really “real” but I reminded her of all the times people manage to say, “Well, that person was fun to follow until that happened.” And we all know what that thing was.

Point is this: we want you right now, Barbie. We like you right now. You are doing something awesome and managing to make some really great puns of out of posed coffee shots and #liveauthentic hashtags. When you are doing something awesome people will always want to claim you and tag you. When you are making life look easy then people want to follow you.

Social media is in the DNA of our relationships now.

It scares me to say that but it’s true. I wanted to see how a friend was doing the other day and I clicked into her Instagram. I checked her off my mental list without even using the phone in my hand to perform the task it was always meant to do– dial and hear a person’s crackly voice on the other line, find out they’re okay. I know how damaging that action of mine was. I know because I sat across from a friend last winter, in the thick of a depression I chose to name after a city because it was just that wide and just that big, and I heard them say to me, “From the looks of social media, you are doing just fine.”

Them saying that, it broke my heart. It broke my heart to think that, because I had white walls in all my pictures, it meant there was no longer a reason to reach out and ask if I was really doing okay. Socality Barbie, I am so afraid to check people off my list because of surface level visuals. I am so afraid to find out, too late, that I needed to ask “how are you” before someone died inside and no one could get to them.

Please don’t hide within the cracks of the exposed-brick breweries and trendy tiled coffee shops you find. If you are lost, pick up the phone and call someone. If you think you are about to lose someone (and yes, there is a gut feeling for that), pick up the phone and call them. Ask them four words: are you really okay?

We save lives everyday when we just manage to speak up.

This whole letter might be a terrible waste.

Maybe your life is as perfect as you portray it to be, Socality Barbie. In that case, congratulations! You beat us all with your plastic lattes and trendy hiking boots. Regardless, I hope you find something real today. Something tangible and intangible, all at the same time, that you would skip the act of documenting it just so you could live inside it for a little bit longer.

I hope you spot a rare, soon to be extinct, moment. And I hope it’s all yours- no need to share it. Maybe it’s the smile of an old man who is going to leave this earth real soon. Maybe it’s a piece of a mail from a friend you used to be able to trace the scent of when they showed up in a room. Maybe it’s a single dance from a cute stranger at a wedding who makes you feel like you’re the most beautiful thing in his orbit.

Either way, I hope you feel known.

I hope you feel picked out and chosen.

I hope something grabs you so hard, shakes you so good, that even the notifications can’t touch it.

You’re not fake, Socality Barbie. You– like the rest of us– are probably just doing the best you can within a world that wants to trace and tag every tiny, beautiful piece of itself.


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Writing & speaking as a career.

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Over the years, many readers have asked about my career as a writer, blogger + speaker. I think it’s time I wrote a post answering the most frequently asked questions. Enjoy, sweet ones. I look forward to many more honest posts like this one.

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Did you always want to be a writer?

Always. It was my grandmother who started telling me, when I was only 7 years old, that I was going to write books. She was going to see my name on bookshelves one day. The way she believed in me planted something inside of me and I started writing as much as I possibly could. I wrote novels. I would avoid going out to play with the neighborhood kids because I was too busy creating. I had a neighborhood newspaper every month where I would interview the neighbors, write articles, photo-copy it, and then deliver it to their door.

When the internet became a thing, I was a frontrunner as one of those original website creators. I think I was 12 or something. I would give hair and makeup advice to other teen girls. I taught a slew of pimple-faced teenagers how to kiss boys, even though I had never kissed a guy myself.

I didn’t write much in my teenage years but I was incredibly hardworking and motivated to create and I think that goes even farther being a good writer. Me being a good writer is a God thing. I never took a writing class or worked to develop my craft. What I always needed to keep developing (and still need to) is my character: the way I discipline myself, how I approach others, the balance I keep between work and life, the way I treat others. There’s no way I want to pin such a big chunk of my life to writing about humanity and then not be a good human at the end of the day. That would be a pure let-down.

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So how do you become a better human?

I stick close to my bible. I apologize when it’s necessary. I try, daily, to swallow my pride. I do my best to learn people’s names. I push myself towards decreasing little by little every single day. I am not a perfect human by any means. I drink too much tequila sometimes (sorry mom) and I don’t know how to take care of a garden. I want to curse out Sallie Mae on a daily basis and I get hangry sometimes. All is practice, all is process.

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When did you start your blog?

I created my blog is November 2009 during my senior year of college. At the time I was the assistant editor for our college’s newspaper and I was writing a column called “As Simple as That” twice a month. My friends kept pushing me to start a blog as a spin-off of that column but I honestly had no interest in blogging.

In 2009, blogging was becoming the biggest trend out there. Everyone was convinced they could become a famous blogger and make a ton of money. I was told by numerous people that in order to “succeed” in the blogging world I would need to have a niche, whether that be fashion, fitness, food or something else. But I just wanted to write about life and heartbreak and how hard and beautiful this whole humanity thing could be.

I created a blog and started writing about my life and was honestly so repulsed by it. That blog page lay dormant for a few weeks because I just didn’t care to tell the world about my love for yogurt or college escapades. Blogging about my life felt self-absorbed. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of friends who really thrive with lifestyle blogs but I didn’t want to be a blogger at the end of the day– I wanted to be a writer.

Making that distinction– the one where I decided to whole-heartedly pour myself into using the blog for writing practice– was the best launching pad for me and my writing career. It allowed me to snag bylines for magazines. It allowed me to guest blog all over the internet. It came me street cred and told future employers that I was both committed and dedicated to my little corner of the internet.

As for what I decided to write about? I got real and then I only wrote about the things I actually cared about. People. Life. Falling in love. Mainly my blog was, and continues to be, all my thoughts on growing up and getting through this “adult” passageway. It was supposed to fail miserably because there was no niche for my blog but luckily, in the last few years, there has been a surge in my kind of blog– a blog that features vignettes and column-style posts. I like to think I was ahead of the trend on that one and it made all the difference.

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So you make a ton of money off your blog?

No, that would be a myth. I can honestly say I don’t make any money off my blog. For a long time, and still today, it’s just never been a space for that. I could have chosen to go the route of advertising or sponsored posts but I have never wanted my life to be dictated by numbers, metrics, or the need to get comments.

Trust me, I played the blogging game hard when I first came on the scene. Blogger etiquette would be that if you visit someone’s blog and leave a comment then they come back and leave a comment on your blog. Check out some of my posts from 2010– up until about August or September– and you will see a massive amount of comments. That’s simply because I was building my readership by commenting on a lot of other people’s blogs.

This works. If you want a lot of comments, it works. But I don’t think that for my life it was a sustainable practice. I found myself being so consumed with readers and getting more comments that it sucked the joy of blogging away from me. From that summer on, I decided I never wanted to do anything to compromise the joy I got from my blog.

As for money, all my income comes from speaking engagements, being a spokesperson for various brands, writing books, and taking on freelance copywriting and consulting projects. I buy my coffee every morning because of these budget sheets.

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Favorite thing about blogging/writing?

The readers. Absolutely the readers. I love responding to emails and getting big chunks of human hearts in my inbox. It’s my favorite thing ever. Humans are so freaking cool and I am just honored to be the person that people think to send an email to after a first Tinder date, a friendship break-up, a diagnosis, or a big loss. Going through life with people– whether I’ll ever meet them beyond a screen or not– is what I was made for.

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Least favorite thing about writing/blogging?

People can be insecure. And rude. And mean. And they manage to take it on you. For a while, I had one individual who went so far as to create a blog site for how much he/she hated me. It was really nasty writing and it made me want to quit.

You have to have thick skin to be a writer. You have to get over yourself and be willing to take the good hits and the nasty punches. They will come for you at every angle. I don’t think any writer comes out of the ring without bruises from the critics.

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The writing industry talks a lot about the importance of “growing a platform.” What are your thoughts?

Platform is your presence on the internet. There really is no way of getting around it. While I don’t think you should give your whole life to growing a platform, it’s important that you give people a way to follow you as you grow.

Personally, I hate the term “followers.” It’s amazing to me that I even manage to have 1 followers because I really am not a person who deserves to be followed. I’ve abolished that word though and I would prefer to call anyone along for this ride with me a “reader” or “someone who is willing to show up at 2am at a sketchy diner and eat pancakes with me.”  can’t tell you the last time I checked on my blog metrics or email list. It’s not that I don’t care about who is reading, I just don’t need to pat myself on the back for growth. God will do what he will do. He has taught me in the last years that it’s not about the big numbers, it’s about being faithful with whoever he brings to me.

My biggest pet peeve is when people go to follow me on a social media platform and they immediately make a comment about my number of followers. It’s not about that and if you want to make a big stink about how “big” your following is growing then you aren’t in for the right reasons probably. Wanting to have a lot of eyes on you is a slippery slope. I think it was Beth Moore who said that people crave a human worth worshipping and it’s wise of us not to deliver. That’s why we see catastrophes in the news like the Duggar debacle and the Mark Driscoll scandal– I think we invest too much energy in worshipping our own man-made altars and we forget that humans are always and often going to fail us.

Last thing I will say about platforms: just be real. We need real people. We need to know what your heart actually thinks and feels. Don’t imitate. If you find yourself comparing too much to other blogs and accounts then stop reading and following. Save your soul.

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How did you get into speaking?

Speaking was an absolute miracle/accident from the very beginning. I never would have been able to tell you that I was going to speak. But I think I held it inside of my heart for a really long time and I was too afraid to tell anyone that I wanted to write and speak because I thought they might think I was stupid and naive to want that path.

I remember standing in a church one night, nearly a year after I moved away from New York City, and I finally gave it up to God. I whispered into the air, “Okay, I want it. I want to write and I want to speak. I’ll do whatever you need me to do.” It’s not that God can’t honor our prayers without us even muttering them but I think he might take great delight when we finally get honest and just admit that we’ve wanted something all along.

Several days later, I got an email from I was a finalist for their Global Talent Search. I’d sent in a 60-second video to them months earlier and completely let go of the dream when I clicked the “send” button. Turns out, they wanted me in New York City about a month later.

