Just do one thing.

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Its been one of those weeks for you. You know the kind.

The to-do list is long. You’re looking at each item– a thousand small tasks sitting with each one– and thinking to yourself, “How? How am I going to do all this?”

Breathe. Take that moment. Do one more thing.

Anxiety wants to tell you that you can’t possibly get it done. You can’t make an impact. You can’t make a difference. Anxiety wants you to sit down and spin your wheels with all sorts of thoughts you were never meant to hold in your tiny hands, “Am I good enough? Do I have what it takes? Can I really make this happen?”

You. You’re the right person for the job. This list of things for you to do isn’t accidental. You’re more equipped than you think. You’re more capable than you imagine.

I know these things about you because I daily speak these truths over my own life. I call my husband and I find myself drowning in self-pity as I whine into the phone, “I can’t do it. There’s too much. I feel incapable.”

It’s a pity party. A short dedication, a party ballad, to all the ways I think I cannot possibly make it happen this week. I’m good at hosting these parties. They do not last long since my husband never wants to attend these parties of mine. I can sit and eat my pity cake solo or I can grow up and go forward.

But then I sit down. I do the first thing. I do something that seems completely manageable. It leads to something else. Soon enough, the tension eases up. I realize, “I’ve got this. I can do this. I am equipped for this.”

You’ve got this. What you have to make sure you do is actually show up for it. Show up and then keep showing up. Fear wants to draw a map for you but it won’t ever lead to a good and proper destination. It will always leave you lost. Aimless. Striving.

Babe, this life isn’t about striving. I’m young but I can say that with the fullest confidence. If you’re striving at this moment then I know more about you than you think: I know you’re exhausted. I know you are trying to perform. I know you are pushing things out there into the world just hoping they will stick.

It will burn you out. Because you were made for brighter things than constantly trying to measure up to a standard that isn’t real.

You’re not drowning. You’re not too far gone either. Just take that spare breath- it’s always there waiting for you. Make a list. Pick one thing to tackle.

Just do one thing.

The Better Guide // March Edition.

Welcome to Issue 3 of the Better Guide! 

This is my monthly guide– a most-random resource list of all things food, drink, faith, fitness, and fun. I publish this guide at the end of every month (consider it a wrap-up of the last 30 or so days) and I am making a single promise to you in creating and curating the resource list: I promise to seek the better. I promise to gather resources, apps, news, and test them out first. I’ll be the guinea pig, ready to report back my findings. I promise not to report things that are fake, way too much money, or will ultimately do nothing for your life but distract you. Life is precious and I ain’t toying with your hours nor could I ever, in good conscience, recommend a $600 gym bag to you. I promise to be fair, real, transparent, and ultimately focused on the better. Better health. Better work. Better relationships. All the better. 

Thank you for your patience (I know I am 4 days late to publishing this guide)! I’ve been under the weather and fighting off the pollen here in Atlanta but I’m happy to be back on my feet and feeling better.


Better Reads.

  • This book has been around for the last year and a half but I am just picking it up. And y’all- every chapter preaches to me. If you’ve ever felt left out or uninvited, rejected or looked over, then I would recommend this read. It will be a healing balm to your soul.
  • I am about 100 pages into this book and currently LOVING it. It’s worth the rage (everyone seems to be talking about it)! I am looking forward to a weekend in Savannah reading this book and getting to finish it off.
  • My girlfriend just sent me this link to Refinery29’s 2018 book list and there are just so many good reads listed here. I am definitely going to be referring to this list throughout the year whenever I want to read a book that is profound, impactful, and fierce!

Better Brain.

  • This January and February, I wrote my first Bible study. It’s been a longtime goal of mine. I wanted to create something free for my readership and this is the result: a 15-session study on following Jesus in a follower-obsessed culture. I hope you enjoy!
  • This is a really good read. I am someone who uses and advocates for medication for those who need it but I think we all can take something away from getting a little exercise into our day-to-day routines!

