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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Slow to know your role: a note on comparison.

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

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All the love fear won't give you.

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You can ask any one of my dance teachers from childhood and they will tell you it is a pure miracle that I make a living as a public speaker.

Really and truly, this career should not be a thing.

The thing to know about me is that I quit competitive dancing when I was sixteen years old because of raging anxiety every time I went to step onto that stage. I had always been a nervous kid, always getting the jitters before a performance, but this was something different. This was a real fear. This was can't-catch-my-breath, panic-attack fear. And it didn't just happen once. It happened over and over again until I couldn't keep track anymore.

The girls on my dance teams were saints. They would talk me off the edge. They would remind me to have fun. I was a part of a team and so I knew I had to perform but when the chance came to quit at the end of the year, I leaped at it.

I told myself: I want to be behind the scenes. I don't want to perform anymore. I dislike the spotlight. I won't go back. 

This was my fear talking. Apart from childhood (thinking I might be the next Shirley Temple), I've never been one to want to shine the brightest. I simply like doing good work. I believe in ambition. I am a perfectionist at heart, recovering daily. But here is what I had to stop allowing: I had to stop allowing fear the courtesy of writing me a story that wasn't true.

 

2.

My first time back on a stage was a Christmas program. I heard someone do a spoken word poem and I thought, "I have that in me." I proposed the idea to my pastor, thinking he would assign someone the role. But he asked me to do it. More specifically, he told me I would do it and didn't give me a chance to back down.

I took to the stage with my little poem and it was like waves of peace crashing over and over me. I still had every bit of nerves leading up to it. I still wanted to cry (and likely did), but we all have one small step to take towards a better story.

 

3.

Fear isn't one thing. Fear is a bunch of little things all stacked up to look seemingly powerful. And, as much as I hate to give fear the credit, it is powerful. It stops you from moving forward. It makes you act smaller. It keeps you from being here now. Fear is the thing that says, "Don't go tonight. You don't belong there." Fear is the whisper that says, "You? People don't like you."

Fear is a voice I easily become immune to, not even realizing it is there and talking to me. It says right in the bible that God didn't give me a spirit of fear and yet I take it with me on most mornings, the way you take your jacket for that October air.

I don't lie or tell half-truths in this space. To do that would be to tell you that I never listen to the fear. That I never let the fear give me a name that isn't my own. Fear has given me medicine and fear has given me heartache. Fear has convinced me I am someone else too many times to count.

 

4.

It's doing the thing that makes you want to throw up. As ineloquent as that advice is, that's where you need to start most days. Whether that's saying "yes" when you would rather say no. Whether that's going on the Tinder date. Maybe it's clicking "publish" or maybe it's finally sending that text. If you want to vomit when you think about the action, then there's usually a mission there.

I wish you and I could dismantle fear in some other way. I wish it was a matter of reading a book about fear and watching all our awful fears trickle away. Fear dissolves through action though.

You get two pairs of eyeglasses in this lifetime. Call them hipster eyeglasses with no real prescription to back them up, but you can put one of two different lenses on. You've got the lens of love and the lens of fear. The two will make you look entirely different.

Love is attractive. It draws people to you. People will want to know what you're drinking and how they can do the same. Love is a party host. It invites everyone in. It says, "There is more room. Everyone scoot down, we've got the room for one more."

Fear is a shell. It dries up the atmosphere. It keeps us all on eggshells. I don't want to say people won't want to be around you if you lead out of fear. That's not a claim I can make after living that way for a long time. But I can tell you this: people notice when you live out of fear as opposed to love. It's easy to catch. The ones who operate out of love want something so different for their fear-driven friends.

 

5.

I remember my friend Dimitri gaining the courage to tell me, a year into our friendship, that when he met me he could see right through me.

He thought to himself, this girl looks cool but I feel like she is hiding behind so much. I wonder what kind of walls she has up around her.

He thought to himself, this girl looks cool but I feel like she is hiding behind so much. I wonder what kind of walls she has up around her.

