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13 thoughts on mental health.

1.

I didn’t want to work out this morning but I pushed myself out into the sunlight anyway.

I’m confused by the weather as I walk the streets of my neighborhood. November in Atlanta is like a puberty-stricken teenager square in the middle of an identity crisis. Some days she is hot. Some days she is cold. She dresses up like winter on a Monday and then slips back into the nylon of spring by Wednesday. I wish November would make up its mind.

I pull out my phone and set the time for 45 minutes. I only need to walk and get my blood pumping for 45 minutes today. That’s all it will take.

2.

I thought I would write about depression sometime in the month of October. It was National Mental Awareness Month. I thought I should have something to say but I watched the 31 days come and go.

I think there are times to write about what has happened to us and then I think there are times to allow what’s happening to us to just happen. No writing it down. No trying to make it eloquent. No forcibly documenting it for the world to comment on. October was a shaping month for me in regards to my journey to become healthy and whole. October was reflective and sacred in so many ways.

3.

I look at the calendar and I know that the anniversary of November 18 is coming up. Two years ago, my life was flipped in an instant. Doctors looked at me with concerned eyes. People nearly forgot how to pray. It was the darkest and thickest time of my life.

When we were in crisis mode last winter, I booked an appointment with any doctor I could see within the hour. I didn’t care who it was. I didn’t care what they gave me. I simply wanted to know I would be okay, I would could out of the woods.

The doctor I saw prescribed me for a dosage of Prozac. She gave me sleeping pills. She basically had a pill for every ailment I could name. I sat in that office feeling uninformed and afraid. For the whole time I’ve seen this doctor, I’ve never felt like a priority to her. I’ve never felt like she cared much about the prescriptions she was writing me.

I know this is not the experience of every person. It is mine though. I felt that every word that came out of my mouth was met with a common answer from her, “There is a drug for that.”

4.

I took my health into my hands this year. I started asking questions. I started needing answers. I decided to find a new doctor. I wanted to be off medication. I wanted to be healed. I wanted a natural diet and a good regiment of working out to be enough for me.

Lane is calm. He tells me people say all the time that God doesn’t do the same miracles now that He used to do in the bible. He says people aren’t looking close enough. People are discounting what a “miracle” looks and sounds like. He believes it is a modern-day miracle that doctors can create medication that balances the chemicals in the brain.

He tells me I am witnessing a miracle firsthand, if only I would open my hands and receive it. It is a miracle that I can be prescribed to something that lifts my fog of depression and allows me to seek God doggedly and serve Him persistently. Modern medicine— prescribed well and watched carefully— is a miracle to me. It allows me to feel the depth of my relationships, take in the love of my fiancé, and renew my mind without a million detour signs running in my brain.

It has made me feel seen by God.

5.

I sat on a waiting list for 5 and a half weeks before being able to see the new doctor. She is a Christian psychiatrist.  In the time I waited for the appointment, I prayed. I prayed she would understand me. I prayed she would see me. Like, really see me. I prayed she would have answers. I wanted to know the pathways where God and medication pass one another and overlap.

6.

“Working out will be medicinal for you,” the new doctor tells me when I am finally sitting in her office. “People who go through depressive episodes are twice as likely to come out of them when they workout 5 days a week for 45-minutes as opposed to 4 days a week for 30-minutes.”

She answers all my questions. She lets me start by telling my whole story from start to finish. She doesn’t look at me like I am crazy. She is patient and kind. We go over on time and she doesn’t flinch or push me out the door.

I feel heard.

7.

“Have you read the book of Job?” my new doctor asks me.

“I have in pieces,” I tell her. “It was my favorite for a while but people told me to lay off it while I was going through the depression because it was a little too intense.”

I’m an intense person. I like intense things. I have a tattoo on the back of my neck about the book of Job. That’s how intense I am

“And how did it end for Job?” she asks me.

“Well, I know he had a lot of awful things happen to him. But it was restored in the end.”

“Yes,” she says. “But it would never go back to what it was. And for Job, it was never about whether his life would be restored or not. He learned how much God loved him.”

We always talk about the restoration of Job’s life, how the blessings came back to him.

“I bet Job still cried at night though,” I say to her. “I bet Job still felt the pain of loss. I bet people said to Job all the time, ‘Well look, God restored it in the end.’”

If I were Job, I would probably look at them and say, “Yes, but you don’t know how much I value the taste of air. The taste of breathing after a long time of drowning.”

When you’ve been through hell and back, you never take the taste of air for granted again. It’s with you everyday. You suck it in and you exhale.

Waking up— after a long while of depression robbing sleep from me— is like poetry now. It never gets old. It never gets tired. I am most thankful for the days when I wake up and realize, “I am okay now.”

8.

