by Elizabeth Glessner

Warning: These Words are Not Pretty

In case you haven't deduced from our lengthy absences from writing here, my dear friend Miranda and I have been up to our necks in life. Between her graduate school and work duties and my big move, I think I speak for both of us when I say we've been doing good just keeping our heads above water.

When I started this project, I made a promise to be transparent, so here it is: I've been avoiding coming here to share with you all. I've felt ill-equipped to write anything useful because, well, I'm all the things I hope you're not - stressed, anxious, scared - and if I were an innocent bystander right now stopping by to read this blog, I'd probably have a hard time thinking I could put any of these words to work in my life at the present. I've been completely overwhelmed, lacking balance, and definitely not the voice of positivity I pride myself as - and to echo Miranda's last post - I've been telling myself the lies that I'm not enough.

Writing that feels like a punch to the gut, and I can't even believe I'm admitting it on the Internet.

If you've seen my Instagram account, you probably think I'm living the life. Most recently, it's filled with:

  • photos of our trip to Europe alongside my handsome husband
  • pictures of a fun few days in Nashville with some of my dearest friends
  • posts about my time at the spring Making Things Happen conference and how grateful I am to be a part of such a powerful movement

While all those things are true, what you don't see is: 

  • I had a full on internal meltdown my first day in Germany - between severe jet lag, the reality slapping me in the face that I'm moving to a new place where I know no one, and immense frustration with the language barrier, it was the perfect storm. There was blubbering, moments when all I wanted to do was stay in our hotel room and sleep, and severe anxiety. And I almost cried at our first apartment showing when the landlord told us she doesn't allow dogs (don't worry - we found an even better place where sweet Monty will be able to live with us). Yes - we had some good times, but no, it was definitely not the amazing, relaxing vacation that it may have looked like.
  • Nashville was so much fun, and I wouldn't trade time with my best girls for anything. However, we all have A LOT going on in our lives right now - and that's, like, the understatement of the year. Out of respect for their privacy, I won't go into detail - I'll just say that there were a lot of exhausting, emotionally-charged conversations, packed with high highs and low lows, filling the two days we spent together.
  • Making Things Happen is one of the most rewarding experiences I've had the pleasure to be a part of - I'm incredibly passionate about the mission, I love serving on the Encouragement Crew alongside some of my favorite gals to help create a wonderful experience for everyone, and I love that we get to do the hard work right alongside the attendees. But when I say hard work, I mean hard work. Digging below the surface to cultivate a life filled with purpose means wading through a lot of your own crap - and all those fears and insecurities and lies you've told yourself are hard to face. There were lots of feelings and tears and two days coming home that I could barely muster up the energy to have even a simple conversation.

I don't say all of this in hopes that you'll feel sorry for me (that is so not my jam), just like I don't post on Instagram to try to make anyone think I have some fairytale life. And please, for the love, don't think I'm ungrateful, because I fully realize that relatively speaking, my life is not that difficult. 

I say it to let anyone reading this or looking onto my world through the rose-colored windows of social media know that I am broken. I am imperfect. And sometimes, I throw pity parties for myself. I struggle daily with surrendering control and trying to be perfect and putting on a great face and making too many decisions based on what other people might think. And without my faith and my friends and my incredibly patient husband, I honestly have no clue how I would have gotten through the past three weeks. 

I'd probably be huddled up in a corner somewhere rocking back and forth.

So, if you're having a kind of crummy day or a messed up week or are just on a roll of bad circumstances, I'm here to stand with you and fight for you. I'm here to say it's alright to feel sad or angry or just plain irritated. I'm here to encourage you to feel all the feels, then pull yourself up by the bootstraps and keep moving forward, little-by-little. I'm here because I don't think you should have to do it alone - find someone who will listen, someone who will pray with and for you and wade through the mess right beside you. Trust that, just like you, we all need people do life with us. All you need to do is ask - write that email, send that text message, pick up the phone.

I'm here for you. I'm rooting for you. And I know we'll make it through the mess together.

Quality and Quantity and Getting the Most Out of Community

Last Friday, I ventured with a group of women to a little cabin in the North Carolina woods for a weekend retreat. The intent was to have a chance to relax and prepare ourselves for a year of conquering the goals ahead of each of us. What we were met with instead was a mountain road covered in ice and snow, a cabin with frozen pipes and no running water (read: no showers or flushable toilets), and nine ladies whose idea of roughing it is having anything below 3G service on a cell phone. 

Cabin in Roaring Gap NC

Life is like that though - even our best laid plans are often met with challenges. How we approach those challenges, though, depends a lot on who we have by our side. Adversity feels much less lonely when we have people to hold our hands through the storm.