I was walking into every encounter wearing fear glasses, hoping people would mistake me for love instead. But these are the people you want in your life: people who see through your act and call you up to something better. People who say, "I know who you are under that thick, thick layer of fear. I see you. I know you're coming back to yourself."

 

6.

Maybe I'm your chance encounter for the day. If I am the only one that tells you this today then let it be so, "Fear doesn't fit you.

Of all the good things God gave you, you have to stop double-fisting the thing he never asked you to hold. Fear. It'll take things from you. It'll write stories for you which aren't true.

Love is a bigger story.

I know who you are under that thick, thick layer of fear. I see you. I know you're coming back to yourself."

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Whole30: why I'm now a believer.

I am 12 days removed from my first completed Whole30 and I have to tell you... I have never been more thankful for a 30-day reset than right now. I feel energized. I feel happy. I feel strong. I've been excited to write this post for you all month long and it's finally, finally here! I hope these notes + comments encourage and empower you! Thanks for allowing me to be vulnerable and messy in this space!

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Daily vitamins made simple & personal.

Let's be honest: The whole process of vitamins overwhelms me. I know I need to be taking them but which ones? And what brands? Can I just have the Gummies? Why does health feel so hard sometimes?

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Get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.

If you want to grow, you've got to get low to the ground. Get in the dirt and start to dig. We constantly want to be getting bigger and more expansive with our lives, and our profiles, and our followings but what if the world is sending us the wrong message? What if the key to true growth is the willingness to get down on your knees and into the dirt, the mess of life? 

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Be the invitation.

The following post was originally published in my Monday Morning Email Club on June 12, 2017. Enjoy new content and a Monday pep talk every week by joining the list here

This past Saturday marks 6 months of marriage for Lane and I. I think to myself, that's wild... Admittedly, it's been easy so far. I'm not naive to think it will stay that way forever and I am not going to put our relationship out to dry all over the internet but so far, so good.

One of the hardest things to figure out together is community. Cultivating community is weird when you are single and creating community is still weird when you get married. You struggle to keep old friends, you scrounge to make new friends, you figure out in the trials of adulthood who is really standing with you.

Lane and I talk a lot about community. I text older friends, ones with years of marriage under their belts, and I ask them: how do you figure it out? How do you make friends at this age?

I think there should be a book about forging good community because it feels like the manual runs out when you graduate from college and move to a new city. Suddenly it is harder to make friends.

As a single person, it seemed like the most important quest for me was to find someone to be romantic with. It was always at the top of my list until one summer, two years ago, when I got my heart broken. A romance was no longer the priority and what I did in that month to follow was maybe the healthiest thing I did throughout my whole entire life: I built community. I built community through action. Through accepting invitations and saying yes when I wanted to say no.

The thing about community is that it isn't instant. Social media wants you to believe that one party will mend your little heart and fill in the hole that aches for meaningful interactions. But no, you are going to have to do more work than that. It is work to show up to the places where you meet other people. And it is work to open up your heart after you closed up shop for a little while.

For me, it is the perpetual worry that everyone in my life is hanging out without me. It sucks away my joy. It dictates my emotions. My mom doesn't get it because my mom didn't grow up into the world where every last action was eloquently recorded for the world to watch and witness from behind a screen. I want the invitations. Even if I cannot attend, and even if these are the not the people I need to be surrounded by, I still want the invite. I think we all are driven by the same things: we want to be seen, we want to be known, and we want to be understood. 

One of my older friends tells me I need to be the invitation. She tells me that if I am constantly worried about not getting an invitation from people in our neighborhood to hang or clink glasses or celebrate a birthday then I should put my big girl pants on and just be the invitation. 

In practical terms, she's telling to invite people in. Kill the FOMO with a fancy invite and some fun, unexpected occasion. Invite people to the table. You can literally do just that and invite people to a big, round table to talk or you can make your own variation of that. You can create an event. You can host a movie night. You don't have to worry about everyone in the room knowing one another. Just say one big prayer over the whole shindig: that hearts would meet, that prayers would be answered, phone numbers would be swamped, and the community would grow, because and in spite of you.

