Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 11.34.03 AM
Uncategorized

A letter to my reader.

Hey you,

You are my reader. I value you as my reader in a way that is distinctly unique and I never want you to forget that. I talk about you wherever I go. I hold you in the highest regard. I feel like I can sit down on days like this and write you a letter you’ll actually read because we’ve been somewhere together. You and I, we’ve sat in heartbreak together. We’ve sought after God together. We’ve gone through transitions together. We’ve tried out tinder dates together and graduated from college together.

You have seen the real me. Not the “internet” version of me. I honestly don’t believe we should be enabled to have “internet versions” of ourselves. Be who you say you are. Be exactly as you are on the screen as you are off of it. The world does not need another double standard. We don’t need to add to that pile, friend.

I want to tell you a little story. It’s short. I will never forget the day I bought the domain name “HannahBrencher.com.” It was such a small gesture following a phone conversation with a woman named Lindsey Pollak. My blog was called “Hannah Katy” at the time and she told me I needed to change my blog name.

“Go online and get the domain,” she recommended. “Own your name.”

Before “Hannah Katy” was “As Simple as That.” I thought I would forever live under the banner of “As Simple as That” until I realized that life really isn’t that simple. People are hurt unnecessarily. Heartbreak happens and it doesn’t make sense. People leave us. They don’t leave notes. We give our hearts out in tiny gulps and we endure the choking that comes from a love that doesn’t reciprocate. This is life. It is not simple.

It never felt so freeing— in my then three years of blogging— than the chance to no longer have to hide behind a blog name or an identity I’d grown out of. Something miraculous happened on the day I started writing from HannahBrencher.com. You and I became closer. We started to evolve together. We grew trust. You started emailing me about your first dates and your last goodbyes. I pocketed your stories. We both grew thicker skin.

I realized in those formative years of writing that a blog space is just as a home as it is a church. People crave to be invited in. We are all just wandering around, sipping coffee, hoping someone will remember our names and walk us home when the street lights come on.

There is a reason why I love a man named Lane Sheats so much. We got engaged two weeks ago. He filled the yard of my best friend with twinkle lights and familiar faces as he got on one knee and asked me about forever. I love him for so many reasons but I love him an extra layer deeper because he remembers you. Yes, you. He remembers to remind me daily that I exist for people. I exist for this blog space. I exist to demonstrate love, no matter how hard or tiresome that gets on some days.

Today he emailed me these exact words, “Think about all the responses you receive from your readers, friends, loved ones, event attendees, etc.. Follow your Monday morning emails

advice. Dig in, do the work, and see the results afterwards. You could imagine you’re writing your book to yourself, as if you asked yourself a question. I know you said yesterday it’s easier when someone emails you a question and you can unpack it and delve straight in.”

So that’s why I am writing to you so personally today. I sat at my computer, beside a stale cup of coffee, and I asked myself the question, “What would you need to know today?”

The answer was obvious: I need to know that I belong somewhere.

You belong somewhere. You do, you do, you do. You belong in places that know your name and places that don’t yet know you’re coming for them. 

I want you to know that you get prayed for daily. You are thought of daily. You are a priority in my life that people might not ever understand because the internet is scary to some people. All that separates you and I is a screen. And still, I’ve attended your weddings. I’ve visited your cities. I’ve played games at your bridal showers. I’ve attended your high school graduations. To me, the internet is where we fall in love, find God, pack suitcases and move to new cities. You are not a speck or a fleck in my story. You are pivotal. You are the game-changers that make my daily work worth it. I want you to know that even if you don’t know God, even if you question His nature, there is someone in this world who is thinking of you today. She is hoping you feel seen and loved by random people on the street, in the aisles of Target, and through your inbox. She is wanting you to know that you deserve goodness and hope. You deserve a love that is inexhaustible. You deserve rest for your tired bones and people for your journey.

