Cultivate by Lara Casey- a review.

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Cultivate by Lara Casey- a review.

In its most basic synopsis, Cultivate is a book about embracing imperfect, grace-filled progress to grow a life of joy. It's about silencing the inner critic, the voice in your brain that rattles on with grand gestures of procrastination, comparison, and worries so something better could grow.

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How to be steadfast.

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How to be steadfast.

I think faith is like a muscle. We have to train it. We have to push it. We have to build it. As I train in the gym, I realize that I can only take on more weight when I've learned how to properly handle the weight in front of me. I think faith is the same way. You dig. You pray. You experience something. Your faith grows. More comes. More struggle. More hard stuff. And, as you stay in the fight, your capacity grows as well. 

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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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Honesty Hour Vol. 2: What do you think about weddings?

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Our first Honesty Hour was a massive success! I am so excited to be striking up these conversations throughout the month!

I found myself reading this TIME article the other day on the problem with weddings. A little bit of an intense approach, the writer speaks up about why she hates weddings:

"There’s the very good argument that weddings are tradition. But did our great, great, great grandmothers register at Crate & Barrel? Did they hire make-up artists and spend thousands on cakes? Probably not. And yes, everything evolves. But I’m thinking this evolution has gone too far and, in the end, hurts us."

Weddings in the last 10 years, since the rise of Pinterest, have gotten increasingly more extravagant. However, I've also seen a lot of friends forgo the traditions and stick to a small and holy ceremony. Mind you, I did a lot of the things the writer referenced in this piece. I had a registry at Crate & Barrel and Target. I had a make-up artist. We honeymooned right after the big day. We chose to forgo the cake to do a milk & cookies bar. Our guest count was 220 people. When it came to finances, some money came from my parents and some came out of my own pockets. My mom, on the other hand, was married in the backyard of my dad's home wearing sandals and a purple dress.

There were definitely some times throughout the wedding planning process where I wondered: Why does tradition say we should do this? Can we just skip this part? 

There are some things she wrote in this article that I agreed with:

"Contrary to what romantic comedies would have you believe, a wedding is the starting point, not the finish line. And by obsessing over this one event, we’re putting ourselves behind in the marathon that is a marriage."

At the core of our wedding, Lane and I wanted the day to be about our guests and what God had done in our story. I like to think we went extra lengths to make our people and God the priority: handwritten notes for each guest, seating charts, a worship-filled ceremony. Every wedding is different and that's what I love: you get to make the day your own.

So, readers, let's have Honesty Hour. Chime in and say whatever you're feeling. No wrong answers here: 

What do you think of weddings? Did you have a big wedding or do you dream of one? Married or single, what investments truly matter to you on the wedding day? Regrets? Things you would do over in a heartbeat? 

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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.

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The age of idleness.

I’m fearful sometimes. I don’t want to give fear a big role in this story but I am scared sometimes of who we are becoming when we focus so much on watching other people live their lives. We have our own lives to live but we would rather be spectators. Assuming the role of a spectator is easier than going out and living. Watching and interpreting from behind a screen is easier than reaching out to have the hard conversation.

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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.

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Honesty Hour Vol. 1: how do I make my world better?

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First off, oh. my. goodness...

All I have wanted to do in the last two months is get back to blogging. I've missed this space!

I tried several times to write something while on my book deadline but my brain just wasn't having it. I'm learning to give myself grace in the book writing process.

But I've officially finished draft 1 of the book and I am so stinking excited to be back here with you. I've been brainstorming and coming up with new content and I really cannot wait to grow this blog and strengthen what is already here.

So, in the spirit of that, we are starting a new series! This series is meant to be interactive and a chance for readers like you to connect with one another in the comment section. I find there are a lot of big, scary issues out there (and some light and funny ones, as well) that you guys email me about and ask me to tackle. Truth is, I cannot tackle them alone. I need your help, your experiences, your insight and your advice!

We are officially naming this new series: Honesty Hour.

For those of you who have been around here for a while or a regular reader of the Monday Morning Email, then you know the origins of Honesty Hour. It's a term I came up with on my first date with Lane. I was sick of playing games. I was sick of all the “light get-to-know-you banter” that happens on a first date. I wanted to get right to the point and figure it out: are we in this or not?

I found myself saying out loud to him throughout the date, "This is an honesty hour."

"Honesty hour?" he asked me.

"Yes, honesty hour. In honesty hour you get to say whatever you want."

"Okay," he answered with a nod. "Honesty hour. Let's go."

And so, for the rest of that date, we stayed within honesty hour and it was refreshing and like breath to the parts of me that always feel the need to be polished and insightful. When we said risky things, we could preface with, "After all, this is honesty hour." And there was no judgment or worry sitting between us. It felt really good. It felt really safe. It felt like we were handing one another permission slips: permission to be in process.

So how does an Honesty Hour like this happen on the blog?

Every other week, we will post a new question/topic. Then it's your chance to weigh in and give your feedback. Our hope is that we will learn from one another, inspire each other, and push one another to be stronger. I want to talk about all sorts of stuff: life, relationships, food, TV shows, culture, all of it. Sound good? 

So, without further, ado.... let's have our first Honesty Hour.

Honesty Hour Vol. 1 


How do you make your world a better place?


I had a different topic in mind entirely this afternoon but I've been particularly impacted by the Manchester Bombing news. There are no real answers when it comes to a tragedy like this one and it is hard to stay hopeful as you watch the news some nights. Sometimes it feels like this world is so dark and like, no matter what we do, we cannot possibly make a difference. I want to be strong though, strong and hopeful even in the midst of some scary chaos.

So I want to hear from you guys: what do you do to make your world a better place?

Let's talk concrete actions: do you reach out to friends? Do you write letters? Do you volunteer? If so, where? Do you pray? Do you read certain things? Let's band together and share our best ideas and resources on how to impact our world in a positive way. 

Also, include your name, age, and where you are writing from! It always helps to know where you are in the world. 

I realize no amount of talking can take the pain out of these tragedies but I also don't want to be afraid to use our voices when we feel defeated, tired, or fearful.

Meet me in the comments section below.

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A new project, a new chapter.

Dear reader,

It felt simple and appropriate to write this news to you in a letter. That’s how you and I have been communicating all these years. I love knowing I can come to this corner of the Internet and find you here ready for any mess of words I’ve got.