29 life rules.

I found this magazine article yesterday and it really inspired me. Life rules. It's a pretty powerful statement to set rules for yourself to live by. I used to create rules for myself all the time but they were rigid and boring. They were rules I placed on myself because I thought maybe I needed to be contained or kept in line. Rulebooks that don't give you any room for growth or mistakes are dumb. I like these rules much better.

Today I am turning 29. It's a year I have honestly waited my whole life to get to and I am not sure why. I've just always loved the idea of being 29 and so I decided today would be the perfect day to write a new rulebook, create some new life rules. 

  1. The leftover fear of "what if" should always be bigger than the fear of failure. Go out there and try new things even if it scares you half to death.
  2. Celebrate other people as they go after what makes them feel alive. No room for jealousy at this point, champion people and help them win.
  3. Never say no to taco dates. Tacos and friends are always most important than whatever is on your to-do list.
  4. Boundaries are important. People have told you that for years and you've rarely believed them. But now you see it. Spend this next year establishing better boundaries, preserving your heart, and knowing when you need to step away.
  5. Prayer. Lots of it. In every situation. Don't ever belittle that thing and don't ever misuse the concept by telling someone you are praying when you aren't. Get down on the carpet and keep getting down into the posture of prayer, even when you feel like nothing is moving.
  6. Remain teachable. The older you get, the less you actually know. Allow someone to teach you instead of being a know-it-all. Stay humble in learning.
  7. Keep your spaces clean. Chaos squashes your creativity. To keep your brain calm, keep your room clean.
  8. People are flawed and they will mess up. Find more grace in the pockets of your heart. Consume grace regularly, as if it were a vitamin.
  9. Rule borrowed from Anna Quindlen: "You can embrace a life that feels like it belongs to you, not one made up of tiny fragments of the expectations of a society that, frankly, in most of its expectations, is not worthy of you."
  10. Let it breathe. When you feel something, don't keep it bottled up inside of you. Talk to someone you trust. Air it out. Don't let your feelings eat you from the inside out.
  11. About that rule #10: Note the "someone." Avoid the itch to tell anyone and everyone your struggles, problems, hang-ups. Create your people circle and lean hard into them. Less is more, babe.
  12. Wear the romper.
  13. Try your best to send birthday cards in the mail. Writing on someone's Facebook wall is nice but if you know the person, and you have their address, then scoot your butt to the post office and mail them a card. They will be so thankful.
  14. A lesson you learned in your 28th year that will still prove to be valid as you turn 29: if you want to see results you've never seen, be willing to do things you've never done.
  15. Your expectations of people are not reality. Not always. Don't be consumed by how a person does or does not treat you.
  16. Rule borrowed from Lane Sheats: Find joy apart from the need for others' approval. Joy wrapped up in the validation of others isn't really joy at all. It won't last. It won't stand firm when life knocks you down.
  17. Prioritize simplicity and strive for it. Experiences > Stuff.
  18. Keep your 5am hours as much as you possibly can. Cool stuff happens when you are awake and alert before the rest of the world has their morning coffee.
  19. Don't go to Target when you're emotional or feeling bad about your life.
  20. Keep weekly dates with the people you're investing in. Consistency is a surprising rarity in the world today. Seize it with both hands.
  21. Weed your garden at least every month if not twice a month. When I say "weed your garden," I really mean: take time to write out the lies that are currently holding you captive and pull them out from the root. Replace them with little seedlings of truth.
  22. Rule borrowed from Ellen Degeneres: Never follow anyone else’s path, unless you’re in the woods and you’re lost and you see a path and by all means, you should follow that.
  23. Don't worry about the things that haven't happened. Wait for each moment to have it's own birthday and deal with it then. No use in crying over things that aren't even real.
  24. Give. Be a giver. When you give, there is always more.
  25. Replace gossip with prayer.
  26. Forgive the version of you who didn't know better. Forgive that girl and love her, she was doing the best she could.
  27. Be slow, like snail-pace slow, to judge a pair of shoes you've never tried to walk in.
  28. Put on the damn bikini and go out to the pool, girl. Get yourself a tan.
  29. Hannah- remember, remember, remember: the fullest moments of your life will never be documented or captured for the world to clap at or approve of them. Make room for the full moments that only happen when you are shut off, tucked away, found in a quiet space by God.