I practiced. I stuttered. I stole a mail crate to bring on stage with me. I nearly vomited as they were mic’ing me up and I honestly don’t think anyone in that audience who worked for TED believed I was actually going to pull it off. I was a nervous mess and had to rewrite half of my talk the night before the audition.

Executing that talk as perfectly as I believe I could have done it at that stage in my life is one of the biggest accomplishments I hold up to God and give him credit for. I came off the stage and one of the TED producers grabbed me. She was crying. I was crying. It was absolutely the best night of my life and that had nothing to do with giving a TED talk, it had to do with overcoming a fear I’d let grip me for far too long.

Unexpectedly TED took my audition and put it on their website in November 2012 as a TED Talk of the day. I was absolutely floored and there was no time to brace myself for the changes that were about to come my way– an agent, a book deal, and speaking engagements all around the country.

Thanks to TED, I was propelled into the speaker circuit. I am by no means an expert, I am simply figuring it out as I go. I travel several times a month to colleges, universities, conferences and events. I tell my story and speak on the power of presence, intention, and being real and rooted in the digital age.

Me speaking on a stage every week is proof that God exists and he plans to use the ones he knows won’t have a choice but to give him all the credit. I can’t take credit for being able to speak– an anxious girl like me should never be capable of that. But he does immeasurably more with our weaknesses than we could ever imagine.

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You went self-employed in 2012, what did you do before you worked for yourself?

I was in the field of Human Rights. I really thought I would give my whole life to that.  I worked as the New York representative for a NGO at the United Nations my first year out of college. On the side, I was a preschool teacher in the Bronx, a freelancer for New York Moves Magazine, a fitness blogger for several platforms, and a researcher for my favorite nonprofit She’s the First.

I’ve never not known how to have my hands so completely full with lots of jobs.

After the UN, I took a job on the PR Team at Save the Children. I moved to Connecticut and started writing press releases, working with the news, doing interviews, and managing our team of interns in both Connecticut and Washington D.C.

It was during that time at Save the Children that More Love Letters started and then blew up. It was nothing I planned for. After being at STC for a year, it started to become evident that I needed to look for a freelance position. I was 24 years old and I had this company getting larger and larger everyday. It was the time in my life for me to leap.

I went self-employed in July 2012 and worked as a content manager for Danielle LaPorte as a I gained traction. During my time of working for Danielle, I built up my speaking resume and signed with a literary agency in New York City. I only worked for Danielle for about 6 months but I learned unreal amounts of wisdom from her. She was the jumpstart for my journey and so I try to pay it forward and be the jumpstart for others.

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What are some of the hurdles of being self-employed?

People have this misconception that all people who are self-employed do is sit in coffee shops and cry over feelings and eventually evolve into coffee snobs. That’s not true.

I go to an office every single day. I pay the rent to be there. I am the farthest thing from a coffee snob and would prefer the stuff they sell at the gas station over anything. I cry a lot, sure, but I am extremely diligent and I work far more than I probably should. I have struggled with a lot of balance issues and, if it was possible, I would absolutely date my work. I would make out with my work. I would marry my work.

But I realized about a year ago that I was an extremely uninteresting human when you finally got me into a date setting and I needed to get some hobbies. In order to make room for hobbies, I had to start setting boundaries and more balanced work hours.

When you are self-employed, you are your own boss. You make the rules. That can be a blessing but also a curse. You have to figure out all that health insurance stuff and retirement things on your own. I still don’t know a thing about any of those things beyond the fact that I picked Geico for my car insurance because that dumb, little lizard won me over.

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How did you find your literary agent?

She actually found me! On the day my TED talk went online! And boy, did she pursue me. We met up in coffee shops and had hot chocolate dates and she wrote me sweet notes and gave me books. She was everything I hoped and prayed for in a literary agent– someone who would work with me, protect me, cheer for me, but also someone who could be a friend to me. Mackenzie is all of those things. I honestly cannot imagine my life or my career without her.

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What was the process of writing a book like?

Painful? Excruciating? Agonizing? The best experience ever? All of the above?

The four months I was given by my publisher to write my first book were an absolute whirlwind. When I wasn’t speaking at some college or conference, I was holed up in a hotel room or my office writing words until long after the sun went down.

Writing that book was like enduring an all-day workout every single day. It was painful and it demanded much of me but it made me a different human. It pumped me full with life. It helped me shed off a lot of weight I was carrying about my past and I was thankful for the process in the end. I can’t wait to do it again soon.

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So are you writing a next book?

Yes, absolutely. But I am taking the time to live as well. When you write a book, everything in your direct radius gets arrested by that work– your relationships, your health, your time, your resources. I am mentally and physically preparing myself at this time to go into the long-haul for book number two.

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What advice would you give to aspiring writers out there?

Just start. Don’t wait. Don’t wait for the moment when you feel inspired or ready. You will be waiting forever if you are looking for that “ready” feeling. I really have no mercy in this area.

Commit to the craft. Whether it’s 15 minutes a day or three hours a week, commit to the craft and let it know that you are planning to take it seriously. There a million and one people out there who can claim they are writers but a writer is simply someone who writes. Consistently. Against the odds. Even when they don’t feel like it.

Writing is not, and never will be, a sexy dream job. It barely pays the bills. It demands all the emotions. It hurdles you into awkward conversations. It makes it terribly hard for you to date people because they will constantly be thinking of how you plan to write about them. It leaves you with dirty hair and a brain that forgot to shower for the last week. It’s overwhelming and it’s brutal but it will make you feel so damn alive. From that first byline to that first glimpse of your name on a spine, it’s all the alive you’ll probably ever need.


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The Elvis in the room.

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I met a woman just the other day who had a pretty stealthy obsession with Elvis. If I ever claimed to be infatuated with the King in my earlier years then I am sorely mistaken and sorry to have claimed that. I could not even hold a lighter to the massive Elvis candle this woman was burning.

She had tattoos. A car. A jukebox in her basement. She named her child after Elvis. She brought Elvis into numerous conversations during the solid 7 hours that I spent with her filming a video for a brand. If Elvis hadn’t been worked into the conversation yet, she was finding a way.

The only time in the span of the whole day where we didn’t talk about Elvis was when the camera man was interviewing me and he requested that I looked directly at the woman, directly at the producer with the Elvis obsession, and talk to her instead of the lens.

The questions got deeper and deeper. We went there.

I could have chosen to stay stuck on the surface but I kept looking into the eyes of that woman and I could see some sort of pain and hurt. It was like I could trace holes inside of her that she was never going to talk about. Or maybe she would. I don’t really know.

She was crying, tears dribbling down her face as I said to her, and only her, “It’s okay. You got up today. You got up today and so it’s okay.”

In that moment, I wondered about her, and God, and Elvis.

People always say it’s best to acknowledge the elephant in the room when we see it and we can call it by name. Friends, there was an Elvis standing in the room that whole day. And even now, there is a Elvis standing between you and me– something I have wanted to write about but have been fearful of the outcome.

It’s time I brought it up.

There are holes inside of me. Let’s just start there.

I feel them. Sometimes they feel bigger. Sometimes they feel smaller. But I’ve tried to be a hole-filler for a really long time. And trust me, I have tried to fill the holes with everything but a weighty and spiritual God-man.

After years of practice, here is a semi-extensive list of things I’ve realized do not fill the holes:

  • guys.
  • guys who text back.
  • looking to the mirror like it’s going show me something different.
  • alcohol.
  • Netflix.
  • Gilmore Girls (I’ll come back to that one).
  • carbs.
  • guys.
  • gossiping so that I can feel bigger.
  • rules.
  • restrictions.
  • people you text to just stay distracted.
  • dating apps.
  • compliments.
  • accomplishments at work.
  • accolades.
  • “likes” and “retweets.”
  • followers.
  • guys.
  • shopping.

That’s a long list of hole-fillers and I’ve managed to blow through the whole lot of them (some two or three times). It’s like there’s still this hopeful naiveté inside of me that one day soon one of these above things will hold. It will work for me and I won’t need God. I’ve tried to work this formula for nearly 5 years and for the longest time I was just plain disappointed to find that only God was supposed to fill those holes.

It says in Jeremiah 29:13, “Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.”

That whole scripture used to disappoint me. I didn’t actually want to get to the place where I wanted God more than anything else. That place seemed boring. I feared it would turn me into the type of person who chained herself to flag poles and did weird stuff in the name of Jesus. I have never wanted to live a life that was strange or set apart. I don’t like coloring outside the lines that much. I didn’t want God if he wanted me to be different than the world. I loved the world too much and the empty applause it gave me so I gave my leftover affections back to God.

I would say my life started going drastically downhill on October 1, 2014. I can mark that date on the calendar because it is when the rest of the world started flipping out that Gilmore Girls was now available on Netflix.

I’d never watched the series before but it seemed easy enough to slip my life inside of— a mother and a daughter just trying to wade through the waters of prepubescent boys, family issues, and survival with a domestic twist. I think sometimes Netflix series with a lot of episodes are just a really long and winding distraction to keep us from facing our junk. And that’s exactly what Rory and Lorelai helped me do— they helped me avoid myself and all the symptoms of depression that were coming on strong like a tidal wave.

I would go to my office space on Friday and Saturday night. I would light a candle and try to spend time with God. The bible would stir nothing in me. I would give up after 15 minutes. And then I would reside to my swivel chair where I could pretend that I was the second sister to Rory, taking my coffee black from Luke, while waiting for my mom to come through the door of our favorite coffee joint in Stars Hollow. That’s what I loved about Rory and Lorelai— they were always reliable. You could always count on the coffee being fresh in each episode. They didn’t change their plans or becoming wrecking balls– no they always managed to stay pretty predictable. They always made you feel welcome, even if from behind a screen. To me, Rory and Lorelai were more reliable than God.

Some of you have emailed me and have either loved or hated the fact that I’m writing more about God. Honestly, I cannot help it.