It was October 2014 when this news began to evolve. I’d just turned in the final edits for my first book and I was ready to start book #2. I remember sitting down on the couch in my co-working space at the time. I had my iMac on my lap, triumphantly typing out what I thought would be the first few sentences to this next story. I would learn in the days and weeks ahead that it wasn’t time to write book #2 because I hadn’t yet learned how to live out what I was planning to write about. In that moment, I could tell God wanted me to learn my biggest life lesson yet: less words, more work. Live a good life, don’t just talk about it.

I got a big, fat “not yet” from God when it came to this second book and I wanted to ignore it so badly. I want you to know there is beauty and purpose in the “not yet” moments you encounter with God. Don’t ignore the chance to grow and develop. Soak in the “not yet,” gain all the wisdom you can, and then say, “yes” when the time is right to finally begin.

The months following me putting my pen down were some of the hardest and the best months of my life. I did so many things to build a life I wanted: planted a garden, went on bad Tinder dates, figured out how I like my eggs, broke away from friendships, established new ones, went to therapy, learned to be honest, said “no,” read my bible for more than 5 minutes a day, figured out how to pray, showed up for my neighbors, and discovered what forgiveness feels like. I fought for so many things that I know now to be invaluable: a sense of rootedness, a place on the map to call home, discipline, and relationships. I would say the biggest thing I possess today is a real, honest faith with God, rebuilt from the ground up and finally, completely mine.

After several hard and good years of living this story, writing dozens and dozens of draft pages, I am so thankful to introduce to you my second book, available August 28, 2018, in bookstores across the country:

You Are Here: Lessons in Showing Up for Your Life with Faith Over Fear (working title)

Life can be scary. Adulting is hard. And in the chaos of building a life of your own, it’s all too easy to let fear take over and become the leading character in your story.

I know this because I have struggled with fear my entire life. I’ve given it different roles and I’ve let it reside in my presence under different names. But in the last 3 years, I learned the one choice that makes all the difference between living out of fear and living out of faith: the courage to show up for your life, with the confidence that God will meet you there, day after day.

Our hyper-connected era has led us to believe life should be a highlight reel—where what matters most is perfect beauty, instant success, and ready applause. And yet, nothing about faith, relationships, or character is instant. The life worth living isn’t a highlight reel—it’s made out of small acts of truth and kindness on repeat. This is what gives us roots to belong deeply to God and to each other and to become who we most long to be.

I want to tell you the truth I encountered and how I learned to fight back at fear and step out in faith, and show up for life.

….

I couldn’t be more excited to tell you this news and start this journey with you! We’ve got a long road of writing and editing ahead but I wanted to create a space where you and I could collaborate and commune. I am designing this closed group to be a place to connect with other readers, share stories, and receive news about the book as it makes its way to publication. I’d love for you to join me!

In the next few months, I’ll be continuing to write my heart out. I’ve started a love letter wall in my office space that is in plain sight as I sit with my computer every day and think about these words. I would love for you to write me a letter of encouragement to keep going and keep pushing fear out of the way. I would love to hear your story of kicking out fear and showing up for your life. I will add it to my writing wall and your words will be the words I look at as I try to write the best words in the world to give back to you.

You can mail all letters of encouragement to:

Hannah Brencher

535 Gresham Avenue.

Atlanta, GA.

30316.

Thank you for standing in my corner. Thank you for cheering for me. Thank you for showing up to this space again and again. It means so much.

Stay golden & keep fighting.

tying you closer than most,

hb.

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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.

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Trimming debt & budgeting like a baller.

I became debt-free at the end of 2016.

Goal-setting is like a reflex to me, I can't help but do it. For the last few years, I have made it a goal to kick my student loan debt to the curb. I made it a goal but I didn't make it a priority.

The difference between me finally getting rid of my student loan debt and me just talking about it rested in three things: action, sacrifice & focus. I think those are the core components to accomplishing any goal: action, sacrifice & focus.

When I say "student loan debt," I don't mean some small figure. I mean over $60,000 worth of student loans. I knew going into the four years of my higher education that I was taking on this burden. I remember being almost certain that I would never be able to pay it off. I would have regular anxiety about my debt as I watched it accrue with every passing semester.

For nearly five years, I didn't do a thing about my debt. Naturally, it spiraled and became larger as I paid the minimum every month and watched the interest make the number higher than what it was before I began paying it off.

So I made 2016 my year to kill debt. I looked at the $57,000 worth of debt and I decided to face this beast. I was paying about $500 a month and I knew there had to be a smarter way to tackle this debt. 

I've wanted to share my tactics for a while but I also want to be open and honest with everyone. I am self-employed and have been for four years. I don't have a fixed salary which comes with its own hurdles but I am able to increase or decrease the money I earn by the number of jobs I take on. I bring this up to say, everyone's road to becoming debt-free will be different. Set a goal that is manageable for you but also stretches you to focus and sacrifice. Achieving goals require discipline. Below are the things I did to discipline myself and erase my debt: 

1. Budget, budget, budget

I cannot stress this one enough. I created my own budget sheets last year and I am a really huge fan of them and it's not because I made them. I designed the budget sheets for someone like me who is often scared of numbers and wishes budgeting could be a little more inspirational. I love them only because they're working and I am someone who doesn't use products unless they work. It's been so cool to see people all over the world use these sheets. Someone emailed the other day to tell me she'd been using my budget sheets and, because of them, she erased $7,000 worth of debt.

She said it took her about a year to make it happen (which is freaking awesome) and the biggest things she focused on were: 1) eating out less 2) putting her tithe first 3) taking on extra side-jobs like babysitting.

Using budget sheets has helped me assign my dollars where they ought to go. Plus, I love keeping them in a binder and pushing myself to save better from month to month.

(P.S. there's even a space in the budget sheets for tacos. Because obviously.)

2. Consider a Challenge

At the beginning of 2016, Lane and I took on a Contentment Challenge. For the first three months of the year, he and I didn't buy anything except for necessities, groceries, and the occasional date night. Our minds were sufficiently blown and our bank accounts were thankful.

The coolest thing that happens in a contentment challenge is you figure out where your contentment actually lies. Whether it's cool stuff or the amount of money in your bank account. You figure out what you are dependent upon and what is in the way of reaching a point of contentment. For Lane and I, the common stumbling block where we spent the most money was on food and drinks. We enjoy going out and trying new restaurants. We don't keep ourselves from that experience but the Contentment Challenge helped us to reign in the spending on big dinner tabs and begin enjoying home-cooked meals.

3. Face the Issue

I couldn't begin tackling my debt until I was willing to look my debt in the face. I think we do this a lot with things we are afraid of. We hide them. We shove to the side. My debt was completely normal for a student in 2017 but I made the fear bigger than it needed to be.