I always, always want this corner of the internet to be a safe place for you. I want you to know that you are always welcomed in my corner. You are sought after here. We think about you in these parts of town.

tying you closer than most,

hb.

Standard
Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 11.17.17 AM
Uncategorized

When the leaves dance: thoughts on developing your voice.

Dear Hannah,

My English teacher told us yesterday to write in our own voice and not to write descriptively, saying “can I have some water” instead of “may I partake of that liquid refreshment?” This slightly goes against everything I’ve ever learned about formal writing. I love writing descriptively and making the leaves dance between the trees rather than just fall to the ground! Do you have any advice about a balance between voice and still wanting to paint a picture?

Thank you,

T


Sweet T,

I may have shared this story once or twice before but I will never forget the night I sent the first draft of my memoir to my editor. It was two days before the stated deadline. I pressed “send” on the email and the first thing I did was take a shower. I stood there for a really long time, no concern for the water bill, letting the stress and the angst of 14-hour book writing days fall off of my body. I didn’t know if I did a good thing or a bad thing in writing that first draft but I knew I had given it my everything.

I dried my hair. My boyfriend at the time picked me up. We rode to a burger joint and I laid in the parking lot pretending to kiss the gravel. I was being dramatic but I felt free and accomplished. I ate a burger the size of my head, went to sleep, and woke up at 4am the next morning to catch a flight to New Orleans. There was nothing climactic or big about that day.

A month later, my editor sent back her notes. I remember red slashes all over the pages and many phrases like “cut this” or “change this” or “explain this to me.” I felt defeated when it came to that first draft. I thought a good writer would have had less edits, less slash marks, less “cut this” remarks. My editor wrote in her note to me, “I could be very wrong about this but I wonder if you are hiding behind really pretty words when you could just come out and tell me how you really feel.”

In that moment— because of that one sentence— I became a better writer. Or maybe I finally became a writer.

I was 25 at the time. I treated life like I treated glass: very careful to never left anything break. I wrapped my words in descriptive and metaphorical wrapping paper. I had this thing where I wanted every word and every phrase to sound beautiful and romantic. I thought that’s what you had to do to be a good writer: write sentences people had to read three or four times before they grasped the depths of them.

You don’t have to be the girl who only uses pretty words. You don’t have to be the person who writes so complexly that no one understands them. There is a time and a space for beauty and description. There is a time and a space to just say what you need to say, void of filters and a thesaurus. There is a time to write about the leaves and how they bow and break off of their branches when Autumn comes and calls for them to die. There is a time to write about the collar of his shirt and how you never knew what home smelt like until the day he packed that collared shirt with the droopy stripes in a suitcase and never came back for you. There is also a time to simply write, “He left. It still hurts.” People will get you. People will understand you. People will stare at their palms, and look at the wall, and say, “He left me too. It still hurts too.”

That’s the beautiful thing about writing: it is one of the most rare and sacred ways to connect with other people and help them to feel. People want to feel things even when they are afraid of what those feelings will do to them. If you dress up your language so much that no one understands you— that no one can find you in the sea of adverbs and adjectives— you’ll never really be heard. Or you might look back and wish you’d been heard differently for who you really were.

T, I think your English teacher was simply trying to tell you to be yourself. You could absolutely write, “May I partake of that liquid refreshment” but would ever really say that to someone? Would you stand at a party and offer someone a fruity libation? Would you recite a poem to a person when they ask you not to go?

Language is simple and complex. That’s the beauty of it. I think your English teacher is smart to teach you how to find your voice. Your voice will be different than the person sitting next to you. That’s the cool thing about finding your voice in the writing process: you become different and set apart. We all crave that at the beginning and end of a day: the chance to be set apart and seen.

One last thing on voice: you must do the work, T. So many people create a blog or buy a notebook and just expect for their voice to show up. Like I wrote earlier, you’ve got to develop that voice through practice, discipline, and life. Even more people out there read the words of a writer they admire and then they begin writing just like them.

