All the love fear won’t give you.

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1.

You can ask any one of my dance teachers from childhood and they will tell you it is a pure miracle that I make a living as a public speaker.

Really and truly, this career should not be a thing.

The thing to know about me is that I quit competitive dancing when I was sixteen years old because of raging anxiety every time I went to step onto that stage. I had always been a nervous kid, always getting the jitters before a performance, but this was something different. This was a real fear. This was can’t-catch-my-breath, panic-attack fear. And it didn’t just happen once. It happened over and over again until I couldn’t keep track anymore.

The girls on my dance teams were saints. They would talk me off the edge. They would remind me to have fun. I was a part of a team and so I knew I had to perform but when the chance came to quit at the end of the year, I leaped at it.

I told myself: I want to be behind the scenes. I don’t want to perform anymore. I dislike the spotlight. I won’t go back. 

This was my fear talking. Apart from childhood (thinking I might be the next Shirley Temple), I’ve never been one to want to shine the brightest. I simply like doing good work. I believe in ambition. I am a perfectionist at heart, recovering daily. But here is what I had to stop allowing: I had to stop allowing fear the courtesy of writing me a story that wasn’t true.

 

2.

My first time back on a stage was a Christmas program. I heard someone do a spoken word poem and I thought, “I have that in me.” I proposed the idea to my pastor, thinking he would assign someone the role. But he asked me to do it. More specifically, he told me I would do it and didn’t give me a chance to back down.

I took to the stage with my little poem and it was like waves of peace crashing over and over me. I still had every bit of nerves leading up to it. I still wanted to cry (and likely did), but we all have one small step to take towards a better story.

 

3.

Fear isn’t one thing. Fear is a bunch of little things all stacked up to look seemingly powerful. And, as much as I hate to give fear the credit, it is powerful. It stops you from moving forward. It makes you act smaller. It keeps you from being here now. Fear is the thing that says, “Don’t go tonight. You don’t belong there.” Fear is the whisper that says, “You? People don’t like you.”

Fear is a voice I easily become immune to, not even realizing it is there and talking to me. It says right in the bible that God didn’t give me a spirit of fear and yet I take it with me on most mornings, the way you take your jacket for that October air.

I don’t lie or tell half-truths in this space. To do that would be to tell you that I never listen to the fear. That I never let the fear give me a name that isn’t my own. Fear has given me medicine and fear has given me heartache. Fear has convinced me I am someone else too many times to count.

 

4.

It’s doing the thing that makes you want to throw up. As ineloquent as that advice is, that’s where you need to start most days. Whether that’s saying “yes” when you would rather say no. Whether that’s going on the Tinder date. Maybe it’s clicking “publish” or maybe it’s finally sending that text. If you want to vomit when you think about the action, then there’s usually a mission there.

I wish you and I could dismantle fear in some other way. I wish it was a matter of reading a book about fear and watching all our awful fears trickle away. Fear dissolves through action though.

You get two pairs of eyeglasses in this lifetime. Call them hipster eyeglasses with no real prescription to back them up, but you can put one of two different lenses on. You’ve got the lens of love and the lens of fear. The two will make you look entirely different.

Love is attractive. It draws people to you. People will want to know what you’re drinking and how they can do the same. Love is a party host. It invites everyone in. It says, “There is more room. Everyone scoot down, we’ve got the room for one more.”

Fear is a shell. It dries up the atmosphere. It keeps us all on eggshells. I don’t want to say people won’t want to be around you if you lead out of fear. That’s not a claim I can make after living that way for a long time. But I can tell you this: people notice when you live out of fear as opposed to love. It’s easy to catch. The ones who operate out of love want something so different for their fear-driven friends.

 

5.

I remember my friend Dimitri gaining the courage to tell me, a year into our friendship, that when he met me he could see right through me.

He thought to himself, this girl looks cool but I feel like she is hiding behind so much. I wonder what kind of walls she has up around her.

He thought to himself, this girl looks cool but I feel like she is hiding behind so much. I wonder what kind of walls she has up around her.

I was walking into every encounter wearing fear glasses, hoping people would mistake me for love instead. But these are the people you want in your life: people who see through your act and call you up to something better. People who say, “I know who you are under that thick, thick layer of fear. I see you. I know you’re coming back to yourself.”

 

6.

Maybe I’m your chance encounter for the day. If I am the only one that tells you this today then let it be so, “Fear doesn’t fit you.

Of all the good things God gave you, you have to stop double-fisting the thing he never asked you to hold. Fear. It’ll take things from you. It’ll write stories for you which aren’t true.

Love is a bigger story.

I know who you are under that thick, thick layer of fear. I see you. I know you’re coming back to yourself.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’re okay.

 

I’ve googled “discipline fatigue” twice in the last 24 hours.