The best thing I ever learned to do was look at my debt weekly and remind myself it was there. As I looked at it, I became proactive and started putting money towards chopping down the number. I tackled an $11,000 loan and a $7,000 loan during the Contentment Challenge. I took on extra jobs to whittle down a $5,000 loan. I made myself stare at the debt in order to become less afraid of it.

4. Pay those quarterly taxes

This applies more for the freelance crew out there but I cannot tell you how much of a difference it made for me to pay my quarterly taxes last year. I've dreaded the middle of April for the last four years because I know I will be writing a really large check to the government. However, I paid my quarterly taxes this year and I was free from the anxiety of needing to save unknown pockets of money to not be slammed come tax season. Know what you're working with-- that's why I tell myself now. Pay your quarterly taxes to figure out what is still yours to work with.

WHAT TIPS DO YOU HAVE FOR BUDGETING AND KILLING DEBT? I WOULD LOVE TO CHAT IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!

 

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Why it doesn't matter if you met (or meet) online.

Lane and I met on a dating application.

The name of the application is called Hinge. My friend from New York City recommended it to me at the start of 2015.

"I've been on a couple of good dates," she said. "They have jobs. Real jobs."

It's sad to think that a 'real job' is a thing you find yourself looking for in a partner these days.

 

I downloaded the application on the floor of her living room on January 1. We'd just come back from a diner where we mapped out our year and I was feeling lucky and ambitious. I set my search settings to Atlanta and I started to scroll.

Mind you, I was in the middle of thick depression when I downloaded that dating app. My feelings and emotions were a jumble of really high and rock-bottom low that winter. Me being on a dating application was probably not the healthiest choice and I soon realized that a couple of days later. I deleted the application.

It's not that I didn't want to meet someone. I just knew in my gut that the words I needed to repeat to myself were, "not now." Not now. Get healthy. Get happy. Get sane. Get better. Get "anything" before you start believing a guy with a full set of teeth and a real job is going to fix you.

I ignored the idea of that dating application for another nine months.

 

My first year out of college, I wanted to be in love. I thought I would be one of those people who got married young. I'm happy God didn't have the same plan for me because my husband would have starved to death in wrinkled clothing during our second month of marriage.

I don't want to say I wasn't in touch with reality back then but I really wasn't. I saw everything through the eyes of a dreamer. I believed I would meet someone in a romantic clash of serendipity. I wrote this really whimsical blog post about how I didn't support online dating because I believed I would meet someone in a more unexpected fashion. Somewhere like aisle seven of the grocery store where we would bump carts and then exchange awkward words before he asked me to dinner.

I remember getting a blog comment from a reader who was offended by my piece. She told me she and her husband had met through online dating and there was nothing less magical about their story than the idea of two people meeting in the oatmeal aisle.

 

I sat down to write this today because I know there is a stigma floating in the air about meeting online. I don't know why the stigma exists but I think it's because we don't watch people in the movies meet online and fall in love. Rarely. We consume the unexpected crossings. We consume the scenes where two people end up in the same place at the same time and everything changes.

I wrote this because your love story is great and important, even if it hasn't happened yet. You aren't wrong to want to try out a dating application or make a profile on Match.com. That's not crazy. You can do it. But I wouldn't be a good friend to you if I didn't ask you a more important question: is this what you need right now? Are you healthy and are you ready?

Relationships change things. Hearts are fragile. Humans are no different when you fall in love with them-- no matter if we meet in a grocery store or in a chatroom. Make sure you are ready enough to bring your heart into the relationship before you swipe right.

 

Love stories happen everywhere. It's important to note that. If we have a scale of what's more magical and what's more deserving of our applause then we are missing the point of love. The most beautiful thing that happens in a love story is two people choosing one another. I don't think we should care how that happens, or where that happens, so much as we should be expectant and praying that it happens for the people we love. We should be more invested in people's daily fights to keep one another, not the "how we met" story.

We become entitled. We get jealous and it's hard to want good things for people when we haven't yet seen them for ourselves. I think we miss the point we start to believe life is a story all about our expectations being met.

 

 

I remember one of the former contestants on the Bachelor telling a story about how she met her last boyfriend on a plane. It was such a serendipitous moment. For years, as they dated, she kept waiting to fully fall in love. She wanted things to click. She said she finally left.

"I was always waiting for my feelings to catch up to story of how we met," she said.

Maybe it's more dangerous that we ask the question so often, "How did you two meet?" Maybe it's not important that you meet on a train or a bus or a coffee shop. Maybe the better question we could ask people is, "How do you stay in the fight for one another? How do you keep your love fresh? How do you sacrifice?"

 

Lane and I met on a dating application and I think the most important detail of the story is that my heart was ready to meet someone. My heart was ready to treat someone not like a crutch or a savior, but an equal. I knew what I wanted.

Fireworks never exploded in the sky to spell out LANE in big letters. He didn't march up to my door with a bouquet of sharpened pencils. I made the first move. We talked for a week on the application before Lane asked for my number. I remember the messages were the best part of my day. In a week of traveling to three cities and watching my brother get married, this stranger on the other side of the screen was the best part of my day. He asked questions. He sent back paragraphs. We'd wait until 8 or 9 at night and then write back to one another until we fell asleep at night.

We found out, in piecing together our histories, there were a dozen or so places where we should have met already. We attended the same parties. We knew the same people. We lived 8 minutes apart. We were in the same places at the same time and I am still convinced I served that boy a corn dog and a coke at one of the parties. I just didn't notice him.

"You wouldn't have liked the girl you met if you met me any sooner," I am confident enough to say to Lane. I needed to change before I was ready for a love story. I needed to become someone different and I am proud to say I did the hard work required of me.

 

It doesn't matter where we meet. We are silly and insane if we get caught up in the "how we met" story that we forget the rest of the details. What will matter in 5 years from now is how we thought to build one another. How we thought to lay our hearts on the line. How we showed up. How we emboldened each other. How we met? That's just the first part of the story. If you ask me, it hasn't even gotten good yet.

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Things fit: a note to those "flying solo"

Lane texted me last week from a shoe store in Utah. The store sold primarily Nike products. A picture popped up on my screen of an awesome pair of grey Nike sneakers.

"7.5 please," I texted back, not actually thinking he would buy the shoes for me.

A few minutes went by before he responded, "The smallest size they have is a size 8!"

