Fear’s last love song.

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So…I was really hoping I could come back to you a month later with some huge spiritual experience and an “I’m out of the woods” story.  I don’t have one.

Instead it has been baby steps forward, only to stumble back again.  Some days I’m fine, some days all I want to do is lay down and cry because it just doesn’t make sense to me.

Darkness has been so evident lately and I’m so scared of falling into it instead of God.  I know it’s really not my battle because I’m not strong enough to fight against it…but I don’t really know how to surrender it to God, either. I’m not really sure how to trust someone I can’t see, feel or hear but I want to.

I want to hate the darkness and be free from it.  I want to be okay again and stop falling into fear, doubt, depression and darkness.  It feels like an endless cycle and I’m even scared of getting out of it because then what happens if I fall again?

I’m so tired of fighting. I just don’t want to feel like i’m constantly fighting to believe & against the darkness. It’s so scary…I don’t want to fall. 

You write about how God brought you out of the darkness…how? Was it sudden, or more of a gradual thing? 






Fear wrote that last email for you. Fear legitimately pushed you off balance, kicked you out of the computer seat, and wrote that last message. It clicked send. It patted itself on the back for striking once again. It curled back up into its usual position, waiting to pounce on whatever next step you tried to take to get out of the woods. That’s the way fear operates— it preys on your action steps while writing songs about your failures. 

I know fear wrote the email because I lived for a really long time letting fear dictate my daily actions. Fear drove conversations. Fear made me retreat. Fear allowed me to say “yes” and “no” to things. Fear drew a thick chalk circle all around me and announced into the tight space, “This is your comfort zone. Good luck leaving it.”


There’s a few things to know about your fear.

I think that’s the fear way you start to tackle and dismantle something: you figure out what you’re actually up against.

First off, your fear is terribly unoriginal. Yes, you feel alone in it. But that’s just a tactic of the fear. Fear wants you to believe you are the only one. It’s isolating. It’s like coming across a Taylor Swift song you really like, listening to it on your own for a solid ten years because you think no one else will get it the way you do, and then figuring out that everyone else knows the words too. Your fear— the one that feels so catered to you— is actually lurking in the hearts of a million, billion other people. It’s a ballad and we know all the words to it. You’re not alone. You’re not off on some island. You’re not solo on this pilgrimage. We know all the words, J.

Secondly, your fear is a jealous lover. It wants you to sleep alone with it at night. It’s greedy. Your fear doesn’t want to share you. It doesn’t want you to go out there and talk to the others. It doesn’t want you to have hard conversations, and solid dinner parties, and community that refuses to leave your side. Fear wrote you a story a long time ago and it doesn’t want you to outgrow the plot line.

And though you know you deserve better than a lover who controls your every move, you still stay. You stay because no matter how jealous fear can be, it wants you. And we like to be wanted. You stay because, after all these years, fear has become comfortable and rhythmic in your life. It’s become reliable. You know its motions. You know how it will shut you down. You have stood in the face of fear so many times and it has tried to tell you who you are and you have believed it. 

Lastly, your fear— while I’ve just talked a lot of smack about it— is necessary. Fear is basically synonymous with Russell Crowe in Les Miserables– he was always meant to be a character, sure, but someone let him sing too much.

Don’t look back and think, “I wish I hadn’t let fear beat me up so badly.” You needed the bruises. You needed the battering. In that, you figured out that there had to be something more. Only when the fear is smothering and we can’t sleep at night, only when the fear has taken from us over and over again, can we even dare to imagine that something might be better than this. Fear is the birthplace of courage. Fear can be a catalyst towards God. 


I’ll say it again: Fear can be a catalyst towards God.

And as you push closer towards God, you will realize that he isn’t fear. A life shrouded in fear does not come from God. Quite the opposite: he is love. And love— when you allow yourself to get close enough to it— will not resemble fear. Just like you gave fear the permission to grow, you have to give love that same chance.

Because love? Well love is ten times a better builder than fear ever could be. The structures are strong. The foundations are solid. The shelter is reliable. When you speak out love instead of fear, people actually get brave. They get hungry for victory. They transform and it’s wild. I used to only write about fear on this blog. I liked the idea of love but I didn’t actually know it. So any attempts to write about it were noble but fleeting.