It’s not a thing. I keep checking, hoping I can make it a thing, but it’s an unknown, illegitimate ailment I’ve made up.

I whine to Lane and tell him this is what I have right now: discipline fatigue. It is hitting me like a tidal wave as he pushes me to go to the gym and I tell him I don’t want to. I have no desire. Maybe you can push me to do a workout but I won’t want to go back to it tomorrow. I’m wearing workout clothes right now but I am sitting here writing instead.

I’ve had discipline fatigue in this area of working out for the last three weeks now. I keep wondering if it is like a cold. If I can kick the symptoms with some apple cider vinegar and just keep marching on.

 

I’m a pretty disciplined person. I’ve fallen in love with discipline in the last two years because I’ve found that so much freedom comes from routines and rhythms. It’s so nice to not feel chaotic, or feel like I am constantly chasing after this person I want to become with no real map. Instead, I am inching my way towards her and I am learning how to love and take care of the person who occupies the “in the meantime.”

But I still can so easily fall into this trap of a lie that life will begin, life will mean something, when I check x,y, and z off the list. I know I’m not alone in feeling this. I make goals for the month but there are just some times where the goals– all sitting together in one place– make me feel like I am always climbing towards something and never fully in the present moment of progress.

I want to learn how to occupy my progress. I want to enjoy the imperfection of today.

 

And so, a small reminder for myself: it’s okay to feel burnt out. It’s okay to be tired, weak, weary or all of the above. It’s okay to not know which small step to take. It’s okay if it takes you a little while to take any step at all. 

Every single day is a chance to be better. That’s not a marching order, that’s a gift. All of this-this life unfolding- is slow progress. I like to think we are progressing towards being kinder and happier people. I like to imagine we will get to end of our lives and say we progressed towards joy, more love, and less fear. We must dance in the progress if we ever want to see it as a gift.

There’s a part of me that wants to scream, “Get in the gym! Keep going! Run!” We all go into Nike “just do it” mode when we’re in a mood we need to snap out of. And then there’s this quieter voice that is speaking up and saying, “Hey… chill out. Give yourself a break. You’re doing a lot. You’re carrying a lot.”

You don’t always have to be on your A game. You don’t have to be the one who wedges smoothies, kale, yoga, meditation and skinny jeans into your daily routine. You are not a superhero. There are days for sweatpants pretending to be real pants. There are days for cheese.

Perfection is a conspiracy theory we’re all believing in. Perfection is a paper town. We still chase after it because it looks like other people, people with more followers and more kale on their plates, have somehow attained it. Let the myth die: not a single one of us knows what perfection feels like. 

What perfection wants to steal is our ability to just be here now. We become seekers, lookers, finders, searchers. We become nomads hunting after divine purpose, and a skinnier waist, and a bigger bank account. It all adds up to a bigger problem: We miss one another when we chase after “missing pieces.”

You aren’t missing a thing. It’s all right here, so reach out and grab it. Is there room for growth? Always. Is there time in a single day to be everything to everyone? Never. Stop chasing it.

Don’t trade “being here” for the lie that “getting there” is worth chasing down the rabbit hole.

 

I remember sitting at a dinner table with some of my friends a few years back and I told them how I thought the two most beautiful words in the world, the most universal ones we all needed to hear, were simple: you’re okay.

We sat there for nearly a half hour talking about those two words, marveling at the way they put us all at ease.

You’re Okay. I say those words constantly to my friends in a trial. I repeat them to myself. I hush the babies with that belief, “You’re okay. You’re okay. You’re okay.”

I think all of us need this reminder every once in a while. We don’t always need a pep talk. We don’t need to lie and say we are on top of the mountain when we know we’re really not. The words are blunt and simple, “you’re okay.” Don’t cue the fireworks or call on the heavens to rumble. Some days we are just okay and that’s what the world gets of us. And you know what? That’s okay too.

And it’s true. It’s true whether you ran five miles today or you didn’t get up out of bed: you’re okay.

Whether you have slain the dragons you’re most afraid of or if you ran out of fear: you’re okay.

If you are tired and you don’t have a map: you’re okay.

If you are on the edge of transition and you feel like nothing in your life is the same anymore: you’re okay.

You got up today. You made it this far. You’re still here.

You’re okay. 

 

(photo cred)

Honesty Hour: Good morning?

I love reading the My Morning Routine blog. Something about reading other people’s morning routines is fascinating to me. I like to look for correlations and the routines inspire me to look at my own morning routine.

I don’t have a “set” morning routine yet. There are days where I am up and killing it by 5:30am and then there are days where I snooze with Lane until 8:30 and he hurriedly gets dressed and leaves for work. Working for myself is definitely something I don’t take for granted. I let myself sleep a little longer if I know I have time to work later. For some crazy reason, the hours between 5-7pm are my golden hours for work. I have laser-like focus.