It wasn't until recently that I figured out my natural shoe size is a 7.5 and not a 8 but I've been wearing shoes in size 8 for years so I knew I could wear these too. However, if Lane had texted me with the news that they only had a size 6 or a size 7, I would have been out of luck. The shoes wouldn't have fit me.

 

I think when it comes to relationships, we want things to fit as seamlessly as shoes. We date with the anticipation that things will work out. We work hard to make things fit with the person across the table. And sadly, not because it's anyone's fault, sometimes things just don't fit. Two people don't click. One person has more work to do. You both don't see the same future. It's okay to be different. It's okay to realize you two want different things.

The wicked step sisters in the story of Cinderella were notable for trying to wedge their too-big feet into the tiny glass slipper. The original fairy tale actually illustrates the step-sisters cutting off portions of their feet so they could fit into the shoe. Bloodied up, they still didn't get the happy ending they wanted. It simply wasn't their story to live. This wasn't their person.

Throughout my dating years, I knew myself to be guilty of trying to wedge myself into a box just so a guy would choose me. I thought that was the most important thing, to be chosen by someone. Being chosen is beautiful but making a choice because you know it's the right one is an even better feeling. If dating leads to marriage and marriage leads to the long haul, you'll want to be sure of the investment your making. You will want to be sure of that person's character, ambitions, capacity and how they respect you.

 

People have asked me to write about marriage and I honestly don't have words yet. I think I should wait another 20 or 30 years before I ever try to claim I have wisdom on this topic. However, I know one thing to be true: Lane and I entered under the contract of marriage because we knew we were a fit. We asked the tough questions. We investigated any red flags. We held the relationship loosely, knowing if things were meant to crumble before marriage became an option then things would definitely crumble.

We wanted to the relationship-- our unique partnership-- to be more important than our own personal needs to be chosen for an ego boost. I can confidently say that if Lane or I knew things weren't fitting then we would have walked away. It would have broken our hearts but we vowed to never wedge ourselves into a space where a love story wasn't meant to happen.

 

If you're impatient, it's okay. I wish people would stop saying "when you learn to be content with your singleness, then the right person will come along." That's garbage. I honestly don't think half of the people who say that even mean to phrase it that way-- that's just how we've packaged it in the last few years.

I hope what people are trying to say is that it's okay if you don't like being single. You don't have to like it but you have to be careful not to hinge your life, your joy, or your completion to a relationship status. You were fine yesterday. You are fine today. You will be fine tomorrow.

Waiting for the day when you enjoy singleness actually may never happen. I can't honestly say I ever looked at my singleness and thought, "I am absolutely loving this right now. Bring on more nights where the only spooning I do involves the one I am shoving into this huge vat of ice cream by myself."

I never once became okay with being single. I learned to be independent, yes, but I never liked the solo life. I remember crying to my mom through the phone after a breakup two summers ago. This was the guy I dated before I met Lane.

"I'm not even upset about the person so much as I don't want to have to go back into the game," I cried. "I don't want to have to play the dating game anymore." I didn't want to resign myself to a chair again and wait for more glass slippers to come along.

 

Lane came along shortly after and I remember being so impressed with how easy we were with one another. It wasn't forced. I wasn't trying to wedge myself into a place where I didn't fit. When it's the right person, there won't be all this grey area, fog or confusion. That doesn't mean it will always be easy or you two will never fight. Fighting-- healthy fighting where the two of you learn how to communicate-- is vital to a relationship. A relationship is two people who've lived a separate life coming together to build new territory together. That's a heavy and light mission. When you find the right person, they'll carry your heavy and you'll handle their light.

 

I've been writing about fear so much lately because I am realizing just how much I allowed it to narrate my stories for me. If you allow fear to narrate your "flying solo" story, it will try to convince you your person isn't out there. This isn't a forever sentence. I can't tell you when it will end or when that person will walk in. I can't tell you how you'll meet or what it will feel like for the first time. But I pray you'll give someone a decent chance to create a new story with you.

Don't try to wedge someone into an old story. Don't be constantly checking to see if they measure up to stories you've lived before. This is something new. Something golden and new. Treat it like its sacred (because it is).

All of this happening right now-- the lonely nights and the days you cry for no reason except for the fact that you thought you should have met that person by now-- is all part of the story. It won't be discounted when you two meet. It will only help you treasure the person more.

Stop thinking you're in the wrong place. Stop thinking you're getting off the wrong exit. Stop thinking they're in another city or at a different coffee shop. Just stop and live the life you want to live. Be the person you imagined you would be before fear gave you other agendas. That person is going to love you when they find you in your element.

They will love you. You'll breathe out relief. You won't be striving or pushing. The two of you will just fit. Don't worry, things fit.

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You can still go back to yourself.

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I started Monday with writing.

I try my hardest to not open my inbox until 11 in the morning. On the days where I am disciplined in this area, I always feel my most productive. I feel alive and at ease with the skin I am in.

I sat down in front of my desktop by 8:30am and already 3,000 words have come out of me. I pace the floors. I reheat my cup of black coffee for the sixth time. I feel more like myself than I have felt in ages.

I wasn't planning to write anything today in this space but I find that my little writing corner on the internet gets quiet when I get away from the creation process and spiral into trying to be perfect. It's a tiring game with no winner. I struggle with looking at the lives of other people who seem to have it all together and wishing I could be more like them. I make a fatal error when I get so invested in the filtered lives of others that I forget to invest in my own. My life. My body. My craft. My growth.

Don't stray from your craft. Don't look to other people as if they are going to start the car for you. Sit down. Do the thing. Use your keys. It's your journey and it doesn't belong to anyone else. In the same vein, no one but you will suffer if you never take the journey. People don't miss or grieve over the life you didn't live. That's your grief and that's your funeral.

If you are someone who creates things then make life about the creation. You can admire the creations of others but don't waste your best hours of the day watching other people. Use your hours wisely. Do the work. Even if you only get 20 minutes in a given day to make something, make it happen.

We run around like maniacs claiming there isn't enough time in the day. So often we bewitch ourselves with the curse of "busy." We don't see how much time we kill with scrolling, clicking and liking. I can watch you live your life in 10-second increments or I could create something the world needs. One of those things is going to take no energy at all. The other is going to require everything you have.

If you are feel odd or out of sorts today, maybe you've forgotten something. Maybe you got wrapped up in stuff that doesn't matter to you and you've forgotten what you truly love. Time isn't up though. You can still go back to yourself. You can get a new journal. You can write two glorious sentences. You can open a book. You can start over.

Life hasn't called and asked you to come and turn in your keys yet. Go while you still have the keys. Go. 

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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!