My doctor tells me 1/3 of people go on medication, come off it, and never have to go back on it again. Another third go on medication, come off of it, and have to go back on it when symptoms return. The last third are on it for their entire lives and that’s okay too.

I’ve never had a doctor tell me “that’s okay too” in regards to mental health and medication. Words like “that’s okay too” are like water to me in the dry of a desert that has never seen rain.

9.

I’ve struggled with feeling right or wrong about medication. The church rarely talks about it. I’ve stumbled through conversations with people who have told me that God could heal me in an instant if I would just let Him. They talk as if I am holding doubt by the neck, refusing to let it go.

I believe God is a big-time healer. I believe His breath is the first and last one. However, I also know my faith is mighty. My faith is not small. And so, while I believe that God can heal me, the fact that I have not been healed is not a sign that my faith is weak or my expectations are low. It means we are partnered. It means God thinks I am strong enough to keep walking this road and asking my questions. 

“Taking medicine is a wise act of faith, not unfaith,” Zack Eswine writes. “It would not be wise to live by a supposed faith, and cast off the physician and his medicines, any more than to discharge the butcher, and the tailor, and expect to be fed and clothed by faith,” Charles Spurgeon said.

10.

I don’t know where God stands on medication some of the time. But I listen to wise counsel. And I pray often. And I try my best to still the voices in my head that are chaotic and loud. When I can still them, this quieter voice comes through. It is polite and it is sweet. It is honest but it is graceful. It tells me often that I am okay, to relax, to breathe, be okay with the “not knowing.”

My new doctor lets us close with a prayer. It’s not short and rushed. It’s long and winding. She cares about the words. I’ve never had prayer in a doctor’s office before.

11.

My favorite element of God is the not knowing. I love that about my relationship with God. I love that there is grey area. I love that I cannot possibly be wise enough to understand all this life has given me. There are a dozen things that happen on the news, or happen in my personal life, that leave me raising my hands, shrugging my shoulders, and saying, “I’m not really sure.” I don’t get it. It is not always mine “to get.”

Learning the elements of God is like learning the traits of someone you’re in love with. Lane gets a fire in his eyes when he comes home from work, makes a meal for himself, and sits down with a blanket to drink a big glass of chocolate milk. It’s like he is seven. I fall in love with him all over again as he dances around the room in giddy delight. I think, “I didn’t know this about you before. This is another element of you. I love trying to understand you. I could make a lifetime out of getting to know you better.”

I feel that way about God too. I think my heart would be broken in two if ever there was a day where the learning stopped and I suddenly knew everything there was to know. That’s the beauty of God: you can spend your whole life “coming to know Him” and still never touch the tip of what He is.

12.

I am still on medication. I can talk openly about it.

I take medication but it is not the only way I take care of my health. I see a therapist. I talk things out. We open the wounds, we don’t hide them.

I love bringing it up. You might think it is strange but my conversations with readers and people who come to see my talks are a thousand times richer and deeper when I say the word “Prozac” from a stage. People have questions. People have been in need of answers just like me. People want to know they are not alone. So I like to stand on a stage and tell people the truth, “No, you are not alone. Ask all your questions. Don’t stop.”

I am stronger now, thanks to modern medicine and big faith. Now I have eyes that see in the dark. This is, by far, the most beautiful part of my diagnosis. Some days are still hard. Some mornings are still slow and threatening. The threats are empty though because I know the way home now. I have eyes that see in the dark. I know the dark cannot have me.

13.

Two November 18s ago, there was a sermon series happening at my church in Connecticut on the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes are the part in the bible where Jesus gets up on the mountain and basically throws the game off as He declares that blessed will be the opposite of the ones we think should be “blessed.”

This is when people start to say, “This Jesus man— He is something different.”

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

I clung to that one. I prayed in the darkness that I would be pure in heart. That God would know I wasn’t doing anything but trying to make it out of this time alive. I begged for the pure heart. I begged to see God.

Two years ago, I would have thought it was proud to say I have a pure heart. Today, I know I am not proud. I know I have a pure heart— scraped and chiseled— because I see God every single day. I see God in the way you see the man at Kroger shuffling the stray carts through the automatic doors at the front. He’s living in my inbox. He’s sitting at my speaking engagements. He’s everywhere. 

Now I have eyes to see God. Now I have eyes that see in the dark.

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Make love famous: a love letter for today.

I don’t know a thing about politics. I don’t talk about it in small circles. I’ve held my breath for most of this election. I know some people are happy with the outcome of last night. Some of you are absolutely heartbroken. Some of you aren’t living in America so it touches you or it doesn’t. Either way, I am not here to write about politics.