But back to those morning routines…

There are a few things in my morning that make for a guaranteed good day:

  1. A cup of coffee: Lane sets my coffee up the night before so all I have to do is press “brew.”
  2. Time with God: This is always my first thing. If I don’t do it, I am way off. I spend about an hour journaling and getting my feelings out, reading scripture and commentary, and then praying for people.
  3. Writing out my goals the night before: this is the game changer part of my routine. I flounder when I look at a blank space in my planner or when I walk into a day scattered with meetings but no objectives for myself. I try to write out three goals the night before and really have my day mapped out.

So, in honor of honesty hour, what is one (or 3) necessities in your morning routine that guarantee for a killer day?

Punch fear in the face and write the book.

I cannot count the number of hours I spent in bookstores growing up. It was my favorite hobby to go to the local bookstore and pull all the books off the shelf about writing and becoming a published author.

All I ever wanted to be was an author and that’s mainly because my grandmother told me I could become one. When someone you love tells you you’re capable, you’ll do anything to prove them right.

I would spend hours Googling agents and sample query letters. I tried my hardest to equip myself for that fateful day when it would be time to write the book. I didn’t know at the time that it was up to me to sit down and just start. I had to push aside any hope of being a bestseller and put my focus on the only thing I could control: becoming a writer of books. 

Here’s the thing: no one is going to send you a calendar invite to write a book. In your mind, there may always be another excuse as to why “right now” isn’t the right time. Ask me how I know this and I will tell you every excuse I made before I began writing my own books. I blamed time. I blamed other commitments. I didn’t realize I was standing in my own way and that the real hurdle I had to get over was fear.

Fear that my voice didn’t matter.

Fear that I couldn’t make a difference.

Fear of failing and falling flat on my face in front of other people.

When it came time to write my first book, the process looked NOTHING like I imagined it would. The first day was exhilarating and then, from that point forward, it became hard.

Sitting down each day to write = hard.

Sitting down when you don’t feel inspired = hard. 

Sitting down to hash out your own ugly thoughts for an hour or two= hard. 

If you’ve felt any or all of these things then welcome to the club! You’re not alone! You’re human. More than that, you’re a writer. 

The misconception is that you will always feel on top of the world while writing and that the inspiration will simply “show up” for you. The truth? Writing a book is one of the hardest processes you’ll ever endure but it will change you. It will teach you things about yourself you didn’t know before. It will produce a stamina in you that nothing else in this entire world will ever be able to match.

Now that I have written two books, and will be working on my first fiction novel this coming November, I am taking on a new role. I am no longer just an author, I am a cheerleader. A coach. Someone who wants to come alongside you and help you get that first or second book down onto the page. Whether it’s fiction, nonfiction, memoir or mystery, I’m on your team.

On Saturday, November 4 I will be hosting & teaching my annual book-writing course to all who are ready to take the next big step and come learn with me. This 3-hour intensive is going down in cyberspace so you can wear pajamas or a prom dress. Brew a cup of coffee, grab a notebook, and let’s roll out!

Whether you want to complete the challenge in 2017 or start strong in 2018, this course is for the people who want to make this next year the Year of the Book. No more excuses. Just words. Lots and lots of words.

THIS CLASS COVERS:

  • The difference between book writing & blog writing.
  • Making time to write.
  • Overcoming the fear of putting yourself out there.
  • The discipline of writing over 40,000 words: training for a marathon.
  • Accountability: why you need it and how to get it.
  • The bones of a book proposal.
  • A look at the publishing industry.
  • Why you need a platform.
  • Querying and finding an agent that matches your needs.

YOU GET:

  • Access to the live class on November 4, 2017
  • Extended Q & A
  • A recording of the class
  • The Year of the Book workbook & resources
  • Access to a Facebook alumni group

It doesn’t matter where you are in this process of writing a book. This course is for the following people:

  • People who know they want to write a book one day but don’t know where to start.
  • People who dream of writing a book “someday” but they are using “someday” as an excuse to never start.
  • People who have an outline they deem to be crappy and not good enough.
  • People who give up on writing said book every 5 minutes because they feel like they’re not good enough.
  • People who want to know they’re not alone and need a solid community of other writers.
  • People who are halfway through the marathon of writing a book or people who are near the finish line.
  • People who desire to know more about the publication process and the differences between self-publishing & traditional publishing.

I only offer this class once a year and it will be guaranteed to look different next November. If the day conflicts with your schedule then consider purchasing the class and watching the recording the following week to catch up with the other students.

I highly recommend this course if you don’t want to fly solo in the process of figuring out how to write it all down or if you feel lost and in need of a map. I promise to rally with you until we use up all the words.