The tale of a shopping cart.

Yesterday, wearing all black, Lane and I walked into the woods at the end of our road and stole a shopping cart.

"Stole" is a dramatic word, really. We simply took the little, black shopping cart out of its natural resting state and rolled it down the road towards home.

You're thinking things. I know you are. You're thinking we walked into the woods and stole a shopping cart from someone who is probably experiencing homelessness. I should state the facts: There was nothing in the shopping cart. No people in sight. And, because I am creepier than you know, I watched that shopping cart for four days before rescuing it. It didn't move from its place. Every day, on my afternoon walk, I would stop by the woods and look to see if my shopping cart was still there. There it sat, untouched.

Actually, I walked by one morning and thought I saw the shopping cart moved to the side of the road. At a closer look, this wasn't my shopping cart but another shopping cart-- clearly from Petco. Word around the neighborhood (because I asked people) is that a man with back issues uses that shopping cart for walking support every day. So I am not really sure why we have a collection of shopping carts scattered around our home but I can promise you-- I DID NOT TAKE HIS SHOPPING CART. 

"It's a Petco shopping cart he has," my neighbor told me. "Always a Petco shopping cart."

 

So now you are wondering, why did you steal a shopping cart? Truthfully, I don't have an answer yet.At first, it was just a shopping cart that someone probably stole from Kroger. Then it morphed into a black, minimalist shopping cart. Then it became a Pinterest fixer-upper shopping cart. And then, finally, it became my shopping cart. I fell in love with the petite shopping cart the more I thought about it. I imagined filling it with things.

I am pleased to find out Lane didn't turn me down when I called him at work to tell him about the shopping cart we needed to rescue from the woods. As if it were a puppy we were thinking about adopting, I gushed about all the reasons why we needed a shopping cart in our apartment. We could put blankets in it. File folders. Storage. A makeshift hamper. Possibilities = endless.

He followed me out the door after his yoga class. We walked casually down the road. We lifted the cart down the hilly path. We rolled it home, beaming with pride. He cooked salmon and asparagus on the stove while I had the job of cleaning our shopping cart with spray and a rag.

"This is like our first pet," I exclaimed.

"No," he said. "It's actually a shopping cart." 

Surprisingly, more people talk to you when you are rolling a shopping cart down the road. They are intrigued by you. We had more conversations with people in the span of 10 minutes it took to get our little, black shopping cart home than we'd had in our neighborhood in the four months of living there. Something about a shopping cart brings us all together. 

I actually don't know if this is illegal. If I should even be writing about the shopping cart now sitting in the middle of our apartment. I have to tell myself there are a lot worse things I could be doing in the world than stealing an abandoned shopping cart.

 

 

I told Lane I was going to write about our shopping cart today. I didn't know what I would say but I am tickled by its presence and I wanted to say something. And then it occurred to me: this is probably very strange. This is probably not common.

And then I thought to myself, if you're reading this blog then you're probably a bit strange. You are probably not all that common. That's just the vibe I get from people who read my things. They're dreamers. They're people who make stuff happen. They're people who see the good, the potential in shopping carts.

Maybe people wonder how your mind works or why you see the world as some place to make big things happen. I know what it is like to have people judge you or look strangely at you because they don't understand you. I know it's painful to feel shut down for seeing the good in this life and trying to be positive about it. I can tell you, though, that the world needs you more than you think. We need more people who see the good in the world, not more people to shut down dreams. 