Letting God be love, instead of fear, has made every difference to the way I stand and walk today.


The date is November 17.

Tomorrow is the 18th. November 18. And I can’t begin to describe to you how that date on the calendar is such a benchmark for my life and the person I’ve become in the last year.

It will probably be a normal day. I’ll do some work. I’ll buy some groceries. I’ll visit a coffee shop and people are never going to know or see that November 18 is such a huge day for me. I’ll be celebrating inside though because November 18  is forever a day to remember that the darkness didn’t win.

My friends and my family know what happened on that day, how my life flipped upside in the worst way possible and how the charade I was putting on for everyone took its final bow. Whatever was left, that’s what I had to work with.

It was a lot of fear. Paralyzing and crippling fear. It was doubt. It was worry. It was a stealthy attack. It was one step forward and two steps back again as I plunged deeper and deeper into myself. I could not use my brain. I could not eat. When the darkness was the heaviest, I didn’t eat for 12 hours at a time. I would get these brief moments of perspective, a chance to breathe, at the end of each day. I would cry in my mother’s arms— yes, at the age of 26— that I didn’t want to have to go back to sleep because I was afraid to start all over again the next morning.

Still, I would take the sleeping pills and go to sleep. I would wake up to the darkness waiting at the foot of my bed. And we would start the wrestling all over again.

I chose to wrestle with the darkness morning after morning. I was determined to find its roots and expose its tricks. I was enamored with the darkness. Now, looking back, I see that I was wrestling with the wrong thing. 
Why wrestle with the darkness when you can wrestle with God? Him and I, we were the real problem. I had prayed an honest prayer to really know him and have him show up for me. He honored the prayer, my act fell apart, and I was unwilling to meet him in that. I was unwilling to come out of hiding and say, “Here is who I really him. Here is the reality. Here is what I can’t stand any longer. I don’t think you are who you say you are. I’ve made you too small and I’m the one who does not believe.”

When the darkness pushes us into ourselves, there we figure out what we truly believe about God.

The God in my brain was flimsy and lukewarm. He was jealous and wrathful. He was angry with me and disappointed constantly. I was always falling short to the God in my brain.

The bible writes a lot about idols. Did you ever think that the wrong image of God— the one you constructed— could be an idol too? We could spend our whole lives falsely worshipping the God we built in our brains just to keep us from humbly opening our bibles. Opening your bible is an act of humility. It’s laying down your lies in order to seek a truth that could go on without you.


Open your bible, J.

Open your bible. Keep opening it. When you feel like it and when you don’t. When you want to and when Netflix sounds a lot more appealing. The bible is rich and fatty and good for you and still the culture tells us the bible is like lettuce. It’s not flashy. It’s not proud. But it is the living, breathing word of God. If you want to hear him speak, it’s a whole book of him just talking to you.

Meet him. For ten minutes or an hour. As corny as it is to make this comparison, it’s like dating someone who is obsessed with you from date one. They’ve been waiting for you. From the start, they want you so badly. And you, J, are guarded and careful and unsure. But you’ve heard good things. And other people seem to like him. But still, you aren’t sure. So would you plunge right in? No, probably not. Would you trust him immediately? No, probably not. And yet this weird sort of longing exists inside of you to be loved carefully, to have someone come along and scale your walls. That longing has always been there. So you creep closer and what do you do? You resolve to know the person. To understand them. To hear their side of the story instead of always screaming out your own. Your own story is not going to teach you about someone else’s. To know someone else is to shut up and listen.

You would do all these things for another human, J, so what about God? What if he is one who is obsessed with you? What if he is the one who has been waiting for you? What if he is the one who wants you so badly and yet you’re still unsure? What if it is his name that keeps coming up in conversations and makes you long for something more? Resolve to know him. Understand him. Read him. Hear his side of the story instead of always screaming out your own.

Open your bible and realize that as long as we try to fight for God or analyze him or measure him, we miss the point. We gear up like diligent soldiers ready to go after the heart of God and he just pauses the whole story and says: this isn’t about you. Wait. Look closer. This is how I fought for you. And how I won for you. Take heart in that, child. You want to fight but I already won. 