I want to be really honest about this topic because I can still remember so clearly, 5 years ago, when I sat at the kitchen table in my dorm apartment and gave God a pretty stern talking-to. I was in the midst of finding him and he was starting to move the pieces of my life around but I didn’t want to talk about him. Maybe I would talk about him in person but I was definitely never going to be forward about God on my blog.

In my eyes, God was controversial. He was offensive. He was an easy way to lose followers who didn’t want to read your words cloaked in Christian rhetoric. I’d personally been turned off by people who were way vocal with their faith and I didn’t want to speak too loudly about God that I, in turn, turned people away too.

I cared more about followers than actually following something with my whole life.

Still, to this day, I don’t want to turn people away. There is an anxious little people pleaser forever burning in the core of me no matter how much I try to wipe out her embers. I, like everyone else out there, just want to be liked and accepted. But something has shifted for me recently. Something has happened that I cannot ignore: I’ve finally accepted that God is bigger than me.

He’s just bigger. Maybe that’s not surprising to you but you would not believe how long it has taken me to push myself aside and actually figure out how to stop jamming God inside my back pocket.

This morning was the first time, in my entire existence, that I was able to look at the bible and say, “Okay, God, you’re big. You’re far bigger than me. You’re enough for me.” 

It’s crazy to admit that, after being a Christian for nearly 5 years, this is was the first moment in my faith walk where I actually felt like God was bigger than me.

The God of the bible is not half-hearted and miniature. He isn’t a God that is cool with a fraction of you. He wants More on top of More with an extra side of More. He wants that thing you hold on tightly to because you are so afraid he won’t deliver. That’s the way me and most of my friends used to see God: we were told to love him and so we tried but we were still so afraid that his love was fickle and changing like New England weather forecasts.

But honestly? Why give your whole life to it then? Why give your whole entire life to God if you are afraid of him, if you think he isn’t good, if you think you can do better than him? Why worship a God that you made? What’s the point in that?

I’m only asking all these questions because they are the same types of questions that roared through my brain in this last season of life: do you actually know God, Hannah? Do you actually want to keep giving your whole life to this if you don’t even know it’s real?

Here’s what happens when you actually sit down to get to know a person better– you actually meet them. You figure out if they’re real. The veil drops. You learn about them. If you are smart, you ask questions. You can approach God with the same mindset of a journalist– he’d rather you dig for the details than take his sound bites and run.

As I sit with God daily, I am learning that he isn’t intimidated by me. He isn’t afraid I am going to enter some locked room in the house that we don’t talk about. He just wants me to give up the fear. Leave the fear at the door.

Someone reading today is on the verge of giving up. I know it. I can just feel it because I see it and I understand it every single day: it’s easy to want to give up. It’s brave to stay. It’s even braver to stay when you don’t know if God will pull through for you, if you don’t trust him but you’ve wanted to for a really long time.

So here’s a prayer. It’s simple and it’s not wordy. You can say it beneath your breath in a coffee shop and no one is gonna look at you strange. It’s a prayer I prayed this time last October and it set my world upside down: If you are real, God, then be real. Be real in my life. I can’t fake this any longer.

You might meet God tonight. You might meet love tonight. You might meet a person who is even cooler than Rory Gilmore (and Rory Gilmore is really freaking cool). And all that being might ask of you for tonight is to place your armor down, quit fighting the fear so much, and just love someone hard tonight. Hard.

Loving someone should be hard and active, not easy and passive. When you sign up to actually love people– no fakers allowed– then you sign up for a life of runny noses, awkward car rides, hugs that last too long, pauses that demand no noise, and admitting you were wrong. If you want to actually love people then you have to be willing to be wrong.

Love is forgiveness. And it’s atonement. And it’s basically like putting your soul in a washing machine– it’s not some gentle cycle, it’s a fierce whipping that rings you out good.

It makes the stains fade.

Best of all, it fills the holes.


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Sam, will you go to prom with me?

Dear Hannah

In almost all of the blog posts I’ve read, you always write about how God spoke to you and helped you when you felt lost. You talk about him whispering revelations in your ear and sending signs like the spiders.

I’m not a religious person. I don’t go to Church. I don’t get on my knees and pray. I believe there’s a God in a superficial way, like how we say ‘oh my god’ and ‘please dear god don’t let me fail my exam!’

When I was going through a tough time in my life a few years ago, I turned my head to the sky and just started cursing at him. ‘Why do you let these things happen to me? What did I do wrong? I hate you for doing this’

I know now that it was wrong to blame him.

Recently, I had to make a difficult decision. I say difficult, but really, it’s quite superficial. I didn’t know whether I should seize the day and do something that would be uncomfortable but possibly worthwhile, or, whether I should just sit back and wait for the boy to come to me.
I asked God if I could have a sign of what I should do. I thought about your blog posts, and how God gave you epiphanies, and I asked if I could have the same

No one whispered in my ear and nothing fell out of the sky. But I did get many people telling me to just go for it. So I did. It was nerve wracking and made me want to throw up because of all the adrenalin flooding through me. But I did it

I have yet to find out whether it was the right decision, but all I want to know is- how do I know if God is talking to me? How do YOU know?




The other night I was driving. It was close to 9pm. I was sitting beside someone I really, really care about. I am sure you have that type of person in your own life, A. They make words hard to fumble with. They’re the person you want to call after they’ve just left you because you spent the whole car ride home coming up with a dozen more sentences just so you don’t have a reason to say goodbye so fast.

And I will always remember how full the car was with questions that night. Tears streamed down my face. It was dark outside. The yellow lines in the road were more pronounced than ever.

I wasn’t crying because of anything this person did, I was simply crying because I had this overwhelming sense that the words playing over us– coming through the speakers of the car– were actually true.

Love laid its breath against my chest
My skin was thick but You breathed down all my walls

Hallelujah Oh hallelujah
I found Your love when I lost my heart to You

I can’t really describe the moment at much more than that, A. I didn’t hear God audibly. No part of the car ride was interrupted by a booming PSA from the heavens above. But something within that dark car prompted me to pray to myself, “Be in this car. Be in this car.” I could feel some sort of thick presence. It grew stronger and stronger.

I have to believe prayers open doors where we cannot. I have to believe that a prayer of only four helpless words might be better than a long and stringy one. When my prayers are at their shortest, I believe God has more room to come in and breathe into the spaces where I am lacking.

I replayed the song on the way home.

Hallelujah Oh hallelujah
I found Your love when I lost my heart to You

I just am a sucker, like the rest of the world, for getting found.

“It looks like it’s time for you to get lost,” the text message read.

It came in this morning after I’d vented out all my frustrations to my friend Nia about the walls I keep hitting in preparing for the second book. Lucky am I have to have a friend who knows that the remedy for not being able to find the words is, instead, finding a place to get lost for a little while.

“You’re right,” I replied. “Where can I find the woods?”

Not even an hour later, I was walking through some trails 25 minutes outside of Atlanta with a backpack on my shoulders, my notebook inside, a flannel tied around my waist, and my hair knotted into a bun because I couldn’t find an elastic.

You see, when some people are stressed they seek solace in the gym. Nature. The beach. A reliable view of a city skyline that never dares to change on them. I release and unravel fully when I go off into the woods and I can get a little lost.

I like to find the maps posted in the ground along the way. I like to find the “You Are Here” dot.

Today, when I checked for it, the square blue dot that was supposed to help me see where I was had faded off the page. There was no indicator of my whereabouts. I just had to pick a trail and keep on walking.

I walked beneath a bridge. I noticed these pillars with letters drawn on them. One said R. One said O.

I stopped, pulled back, and noticed that there were four pillars with a letter etched out on each one. They spelt out P-R-O-M. One bigger pillar in front of the four had scripted, “Sam, will you go to prom with me?”

I stood there for a minute surveying the grand gesture. I thought about taking a picture but chose not to. I know prom-posals are a big deal now. I actually don’t remember if my boyfriend even asked me to prom or we just assumed we would go together but now there are floats and big productions and students trying out-do one another. It all leads up to this one pivotal high school memory that is either the “best” or “worst” of all time, or just supremely average. As for me, I will honestly have to tell my children one day, “All I remember is that I looked like a hooker (my mom should have never let me wear that dress) and the chicken tasted like rubber.”

Back to Sam and her epic prom-posal…

I don’t know Sam. And I don’t know the person who went through all that trouble to ask Sam to prom but I have to believe to that it wasn’t easy for them. Just the location of those pillars, at the top of a steep and rocky hill, was difficult to get to. The letters were massive. The energy exerted is definitely commendable.

For a moment I just stood in Sam’s shoes and I was thankful that someone, somewhere, decided to make Sam the center of their universe. I think that’s one of the most special things to see: when someone makes someone else feel like they are the only one.

I had a girl just the other day tell me over Skype that she isn’t big into faith and God but she likes to put her faith in humanity some of the time. I had to agree with her. For as faulty and messy as we are, humans have this commendable capacity to choose one another in deliriously great ways. It’s one of the most beautiful things to witness. One of the best restorers of hope and faith.

So I can only imagine that Sam, in that moment, didn’t feel like an accident. She probably didn’t feel forgotten about. I’m willing to bet Sam felt really chosen.

I’m willing to say you’ve wanted to be chosen too, A.

I wonder if you are anything like me, A. Anything like a girl who for so long let her questions and her anger get in the way of God. Anything like a girl who, even if God was screaming at her, she would have never heard him because God speaks in a language of love and she only thought the bible was a language of rules and “get better & holier” attitudes.

I think sometimes God just whispers, “chosen,” and we only have a view of him that makes us hear, “less than.”

As I kept walking into the woods, I could not help but invest too much energy into Sam and her prom date. Did she have a good time? Did that person win her heart? Are they together still? This one, elaborate gesture on a pillar was making me plot out the existent or non-existent history of Sam and her prom date’s love story in my mind.

And all I could think to myself was that I hoped her prom date knew that big gestures are cool– just like big signs from God– but it’s the little stuff that will win a heart and grow a person’s trust in you.