I’m here to write you a love letter. That’s what I am good for today. That’s what I am capable of. I woke up this morning and felt really somber. It’s in these moments– where I know a good amount of people are hurting– that I feel too small. I feel like my actions can’t make a difference. But I felt like God was present this morning, like He was pressing His fingertips into me and saying, “Today is a support day. If all you do today is remind people of love then that’s a win.” That’s a win, babe.

Like I said, I don’t know politics. I know love though. I know that love is a conqueror. And I know the internet is full of a lot of fear today. So the reminder is small but the heart behind it is big: fear doesn’t win. No matter who wins an election, fear does not win. Fear doesn’t call the shots. Fear doesn’t get to own you. Fear isn’t the winner today. Love must be bigger than fear. We must make it so. 

A few things to remember today as you step out into the world: 

1) Love is not about fear. The two don’t coexist. One has to live longer than the other. You decide whether you’re giving the oxygen mask to love or fear.

2) It’s okay to grieve. It’s okay to be in pieces. But please– if you are feeling isolated or alone– contact someone. Pick up the phone. Call a friend and don’t stand in this by yourself.

3) Your small tasks matter. I used to believe it wasn’t so. But it all matters. It all stacks up. The letters you send. The people you speak to. The friends you text. The kindness you spread to people. It all matters and it all makes this world better.

4) Defeat is not an option. No one is giving up today. No one is being left behind today. If I know the Monday crew then I know you are a crew of people who believe in solidarity, peace, comfort and strength. Please use what you’ve got inside of you to spread the love today. You’re needed today.

5) Kindness isn’t dead. The timing of everything is pretty crazy. I’m headed to Boston to speak about kindness tomorrow. I was just venting to a friend about how kindness can be so easily misconstrued and boiled down to a basic concept. Today I am reminded of the ultimate truth: kindness is not surface level. Kindness must run deeper. We must push harder to be kind. Kindness not an easy concept, it’s a lifelong battle that demands we take it seriously. 

6) Today someone needs you. We’ve all been stuck to the media for the last few weeks. Now we know the outcome. Now it is time to reach out. Now it is time to get busy. Just as my mama told me after a breakup last year, “less words, more work.” Less words of hate. Less words of destruction. Less words of fear. More work. More work. More work. Someone needs you today. Election or no election, someone woke up today on this 9th day of November needing you. Don’t miss it.

7) You are accounted for. You are not forgotten. You are not alone. You are not abandoned. You are not an afterthought. On this November 9, 2016, you are accounted for. You have been prayed for. Remember that. Remember that when it feels like the world has stopped turning or the news doesn’t make sense. It’s not over, babe. You’re not done. I’m not done. But you’re seen. You’re seen today. I can promise you that.

Remember, friends: today is a support day. If you do something today, make sure it includes being there for someone who feels broken today. I love you fiercely and I pray for you often. It’s up to us… it’s on us to make love more famous than fear.

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Welcome to the Monday club.

Hey you!

The following post comes from my Monday Morning Email series. I don’t usually post Monday Morning Emails on the blog but today is a special occasion.

  1. You might not even be aware that I send out a Monday Morning email every Monday to thousands of people like you! It’s quick, it’s feisty, and it’s my best attempt to get back at Monday for making everyone feel so lethargic! 
  2. For forever (or three years… you pick) my Monday Morning Email could only be accessed through a waitlist. Some people waited on that little waitlist for months before entering into the super cool Monday club. 

I am proud to announce the waitlist has been ABOLISHED! Come one, come all! Pep talks arriving straight to your inbox on Monday mornings to help you quick butt and show your week who is boss! Sign up here.

I hope you’ll join us

hb. & the Monday Crew 


monday #113: coming home.

Last week’s email seemed to hit a cord with a lot of you. I am always so thankful when I can deliver something to your inbox that makes you feel seen and known. A lot of you came back to me and asked: how? How do I stay? How do I come home– after a time away– and resume life so naturally when everyone else is moving on, getting engaged and making babies?

I’ll be honest: your question is a hard one. I’ve thought about it for the span of a week and I still wonder if I have anything I can possibly offer you that looks or seems like sound advice. In a moment of being stunted on where to start, I googled “how to plant roots down.” I guess I should not have been surprised when a surplus of articles on gardening showed up on my screen. I proceeded to waste a few more minutes clicking through Google images of tree roots and exploring just how and why trees root down.

They root down so they can intake the water and the nutrients they need to live and be healthy. There’s a blaring metaphor staring the both of us in the face right now. If the plant does not root down, the plant cannot grow. It needs all those nutrients and all that h2o to thrive and become what it is meant to be– a big ol’ tree.

Maybe you are in your 20’s. You are traveling and exploring. You are meeting people for coffee. You are enjoying the adrenaline of not being tied down by anything or anyone. It’s a romantic stage of life. I used to get on planes just because I could. I would schedule coffee dates with people I would never see again. It ensured I always had the best stories to tell all my friends when I would eventually come back home. But, as romantic as the life seemed on paper, it began to make me feel estranged and it made me feel lonely.