You asked how God brought me out of the darkness— was it sudden or was it gradual?

It wasn’t sudden, J. It was seriously gradual. It was hard. It still is hard. And there are still days when I want to pick the world over God, but I know what I left behind. It was sitting with the bible when I didn’t want to. It was writing down scriptures, though they didn’t thrill me, until they seeped into my heart and did some sort of transformation I cannot take credit for. It was like taking medicine– though I didn’t want it, it promised to heal me.

I remember talking with a guy from church who I look up to and asking him what I should do, because I was tired of fighting and I just wanted to be out of the dark.

“Bread of life, babe,” he said to me, patting me on the back. “Bread of life.”

I remember I hated that answer. It was just him telling me to go back to the bible and back to the bible and back to the bible. Why did I hate it? Because still, God was whispering through that advice, “To love me fully is to lose what you thought actually mattered. And even as you let the things go, you’re still going to want them to matter more than me.” 

It’s going to be long, J. It’s going to be slow. It’s going to be bread and life though.

Following God is not a romantic comedy. It’s not funny and capable of playing out within two hours of your time. It’s a lifelong dedication. It’s, as Eugene Peterson puts it, “ a long obedience in the same direction.” It’s the start of new habits and the killing of old. God isn’t the one you meet in the drive-thru, he wants to meet you at the table and teach you how to make real meals.

I went to church when I didn’t want to. I opened up to others when I didn’t want to. I opened the bible and started with John, then Matthew, then Mark, then Luke. I looked for clues of who God was in these stories, not who I was supposed to become. Turns out, he’s bigger than my hopes to be a better person. Still, he is bigger than my fear and my ego combined.

So I guess that life long dedication begins with you deciding you will stay and let God meet you in a world that will tell you the key to getting out of the darkness is to run. Don’t run from it, J. There’s light ahead. And there’s love. And there’s real relationship. And hard conversations that break down the craziest of crazy, high walls.

You could be a new person if you’d just let someone scale your walls for once.

You could come to the table instead of hiding in the woods. You could finally, finally eat.


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Dear world, meet Tory Vore.

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Today Tory Vore was the star of my Monday morning email club. But that wasn’t enough for me. You see, Tory Vore is one of my favorite humans. If the move to Atlanta looks like a big puzzle then Tory and her husband James are a necessary piece. Those two are like a corner piece to me. We met over tacos (that’s always necessary to put out there) and the girl legitimately brings Jesus with her wherever she goes. Into every interaction. Into every conversation. Tory is a writer who recently pushed her blog back into existence. I can’t tell you how thankful I am that this girl is speaking out. She is a hard hitter and I want the whole wide world to meet her, love her, know her, and learn from her. 

The following post comes from Tory. Read her blog here & connect with her on Twitter

My husband and I live in a tiny 900 square foot house on a wooded side street in Atlanta. The house was built in 1955 and is the definition of old charm. Every person that steps foot in our door can see the entire house with one glance and always says the same thing, “awe, so cozy.” While it may be cozy, the house has not come without it’s fair share of problems. At first glance, it looks nice. Old, but nice. There’s fresh paint on the walls, hardwood floors, updated bathroom and kitchen… But the longer you live in the house, the more you find its quirks. There is a constant cockroach infestation. We have mold in the windowsills, and the paint has almost all but completely come off the bathroom wall…Things like that are manageable, for a time. You can clean mold, you can spray a roach spray, and you can re-paint the walls. It was the sudden arrival of a colony of tiny, furry roommates, whose patriarchs we’ve taken to calling Chip and Dale, that threw us off our game. That’s right. We have chipmunks. In our walls. There are some that inhabit the wall above the couch, and during quiet movie scenes, we can hear them chomping away at the wall, like they are enjoying the movie with us, eating their own version of movie popcorn. There are some that reside under the bathtub that can be heard in the middle of the night during a mid-dream potty break, squeaking and scampering around. We can hear them under the back porch and in the spare bedroom walls. I’ve even heard them dancing in the ceiling.