I once had to have a really tough conversation with a writer who was also a reader of my blog. I read her blog pretty consistently but I watched as more and more of my voice showed up in her writing. Several people reached out to me and told me they felt like she was using my voice. She started to borrow sentences and phrases. It came to a point where I had to email her and ask her to talk with me on the phone.

I felt a little crazy but I had to know, “Are you copying me? Are you using my voice?” I probably wasn’t expecting a straight answer but she didn’t cower in a corner, she was really honest with me. She told me yes, she was copying my writing. She was reading so closely that she was picking up phrases and sentence structure purposely and using it in her own corner of the internet.

What followed from that confession was this really redemptive conversation on voice. She and I were hundreds of miles away, talking over cell phones, but I felt like she was close to me. I still remember pacing the gravel of the sidewalk outside of church as I spoke to her for close to two hours. I still remember wearing a blue dress.

I told her it was a bigger issue when you opt for another person’s voice because it is easier or because it gains you applause. Two things happen when you pick someone else’s voice over your own. 1) You neglect your process. 2) You hijack their process.

For her to pick up my voice and use it was for her to claim she was a girl who used to sit in chapels hoping God would speak to her. A girl who spent her high school summer vacations listening to Delilah’s Love Songs at Night and calling into to request Mariah Carey songs be dedicated to SOS (Some One Special). A girl who once fell in love at the tail end of a semester, spun in circles by a guy who would read her Walt Whitman poetry late into the night and who would come back after a long summer and decide he didn’t want her. A girl who only became a writer because her grandmother told her to and she wanted her grandmother’s life to live longer than it had the chance to. My voice is a combination of sanctuaries, newspaper clippings, pages torn from books, love letters left by my mother, grace, and wisdom. To take that voice from me is to take the most precious thing I’ve ever been given the chance to develop. 

Developing your voice takes time. It takes writing a lot of words. It takes getting honest and getting real with yourself and your readers. Your voices develops in secret places where you scribble for hours on yellow notepads. Your voice develops when you pay attention to how your friends think and speak and act when they are nervous or in love. Your voice isn’t something you find, it’s something you birth. You spend hours in the darkroom, just in the way they used to develop film, and something is birthed out of you that the world gets to devour.

Your voice is a combination of thoughts, feelings and places you’ve gone. Your voice is a 1999 pop ballad and a 2008 heartbreak. Your voice is that beach house you spent every summer at up until you were 16. Your voice is the night you went, and said, and asked, and celebrated. That’s how you make your voice yours and only yours— you live and then you write it down. Go out there, live and then write it down.

If the leaves danced then tell me they danced. If you slow danced in the kitchen then tell me the song. Tell me the tiny, delicate details that make this story your own.

Standard
Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 12.56.28 PM
Uncategorized

The valley of pg. 100.

Everyone knows I go to “church” on Monday nights.

There’s a reason for using quotation marks to envelope that word “church.” It’s a different kind of church than the one I attend on a Sunday morning. There are no pews. There are no hymns or flashing lights. It’s just a bunch of girls, sitting in a living room, infusing the air with commentary on the latest episode of the Bachelorette.

Someone will be quick to say, “That’s not church! Rar! That’s not church.” But me? I am in the camp of believing that church is wherever you get united with other people who are struggling and fighting. Church is any place where God gets invited in. It takes only hope and a reason for God to be there to build a sanctuary. This world is crawling with sanctuaries that have yet to know God is hanging on the beams and breathing in the hallways.

So church. Monday night. I went there. There wasn’t a new episode of the Bachelorette so we all just came to hang out and catch up. There’s a new girl in the mix named Mattie. She lives in North Carolina but makes a regular pilgrimage to Atlanta for business. When she is here, the girls of Bachelorette night scoop her up and take her in because we want her to stay. Forever.