It’s little choices. Little moments when you decide to fight for someone. Saying it anyway. Doing it anyway. Showing up. Figuring out how to say. Opening a door. Sharing a secret. Pushing past a barrier. Letting someone in.

I think this all becomes the sort of evidence you could place on the table of a court room. If the evidence was good enough– strong enough, recorded well enough– then a jury would be convinced of whether or not a person chose to fight for you.

A, I don’t know you. You don’t fully know me. And I am sorry if I ever made it seem like I was hearing God audibly all the time. There have been times when I have that undeniable push in my gut and times when I have felt a whisper. But at the end of the each day, I am just left to account for and record the evidence of when I felt like God had fought for me. When I felt like he stepped out on a limb to get to me. When, even in my suffering, he surrounded me with people to lean into.

I, too, have screamed up at God and asked him why he would allow something like “this” to happen. But I already know the answer: if I was a whole person, if I wasn’t someone prone to suffering and falling out of my own faith, I would not need God and I would not need people.

And why create us– why even be here– if we don’t need one another to push into tomorrow?

A, whatever you chose to do, I am proud of you. I think you made the right choice and I am usually, always, the advocate for taking the route which makes you feel like you are going to vomit. It’s not the easy way but it makes you feel alive.

I think God wants that too. I think he wants us to make choices and feel alive– as opposed to dead and exhausted by this world– at the end of the day. I think he wants us to open up our eyes to the little moments and find a way to treasure those.

Not every moment with God comes with a prom-posal. It just doesn’t. It doesn’t always come with a whisper either. Sometimes there are just moments where you feel okay. Or you feel at peace. Or you whisper to someone holding your heart, “I don’t have all the answers.” And it’s a safe place when you both can agree that there are no answers pulling one of you ahead of the other to win this race faster.

This is not a race. This is not a fight for fireworks or whispers. This life is just a collection of evidence that a fight took place, if you ask me.

You won’t hear him all the time. You might not see him everyday. But please still look for the evidence. You still standing here, somehow making it, is good evidence to start with.

tying you closer than most,



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The rain you can’t control.


Today is Sabbath and I am trying, with everything in my being, to walk it out.

I’m not a Sabbath type of girl. If I am not hustling then I really don’t know what to be doing. I spent the first 5 years of my career being allergic to the concept of rest. I first started to see this as a budding problem when I really didn’t have anything to talk about besides work. More than that, I started to see that work was a cover-up for me. A safety zone. Something I could hide behind to keep people from getting too close.

2015 has been a year where I have come at my ugly roots with a weed wacker. And, as a result, I’ve been learning to rest. And break. And figure out what makes me happy.

So today Sabbath looks like me wrapped in my favorite reliable flannel (though the thermometer is sweating at nearly 90 degrees), sipping tea on my countertop, and writing words without a word count to aim for. To me, this is space is not work. It’s life-giving.

I’ve always prayed to God about this little corner of the internet, “God, don’t make this space one where I need to perform. Let it be a place where you are louder, I am smaller, and, through this language, people realize they’re capable. More than capable… brave.” He has kept me at my word.

He has let me come here, day after day, and not worry about metrics or reader stats or ads. Just the practice of writing.

I get a lot of emails from people asking about my writing process. What it looks like. How long it lasts. How I know when I am finished with something. Mind you, you’re hearing from a girl who used to (and sometimes still does) apply rules to everything. Ask me these sorts of question three years ago and I would have only given you a polished answer. That’s all I gave people for a long time: really polished things.

Now my answer to the “writing process” questions can be summed up fast: write a ton of words. When you feel like it. When you don’t feel like it. ESPECIALLY when you don’t feel like it. When you are hormonal. When you are sad. When you are heartbroken. And after first dates. And always after the moments where you find yourself pausing and saying, “I really don’t want to forget this.” Write those moments down. You will forget.

Don’t just write a ton of words. Write a ton of crappy words. Write letters of closure to old boyfriends. Rewrite the Psalms in your own language. Do whatever you can to make the words come out.

I used to believe in Writer’s Block because it gave me a really good excuse to not be writing. You can tell anyone, anywhere, that you have Writer’s Block and they will understand. They will nod their head and agree with you.

There is no blockage, friend. The “block” that writers talk about does not exist. At the very least, the writing process is like learning how to drive a standard vehicle. There is a great deal of preparation before you even start moving. Once you do start moving, you are likely to stall out. A lot. But, with every stall, there is a chance to restart the engine and try again. Eventually you will get to first gear. And then second. And then third. You’ll be cruising.

I am willing to bet that not many stall out and then decide not to restart the engine until 6 weeks later when they feel inspired to try again. You restart the engine because there is a place to go. You stall out and you keep going.

The same practice of determination should be applied to writing: you stall out and you keep going. You stall out and you pick up the pen again because there is a place to go. The day you stop seeing your words are created to transport someone somewhere else, you might as well quit.

At the center of every writing day for me, there is an hour I spend walking. It’s arguably my most productive writing hour of the day and I write nothing down within it.

I leave my phone behind. I bring no distractions with me. I give myself a purpose in that one hour: drop off the mail at the Post Office. I could easily drive to the Post Office but something happens as I walk. I think. I write things in my head. My brain has a chance to breathe and detach from the empty space of a word document. The pressure to always know what comes next. 

The walk to the Post Office is 1.6 miles. I weave around the neighborhood after I drop off the mail. That’s an extra mile. And then I walk back. In total, I am walking at least 4 miles a day.

My route is usually always the same. I trot down Metropolitan. I snake up Eastside. I stop by to see my friends at Brother Moto. I greet the homeless on their benches along Glenwood. I visit my old house on Blake. I pass by Newton and shoot up Van Epps. 

Three days ago, I was walking and about to turn down the road that would get me home the quickest. Clouds were forming. I could tell it was going to rain. But something inside of me told me to keep walking. I felt it coming on strong, “Keep going.”

I thought to myself, I don’t know the way if I keep going. It’s not a route I am familiar with. But I listen– because I believe in hunches and gut feelings– and I keep going.

I bob down connecting streets for a while, really unsure of where I am. The clouds are still collecting and it begins to sprinkle. I keep walking because I have no other option. I don’t have a phone. I have to trust that I will figure it out. I will find my way.

Eventually, and pretty quickly, it is pouring. The rain is coming down hard, and harder, and harder. I am drenched. And it occurs to me that this is probably one of the first times I have involuntarily gotten caught in the rain. We talk about dancing in the rain all the damn time but every time I have danced in the rain, it was because I wanted to. Because I planned it way to feel the spontaneity in my lungs.

I’ve never been placed in this spot before where I must keep walking, and I must keep going through the rain, because I have no other choice. All that surrounds me is the houses of people I don’t know. The trees can’t shield from this kind of rain. This is the hard rain.

You and I both probably thought this would be a piece on writing and it turns out that the real superstar of the day is rain.

Rain. The rain you can’t control. Just one of the things you cannot control in a world where we love to be dictators to whatever our hands get to hold. In that moment, I felt the freedom of having no control. No direction. No GPS to bring me home, just the assurance in my gut that I would get home eventually.

I would be soaked. I would be muddy. But I would eventually get home because, after all, it was my gut that told me to keep going in the first place.

Keep going and moving and pushing into the places where you don’t know the way, it said.

If you always knew the way, if you always knew the words that would come out of you when the pen hit the page, then where would spontaneity and grace and failure and dependency get their runway? If you want spontaneity, you must give it a catwalk. If you want something new to happen, you must sacrifice the maps. If you want real direction, you must let go of the thing inside of you that knows it would take all the credit when you finally found your way. Pride isn’t a canteen meant to fuel you as you go, it’s a journey killer. Pride will dehydrate you. It will take you down.

When I finally get home, sopping wet but skin glowing, I take no credit. I feel lighter knowing that it wasn’t my control– my need for everything to be polished– that brought me back to my door. It’s never the control, it’s always the moment you surrender to something else mapping the way.

I stand at the door and I wonder why I worry so much. I always make it home eventually. Even with the rain.

Arguably, there’s never been a time where I got so lost but never found my way. I am always, somehow, found– regardless of how much or how little I try to control the journey leading up to that point.

I don’t remember when I turned left or when I turned right. The details fall away quickly.

I only remember that thing in my gut as I wash the rain my hair, that thing in my gut that pulled me when it said, “Keep going, even when you don’t know the way.”

photo cred.


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Stripping down.

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It’s Friday night and I’ve been curled up on my countertop for the last four hours researching minimalist blogs.

Minimalists fascinate me and my roommate is out on a date. My best friend and I sat on the couch and waited for her to be picked up just a few hours ago. We watched the guy show up at the front door. I definitely creeped him out when I told my roommate I would be spooning my boyfriend, Jesus, when she got home tonight. Because that’s the advice people give you after a breakup: date Jesus.

I just want to be completely honest and say that I have never understood that sentiment. I’ve really tried to be on board with the idea of dating the elusive savior but I don’t know how you a) date someone you can’t touch b) date someone who has a Holy Spirit sidekick/counterpart and c) ever get over the fact that your boyfriend took away the sins of the world. You’re never going to be the impressive one in that relationship. You’ll always be dating up. Out of your league. Maybe that’s the point?

Either way, I’ve never been able to tell someone I was just taking the time to date Jesus. To this day, Jesus and I have not dated. Not yet.
All that was really to say this: I told my roommate that by the time she came home tonight I would officially be a minimalist blogger.

As she got ready for her date I’d rattled on to her about how I was going to create an anonymous blog on minimalism so I could write mysteriously like Gossip Girl about the need to clear excess out of my life. For approximately two hours I had plans to pour myself into this new blog for the rest of my career and go by name of “Mini.” I was pretty certain this was my calling– the reason God put me on this good, green earth. I would eventually sell all my belongings and move to a tiny house in the middle of New Mexico. A rugged man would show up at my door and he would, appropriately, also be a minimalist. Forever we would live off the land and blog on occasion about our 16 minimalist children. We would eventually start our own society. There would even be a mayor to make it all legit.