I’m not telling you to stop. And I am not writing to you about how you eventually need to settle down and quit meeting strangers for coffee. That’s not it. But here’s the question I want to ask you: where do you get your fuel from? Where do you go when you need to recharge? Who fills your tank? Who picks you up from the airport?

The owner of my favorite coffee shop asked me that last question one night while I was working late in his shop. Who picks you up from the airport? I was taken aback by the question and I was surprised to find that I didn’t really have an answer for him. I couldn’t name a single soul who picked me up from the airport. I would simply come home when I was ready, order an Uber, and have the car drop me off at my door.

I have people to pick me up from the airport though. I have them in Atlanta and I had them in Connecticut when I lived there. But my problem was that I didn’t ask them. People cannot pick you up from the airport if you don’t tell them you need them. People won’t feel valued– like their friendship is pertinent to you– if you never have a reason to need them.

Friendships and relationships are built on need. Trust is built because the two of you are vulnerable enough to let some walls down and actually need each other to show up. Before that need comes in, you are just two people who like the company of one another. It is when we humble ourselves down to the realization that interdependency is essential that we uncover a true relationship.

Maybe I have pinned you wrong. Maybe this has nothing to do with roots or asking people to pick you up from the airport. In that case, I’m sorry. For me, the last two years have been a long and hard trek towards falling in love with ordinary life. Towards falling in love with the idea of having coffee with people who don’t thrill me in the way strangers do. Towards falling in love with this idea that people in my community need me for really mundane things and I want to be there for that. I want to be there for the nights when someone needs a babysitter. I want to be there to coach someone through a trip to the Farmer’s Market. Is it as romantic as hopping on a plane and then reading the diary of Sylvia Plath in a Seattle coffee shop? No, probably not. But it’s a different kind of romance. It’s a new kind of romance I now appreciate: a romance of a rhythm in tandem with people I want to need.

Because I like action steps,  I will tell you this: the journey to get back in sync with the people who were there for me when the plane landed began with a simple text. “Hey, do you need a babysitter next week?” It began when I squashed the story line in my brain that “all my friends are getting married” or “all my friends are married” or “all my friends have children.” Because all my friends were still willing to pick me up from the airport as long as I said, “Hey, I need you.”

It began with texts of encouragement or calling just to catch up. I called a friend back last week when I saw she left me a voicemail. To be honest, I didn’t want to call back because a text would have been easier and I could do other seemingly more important things. But I called her. She picked up. We talked for an entire hour. And while I could have still been doing other things, I am glad I stayed on the phone. It was a way to say, “Hey, I’m here. If you need me, I am here.” Otherwise, the text would have sent a completely different message to her. A message I am already good at sending: I’m too busy to call back. I’m too busy to be here now. I’m too busy to be a real friend.

The truth is that you might be in different seasons than other people. I found out that people weren’t too busy for me and they weren’t ignoring me. It was simply that I was waiting for them to always text me when I was capable of texting them too. I was capable of reaching out too. I only felt forgotten because I was isolating myself and giving myself another excuse to get back on a plane. I was making my own loneliness and the only way out was to stay long enough for someone to text me back.

Coming out of my own, lonely vagabond pit began with an action step and then a second one.

I want roots for you. I don’t mean roots that will squash you or roots that will hold you down from going after your dreams. I want you to feel the freedom of going places and the freedom of coming home. I think home isn’t a place so much as it is our ability to cultivate raw conversations and serve one another. If you can keep those things intact, you’ll always be home. But I am simply learning that the best way to serve people is to stick around a bit. It’s to ask them hard questions. It’s to show up at their door with banana bread or make them a playlist just because. It’s all this simple stuff that, like I said before, might seem mundane or not romantic. But there’s something there. There is something there waiting for you in the mundane. If you stick around long enough, you’ll find that the ordinary days with the people who know you will give you a better love story than an airport ever could.

tying you closer than most,

hb.

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We will forget about the chairs.

Whenever I come back to this blog after it’s been a while, every word I write feels like that first awkward text you send to someone after you feel you’ve been a bad friend.

I’ve sent plenty of those texts before. I usually try to cover up my shame with a bunch of garble, emojis and exclamation marks. I want the awkwardity (not a word) to be over in 2.5 seconds so we can get back to normal.

I have not been a bad friend about 9 out of the 10 times I think I’ve been a bad friend. I’m overly hard on myself. I hold myself to too high of a standard on the days that end in Y. I usually feel the need to repent to people I’ve known for years when it takes me days to text them back or it is weeks before we schedule another coffee date.

