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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! 

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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.

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You should go and love yourself: Part 2.

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One year ago, I became a gardener.

Here’s the thing about me: when I start to become obsessed with something, I give my whole life to it. I vow to love this thing more than any other thing for an eternity. I will devote my whole being to said-thing for approximately two months until the next best thing shows up to steal my attention. This is just the way I am wired. In 27 years I’ve been unable to change it. 

So I dove head first into gardening. It was love at first seed. I bought every plant possible. I got myself a watering can and some rain boots. I even created an Instagram account for my baby plants. I spoke to the veggies like some sort of Kale Whisperer. I debated a whole new blog on gardening alone. My life as a solo, single green-thumbed gardener. It was going to be beautiful.

But you want to know what happened to the garden three months after I planted it? It died a slow, miserable and inhumane death. I murdered my own garden.

It made no sense to me at first how it even managed to happen. I watered the thing regularly. I bought a gardening hat. I went out to talk to the kale in the morning. But then I let a few days slip by… and then a few days more… And, before I knew it, the peppers were wilting and the lavender was shriveling up. My little garden was dying and I felt helpless to save it. 

A few nights after admitting defeat to my green-less thumb,  I was at a birthday party for my neighbor Rachel. Her husband offered to take me outside and show me his garden.

“How is yours going,” he asked me.

“Not so well,” I answered.

“I figured.”

“How did you figure?”

“You haven’t posted a picture of it in a while,” he smirked at me as he unrolled the hose from the side of the house. 

“I just don’t know how to take care of it,” I told him. “Your garden is so much cleaner than mine.” I surveyed his garden as he began hosing down the plants.

“You have to weed the garden,” he told me, as if he already knew the issue at hand. 

I didn’t even know what of my own plants were considered weeds and what were actually flowers or vines or whatever garden things there are.

“If you don’t, the weeds that grow will literally steal nutrients from your plants. Your plants can’t grow because weeds are taking what they need from them.”

I thought about the tiny jungle of weeds sitting in my backyard and how they were strangling the life out of my little garden children without me even realizing it. 

“You think they are harmless,” he continued. “Until you realize your plants could have so much more life, and be much healthier, if you just took the time to uproot the weeds.”

“And this is why I am a writer, not a gardener,” I said.

“Yea,” he said. “I know you’re not going to hear another word I say after this. You’re going to write a blog post about me. It’s okay.” 

My neighbor is right. I barely listened to a thing he said about the garden from that point forward. I was too busy thinking about the weeds.

I got so used to the weeds in my garden, sprawling and growing, that I never thought to pluck them. They looked like plants to me. 

My little garden suffered all because I neglected to put some gloves on and ask myself the simple question, “What here is a weed and what here is a plant? Which of these things belongs? Which of these things have never belonged?”

What stands in the way of loving yourself– a lot of the time– is the lies you tell yourself. You tell yourself a lot of lies, A. You whisper them in sweet voices and yell them in loud tones. You whisper lies so frequently that eventually you can’t tell the difference between a lie and a truth. They start to look the same. Your brain lounges back in the comfort of lies.

 Just like the weeds, I never thought to uproot the lies after they’d dug themselves deep enough into my brain. The lies became crutches. They slowly and sneakily covered up and smothered what truly mattered.

What you feed grows. If you are feeding the lies more than you are feeding yourself truth, the lies are winning and growing bigger.

The lies you are putting up with right now– the things you tell yourself on repeat that you think are harmless or small– are legitimately sucking the life out of you. You are tolerating lies and they are making you grow smaller and smaller.

You aren’t winning. The world isn’t winning. It’s just that sad and true.

A, you are the sole decision maker when it comes to whether you are going to stand around and do nothing or you are going to move forward and beg on the world for direction by making small and steady choices.

We are all afraid to move. We are all afraid to try. We are all a little shaken to the core when think that someone sees us, that someone might be coming in to call our bluff and make us feel known.Whatever the lie you are feeding today– cut it off. Cut it off at the root. It serves no purpose but to strangle you and steal life from you.

We cannot have that. We cannot tolerate that life-sucking any longer.

And another thing, I know it’s not enough to say, “just feed yourself truths instead of lies.” It’s never going to be that easy. For anyone who has ever tried clean eating then you know that the hardest hurdle to get over is retraining your palate.

Retraining your palate is the very first step.

