You belong at the table. Part 1.

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Hey Hannah!

I just wanted to email you with a question I think you could answer for me. I’m 19, studying writing at the university of my dreams. I feel so young, yet at the same time, I feel like I should already be making an impact in the world.  I know many people my age already working really hard to be successful and I have this mindset that I’m behind or something. It feels like everyone else is thriving and accomplishing things worth talking about while I’m just here writing my thoughts down, not knowing if I’m even making an impact in anyone’s lives. Am I behind already? Should I be publishing a book or something by now? How do I know when it’s my turn to do something big? I want to be young and enjoy my college years, but I also want to be able to share something that’s mine with the world, something I’ve poured my entire being into writing. I want to feel proud of myself. I want to have success in writing, which success can mean multiple things to different people, but I also know being a writer isn’t an easy task for the ones who really want to make it a career. Is this fear of feeling behind normal for a writer? And is there ever the “right time” to begin?

Love,

J.


Dear J,

My favorite guy in the Bible is Moses. There’s just something about that man that, if circumstances were to arise, I’d pick him instantly as my partner for the Amazing Race. He’s got this really fascinating background you’ve got to pay close attention to as you read about him. He wasn’t always splitting seas and leading people out of captivity. He had a beginning. And he had some false starts.

At one point in the story, God plants his vision inside of Moses. I’m sure you’ve felt that before. Suddenly, you catch this bigger glance of what things “could be.” It’s the kind of vision that keeps you up at night. It leaves you breathless, thinking to yourself in the quiet of the middle of the night, “I might not be an accident.”

Moses jumps too soon though. He gets so passionate about his “one-day mission” that he flails out of control and starts that second. The result of that? Some dude gets killed and Moses has to go into hiding for 40 years. Yikes.

I think about what Moses did during those 40 years of hiding. He planted roots down. He became a father. He tended a flock. If you think about leading an entire people group out of Egypt one day, applicable skills for dealing with unruly people would be a) raising children and b) herding dumb sheep.



It’s easy to look at that story and think: well, I don’t want to wait 40 years for my destiny to unfold. And that’s not what I am prescribing to you. But I will say this: the seasons you want to discount might be more crucial than you think or realize.

I remember college. I remember thinking to myself: I don’t want to get lapped by other people. My life has to start now, too. But that’s a myth. Because your life has already started. And everything happening around you is meant to be soaked in and lived.

What if Moses were to neglect the flock because he was too busy thinking about the things he messed up or the people who were lapping him? The devil is in distraction these days.



What if I were to invite you to a dinner party at my home? I send you the link and I ask you to sign up for something. I want to make sure the dishes on the table are diverse that night. You take a glance at the list and you realize someone is bringing a unique appetizer. Bacon-wrapped dates (only because that’s my favorite thing in the world). You wouldn’t think to steal what they’re making. You wouldn’t double up on the bacon-wrapped dates, right? So why would you be willing to do the same thing with your calling? Why would you look to others to inform what you bring to the table?

If you spend your days focusing on what other people are doing, you’ll miss what God wants to do with you. You’ll miss the marrow. You’ll miss what’s unique about your story. And let’s be honest, there is far too much imitation in the world already. What we need is people who are willing to get alone with God, dig deep, and figure out what they bring to the table. Because it’s different than what someone else brings.



First things first: you belong here. You belong at the table. The table is long and there is plenty of run so let’s stuff an apple in the mouth of the liar who tells you there’s not enough room. Yes, the world is noisy. Yes, social media is loud. But people don’t tire from watching others do good in the world.

Step one: come to the table with all the experience you have so far. Don’t belittle it. Don’t strap words like “not enough” or “too much” to the things you do. Just bring it all with you because it all counts. We can start with that.

xx.

hb.



Conquer FOMO & create boundaries with your phone.

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Sometimes I have an interview I really enjoy doing, a conversation where we dig deep and really get to the heart of things in the first 5 minutes. That’s just the kind of person I am. I believe life is too short to stick to the surface level.

Last week, one of those interviews happened and I wanted to share it with all of you. It covers a lot of the questions you email and message me on a regular basis:

  • How do you handle social media when it is overwhelming?

  • What boundaries exist between you and your phone?