Truth is, I don’t like living that way. I don’t like feeling like the friend who slips away somewhere in the month of August and comes back on the scene in late October. I crave being constant with people. I crave consistency. But– even 6 years into this blogging thing– I still don’t write on it as much as I would like.

I encouraged a leadership team the other night and the first thing I told them about was my blog. Of all the things I’ve ever created, this blog is my baby and it’s the thing I am the most proud of. Easily. Hands down. Putting a book out into the world is hard to compare to a free blog on the internet but this little baby has taught me discipline. It’s taught me to keep showing up. It’s brought me closer to people across the world who I would otherwise never meet or get closer with. A 42-year-old from Spain emailed me the other day and told me she had stumbled across my blog and she read it the whole way through. She told me she was an atheist but she liked the way I wrote about God. She understood why I would think to pray. I thought:

Wow. This is my life. Wow. This is what consistency will get you. It will get people like this woman from Spain coming back to your page to check up on you and the life you’ve lived since you last posted. 

So I’ve lived life lately. I’ve been busy getting a wedding dress hemmed, traveling to a dozen states for speaking engagements, sending edits back and forth with my agent for a book, teaching classes, enjoying the “fall” weather in Atlanta, and cooking everything I find on this blog.

Life is chaotic and I don’t have time for every little thing I want to be doing but here’s the biggest thing I’ve learned: you’re not everything, Hannah. You’re not everything to everyone and isn’t it so freeing to not feel the need to be?

Truth told: the girl inside of me who used to be a hustle-til-you-die figure died. I had a funeral for her. She was very dear to me and she was the epitome of a #girlboss but she doesn’t live in this body anymore. What has replaced her is a young woman who is still ambitious as hell but she gets that life happens… Life happens everyday you are too distracted to see people because you are waiting on emails to tell you how much you matter. And life happens apart from those emails you send at 2am and the constant need you feel to be everything to everyone. Life happens and it’s messy, and it’s annoying, but it’s mine.

So, in the spirit of learning new things and embracing the mess of life, I wanted to write you guys a quick post. It’s not perfect but it’s a summary of things I’m learning. I dig that I can be honest with you guys and not feel the need to make every word polished.

Here. We. Go.

 

October is a hard month:

This is tricky to write about because October, for me, has not been a hard month. But one of my friends was leading a meeting the other night and he said, “October is a hard month for a lot of people.” His words made a thud when they hit the ground.

People break up in October. People are reminded of their singleness in October because everyone and “bae” is going apple picking and carving pumpkins without you. It is a season that carries some strange sort of somber undertone that I don’t really know how to articulate. As the holidays get closer, we are reminded of the loss embedded inside of us and the laughter we won’t hear coming down the hallway this Thanksgiving.

For years, October was a month where I celebrated anniversary after anniversary with a boy who claimed all the love my teenager heart could give him like gold. And then, for more years, October was a month where I wished I could zap October 16 off of the calendar and choose not to live it because it reminded me that not all things last.

October may not be a hard month for you. It might be your best month. My friends says she walks around all October like she’s got a secret she isn’t telling people because she feels like anything is possible in these 31 days.

But it might not be your month and that’s perfectly okay. You’ll have your months and you’ll have your years. You’ll have your dates you wish you could skip too.

The importance of maintenance:

This past year has been one of the most defining for me because I’ve been dedicated to this idea of “discipline.” I am learning that basically everything stems from discipline. The way to create good habits? Discipline. The way to maintain habits? Discipline.

The thing is this: you can set up some really healthy habits and still fall off the wagon a few weeks, or a few months, after. Every habit, relationship and obligation requires some sort of maintenance. Friends require that you check in with them. Habits require that you tweak them. Routines plateau and require that you reevaluate them.

Maintenance is severely underrated. It’s like buying a car and putting a ton of work into it up front. A few months later, maintenance will be required in some way. Oil changes. New headlights. Emissions tests. In the same way, making changes to your daily life will require you fix your eyes on maintaining them. It’s harder than you would think.

Engagement isn’t magical:

Engagement has been pretty normal. No unicorns have shown up. People used to tell me that engagement was the most magical season and I waited for a month or two after there was a ring on my finger for that magical feeling to sink in. But it didn’t. That’s not to say I don’t think my relationship is magical or that I don’t think Lane is the perfect guy for me. It is. He is. But it’s something different than magical for me.

Maybe for you it is, was, or will be magical. For us, engagement has been stressful and it has been awesome. It’s been both those things at the same exact time. One is usually not present without the other though.

It’s stressful because we are planning a wedding. It’s stressful because I would never voluntarily host a party this big at any other point in my life and so most of our fights are over stupid things like chairs we will see for one day, for approximately 5 hours, and then we will never see them again. Life is too short to fight over gold-glinted chairs.

