elizabeth glessner

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

Presence... Not to be Confused with Presents | The Giving Series

How many times a day do we try multi-task under the guise of getting more things done?

And how many times does that multi-tasking take away from the people around us? 

Answering emails while talking on the phone? Check.

Listening to the latest Serial podcast while writing Christmas cards? Check.

Thinking of the grocery list while you're chatting with a friend at lunch? Check.

Even as I sat down to write this for all of you, I was watching episode 4 in the first season of Gilmore Girls (oh Netflix - you win all the prizes when it comes to best distractions). The society we live in tells us not to be still, not to accomplish less than 35,892,938 things per day, to check our phone constantly, to scroll Instagram all day to keep up with what is going on in the lives of people we only know on the Internet (or at best, folks we haven't put actual effort into speaking with in months or even years).

Now, do me a favor, and really think about this question: what would happen if we gave those in front of us the gift of being fully present?

If instead of checking Facebook, we actually put down the iPhone and truly listened to our husband tell us about his workday. If instead of paying bills while on the phone with a friend, we listened to her tell us about her dreams and ideas and responded with encouragement and thoughtful advice. If instead of getting caught up in what's next on the to-do list, we actually saw the person right in front of us and cherished that time with them.

How would it make the people with us feel? Probably pretty important. Loved. Heard. Respected.

How would it make us feel? Probably like a better friend/wife/mother/daughter. Less stressed. More grateful.

This quote by Jim Elliot is one of my all time favorites. It often rings in the back of my mind when I feel myself getting caught up in the whirlwind of distractions that comes with simply being alive.

Call me crazy, but I believe will all my heart that the gift of being fully present is one of the kindest, most respectful things we can do for a fellow human.

I want to be the best friend I can be to the people in my life - the person they can depend on to be a listening ear or give sound advice. I want to be a great wife - for my husband to know I'm in this with him - not on the sidelines only cheering when I hear something that sounds interesting to me. I want to be the person who sees someone who looks like they could use a smile and a kind word in the grocery store parking lot and asks how they are instead of being wholly consumed with me and where I need to go next.

For these next couple of weeks, I challenge you to do one of the most difficult things of all during this highly Instagrammable, Facebookeable, chaotic, to-do-list-a-mile-long holiday season: PUT THE PHONE DOWN. See the full picture - not just the 3x3 square image. Actually look people in the eyes as they speak to you. Tell them you love them. Smile at strangers in the mall. And give your fellow humans the best Christmas gift of all - better than expensive toys and Anthropologie clothes and power tools - your undivided attention, a present that only you can give.

Holiday Gift Guide | The Giving Series

Where has this year gone?! It seems like it was just summer, and now, Christmas is just a couple of weeks away. In the spirit of the season, over the next few weeks, Miranda and I will be doing a blog series on giving. Today, we're kicking it off with the most obvious way of giving - the kind of gifts that end up under the Christmas tree.

If you're like me and a bit of a procrastinator, you're still working on whittling down that shopping list. The older I get, the more gift giving becomes about the thoughtfulness of the present, no matter how big or small. In the chaos of the holiday season, it can be difficult to find the perfect gift, especially on a budget (hello financial freedom voices in my head telling me not to spend $$$). That's why I've put together a holiday gift guide of some of my favorite things to give and receive for under $30 (plus a little giveaway!):

  1. For the entrepreneur going in 15 different directions: Passion Planner ($25)
    Give a friend something to look forward to with this planner shipping in January 2015. Young designer Angelia Trinidad has created a place to keep track of your weekly schedule, while also providing tools to live your days with intention. Complete with a goal setting guide, motivational quotes, and a designated area for positive thoughts, it doesn't get any better than this.
  2. For the homeowner with a few empty walls: True Cotton prints via Etsy ($15 for 8x10)
    I am so obsessed with these local North Carolina made prints that I gifted them to my wedding clients this year, and I pretty much want to buy the entire store. Arin's watercolor quote prints are the perfect gift to pop into a frame and give to someone who could use a little dose of daily positivity. In fact, I love this print so much, that I'm giving one away! See details below.
  3. For the young reader who loves a good adventure: The Little Prince ($10 - paperback)
    "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
    Y'all - this is one of my ALL TIME FAVORITE books. Adapted from the French tale by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, this book is filled with nuggets of wisdom on love and life, for both older children and kids-at-heart.
  4. For the lifelong learner with no time to read: The Gifts of Imperfection ($9 on MP3 CD)
    According to my fellow featured contributor Miranda, this book by Dr. Brene Brown is a must read. Brown inspires readers (or listeners) to love ourselves just as we are. What better way to spend the daily commute than with a little pep talk?
  5. For the brother or sister with the epic t-shirt collection: Sevenly tees ($24+)
    Not only are these some of the most comfortable shirts on the planet, but they're also for a good cause. Each week features new designs to support a specific charity - such as this week's campaign for Girl Up, funding bicycles for girls in Malawi so they can get to school safely. For each item purchased, $7 benefits the featured charity of the week.
  6. For your friend who never takes time for herself: Paris Tea and an ABD mug ($30)
    Nothing motivates me to curl up on the couch under my Pottery Barn blanket and just relax like a good mug o' tea. These tea sachets by Harney & Sons are my favorite - they make your tea seem so fancy, and I just love a great mug, like this motivational one by Ashley Brooke Designs.
  7. For the sleep-deprived, love-filled new momma: Lara Casey's Life Handbook ($16)
    I can't imagine giving an adult child anything more thoughtful than this treasure. The Life Handbook provides places to write advice for your child, letters to them for specific occasions (such as a graduation or wedding), and little tips for navigating life.

To enter the giveaway, simply comment below (or on Facebook or Instagram) with the most thoughtful gift you've ever given or received. Entries must be received by 11 p.m. EST on Sunday, December 14, 2014. The winner will receive a 5x7 gratitude print by True Cotton!