Better Listens.

  • Okay, maybe it seems as if I am on the Caroline Leaf train but the woman knows her stuff. If you’re wanting a podcast to learn more about the brain and just what social media is doing to it… check out this one and then follow up with this one. You’ll learn so much in just 20 minutes.
  • Our pastor Ben gave this message last Sunday on shame and Y’ALL… it preaches. Dig in and move forward!

Better Travel.

  • I don’t read many blogs but I am heavily invested in a few of them. One belonging to this girl. She recently paired up with Target to create a luggage line for families and I’m a few pennies away from buying two of the suitcases. Finally, luggage that is stylish but not too expensive!

Better Tech.

  • I’ve been scheduling out my social media lately. I still use social media to engage with others but I can attest to feeling like I’ve gotten a chunk of my life back by using this tool. I’m still able to lift & encourage others without feeling like I always have to be posting on the fly. I went ahead and invested in a year subscription and so far it has been the best office subscription of 2018!
  • Has anyone tried these? I would love your opinion! I’m thinking of investing in these for my workouts and would love to know what you think.

Better Eats.

  • I’m loving this easy hack article about how to make a cheese plate on a budget. This article is a game-changer for the party hosts reading!
  • All the yum! We still love to cook Whole30 style meals even when we aren’t doing some crazy food diet!
  • This is my go-to. I find myself craving it on a weekly basis.
  • If you love cooking hardboiled eggs + have an Instant Pot then this recipe will blow your mind! Easy-to-peel eggs! Finally!

Have a suggestion for the April Better Guide? Get at us. 

Slow to know your role: a note on comparison.

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We dressed up, shared an $11 appetizer that was really just a dolled-up version of pork rinds, and walked down the busy street, hand-in-hand, to the theatre together.

It was date night and I’d been waiting all month to see the show RENT. I’ve never seen the musical before but it’s on the musical bucket list I keep in my brain. Some people want to skydive or make it to the Grand Canyon before they die. I simply want to see Hamilton, the Book of Mormon, and Les Miserables.

At intermission, I touched Lane’s arm and said, “We are in the company of some serious RENT fans.” It was obvious five minutes into the show. These people were hardcore. They knew when to stand. They knew when to clap. This was an audience that had definitely seen the show once before if not 5 or 6 times. They knew when to laugh. They knew when to rally.

I listened to conversations of the people around me during intermission. They bantered about how they really preferred this actor in this role or that actor, the one they saw in the New York production, playing that character.

These people knew the play. They knew what to expect. They knew the words by heart.

 

As we watched the second act I had a strange thought. I kept thinking about how these people sitting to the right and left of me would absolutely know it if all of a sudden someone did not play their role. If someone sang a different song altogether or chose to never enter the stage on cue. People would notice something was off, someone was not playing the role they were called to play.

(Sidenote: This is what it is like to go a musical, show, or movie with me. I can barely stay present to whatever is happening on the stage in front of me because I am too stuck in my heading having an existential crisis about life that will eventually morph into an essay I publish on my blog. Yes. Here we are.)

Admittedly, I felt a little lost the whole first act. I felt like I was floundering to understand the plotline while everyone around me was already revving up for the next song. But in act 2, things began to click. I began to see the plot and feelings emerge. I even knew the words to two of the songs. I was pumped to join the chorus of voices singing low to the right and left of me. Together, we all hummed.

 

Lately, I’ve been digging into the issue of comparison when God and I get together in the mornings. I ask some questions. I dig for answers. I take notes. I am curious about what comparison does to our souls.

I’m naive to think comparing ourselves to others is a relatively new concept. I think it has always been there, the issue is just hyper-intensified because of social media.

Ten years ago, you didn’t know what everyone else in the world was doing on any given Wednesday morning. You compared yourself to people in the neighborhood or people in your classroom. Now we’ve got this chance to compare ourselves to millions of others. It’s a little terrifying to think about for too long.