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Notes from an investor: people, projects, plans.

large Recently I started investing. My money. My loot. My greens. My Benjamins. My clams. My dough. My wad. My lettuce. Okay, I'm done.

It makes me feel like a serious adult to say that I'm saving money. I wiped out all my student loan debt this past December and I figured that was the next adult-ish thing to do: begin investing.

When you first start investing, the whole process seems a little intimidating. The website I use ultimately tells me how much I need to save up if I want to retire at age 67 (they picked the age, not me). There are pros and cons to looking "Big Picture" at your life like this. Pros: you see what you're working with. Cons: you figure out what you're working with and you realize you're not working so well with it. 

The app I invest with gives you a list of options as to where you can invest your money: a home, a retirement fund, your children's college funds.

There are too many options and I find myself thinking I need to invest in every single one right this very moment. 

I'm not writing a post about investing money right now.  I may have married a financial analyst but I'm not ready to come at you with my money savvy just yet. As I've learned the ins and outs of investing, I am starting to see that investing translates into all areas of my life.

We get the chance to invest in a lot of different people, places and plans. Some of us are naturally good at spreading ourselves out evenly. Others flounder under the pressure to be "all the things" to everyone they encounter.

You can't be all the things to all the people. I learned that lesson 2 years ago and I honestly gain more freedom daily by remembering it. I am not a perfect human. I cannot possibly please every single person in my email inbox. I will let friends down even if I am not trying to. I will forget someone's birthday and I will live with the rock in my stomach called regret for too long because of it.

You may be investing in a lot of things you don't even want without being aware of it. You may be so invested in the life of someone else that you are spending all your time comparing, contrasting, and trying to change yourself to be like them.

You may be the person who has a ton of time but never seems to be able to nail it down in one place and make something beautiful happen.

I am finding that to know where I want to invest my life, I must know what I have. I need to be willing to take inventory and then get serious with it. I'm a big believer that God wants us to steward things wisely. Time. Relationships. Money. Work. Sometimes I know God is looking at me like, "What are you doing with your life right now? You have so many things to take care of so why are you asking me for more?" So many of us have a number of these things but we are investing all our energy into only one area and neglecting the rest. On the adverse, if I am investing in too many things (and not enough things whole-heartedly) then my investments will be smaller than Future Me will need them to be.

I took the morning to break my life into three categories I think are worth investing in and jot down some thoughts on each area. Mind you, I am preaching to myself always and often. No perfect people are allowed on this blog. This is a perfectly safe haven for jacked-up and jankety humans who fail a dozen times before breakfast (just me?). 

Invest in People: because yes, they are always worth it.

  • I made a list of the 10 people I want to be investing in consistently. Ten looks like a large number but I don't know how to narrow the list just yet. These people are a combination of friends living near me and friends far away. They are friends I've had for years and people I'm looking to start investing in deliberately starting just this month. Ways I plan to invest: workout dates, trips to the farmer's market, meal-prep tutorials, unofficial book clubs and study sessions. I could always meet up for coffee with people but I think it's really beautiful and underrated to invite someone into the folds of your life and say, "participate with me."
  • If you are going to try to invest in everyone you've ever met then prepare yourself to see disappointment showing up at your door a lot. A lot of you said the last post on heartbreak resonated with you because it wasn't romantic relationships you were struggling with, it was friendships with people you'd invested in for years. I know that feeling. It's not pretty and it's not something you really want to highlight for the world to see. People come in and out of our lives all the time. Some stay for good. Some leave sooner than we planned. I don't have all the answers for that but I can say this: letting someone go so you can protect your heart and find some space to breathe is not the same thing as giving up on them.
  • In these crazy political times, it might be tempting to want to spend all your energy making people agree with you. Somehow our social media platforms became a tool for dividing rather than connecting in the last few months. We can't make everyone agree with us. No matter what is happening in the government, people in your life still need you like they needed you yesterday. Maybe even more. As people are scared, hurting, and unsure right now, the only way to love them through it is by putting down the devices.
  • Investigating someone's life is not the same thing as investing in someone's life. I cannot just "like" my friend's status and think it makes up for an in-person conversation. If likes, retweets and stats have ever made you feel empty inside then consider that you might not be the only one to ever feel that way. Investing in someone's life is rough and tumble but durability through the storms beats loneliness any day.

Invest in Projects: because work matters.

  • I want to be a good steward with any work that goes out into the world. Believe me, there are definitely days where I don't want to invest in the project at hand. It may be an unruly client, a problem I can't seem to fix or monotonous and thankless work. When I finally get over my pity party then it's time to get back to work. I can't be a quitter just because I don't like what is on the menu today.
  • It's easy to neglect the work you've been given to do because it isn't glamorous enough or Instagram-able for the moment. Somehow we got this idea stuck in our brain that if the work wasn't pretty then it was meant for someone else. That's definitely not the mantra our grandparents held. I know we are growing up in a different world where this idea of "doing what you love" has been thrust upon us but I also think there is a time to do what you love and a time to do what is necessary. Life will hold a lot of necessary work that won't seem pretty. If you do the work though, you'll grow. You'll be stronger. You'll gain thicker skin.
  • One more thought on that: I was reading in John 15 the other day. It's the passage about us being the plant and God being the gardener. He says he prunes off all the vines that aren't bearing fruit. Translation: all the excess stuff that doesn't help us become humans who don't lie all the time, cuss people out on the highway, or don't know how to love instead of hate. I dug deeper to find that the goal of pruning the branches (where fruit grows) is so that the branches will not become long and stringy. They will become thick and short. It seems like a pretty insignificant detail until you realize that you can grow fruit on long and stringy branches anytime but it is only a matter of time before those branches snap, break, and become useless because they can't support the fruit they're trying to hold up. Just like us: we become better humans by allowing the pruning process to happen. When we release our pride, our ego, that thing that tells us "this isn't cool enough work," then we can finally get over ourselves and do good work. We can handle more fruit.

Invest in Plans: because plans imply action.