  • How do you conquer a paralyzing fear of missing out so you can learn to live in the present moment.

My interview is actually a part of a series hosted by Caroline Garnet McGraw. This interview will air on October 16 but you can get all sorts of free content & interviews from other creatives and inspiring humans by signing up for the free course here. I love how all the talks are custom-designed to help you handle doubt, get unstuck, and live your purpose.

These are some of the topics we touched in the interview:

  • How I learned to stop bouncing between dwelling on the past and worrying about the future, and actually put down roots and be present in my real life.

  • The root cause of the depression I experienced in 2014.

  • A DEEP dive into FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)

  • Real-world boundaries I set on my social media use and how I have learned to engage online in ways that facilitate connection and celebration, rather than envy and discontent.

  • Why God is NOT a Mean Girl.

The Clarity Course runs from Monday, October 15th through Sunday, November 4th. During that time, you'll receive daily interviews to help you stop second-guessing and start moving forward.

And get this - The Clarity Course is totally free. All you need to do is click the link below and sign up to see the show.

Give up the ghosts.

Give up the ghosts.

We’ve got ghosts in our midst. This much I know. I’ve read the emails from you. I’ve listened to the horror stories. I’m familiar with the present-day "ghosting" we’ve got going on. 

There are no white bed sheets with holes poked out for eyes but there are blue-eyed boys who don’t text back and girls who act as if you never existed as they delete their presence from your life after a second date. 

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You're in the process. Stay there.

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I am 53 days into an 80-day fitness program. I’m counting. 

I have a slight obsession with measurable programs. I like to count the days. I get fuel off of knowing I am on day 23 of a Whole30. I don’t think I am alone on this. I find a surge of power from being able to see my progress quantified, made into something I can measure and hold up to the world. 

There’s nothing wrong with this. If you’re 20 days or 50 days into something then you should be proud. But I am reminding myself (more often than not) that it's okay if I miss a day or fall behind a few days. Mess-ups along the journey do not discount the entire stretch of road you've traveled. 

You're in the process. Stay there.

It’s okay if you fail on day 4. It’s okay if you make it to day 10 and then bellyflop back into old habits. You and I, we cannot let a number of days on a calendar classify or define us. The important thing: you started. You tried. You got 4 days further than you did last time. 

Don’t let failure keep you down. Don’t let it convince you that you cannot start again. You are more than a few crossed off days on the calendar.

 

Growth isn’t something you can measure in just days. Growth is measured in strength, knowledge, and the building of new character. It’s built gradually and over time. Even when the “x amount of days” are finished, you’re still growing. You’re still making moves. You’re still on the journey. 

If at first you fail, try again. 

If you find yourself finishing, keep going. 

You deserve progress. You deserve to be able to look into the mirror and see yourself changing, becoming someone healthier or better. You deserve to celebrate the little victories and rejoice for rejoicing’s sake.

If you’re starting something today, give it your all. 

If you fail something today (or miss a day), get back to it. Pick yourself up and get back to it.

If you are in the middle of something today, go at it with new strength.

If you are finishing today, this is really just one chapter closing and a new beginning emerging. Keep on, keep on, going. 

I'd love to hear from you: do you ever get stuck in "counting the days"? What journey are you proud to be celebrating today?

Save me for a rainy day.

The forecast reads "rain."

Lots of it.

More to come.

So much rain they're interrupting regularly scheduled programming to analyze it.

It's been raining for ten trillion years here in Atlanta and the weatherman keeps talking as if it will be pouring buckets forever. Who's building the ark? Who's gathering the animals?

The rain today made me think of something I wrote when I was 22 years old. It was at the start of creating More Love Letters. I wrote a letter to whoever was reading, 8 years ago, and I told people to save it for a rainy day. The metaphorical kind.

I've learned a lot in 8 years and so I figured I'd rewrite that letter with what I know now but I would give the same instructions: if these words speak to you, print them out. Fold them up. Put them somewhere safe like a drawer or a wallet. Write on the outside of the paper, "Save me for a rainy day." May this note be a reminder to you when the dark feels endless. May this note comfort and keep you when it feels like the rain is never going to cease:

 

Save Me for a Rainy Day

The rain will end. Eventually.