I am sure Lane wouldn’t mind my telling you there is a pile of fights he and I will never have again come December. We will drop that half-ton of fights into the ocean like that woman in Titanic and we will forget about those fights because they will not matter anymore. We will never speak of the chairs again. What will matter is that we danced hard, we ate burgers the size of our heads, we celebrated with people from miles away, we made it to the finish line and the starting line, and we made this cool, holy pact to one another in front of all these people who absolutely made us.

It’s awesome because we are choosing one another. In a world where it feels impossible to choose a coffee option off a board at Starbucks or choose a laundry detergent from the cleaning aisle at Target, we are choosing. Hallelujah, we are choosing!

But the most magical thing about engagement happened for me before we were even engaged. It happened before I knew I would marry him. It might have been the moment I realized I could marry him though.

We were sitting on his couch and Lane introduced me to the Hannibal TV series. It is both terrifying and awesome. It’s bloody but we both love thriller shows and movies. It is a nightmare on repeat but, still, we love it.

I don’t remember how it happened but we ended up dragging his mattress across the room and putting it right in front of the television. I made him my signature popcorn, the only thing I was capable of making on a stove top for approximately three years. We laid on that mattress in the center of the room eating popcorn and bingeing on episodes of Hannibal for what felt like an eternity. It was an island of sheets and blankets. I remember thinking to myself, “I never want to leave this mattress. I never want to leave this place. I never want to go away if I can’t take you with me.”

And that’s engagement to me. It’s the pending promise that we will spend the years dragging a mattress across the room and making popcorn after long days, hard days, and days that were nothing more than days we won’t pocket for memory’s sake.  It’s the pending promise that I am taking him with me. It’s a pending promise that I’ve found the one who won’t be another blue-eyed lesson in letting go.

I miss writing to you:

Even as I write this post, I keep thinking about how much I miss this blog. I’ve been so busy traveling, teaching, paying bills, killing student loan debt, trying to gracefully be engaged and assume my role as “bride,” volunteering at my local church and somehow reading fiction that I’ve barely picked up my pen in the last month.

It feels like pieces of me are missing when I don’t sit down to write. It feels like I am only half of what could be my best. My mind is as haunted as the town of Salem in October when I do not sit down and bury these words into journals and word documents.

All this to say: you need to do that thing that makes you most alive. If it’s writing. If it’s dancing. If it’s more school. You need to do that thing because, if you don’t, a part of you will die inside. You will shake hands with people in this world and only you will know what you are keeping from the world. So come back to that thing. It hasn’t been too long. Come back to that thing and don’t abandon it so easily next time.

Writing is that thing for me. It is very much my everything. And you– you are such a treasure to me. Whether you are in Spain or Iceland, Kansas or Canada, you are a treasure and you give me purpose with each new day. I love your emails. I love your tweets. I love when you stalk me out in the middle of Nashville from the bushes (yes, that happened). I love all of it and I am going to thank God that I got to write to you until the words gave up on me.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for supporting. I love you fiercely and I am making my way back to you one word at a time.

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The Year of the Book: October 15!

It’s one of your life goals: write a book. You’ve thought about it. You’ve talked about it. You’ve even tried to make it happen before. Whether it’s the last few months of 2016 or 2017, this will be the year of the book. The year where you map it out, develop your story, and sit down to write the dang thing!

I created this course material for the ones who dream of getting their words on paper and want to produce bodies of works beyond 20,000 words.

WHEN: Saturday, October 15, 2016 // 12-3 PM EST, 9-12 AM PST

WHERE: ONLINE! No need to be live to attend. All attendees will receive materials + replay of the class!

PRICE: $115 *THIS IS THE EARLY BIRD PRICE. CLASS WILL GO UP TO $135 ON OCTOBER 4!* 

IT’S GOING DOWN!

Part 2 of the popular (3-time sold-out) Writing Intensive offered by HB, the Year of the Book is a course that only happens once in a calendar year!

This 3-hour class will cover 1) the nitty gritty of book writing, 2) the discipline of committing to a long-term project and 3) the art of the book proposal.

I will share my process and experience of learning how to write consistently and daily, outlining a book, and getting a book deal while helping you set goals to finally push that word count of yours to the maximum. Course comes with replay, Q&A session, a writing community to join & a writing accountability partner chosen just for you!

THIS CLASS WILL COVER:

  • 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.

Snag your seat today!

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Digging deeper into the Scriptures.

I don’t remember sitting down with a bible for the first time. I really don’t.

I know for the first few years of growing in my faith, I kept everything inside this one journal. I would write down my feelings and prayers. Somewhere in 2011, when I started going to a church for the first time as my own choice, I started sitting with a bible.