If you eat a ton of processed foods then your body starts to crave those sugary sweets and delicious salts. Even if you wanted kale to be your main bae, it wouldn’t be. You must first retrain your palate and get to the point of craving unprocessed foods before the lifestyle change completely occurs.

In the same way, if you do not start eating some of the truth– spoonful by spoonful– then you’ll never know the taste of it. And if you can never figure out the taste of truth, your palate will only ever be trained to crave the lies. The lies are salty and sweet until the day you feed on something that makes you feel alive.

We are dealing with lies, A. When it comes to loving yourself well, we have a bunch of lies standing in the way like weeds sucking out the goodness from a garden. We must sink our knees into the dirt and start to pluck– weed by weed– until there is no dead life remaining.

It won’t be easy and you are probably wondering how. I’m coming back this week to write more about ingesting truth instead of lies. I hope I’ll find you on the page again soon. This whole thing is just beginning… welcome to the fight.

A PRAYER YOU CAN STEAL

Lord, I need to see the lies in black-and-white. Strip out their fake & concentrated colors and help me see the lies in black-and-white so I can start to do the work of uprooting them. Where are the weeds in my life? Show me, show me, show me. I want to be faithful. I want to be alive.

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You should go and love yourself: part 1.

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Hello Hannah!

This won’t be too long. I just have a thought that’s been sitting in the back of my mind for a while but I’ve only recently begun to feel its weight. I remember hearing it first on a Christian retreat when I was a senior in high school and I adamantly refused to agree with it. After opening up about a heartbreak (which I had no idea would serve as the first domino in a sea of self-doubt and fear. Yikes.) our group leader said something along the lines of, “You know, you will never be able to love someone fully if you haven’t learned to love yourself.”

And I struggled to believe her. “Can’t some wonderful guy teach me how to love myself?” I thought in high school. In college I moved on to, “Well of course he won’t be THE reason I love myself, be he can love pieces I haven’t learned to love yet. He can teach me what I can’t teach myself. Right?” And today, at age 23, I still wrestle with that so-called truth.

I do not love myself yet. It’s been a pretty rough battle, especially within the past few months. I’m seeing how this emptiness affects my relationships and work and well-being, but I know I won’t be able to reach self-love on my own. I know now, without a doubt, that (true, balanced, pure) love of self happens as I learn to love God and accept His (underserved) love for all of His children, including me. But I have a feeling I’ll struggle with this whole self-love thing for a while. I still think I’ll need people, good and gracious people, to point out the beautiful parts of me I’ve criticized until I can scarcely recognize them. Isn’t that why we’re all here? To breathe love and life into others who struggle to see it for themselves?

I’m really curious what you think about this truth: “You have to love yourself before you can love someone else.”

As always, please take your time. Sending light and love your way,

A.


Sweet A,

When I first moved to Atlanta I wanted to live in a loft. Come to think of it, I’ve always wanted to live in a loft with high ceilings and industrial-like beams standing in the middle of my apartment like inconvenient road work, serving no true purpose but to look chic and edgy.

I triumphantly announced to my best friend that I would in a loft when I got to Atlanta. She proposed that I try out a house instead so that I would not be isolated. After a year spent living in a house with a roommate that had no dishwasher or running washing machine and dryer, I told my friend I would finally move into a loft. She proposed I give a house another try.

At the time I did not understand why she was persistently squelching my lofty dreams (no pun intended). I wanted a loft where everything would be taken care of for me and she kept proposing houses that demanded time, energy, and yard guys. It didn’t add up.

I live in a house where sometimes there are ants. We have a big backyard but it constantly needs moral support in the form of a lawn mower and a weed wacker. I am learning that steam from the shower leaves drippy stains on the wall and the best solution to get rid of the steam stains is a sketchy bottle of concentrated solution they only sell at the dollar store. This stuff gets out any stain. Blood. Wine. Whatever. I call it “clean the crime scene” juice. It’s legit like that.

The washing machine overflows sometimes. Cracks in the ceilings need to be taken care of or else they will turn into a bigger mess. Sometimes I fall asleep to the sound of the house whining like a needy girlfriend, “Take care of me. Please take care of me.”

Houses are unruly. They require constant care and upkeep. Living in a house is process that is never done, never through. One thing gets solved and another problem shows up by morning.

The process of taking care of something— be it a house or a body or a relationship or a thought process— overwhelms me. I would avoid it on every account if I didn’t think the daily upkeep of people and things molds me into a better human, slowly but surely.