Right now it feels like buckets. It feels like darkness. It feels like that time when the stars weren't visible and the trees were hovering and it's okay to think to yourself, "Am I ever coming out of these woods?"

The rain will end, stop, cease, quit it-- all the things. It's only a matter of time.

Gosh, do you hate when people talk about time as if it heals all the wounds? Time is the one thing you can't speed up or manipulate. You can't expedite it or erase it. In a place where food is delivered in under 45 minutes and you could Prime that product and have it here tomorrow, I know what it is like to wish time worked on a tighter schedule. I know what it is like to think, "I need time to speed up. I need this pain to go away. I need this darkness to cease."

You're going to make it. You're going to make it through. 

I don't like to be the kind of person who says "there's a purpose for everything" because there is too much senseless evil on this planet to say that so quickly. But I've seen my fair share of purpose induced by pain. I've seen the good that comes from the bad. I've been through enough patches of wood to say that sometimes the woods makes you stronger. They show you what you're made of. They push you outside of yourself or they help you discover new layers of yourself.

Whatever you're going through right now-- it's hard. I won't belittle that or make it seem smaller than it really is. I've learned never to predict the storms for someone else. We all get storms and those storms look different. I can't say when the rain will stop or how bad it will get. No need to be a weatherman in this world that needs people with umbrellas to rise and say, "I'll stand here as long as you need me."

I used to wish God would be less of a God and more of a weatherman. Less omniscient, more predictable.  I wished he'd be the kind of guy to say to me, "The storm will end around 2. Just hold tight and wear your rainboots, kid."

Instead, I learned to stop asking "when" and "how long" for matters of darkness and discomfort. Now I ask a harder question. I ask, "What do you need me to see right now? What can I learn from this? Teach me how to move through this storm gracefully and come out better than before."

God isn't being silent. He's not being cold and impersonal by not giving you a sneak peek into the final scene of this fight. He knows more than you could possibly believe about this storm. He knows every wound and every hit you'll take as you charge through the rain. He knows how radiant you'll look when it's time to look back. He knows and I know he's good for it. Hold tight. Keep saying your scrappy prayers. He's got you.

You might get hit. You might be pelted. Battle scars aren't weakness-- they're proof you fought through hell and back. 

You might get hit. You might be pelted. Battle scars aren't weakness-- they're proof you fought through hell and back.

It won't be like this forever. The rain will stop. It's okay if you need a second to camp out or stop for rest. It's okay if you're tired or you don't have the strength to fight like you did yesterday. Don't score your weak days just wake up and give what you can.

Honesty hour: I used to think I didn't have the strength to get through my hardest days. I remember wanting to curl in a ball and surrender. But I remember how sick I became of hearing fear speak on my behalf. I had to stop allowing fear to hold my phone, to type my messages and script my battle cries.

Fear was never made to be the narrator of my story. It doesn't have the right voice. It doesn't have the right pitch or tone. That's the day I became so strong, the day I heard fear belting loudly in my ears and I talked back. I found my voice and I finally said, "Just because I hear you doesn't mean I need to listen to you or respect you. You don't get to own me. I'm freer than you think."

You're freer than you think. You're mightier than you know. You've got all this strength inside of you that hasn't even been tapped into yet. It's waiting there in the deep of you.

Tap in. Tap in. Tap in.

tying you closer than most,

hb.

How to get refueled.

I'm a hustler by nature. I'm one of the lucky ones, thankful I am able to say, "I love what I do."

No matter if you love the work you do, we all need to shut down sometimes. We need a chance to get away or even just plan a well-deserved stay-cation. For Lane and I, we love to take a weekend and get out of the city. Atlanta is beautiful but there's something that happens when you leave the city for a little while-- some kind of restoration and joy I cannot fully explain.

Last month, we got the chance to visit our favorite spot in Athens, Georgia for a much-needed recharge weekend. The Graduate Hotel. I discovered this boutique hotel back in March when Lane and I were in Athens for a concert. Too tired to drive the nearly 2-hour trip back into the city, I stumbled upon the Graduate in a Google search and then I immediately planned our next trip back.

To know me is to know I am a sucker for boutique hotels. I like places with character and style and I wish I could say we have more of these options by us. This particular collection of hotels are planted around the country in university towns and they're perfect for a study nerd like me. I am so excited they're building one in New Haven, CT in 2019!