I read a story about Peter the other morning. If you don’t know anything about Peter of the Bible then let me just give you the nutshell synopsis: Peter is a gutsy fisherman who Jesus places a lot of stock in. Jesus, upon meeting Peter, basically says to him, “Hey, I want to give you a different name because I don’t think the name you currently have is bold enough for you. I am going to call you ‘Cephas,’ which means ‘rock,’ because I want you to be the rock I build my future church on.”

No pressure.

But Peter is pretty confident. Annoyingly confident. His confidence gets him into trouble a lot and I think that is because Peter tends to rely on his own strength above everything else. Our own strength only gets us so far. He ends up doing the one thing he told Jesus he would never do– denying him right before he is crucified– and one would imagine Peter was heaped with shame, guilt, and grief because of that denial.

But here’s the better story: Jesus uses him anyway. Because that’s the kind of guy Jesus is. He meets up with Peter after he has died (we can dig into that one another time) and re-commissions him. He doesn’t take the mission away from Peter because of faltering. He forgives him and then basically says, “It’s time to get back to work, Peter.”

I can just hear God saying that so gently to me, “It’s time to get back to work. It’s time to get back to work.”

I was blown away the other day when I noticed what happens directly after Peter is re-commissioned. His slate is wiped clean by literal dead-but-not-really Jesus and Peter, likely not 5 minutes later, asks Jesus, “Master, what’s going to happen to him?” I see Peter pointing his envious little finger at another man Jesus was investing in.

I want to shake Peter. Really, dude?! You just got this clear go-ahead from Jesus and you are worried about someone else?! What is this?!

It’s proof to me that we all struggle with comparison sometimes, even these figures of the Bible who we wrongly think were untouchable struggled with the heart stuff. Clearly, this comparison meant something to God to be included in the text.

Even when life is good, even when we’ve gotten the clearest message from God that we are okay and we are on the right path, we still look for excuses to size ourselves up to other people and their callings.

 

I’ve learned that comparing yourself to other people just sucks the joy out of your own path. To live in constant comparison mode is to live imprisoned to a false target. It has nothing to do with those other people. Your aim was never to arrive at someone else’s destination so why bother focusing on it?

People notice when you are not playing your part. They know when the script is off.

We all miss out when you don’t show up to play the role custom-made for you. But there is magic– untouchable magic– that emerges when you step out into the world dedicated to being yourself. People can tell when you’re walking on the right road. They see it.

I want to believe the more we live out what we know we are called to steward, the more we give other people the courage to do the same. We stop living such a small existence, hyper-focused on things we have no control over.

We start to grow. We start to see each other. We start to be real characters in the story, not two-dimensional people governed by fear. We evolve and we step into what we were made to do. That sweet rhythm that might not show up until act 2.

And there, in the middle of act 2, things to start to click and people start humming anthems all around you. This strike of confidence hits you in the heart. You whisper under the breath, “Yes, I know the words to this song.”

 

The Better Guide // February Edition.

Welcome to Issue 2 of the Better Guide! 

This is my monthly guide– a most-random resource list of all things food, drink, faith, fitness, and fun. I publish this guide at the end of every month (consider it a wrap-up of the last 30 or so days) and I am making a single promise to you in creating and curating the resource list: I promise to seek the better. I promise to gather resources, apps, news, and test them out first. I’ll be the guinea pig, ready to report back my findings. I promise not to report things that are fake, way too much money, or will ultimately do nothing for your life but distract you. Life is precious and I ain’t toying with your hours nor could I ever, in good conscience, recommend a $600 gym bag to you. I promise to be fair, real, transparent, and ultimately focused on the better. Better health. Better work. Better relationships. All the better. 


Better Reads.