If you have any questions about this course, please leave a comment below and we can chat 🙂

rallying with you,

hb.

 

 

My Whole30: why I’m now a believer.

I am 12 days removed from my first completed Whole30 and I have to tell you… I have never been more thankful for a 30-day reset than right now. I feel energized. I feel happy. I feel strong. I’ve been excited to write this post for you all month long and it’s finally, finally here!

I hope these notes + comments encourage and empower you! Thanks for allowing me to be vulnerable and messy in this space!

xoxo,

hb.

A little backstory

I attempted my second Whole30 in January of this year. I made it two solid weeks before I was laid out flat by a sinus infection in the third week and was forced to throw in the towel. Antibiotics and lots of Greek yogurt is what the doctor prescribed.

Lane and I are the types to set goals. Really, I’m the goal-setter of our little family but he comes along for the ride. When we set our 2017 goals, I had this on the list: complete a Whole30.

I want to do it. Like, really do it. No cutting corners. No “cheats.” In the past, I was half-hearted about the process. I thought, “I will do everything except kick cream out of my coffee” or “I can totally have beans. I NEED BEANS.” I wanted to do the thing at 100% this time around.

Whole30 is talked about on nearly every food and health blog. Some would say it’s a massive trend, a franchise, that will eventually die out.

Last summer, I decided I wanted to shed some pounds for my wedding. Sweating for the wedding is what I called it. I feel no shame in that. We all want to look and feel our best on the day we wear white. But my results were pretty flimsy. I saw no change in my body. I adore my wedding dress and pictures but I remember being confused as to why I couldn’t lose any weight. My friends said it was likely because of the antidepressant I was taking. It’s common for antidepressants to keep you from losing weight.

In January of this year, I started again. I set the goals to lose some pounds and get that “summer body.” Again. No progress. The scale never budged. The extra pounds never came off.

I went to a doctor in May to have my blood drawn and to make sure there wasn’t anything wrong with me. Thyroid issues are common in my family and I wondered, “Maybe this is why I can’t lose weight. Maybe this is why I get fatigued so easily.”

My bloodwork came back normal. My doctor shrugged and said, “maybe try a Whole30.”

I really hated her resolve. I huffed and puffed to myself leaving that doctor’s office. I didn’t believe that a diet like the Whole30 could actually change anything. I was working out 5 days a week for 45 minutes. I was eating fairly clean. Why was it that I couldn’t just get to the place where I felt happy and content?

I realize this place of contentment does rest in numbers on a scale. However, I told myself I would be honest with this post and dishonesty would like claiming I never feel insecure about my body, I am consistently happy with the skin I am in, and weight is a not an issue for me. You might look at me and think I shouldn’t struggle with these issues but I think we all do. Maybe we could talk about it with a little less shame? Maybe less shame, and more conversation would drive us all into healthier spaces.

The reasoning

Surprisingly, when I walked into my Whole30 this past September it wasn’t about losing weight. I’d be lying if I told you 2017 has been a cakewalk. There’s been cake but no cakewalk. I’ve been challenged physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It was just one of those long desert seasons where it feels like nothing is moving and you just don’t know who you are anymore. I call these times “cocooning” because it feels very quiet, very closed off, and very internal. Marriage has been this sliver of joy in the mess but I otherwise found myself feeling drained and looking at God like, “Really? Can’t I control at least one thing?”

So I remembered how two years ago, in the midst of heartbreak right before I met Lane, I did a Whole30 as an effort to take something into my own hands. God is gracious and he met me there. I remember that month being one of the complete. Something healing happened when I let go of the control food had on me through the 30-day challenge. Truth told I made it 26 days that time.

I decided to repeat my efforts this September. I walked in cautiously optimistic, knowing I have yet to prove myself by actually putting the Whole or the 30 in the Whole30. I think I believed what a lot of people might believe: it’s just 30 days. It cannot change that much. There’s nothing magical about this thing. 

The 30 days

No cutting corners this time. I did the challenge by the book. I recommend the book because it’s a really good resource and it feels like a companion throughout the 30 days. It gave me some solid recipes, a strong timeline of how I should be feeling, and motivation to keep getting over the hurdles.

Admittedly, I bombed the challenge that first day. I didn’t fail or cheat but I definitely cooked WAY too much bacon & paid the price of a big stomachache and a long nap. But after that one hiccup, we did okay!

My cravings curbed after 10 days. I no longer wanted cheese or bread. I found the feelings of energy building up to be way more addicting than empty carbs. I would say the biggest victory of my Whole30 was realizing just how many emotions we tie to the consumption of food.