When I made a snap decision to attend the Making Things Happen Intensive three years ago after randomly stumbling across this blog, I never could have imagined the ways it would turn my world upside down. I never could have fathomed that the girl who walked into that room in March of 2012 would be molded into the one I see in the mirror today. I couldn't have guessed the tremendous community of people that one decision would have brought into my life.

As I've said before, I always been vocal about thinking quality was more important than quantity when it comes to friends. I limited myself to just a handful of close pals who knew all my life secrets, and I held my cards close when it came to anyone else. I said no to hanging out with new people, instead opting to lay on the couch and watch yet another Grey's Anatomy rerun - not because I needed a time of rest and reflection (good), but because I didn't want to put in the effort and energy to have a real relationship with a someone new (bad). Instead of allowing myself to have a community - a tribe of people who would push me to be the best version of myself - I limited myself to a few good people who couldn't possibly carry all that weight on their own. 

What I didn't realize was that quality and quantity can coexist. 

More and more as of late, I'm reminded of the importance of being in community with others. The importance of inviting people into my home and saying yes to their invitations and picking up the phone instead of sending them to voicemail because I'm just too tired/busy/etc. to talk. The importance of being with people who push me, who challenge me, who love me, who tell the truth even when it makes me mad, who make me laugh, who push me into the unknown - people who are molding me into the best version of myself. And then, being there to do the same for them when the tables are turned.

he funny thing about community is that it happens gradually and hits you all at once. One second you're alone and the next you are surrounded by like-minded individuals who you know you can call "your people." 

Community requires work, but meets you with grace.

It forces you to say "yes" even when you know it would be easier to wallow on your own. 

It asks you to contribute when you're strong and gives when you yourself have nothing to give. 

It surrounds you with love and empathy and encouragement.

And we could all use a little more of that.

Sweet Surrender

I've spent the past two days comforted by Kleenex, green tea, Netflix, and one snuggly Scottie dog named Monty, and I've officially become one with the couch. The dreaded winter cold has caught up with me and forced me to surrender my plans for a productive close to the week.

Just a couple of weeks ago in the midst of goal setting, the very word I chose for 2015 was SURRENDER, and boy, did I get what I asked for! In these past 48 hours, I've been forced to give up even the little things I felt like I had control of - my morning Pilates class, appointments scheduled weeks in advance, finishing my taxes, updating my website... the list goes on. In the bigger picture, I'm in the midst of a season of unknowns. Life feels like it's being flipped upside down, so I'm gripping onto anything that still feels within my control. 

Can you relate?

We create awesome plans for the future so that everything unfolds just right. Plans to live in the perfect place and have the perfect business and make lots of perfectly green money and marry the perfect person who agrees with everything we say and have perfect kids born at perfectly convenient times. One year plans... five year plans... ten year plans... we've got 'em. We fight tooth and nail to cling to that vision of perfection. We stress ourselves out, stretch ourselves thin, run to every remedy on the market...

...we work longer hours...

...we read more self-help books...

...we escape to mind-numbing places like Facebook and iPhones...

All for the sake of seeking happiness. Seeking contentment. Seeking answers. 

We run to everything and everyone except the source of those things.

Not that books and hard work aren't great tools that can help us, but they're just tools, not the answer. The truth is - the best things in my life have arrived in the times I've surrendered. When I've given up on worry and given in to prayer and confidence in a plan for my future so much better than the one I've laid out for myself, that's when I can truly experience peace where I am and hope in where I'm headed. Coincidentally, those moments of surrender have typically been the times when I've experienced life's greatest surprises.

I know better than anyone that surrender isn't easy... it's messy and it's ugly and it's a constant struggle. It requires letting go of plans and pride and making yourself vulnerable. But I also know that it's worth it. So this year, starting now, instead of sulking over changed plans, I'm choosing to embrace the moment, look forward to new adventures - whatever they may be, and be grateful for it all.

Related: My 2014 Word

Pride Isn't Always Wicked

Last week, my sweet husband took me to see the musical Wicked for my birthday. (NOTE: this may be the nerdiest week ever on the blog… first, The Hobbit and now, musical theatre. I’d love to promise it won’t happen again, but I’d probably be lying.) As I sat there, completely fan-girling (is that a verb?) over the elaborate sets and the music... it's time to tryyy defyyying gravityyyy... and the incredible, incredible performances, I couldn’t help but let my mind wander to the real people underneath the whole production. The people, just like you and I, who are below all the makeup and costumes and stage lights. And I must admit, I got a little emotional thinking about the journey they may have taken to end up on that stage.