  • I’m wrapping this book up today and I have to tell you- I’m obsessed. He gets right to the point and he doesn’t dance around it. I needed this book in more ways than I could say. A beautiful read for anyone who wants to know God better and see what he’s all about.
  • “He and I, on the other hand, were doing our arithmetic separately, in each of our messy minds. And while I will never understand how someone could hold the full weight of me in his arms and choose to let go, I understand that his final calculus was different from mine.”

Better Study.

  • This January and February, I wrote my first Bible study. It’s been a longtime goal of mine. I wanted to create something free for my readership and this is the result: a 15-session study on following Jesus in a follower-obsessed culture. I hope you enjoy!

Better Looks + Listens.

  • If you are a fan of true crime shows + podcasts, I would recommend you check out Up & Vanished. It swept the nation in 2017. Lane and I became hooked on this podcast and even attended the live finale in Atlanta. The creator of Up & Vanished recently came out with a new podcast. It’s a few weeks in but I am really loving the premise and how much I am learning about my city from it.
  • I’m known to spend my workouts listening to Levi Lusko. This recent sermon on the power of mornings + evenings has been a game changer for me.
  • Set up your Netflix for optimal viewing with this list. At first glance, I’ve seen very few of these movies so I’ve got some watching to do.

Better Home.

The Better Home options today come from one of my favorite spots to shop on the Internet- Huckberry. I basically don’t have to go anywhere to shop for Lane when the holidays hit. All of his favorite brands are in one place. It’s like a pop-up shop of creative makers on the Internet.

I’ve got some friends over at Huckberry and they kindly hooked all first-time shoppers and readers of the Better Guide up! Use the code “betterguide” during the month of March for 20% off your first buy. Holla for deals, y’all!

  • To know me is to know I love good, black coffee. I’m pretty jazzed about this manual coffeemaker. It makes all my coffee dreams come true! It combines the ability to brew a full pot of pour-over, French press, or cold brew in a sleek design. We getting fancy with our brew, huh?
  • I freaked a little bit when I found this on Huckberry because I’VE NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE THIS BEFORE. If you know nothing about Kintsugi then let’s get educated first. This is an age-old method for repairing broken things and I honestly want to break a few dishes just so I can use this repair kit.
  • Need a gift idea for the guy or girl in your life who loves to workout? Or just want to invest in yourself? We love Ursa Major and this Exercise Freak bundle will cover you after any sweat session.

Better Subscriptions.

  • I’ve been a faithful subscriber to the Book of the Month Club for the last year. But it wasn’t until the other day, when my friend Dawn came over to borrow some books for her beach trip, that I realized the impact this subscription has in my reading life. I only recommended BOTM choices to her. That’s how good I find their reads. If you are a reader, this subscription is for you. A newly released hardcover delivered to your door each month? Yes, please!
  • This is quickly becoming one of my favorite newsletters in my inbox. It is for all us wild ones who prefer to spend Friday night getting crazy on the couch… with a book… and a glass of wine… after a bubble bath. You’ll love their playful suggestions and it’s a really fun way to usher in the weekend!

Better Tech.

  • I’m just starting to use this app but I love the premise behind it. It’s all about knowing the quality of the brands you’re shopping– how they treat their employees, what working conditions are like, how they treat animals. It feels like a good first step for someone like me who wants to be aware of the back story behind the brands I am shopping. Check it out!
  • I’m not in college anymore but I know a bunch of you are. I definitely needed this app when I was in college.
  • “Have you ever used the browser extension called Honey? It automatically runs coupon codes through at checkout and applies the best one. It saves me a little here and there (and especially saves me the time of having to search for coupon codes!), and it’s FREE to put on your browser. Doesn’t get much better, in my opinion.” – Abbey

Better Work.

  • I love goal setting and can attest to how setting them changed my life and business. I recently came across this and I’m intrigued. I am planning to try it out for the month of March. I’ll report back!
  • I get asked all the time where I get my organizational things from. Look no further, this company is my #1.