We’ve been on a house hunt for some time now. When we tell friends to be on the lookout in their respective Atlanta neighborhood, the response is always the same –  “Oh, but your house is so cute!” And it is, from the outside. If only they knew what the structure looked like. All the cute is an illusion. It’s all cosmetic, faked. It’s all on the outside. The structure, it’s barely hanging on. You can see evidence of this when you look close enough at the ceiling, and find bubbles where the roof has leaked. It’s only when you put a ball on the ground and realize that the whole house is slanted; the foundation is sagging. It’s only when you step in the tub, and hear the ground underneath creak, that you realize that years of chipmunk camping has made the very ground under your feet unstable. If you look closely at the house, you see the cracks through the charm.

What if people looked at us? Would they see the cracks? If our people really knew us, would they realize that our foundation was unsteady?

In a world with filters and Snapchat, of profile pictures and 140 characters, have we lost the awareness of the cosmetic in our lives? Have we covered ourselves up so much that we can’t even see the cracks?

In January of 2015, I was healed of anxiety that I had been very secretly struggling with for over a year. The kind of anxiety that made me lose my ability to breath and had put me in the hospital. It was crippling. It was silent. It was a fight I was determined to fight alone. And it was a miraculous act of God that gave me my breath again. And I Instagrammed about it. It was hidden in a post about my fiancé, but I told all 1,000 followers about my secret battle without a second thought. I was at a conference and later that night I was in a hotel with some of my closest friends. One such friend read the post, showed it to me, and said, with tears in her eyes, “I had no idea….” This girl was the matron of honor in my wedding. She has loved me longer and harder than anyone. And she didn’t know.

I had put new coats of paint on myself, I had covered up the things that I didn’t want people to see. I was living the life that everyone else saw on Instagram. I was keeping people at an arm’s length, making sure that no one got close enough to see the cracks in my walls. I was telling a 140 character story. I was letting people in, but manipulating the image so that it fit this twisted lie that I was believing – “No one actually cares about what you’re going through.”

I had graduated college, got turned down from 2 jobs before I found one that suited me and paid the bills, got engaged, and moved from the comfort of my college apartment to the city, and everything was happening a lot faster than I could keep up with. My life was defined by change and uncertainty. But all I saw was the cosmetic stuff in everyone else’s life. I was accepting the instagram lie, that everyone else around me had it all together, and I didn’t.

When my friend turned the phone around and showed me myself, I was devastated at what I saw. I saw peeling paint, and an unsteady foundation, covered up with posts about my happy existence and perfect heart. I saw through my own cracks and was hit like a bulldozer with one thought, “No one actually knows me.” And the broken structure that had been holding me up under cosmetic fixes finally collapsed onto its self. The unsteady foundation gave in and the holes in the walls couldn’t be covered up anymore. I had been figured out. And it was the best thing that ever happened to me

Fast-forward 10 months later – I have found authentic community that allows me to be real. That sees the chips in my paint, and is helping me to rebuild the structure of my life through two things: awareness and vulnerability.

You see, I had critters living in my walls too – but they weren’t named Chip and Dale. They were named Insecurity, Comparison, Doubt, Fear and Unworthiness. I had let them in and I listened to the whispers that they told me in the dead of night, through cracks in the foundations in the homes and tent cities I had freely given them in my once sturdy walls. It wasn’t until their whispers turned to shouts that I found them. I wasn’t aware. I was so distracted by doing and being and becoming this person that I thought people wanted me to be, that the gnawing I felt in my foundations didn’t bother me. I had let these beasts make their home in my heart, and I had unwittingly opened the door and didn’t make them wipe their feet. I was distracted by everyone else’s life, and it was only when I became aware of the critters’ presence was I able to expel the lies that had put down roots in my heart.

