Get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.

Get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.

This very statement has been repeated to me twice in the last 24 hours. When this happens, my ears perk up. I pay attention.

I was a junior in college the first time someone gave me this advice. I was young, ambitious, and ready to take on the world. At that time, the area where I pushed myself most fully was in student leadership. I realized I had a passion for learning, teaching and leading.

It was the director of our college’s orientation program who said to the group of us one morning, “Get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.”

The thing is this: life is going to place you into some uncomfortable positions. That’s how you grow. If you only ever stay at a level where you are in control, you miss the vital growth. I think the God I love is one who values capacity inside of each us. Capacity, in this sense, is the maximum amount of things you can handle. You are allowed to expand your capacity. You don’t need to be limited by what your current capacity may be. 

But we lie to ourselves. All the time. We tell ourselves what we are capable of and we restrict ourselves with phrases like, “I can’t.” I am experiencing this in my own life. I am so quick to tell myself something isn’t possible. I fill myself with doubt and fear instead of trusting that God is bigger and that I am in the process of becoming better.

My trainer Nicey repeated those classic words to me this morning as we wrapped up our cardio session together. As I swig my water and catch my breath, she tells me to get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.

At this point, I have screamed and cussed. I have thanked God no one is around in the gym to witness this epic, dramatic affair. I’ve wanted to quit a dozen times but Nicey does not give me that option. She keeps pushing me to move faster, go harder, and not give into my weaknesses.

My brain begs for an ending, a chance to give up. At one point, Nicey gets low to the ground and she says, “I need you find that thing inside of you that wants this. Dig until you find it.”

It occurs to me that if Nicey were not in the room screaming at me then I would have quit a few minutes earlier.

We give up on ourselves too quickly. At the first sign of pain or discomfort, we give up. We script a half-hearted narrative in our brains about how we will never get from point A to point B. I’m sick of it. I want to live better stories. I think God wants me to live better stories than the ones where I am perpetually a victim to my own circumstances.

So, dear hearts, if you are out there then remember this: you are not defined by your circumstances. You and your identity cannot be easily summed up into a Instagram bio of 140-characters or less. You are capable of expanding your capacity, little by little. But expanding capacity is not a passenger-seat role. You are going to have to step into it fully.

If you want to grow, you’ve got to get low to the ground. Get in the dirt and start to dig. We constantly want to be getting bigger and more expansive with our lives, and our profiles, and our followings but what if the world is sending us the wrong message? What if the key to true growth is the willingness to get down on your knees and into the dirt, the mess of life?

Dig deep. Dig deeper. Dig until you find the thing inside of you, the thing you didn’t know existed. You might call it strength. You might call it endurance. But start there. Give that thing the air to grow.

Honesty Hour Vol. 2: What do you think about weddings?

Our first Honesty Hour was a massive success! I am so excited to be striking up these conversations throughout the month!

I found myself reading this TIME article the other day on the problem with weddings. A little bit of an intense approach, the writer speaks up about why she hates weddings:

“There’s the very good argument that weddings are tradition. But did our great, great, great grandmothers register at Crate & Barrel? Did they hire make-up artists and spend thousands on cakes? Probably not. And yes, everything evolves. But I’m thinking this evolution has gone too far and, in the end, hurts us.”

Weddings in the last 10 years, since the rise of Pinterest, have gotten increasingly more extravagant. However, I’ve also seen a lot of friends forgo the traditions and stick to a small and holy ceremony. Mind you, I did a lot of the things the writer referenced in this piece. I had a registry at Crate & Barrel and Target. I had a make-up artist. We honeymooned right after the big day. We chose to forgo the cake to do a milk & cookies bar. Our guest count was 220 people. When it came to finances, some money came from my parents and some came out of my own pockets. My mom, on the other hand, was married in the backyard of my dad’s home wearing sandals and a purple dress.

There were definitely some times throughout the wedding planning process where I wondered: Why does tradition say we should do this? Can we just skip this part? 