Have a suggestion for the March Better Guide? Get at us. 

A goodbye letter to Jack Pearson.

Photo Credit: NBC Photo Gallery
Photo Cred: NBC Photo Gallery

Dear Jack,

I thought we’d have more time together. Really, I thought the network would drag your storyline out for at least 3 more seasons before it came to this.

I was sitting at my dining room table the other morning, scrolling through my newsfeed while innocently eating my scrambled eggs, when I came across a clip of you seemingly surrounded by flames. It was then that I knew- you were leaving us. This Is Us would inevitably become This Was Us. I don’t feel ready.

Admittedly, I sobbed. Into my eggs, at nine in the morning, I lost it and it’s a little bit embarrassing because nothing really even happened in the clip. You were just being you, acting like the man I’ve grown to love more and more with each passing episode.

Jack, my mother has watched General Hospital for the last 30 years and I never really understood how she could be so invested in fictional characters. How she could pause the world for an hour every evening to hang out with “friends.” I didn’t get it until you showed up on my TV screen, with your mustache and slicked back hair. I think it was Pilgrim Rick… that was the point where I knew I would love you forever, that I would drop anything on a Tuesday night just to spend some time with you.

In all seriousness, I think you set a standard for us that I don’t think we ever expected. In our culture, it’s pretty typical to binge watch a lot of television yet rarely walk away changed, your mind reeling for days over something someone said or did. You’ve got a team of writers behind your words, Jack, but let me tell you: they gave you heart. They gave you spirit. They made you into someone who made us all think, “Now there’s a man who isn’t perfect but he sure knows how to show up for his people.” You had flaws, like all of us, but you never became them.

Dedication, Jack. That’s the spirit of who you are and who you’ve always been to me. You make us all want to be better friends, better spouses, better employees, better parents. You gave us an example of love that is both selfless and fierce, sacrificial and relentless. In a world that feels a little dark and crazy these days, you reminded us of the most basic tenets of a good life: investment in the family you’ve got. Hard work. A tenacious spirit. Speech that is kind. Love that serves without expectations. And great hair.

Because of you, I can look at my own flaws and confidently say, “They’re here. I see them. But I am not a bad person or a waste of space because of them. I’ll keep showing up. Messy and ready for whatever curveball life will throw at me next, I’ll keep showing up.”

You took risks every episode in the name of family- something we don’t stick up for enough in 2018. Like I said earlier, we weren’t expecting someone like you to come along. Like most unexpected people who show up in life, you don’t fully see realize the space they take up in your heart until you realize you’re going to lose them one day.

This is us, Jack. This is all of us.

Maybe it’s for the best that we say goodbye now. I’ve spent hundreds of dollars trying to figure you out in therapy sessions that are supposed to be about my own issues.  It’s getting a little ridiculous that I can’t seem to process my own junk and yet the floodgates open up when my therapist says two words: Jack Pearson.

Because of you, I’ve learned I’m not as emotionally stable as I thought. I walk into a Tuesday night feeling like I might be killing it at life (or at least doing a decent job) and I walk out with no makeup left on my face, a throbbing headache from all the inhumane sobs released from my body in the span of an hour. I find myself grieving for something I didn’t know I even needed to grieve for: past family dogs, old relationships, lost shoes, failed diets. It all comes flooding back to me when you say words like, “You are my purpose, Kevin.”

I threw out my Crockpot. I’m comparing you to my husband too much. I found out it’s not as easy as I thought to walk into a hospital and take home a baby that is not mine. I’m thinking about making a dent in the homebuilding industry (in your honor, of course). I am a woman on a solo mission to find her own “Big Three.”

I honestly don’t know what we’ll do without you, Jack. But I promise to face my junk. I promise to face it and make you proud, Jack. I promise to always buy batteries. When Sunday comes, I’ll be there and I’ll be wearing my Steelers jersey just for you.

I’ll never let go, Jack. I’ll never let go.