It likely all began with a big, seemingly unlikely dream – a little girl twirling around in a tutu singing along to a Disney movie...

 Me, circa 1997, for the Laurel Ballet School's performance of  Sleeping Beauty.  

Me, circa 1997, for the Laurel Ballet School's performance of Sleeping Beauty. 

As that little girl grew up, she probably accumulated some cheerleaders – people telling her that she could accomplish anything she set her mind to. I’m sure she had a few negative voices in the mix – agents telling her she wasn’t pretty enough or teachers telling her she didn’t have what it takes - but she pushed those voices aside, gathered an insane amount of courage, and auditioned for the role of a lifetime. And she achieved what seemed like a one-in-a-million chance – she got the part.

Even just writing that imaginary story makes me a little teary (don’t worry… I know I’m a little bit crazy… I also cried during a speech by an actress I’ve never even heard of watching the Golden Globes last weekend). I can’t help but be excited – like jumping-up-and-down-acting-full-on-mental – to see others achieving their goals. Imagining the pride and gratitude they must feel to live out their fairytale each and every night... I’ve been there – well not there… I promise you don’t want to hear me sing – but there, having accomplished something that once felt so far away. I was so proud of these people I don’t even know!

And then, I let my mind wander to the aftermath...

Once they finish this tour, will they forget how far they’ve come?

Will they forget what it felt like to accomplish this lifelong dream?

Will they move on so quickly to wanting something else – something bigger and better?

We live in a world where contentment seems nearly impossible. We’ve trained ourselves to always be wanting, instead of resting in gratitude and a sense of accomplishment for even a moment. We may even feel guilty for the opportunities we’ve been given or for being proud of ourselves. We let the fear of not getting the next thing we want paralyze us with anxiety. We let tomorrow's concerns rob us of today's joy.

Imagine the excitement that little girl with a dream would have felt to see the grown up version of herself. Why not let her twirl and skip with an ear-to-ear smile on her face for just a minute?!

I know some people say don’t look back, but sometimes, just a moment of reflection can give us the perspective to enjoy the here and now and the courage we need to take the next step… again.

Happy Monday, friends! Make it a great week!

Slow-Mo Goal Setting and Loving Well

There's something about a New Year and the calendar rolling over to January 1st that gives me a massive burst of motivation. Maybe it's the feeling of leaving the past year behind and having a blank slate ahead full of possibility and promise. Or maybe it's my January birthday and journeying into a new age. Whatever it is, it makes me feel like I can conquer the world.

I've been making a mental list of things I want to do and be in 2015 for the past week, but this year, I'm trying something a little different. Instead of making it my life's mission to have my yearly goals completed as soon as humanly possible, I'm taking time to iron out those desires. To pray. To talk with good friends. To develop meaningful goals - goals that last and have an impact. 

Because the truth is, as my friend Lara Casey says...

 Image from LaraCasey.com

Image from LaraCasey.com

Sitting in a church service yesterday, the pastor said something that hit me like a punch to the gut. If my home is not open, my heart is not open. That phrase played over and over and over in my head. Inviting people into our lives - to dinner, to coffee, a phone call - isn't about the experience; it's about welcoming people into a relationship with you - to love them, to listen to them, to say you are important, and to be there for one another.

I keep being reminded over and over that life isn't about showing people the highlight reel via a pretty Instagram feed full of perfect children and beautiful homes and fairytale marriages. It's about sharing the nitty gritty. It's about not only listening, but truly hearing the person in front of you. It's about meeting people with grace and love, not judgement or selfishness. It's about being human. It's about letting your messy show and saying I'm not perfect and I don't have the answers, but I'm here. It's not about speaking eloquently or always saying the right thing but being present.

So even though I'm taking my sweet, sweet time with goal setting, there's one thing I know for sure about this year and every year from here on out:

I want to love people well.

My friends. My family. My husband. My clients. And myself. There's always enough time for a hug, a kind word, a hand-written note, a kiss, a listening ear, or a sacred moment of stillness - even when it feels like we don't have a second to spare. There's always, always time for love. We as humans are messy and imperfect, but love NEVER fails.


One of the tools I'm using for this year's goal setting is Lara's new book, Make It Happen: Surrender Your Fear, Take the Leap, Live on Purpose. Y'all - you have to read this book. I've already made it through one round, and I'm planning a second read to journal my way through it along with a small group of women. I encourage you to join me, and I'll be making a special announcement on our Instagram this afternoon, so follow Purpose Over Pride on Instagram and check it out!