Mattie and I talked books. It was refreshing to talk about fiction and our lists and how we wish we had more time to sit on beaches, sip drinks, and just lose ourselves in good storytelling. We talked about the struggle we sometimes face to finish a book. It’s like you’re going strong in the beginning and you are jiving with the characters but then life hits you and the book hits a lull. You’re left crawling back to the pages months later because you just couldn’t finish what you started.

I tell her that’s my biggest fear as a writer.

“When I was writing my first book, that was what I was always so afraid of,” I told her as I took a sip of my kombucha because I am drinking kombucha these days. “I was afraid to not be liked as a narrator. You are always afraid that someone is going to leave you at page 55 or 92 and they won’t finish with you.”

Being afraid that someone won’t finish with you is reason enough to never start moving at all. We’re human so I think that means we crave a doubt, an impossibility, that will keep us standing in one place. We can never mourn the loss of losing people if we never fight to keep them.

Whether you are someone who wrangles words and puts them on a page or not, you’ve probably been fearful of the same thing. A lot of us are fearful that we will start this road surrounded and end up alone. We are afraid we won’t get the invitation to the party. We are afraid we won’t get chosen. We are afraid we won’t find love or our loved ones will leave us. The fears are mounting on top of one another. We want someone to stay.

I told Mattie that I basically have one rule for my summer reading: I will finish the book. I will not abandon the characters. I will follow through even if it’s painful or annoying or not turning out to be the literature I wanted it to be. I want to be someone who knows how to get to the finish line. I want to know that I might stagger and fall across that finish line but I intend to finish.

I don’t have every good word of wisdom in the world to keep you from giving up but I can say this: this world needs more people who finish things. We are good at starting but we are weak when it comes to finishing.

There’s no great secret to this life we are living. There isn’t some answer being withheld from us. You don’t need to roam through the racks of a bookstore to get better at being human. Just be there for people. Just try your best to finish what you start. Just know: we are all afraid of being left on page 156. We are all anxious that no one will care to understand pages 1-155.

Don’t abandon your people on page 118.

Don’t walk away on page 71.

Forge through the vallies of pages 60-82.

Stay on page 99 for however long you need to, for however long someone needs you to be there. Camp out. Make a fire. Put stakes in the ground. Someone’s faith is going to fail soon. Their faith will fail and they will need someone— maybe you—  to bend down and come close enough to whisper, “Page 99 is not all this world has for you. There is more. There is more for you too.” 

Standard
Uncategorized

For the light + sweet gang.

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 12.40.45 PM

I’ve been trying to drink my coffee black for an eternity now. It’s been a New Years goal for the last few years but I’ve never been able to kick the habit cold. I love the “idea” of drinking my coffee black. I recently read this article and really wanted to become a black coffee drinker. I especially love this paragraph of the text:

Black coffee is a synecdoche for life: when you eliminate the excess—when you deliberately avoid life’s empty calories—what remains is exponentially more delicious, more enjoyable, more worthwhile. It might be a bitter shock at first; but, much like coffee, a meaningful life is an acquired taste. Sip slowly and enjoy.

Coffee used to be something I enjoyed daily. Lately I’ve been skipping the caffeine because I don’t want to load up on the cream and sugar it takes for me to think the coffee is good. I’m trying to kick dairy completely and so I scoped out the internet for healthy alternatives that I could make from home. So how do I still enjoy a morning sip without feeling like the dairy and sugar is zapping my energy?

Spending 4-5 dollars at a coffee shop a day (sometimes even twice!) adds up in my budget. I’m not kicking out the prospect of a good almond milk latte but I enjoy the task of brewing from home. So I’ve discovered an alternative and it’s basically everything to me. It’s the perfect find for anyone who isn’t quite at the “drinking my coffee black” stage of their life but wants to knock out some of their light and sweet raw sugar cravings.

This is my own recipe altered from some recipes I found online to fit my taste buds:

  • 1 cup of Almond Milk
  • 1 banana or 1/2 cup of frozen berries
  • 1 packet of Vista Instant Coffee (I go with the Pike Place for a medium roast)
  • 1 scoop of peanut butter
  • 1 tsp of cocoa powder (unsweetened) for extra flavor
  • Add ice if you want more of a frozen coffee drink feel!