My roommate is a few years older me. She is much better at managing the household than I am. She tells me it took her until she was 30 to get her life together and start to become a responsible adult who knew how to clean her own bathroom and own dishes. She gave me lessons on cleaning the bathroom while I bit back the urge to cry into the broom and dustpan.  She tells me this is just life. You learn as you go. I give myself another handful of grace and go back to the dollar store for more “clean the crime scene” juice.

Learning to love yourself is like moving into a house you are forced to take care of for the first time, A.

I think it’s even harder because we are living in loft times, A. I say “loft times” meaning we are living in an age where we get told on the regular that everything worth getting can be gotten quickly. The “bikini body” comes in 8 weeks. The clean house comes in 4 “easy” steps. You snag “the one” in 30 days. It’s all these mathematical solutions that rarely ever work and yet it is all we ever get fed. We are hungry for the instant. It’s like being fed french fries for six months that you never have to wait more than 10 minutes for and then being introduced to the concept of cooking your own food. It’s jarring to step inside of a role where you must use your hands and do the hard work for yourself. It’s easier to watch someone else. It’s easier to expect the french fries than to start peeling the potatoes yourself.

I don’t have to wonder why everyone is so enamored by the show “Fixer Upper.” I’ve never even seen it but I know how much we crave turning something ugly into beautiful. To watch someone else have their ugly turned into beautiful leaves us hopeful our turn is coming soon.

A house— ugly or beautiful— is your responsibility and that is two parts terrifying and one part beautiful. You will learn the good and bad of that house. The fixable and the not-so-fixable. You will know the cracks and the maintenance required. It’s where you keep your suitcases and bobby pins, your love notes and party dresses. It’s where you park your car and cry over your losses and rest your weary body at the end of a day. It’s where you clean the dirt of the day off your skin. It’s where your care packages show up and where eggs get cooked and community happens on the wood floor. It’s where love finds you, where love shows up at the door with flowers.

Most of all, it’s yours. Take off your shoes.

Welcome home.

A, I hope you won’t hate me for doing this but I am going to stop the letter here and come back on Monday. Hold me to coming back on Monday and continuing. I think this idea of “loving yourself” can’t be unpacked in 700 words. It needs time, prayer, discernment and space. I’ll start part two on Monday and we will take the world by storm from there.

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church

The church of toast.

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ONE.

I took a picture of my toast this morning.

Yes, I placed it on a white plate, took it into my bedroom where the natural light floods perfectly through the windows, placed it down on my yellow blanket and snapped a photo. Of toast.

I cropped said photo of toast. Filtered said photo of toast. Added contrast and a little bit of brightness to said photo of toast. I prepared my toast to show herself to the world. This was my toast’s best day.

I transferred my said photo of toast into Instagram and prepared to write my caption. Something about the drizzled honey. Or the Himalayan sea salt sprinkled over it. Or the avocado spread evenly— in delightful chunks of green goodness— across the 27-grain (or whatever amount) Ezekiel bread.

I said, “Little toast, are you ready for your finest moment?” Little toast in that very moment could not have been readier to meet the approval of others who wished they’d eaten breakfast or resisted the drive-thru or also were enjoying avocado toast on a rainy morning as they surrounded themselves with white walls and succulents.

When it came to little toast though, and the blank caption space, there was nothing for me to say. What could I possibly say? Eating toast? Yum, toast I took a photo of? Toast. Be jealous?

I realized in that moment, sitting on a yellow blanket spread across my bed, across from the uneaten little toast that it was pointless to write anything about toast.

Much of social media is like toast— you desire it for five minutes and then it is gone. You consume it and it’s over. You forget about little toast. You forget about the party you didn’t get invited to. You forget about the fact that your ex is finally living on without you (until the moment you check their page again— 2 hours later— to see if maybe their joy has stopped).

TWO.

When it came to my little toast and it’s caption, all I could think to write about was church. Weird, right? Toast is not often synonymous with church but, for some reason, today it is.

I spent the morning reading in the book of Acts because I don’t really wander over there that often. Lane and I started a study in Romans last night and it occurred to me that while I read the letters of a man named Paul— an absolute boss in the faith— I rarely get to see where Paul is coming from. I never explore Paul and his cronies in their most pivotal book of becoming in the bible: Acts. Reading Romans before Acts is like starting to watch LOST in the middle of season 2. You know nothing about the plane crash that brought them to this strange place.