I should comment that, more than being a minimalist, I am a bit of an extremist. My closest friends would tell you that I preach baby steps but I don’t know how to follow them all that well. I am an all-or-nothing sort of girl.

I always want to create something new. I always want to wipe the slate clean. I always want a fresh start. I never thought that could actually harm me more than it helped me.
“Why do you want to be a minimalist?” my best friend asks me. She sits on the couch beside me ordering a Dominoes pizza for herself.

I tell her the truth I know so far. All my life I grew up with a father who never knew how to let things go. He is a hoarder. We make jokes about it but there is a full attic, basement, garage, an old van, two sheds, and a storage unit to prove that he doesn’t really like to let things go. Each is full to the brim with items, I imagine, he thinks he might need to use one day. His mother is also a hoarder. I’ve never once stepped inside of my grandmother’s home but I know it is covered in newspapers, coupon cut-outs, and packets of Saltine crackers.

I’ve never dug deeper with my father on why he chooses to keep everything (absolutely everything) that comes into his orbit but I imagine, if he is anything like his daughter, then he is scared to be left wanting. He is scared to be left needing. He is scared of the moment when he no longer controls the circumstances and so he makes it his agenda to surround himself with things he never has to let go of, at least not on his watch.


“I want to be a minimalist because I am so tired of how I have manage to live,” I tell her. “I always say I’m going to change something and go back to the same habits a week later, whether it’s food or fitness or boundaries. Minimalism is about getting rid of enough things, just enough for you to realize that things were never really the point to begin with.”

For me, it is not even an excess of things. It’s an excess of people. Emotional baggage. I like to be a collector of scars and bruises. I like to be fully stocked with all the ammo I need to always tell a good story. I like to be busy. I love distractions because they keep me from getting too close to myself. I am a hoarder when it comes to fear. My dad might have spaces full of lamps and old coffee tables but I have a heart that is stacked with layers of anxiety that God will give up on me.

I’ve hung around with humans enough to know that we all carry the DNA of control freaks and it just manifests in different ways. For you, it might be things. It might be relationships. It might be a place on the map you’ve worshipped for a little too long. Whatever it is, you’re probably capable of investing your hope in things that don’t hold. I guess you don’t ever think a star on the map or a wardrobe can break your heart the way a human can. Isn’t that what we are all aiming for deep down? A little less heartbreak? A little more safety?


In the last two weeks I have pulled away from social media a lot. I’ve been hyper-sensitive to it. I got my heart broken. I’ve cried a lot. Over the Duggars. And Jared the Subway guy. And Ashley Madison.

But there have been victories too. More victories than heartbreak, I would argue:

I began a Whole30 challenge seven days ago and I am seven days separated from all grains, processed foods, sugars, and alcohol. I feel amazing. I have so much more energy.

I meal-planned the entire week and actually stuck with it.

I handed over the passwords for my social media accounts to my best friends so they could monitor them while I took a step back.

I’ve gotten to step back and ask myself what I feel like doing. The result of that was watching every morbid and crazy documentary that I’ve been wanting to see on Netflix.

I made muffins for people I loved, while frying bacon and eating kale. It was the most “adult” I’ve ever felt to this day.

I used said-muffins to lure a grocery store clerk into the aisle with me and give him a mini lesson on the unnecessary ingredients we are consuming through processed foods (which I learned from a documentary on childhood obesity). I think he was a little terrified of me and told me politely how he didn’t want to know what was in his hotdogs, he just wanted to keep eating them. I have high hopes he will be an advocate one day soon though and he will probably save the food industry.

I am in the thick of a bible study on Daniel and I feel God standing with me in it. Daniel and I have a lot in common– we are both on some ridiculous diet that only lets us eat veggies and we both think the world is pretty jacked-up.
I started a workout group with seven other girls in my neighborhood. We’ve managed to meet six times in the last 10 days.

I filled three bags of clothes to the brim and took them to Goodwill.

I am doing everything and anything I can to wipe out the excess. The baby steps are adding up.

“What should I name my minimalist blog?” I ask her.

“Can’t you just blog about it where you are?”

“No,” I said abruptly. “It can’t bleed into this blog.”

“Why not?” she asked. “It’s you, isn’t it?”

I don’t have an explanation for why I felt like I’ve only been half of myself on this blog lately. I haven’t even written in a few weeks because I have nothing perfect to offer you. You can’t wait on perfection to arrive before you start offering what you’ve got to the world.

So here’s the truth of me for this moment: I am making my life better. I would like to write about it more. I am surrounded by so many amazing people and I am figuring out how to actually kill the rulebook that lived inside of me like a compass for so long. I am trying to really dance it out with God instead of some rigid slow dance where I pretend that everything feels intimate to anyone who asks me. I think you need my honesty, and I need yours, more than we need a perfectly polished blog post on grace or whatever.

Grace, I am learning, is seeing whatever mess I am standing in right now and then forgiving myself for not being perfect within it. It’s figuring out how to be okay with mess. How to clean up the mess so it doesn’t come right back. How to break habits. How to actually, really, finally build that life I want.

This world is full of so much “fake” and “getting by”- I want to be real and okay. Real and way better than okay.

“I don’t think you need to create another blog. You have a place to write already,” my best friend says to me. “It’s easier to start something new, to start all over again.

It’s harder, but better, to redefine what is already there.”


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Take me to church.

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Last night I attended the church of the kitchen floor.

It was me and a handful of my girlfriends all curled up into one another. The episode of the “Bachelor in Paradise” stood paused in the background. We had managed to move 6 or 7 boulders out-of-the-way before we even pressed “play.”

Admittedly, this is why we have gathered for the last year. We have gathered— all thirteen of us— every Monday to watch girls and guys pass out roses. It’s cheap television but we’re still hopeless romantics. We laugh. We crack jokes. We let no other occasions touch Monday nights on the calendar. This is sacred— not because of the roses, but because of the community it took us two seasons to build.

We built community after every episode. Between every commercial break. Within every group text. And now, a year later, we gather on Mondays for one another. We wear sweatpants and we don’t bother putting on makeup if the day wiped it off. We are unapologetic when we get to one another and we are ready to admit bruises from the last seven days. Sometimes nothing heavy happens beyond a few guys getting sent home in a limo. And then sometimes church spontaneously combusts on the kitchen floor.

It’s a beautiful and hard thing when you are able to look around from grief-stricken face to grief-stricken face and realize that this is church. This stuff is church. At the end of a Monday that has sucker-punched us and won, we are a bundle of questions. We are a thread of unanswered beings. We are anger. We are misunderstanding. We are resentful. We are pained. We are wanting someone to drive home. We are hoping someone else will come back to life.

We’ve invited God into this place on the kitchen floor. We are reading promises from Isaiah with tired voices. And this is church. This is the church I can attend without feeling like I need all the answers and all the perfect things to say within a world that is hard. Often too hard to stand inside of without falling to the kitchen floor.

I am a regular attendee of the church of the kitchen floor. Admittedly, I sometimes sit there more than I sit in pews.

Monday beat me yesterday.

It wore boxing gloves and it managed to ravage my insides before noon.

I worked as much as I could. I went home. I sat wrapped in a sunshine-yellow blanket, crying to my mother, and read pretty words on grace. I wondered if my heart had fallen from my chest in traffic and I would have to go search around East Atlanta Village for whatever was left of my left ventricle. I ate french fries that I wished would grow arms long enough to wrap me in tight and spoon me.

My mother is 16 hours away from me. But she is still the constant I’ve needed her to be. She waits. She lets me bellow. She lets me curse about adulthood. She answers me simply, “Less words, more work.”

That’s what she tells me: less words, more work. Cry your tears, pick yourself up, and go back to work. She isn’t talking about spreadsheets. She isn’t talking about articles. She means the kind of work that is expected (but not actually acted out by all humans): the work of being Jesus to people. The work of being the church.

This is why I love my mother. One of many reasons. She is never going to preach Ben & Jerry’s ice cream at me. She’s going to remind me, “If God breaks your heart then hallelujah. Hallelujah— you’re finally relatable and not so puffed with your own pride that you miss the others.”

Just a day earlier I agreed to participate in a survey about the Western church.

The qualitative research nerd inside of me swooned. My undergraduate years were crammed full with research. I was ready for this person’s questions up until I wasn’t.

With a microphone dangling next to my lips, I didn’t have nearly the amount of answers about church that I thought I would have.

I’m sure the individual conducting the survey meant well but the questions asked were invasive. They were blunt. They carried an agenda that I could not quite put my finger on. They pried into dark rooms. I would argue that half of the questions had very little to do with church and maybe that’s what they were going for. I don’t really know.

But when it was over, when they stopped recording the conversation, all I could do was get into my car and weep as the lights turned red and green all the way to the Westside.

I cried out in pain, screaming “what the hell” prayer on God over and over again. What the hell. What. The. Hell. What. The. Hell.

Anne Lamott believes there are three essential prayers out there:

“Help,” “Thanks,” and “Wow.”

I’d add one more: “What the hell.”


“Why?” Better yet, “I can’t even.”

I feel like I could pray the “I can’t even” prayer seven times before dinner.

There are so many instances in the world today that permit the “what the hell” prayer to be used. It’s my way of saying to God and the ceiling, “I don’t get it. I don’t understand it. I don’t know what’s the point. The point of this pain. The point of our ignorance. The news we watch. The cruel things we do.  I can’t even, sweet Jesus. What the hell do you want me to do?”

God is big. I think he can handle the moments when all I want to do is scream and cry and sniffle and say, “God, if you orchestrate apologies then I hope you are planning a big one.”

My doctrine doesn’t say that God apologizes. My doctrine has a lot of questions that leave themselves unanswered. And where I think it all goes wrong? When we start looking for answers more than we sit in the questions— and all the grey of them— with others.

I don’t care how much black and white data you want to gather, life starts when you can no longer fill the grey area of someone’s pain with your faulty existence.