When it came to our cart, I saw something Lane couldn't see, my mother couldn't see, and my neighbors couldn't see. And it's okay to have vision. Don't let anyone shut you down for having a vision, either. You just do your thing and keep your head up. You only need one person to believe in you. It only takes two people to carry a shopping cart down a flight of stairs.

I know you might think it is important to have all the support or backing of everyone in the world but I can assure you, you don't need it. More people doesn't equal better. The coolest and best things start because a small band of people is crazy enough to invest in them.

So go right on with your crazy, bad self. Roll that shopping cart home, baby. Don't watch it from the woods, looking to see if someone will grab it first. If you want that thing, go for it. Go after it. Don't wait for the world's approval and don't let fear tell you someone else is supposed to get your dreams first.

I can promise you this: most of the things I've done in my life look a lot like this shopping cart story. I get an idea. I doubt it. People don't always see the vision. I do it anyway. It's been the most valuable thing of my career and my existence to be someone who doesn't see life as a mud pit or a problem. Life is a beautiful thing and I'm lucky to dance inside it. I'm always going to be the girl who sees a bigger purpose for a shopping cart and goes after it. I think we need more people who see potential where other people see nothing special. I think we are all capable of opening our eyes and seeing something different, something more beautiful than what we saw yesterday.

 

Step one: steal the shopping cart from the woods.

Step two: figure the rest out as you go.

The Unofficial (but so official) Reading List for 2017

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HEY YOU!

Today is Thursday and I am currently mourning over the fact that all my friends in Connecticut have a Snow Day (yes, proper noun in my world) and I'm stuck dealing with Atlanta's indecisive weather patterns. In the spirit of Snow Days (and me not getting any), I am working until 2pm and then cuddling up on the couch to do some much-needed reading. I can't begin to tell you the difference it has made in the last year to start picking up books (real ones... with covers and spines...) instead of my phone at the end of a long day. I feel healthier, happier & smarter. You asked for this list... I'm answering. 

Also- It took forever (really) but I linked all the books up with Amazon since I love you so much and love Amazon a lot too. 

Dig in. Enjoy. And comment below with your current reads + favorites! Happy reading!

tying you closer than most,

hb. 


 Classics are like vitamins, you should have them everyday.

Books for #bosses

Nonfiction I will forever keep on my bookshelf.

Mackenzie's picks

(I asked my fantastic literary agent Mackenzie Brady Watson to weigh and recommend her top 5 books for today)

Fiction picks for 2017

For the writer in you

A bunch of books featuring crazy chicks gone psycho.

Books to grow you spiritually.

On my docket for 2017

These are books that I've either never read or plan to read for a second (or fifth) time in 2017. I can't speak for all of them since I don't know all the content yet but I compiled this list with the help of reader junkie friends and the "12 Banned Books Every Woman Needs to Read in Her Lifetime." 

A Subscription for Bookworms

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I don't spend a lot of money on myself. When I do, I am very careful with every investment. However, I made the choice to invest in a Book of the Month subscription this past November and I honestly cannot shut up about it. I've gotten three books delivered to my doorstep so far and each one has been exactly matched to my personality and the genres of books I like to read. Book #4 (Behind Her Eyes) just shipped!

If you love books and love being in unofficial book clubs then this will probably be your jam. You get all hardcover books. You get to keep them. A lot of the titles are newly released or not even out yet!

When I signed up, BOTM gave me a link to share with friends. This link will get you 3-months of BOTM for $30. Dig in and let me know what your first pick is!

Dear Target, it's not you... it's me: A Contentment Challenge

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I wrote about contentment two days ago.

I'm still nervous over the fact that I even uttered the word. To me, it is sort of like the junk drawer that you don't show people. I don't talk about contentment because I am constantly feeling inadequate and insecure about where I am in the quest for contentment and where I want to be.

Contentment, to me, has always been a sticky concept. It is an ever-evolving process of letting go and finding what I have to be more than enough.