You know that feeling in your gut, the one that falls and pulls you down with it? The one that takes control of you and casts a spell over your heart and thoughts and convinces you that you’re not (fill in the blank)? Don’t know what I’m talking about? Then start there. Find the critters, let them know that you don’t want them, and get them out. Insecurity, Comparison, Doubt, Fear and Unworthiness will stay as long as you let them. Awareness and Truth are the exterminators, and the only way to get rid of them. I encourage you to be aware – to find the root of the lies that whisper to you in the night and tell them who is boss. Call them by their name and purge them from your life. Kick them out. Pay attention. Be alert. Don’t let them in the holes in your foundation. Fill those holes with Truth. With love and honesty, with peace and hope. With confidence and community. The critters hate that stuff like that. Look up from looking down and see that your paint is chipping, and your foundation is sagging. Look up from the comparison suck and name yourself “Aware.” Find the places the lies are creeping in and talk to someone about them. Talk to your community, the people that see past the old world charm of you.

Find community- authentic community. I found mine. I found my people. The ones you call when you find yourself with no plans on a Saturday night. The ones that aren’t afraid to look you in the eye and tell you that your paint is chipping. The kind of people that cheer you on and push you to love you. Finding my people didn’t happen overnight. It happened over coffee dates and small talk about jobs and new shoes and celebrity gossip. Coffee turned to wine nights and couches and blankets and over-priced cheese.

And it took vulnerability. It took one person taking the risk to be honest. It took one person laying her heart on the table – pulling all the critters out from her walls – and being raw, real and vulnerable, no matter the risk. It took being the first person to call, the one to make plans. It took effort and discomfort. But one person’s honesty opened the door for everyone else’s honesty. It was scary and raw and uncertain. But it ended up being the best decision I made. To lay it all on the coffee table, cozied up in blankets. It took transitioning from recipes to realness. To saying, “This is hard for me, but I trust you.” It meant wiping off the makeup, tearing down the curtain and letting people see the chipped paint and crooked foundation. And it was worth it.

It’s worth it to let people see you. It’s worth it to switch from many, wide relationships to a few, deep ones. It’s worth it to find your people, even if it’s only 3. It’s worth it to let people in. It’s worth the time and effort it takes to turn off the camera, shut down the app, and let people see the real you for more than a few seconds. Because rebuilding a structure cannot be done alone. It takes many hands to build a home, and it takes many hands held together, in prayer, in tears, in celebration, to rebuild and patch the holes that have led to our pains.

Fill the gaps in your heart with community and vulnerability, and exterminate the critters that have made their home in your heart.


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I’ll hold you in the light.

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One of my girlfriends invites me to yoga and I say yes immediately. Before I even know the time of the class, I am finding my Nike tights and wrapping my hair into a bun. I am checking the trunk of the car for my mat.

I agree to go to a hot yoga class for the simple fact that I don’t like yoga. Not even a little bit. The breathing. The stillness. The presence. All of it makes me nauseous and panicky.

I walk into every class always optimistic that this will be the day when I fall in love with yoga. When I become one of those people who can’t go a day without getting on the mat and knocking out a few downward dogs.

It’s always the same pattern though: I’m only on the mat for 10 minutes, in the stickiness of a hot yoga studio, before I want the class to be over. I wonder why I agreed to this.

I mean, what is yoga to a woman who is impatient and squirmish? What is a yoga to a woman who is thinking 5 hours ahead and 2 years back always?

So it would make you wonder: why spend the money? Why take the class? If you already know you’ll hate it, why go? Why submit yourself to the torture?

Plain and simple: just because I don’t feel like doing something isn’t reason enough to not do it. There’s a mountain of things in my life that I don’t feel like doing and I do them anyway. Yoga is just a 60-minute reminder that if I push past my feelings then something better will win.


The whole yoga class, my mind is on prayer. We are pushing up into positions and holding a posture. We are balancing and my mind is racing with the thought of knees-on-the-ground prayer. Don’t mistaken me for the holy– I wasn’t actually praying during the class. I was rolling around in my mind why prayer is so hard for me. As we keep moving posture to posture, and I try to remember to breathe, I keep thinking that this restlessness and desire to move which I feel in yoga class somehow mirrors how I feel when I go to pray.

It’s the same restless, I-don’t-want-to-do-this feeling I get with both yoga and prayer.


I’ve only written about prayer once before and it’s one of my favorite things I’ve put in this corner of the internet.