You simply throw all the goods in a hand blender and enjoy the mix. I’ve been pouring my mixes into a mason jar, adding a straw, and taking the coffee blend into the office with me. I’m excited about this little drank because I don’t feel the need to chug it down like I do with smoothies. This is a slow sipper that has been lasting me about an hour every morning I’ve made it for myself.

This is the perfect little addition to a summer routine of waking up early, cracking open the journal, and getting in that quiet time.

Looking forward to sharing more of my healthy finds with you!

Standard
falling in love, Uncategorized

Hungry love.

Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 10.52.22 AM

1.

I’ve been writing a lot about anxiety recently for my book chapters. Without knowing it, anxiety is a bigger character in the story I am telling than I anticipated to be. 

I am writing this story with Lane’s permission. There aren’t many parts of Lane and my’s growing relationship that I’ve shared on the internet. I’ve been a blogger for 5 years now and so I have learned how important it is to separate your life from what is happening on the screen and what is taking place off of it. Relationships can easily be muddied up when two people are invested in the image of their relationship rather than the character of it.

My heart for every reader– as I write my truth– is that you will invest your life in a person who is more of a map to you than a story. Stories are beautiful but maps take you places. Remember to go, and see, and do. Put down your phone and live love out loud, not just through captions and tags. 

2.

I knew really early on that Lane was my person. I wasn’t expecting it to happen that fast but it was our third date that made it clear to me: I was falling in love with this man. He cooked me scallops at his home. He showed up at the door with an easy smile and a flannel. He bought me a bottle of wine with a gold-glinted wrapping because he said the story of the wine, on the back of the bottle, was something I would like. It was all about roots and finding your home. We baked brownies and watched Garden state. It was the first time I knew I could build a life with this man.

It wouldn’t be true if I said it were that easy though. Even with this deep knowing in my gut that I’d found a man to cover my thin places, I had all this anxiety about fourth and fifth dates with Lane. He knows this. He knows that much of his security was met by my insecurity. I’d scripted this untrue story in my brain before I met him that I was never going to be certain when the right one was standing in front of me. I would never have a way of knowing. That story was dangerous because the more I told myself it, the harder it became to undo it. The story gained power. The story had momentum.

3.

Anxiety will have a field day with whatever you feed it. Your anxiety is happy to feed on your love life, your relationships, your career, and your purpose in life. Your anxiety wants to be fed something substantial, something that matters most to you, so it can feel full and still hold a purpose in your brain.

Daily feeding my relationship with Lane to my anxiety was like going to the gym and then eating a number 7 from McDonald’s an hour later (I hope there is a number 7… I’m not so sure!). I would pray in the morning but, by 11am, the anxiety had hold of my brain. I never could have clear thoughts about Lane because I was only looking at our relationship with anxiety brain. I didn’t know at the time that anxiety can be managed.

4.

I felt like I needed to write about this because a lot of us can so easily be governed by our feelings. We want to believe in our feelings but our feelings aren’t always accurate. They trick us. They distort truth. They want you to go on thinking you never need to tame them, fact check them, or test them. Feelings want to be followed. Falling in love is not about following a feeling, it’s about making a daily choice to pick one person and then following through.

I cannot claim to be able to cover all the grey area thats come with relationships. I know it’s not as simple as choosing a person and then never doubting. People choose us and then leave us all the time. It happens and we can’t control that. I never want to belittle those stories or make my story seem like it’s above that. However, the most pivotal point in our relationship was after another spell of doubt and fear that maybe I was making the wrong decision. I would have these doubts all the time. I would let the doubt tell me what it wanted and I would be left anxious and afraid as a result. 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.

5.