When it comes to contentment, my biggest snag in achieving it has always been shopping. I love shopping. I love things. I say I want to be a minimalist but even minimalism demands a trip to Target in my eyes.

I like Target. I like Target a lot. I am a chronic roam-through-the-aisles-and-buy-things-I-don't-actually-need Target shopper. It's pretty bad. You might as well come up with one of those joint couple names for me and Target (like Selener + Brangelina). Just call me Targah. Just call me Hanget.

I will roam through the dollar aisle and figure out that I actually need everything in it. I will suddenly need a golden french bulldog business card holder. I will need sports bras and socks and a new kind of lipstick. Allow me to be honest: Target is basically therapy with no ugly crying and an unexpected need for sweater mugs.

I've debated creating an Instagram account for the "girls of Target" as I like to call them. We are a strange population of natives to the big red logo. We go to Target when we are hungry, when we are bored, and when we simply need to feel better about ourselves. We try on graphic tees we don't need. We buy golden glinted folders we think are going to make us more organized. We purchase 6 planners. We are pleased with the aisle space and lighting Target offers us. Target is our mecca. Our promised land.

A lot of the above is a joke but I do feel the need to be completely candid on this page about my shopping habits. I don't shop in excess. I don't have issues with spending money I don't have. However, I am pretty good at convincing myself on the fly that I need to purchase something. I buy too quickly. I often splurge on what I don't need. I'm not irresponsible with my money but I also have far more clothes, items, and everyday things that are not necessary.

In 2016, I want to know what it feels like to need less. I want to ditch the emotional spending. I want to stop scrolling through Instagram for things I don't need, following accounts that don't add anything to my life except an extra dose of unhealthy comparison. I want to invest my time and energy into loving my people well. I want to send birthday cards. I want to give to others. I want to be generous and I want to experience abundance through simplicity.

As I have written before, God stretches us beyond our comfort zone. I don't need to prove a point with less shopping, I simply want more of him. If I want more God then I must clear the space for him. You need to make room if you want to let God in.

The Contentment Challenge : January, February, March 2016

(many of the guidelines have been borrowed from Nancy Ray- the original creator of this challenge). I will give up shopping for clothes, accessories, household decor, and “stuff” for 3 months, to focus my heart and mind on the root of true contentment. I will actively pursue fulfilling activities that will replace my addiction to material things.

When I read over the passage in Matthew about the need to sell all your belongings to follow Jesus the Contentment Challenge immediately popped into my head. I texted my boyfriend and basically said, "I am giving up shopping for the next three months."

I expected him to sigh, roll his eyes, and then ask me why I was taking on another extreme challenge. Extreme challenges are a thing for me. I am an all-or-nothing kind of girl.

Instead, he texted back, "I'm in. Let's do it. I've wanted to save money anyway."

There was no hesitation. I am honored he wanted to join me so quickly in this challenge. We started planning what our Contentment Challenge would look like (we are still planning so this post will likely be edited in the coming days).

On New Years Day, he and I will make a list of goals for the next three months. We will focus on financial planning in the three months. Our ultimate goal is to draw nearer to God by removing barriers of excess that often distract us and make us less effective for God's purposes.

The Guidelines:

• Prepare: prepare your heart, organize your closet, and make any necessary purchases that you might need during these months. (This is not a last minute shopping spree! This is one final trip to the store for items you will need, and the opportunity for you to say your goodbyes to Target.)

• Choose 1-3 inspiring books to read during this time. I will be participating in Nancy Ray's book club. I highly recommend it!

• Gifts are okay! If someone gives you a new dress or piece of decor during that time, receive it graciously! If you need to buy someone else a gift, by all means, do so.

• Necessities are okay! If you drop and break your phone, please go get a new one! If you lose your glasses, buy a new pair. Just don’t start justifying new purchases for items that you already have. (“I really NEED this bathing suit, even though there are 8 in my closet already.”)