Love,

Me & the rest of us.

The Better Guide // January Edition

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I’m a researcher at heart.

A lot of people don’t know this about me but I was a sociology major in college. I love everything about qualitative and quantitative researcher. I consider myself a hunter-gatherer of the Internet. I like to read, experiment, test and discover what is out there and how it can either make life better or worse, simpler or more complex. This is a great passion of mine: to tell people about the things I find, the things that are shaking up my world in a good way. So this idea has been brewing for over a year now. I kept waiting for the right time to just do it, just press publish. No time like the present!

Introducing The Better Guide.

This is a monthly guide, a most-random resource list of all things food, drink, faith, fitness— all of it. My intern Jo and I spent hours trying to come up with a name for this monthly guide last January and ultimately landed on “The Better Guide” for one simple reason: who has time for anything less? I’m digging for the better options so you don’t have to.

I’ll be publishing this guide at the end of every month (consider it a wrap-up of the last 30 or so days) and I am making a single promise to you in creating it and curating the resource list: I promise to seek the better. I promise to gather resources, apps, news, and test them out first. I’ll be the guinea pig, ready to report back my findings. I promise not to report things that are fake, way too much money, or will ultimately do nothing for your life but distract you. Life is precious and I ain’t toying with your hours nor could I ever, in good conscience, recommend a $600 gym bag to you.
I promise to be fair, real, transparent, and ultimately focused on the better. Better health. Better work. Better relationships. All the better. 

Better Reads.

  • My girl Alli Worthington just released a powerhouse anthem into the world this past week and you’re going to want to read it. I read this book at a time in my life where I felt like most of my steps were coated in a thick layer of fear. It’s faith-filled and I know will rock the lives of many, many women.
  • If you are a thriller reader like me (basically give me all the titles with the words “missing girl” in it) then the next read on your list needs to be The Wife Between Us. This thriller will confuse the heck out of you (in such a good way) and keep your suspense levels fueled. Does. Not. Disappoint.

Save Better.

Y’all know me- I am ALL ABOUT the finances. Don’t ask me why because I used to have a strong aversion to money talk but I can’t get enough of it these days.

  • I never shut up about this app but that’s because I really, really believe in it. I am not even being dramatic when I tell you: it has changed my life. Qapital is an app that thrives off this idea that we spend the money in our checking account impulsively just because it’s available to us. Qapital helps you save your own money, make goals, and conquer the world. Thanks to this app, Lane and I saved all our pennies for a beautiful anniversary trip and I saved all my Christmas money in July. ***If you want bonus instructions on how to have Qapital save a dollar for you every time Donald Trump tweets then send me an email with the subject line “the man tweets… a lot” and I will help you out.
  • Somehow I killed over $50,000 worth of student loan debt in 2016 and then the small adult inside of me said, “It’s time to start saving, baby!” Now I am a loyalist to my Aspiration Summit account. The wait list is worth it. I stole this website because they say it better than I ever could: Aspiration offers socially-conscious and sustainable banking and investing so you can make money while making the world a better place. And, unlike the Big Banks, we don’t use your deposits to fund oil pipelines or turn your fees into campaign contributions to the politicians that work against you. They’re basically a modern-day Robin Hood in the form of a savings account.

Better Subscriptions.

  • For all my married people who want to improve their bond while sitting at their desk. Subscribe to the Marriage Minute by the Gottman Institute. I love reading the weekly marriage tip and sending it over to Lane. These are smart and thought-provoking suggestions that really do help your relationship.
  • If you are a writer or someone who wants to write better, then definitely sign up for Slant Letter. It’s a monthly email so it won’t clog up your inbox and it’s all about finding your voice and killing your craft. Fun fact: Stephanie (the creator of the email) is my editor. She taught me so much in the editing process just this past year so I definitely believe in her wisdom and words. Get on it. 

Better Health.