I had to make the decision, at that point in the relationship, to not feed Lane to the lions of anxiety in my head. I told Lane that yes, I had anxiety but it wasn’t towards him. I denounced the anxiety trying to come at Lane from every angle. I told the anxiety, “After tonight, this is not your home. You don’t get to live inside of this relationship anymore.”

I really said those things. I really kicked out the anxiety from the relationship and spent hours, in the next few weeks, continuing to kick it out. Every time it came back, looking for a home, I turned it away. I wanted Lane’s love for me to finally have the chance to be bigger than the fears I’d let half-love me my whole entire life.

You are allowed to starve out your anxiety and leave it homeless. It’s hard work. It’s constant work. It might not completely release but you can start to make baby steps and micro choices towards choosing what you allow your anxiety to feed off of.

It’s Monday. There are precious things we get each day. We get to the be the stewards of people and things we don’t deserve. You could keep feeding your anxiety or you could look up and see that love is hungry too. Love is hungry to come through the doors and make the comfort food on the stove.

Don’t be afraid to let love in. Don’t be too scared to let love eat.

Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 11.57.26 AM

Standard
Uncategorized

The space to hear you.

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 11.08.04 AM

I am a writer. This much I know.

I’ve been told since as early as I can remember that I have wisdom beyond my years. I never knew that wisdom, like most things, must be activated. I spent all this time writing about staying, leaving, and letting go. I wish I knew back then that just because you have an epiphany doesn’t mean you’ve learned the lesson. Just because you have a great thought doesn’t mean you’ve gone out and lived it.

I want to be the kind of person who walks out what she talks about, not the other way around. Especially today, it’s incredibly easy to be unintentionally deceptive with the world.

Last summer I posted all these photos on Instagram of my garden and I. It gave off the illusion that I was watering, weeding, and planting new things all the time. In reality, the garden was suffering from the Georgia heat and dying by the day. I like the idea of glamorizing the garden rather than taking care of it.

Just because you’ve talked about gardening doesn’t actually mean you’ve watered something. Just because you talk about hard work doesn’t mean you’re actually doing it.

So I wrote for a long time about hearing God speak without ever hearing Him speak. I had brief moments of God whispers. I had feelings stirring in my gut that I was making a right decision. But I wrote so much about His voice as if I was hearing it constantly, as if God and I were in a perpetual stream of dialogue. In actuality, I was talking about the voice of God in the morning but listening to lies for the rest of the day.

I remember this one time at the very beginning of the fight with my second depression. I’d taken a trip with my friend Nia and came home exhausted but wired. It wasn’t the road trip we were planning on. She’d tried to give me sleeping pills when we got back to her place because I was in so much pain. I just remember wanting to sleep so badly but nothing would work.

When she drove me home I nearly collapsed on the floor in front of my roommate and her boyfriend.

“I need prayer,” I said to them. “I am sorry to crash into this moment but I need prayer.”

I didn’t know what else to do. I felt like I was fighting a war inside of myself without any weapons. I was getting this serious beating from the depression and prayer was my last option.

My roommate’s boyfriend sat me down on the couch between them. He put one of his hands on my forehead and started to pray.

I just remember him saying, “Come on, Hannah. You know his voice. You know his voice. You are his sheep, you know his voice.”

I didn’t know his voice though. I knew how to listen to lies. I didn’t know how to say, “This voice that tells me I am unworthy of love and goodness is not the voice of God.”

I stood in a sanctuary last night listening to a band that reminds me of warm rooms soaked in twinkle lights and the moment you step out into the California heat. When it hits you, the thick air wraps you in tight, holds you closer, and does not spit you out until the sun rests behind the buildings at the end of the day.

The woman with the guitar on the stage was speaking about God’s voice. She mentioned how in John it says that the sheep know His Voice. They listen. They follow.

I think the biggest problem we face today is that there is no quiet. There is much time to develop a voice for ourselves. There is little time to hear the voice of someone else.

