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)

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!

Daily vitamins made simple & personal.

(pssttt… there’s a treat for my readers at the end of this post. Don’t miss out!)

Sometimes I like to write about the things I care about— faith, relationships, love, necessity. Other times, I like to write about the things and products in my life that are changing my life. This is one of those other times. .

I deal with depression and anxiety. I see a therapist every three weeks and a psychiatrist every 6 months. The therapist and psychiatrist talk to one another. They collaborate to figure out how to walk me into the best life possible. With depression, it is sometimes hard to believe in that “best life possible.”
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They talk to me separately about the importance of whole foods, exercise, routines. I’m like a parrot- rattling off all the right answers until we get to the part about vitamins.
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“Do you take vitamins?”
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I answer, “Yes, of course, I take vitamins.”
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They ask, “Which ones?”
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I get nervous and I say a bunch of things.
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“Well, I dabble in fish oil. I occasionally take a multivitamin but it truly makes me nauseous. Sometimes I take sketchy pills I see on Doctor Oz but that’s always pretty short-lived.”
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Let’s be honest: The whole process of vitamins overwhelms me. I know I need to be taking them but which ones? And what brands? Can I just have the gummies? Why does health feel so hard sometimes?
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My friend Lindsey posted about this company Care/of two months ago. It was an image of a packet of vitamins with her name on it. I was instantly intrigued. I checked out the company and the love affair really began.
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Instead of spending an hour staring at the rows of vitamins in Target, I took a quiz. The quiz asked me about my lifestyle, my goals, my values, and all the things. Sleep patterns. Activity. Skin issues. Illnesses. The quiz took about 5 minutes. I personally loved it because it made me feel seen and known as an individual. If I have learned one thing through my health journey it’s this: there is no one size fits all solution. Each person is different. My needs are different than your needs. I am thankful for companies who call out our differences instead of trying to remedy us all with sameness.
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My quiz tells me I need the following:

  • Rhodiola- The Cosmonaut: Supports stress and mood. I’m down for anything that chills out my brain.
  • Multivitamin- The One: I added this one to my packet after the quiz because my doctors are constantly saying, “MULTIVITAMIN! MULTIVITAMIN! MULTIVITAMIN!”
  • Probiotic Blend- The Harmonious Gut: My mama talks endlessly about probiotics and that I need them. Hey mom- I am doing okay now!
  • Astaxanthin- The Coral King : This is a biggie for me because this little pill helps me with my psoriasis. Skin problems, see you later!

A few days after I ordered the vitamins, a little box showed up with 30 individual packs for each day of the month. I must have shown Lane the packaging at least thirty times because I was just so tickled with the presentation. As crazy as it might seem, I love having my name on all the little packets. It feels personalized and custom-made for me. It’s the little things, guys.
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I’m one month into the experience and I can proudly scream about how much I love the following:

1) It helps with creating healthy habits.
I keep the little box at my desk in a place where I can see it every day. There are no excuses, really. I grab a pack from the box and take it with a meal. No fuss, no excuses. I’ve only missed a few days and that’s because I am still getting used to the process.
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2) It’s trustworthy.
I like honest companies. I don’t know how to figure out who is honest in the industry of vitamins. I am always wondering if I need a different brand of multi vitamins or if I should be trying a different probiotic. In this case, the vitamins are all coming from one place. The tough decisions (the ones I was never good at making anyway) have left the building. I am free to trust the experts and go with my gut (dumb probiotic joke).
3) It’s perfect for traveling. I give it an A+!
I can’t tell you the number of pill boxes I’ve bought in the last few years. I think each one is going to be the solution. I imagine myself refilling it and taking my little pill box on all my travels with me. It has yet to happen. When I went to New York City and Tampa the other week, I simply grabbed 5 packets from the bag and threw them into my carry-on. Again— no fuss, no excuses.
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4) It simply inspires me.
I love innovative companies. I love people who see an everyday occurrence like taking vitamins and try to make it simpler. This sort of stuff fires me up. Overall, subscribing to Care/of feels like an experience more than anything else. I love the branding and the simplicity of the packaging. It’s taken the stress out of vitamins for me. For that, I am pretty stinkin’ grateful.

 


.This isn’t a sponsored post. I am passionate about sharing the things that matter to me with all of you.  I reached out to Care/of and I asked if there was something I could offer to you guys. They were kind (and really speedy), giving me a coupon code for 50% off your first subscription of vitamins. Just use “BRENCHER50” as your promo code at checkout and enjoy half off your first month of vitamins! 
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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.

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.

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.