  • I feel like I am really fickle when it comes to my workouts and people ask me all the time: where do you find them? A few months ago, I came across Alexia Clark. My life hasn’t been the same since. I recently subscribed to Alexia Clark’s fitness site ($29 a month) and I do not regret the investment. She sends 5 workouts a week and a mini pep talk the night before every workout. Her workouts are hard, REALLY HARD, and will push you to new levels in your fitness journey. Plus, look at this amazing article about her in Women’s Health (she’s on the cover this month!) about why she doesn’t post bikini photos. Girl freaking power.
  • Our crockpot broke this month. It was a devastating blow to my spirit and my faith to see my sweet little basin of joy crack down the center. But friends, God is in the business of upgrading. We caved. We saved our pennies. We bought an Instant Pot. And the rage is real. It’s the most amazing cooking tool I’ve ever possessed. It’s a slow cooker on steroids. This is likely how Jesus actually fed the 5,000. I’m smitten and in love and that’s all.
  • I’m doing a Whole30 this month so here are a few of the recipes we currently cannot get enough of:

Better Work.

  • My good friend Mattie came out with a little thing called Forth Guide last month and it’s pretty amazing. I would say it’s essential for a freelancer or someone who works for themselves! I wish I had this guide when I was just starting out, floundering around on Google trying to figure out where to find a graphic designer or how to start an email list. Mattie does the digging for you and the results are genius.
  • Most of the apps I recommend are free-free-free but this app is worth the $2.99 you’ll pay to get it on your phone. It’s called Forest. It’s a productivity app designed to keep you focused and not grabbing for the phone every five seconds. What’s cooler than that, you plant a metaphorical tree everytime you set the timer on the app. When the timer rings then your “tree” is planted! Metaphorical trees add up to real trees planted in the real world. It’s cool (and environmentally friendly) to be not distracted these days. Mother Nature thanks you.

Have a suggestion for the February Better Guide? Get at us. 

Be wild, ridiculous, and at peace, sweet girl.

hey you, 

How do I start this letter?

I always feel a little awkward when writing letters to younger versions of myself but today it makes sense. Today I know this letter is necessary. Today you are six months into being 21. You are a senior in college. You are applying for programs across the country because you have a dream of helping others your first year out of college.

It is one of the last nights before you go home for holiday break. You’re so close to being done with finals. Chances are, you just piled into the back of a car with your closest girlfriends and came out of Starbucks with peppermint mochas in hand. You are heading back to the campus center to study together. Years from now, you will look back and you will be thankful you took the study break. You’ll be thankful for this group of girls because they helped you become who the world needed you to be. Sit in the moment and don’t wish it away. Don’t bully yourself with thoughts of how you could be doing more, or how you should have your life figured out by now, and just go with it. Say yes to the midnight breakfast. Blast the holiday music. Stay up way too late. Be young. Be wild, and ridiculous, and at peace, sweet girl. Stay that way as long as you can.

There’s a reason “future me” is writing to 21-year-old you. The year is 2009. You are sitting at your small Acer computer, the one you bought at the start of this year to invest in your “writing career.” You just created a blog on WordPress. You are calling it “As Simple As That.” You don’t really know what you will do with the blog– what you will say– but you know you want to help people. Keep that conviction.

Words have always meant everything to you. They’ve been balm to you. Healing for you. Words have convinced you that you mustn’t live ordinarily. You must be wild enough to go after your dreams and then, maybe then, you will become those dreams.

So go for it, girl. Publish that first blog post. Don’t be fearful and don’t hold back. You’ve got a voice inside of you but you will learn, in the next 8 years, that a voice must be honed and trained. it must be poured into and refined. Create as much as you can when no one is watching. Read as much as you can.

A voice doesn’t show up one day, it develops through tiny, miraculous experiences and mistakes. Make all your mistakes, girl. Don’t be afraid when life knocks the wind out of you. The first time you learn how to breathe again– after the first big heartbreak comes–  is when you’ll realize you are alive and it’s a gift to be here. Write it all down, girl.