But I must reiterate that: I’ve only written about it once. I’m the farthest thing from an expert. I like to write about the things I have decent experience with and prayer just feels like a practice that fails me. I pray, yes. But I wish my prayers felt more active, less forced. More powerful, less staged.



There are three people on my heart today who need something– one wants a baby, one wants a love story, one wants a miracle. And I keep thinking of these extravagant ways to pray for them. I keep thinking that I should devise some plan that will keep me in prayer mode and I can then be able to measure how much I prayed. How long and how hard and how diligently I prayed for them.

And while my brain runs wild with ideas, this little voice inside of me speaks, “Why don’t you just start? Why don’t you cease thinking about the idea of praying for people and just say their name out loud? What is holding you back?”

Fear, I guess. It’s not even fear that my prayers won’t be answered.

For years, I told people I was praying for them but never really doing it. It was like a default answer when something would happen, “Oh, oh, I’ll pray for you right now.” No, those prayers never burned in my palms or my brain. No, I never cried out in desperation to God.

I guess, as a result of years not doing what I said I was doing, I wondered if people didn’t really pray for me either. I wonder if they faked the motions too.

It’s a combination of that and the fear that my faith will never grow. That my prayers will never be bold enough. That I’ll never be one of those warriors– one of those people who can write the answered prayers down and, at the end of each day, cry out in awe of the faithfulness of God.

I want proof to hand people that God is working but my fear stands in the way.


I’ll hold you in the light.

That’s what the Quakers say when they want someone to know they’ll be praying. I’ll hold you in the light. I think I really like that. It says without saying it, “I see you.”

I see you.

You’re right here. Your arms might be flailing and your body might be restless but you are right here. The dark might seem endless, but I am holding in the light. All of you might want to give up but there will be light, baby. The light will come.

I’ll hold you in the light. When your faith is failing. And your lungs want to give out. And you don’t understand God– how he moves and how he operates. And you know what? I don’t get it either. There are those mornings, and those nights, where I want to kick and scream and just give up on God. But where I would go? Where would I go that it wouldn’t be darker?


Sometimes you pray and sometimes you are the prayer.

Your scars aren’t mine until you show them to me.


I have a friend who, for the years leading up to the time he met the love of his life, would pray for this person every time he came across a dime. In change piles. On the sidewalk. In between couch cushions. He would pick it up, mark a “P” on the dime, and then pray for that girl. Short, quick silver prayers.

On the day he asked her to marry him, he dumped out jars and jars full of dimes. Jars and jars full of prayers, said in advance for someone he didn’t even know when he first started praying for her.

I like to think about what it felt like to be that girl, the one with all the jars full of dimes poured all around her, to have someone show her, “I prayed this much for you. I prayed this wide for you. I prayed this thoroughly for you. Even if it was just picking a dime off the ground by the train, it was a thought I drew captive and dedicated it to you.”

What’s more beautiful than someone who holds their own thoughts hostage long enough to draw your name in the lines?

We could be those sorts of people. There isn’t even a need to do something extravagant when it comes to prayer. We don’t even need the dimes. It just requires we show up. We stay when we don’t feel anything. We keep whispering a person’s name out loud until this faith grows inside of us that we are heard.

We are heard. And we are wanted. And we are seen.
We are heard. And we are wanted. And we are seen.



I keep thinking I must light a candle. I must posture myself for prayer. But God wants me in the car. He wants in the grocery store. He wants me anywhere that I am standing to just ask him for help. No big productions. No grand proposals. Just him and I and all the honest conversations we’ve yet to have.

Honest conversation with God #1 (AKA prayer):

Make me want you.

I know that sounds like a rap song but it’s all I want to ask of you: make me want you. Make me think about you. Make me draw back to you. Make me want to ask you for help before I go out and seek to stitch my own cape.

Here is my honesty.

Here are my bare bones.

Make me want you.

Make me want you more.


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Meet me on November 7. Okay? Okay!

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Hi. Hi. Hi.