There are some things she wrote in this article that I agreed with:

“Contrary to what romantic comedies would have you believe, a wedding is the starting point, not the finish line. And by obsessing over this one event, we’re putting ourselves behind in the marathon that is a marriage.”

At the core of our wedding, Lane and I wanted the day to be about our guests and what God had done in our story. I like to think we went extra lengths to make our people and God the priority: handwritten notes for each guest, seating charts, a worship-filled ceremony. Every wedding is different and that’s what I love: you get to make the day your own.

So, readers, let’s have Honesty Hour. Chime in and say whatever you’re feeling. No wrong answers here: 

What do you think of weddings? Did you have a big wedding or do you dream of one? Married or single, what investments truly matter to you on the wedding day? Regrets? Things you would do over in a heartbeat? 

Be the invitation.

The following post was originally published in my Monday Morning Email Club on June 12, 2017. Enjoy new content and a Monday pep talk every week by joining the list here

This past Saturday marks 6 months of marriage for Lane and I. I think to myself, that’s wild… Admittedly, it’s been easy so far. I’m not naive to think it will stay that way forever and I am not going to put our relationship out to dry all over the internet but so far, so good.

One of the hardest things to figure out together is community. Cultivating community is weird when you are single and creating community is still weird when you get married. You struggle to keep old friends, you scrounge to make new friends, you figure out in the trials of adulthood who is really standing with you.

Lane and I talk a lot about community. I text older friends, ones with years of marriage under their belts, and I ask them: how do you figure it out? How do you make friends at this age?

I think there should be a book about forging good community because it feels like the manual runs out when you graduate from college and move to a new city. Suddenly it is harder to make friends.

As a single person, it seemed like the most important quest for me was to find someone to be romantic with. It was always at the top of my list until one summer, two years ago, when I got my heart broken. A romance was no longer the priority and what I did in that month to follow was maybe the healthiest thing I did throughout my whole entire life: I built community. I built community through action. Through accepting invitations and saying yes when I wanted to say no.

The thing about community is that it isn’t instant. Social media wants you to believe that one party will mend your little heart and fill in the hole that aches for meaningful interactions. But no, you are going to have to do more work than that. It is work to show up to the places where you meet other people. And it is work to open up your heart after you closed up shop for a little while.

For me, it is the perpetual worry that everyone in my life is hanging out without me. It sucks away my joy. It dictates my emotions. My mom doesn’t get it because my mom didn’t grow up into the world where every last action was eloquently recorded for the world to watch and witness from behind a screen. I want the invitations. Even if I cannot attend, and even if these are the not the people I need to be surrounded by, I still want the invite. I think we all are driven by the same things: we want to be seen, we want to be known, and we want to be understood. 

One of my older friends tells me I need to be the invitation. She tells me that if I am constantly worried about not getting an invitation from people in our neighborhood to hang or clink glasses or celebrate a birthday then I should put my big girl pants on and just be the invitation. 

In practical terms, she’s telling to invite people in. Kill the FOMO with a fancy invite and some fun, unexpected occasion. Invite people to the table. You can literally do just that and invite people to a big, round table to talk or you can make your own variation of that. You can create an event. You can host a movie night. You don’t have to worry about everyone in the room knowing one another. Just say one big prayer over the whole shindig: that hearts would meet, that prayers would be answered, phone numbers would be swamped, and the community would grow, because and in spite of you.

The age of idleness.

The word is idleness. That’s the word that flew out from my lips as I meandered through the rows of chairs in the church auditorium, placing my hand on each seat.

I joined a prayer team last month at my church. The prayer team is basically the people who come in before and after the events and cover the whole thing in prayer. I like this job. I like being able to talk to God and listen as I say prayers over every seat. It keeps me optimistic and open. I want people to have whatever encounter with God they feel they need to have.

The word that I kept hearing as I prayed is that one mentioned above: idleness. I go to a dictionary the next day to read the definition. Idleness is basically the sister of laziness. Idleness is taking precious time and not using it for good or productive things.