Lane and I took a trip to the Blue Ridge mountains during Weekend #2 of my Whole30. We enjoyed a nice dinner out with no wine, no bread (for me), no sugar and no dessert. It might sound like a nightmare to you but I was forced to be present and in the moment. I had to squash the desire to cheat. I realized throughout that time that on trips we take I am normally consumed by the idea of food and end up feeling sluggish the whole time. This time, I was awake, alert and really happy to just be with Lane. Major win.

Another huge win: realizing how much I am prone to eat or drink something because I feel like I “deserve” it. That’s a messed up idea that I didn’t fully process until I was in the middle of the challenge and post-challenge. I don’t want to consume things just because I “deserve” them. I want to feel freedom with my choices and I want those choices to not be so self-centered and self-gratifying.

Overall, the Whole30 wasn’t too hard for me this time. I think there are a few reasons for this:

  • I’ve begun meal-prepping in the last few years. This makes all the difference. Make several servings of a meal when you are cooking so you can easily grab something out of the fridge or freezer to fuel you.
  • I know how to measure things now. It seems silly but I used to hate measuring ingredients and I wondered why all my food tasted so crappy. This time around, I was up for the challenge of trying new recipes and going to the grocery store to invest in some new ingredients.
  • I realized not every meal had to be premium or deluxe. There was one morning where I sat and ate hardboiled eggs and pineapple with no remorse. You want food that is going to fool you but you don’t need to be Martha Stewart to complete this challenge.

Notes & tips

  • I did very little working out during my Whole30. This was actually really freeing and restful for me. It also showed me that as much as I love fitness, losing weight has everything to do with food. There is a reason so many gyms obnoxiously post fliers around that say, “Abs are made in the kitchen.” I had rewrites for my book the first half of the Whole30 so my mind was very much: Wake up. Eat what you have to eat. Write. Nap. Exist. I didn’t feel the pressure to fit much else in.
  • It helps to have buddies to push you along. I joined a support group on Facebook with a bunch of strangers! I posted my meals on social media as a form of accountability. I had a girlfriend join me 11 days in and another one started her challenge on my day 25. It was fun to have people to share recipes with. Things like this are so much easier when there’s someone beside you to say, “me too.”
  • It is truly amazing but never once did I get sick of eggs. I could legitimately eat eggs for every meal of the day and not grow tired. Eggs, ghee, fat balls, and kombucha were my saving graces. I didn’t even feel strange pouring some buch into a wine glass to clink with my friends. I felt happy and complete.

The Results

Guys… I am a believer now. Hardcore. No denying it. I can’t say the Whole30 works for every single person but it definitely changed me in so many ways.

I shelved the idea that Whole30 was going to change the number on the scale and actually had Lane hide the scale battery so I couldn’t focus on that.

In terms of non-scale victories, there were plenty:

  • Tons of new energy and no more “afternoon slump” after day 7.
  • Reduced amount of hair shedding.
  • Clearer skin and all issues with psoriasis gone by day 14.
  • Happier, more social, and feeling more comfortable in my own skin.
  • Easier time waking up in the morning.
  • Less anxiety.
  • Clearer thoughts- that “brain fog” they talk about from grain is real, guys.
  • More food-savoring instead of just eating whatever is available to me for no reason at all.
  • Improvement in overall body image.

This is just the start of a list of benefits from the Whole30. Lane didn’t do the complete challenge with me but he definitely cooked a bunch and kept me alive at certain points when I wanted to give up. I loved how it brought us closer together as we shared recipes, bought food together, and tried new dishes. Our “going out to eat” expenses plummeted in the month of September. I only went out to eat about 3 times in the whole 30 days.

Weight loss did happen. I went from being unable to lose a single pound for an entire year to dropping 8 pounds in 30 days. It’s a definite victory to have your clothes fit better and loser but I think I love being able to shelf the dumb lie that my antidepressant was standing in my way. There are some people who find it difficult to lose weight because of medication but it seems this is no longer an issue for me.

Favorite Recipes

As I made this list I realized I want to go back and make everything all over again. There is no lack of savory goodness on the Whole30 if you take your time and really challenge yourself to try newer, greener things.

BLT Chicken Bake = I could eat you for the rest of my life.

Fantastic soup recipe– especially if you have to share a meal with people.

These nuggs are life.

Made these twice and they are a great party appetizer.

This slow cooker applesauce got me through the 30 days.

Lane and I had a Big Brother Finale Party and made these poppers.

My favorite meal on the Whole30.

We honestly thought we were eating “grits.” That good.

I messed up the recipe a little but these were still yum.

My last Whole30 meal. And dang was it good.

No, wait… maybe this was my favorite meal.

Simple & classic.

I highly recommend these red potatoes as a side dish.

Favorite slow cooker recipe on the Whole30.

I wanted to tackle some Q&A in this post but it’s already getting long so I’ll save that for my next post! If you have any questions you want me to answer (I’ll try my best), then leave them in the comment section below. I would love to hear about your experiences with the Whole30 and how it changed things in your life! I’ll be reading!