  • I like the word "plans" more than "passions." I can talk a lot about my passions but it won't mean anything if I never plan to make time for them. Plans are action steps. They are things you are going to do rather than things you always talk about but never do. I've said it so much lately but I am terrified to get to the end of my life and realize I was just a spectator, a spectator in a life that demanded all the attention I could never give it. You will lose so much of your life if you only ever watch other people live theirs.
  • I chose "plans" over "things" because I always want to value experiences over new Nike sneakers or the latest phone to come out. Going places > buying more stuff.
  • Plans were my favorite part of this mapping process because I've recently fallen in love with the pockets of time in my calendar that aren't working hours. I plan to read books, take longer walks, drink more water and cook more ambitious dishes. I plan to finish this memoir on Savannah before Lane and I visit again in April. I plan to map out the birthdays of all the people who matter in my life to get back in the habit of sending cards. Anticipation is a really sweet thing and a really good feeling to share with other people.
  • Every couple of months, I pluck this book off my bookshelf. I don't think anyone should go all of 2017 without buying this book and then highlighting the snot out of it. In his chapter on recapturing time, MacDonald writes, "One needs to ask, what are my nonnegotiables? I have discovered that most of us who complain we are disorganized simply do not know the answer to this question. As a result, the important functions that will make the supreme difference in our effectiveness miss getting into the calendar until it is too late. Disorganization and frustration; the non-essentials crowd into the date book before the necessities do." If we don't map out our own plans deliberately, months will fly by on the calendar and there will be nothing to show for it.

Curious today: What are some of the plans, projects and people you want to invest in this February? Comment below and I will be reading! 

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A no-nonsense guide to getting over a breakup.

075e3ecd8a78aa61404933acf3b5f3a8 Last summer, I went through a breakup that left me staring at my hands and wanting to loop the Wendy's drive-thru over and over again until they restrained me from buying french fries. I sat on my couch with my nuggets in my lap and I called any person willing to listen to my ugly sobs.

I yelled. I screamed. I was bitter. Real bitter. In the deep of me, I was sick of heartbreak. I was sick of feeling like I was a loser when it came to love.

What people don't tell you in the thick of heartbreak is that heartbreak is all about choices. It's basically a Choose Your Own Adventure with more tears and Rachel Platten ballads. You make choices everyday until the pain is either gone or it becomes you. Either stalk him on Facebook or get a hobby. Either wallow in your bed watching Grey's Anatomy or get up and go for a walk. Either declare perpetual singleness and become a bird lady (way more underrated than a cat lady) or get back in the dating game. Choices. We all get them.

I can confidently say that in 2015 I experienced the healthiest breakup of my life. I made some of the healthiest choices I've ever made in my life. Period. Game forever changed.

Was I perfect? No. Was I mad at God? Heck yes. Was I brooding for a while? Duh.

But here's the biggest thing I learned through the high and low of getting over a person: you must do the things that will get your heart back into alignment. You're not lost, you're just camping out in a swamp for a few days. Pack up your bags. It's time to go.

SCREW THE SHRINE

One of the reasons why letting go is hard? We feel the need to hold onto every last thing we ever had of that person. Sweatshirts. Coasters. Love notes. Etc. Etc. Burn it. Throw it away. Donate it. Just get it out of your sight, no matter how painful the release may be. You will never be over it if you are always holding on relentlessly to tangible memories.

His sweatshirt, sleeping in your bed every night, is not going to bring him back. That's the sad truth I hate saying but I wouldn't be a good friend if I didn't say it.

EMBRACE MILE ONE

Meaning, it's okay if you are at the beginning of this breakup hangover and you feel miserable and pitiful. Think about running. Everyone is always miserable at mile 1 of a jog when they haven't run in a long time. Embrace it. Embrace it and don't give up because of how icky it feels.

It's okay if you cry y0urself to sleep at night. It's okay if you don't feel like getting out of bed. These are natural symptoms of a breakup. The beginning is always the hardest. The middle will take a lot of work. The finish line will be sweet though.

MAYBE CHANGE YOUR PASSWORDS

Or find good friends who will change your passwords for you and then be merciless when you ask for them back. I took a month-long break off of social media last summer after a breakup. Truth told, it hurt too much to be online. It was too much temptation to want to look him up and see how he was doing. His progress, though I am thankful it was happening, was no longer my business. Something inside of me wanted to be mad or bitter if he did make progress and that wasn't my heart or my agenda.

Social media rarely helps our wounds. If you don't have the power to block him or her, block yourself. Get a few friends to build a wall around you. Pick up the hobby of reading instead of stalking.

SEND THANK-YOU NOTES

When is the last time you did that? I mean it. We send thank-you notes after a party, a shower, or after someone donates. Thank-you notes should be a regular occurrence. I find they are one of the biggest ways for me to get outside of my own thoughts and think about other people. That's what is going to save you from heartbreak: remembering others.

PRAYER HANDS

Prayer doesn't need to be eloquent. It doesn't need to be fancy. No need to put white gloves on to get on your knees and pray. You don't even have to get on your knees. God likes you casual and God doesn't preference a posture. I love how Anne Lamott says it, "My belief is that when you're telling the truth, you're close to God. If you say to God, "I am exhausted and depressed beyond words, and I don't like You at all right now, and I recoil from most people who believe in You," that might be the most honest thing you've ever said. If you told me you had said to God, "It is all hopeless, and I don't have a clue if You exist, but I could use a hand," it would almost bring tears to my eyes, tears of pride in you, for the courage it takes to get real-really real. It would make me want to sit next to you at the dinner table."

Your prayers are allowed to be imperfect, short, sporadic, violent, and jumbled. That's the beauty of prayer. He hears all the mess.

STAY HONEST

Find people who will allow you to have your honesty hour. An honesty hour is a chance to say whatever you feel. It's good for you. It's cathartic. An honesty hour is not to be confused with a pity party. Because I love you, I am officially granting you permission to partake in one pity party. Just one. Pull out your party hat, dance to sad Ben Rector songs, and then prepare to move the heck on. You are allowed to be honest without being pitiful. Even better than venting on Facebook, get a journal! House your honesty hours there regularly.

CALL IT WHAT IT IS

I remember going through a breakup several years ago and I wanted to act so damn strong. I didn't want to cry about it. I didn't want to feel hurt. But I was hurt. I was hurt because I felt like maybe he was my last chance, maybe that was my last shot at love. Sometimes you don't even want to keep the person, you just want to keep the feeling of being loved and chosen at the end of a day.

It's okay to be hurt, broken, tired, cranky, etc. Call a feeling what it is. Accept it. Own it. Owning your feelings doesn't mean you have to stay stuck in them.

OFFER YOUR SERVICES

Think about what you could do for other people during this time when it is more tempting to sing the "me, me, me" song all day. I offered my babysitting services to friends for free. I figured if a baby in a giraffe bikini couldn't make me smile then I was pretty doomed. I tried to cook for people (emphasis on "tried"). I met people for coffee. I became more active in my church.