As I am thinking about this word, I think about social media. I think about all the time I am prone to wasting when I pick up my phone and begin scrolling.

 

I’m fearful sometimes. I don’t want to give fear a big role in this story but I am scared sometimes of who we are becoming when we focus so much on watching other people live their lives. We have our own lives to live but we would rather be spectators. Assuming the role of a spectator is easier than going out and living. Watching and interpreting from behind a screen is easier than reaching out to have the hard conversation.

We do it more habitually now. We consume Facebook statuses, tweets, stories, and snaps. We peek into the lives of other people and, whether we admire or envy them, we allow their daily routines to seep into us and take space in our hearts.

I think there is a fine line between consuming content because we adore it and it inspires us and then consuming because we feel bored or we think we feel entitled to the pieces of someone else’s life. I say all of this because I have struggled firsthand with it. I have gone from watching stories innocently to suddenly being unable to control my emotions of envy, jealousy, or comparison with another person. I watch to stay in the loop. I watch to keep an eye on the person.

For a long time, I allowed social media to dictate my emotions and I floundered because of it. This does not help me. It only hurts me. I stopped watching these stories eventually. I turned a new leaf for myself.

 

I’m a believer that we either give people life or we give them death. That sounds pretty serious. I try to remind myself of this death/life dichotomy when I am going online to post something. I try to ask myself the necessary questions: Is this important? Do people need this? Am I posting because I feel full or because I feel empty? If I am not giving something to the world then maybe I am taking something way from it.

If I cannot find a reason in myself– or if I am posting out of a need for validation– then I try to step back and reevaluate. I think the more followers you have, the more weight you carry as an influencer. I want to take that influence seriously. I want to be able to say, when all is said and done, I steered people in a direction that made them feel safe, seen, valuable and able. I don’t want to say I used social media only to puff myself up and give myself false feelings of being safe, seen, valuable and able.

 

In my senior year of college, the administrators of our clubs on campus made all the student leaders participate in a service day. We scattered all over Worcester sweeping sidewalks and reading to the elderly.  I ended up playing cards at a nursing home with a group of women were around age 80 and upwards.

Maggie was the queen bee of the card game that day. She was the most outspoken of the bunch. I made the mistake of checking my phone while waiting for Maggie to make her next move. I was probably waiting on a text from a guy, fishing for some sort of approval. I don’t remember.

“I don’t understand all you young people,” Maggie said, directing her comment at me without a tinge of hesitation. “You are always talking to one another on a screen. My grand-daughter talks to all her best friends on a screen. That is not a best friend, I want to tell her! You need to be able to see your best friend, touch your best friend, smellllll your best friend.”

That conversation was 7 years ago. I still remember it. It still sticks in my brain as I recall Maggie playing gin. I didn’t know, and Maggie didn’t know, that social media was just beginning back then. We’d yet to see an era where business happened on a screen, friendships blossomed and broke on a screen, and texts became the way to reach out and ask: are you okay? The year is 2017 and, still, nothing can replace the feeling of someone sitting beside you and learning to cradle your pain like their own.

I think we can either participate in each other’s lives relentlessly or we can watch from the sidelines. Life never called us to the sidelines. It never asked us to watch people go through life from behind a screen. So when did we bench ourselves? When did we accept 2-d versions of ourselves as being enough for other people?

 

One day I’ll be the new Maggie. I’ll be playing gin and hoping people remember to feed me. I don’t know what the world will look like when that happens. All I have in my possession is this meager time in between. I want to fill it with real stuff. Tangibility. People meeting up. Friends showing up at my door with food. I want meal trains and conversations where the wine runs out. I want a collection of those thick moments you have when you sit with someone and you don’t say anything. The pain is thick but you stay. You stay and you wait for the resolution to arrive. You quit waiting for the lightbulb to go off in the room and you wake up long enough to see: you are the lightbulb. You are the carrier of that necessary light.