Switch the script.

Simplicity

I am writing a message to deliver at a church this week on depression and anxiety.

I am thankful because this is a topic we need to talk more about, in and out of the church. Depression and anxiety are real illnesses– needing to be taken seriously– and so I hope I always do those topics justice in this space.

I am swimming in notes on spiritual depression. I’ve been pulling apart Psalm 42 because it’s a song of real suffering. As I read the Psalms, I realize how relatable this man actually is. He’s happy and then he’s sad. He’s all over the place sometimes. But he always returns back to God. He always finds his true north there.

David is feeling all the feels. In Psalm 42, he asked the question we’ve likely read a million times before in church pews: Why are you downcast, O my soul?

I came across a quote about that verse by Lloyd-Jones:

Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them but they are talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment [in Psalm 42] was this: instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says,: “Self, listen for moment, I will speak to you.” (Spiritual Depression)

These words are critical for someone like me who deals with depression and anxiety.

Daily, I am tempted to listen to the little voice in my head that says I am helpless or I am worth nothing. I know it has nothing good to say to me but the voice is so familiar. I feel like it knows me so well. That same voice wants me to sleep in and not get out of bed. That voice wants me to cut corners and only give half of my efforts to this day.

It’s not the voice of God. I can’t claim to know everything about God but I believe this: God’s voice is one of encouragement and love, motivation and power. 

God does not whisper half-hearted anthems into our ears or taunts us to give up. So why do I listen to this voice? Why do I let it wake me up and speak to me before I’ve even had a chance to pour the coffee? 

 

I want to be like David in this Psalm. I want to be able to stop the noise in my brain that wants to define my worth and say, “No, what’s going on with you? Why are you so upset? What are you letting in?”

I want to be smart and switch the script, tell myself I am capable even when I don’t fully believe it.

I am never going to claim you shouldn’t speak to someone if you are grappling with anxiety or depression. It’s important. But I think every battle with mental health is lined with proactive steps worth taking.

A proactive step: I must take responsibility for how I speak to myself and what I allow to speak to me. The voices we listen to possess power.

It might be the voice of a person I thought was a friend. I am learning friends do not beat you down or tell you-you’re not good enough. Friends don’t make you feel like you are walking on eggshells. Friends cover you in truth, even when you don’t want to hear it, but they do the work beforehand to draw close to you. I don’t think we can go around and try to bodyslam people with “truth.” We must be willing to hear the whole story and walk in shoes that make us uncomfortable.

It might be the voice of a parent or a sibling. Still, I think we need to turn the volume down when they are unkind or mean to us. God said we need to learn to love people with our whole hearts but what if that also looks like better boundaries?

It might be some false voice, one I think is God. In that case, I need to make it a priority to seek the true voice of God and apply it to my life. I think every one of us reaches a point our faith where we have to stop listening to podcasts and sermons given from a stage long enough to find the voice of God. God will be personal with you.

 

Here’s to switching the script. If you feel like you’re not there yet, if you can’t find the words to encourage yourself, then borrow these. Read them over you if you like:

Hey you, 

Why do you feel so defeated? Why are you kicking yourself down, not really giving yourself a fair shot? Whatever the reason- that’s okay. I can’t blame you. I’ve been in that spot before where the noise is deafening and the lies are loud. 

But I hope you know today that you are not an accident. The furthest thing from it, really. You woke up today. You got another shot. Let’s make something beautiful happen. 

Macklemore says (yes, I am quoting Macklemore), “Don’t try to change the world, find something that you love. Do it every day, do that for the rest of your life. And eventually, the world will change.” 

Don’t get bound up to what it means to just “be good” or “be perfect.” Don’t try to be what others expect you to be. Just be. 

Show up today and try to love people with every square inch of your heart. Be kind to yourself. Say thank you. Let go. 

The pressure is off. 

 

 

Slow magic.


I want to dedicate this post on writing to my grandmother. She passed away on September 20, 2006. It’s been 11 years without her but there is never a day that I don’t remember her presence and how she told me first, before anyone else, that I would be a writer one day. She never let me doubt that and, in a world that is often too cynical, I am thankful for that belief. My grandmother– Dolores– is the woman on the left in this photograph. I write for her. Always. 


 

Hello Hannah,

I’ve been wanting to write a blog post for forever. Every time I sit down to write anything my mind goes blank. I think back on previous posts and expect something new and marvelous to appear out of thin air. As if the words magically formed sentences on their own and I was just a bystander.