The bible at first glance is a pretty intimidating book. I didn’t know where to begin and there are some days, five years later, where I still question where to dig.

There was this one night at Taproom where I was sitting at the bar by the window reading through a Charles Spurgeon sermon I’d printed out. I kept having this reaction to the text– nearly every line– like, “Oh my goodness, how did I not know this? How did I not see this?” There was this overwhelming feeling inside of me that suddenly I had so much to learn. Though you could argue I have a lifetime ahead of me to learn about God, a lifetime suddenly feels too short for all the studying I want to do.

 

I used to feel lost when it came to studying the bible. My time with God was stale and a bit lifeless. I would read a page of a devotional and that would take up five minutes of my time. There was no space in that study time to get to know God better, to ask Him questions, or to search out answers.

Be encouraged if you are starting small: your hunger for the word of God can absolutely grow and expand.

Today, I study everyday. I do everything humanly possible not to miss these study times. They are the first thing I do on a daily basis. I either study from my office or I pick a coffee shop (usually Taproom) to sit down and dig in.

My studying time usually averages an hour a morning though there are definitely days where I go for two hours easily. I find that the more time I spend with God in the morning, the more my day expands and I suddenly feel a lot more ease about the hours ahead and the tasks I need to accomplish.

I compiled a list of resources to help you dig deeper into the scripture:

 

SHE READS TRUTH

I think She Reads Truth is an awesome resource for those who are new to studying the bible and are looking for a devotional to accompany their journey. They have a fantastic app that is easy to navigate and the studies are either free or available for two to three dollars. Mind you, that’s two to three dollars for a 14-40 day study! The benefits of this app are worth it. You’ll gain community and the council of wise voices who are writing the content for you.

 

SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES

I just started digging into this devotional and I am absolutely loving it. I bought it for $3.99 off of Amazon. Search the Scriptures is a 3-year devotional that leads you through the entire bible. It’s not overambitious but what I love about the devotional is that it leaves the text of the bible open-ended for you. You dig. You search. You write down answers.

A lot of devotionals out there are more for the “beginner mindset.” The devotionals are packaged with answers and wrapped with a bow. For me, I like the task of searching for myself. I am more likely to retain information when I discover it on my own.

 

GIRL CRUSH

I was debating on where to put my friend Jane in this blog post. I immediately concluded that Jane must be her own category. So meet Jane. Jane is about to be your bible study girl crush. I mean it.

Jane taught me how to dig in the Word of God. She is who I thank for teaching me how to develop a hunger for the Bible. Jane taught me to cross-reference, highlight, interpret and translate. She’s a beast and you should sit at her feet and learn everything she has to teach about Jesus.

I will just drop the link for her website here and you can go get lost in her stuff for an hour.

 

COMMENTARY

Lane and I are big fans of commentary. I feel comfortable enough with you guys to nerd out over the fact that I just bought three books the other week to begin our first commentary collection together. Bible commentaries “aid in the study of Scripture by providing explanation and interpretation of Biblical text.”

Most times, bible commentaries are broken down into books of the bible and are written by popular theologians who know their stuff. I recommend the following commentaries to get you started:

Matthew Henry Concise Commentary of the Whole Bible

Parallel Commentary of the NT (Spurgeon/Wesley/Henry)

 

PICK A PLACE AND PLANT DOWN

The bible is especially intimidating (and not very attractive to keep coming back to) when you always stick with the grab-and-go method. In order to get the most out of the text, you must be willing to plant down your roots and do the hard work of studying, asking questions, and finishing.

By “finishing” I mean, commit to an entire book of the bible. Commit to studying everyday until you finish it. This summer, I committed to the book of Acts. It took me nearly three months but I studied every verse within every chapter. Now I have a rich understanding of the book of Acts and where it fits in the divine story of God coming to earth.

Lost on where to start? I cannot recommend this book by my friend Everett enough. Start with the book of James. Order this book. And begin. Read a chapter each day or read two pages a day. I met with a reader last month who said her study time expanded from ten minutes in the morning to thirty minutes because of this book.

Plain and simple, Everett goes through the book of James verse-by-verse. He leaves no stone unturned. If you’ve never dissected a book of the bible on your own then I recommend this book as a companion.

I would love to hear what works for you when it comes to digging deeper into the scriptures. Let’s dialogue in the comments below!

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The fight to keep your “normal.”

I’ve told this story a few times before. It happened in November 2014. It was the week of Thanksgiving and I was on the verge of a 4-month battle with severe depression. I say “verge” because, even though the depression had technically set in, those first few weeks were nothing compared to the rock-bottom I would encounter throughout the months of December, January and February.

Talking with my good friend Clifton, I balled my fists up and huffed at him with frustration, “I just want to go back to normal.”