I want the richest life and I am making my steps towards it. I want to say I am making progress. With each moment where the phone stays face down on the table and I pull my husband in for a kiss, I stay and make progress. In order to make progress, I think you have to stay in moments long enough to feel them wash over you. Feel the pain. The love. The lack. The weight of being human. It’s rich. Really, it’s the opposite of idle.

29 life rules.

I found this magazine article yesterday and it really inspired me. Life rules. It’s a pretty powerful statement to set rules for yourself to live by. I used to create rules for myself all the time but they were rigid and boring. They were rules I placed on myself because I thought maybe I needed to be contained or kept in line. Rulebooks that don’t give you any room for growth or mistakes are dumb. I like these rules much better.

Today I am turning 29. It’s a year I have honestly waited my whole life to get to and I am not sure why. I’ve just always loved the idea of being 29 and so I decided today would be the perfect day to write a new rulebook, create some new life rules. 

  1. The leftover fear of “what if” should always be bigger than the fear of failure. Go out there and try new things even if it scares you half to death.
  2. Celebrate other people as they go after what makes them feel alive. No room for jealousy at this point, champion people and help them win.
  3. Never say no to taco dates. Tacos and friends are always most important than whatever is on your to-do list.
  4. Boundaries are important. People have told you that for years and you’ve rarely believed them. But now you see it. Spend this next year establishing better boundaries, preserving your heart, and knowing when you need to step away.
  5. Prayer. Lots of it. In every situation. Don’t ever belittle that thing and don’t ever misuse the concept by telling someone you are praying when you aren’t. Get down on the carpet and keep getting down into the posture of prayer, even when you feel like nothing is moving.
  6. Remain teachable. The older you get, the less you actually know. Allow someone to teach you instead of being a know-it-all. Stay humble in learning.
  7. Keep your spaces clean. Chaos squashes your creativity. To keep your brain calm, keep your room clean.
  8. People are flawed and they will mess up. Find more grace in the pockets of your heart. Consume grace regularly, as if it were a vitamin.
  9. Rule borrowed from Anna Quindlen: “You can embrace a life that feels like it belongs to you, not one made up of tiny fragments of the expectations of a society that, frankly, in most of its expectations, is not worthy of you.”
  10. Let it breathe. When you feel something, don’t keep it bottled up inside of you. Talk to someone you trust. Air it out. Don’t let your feelings eat you from the inside out.
  11. About that rule #10: Note the “someone.” Avoid the itch to tell anyone and everyone your struggles, problems, hang-ups. Create your people circle and lean hard into them. Less is more, babe.
  12. Wear the romper.
  13. Try your best to send birthday cards in the mail. Writing on someone’s Facebook wall is nice but if you know the person, and you have their address, then scoot your butt to the post office and mail them a card. They will be so thankful.
  14. A lesson you learned in your 28th year that will still prove to be valid as you turn 29: if you want to see results you’ve never seen, be willing to do things you’ve never done.
  15. Your expectations of people are not reality. Not always. Don’t be consumed by how a person does or does not treat you.
  16. Rule borrowed from Lane Sheats: Find joy apart from the need for others’ approval. Joy wrapped up in the validation of others isn’t really joy at all. It won’t last. It won’t stand firm when life knocks you down.
  17. Prioritize simplicity and strive for it. Experiences > Stuff.
  18. Keep your 5am hours as much as you possibly can. Cool stuff happens when you are awake and alert before the rest of the world has their morning coffee.
  19. Don’t go to Target when you’re emotional or feeling bad about your life.
  20. Keep weekly dates with the people you’re investing in. Consistency is a surprising rarity in the world today. Seize it with both hands.
  21. Weed your garden at least every month if not twice a month. When I say “weed your garden,” I really mean: take time to write out the lies that are currently holding you captive and pull them out from the root. Replace them with little seedlings of truth.
  22. Rule borrowed from Ellen Degeneres: Never follow anyone else’s path, unless you’re in the woods and you’re lost and you see a path and by all means, you should follow that.
  23. Don’t worry about the things that haven’t happened. Wait for each moment to have it’s own birthday and deal with it then. No use in crying over things that aren’t even real.
  24. Give. Be a giver. When you give, there is always more.
  25. Replace gossip with prayer.
  26. Forgive the version of you who didn’t know better. Forgive that girl and love her, she was doing the best she could.
  27. Be slow, like snail-pace slow, to judge a pair of shoes you’ve never tried to walk in.
  28. Put on the damn bikini and go out to the pool, girl. Get yourself a tan.
  29. Hannah- remember, remember, remember: the fullest moments of your life will never be documented or captured for the world to clap at or approve of them. Make room for the full moments that only happen when you are shut off, tucked away, found in a quiet space by God.