You've got stuff to give to the world. Your neighbors and friends are in need of you even if you don't think so. Be a participant in your friend group, not just someone who attends things. You could be the person who sits behind a screen all day hoping someone will notice you or you could be the person who sees and knows people when they don't think anyone in the world is paying attention to them. It's all about perspective.

FORGET FEELINGS

Feelings are dead wrong. I just have to say it. Feelings are basically like the weatherman- he predicts things but is wrong 70% of the time.  If you are always guided by your feelings then you can get used to a rollercoaster of unreliable twists and loops. Your feelings fluctuate on a daily basis. Texts alter them. Conversations alter them. Food even alters them. Truth is something you dig for. Wisdom is something you learn slowly and with time.

Most of this advice you're reading is going to wear off in the next 24 hours and your feelings will tell you to give up and go back to mile one. Don't listen to the thing inside of you that accepts defeat like a marching order. Stop giving your feelings the keys to your car if you don't want them to drive you deeper into the woods.

KICK OUT THE LIARS

Those liars in your brain need eviction notices. Stat. It's really tempting to roll out sleeping bags for the lies and allow them to set up camp in your brain. Lies are convincing. Lies mimic your own voice. Lies will start forest fires if you give them space. Whatever you allow to live in your brain, feeding off your thoughts, will multiply.

YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT

Meaning, don't feed the lies. The lies are going to tell you, in this very moment, that you will never find love again. The lies will say something like, "That was it for you. Too bad, babe. You had your shot. And that person is going to fall in love and get married and it won't be you." You will get fat on those lies if you keep them in your cabinets. Those lies will never help or heal you. The only way to combat them? Get yourself a thicker skin and a stronger voice. You can't buy those things in a store but you can train yourself to respond to lies and self-inflicted criticism.

YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT (Pt. 2)

Here's what I don't get... Read any article on heartbreak and it will always, always make some reference to pulling out the tub of Ben & Jerry's ice cream and crying your snots into the carton. Eating your feelings won't lessen your feelings. If anything, eating your pain away will only make you feel sluggish and more sad. Food, and how we consume it, has a direct effect on our moods.

Sign up for a yoga class. Learn to cook kale. Try boxing so you can kick the crap out of things and unleash your anger. Endorphins are your friend during this time.

You'll feel a million times better getting off the couch, putting down the wine bottle, and hitting the outdoors with a hike or stopping by the gym for a few lunges.

IMMERSE YOURSELF IN SOMETHING... ANYTHING

After the Epic Breakup of 2015 (it wasn't really epic but I don't know what to call it), I met regularly with a goals coach. Being self-employed, she has consistently helped me to create goals and benchmarks to challenge myself with. She told me I needed a hobby that I could not turn into a full-time job. I told her I secretly love lifting weights and missed how I used to train people in college.

The result? One week later I created a work-out group for girls in my neighborhood looking to lift weights. We met every Monday, Wednesday, Friday to lift together. I planned the workouts in advance and we'd got down dog with yoga mats and Childish Gambino at 7am. I'm still training two of those girls!

Immersing yourself in something other than heartbreak will lessen the blow. People involved? Even better.

GIVE UP THE GHOST

Don't call. Don't text. Don't find some excuse to reach out and say, "Hey, I forgot to tell you this but...."

I texted a guy once a few weeks after we broke up with small talk as a way to say "this is too hard." He texted back and said, "We don't need to talk like this anymore." I translate his text as: Girl, you don't need to be texting me. Pull yourself together and stop it. You don't need a ghost story and I don't need one either. Go on. Let go. I'm not your great love. Leave room in your heart. He's coming soon.

INDEPENDENT, YEA

That's the best thing that ever emerged from a breakup for me. By sitting with my own emptiness, and not filling the holes with another guy, I learned where I placed my trust. It wasn't in God. It was in guys. I found my worth in guys. I found my hope in guys. All my emotions hinged on whether someone found me good enough to keep forever. I claimed I wanted to be this kick-butt independent lady but I was missing the most important thing: independence begins by allowing yourself to be on your own and not become afraid of it. 

GET BACK OUT THERE

Sometimes you go through heartbreak and you need time to grieve. That's so understandable and I encourage it for those who need it. However, you don't need to declare a year of singleness if you're just afraid of rejection all over again. Get back out there. Get your dress on. Get your party shoes on. Be bold enough to try again.

I took a month off from the dating scene in September 2015. I said a lot of prayers. I worked my butt off in the gym. I created my first online class. I put myself out there. I met with people and discussed my feelings. I saw a therapist regularly. I ate the kale.  I said "no" to my feelings and ate more kale. I took that month for myself and I will never regret it because I made it about empowerment instead of defeat.

I grew stronger. I chopped off my hair. I dug deeper into the bible and said more prayers. And then, one month later, I downloaded a dating app.

The date was October 1. My demeanor was different. I wasn't downloading the app to hinge my entire self-worth to a man. I wanted to go to on a date because I felt cute and sassy. There was nothing deep about it.

On October 2, I noticed a cute guy named Lane was my match. I thought to myself, "Heck no if I am letting some other girl get this one... Off limits, chickies!" I put on my big girl pants. I sent the first message.

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Be a participant.

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Be a participant.

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There needs to be a separation between social media and my personal life. I am realizing this more and more each day as I get older and deeper into my 20's. I've been thinking about this so much lately. I want there to be something for keeps. I want every single one of us to have something for keeps at the end of each day, something that belongs to only us.

It's so easy to have something wonderful happen-- a job promotion, an engagement, a birthday-- and then immediately think, "How can I share this? How can I announce to the world this is happening?"

I don't think there is necessarily anything wrong with that but when we put it online, we release it from our hands. It is no longer our private moment.

 

...

When I have babes, I want to teach them to grab life quickly and furiously. I want them to be proactive. I already have so many big hopes for these nonexistent babes that have nothing to do with the iPhone or the computer screen. I want them to read classic novels. I want them to feel life. I want their little fingers to touch the paper of cookbooks. I want them to go and see the dinosaur bones and build forts. I want them to participate. I want them to know life is something you go and do and see and build and fight for. People are something you live for and die for and work for and sacrifice for. God is someone you dance and sing for. All of the above will make you laugh and go crazy and want to pull your hair out and ultimately trust that this whole thing cannot possibly be an accident. Accidents have never been as beautiful as this.

...

2017 is an extension of what I began in 2016-- the quest to be anything but a spectator of other people's lives.

Find a way to participate in people's lives relentlessly. It will be your own fault if you never invest in someone's life, only watching what they publish on social media. Get them coffee. Make them chili. Listen to their first date stories. Do the inconvenient things because those things always end up meaning the most to others.