I put a lot of pressure on myself, in every aspect of my life. If you don’t get this done today you never will. If you can’t come up with anything now, how do you ever expect to?  If you don’t make the time for this and that and the other thing you will always be stuck. It’s a torturous, stressful, overwhelming cycle. And a lot of the time I give in. I step back from what I know I should be doing because I’m tired. I’m tired of the uncertainty. I’m tired of the doubt that creeps in when I open a new document and attempt to form words into concrete ideas. I’m tired of feeling unimpressionable. I spend so much of my energy on the thought that my words are inconsequential to the world around me. As if what I’m trying to express has been beaten to death and all I’m doing is adding to the repetition of the chain of the same thoughts the world has already heard.

So, I close the document and start a new tv show. I open Pinterest and drown my insecurities in motivational quotes that don’t encourage me enough to create a world full of characters that haunt my dreams because I’m too afraid. Afraid they’re not good enough. Afraid I will fall short and never know or understand how to shape them into their full potential. Afraid I will forever be the girl with dreams that never made them happen because her creativity only lasted a few pages. Afraid I will be stuck in a routine I hate because I was too doubtful. Too stubborn to give me  a chance. A chance to prove that I can do more than stock shelves and tell people which TV brand is better.

I’ve been meaning to email you for awhile but I’ve also been avoiding it. Because I know there’s only so much you can say or do. I have to do the work. I have to believe in myself. I have to push myself.  I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English two years ago and I’ve yet to figure out what to do with it. The ultimate goal for quite awhile now has been to be an author. But in this day and age, you have to be making a steady income to live. And I’m tired of feeling sorry for myself but I’ve gotten into this awful habit of letting time pass by and saying I’ll figure it out tomorrow. I’m just worried I won’t ever figure it out. I’m turning 24 a week from today and I know everyone says I’m young and I have time but what happens when time runs out? When is it no longer acceptable that I have no career in sight?

Reading over those words out loud I started crying. Because I don’t know anything. I work 25-40hrs a week at a job that I hate because I need to be working and I’m too intimidated to apply anywhere else. I can feel my creative juices depleting and I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t even know what I’m qualified to do.

-M


Sweet M-

First off, thank you for writing to me. Your words are brilliant and bold. I can see you’re caught. You’re stuck. You’re standing at the end of a sidewalk, ready to cross the road, but Fear is holding up a “Do Not Cross” sign and you are listening to it. Even with no threat of cars coming, you don’t want to move. You don’t want to cross. However, you are reaching the point we would all be lucky to reach someday- the point of realizing it will break your heart to never cross and see what is waiting on the other side.

Fear has a well-plotted agenda for you. It wants to keep you safe at all costs. It doesn’t want your heart to be broken. It doesn’t want your knees to get scraped. And, while I think Fear is noble for trying to stay on mission, what your Fear might not understand is how badly it will be the culprit of breaking your heart if it doesn’t move out of the way. Your Fear will likely be stubborn and it won’t move out of the way. You are going to have to push into, M. You are going to have to wrestle that Fear to the ground, let that Fear watch you as you cross the road. Fear may always be a part of the story but that doesn’t mean you need to give it a trophy or let it win. You can honor your fear’s existence but you don’t have to give it a rose ceremony.

k

I know your fear feels very original to you but I can promise you this: hundreds of us have this same fear. Thousands of us go to sleep at night wondering if all of this matters. If our words will ever count. If we will ever just write the book or create the blog. There are words trapped inside of a lot of us, begging to just get past the Fear that guards the door.

I felt just like you graduating from college. I stepped out into the world with my English degree and I thought I would make something of myself in New York City. New York City is an intoxicating city, especially for young dreamers. What I didn’t know, what I would soon learn, is that I was so incredibly small. My thoughts were small. My movements were small. I felt like I could easily be swallowed up by the city and no one would notice if I was gone. I felt forgettable. I thought, in those first few months after college, that it was a lie to ever think I was memorable. I was really just one person in a sea of other persons. So many of us looked so unhappy trying to push upstream.

But I woke up, M. I woke up and I got to work. I had a blog. This same blog you see today. It was really small at the time but I realized I could probably help one person. One person because five people. Five people turned into 400. The numbers grew but only because I kept coming back and choosing words over fear. I don’t show up for popularity, I show up because I believe words can change lives and do it more effectively than any other tool in this world.

I surrounded myself with good people, people who desired to see me win. I became a student of life and I started interviewing every person I could find who would give me five minutes of their time. I interviewed countless people, all from a cell phone in New York City, on how they got from point A to point B. I honored every reader who sent me an email. I thanked them and read their stories. I wrote for them, just as I am writing for you.