There is no peace. There is no easy way to rip yourself from the folds of culture and just be still. We are on 24/7. We wake up to our phones. We go to sleep to the glow of the screen. We say we want to hear the voice of God but we don’t ever shove our own thoughts into a corner and demand them to be still so that something bigger can come in and wash the dirt away.

“So when you listen, God speaks?”

A friend asked me this question last week and I had to be bold enough to answer. I said yes. You don’t always hear this loud voice. It’s rarely the heavens parting and a booming thunder coming down upon you. It’s more like little fragments. It’s these brief reminders. It’s these nudges to go somewhere in the bible and plant there.

I didn’t know that I would need to entrench myself in the scriptures to understand the way He speaks. That is the thing though, I think God has his own language. I must be dedicated to God’s language if I ever hope to translate.

I didn’t know how to stop moving. I didn’t know how to listen. It was the biggest gap in my own prayer life up until this past year. I always just thought prayer was rattling off a to-do list to God. I thought prayer was about me being vocal and him being, well, God.

I don’t fault myself for this. I actually never was taught to do anything but talk to God. No one ever sat me down and said, “Girl, prayer is just as much about listening as it is about word vomiting. Prayer is your direct line to God. If you want to hear from God then come prepared to listen.”

I told her it took a while for me to listen to the voice of God. Even now, I have to discern whether I am hearing from God or hearing my own voice. I told her the more time you spend with someone, the more you get to know them. You understand whether they are good or bad. You can start to predict their reactions.

How is it not the same way for God? How can I want a personal relationship with God but never imagine that He might be personable and good to me?

 

:: A PRAYER YOU CAN STEAL ::

God, move me out of the way and insert yourself in the places I want to take up space in. Push out the lies and infuse me with your voice and your truth. Train me to open up my ears. Train me to push out distractions. Train me to hear you and to know that you are good. 

Standard
Uncategorized

When the first mile isn’t sexy…

Dear readers,

We are getting ready to move. It’s crazy to type that but I’ve outgrown this little blog home and we are in the market for something bigger, with more windows, and a better view. 

I am currently in the process of renovating the house (website) but I want to give you the sneak peek of what blog posts will look like in the future. 

So check out the new blog look & let me know know what you think! 

Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 11.59.19 AM

I’ve been on a health journey since April 12.

I know the exact date because I opened my laptop that evening and recorded a video of myself talking. It’s a lot of me whining, being somber to the camera, about how I wished I could claim my health back.

I’m not particularly unhealthy. I’ve been a pretty good eater since adulthood. I like clean meals. I’ve always managed to work out consistently. In the last few years it has been harder to stay on track. It’s easier to eat at 10pm when work is finally over and you get a chance to relax. It’s easier to skip a workout because you’re too tired or you can “do it tomorrow.” It’s easier to grab french fries and then script a funny, little tweet about your french fries than to buy groceries and a make a healthy meal.

I’ve started, failed, and restarted this health journey so many times that starting again seemed impossible to me. I didn’t even want to try.

On April 12, Lane took me into the gym. He had a workout planned and he pushed me through it. I did not go through the motions of that workout without causing Lane great pain and agony. I cried. I whimpered. I begged him to let me give up about a thousand times. He dealt with my whining, my anger, my frustrated self.

Every exercise felt more painful than the next. I was pushing against myself and could feel this tangible resistance bundled up inside of me like the cords of the straightener and the curling iron getting tangled in an impossible knot. He kept pushing and cheering me on.

“You wrote about mile 19 today,” he said to me. “How you showed up for Brooke at mile 19.”

It was my Monday Morning email he was referring to. I’d written about showing up for my friend Brooke while she was training for a marathon. During her 20-mile run, in the middle of her training, I promised to meet her at mile 19 and run the last mile with her.

“Push harder,” Lane said to me as we transitioned into mountain climbers on the yoga mat. “This isn’t your mile 19. This is your mile 1.”