But back to last month...

We packed our bags, bought some concert tickets, made a few dinner reservations and drove off to the Graduate for some much-needed rest and time away from the city.

Refueling tips I scribbled down for the ones who need a break:

Read... for pleasure.

Lane and I are pretty big on this. You can find us, on any given trip, reading some good fiction. I hear from a lot of people that they have a hard time reading fiction. I feel you on that but I made the leap back towards fiction last year and I do not regret the switch. Most nonfiction books are geared with the mission of making you a better ___________________. There's something about a good fiction book I can get lost in, without any agenda, that now feeds my soul.

Fiction I am currently digging:

Find you a coffee shop.

Maybe you can't get away for the weekend but you have an afternoon to spare. The world is bustling with cool coffee shops. Bring a notebook. Order a latte. Write with your phone on airplane mode.

That was my biggest draw to the Graduate- I absolutely fell in love with their coffee shop. It's what I like to imagine my brain probably looks like. Lane and I spent Saturday morning camped out with our Bibles, newspapers, and journals.

You'd be surprised how quickly your brain moves from the terror of a blank journal page to all sorts of scribbles of inspirations. I think we all need time to power down and dream a little.

Turn off the phone.

Or at least put it on airplane mode so you can take some pictures. It's all too easy to slip into the habit of being alone together-- especially when you're married. Lane and I have to work hard to be with one another, not just sit next to one another while scrolling through our phones.

The art of presence is hard but worth it. Start by silencing your phone for an hour or leave the phone in the car while you head to the restaurant.

Go your own way.

Before Lane and I got hitched, I remember everyone telling me it was going to be all about the marriage now. The TV and movie culture always make it seem as though your freedom is going down the drain. I can proudly say it now, "You can still do things solo even when you're married."

You don't have to spend every waking moment together. The marriage is important, YES, but so is refueling your tank however you see fit so you can better contribute to the relationship. On that Saturday night, Lane headed for a concert and I stayed back, deciding to return to the hotel after dinner to watch my reality TV shows, drink a glass of wine, and enjoy the comfort of a big bed.

The art of presence is hard but worth it. Start by silencing your phone for an hour or leave the phone in the car while you head to the restaurant.

Spending time apart only makes it sweeter when you guys get back together at the end of the day.

Big night in.

You don't have to hit the town or get dressed up to have a perfect evening. In fact, my favorite nights revolve around cozying up in bed or playing a game of Spades or Catan with friends.

Again (because it is worth repeating), challenge yourself to put your phones in another room so you can really be with the people you love. It's so easy to become distracted with smartphones and time is the most precious resource we're bound to waste.

You need a break.

Okay... so this last one isn't a pro-tip. It's a simple reminder I often need to hear myself: you need a break every once in a while. The world won't fall apart when you put that autoresponder up. It will all still be here when you get back. Make steps and enforce boundaries to shut off every once in a while and refuel your body, mind, and soul. I used to think self-care was selfish but now I see it's a priority and the only way I can guarantee that I give the rest of my responsibilities everything I have.

I wrote this piece after visiting the Graduate Athens. I can't say enough good things about this business and I'm thankful to share about it here.

I want to hear from you! What are your favorite tips + tricks for resting and refueling yourself? Let's dialogue in the comments below!

 

How do I be there for someone in the depths of depression?

How do you give hope to someone who feels hopeless? You keep putting hope on for yourself. Every single day. You strengthen your own heart and your own soul with hope so that you don't become depleted. You extend hope to others in your life as well. You make hope your anthem rather than mustering up hope for someone who has an empty tank. There is nothing wrong with wanting to extend hope to someone who is missing it but you must cultivate hope for your own soul and wellbeing, first. Only when we take care of ourselves can we healthily care for the others. 

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6 must-read books for the ones looking for God.

I read a lot of books. And I definitely owe you a lifetime book list or something like that. But I am asked pretty often what books I would recommend to someone who is looking to dig deeper into their faith.  Maybe that's you. You think you know what you believe but you have some questions. You have doubts. You want to know more. You want another layer deeper.

I'm excited to introduce you to six books which were pivotal in my own faith.