Maybe that person will get all the data they need but I see too many broken hearts on a daily basis, too many people already bruised by church, to know that tactful answers to the culture’s questions won’t help or heal a soul.

If someone you love dies, you are never going to thread through your issues on abortion to make it better in that moment.

If someone you love leaves the family without a note, you are never going to need a debate of sexuality and the church to mend your heart.

The church was made for the broken-hearted.

The church was made for the ones of us with different questions: How do you put your faith in God? How do you pray? How do you know God is even here? Or good? I need a church that teaches me to say, even when I don’t fully believe it, “And if not, God, you are still good.” If not, you are still good.

If you take this away from me, I will still follow you.

If people beat me down, I will still follow you.

If I am left broken and broke, single and alone for the rest of my life, I will still follow you.

Teach me how to follow something— when life kicks me to my knees and makes me cry out “what the hell”— and I will actually stay. Teach me how to follow, and I will stay and figure out how to be your light.

The year is 2015-

We have enough questions and angry Facebook rants. Enough anger. Enough pain. The media is full of wanting the church to answer questions. We all get a little cray with our megaphones and character counts. And I rarely ever speak up but I have to say this- the God of the Bible didn’t grill people on their political stances. The Jesus of the Bible didn’t sit and wait for someone to sit and hash out their sins to a jury of their peers. The Jesus I read about had one simple question and one command to follow it:

Do you love me?

He asked that three times to Simon Peter.

Do you love me?

Not, are you perfect? Do you never sin? What is your view on sex outside of marriage? What is your view on homosexuality?

These questions will never lead us into an answer that can actually help a hurting world where people feel scared and unsafe and already not belonging.

Do you love me?

That’s the simplest and question: Do you love me?

And if you love me— if your answer is “yes”— then feed my sheep. That was his command: Feed my sheep. Show up for my people. Listen to their stories. Cry when you need to. Step away when you have to. Give until it hurts. Until it breaks you. Until you think you can’t go on any further. Stay in the mess. Stay in the trenches. Look for the holes. Dig in the deep end.

Feed my sheep. Stay up through the night. Get them breakfast. Meet them at diners. Sit in their questions. Give them your shoulders and your tired arms. You are not the answer. And you cannot save a person from their darkness but please don’t ignore it and act like it does not exist.

Stay up. Wait for them. Just wait. Be a light that is still on when they finally come home.

Everyone comes home eventually.

We’re all just wondering if someone will leave the light on for us when we finally start to find our way back.


Filed under God

Drop the mic & go find Sarah.

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“What were you like at 20?”

Her text came through this morning in the middle of my writing hours.

I had to pause. Walk away from the computer. Find a space on the floor where, if you sit in just the right spot, the sunlight will flood through the window and cover your knees like a soft, thin blanket.

I honestly haven’t given much thought to who I was at 20 years old. That was seven years ago. I was a junior in college.

I responded to her text with a bunch of scenarios:

When I was 20, I had my first internship with the city’s newspaper. I wore high heels and strut around the campus center like I was really important— an absolute boss.

When I was 20, I was enamored with a boy who would read me Walt Whitman poetry at 2am and then take me for walks around campus at 4am. I wrote poems about him. I haven’t written a poem since him.

When I was 20, I was a perfectionist. As much as I would like to write that I was free and happy and spontaneous, I was really wrapped tightly into rules. I was dying for the approval of others. I had to look perfect at all times. It was a front & a facade. If there was a position at stake, I had to get it. If there was a grade to be made, I had to make it.

When I was 20, I had a lot of questions— most of them revolved around God. I wasn’t in the mode of trusting God, or actually even liking him. I was a bit angry about the amount of “hurdles” people seemed to place in front of the prospect of getting to God.

But I know I prayed big prayers. I know I prayed on more than a dozen occasions, “God, if you give me a voice then I will use it. If you give me something big to take care of, I won’t let you down.”

When I was 20, life could not move fast enough for me. People could not love me hard enough. The world could not understand me well enough.

I wanted more responsibility. I wanted more purpose.

“Does that help?” I type back to her.

She digs deeper.

“What was it like for you the summer before your senior year of college?”

“The best summer I’ve ever had,” I say. “I met my best friends. Last time I felt really known up until now.”

She goes on to tell me that everyone she knows is either engaged or moving into houses with roommates. She says that when she runs into the people, they just look at her like they expected more out of her.

“I’m not engaged or married,” she says. “I’m not even in a serious relationship. I don’t even have a person. I’ll graduate and probably still be living with my parents.

It’s 2015: the year nobody wants to be in love and everyone owns a selfie stick. And I’m starting to think the two are kind of related. We are stricken by the fear of missing out.”

This girl is wise. I cannot imagine people looking at her, at the age of 20, and thinking, “What happened to you?”

Why are you not married? Why are you not swallowed up in white and flowers and bridesmaids by now?

I have to be starkly honest:

Singleness has been the single hardest thing about living in the South.

It’s not the heat and it’s not the religion— it’s the pace in which life moves down here. If I was in New York City people would give me at least a few more years to be single and figure it out. In New York, we often pick career over spouse. We pay a ridiculous amount of rent for an incredibly small space. Dating apps are actually incredibly useful, not overly stigmatized. Life is a collection of Chinese takeout and conversations at 2am on someone’s rooftop where we keep plotting to “change the world.” 

In New York City, you explore a lot of religions. You meet a lot of opposition. You learn to be accepting and open and real. You mess up and you pair up and you break up and you grow up.

This isn’t a slam on geography or culture, it’s just my verbose & romanticized way of saying: some people think its incredibly tragic that I am 27 and still single.

And honestly? I finally think it’s beautiful.

It’s taken me nearly 7 years to finally be content with a naked left hand. I can tell you this though: at age 20, I made a sacrifice. I would make the same sacrifice at the age of 22 and 24 and 26— the choice to be alone and to be single instead of taken. The choice to invest everything I had— every hour I could— into the generation rising up.

To invest in a generation, you need to be willing to make sacrifice. It’s not like God came to me and was all like, “Boo, you have to be single (Paul-style) if you want me to give you big work to do.” Never. But I realized I only wanted a boyfriend to plug up some bottomless hole inside of myself. Just in the way you are not a lifeboat, someone else is not your hole-filler. Stop taking all the good job descriptions away from God.

I’m learning that the right person won’t make you want forfeit your whole being. The right person will make you want to grow into your whole being. The right person makes you want to fill up the space you once apologized for.

By the age of 24, I was the girl in the airports that old people pitied.

They thought if I was spending so much time in airports then there was no chance I could be in love and traveling and still be giving so much of my time to my work.

“There is no way you have time to be with someone,” they would say, looking at me with disdain. They probably wondered about those lonely, double-bed hotel rooms in Baltimore and Buffalo more than I did.

But by the age of 24, God was giving me everything I prayed for when I was 20. He had built my character, and my faith, and my capacity up until that point. He was handing me plane tickets, big stages, book deals, late night diner trips with strangers, and signings. More than anything– though I didn’t see it at first– he was handing me a chance to be with his people.

People always want to talk to me about the big crowds and the glamorous parts of traveling. These days I smile and say, “All of that matters until you meet a Sarah. It is lonely but it still matters until you meet a Sarah.

After you meet a Sarah, none of that “status stuff” matters any longer.”

I met Sarah at an awkward youth conference where I was speaking.

The kids didn’t really smell good. They had bad attitudes. I felt deflated on stage because that’s what teenagers can sometimes do unintentionally: make you feel like the least interesting creature to ever be placed under bright lights and given a microphone.

I came off the stage to find her waiting for me. Sarah, that is. Before I could even catch my breath to say anything to her, she was rattling off every shortcoming she could name: “I’m not good at this… and I hate myself for this… and one time I did this… and it made me feel this way… And I self-harmed last week… And sometimes I don’t think I even want to be here.”

She looked down a lot. She fidgeted with her hands. I think she was waiting for me to look in the other direction and walk away.

Instead, I grabbed her shoulders. I drew her in as close as I could. I whispered into her ear with the loudest whisper possible, “Sarah, you’re okay. Stop looking for a reason to not be okay. You got up today. You’re right here. You’re okay.”

Sarah broke instantly. She crumbled and was suddenly in my arms sobbing. I didn’t know what else to do but hold this stranger and rock with her for as long as she needed me to hold her and rock her. 

I don’t really know how long we rocked for. I lost track of time. In that moment, nothing was an accident. Not my singleness, not my geography. You learn really quickly that nothing is an accident when you just show up. 

And then came the broken hearts in New York City. The redemption stories in Cincinnati. The broken dishes in Los Angeles. The unrequited love tales in Seattle. The questions of identity in Boston. One girl in Minnesota cried as she told me that she finally discovered self-worth on a Fall day while wearing her favorite red sweater. The mother of a child who tragically passed away held my hands in Michigan and thanked me for the love letters we sent her in her time of grieving. A boy in Southern Alabama told me it was a letter from me— mailed back in 2010 at the height of my depression— that was one of three letters that would save his life.

At the age of 27, I have spoken in rooms with only 15 to arenas of over 20,000. I’ve been on over 100 stages. I have stayed after to talk with hundreds of college students. I have enough experience to confidently say this: we are all looking for the same thing today. We all want to belong. We all someone to see us. We are all so hopeful that our lives will not be an accident. We struggle with the fight that exists between God and culture.

Culture screams, “Be big! Be bright! Be front! Be center! Be the one on fire!”

God proclaims, “Be small. Be patient. Be humble. Find your place on the back-burner. Drop the mic, this isn’t about you.”

The things I worry about the most when it comes to my generation?

That we will somehow fall too in love with the glory that comes with being “liked” and “retweeted” and “shared.” My fear is that we love and hate ourselves too much, all at the same time. My fear is that we never learn to speak or find a voice because the culture is keeping us on some treasure hunt to find the Missing Pieces. The spouse. The house. The relationship. The child. The next step. The promotion. The job. The education. I could keep going.