I think the reason I’ve tiptoed around reading Acts is because church has always seemed like a messy word to me.

Maybe it’s the way the media twists and manipulates the image of the church. Maybe it’s my own experience. Maybe it’s the experiences of others who felt burned by the body of the church and walked away to find themselves in isolation, pursuing faith solo until they eventually just gave up. Church used to feel like social media to me: it’s important to document that you went but it rarely leaves you changed enough to speak of it the next day.

Acts 2:42-47 describes the first church. It says these people devoted themselves to teaching, fellowship with one another, and prayer. They ate a lot of carbs together (read as: toast). They were so devoted to one another that they started selling off their possessions in the hopes that they could lift one another up with their monetary returns. They attended the temple together. They were thankful when they got to eat. They were always saying thanks to God and people really liked them. It wasn’t a matter of “if” they would get invited to the next party, it was just a matter of “when.” And, as a result of all this, the Lord multiplied them. More and more people were praying, living life, and eating toast together. Seems like a pretty beautiful life to me.

THREE.

How did we get away from this simple and organic idea of church? How did church become this massive, sprawling thing that makes some of us feel ashamed and unworthy and not fit to sit in the pews?

I told Lane last night that I only used to attend church as a little girl for the bread and donuts. When the communion was over, myself and a few other kids would run down to the kitchen to eat the leftovers of Jesus’ body (look up communion if you think I’m a cannibal in this moment). But when Lane dug deeper with me, I found myself getting agitated and upset. I didn’t feel like studying anymore. I gave him massive stank face, as if to say, “how dare you make me dig deeper into a topic I don’t feel comfortable with?”

My earliest memories of church, up until after college, were of a place where I didn’t belong. I didn’t feel seen. I didn’t feel like God was actually mighty or real in this place. I felt like I was going to watch the girls around me get married young to good, holy men and I would be left behind. I felt like God had blessings for others but not for me.

I wouldn’t have told you it was a safe place where I ate carbs with friends and sold my things because I loved them so much and really, actually wanted to worship alongside them. That might have been the first church but that was not my church reality.

FOUR.

People are lonely and looking for something. I know this much, at least, to be true. People are seeking relationships that don’t look for the backdoor after the first disagreement. People are hoping— and sometimes even praying— that this life is not some lonely journey where you make a lot of mistakes, drink too much, never lose the weight, and always come up short on cash. On the adverse, the people who seemingly have it all are hoping— and sometimes even praying— that this life is not some lonely journey where you always climb a ladder, always make the grade and come up with empty applause, always feel the need to be skinny, and never have a decent thing to do with all this money.

We are living in a bit of a distorted reality and I don’t think it’s our surroundings that always need to change— it’s our perspective. It’s where we are digging for treasure. It’s where we are planting our seeds.

FIVE.

I got an email from two girls last night who are hoping they can start a group on Monday nights where they can sit, eat with people, and basically have an honesty hour once a week. They’re planning to devour breakfast food and talk about real stuff together. I think it’s really beautiful. They want to be Jesus to people— slip into the shoes of Jesus instead of just talking about Jesus. They see the story of Jesus and they are eager to make it louder than their own to the lonely, broken people they find.

To me, these girls are the first church. They are that Acts 2:42 church I mentioned above. They get it. They are craving real life off the screen. They are invested in the idea of friendship, and real conversation, carbs (read as: toast), and the building of a safe place where anyone can come in and say, “Hey, I’ve got this darkness. Could you help me clear it out for good?”

I wish I knew two girls like that in college. I wish I could join their group. I wish I could meet more people who are devoted to the reality of life, rather than the perception of perfection we give our lives to on the screen.

They realize they are one piece, one piece that needs to do its part of loving others, communing, asking tough stuff, and singing back to God with pretty, robust songs of gratitude.

To them, it’s not about crafting an experience that will leave others out. It’s about something real. Some real kind of toast you can gather and eat, not just watch and ogle at from behind a screen. To them, it’s about bringing people to the table and saying, “I know you’re hungry… eat.”

SIX.

Back to social media (and toast): our ancestors didn’t have it. They didn’t document toast. They didn’t feel this need to one-up one another with a status about an engagement, or a baby, or a piece of kale on a white dish. It wasn’t perfect for them but it was definitely less crowded and diluted by some idea of what real “living” and “church” should look like.