Honesty Hour Vol. 1: how do I make my world better?

photo cred.

 

First off, oh. my. goodness…

All I have wanted to do in the last two months is get back to blogging. I’ve missed this space!

I tried several times to write something while on my book deadline but my brain just wasn’t having it. I’m learning to give myself grace in the book writing process.

But I’ve officially finished draft 1 of the book and I am so stinking excited to be back here with you. I’ve been brainstorming and coming up with new content and I really cannot wait to grow this blog and strengthen what is already here.

So, in the spirit of that, we are starting a new series! This series is meant to be interactive and a chance for readers like you to connect with one another in the comment section. I find there are a lot of big, scary issues out there (and some light and funny ones, as well) that you guys email me about and ask me to tackle. Truth is, I cannot tackle them alone. I need your help, your experiences, your insight and your advice!

We are officially naming this new series: Honesty Hour.

For those of you who have been around here for a while or a regular reader of the Monday Morning Email, then you know the origins of Honesty Hour. It’s a term I came up with on my first date with Lane. I was sick of playing games. I was sick of all the “light get-to-know-you banter” that happens on a first date. I wanted to get right to the point and figure it out: are we in this or not?

I found myself saying out loud to him throughout the date, “This is an honesty hour.”

“Honesty hour?” he asked me.

“Yes, honesty hour. In honesty hour you get to say whatever you want.”

“Okay,” he answered with a nod. “Honesty hour. Let’s go.”

And so, for the rest of that date, we stayed within honesty hour and it was refreshing and like breath to the parts of me that always feel the need to be polished and insightful. When we said risky things, we could preface with, “After all, this is honesty hour.” And there was no judgment or worry sitting between us. It felt really good. It felt really safe. It felt like we were handing one another permission slips: permission to be in process.

So how does an Honesty Hour like this happen on the blog?

Every other week, we will post a new question/topic. Then it’s your chance to weigh in and give your feedback. Our hope is that we will learn from one another, inspire each other, and push one another to be stronger. I want to talk about all sorts of stuff: life, relationships, food, TV shows, culture, all of it. Sound good? 

So, without further, ado…. let’s have our first Honesty Hour.

Honesty Hour Vol. 1 


How do you make your world a better place?


I had a different topic in mind entirely this afternoon but I’ve been particularly impacted by the Manchester Bombing news. There are no real answers when it comes to a tragedy like this one and it is hard to stay hopeful as you watch the news some nights. Sometimes it feels like this world is so dark and like, no matter what we do, we cannot possibly make a difference. I want to be strong though, strong and hopeful even in the midst of some scary chaos.

So I want to hear from you guys: what do you do to make your world a better place?

Let’s talk concrete actions: do you reach out to friends? Do you write letters? Do you volunteer? If so, where? Do you pray? Do you read certain things? Let’s band together and share our best ideas and resources on how to impact our world in a positive way. 

Also, include your name, age, and where you are writing from! It always helps to know where you are in the world. 

I realize no amount of talking can take the pain out of these tragedies but I also don’t want to be afraid to use our voices when we feel defeated, tired, or fearful.

Meet me in the comments section below.