My fear is we’re distracted. We are all just scrolling idly through the streams, hungering and searching for the Missing Pieces. We all miss chances when we are digging ourselves into the trenches of self-pity just because we think we should have found someone by now, lived somewhere different, accomplished more.

What if you are missing no pieces and you are simply missing people?

What if you are missing Sarah? What if you are too distracted to just see Sarah today? 

This I know: God doesn’t orchestrate accidents.

He isn’t looking at your life right now and thinking, “If you just tried harder, I would have moved more. If you hadn’t fallen for him or gone for her, I would have loved you more.” That’s not God, that’s simply the lies in your head that you so graciously bestowed with a microphone.

You don’t need a plane ticket to rescue a heart.

You don’t need be someone’s “person” to be complete.

You don’t need a house with a yard to prove you’re worthy of taking up space in this world.

The person with the home often wants the love.

The person with the love often wants to do the rescuing.

The person doing the rescuing often wants the home.

We all like greener grass. We all could have part-time jobs when it comes to worshipping the greener grass but God’s gonna do what he’s gonna do, regardless of our attitudes.

You could let him lead though. Open your hands. Take your foot off the brakes, or the gas, or wherever you’ve got it placed out of fear. You could learn contentment in the way you learn the details of a boy in a coffee shop. You could stop thinking about accidents so much— where you could have gone by now, who you could have met by now.

You could go your whole life convincing people that they, themselves, are not an accident.

Or you could do the work to see that you, yourself, are not an accident.

Your questions— not an accident.

Your geography— not accident.

Your darkness— not an accident.

Your pitfalls— not an accident.

Your relationship status— not an accident.

There is nothing accidental about the fact that you’re still here.

So come matter here. Please, come matter here.

There are Sarah’s who need you– they need you to pay attention long enough to see them just so you can tell them they’re okay too. We all need to know we are okay. We all need to hear the words, “Me too. I feel that way too.”

So please come here. Please drop your mic.

Drop the mic and go find Sarah instead. 

Tell her she’s okay. Just tell her she’s okay today. 


Filed under Uncategorized

An open letter to Joe.

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It’s been a year since I last saw you.

It’s been nearly two years since we met, since you came right up to my table and told me you liked me. You didn’t know why but you liked me but there was some sort of light to me.

In that conversation I found out you were 77-years old. You came to that coffee shop everyday to laugh and talk with your gang of friends.

“If I were your age, I would date you,” you said to me. “I would see exactly what I had and I would not let you go… Some boy is never going to let you go one day. He’s going to be the lucky one.” 

I didn’t know it then but I know it now: you were reassuring me. You were finding a way to tell me, “Don’t lose heart, child. You get to fall in love one day, just like the best of them.”

“What do you love?”

I remember you asking me that question first.

“What do you love?”

No one ever asks that sort of question. We ask each other “what do you do” and “what do you want” and “what is your plan” but we never stop long enough to just seek out of the love in one another.

“Words,” I blurted out instantly. “I love words. Nouns. Verbs. All of it.” I was tickled you asked.

“And what do you love?”

“Numbers,” you winked at me. Before I could stop you and tell you math wasn’t my thing you were pulling my notebook towards you from across the table and you were scribbling a math problem down into the pages. It was fractions.

“What is the answer to that?”

I started at the numbers for a long time. I remembered failing math brutally.

“I don’t know,” I finally whispered.

“That!” you said to me. “THAT is the reason why I love math. If I were to ask you ‘what is the capital of Arizona’ and you didn’t have a clue, and you couldn’t google it, then you would have to tell me “I don’t know” but I have given you everything you need to solve this problem here. So the answer is never ‘I don’t know’ the answer is simply ‘I don’t know yet.’”

From that day forward, we were a thing.

You’d come and sit at my tiny table in the middle of that cliché coffee shop enduring its rush hour. You’d sip your coffee. You’d ask me questions. You’d read my blog and stare at me for long spells of time. You’d tell me I was peculiar—  a 80-year-old trapped in the body of a 25-year-old. And you were really 25, trapped in the body of a nearly 80-year-old man.

You were my first constant coffee shop companion.

You asked me what I believed in one day. I told you I was a Christian. I believed in the bible. You told me you were an atheist, a proud one.

“I like atheists,” I smiled and said. “They have a lot of wisdom.”

“So you actually believe in this stuff?”

I shrugged my shoulders. I was timid then. “I think sometimes its just nice to choose something. To go all in with it.”

“You actually believe the stuff in the Bible?”

“I do,” I said.

“Then what about…” you went to say.

“I don’t really like to debate things,” I stopped you. “I think people with bibles spend too much time debating with people and not enough time trying to understand them.”

We both got quiet.

You spoke after a few moments.

“My son came to me a few years ago and told me that ‘he’ is actually a ‘she,’” you said to me. “Now I have a daughter, not a son.”

You waited.

“What do you think of that?”

You were waiting for me to have an opinion. You were waiting for me to turn on you. My cheeks only burned. I felt embarrassed and a little bit sad that you thought I was supposed to have a narrow view, look at you differently, all because of the light the culture has shined on my belief system.

“I bet she’s lovely,” I think I said. All I can remember is the subtle pain in your eyes– the remnants of a religion that had failed you at a lot of corners. I loved you a little more. 

“I used to have so many views on that topic,” you said. “Until someone I loved was standing in the wake of it.”

I still think about your daughter so much. She gets my micro-prayers when I am driving in the car and when I am cleaning the sinks and trying to be an adult. I know that she’s lovely. Your daughter is lovely.

I never told you that for longest time I kept notes inside of my bible that weren’t mine.

I don’t know why I held onto those notes for so long but the handwriting was foreign and I didn’t know the woman who took them for me beyond a few simple facts: she had two children, she liked Obama, and she cared a whole lot about salvation.

She insisted on taking those notes so I could focus on the Bible and the teaching. I’ve never been a girl to let other people take notes for me. Even when I missed an important biology class and desperately needed someone’s scribbles in order to catch up, I always copied them over in my own handwriting. My own handwriting feels safe to me– like the ‘y’s and ‘g’s won’t turn on me.

In that faith journey— the one that pushed me away from church— I was taught not to ask questions. That was really hard for a girl who only ever wanted to know “why.”

But I would trace over those notes at night, after we were done studying, and they just felt distant. I kept thinking to myself, “Doesn’t God want my questions? Doesn’t he want to know if I see him as more of a puzzle than a protector?”

I kept them in my bible for too long– too long after everything fell apart. I think it was maybe my way of holding onto pain, holding onto a way I felt a human had hurt me and called it “Jesus” at the end of the day. I wanted to stay mad at God for longer than I thought. That’s how I am with God and people: I am looking for the reason to not trust you anymore so I can finally leave and make a shelter out of my own self. Self feels safe. 

I don’t like the thought of building something when you don’t know how long it will last.

I once loved a boy so hard that I knew every detail of him. And when it was over, I didn’t know what to do with all the pieces of him. Breaking up was like slowly writing a dictionary with someone and then realizing you could no longer use any of the words you still loved.

I think I built walls up after that. I think each year and relationship was another layer of concrete on the walls.

And here’s what I am certain about (sidenote: I’m not certain about much): We often funnel God through imperfect human interactions instead of funneling human interactions through a perfect God.   

We think if someone breaks us, wrecks us, treats us poorly then that’s how God will treat us too. We think if someone leaves– forgetting or not caring to take their cologne bathed sweatshirts with them– then God will eventually do the same too. He will find the backdoor, just like the others.

Here’s what I never told you:

I never told you that I loved you. All those months sitting across from you in the coffee shop. I never told you I thanked God for you. That you will be one of the people I talk about for a very long time because you gave me permission to ask harder questions and be okay with silence and no answers.

I’m never going to be able to go to God at the end of this and give him an inventory of my faith that consists of a cross, and a bible, and a pew. I am going to say the inventory of my faith was a lot of uncertainty, a few bad Tinder dates, a good mother, the feeling of grace, a yellow room, the play Les Miserables, a slew of coffee shops, and you.

“Ask him all your questions.”

That’s what the boy across from me in the coffee shop tells me to do. He’s the one who sits in your place now and does exactly what you used to do: gives me no answers, just asks me more questions.

He doesn’t flinch. He never really wavers. He just hands me books to read that already hold his underlines and uncertainties inside of their pages. He has asked the questions too.

I feel chaotic. He tells me Moses asked a lot of questions. It deepened the relationship Moses had with God to go to him honestly and say, “I don’t understand. Could you open my eyes a little more today?”

The answers might not come dramatically. They might not be right in front of my face. But maybe if I keep going, keep asking all the questions that get laid on my heart, something miraculous might happen: I might find a few answers or I might find peace with the not knowing.

I just hope I never stick two fingers up to your lips and whisper, “Shush.” There is grace and mercy in asking big questions. To ask big questions is to go before a God who can handle all parts of us– our junk, our nastiness, our hopes, our failures. I think God is big enough for your big questions and bigger frustrations.

I have to ask more questions.

It’s been a year since I last saw you.

I think about you a lot. I think of how I’ve grown and how I used to try to fill conversations with the most amount of words possible. I don’t like the silence but I am finding that it helps a lot more, a lot more than trying to play God to someone else through my words.

Instead of words, I am trying to choose the air. I am trying to listen and ask more questions.

Maybe I didn’t ask you enough. Maybe I should have asked more. Maybe you and I had exactly what we needed to have— you with your questions and me with no answers.

Here’s the thing I do know though: you were onto something when you shifted that math problem across the table.

You were right.

I have everything I need right here to try and solve this problem. To try and find the answers.

You were right.

The answer isn’t “I don’t know.”

The answer is simply, “I don’t know yet.”


Filed under Uncategorized

Good morning Baltimore.

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I take two white pills every night before I crawl into the sheets. They are a reminder to me, more than anything, that November happened.

November happened.

And so did December. January. February. A collection of months I wished, for so long, I could scrape off the calendar. I thought I knew darkness before those months. In a lot of ways, I didn’t know anything until those months came crashing on top of me. Sometimes you think you are fine until everything around you falls apart. And then you see the truth: everything was not fine. You were dying inside. You were clinging to other people to complete you. You were desperately in need of rewiring. 