It was clear though that my “normal” had brought me to this destination already: tired, anxious, burnt out and unable to keep the facade of “driven, inspiring young woman” going any longer. I was at the end of myself.

“When a tree gets struck by lightning it never goes back to normal,” Clifton said. “It makes a new kind of normal.”

 

Making a new “normal” is a monotonous task. I won’t sugarcoat it and make you think otherwise. When your life falls apart– or when you realize you are in grave danger of soon holding in your hands the remains of a life that has fallen apart– the trek towards something different isn’t easy. The road is rarely paved. The signs on the trees don’t give clear directions. Much of forging a new life feels like fumbling around in the darkness until you find that next patch of light that tells you, “keep going.”

I only write this because I’ve been let down by way too many covers of Women’s Health magazine before. I’ve bought into the “7 simple steps” and the “transformation in 8 weeks or less.” I’ve wanted transformation, rebuilding, all of it, to be as simple as the world told me it could be. It’s not though. Baby steps aren’t sexy but they’re real.

ROUTINE IS KING

I go through gaps in my therapy where I feel like there is nothing to talk about. Friends, let me assure you that there will alway be something to talk about. It’s in those gaps that my therapist will ask me, “What’s coming up?”

She knew over a month ago that I have a very busy fall coming up. I am speaking at a dozen places. I am working on a book. I am getting married in less than 3 months. It’s a time of craziness.

A month ago, we started poking holes in my schedule and asking the good questions: How will you continue to work out when you’re staying in hotels? What food do you want to eat on the road? When will you rest? How will you handle meal prep? 

I am the sort of person who thrives on routine. I need routine to feel my best and do my best. So our mission has become this: how do we keep “normal” happening in the midst of a chaotic calendar?

Here comes a small handful of things I did to ensure my routine stays intact for the next few months:

  • I went ahead and ordered a bunch of toiletries, snacks and household items in advance from Amazon Prime Pantry. This way, I am not overwhelmed when I come home from a trip because I need toilet paper or ran out of toothpaste.
  • I bought extras of items like razors, toothbrushes, and even my iPhone charger so I could keep one set in my suitcase and another in my home. Losing things can seriously throw you off your A-game so why not keep extra?
  • I packaged up little “snack packs” for each speaking engagement ahead. I fill quart-sized baggies from IKEA with my favorite beef jerky, granola bars, vitamins, etc. so I am prepared for every airport and rest stop I come across.
  • I am planning to look at my calendar in the next few days and draw a big “NO” over some of the dates from now until December. That “NO” will symbolize a day where I cannot pour myself out through coffee dates, meetings, or social events. If I don’t carve out my rest in advance then I cannot complain when the fatigue shows up at my door with a cup of coffee and a tired grin.

If you know that you are the kind of person who thrives with a routine then you will have to fight extra hard to keep that routine when things start to feel chaotic.

RECORD YOUR VICTORIES

Plain and simple, you are the sum of your victories. You’ve already told yourself– for far too long– how you don’t manage to add up. What if you added something else up instead? When I was in the middle of the woods– that severe depression that hollowed me out– I would make lists of all the tasks I managed to accomplish. My lists held things like “did my hair” and “went to a diner” or “sent an email to Tammy.”

You would think those tasks were too small. However, when I added them all up, they meant something. They meant I was living. They meant I had kept on living. They meant I hadn’t gone back to bed that day. And on the days when I couldn’t do anything but go back to bed, they meant that I would be able to start again. I would not have to go back to START. I could pick back up at Victory #17 or wherever I’d stopped.

RETRAIN YOUR MOUTH

I am still working on this one every day. I have a great ability to talk down to myself and belittle my own progress. I need reminders (too often) of just how powerful language is.

For a long time, I said I suffered from depression. I placed myself into a victim role when I said the word “suffer.” It’s not that I didn’t struggle, grapple or, yes, even suffer at times. There were 2am hours full of night terrors for an entire month where I know I suffered. However, there are better ways to acknowledge my mental illness.

I deal with depression. That is what I say now. To say I “deal” with depression implies that I am handling it. I am figuring it out. I am applying new wisdom daily. I am learning the foods I should eat in large quantities that will curb my anxiety and the foods I should steer clear of. I am learning about supplements and natural treatments. I am dealing with it.

I like the idea of “dealing” with depression because it gives me more control. I deserve more control. Because here’s the thing: I am not my depression. I am not defined by it or confined by it. It happened to me. It still happens to me. My depression does not, on any day of the week, give me a new name though. It will never have that sort of permission.

No mental illness, no horrific tragedy, no person who did you wrong or left you broken is allowed to name you. It does not work that way, no matter what other people tell you.

This is your life. These are your lungs. This is your space. You get to breathe here and you get control over the language that covers you. Let them be good words. Let them be kind words.

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