I was vividly frustrated. Tears were still coming and I could not control them. I didn’t want to be at mile 1. No one wants to be at mile 1. Mile 1 feels like an eternity; it feels like you are never going to finish mile 1. Nothing about the beginning of a journey feels sexy. There’s nothing to boast over. There’s no testimony post for social media about mile 1.

“Mile 1,” he keeps saying as we lift and row and lunge. “Mile 1. You’re at mile 1.”

It doesn’t even feel sexy to write about mile 1. I feel like I need more adjectives to make this post better than it is. I still feel like I am at the beginning of the journey, though I am technically over a month in. I see little bits of progress but my emotions are still up and down, up and down.

I’m learning progress doesn’t show up over night. Progress looks like learning to mince garlic and sub out sour cream for greek yogurt. Progress looks like those peanut butter energy balls you pinned last week turning crumbly and inconsistent. Progress looks like mornings where you don’t feel like getting to the workout class because you’re already imagining 55 minutes of torture.

5 things to remember about progress:

It’s slow.

And that’s okay! The culture we live in is a bigtime preacher when it comes to things happening “instantly” and in “5 easy steps.” It’s hard to even graze through a Women’s Health Magazine because everything is supposed to happen for you in 2 weeks or less. Truth told: I don’t remember the last time something happened for me in two weeks. But slow progress is still progress. Enjoy the road you’re on. Don’t give up on mile 1.

You’re not alone.

Surrounding yourself with other people who can build you up and make you stronger is key. I don’t think I would be on this health journey if Lane wasn’t constantly pushing me, helping me make meals, and challenging me to go harder. There is community out there for you, even if it is just one person.

Writing it down helps.

I have started keeping notes of my progress since April 12. I don’t do it everyday. It doesn’t always have to be notes on what I ate or how I performed in barre class. Here’s the note I wrote for myself on Day 3:

“I’m realizing the answer will never be on social media. It’s the first thing I noticed when I woke up this morning, that I look to social media to numb me from whatever I need to face. It’s weird… I didn’t realize I was actually using it to numb me. When I first keyed into the problems with social media, I thought I was using it to seek the approval of others. Not the case. I am actually using it to numb something inside of me that is meant for the Lord. It was one of the first feelings today that I didn’t want that for my life. I don’t want this life to be one where I fill my holes with bad habits I have not managed to kick yet.

My prayer for the day is that the Lord would meet me in my issues and my mess. I pray he will lift me up, though I don’t deserve it. I pray I can be productive and not defeated. He can help me train for this marathon called Life. It would be a beautiful day and I would start to understand this journey he is taking me on better and more fully.”

Don’t break something just to fix it again.

One month into the journey, I knew I was dedicated. I knew I would keep going— even if I never saw the progress I wanted. I kept looking at all these online programs— Kayla Itsines, Body by Simone, etc. I knew I loved taking barre classes but I was worried about the price of Pure Barre. I tried to come up with other solutions.

Wise, old Lane reminded me: It’s important to invest in what you want and what you know works.

Within the weekend, I was signed up for barre classes again. I wasted so much energy trying to find a solution to help me become more consistent in working out that I neglected the truth: I already had a solution. I already had a program that worked for my body. Why try to change it?

It’s a lifestyle change (and that takes time).

My initial motivation to get healthy was so that I didn’t feel overly insecure sitting in a bathing suit on a beach in Punta Cana next month. That was the spark but that quickly fell into the background when I realized I wanted this thing to last. I had to find something more to anchor myself into progress if I wanted this to be a lifestyle shift, not a 50-day goal.

What are my greater motivations for health beyond a bikini? Well, I struggle with anxiety and depression. Solutions for lessening those symptoms are rooted in health. I have psoriasis— an autoimmune disorder. Solutions for less inflammation all come back to health. I travel a lot for speaking and I often feel sluggish when I go places. All of that is rooted in… you guessed it… health!

It’s greater than a bikini, friends. It was never about a bikini anyway.

Standard