The first church didn’t document their toast. It wasn’t a priority to them, people were. They wanted to love people so well— so deep and so wide— that eventually their own self-obsession would get swallowed up by a bigger story. I think it’s a million times harder to get to that place today because our culture legitimately measures us. It sizes up. It tells us to keep chasing this thing that isn’t real.

We have to fight harder to live real, authentic lives than any other generation before us. What’s crazier to think than that though? It’s never been easier to spot the lonely and lost than in 2016. It is 2016 and we wear our loneliness like a raincoat in Seattle. It’s 2016 and we need to capture each other— refusing to let go— more than any other picture we think is worth taking. We need real church: real, I’m-not-letting-you-go, you’re-gonna-sit-and-eat-with-me, we’re-gonna-have-an-honest-hour-and-then-thank-God-for-breath, you-cannot-make-me-run-from-you church.

It’s 2016: capture someone and make them sit at your table. Tell them it’s okay to eat. Feed them toast. Tell them you’ve got darkness too. It’s okay… That’s all you have to say to someone today: It’s okay, we are going to clear this mess out together. I won’t run.


A PRAYER YOU CAN STEAL: 

God, make me hungrier for your people than my need to convince people I’m living better than them. God, strip down the bones of church for me and make me see where I need to lessen and you need to grow. God change this heart of mine— at a slow, steady pace— to want community more than I want followers. God, give me something real to call your “church” apart from a filtered photo and a standard I’ve never been able to stand inside of.

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The Online Spring Writing Intensive: Last call for a seat!

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First things first: fear is a loser.

There were whole years of my life where I knew I wanted to be a writer and yet I never wrote a single word. I’d buy the notebooks. I’d make the plan. I’d plot out these crazy characters in my head but they would never make it to paper. Their breath was never formed on the page. I was obsessed with the idea of being a writer but I could not write.

It made me feel like failure. It made me feel like the one thing I knew I was on this earth to do was never going to become a reality.

I even remember there was a period of time where I couldn’t walk into a bookstore because I wanted a space at the table so bad. I didn’t think there was room for me there.

All that to say, my Spring Writing Intensive has so much more to do with fear than writing. Writing is the discipline that emerges on the day you tell your fears to quiet down and you pick up the pen instead. Writing kills fear. My prayer is that we can begin killing your fear that you are powerless, voiceless, and ineffective together. I want April 23– two Saturdays from now– to be a day that shifts you and changes something inside of you. I’ll do everything it takes to motivate you, inspire you and open your eyes to new things about writing in my three-hour class.

You can expect a lot from the 3-hour online class. Here’s just a few topics we are getting into next Saturday:

  • The elements of compelling storytelling
  • Breaking the fear
  • Developing voice
  • Connecting with readers
  • The art of Taylor Swifting
  • Consistency & control in writing
  • Vulnerability hangovers
  • Finding direction within a crowded writing world

I can promise you this: it is gon’ get real. And the coolest part? It’s online. Again, you don’t even need to leave your house. You can join the class while wearing slippers and hot chocolate on a Saturday. You can buy a new notebook and fill the whole thing up. You can slug wine at 3 in the afternoon and play Macklemore in the background as I am teaching if that’s your deal (though I recommend taking the class sober). You can do whatever you want, the world is truly yours. I will not stop you. The whole class will not stop you.

BUT, BUT, BUT… there are only a few spots left before we close the doors until the sweet, sweet summertime. 25 spaces, friends. That is all! 

 

I’ve worked hard on all this content but I’ll just come out and say it now: I’m not an expert. No, not really. However, I’ve managed to get a few things done in the last couple of years:

  • At the age of 24, I signed to New Leaf Media Literary Agency. My first memoir “If You Find This Letter” (Howard Books of Simon & Schuster) came out in March 2015. It will release in paperback form in Spring 2016 and will also hit the shelves in Russia & Germany. My stationery kit (Potter Style, an imprint of Random House) came out in December 2014.
  • I am deep in the trenches of book #2. 50,000 words and counting…
  • I took the TED stage at the age of 24 for their Global Talent Search and have since continued to travel around the world to colleges and conferences across the country sharing my story. I’ve hit over 100 stages in the last few years.
  • I’m the Founder of The World Needs More Love Letters. In the last four years, More Love Letters has grown into a community of over 20,000 individuals across all 50 states, 53 countries, and over 60 college campuses.
  • I launched my own creative copywriting & consulting services for personal brands and individuals back in 2014.
  • My work has been featured in (but not limited to) the following publications: The Wall Street Journal, Oprah, Glamour, Cosmo UK, USATODAY.com, Chicago Tribune, BBC News, the White House, and Reader’s Digest.
  • I’ve worked with brands such as the United States Postal Service, Tiny Prints, Kleenex, KIND, Holstee, and Catalyst.
  • In 2015, I launched If You Find This Email with one of my best friends, Jenna Bednarsky.
  • I once managed to keep 1 fish alive for approximately 9 months– which shows dedication and commitment.