"We owe moments of excitement and surprise to our dearest and oldest friends as much as we do to our partners and lovers," Dolly Alderton wrote. If I could add to that quote then I would write: We owe moments of excitement and surprise to our friends and our dear family more than we do to people on Facebook who never reach out to us anyway.

...

Lane and I had coffee and apple crisp with another couple last night, Sara and Jonathan. The two were at our wedding three weeks and ago.

"I got a picture of you two on your wedding day as the ceremony was happening," Sara told us before we left. When Sara says she "got a picture" it means God has downloaded something into her brain, a vision meant to edify and encourage.

Sara proceeded to tell us that her vision included Lane and I standing in the middle of a crowd blowing bubbles. She said at first we were blowing big bubbles and they were very impressive to the crowd. However, the big bubbles popped quickly. Eventually we began blowing these tiny bubbles and the small bubbles floated above the crowd and reached even more people. The smaller bubbles had much more of an impact than the bigger ones.

To me, that translates to influence. We think influence is about blowing the biggest bubbles, doing the most notable things to impress people. In actuality, the things with the most impact are usually the small acts and the tiny, obedient steps the world never sees. They are the times when we are alone, in a quiet room, on our knees and saying "yes" to God.

...

I've been thinking about this blog a lot and how much I adore this little space. I spent some time this morning praying for the people who read me in this space. I think my biggest prayer, biggest ask of you in 2017, is that you would leave comments.

Of course, you don't need to leave comments but I would love if the comment section was a community space, a place for us to dialogue with one another. That's my prayer for this blog in 2017-- that community would spread through the comments and we would grow closer to understanding one another through simple sentences.

So please, leave a comment today. Tell me where you're coming from and what is a "small thing" you want to do in 2017 to help other people. I would love to be reading and responding. 

You make life good and you make work fun. Never doubt yourself.

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Full plan ahead: The best planner picks for 2017

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Full plan ahead: The best planner picks for 2017

I'm a former cheater. We should go ahead and just get that out of the way first.

I have been consistently unfaithful when it comes to picking a planner and sticking with it for 12 solid months. I know I'm not alone in this. I'm not the only one to ever pick a planner, fall madly in love with it, feel organized and like your life serves a purpose for 5 minutes, haphazardly visit Target and end up with an entirely different planner a month later. That has been the rhythm of my life for a long time and I am betting there are some people out there who do just the same.

The good thing about being unable to stick with a planner for 12 months? You date a lot of planners. You know what's out there. Eventually, the romance of a new planner with crisp pages wears off. Sticking with a planner isn't some whimsical "this is the one" feeling sweeping you up. You survey your options. You pick one. You write things down. You repeat. And you stop allowing yourself to look at other options. It's basically marriage.

I've stuck with my planner for 8 months now. Eight months is basically 8 years in Hannah-time. There are days where I look at it and am tempted to cheat again-- go find another boo with cooler margins and more white space-- but I remember an important fact about life, love and planners: your choices gain power as you continue to choose them. You give your choices value by saying on repeat, "I choose you."The magic of discipline and consistency cohabitate from that very spot.

Seriousness aside, I've wanted to write this post for a long time and there seems like no better time than now-- when we are all on the cusp of 2017-- to put it out there.

Whether you've picked your planner for 2017 or you are still on the hunt, there's some serious options out there for you.

I've included pictures, links and descriptions of some of my favorite planners below.

A few things about my selections:

  1. I picked planners for productivity rather than just the look and feel. Ultimately, how you organize your life should determine which planner you stick with.
  2. All of the planners below are analog. I am a big believer in putting the pen to paper and I definitely need that when it comes to my plans and goals. I keep a digital calendar, yes, but I love carrying a planner with me on the go.

Cheers to 2017 and writing it all down!


1.

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I am a big fan of whatever Anthropologie is doing. I keep tabs on their website regularly and am always checking in to see what brands they're carrying. This Big Plans Planner is simple and basic but it still has everything you could want and need. I love the clean look and how portable it is!

The cash you'll dish out: $28


2.

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I'd never heard of this brand up until today but I can't get over how dang cute this thing is. It's a monthly planner so be sure you only want to keep track of the month-by-month things before you buy it. I can't get over the shopping lists inside and all the little veggies dancing around though. After browsing their website, all their products are overall sweet and sassy.

The cash you'll dish out: $16.95


3.

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I know a lot of folks who prefer all things Emily Ley and I don't blame them! Emily is a friend of mine who I really admire and I have gotten the chance to see her business blow up in the last few years. This planner is definitely a solid pick for those who love organization paired with a minimal canvas. Plus, I love the pineapples!

The cash you'll dish out: $58


4.

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I will say it and stand by it: there is no lack in Target's planner game. I don't know how or when it happened but Target as brought their A-game for the last few years in the "office" section of their store. These planners are perfect for people who want to spend less but still get stylish with their daily plans. I recommend for the noncommittal folks out there who will only keep a planner for two weeks before they drop it for another one. This Target planner is basically a disposable boyfriend whose feelings won't get hurt when you drop him for something else in February.

The cash you'll dish out: $14.99


5.

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I used this planner last year and absolutely loved it. It has such a unique look and feel. The one thing about this planner that threw me off was that it was a little big and bulky. I found it hard to travel with this planner which is why I think I gave it up. However, this is a beautiful choice for a planner that sits on your desk and travels lightly.

The cash you'll dish out: $42


6.

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People ask me often which planner I choose to use. Here it is: Rifle Paper Co. I've stuck with this planner for about 8 months now which, to me, is a pretty big deal! I love the elegant feel to it and how much space there is to write notes and plan out the day.

My planner is currently sold out but the orange one (which I love equally) is in stock!

The cash you'll dish out: $34


7.

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Another love of mine: the Passion Planner. This is ideal for the people who are driven by their passion projects and lose sleep at night over the thought of color-coding something... anything. I've used this planner in the past (no joke, I've tried them all) and I really liked it. For me, the lines were a little too small but I hear from people all the time who are obsessed with their Passion Planner. Great news... it's on sale!

The cash you'll dish out: $25


9.

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I stumbled into this planner after some internet digging and I have to say: I'm hooked on the look of it. I am not going to ditch the planner I am devoted to but I am totally recommending it to you! The Volt Planner seems like the perfect fit for the people who are itching to get to 2017 because they LOVE GOALS and ALL THE GOALS. It's a minimalist look with a pretty cool backstory! Check it out!

The cash you'll dish out: $40

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