• You must actively pursue something – anything – that replaces your tendency to buy stuff. Begin thinking about something you love or a hobby you’ve always wanted to do, and make preparations to actually do it. For us, this will be healthy food + fitness. We are dedicating ourselves to planning hard workouts, paleo meals, and gradually learning how to take our cooking skills a step further (he's already a much better cook than I so this is more a goal for me).

I will be continually blogging about my progress and tweaks made to my lifestyle so that you can see how the search for contentment is going!

The official hashtag is #contentmentchallenge ! So be sure to share your struggles and victories along the way on Instagram and Twitter. 

Want to join? Let me know in the comments below!

An Open Letter to Socality Barbie.

Maybe your life is as perfect as you portray it to be, Socality Barbie. In that case, congratulations! You beat us all with your plastic lattes and trendy hiking boots. Regardless, I hope you find something real today. Something tangible and intangible, all at the same time, that you would skip the act of documenting it just so you could live inside it for a little bit longer.

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Stripping down.

Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 11.12.00 PM It’s Friday night and I’ve been curled up on my countertop for the last four hours researching minimalist blogs.

Minimalists fascinate me and my roommate is out on a date. My best friend and I sat on the couch and waited for her to be picked up just a few hours ago. We watched the guy show up at the front door. I definitely creeped him out when I told my roommate I would be spooning my boyfriend, Jesus, when she got home tonight. Because that’s the advice people give you after a breakup: date Jesus.

I just want to be completely honest and say that I have never understood that sentiment. I’ve really tried to be on board with the idea of dating the elusive savior but I don’t know how you a) date someone you can’t touch b) date someone who has a Holy Spirit sidekick/counterpart and c) ever get over the fact that your boyfriend took away the sins of the world. You’re never going to be the impressive one in that relationship. You’ll always be dating up. Out of your league. Maybe that’s the point?

Either way, I’ve never been able to tell someone I was just taking the time to date Jesus. To this day, Jesus and I have not dated. Not yet. All that was really to say this: I told my roommate that by the time she came home tonight I would officially be a minimalist blogger.

As she got ready for her date I’d rattled on to her about how I was going to create an anonymous blog on minimalism so I could write mysteriously like Gossip Girl about the need to clear excess out of my life. For approximately two hours I had plans to pour myself into this new blog for the rest of my career and go by name of “Mini.” I was pretty certain this was my calling-- the reason God put me on this good, green earth. I would eventually sell all my belongings and move to a tiny house in the middle of New Mexico. A rugged man would show up at my door and he would, appropriately, also be a minimalist. Forever we would live off the land and blog on occasion about our 16 minimalist children. We would eventually start our own society. There would even be a mayor to make it all legit.

I should comment that, more than being a minimalist, I am a bit of an extremist. My closest friends would tell you that I preach baby steps but I don’t know how to follow them all that well. I am an all-or-nothing sort of girl.

I always want to create something new. I always want to wipe the slate clean. I always want a fresh start. I never thought that could actually harm me more than it helped me. “Why do you want to be a minimalist?” my best friend asks me. She sits on the couch beside me ordering a Dominoes pizza for herself.

I tell her the truth I know so far. All my life I grew up with a father who never knew how to let things go. He is a hoarder. We make jokes about it but there is a full attic, basement, garage, an old van, two sheds, and a storage unit to prove that he doesn’t really like to let things go. Each is full to the brim with items, I imagine, he thinks he might need to use one day. His mother is also a hoarder. I’ve never once stepped inside of my grandmother’s home but I know it is covered in newspapers, coupon cut-outs, and packets of Saltine crackers.

I’ve never dug deeper with my father on why he chooses to keep everything (absolutely everything) that comes into his orbit but I imagine, if he is anything like his daughter, then he is scared to be left wanting. He is scared to be left needing. He is scared of the moment when he no longer controls the circumstances and so he makes it his agenda to surround himself with things he never has to let go of, at least not on his watch.

 

“I want to be a minimalist because I am so tired of how I have manage to live,” I tell her. “I always say I’m going to change something and go back to the same habits a week later, whether it’s food or fitness or boundaries. Minimalism is about getting rid of enough things, just enough for you to realize that things were never really the point to begin with.”