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Breadcrumbs left in Baltimore: a note on writing about hard things.

At some point in your own story, it will be time to be a light. The shift will happen. You will no longer be afraid of the words that come tumbling out of you because you will know the words cannot hurt you. You will reach a point where your story isn’t an open wound, it’s a healing balm ready for others. 

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Building a routine that matters.

The biggest weapon I have when it comes to fighting depression: a routine.  Routines add a rhythm to the day. Routines are something stable to look forward to. Routines ensure that you are pushing towards something— a goal, an aspiration, a better version of yourself. For someone who faces depression and the possibility of being derailed by emotions throughout a day, establishing a solid, unshakeable routine has been a game changer for me. 

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Should I stay or should I go now?

I received an email the other day from a reader currently in the middle of “Come Matter Here.” She asked a really great question, one I’ve wrestled with a great deal.  She wrote to me, “I was wondering where you draw the line between planting your roots down to grow and “being where your feet are” and let’s just say, for instance, moving to the beach for a year. I love to travel and be spontaneous and I guess I was just wondering if it is bad to do that?”

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Goodbye to all that: the last letter of year 29.

I’ve known for a while I wanted to write something down to commemorate another decade down. I still have so much to learn but I am beginning to believe wisdom comes at any age. Wisdom is always there waiting for you when you are ready to look up, look around, and take it all in.

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Put on your strength: a step towards mental health.

If I could speak one piece of advice over my 7-year battle with mental health, I would just say this: "Don't let fear be the thing that stops you from getting the help you need. If anyone else were drowning, you'd tell them to reach out and grab the life jacket. Don't ignore the symptoms of drowning."

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Come matter here.

I didn’t know yet that all the good things—like faith, love, trust—don’t happen overnight. You can’t pick them up from the drive-thru or snag them in an instant download. It’s easier to run after the next thing the world tells you matters. It’s easier to never do the hard work of planting your roots or letting people in as you grab your suitcase and run hard toward “the next thing.”

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The Better Guide // April Edition.

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Welcome to Issue 4 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 read this book in approximately 28 hours. I picked it up last week in the bookstore on the way to Mexico, wanting a beach read that would be a little outside of my usual tastes. This book did not disappoint. I still can't believe I picked it up but I am so glad I did!
  • If you need your Gone Girl fix for the month then look no further. This book satisfied my cravings. Mind you, I don't think this book was written to keep you guessing so don't expect to play detective. The plot unfolds pretty naturally and it's still definitely a page-turner.
  • My girl Karen Stott releases her first book TOMORROW! I've known and loved Karen for the last 5 years. She's a mover & a shaker and this book is the perfect addition to your bookshelf if you're ready to live more intentionally.
  • It's no secret how much I love Hayley Morgan. She's got a new Weekend Eve newsletter that I really think you need to subscribe to.

Better Travel.

  • On the chance that you're looking for a spot to vacation or a dreamy honeymoon, I just got back from this resort and I have nothing but the BEST things to say. The service was stellar, the food was amazing, and I wanted to stay forever.
  • Until you've unpacked and repacked your suitcase before a flight, you don't realize how necessary these things are.

Better Tech.

  • Last month I came hungry for a review on these and I am pumped to say: I bought them and I am LOVING THEM. I don't invest in tech all that often but I am already so glad I took the plunge, splurged a little, and got something that is making my walks, workouts, and day-to-day life easier.
  • I get lots of questions about where my graphics come from. I don't always use a designer. In fact, a lot of the graphics I make on my own right here.

Better Home.

If I still had a wedding registry then I would put the following things on my list:

Better Eats.

  • Shhh... don't tell Lane but I am totally going to make these brownies in the next week. I wonder if he will notice the extra ingredients hiding in the batter...
  • Another recipe I'm trying out this month. Already salivating.

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

Just do one thing.

Screen Shot 2018-04-12 at 6.36.44 PM 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.

Want to write more this year? Let's roll!

I created this course in 2015 after I realized there was a large pocket of people who wanted to write more. More books. More blog posts. More copy. Even more journal writing. I have LOVED teaching so many creatives, bosses, students, and lovers of the written word how to finally sit down and just do the dang thing. I would love for you to join the community of over 700+ who've taken my writing courses.

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