More than any kind of street cred, I am simply someone who has sat down nearly every single day for the last 5 years to write something– whether it be pages for a book, an article, a blog post, or a project. I am obsessed with the guts and grit it takes to be a writer in this world. I want to pass that on.

There’s only a few more spots left to my Spring Writing Intensive. When the gates close, they close forever… Come on in, friend. We saved you a seat.

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Uncategorized

On dedication.

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I haven’t blogged in over a month. It seems like the things that have been nearly habitual to me have fallen to the back burner. Oddly enough, I’m not freaking out. I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I am doing really okay right now with not being perfect and not attempting to hold the world together.

Don’t get me wrong– I love this blog. I can’t wait to get back to regular posting. But my heart and habits have shifted a little bit in the last month and I’ve been using everything I’ve got to honor those shifts.

It was about a month that I was sitting with my therapist, once again complaining about how my book proposal is still not finished. (Side note: I am a huge, huge, huge advocate for therapy. You don’t need to be ill to go see a therapist. I see mine every two weeks– even though my depression is at bay– and it’s the best investment of my money that I could possibly make).

Back to the book proposal… I could not push past the rut, no matter how hard I tried. What was even harder was that it didn’t seem to matter how much I was kicking butt in other areas– I could only see my gaping failure in this one particular area. I traveled around for speaking engagements for two solid months, I opened a print shop, I completed my first two writing intensives, I was blogging regularly, and learning to make healthy lifestyle shifts. It didn’t feel like enough though because the one thing I wanted to be doing, more than anything, just wasn’t getting done.

Here’s the thing I’m learning though: it won’t happen if you don’t make it happen. The only way for something to be completed– whether that’s a book or a project or a workout– is if you push yourself towards it. You will face resistance, sure, but resistance isn’t a good enough excuse to not go after what you want. Anything worthwhile in life usually comes with a fight. There’s a fight to start something. A fight to forge a new path in the road. A fight to keep a habit going. A fight to continue. But, in the fight, we learn some of the most valuable things about ourselves. We learn how much capacity we truly have. We get braver. We figure out who are people are and how loud they cheer. More than that, we figure out how much cheer other people on and whether or not we are an asset to the lives of other people.

My therapist basically told me that in the amount of time I talked about the book proposal I could have very easily written the whole book. The next morning, as I prayed, I realized my therapist was right. I was stalling and it was actually making me a worse person. The more I rejected what I needed to be doing, the more I felt discontented and projected that onto other people. I was actively deflating myself and surrendering to self-defeat without even giving the challenge a try.

I needed to clear the space. I needed to get my priorities straightened. I needed to put what I knew I wanted– the hardest thing to walk towards– first. I needed to surrender my excuses to God and let him enter into my insecurities and fill out the spaces.

In the month that has followed, I’ve completed the book proposal and also written over 40,000 words worth of material for the book. That, friends, is a miracle. Up until the time I sat down and just decided to do the damn thing I was always making excuses. Excuses don’t add up to anything over time. They lose their luster. People eventually stop expecting things out of people who make too many excuses.

So maybe this post is a little late. I’m perfectly okay with that. I’m finally writing and I am here to report that still, one month later, it hasn’t gotten easier. The resistance has been there consistently each day. The liars still show up at the door. The thoughts of “I can’t do this” rattle in my brain. But I am doing it. I am walking towards what scares me. I am putting something I love first because I am afraid to wake up one day and realize I only watched but never participated.

It’s short, guys. We know this. It’s fleeting and it’s not really predictable. We can’t afford to be bystanders, especially if there is something in your chest that tells you that you were born for more than this. Pursue the workout plan. Pursue the book. Pursue 400 words. Pursue the person. Pursue the thing. You’re the only one who gets how much it matters to you. It has to matter enough though, enough for you to make a change, clear the space, and finally get to work.

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