I kept blogging. I kept writing. I said “yes.” I figured out what I had to say and I kept figuring it out. I gave myself permission to mess up and make a fool of myself for the art of words. I wrote things I didn’t want to write. I did health articles for $50 a piece about topics I didn’t care about. I freelanced for free just to get a byline. I was there. If someone needed me at an event to tweet or write, I was there. The biggest advice I can give to you is just this: say yes to every chance to write and say thank you for everything. Say yes to that small blog. Say yes to that volunteer opportunity. Say yes to writing the nonprofit’s Christmas letter to their donors. Just say yes and say thank you. More doors will likely open.

k

People will stop telling you to go after your dreams. They will tell you to get practical. They will tell you to get the big paychecks. They will tell you to work to prove yourself. We get older and we stop talking about dreams as much. I don’t want you to go there, M. The world is full of cynics and we don’t need any more naysayers as this current time.

Yes, you need to work hard. No, you cannot expect things to just be handed to you. Yes, you are going to take on some jobs that you absolutely hate. I’ve been there. I worked the jobs. I remember working at a call center for As Seen On TV. I would spend the night shift taking phone call after phone call of complaints about people’s Aqua Globes and Ab Rockets. I listened to a man cry to me about how 80 boxes of tomato planters were sitting on his front porch in brown boxes because the computer-automated voice messed up the order. In the moments where the phone wasn’t ringing, I would scribble stories down on pieces of blank paper. I would not sit in that little cube and wonder about the stories I could write one day, I just started writing them.

Do I have any of those scribbled stories today? No. I would probably look back on them and deem them useless but that’s not the point. The point is this: you need to be writing. Good words. Bad words. Words you never want to see again. Write. Write to figure out who you are. Write to figure if you have a voice and what that voice has to say. Write dumb, little stories. Write poems. I was so engraged with the call center I was working at that I thought I would write a tell-all book about the corruption of the “products sold on TV” industry. That idea was short-lived but it fueled me to start writing. In that way, it served its purpose.

The life of a writer doesn’t just appear one day like an Amazon package showing up at the door. You are going to have to build that life and you cannot build it out of productivity applications or followers on platform. The life of a writer is built out of scrap papers and words, not entitlement. It’s a lie to think you can sit down and watch the words show up like mythical elves ready to be aligned on the page. You’ve got to be willing to say: screw the instant magic, I’m ready to work. 

Most writers will be sure to tell you there isn’t real magic when you first sit down to start writing. There’s just you and a document or you with a notebook. You likely need to shower or change your clothes. There’s likely too much dry shampoo in your hair. The coffee is likely cold. The desire to walk away and go watch Netflix will dance around you like a temptress. You’ll feel the need to watch pointless Lifetime movies or go through all the seasons of Gilmore Girls for the second time. Rory and Lorelai won’t be there with you to bury your writer dreams if you keep choosing Netflix over your craft. It won’t be their fault at the end of the day if you don’t sit down and start to write. That’s on you, babe. That’s on you.

I’m sorry if I seem harsh. It’s not my intention. I just get into fierce, no-nonsense Mama-bear mode when it comes to people who know they have a voice. I want you to figure out all you have to offer to the world while you’re here. It breaks my heart to think we could go our whole lives without figuring out what we have to say.

k

M, there will be magic. It won’t strike during the first five minutes. It usually doesn’t make an appearance until late in the game. Slow magic. But there is a magic that any writer could tell you about. We like to say we are good with words but this kind of magic and the description of it fails us. All I can say is that the magic of writing fills your lungs and gives you purpose. It makes you feel like your hands are on fire, like you need to take a few laps. It will make you feel untouchable and invincible. It will fill your heart in a way people, places, exotic dishes, and good music never could. It’ll feel like coming home and being completely full, all at once.

I want this for you, girl, but I have to be straight with you: the world can never give it to you. The culture can’t promise you such a thing. Followers who want to be like you can never give you this feeling. You have to sit down, in all your spare moments, and you need to start writing. And I promise you something is going to happen. You are going to learn about yourself. You will feel so damn proud at certain points. But it won’t be instant and it won’t happen overnight.

The answer is small. Start small. Dig deep. Sit down. Start to write. Say yes. Go.

It’s in you already.

tying you closer than most,

hb.

 



THE YEAR OF THE BOOK

It’s that time of year again!

I’ll be offering my book writing course this November and I would love to see you there. I only offer this course once a year so grab your seat this year of wait for doors to open again in November 2018.

After writing two books (and working on two more), I am so ready to teach this course with new fire and new instruction. I love to talk about the writing process and I especially love coaching people to create works of 20,000 words or more.

This 3-hour course is for the ones who know they have a book they need to write. Whether it’s a fully cooked idea or just the start of an outline, this course will help you map it out, create a discipline of writing, and learn the steps it takes to move a book forward in the publishing world. You can grab your EarlyBird seat here. Prices for the course will go up at the beginning of October.

If you have any questions or want to ask me about the course, please send an email to info@hannahbrencher.com and we will get back to you shortly!