For me, it is not even an excess of things. It’s an excess of people. Emotional baggage. I like to be a collector of scars and bruises. I like to be fully stocked with all the ammo I need to always tell a good story. I like to be busy. I love distractions because they keep me from getting too close to myself. I am a hoarder when it comes to fear. My dad might have spaces full of lamps and old coffee tables but I have a heart that is stacked with layers of anxiety that God will give up on me.

I’ve hung around with humans enough to know that we all carry the DNA of control freaks and it just manifests in different ways. For you, it might be things. It might be relationships. It might be a place on the map you’ve worshipped for a little too long. Whatever it is, you’re probably capable of investing your hope in things that don’t hold. I guess you don’t ever think a star on the map or a wardrobe can break your heart the way a human can. Isn’t that what we are all aiming for deep down? A little less heartbreak? A little more safety?

 

In the last two weeks I have pulled away from social media a lot. I’ve been hyper-sensitive to it. I got my heart broken. I’ve cried a lot. Over the Duggars. And Jared the Subway guy. And Ashley Madison.

But there have been victories too. More victories than heartbreak, I would argue:

I began a Whole30 challenge seven days ago and I am seven days separated from all grains, processed foods, sugars, and alcohol. I feel amazing. I have so much more energy.

I meal-planned the entire week and actually stuck with it.

I handed over the passwords for my social media accounts to my best friends so they could monitor them while I took a step back.

I’ve gotten to step back and ask myself what I feel like doing. The result of that was watching every morbid and crazy documentary that I’ve been wanting to see on Netflix.

I made muffins for people I loved, while frying bacon and eating kale. It was the most “adult” I’ve ever felt to this day.

I used said-muffins to lure a grocery store clerk into the aisle with me and give him a mini lesson on the unnecessary ingredients we are consuming through processed foods (which I learned from a documentary on childhood obesity). I think he was a little terrified of me and told me politely how he didn’t want to know what was in his hotdogs, he just wanted to keep eating them. I have high hopes he will be an advocate one day soon though and he will probably save the food industry.

I am in the thick of a bible study on Daniel and I feel God standing with me in it. Daniel and I have a lot in common-- we are both on some ridiculous diet that only lets us eat veggies and we both think the world is pretty jacked-up. I started a workout group with seven other girls in my neighborhood. We’ve managed to meet six times in the last 10 days.

I filled three bags of clothes to the brim and took them to Goodwill.

I am doing everything and anything I can to wipe out the excess. The baby steps are adding up.

“What should I name my minimalist blog?” I ask her.

“Can’t you just blog about it where you are?”

“No,” I said abruptly. “It can’t bleed into this blog.”

“Why not?” she asked. “It’s you, isn’t it?”

I don’t have an explanation for why I felt like I’ve only been half of myself on this blog lately. I haven’t even written in a few weeks because I have nothing perfect to offer you. You can’t wait on perfection to arrive before you start offering what you’ve got to the world.

So here’s the truth of me for this moment: I am making my life better. I would like to write about it more. I am surrounded by so many amazing people and I am figuring out how to actually kill the rulebook that lived inside of me like a compass for so long. I am trying to really dance it out with God instead of some rigid slow dance where I pretend that everything feels intimate to anyone who asks me. I think you need my honesty, and I need yours, more than we need a perfectly polished blog post on grace or whatever.

Grace, I am learning, is seeing whatever mess I am standing in right now and then forgiving myself for not being perfect within it. It’s figuring out how to be okay with mess. How to clean up the mess so it doesn’t come right back. How to break habits. How to actually, really, finally build that life I want.

This world is full of so much "fake" and "getting by"- I want to be real and okay. Real and way better than okay.

“I don’t think you need to create another blog. You have a place to write already,” my best friend says to me. “It’s easier to start something new, to start all over again.

It’s harder, but better, to redefine what is already there.”