 

You’ll see pretty soon, in the next few years, that you were quick to name your blog “As Simple As That.” The thing about life is that some days it feels simple and other days it is anything but. Don’t grow up and hate the girl who believed in world peace. Don’t divorce yourself from her in your mind or wish she wasn’t so naive to think things like love letters could change the world. Who you are, right now, is beautiful. It’s necessary. Like I said earlier: stay young as long as you can. Believe that people are generally good. Develop hope over cynicism. Develop a voice of love over one of fear. Make the world better by and because of your love.

 

So many good things will come to you, girl, because of this one blog. So dig in. Do the work. Invest. Put in the long hours. Meet other bloggers. Maybe even fall in love with one or two of them. Get your heart-broken. Get back up. Forgive your ghosts. Say “yes” to things that will make you work harder than yesterday. Put your skin in the game. Lead with honesty. Possess a spirit of integrity. You are going to walk into so many experiences in the next few years where you will meet people who lead with anything but integrity. Don’t let them get you down. Remember how your mama raised you. Be a light in a dark world.

Never believe you deserve what is coming to you. It’s a gift. It’s borrowed things from God. Always stay humble and faithful to what He gives you. If you take care of the little, more will come. This is the truest recipe for success. Don’t play a numbers game. Don’t care about the metrics. Instead, find the broken hearts. Sew into those. Answer as many emails as you can from people who need to know someone is reading them. It will never be about who, or how many, like your content. Stay true to creating content for the sake of creation.

 

Be a lighthouse but never a lifeboat. The two are very different. A lighthouse stands there tall and shining. A lifeboat is hellbent on saving people. There is a savior mentality stitched into most of us. We want to save. We want to fix. 

You will learn in the next few years that you were made to love and protect, dig and dream. You were made to stare at the sky and ask questions about God. But you, my girl, were never created to save anyone. Be careful not to drown in the effort of trying.

 

What you are creating will require sacrifice in the years to come. Not everyone will understand it. Some people will give you crazy eyes, tell you not to care so much. You caring too much isn’t your weakness, it’s actually your greatest strength. Lean into it. Vow to learn as much as you can about the world you live in and the life you want to create.

Be good to people. Keep the ghosting to a minimal (if you can). Don’t Taylor Swift people on the Internet. In the words of the wise prophet Beyonce: don’t diss people on the internet because your mama taught you better than that. Leave space and room in every sentence you write for grace and redemption. The most beautiful thing about characters is their ability to change. Don’t ever steal that from someone by writing a story they can’t grow out of one day.

 

I’m writing to you from eight years away. Oh, so many stupid things you’ll do. You’ll kiss people when you shouldn’t. You’ll walk away even when you’re not sure. It’s all field work, babe. In the next years, you will fall in love and fall out. You will say stupid things for the ones you love. This is growing up.

You will get a diagnosis of depression and it will rock you, steal from you, and then give it all back to you in a newer, more durable package. You will find your dream job but then you will learn that the dream job isn’t that something you walk into, it’s something you create.

You will move to new cities. You will tweet the dumbest stuff. You will say “yes” when you mean “no.” You will try yoga. You will shake hands with celebrities and you will sign books for strangers. It’s going to be wild, beyond what you think you ever could have. And here’s the wildest part: it begins here. It starts right here, on this last night of finals, as you publish that first blog post.

Stay faithful. Say yes. Move the damn mountains for whoever you love. Find your truth. Pray for wisdom. Run towards the storm and see what it makes you into. In Macklemore-fashion, put your skin and bones into everything you produce. Be a participant. Choose to create over complaining. Fall on your face and let grace lift you back up. And then come back here, come right back here, and write it all down.

I’m cheering loudly for whoever you’ll become.

tying you closer than most,

hb.

 

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