I’ll get right to it: I’m teaching my very first 3-hour Writing Intensive on November 7th. It’s happening. You don’t even need to leave your house. You don’t even need to be a writer! This class is for anyone just trying find their voice who could benefit from 3-hours of solid teaching on the following:

  • The elements of compelling storytelling
  • Breaking the fear
  • Developing voice
  • Connecting with readers
  • The art of Taylor Swifting
  • Consistency & control in writing
  • Vulnerability hangovers
  • Finding direction within a crowded writing world

I can promise you this: it is gon’ get real. And the coolest part? It’s online. Again, you don’t even need to leave your house. You can join the class while wearing slippers and hot chocolate on a Saturday. You can buy a new notebook and fill the whole thing up. You can slug wine at 3 in the afternoon and play Macklemore in the background as I am teaching if that’s your deal (though I recommend taking the class sober). You can do whatever you want, the world is truly yours. I will not stop you. The whole class will not stop you.

BUT, BUT, BUT… there are only a few spots left before we close the doors FOR-EV-ER (Sandlot reference) so we must move quickly. 


I’ve been working hard on the content for this class (you can see more details on the 3-hour breakdown here) but I’ll just come out and say it now: I’m not an expert. No, not really. However, I’ve managed to get a few things done in the last couple of years:

  • At the age of 24, I signed to New Leaf Media Literary Agency. My first memoir “If You Find This Letter” (Howard Books of Simon & Schuster) came out in March 2015. It will release in paperback form in Spring 2016 and will also hit the shelves in Russia & Germany. My stationery kit (Potter Style, an imprint of Random House) came out in December 2014.
  • I took the TED stage at the age of 24 for their Global Talent Search and have since continued to travel around the world to colleges and conferences across the country sharing my story. I’ve hit over 100 stages in the last few years.
  • I’m the Founder of The World Needs More Love Letters. In the last four years, More Love Letters has grown into a community of over 20,000 individuals across all 50 states, 53 countries, and over 60 college campuses.
  • I launched my own creative copywriting & consulting services for personal brands and individuals back in 2014.
  • My work has been featured in (but not limited to) the following publications: The Wall Street Journal, Oprah, Glamour, Cosmo UK, USATODAY.com, Chicago Tribune, BBC News, the White House, and Reader’s Digest.
  • I’ve worked with brands such as the United States Postal Service, Tiny Prints, Kleenex, KIND, Holstee, and Catalyst.
  • In 2015, I launched If You Find This Email with one of my best friends, Jenna Bednarsky.
  • I have managed to keep 1 fish alive for approximately 6 months– which shows dedication and commitment.

More than any kind of street cred, I am simply someone who has sat down nearly every single day for the last 5 years to write something– whether it be pages for a book, an article, a blog post, or a project. I am obsessed with the guts and grit it takes to be a writer in this world. Some would say that you can’t become a better writer– you are either a solid writer or you are not. I don’t believe that. For me, the writing process has been a hell of a lot more about discipline and hurdling over fear than whether my resonates with someone off the page. The more you write, the more your voice develops. When people told me I should teach writing classes I threw my hands up so quickly saying, “No way, not happening. No way.”

Yet here I am offering my first Writing Intensive to the internet. I still can’t believe it is happening. It’s nothing I planned for but, after teaching a class through the Influence Network (which I highly recommend), I realized I have a love for teaching individuals who want to write, blog, and create more. I feel for this pocket of people like no other. I mean, I’ve been in this little corner of the internet for almost 5 years now! Five. Stinking. Years. And me and this blog are still married and really in love! Along the way, I’ve learned a great deal about the struggle, the hustle, the book writing process, and the nitty, gritty & skinny on branding. I’m ready to put it all out there, lay it all out there for you.

There’s only a few more spots left to my first Writing Intensive. When the gates close, they close forever… or at least until January when I offer another. I hope to see you online on November 7th! It will be a beautiful way to treat yourself before the holiday season rolls through.

tying you closer than most,



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Notes from the battlefield.

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I used to think it was my grandmother who turned me into a writer but now I know it was my father.