I think there are times in our lives when we need an upgrade. Or a software update. And then there are times when we need all the little things inside of us to be rewired. I held it all together on the surface. I claimed I was fine. Really, I didn’t know how to turn my head upward to God and just be “enough” for my own self.

If you claim you love God and then don’t somehow commit to that most basic gesture, there’s probably a lot of wires inside of you that you’re resistant to let anyone touch. 


I went through depression once before.

Everyone told me afterwards to be thankful for it because a movement of love came out of it. I am thankful. But it doesn’t make me hate the dark any less. 

I didn’t know the statistics. The statistics say if you’ve struggled with depression once before then there is an 80% chance you’ll go there again. I kept telling myself it would never repeat itself. Bad things don’t repeat, I whispered.

I refused to see a counselor. I began to close myself off. I fell deeper into sadness as September danced. I ignored the warning signs. 

A girl at my speaking engagement last night asked me, “How can I make sure I don’t go through it again? The depression.”

“You can’t,” I told her. “But you can keep track of the warning signs.”


There were warning signs. Usually there always are. There was sitting on the floor of my office space– after consuming an ungodly amount of cups of chile– crying.

“I think everything will probably turn around in March,” I told one of my best friends. It was October. I thought if I could just push hard enough into a “new season” then God would follow suit.

She only looked at me. Nodded like she wasn’t convinced. “I don’t know if that’s true.” I hated her for being honest. Today I love her for only being honest.

There was Halloween night, surrounded by all of my best friends. I was wearing a T-shirt with the letters “LIFE” across my chest. A fitting role for Life, I passed out lemons that whole night– plucking them out from a plastic Jack-O-Lantern bucket and planting them into the hands of strangers at the party.

I remember being surrounded but feeling completely alone. I drove home crying that night (no surprise). I remember wishing I didn’t have to wake up in the morning. There was no reason for getting up.

There was sitting in my car on the morning of November 18th. My best friend didn’t leave my side. I slammed my hands against the steering wheel and screamed, “I don’t want this.” 

“You are not going to get out of this until you learn to be content.” She had told me this several times before.

I didn’t want to learn to be content. It seemed like such a distant and unattainable feeling– the feeling of contentment. 

“I am content,” I told her. “I have given God everything.”

“You are not content,” she snapped back. “There is so much you are not letting him have.”

All of these things– and then a dozen more– were warning signs. Warning signs that I was tumbling right back into the darkness.


My life broke into two on the afternoon of November 18th.

It’s a day on the calendar I will never forget. Nearly 9 months ago. People ask what I mean when I write “broke into two.”

Here’s the truth: some things in life don’t come with all the right words to describe them. All I can tell you is that I remember sitting with a friend in the conference room of our workspace. I asked her to pray for me because I was so sad lately. She prayed. I kept my head down and tried to convince myself that the prayers would actually work. At that time in my life I prayed to get attention and to make the Varsity team for heaven, not because I actually believed God was listening. 

I remember how she started talking about something after she said Amen. I was listening. And then pain. Sharp pain. All across my body. This sweeping feeling covering me from head to toe. All of a sudden, I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t move. My mind started racing.

“I feel so sick,” I told her. “I have to go home.”

Really, my mind was begging: What’s wrong? What’s going on? What’s happening? 

Sharp pain. Heavy fear. Tidal waves of anxiety crashing mercilessly into me. I didn’t understand. I thought I was going insane. Can life actually flip in a minute? 

The intern outside the workspace tried to bring me into a conversation about the time he went surfing with Rob Bell. I was trying to get in my car and leave.

“I’m sure Rob Bell is great,” I told him. “I’m sorry but I have to go home.”

I got into my car. Got home. Crawled into bed. Pleaded with God that whole night but the voices were stronger than I’d ever heard them before, “You’re no good. You’re a liar. You’re a fake. You are nothing.” 

I fell asleep shaking. Shaking with no answers.

That night was empty. I was afraid I was hearing God say the words he’d wanted to tell me all along, “Hey girl, I don’t choose you. I just don’t want you. I just don’t choose you.” 


The next morning I couldn’t get out of bed.

Not by my own strength. It took me a solid half-hour to just rise and put on pants and a heavy sweater and a bright red cap. I had a flight at 10am for Baltimore. A speaking engagement.

I sat in my coffee shop before heading to the airport. I tried to drink a London Fog but my hands were too shaky. I kept writing down questions: What is happening? What is going on? Why do I feel so paralyzed and sick?

It was 0 degrees in Baltimore. The most I ate there was two slices of hotel pizza. My hands trembled the whole time that I spoke. I remember telling myself I would never go back to that city again.

I hid inside of an empty terminal- my body sprawled across three seats as I lay curled in a ball crying and shaking. Not really caring if anyone could see me.

“I don’t know what’s going on,” I texted to my closest friends. The ones I knew would pray. I’d been dealing with the paralyzing fear for over 48 hours now. It hadn’t ceased, only grown.

I vomitted several times in that airport. Out of fear. Out of terror. That would be the start of months of no sleep and no faith that God was coming back for me.

Nine months ago, Baltimore became a place on the map I never wanted to return to. In the next few months, a list of places I never wanted to remember again would assemble itself.


The paralyzing fear was relentless for over four months. You wouldn’t know that if you scanned social media but life was utter darkness. I bring that point up only to say: we have to be extremely careful about assuming we know a person’s life based on what they post online. We have to be gracious– no matter what– because everyone is fighting a battle we cannot see. Sure, we like the idea of being real & raw on social media but honestly only a few will ever feel safe posting the real mess out there for the world to see. We rip into one another too easily for that. But be gracious, please. And maybe sometimes remind yourself:  it’s a lot of filters and pretty things but that’s not reality. Reality cannot be cropped and contrasted. 

In those four months, I slept. A lot. I didn’t watch movies. I didn’t go to group events. I wrote down every “small victory” on sheets of paper. We planned my move back to Connecticut. The mornings were the worst. It felt like heavy blankets of despair were being piled and piled on top of me. I’d get up at 4am because I could not sleep and I would sit wrapped in blankets holding a Bible that I struggled to believe in anymore.

I went from the most driven girl to the one who could barely perform three tasks in a day. Doctors gave me all these drugs with long names. The parts of me that lost friends to drug addiction was terribly afraid to swallow them. They just wanted to calm me down. Stop the tears. At night, there was sleeping pills. My favorite part of the day was going to sleep because– for the first two months– nothing stole life from me in my sleep.

I slept on an air mattress in one of my good friend’s apartments for a lot of those nights. In the morning I would crawl into his bed and he would hold my hand as I cried. It felt like I was trapped in a tiny room with no windows and no doors. I would cry out in agony because I could not escape the fog.

“I just want to fog to go,” I would murmur through the tears. “I just want the fog to go.”

He would squeeze my hand tighter and call me “baby girl.” 

I remember being curled in the corner of a doctor’s office in Atlanta. The man kept asking me questions. Do you think about hurting yourself? Do you have thoughts of hurting other people?

I wasn’t doing my makeup anymore. I wasn’t doing my hair. I’d lost 10 pounds. I was tired. I was wired.

“It seems you have severe depression,” he said to me. That wasn’t news. I didn’t need another doctor to diagnose me– I needed someone to grab my shoulders and yell loud, “You are coming out of the woods. Do you hear me, girl? You are going to come out of the woods.”

And then he stopped scribbling. He looked at me. I locked eyes with him. I didn’t want him to turn away.

“Are you a Christian?”

“Yes,” I whispered.

“That’s not a question I can ask,” he answered. “But my job aside, I want you to know– the devil is rejoicing right now and we will not let him have that.” 

That man– in his white coat– was one of the many beacons of light that convinced me I could keep going. I could keep fighting. I could be like Moses, in that moment where Moses had nothing left in him but he let the others hold up his arms.

That’s what friendship is at the end of the day– people who will hold up your arms.


I don’t have all the answers.

Not even a few. Honestly, I hate typing these words. I really do. Because I wanted to be passive for so long and believe in things like Karma and not ruffle feathers when it came to God. But as powerful of a source of light in this world that exists, there is also a powerful source of darkness. And if we don’t talk about the darkness, it starts to win.

The darkness can refine us but we cannot let it win. We must not let it win.

So let’s be real: I never planned to write this.

Let’s be more real: I am hesitating to publish it.

But I looked down at my plane ticket today and realized I was going back to Baltimore. A layover in Baltimore. And all I could think was, “I don’t want to go back to Baltimore. I don’t want this mess to take my body and my brain again.” 

And then, then I knew that I would write because no one benefits from silence. No one will talk about the darkness if we all try to act like it isn’t real, like it doesn’t matter.


It matters.

Mental illness matters. Warning signs matter. Not standing alone with your ghosts matters. You matter. And you are precious. 

I’m not saying that to be corny. I am saying it because I fought desperately hard for my life in the last few months. I fought really, really hard against mental illness to be able to be standing today. I wanted to give up. I suddenly understood why people even think of taking their own lives.

I’ve walked the line in the last few months of wanting all my memories of the darkness to leave me and knowing that I will never be able to shake the sleepless nights– the dozens of stories I haven’t shared yet– because they made me. The darkness made me. It burned me up and shook me good and I fought until I could finally breathe and say, “No.” No, the darkness cannot have me. There is far too much left for my little life. 

Life is such a precious gift but when a fog covers your view of reality it’s so hard to rest your body in the gift. It’s easy to be ashamed of the fog, the sickness, the illness. But what if we broke the shame with words? What if we dismantled the stigma by figuring out how to hold up the arms of others?

So here’s a baby step: Please talk about the fog. Please talk about the emptiness. Please don’t let yourself stand in the mess alone, so much so that you cave inward and you hoist up a white flag without anyone ever knowing you were dying inside.

Please speak. Please speak.

Don’t be afraid to go back to Baltimore.

Just don’t be afraid of Baltimore.


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