My father, though he doesn’t always say a lot of words, is the most vocal of men when it comes to action steps. He uses his hands. He shows up. He helps anyone and everyone who needs it. “Showing up” has become a buzzword. I’ve used it so much that I am sometimes want to cut off both my hands so that my fingers can never type it again until they truly, truly know what it means. I’m not an expert in showing up— I am simply trying to get better by texting back, knocking on people’s front doors with wine glasses in my free hand, and choosing not to walk away.

Growing up, I could not be more embarrassed by my father. I was 12 years old and my father was a garbage man. I remember waiting for the day when he would wake up, roll over, put on a suit, and go to work. It never happened. But I remember lying to the kids in school about his occupation. Though he picked up their trash, and we all knew it, I still told them that his stint as a garbage man was a hobby, something he chose to do before going to work with a briefcase.

Now the man’s body is riddled and plagued and weathered by the years of hanging his lean body off the back of a truck and lifting heavy garbage bins into the open mouth of a trash bag chomping monster machine. Some days he doesn’t get out of bed because his body is so tired.

It’s getting to that point, probably closer than ever, where I might meet a man and we might spend a lifetime fighting for one another. I’m not sure. I’m on mission— wholly devoted to this writing career God gave me— and so I stay focused on that, above all things.

But when it comes to finding someone to be with, I am looking for my father. In the crowds of people. In the man across the table who pulls the debit card from his back pocket and pays the bill. I am looking for my father.

I am looking for a man who knows and understands the weight of work and provision. The year is 2015 and I meet a lot of people who are more focused on their brand than their character. They’re more focused on my brand than my character (which is even scarier).

It scares me to think that we would rather say the right thing, and get a few “likes,” than to invest in being a better and bigger person off the screen. 

Do not get me wrong, I love people of the internet. I have eaten with them. Drank cocktails with them. Prayed about them. Gone to parties with them and moved to new cities for them. But I have also seen the ugly side of social media that I think we don’t look at often enough: you can fool the world and pretend to be someone you’re not. You can get so good at upholding a false image of yourself that you never actually advance in the things that matter: humility, integrity, honesty, commitment.

I don’t want to be a faker. I just want to be a hard worker.

While I look at the men who pay the tabs at dinner, I am not just looking for my father— I am hellbent on becoming him. I am becoming a person who doesn’t need to highlight the work she does, she simply does the work because it has been handed to her. Even though I have devoted the better part of my 20s to a workaholic spirit, there is still the possibility that I could slip and lose the vision. If you lose the vision, you lose direction. This world needs leaders who are confident in their direction, not aimlessly looking for the next ladder rung to get them higher.

Trust me, I have wasted time. I have a wasted a lot of time on the things of life that don’t actually matter. I’ve eaten pride like casserole. I’ve loved myself and hated myself a little too much. I should have been studying or cooking or writing or creating but instead I was scrolling through social media accounts to see who had gotten ahead of me. My heart was being vandalized by bitterness, jealousy, and resentment but it was too dark to call them out by name.

I have wrestled to get off the phone. I have found watching the lives of other people to be easier than facing my own junk. But no one is going to clear out your own emptiness. When your dreams go unfulfilled because you didn’t start the work, the world won’t even know how to be heartbroken by the loss of things that would have made them better people. That’s the thing about the things you don’t do: you carry the loss.

You decide to either follow after what matters most to you or you follow other people. You either build people up or tear them down in your heart because you think they’re getting what you deserved and wanted. You build a Hunger Games arena in your brain and, as a result, you can’t stop hiding in the trees.

I don’t want to hear God say, “You cared more about following people than me. You were supposed to feed the others, not follow them.”

So here’s my honest prayer as I lift my hands to the ceiling on a Sunday and try to trust him for than I did on Saturday. You can steal it if you want. I am always down for stolen prayers:

God, make me a worker. Make me a worker who is so focused on the calling that there be no time for comparison or competition or false humility. Make me the one who bends her head towards the desk and just gives herself to the process, not the praise. 

Keep me faithful. Keep me honest. Keep me real. Chip away what doesn’t help me get closer to the others.

Make me fall so hard in love with this work that I fail to see the ones who’d like to see me fall.

Make me so faithful to the direction I am going in that my life won’t be a good story but rather a map that others could use to find you for real. 


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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 TED.com. 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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