When doing the brave thing means going home

We’re often called to step outside of our comfort zones, which sometimes means physically moving to entirely new places without knowing how long we’ll be there.

And then sometimes we’re called back home.

When I moved out to California a little more than a year and a half ago, I had no idea what was in store for me. I simply knew that God was calling me out here, and I didn’t know what else to do but to trust that He had something planned that I didn’t know about yet but would soon find out. There were certainly moments of doubt and fears and uncertainties when I first got out here, but He constantly reminded me that He was in control, and I didn’t need to worry about anything. More than once, I heard His voice assure me of a truth that has always been true but became much more real in my life since leaving Dallas.

Trust Me—I’ve never once failed you, and I won’t start letting you down now.

I mean, how could I not love it here?

Truth be told, I’ve loved my time in Orange County. The beach is my place of peace, and there’s so much nature surrounding you and so many wonderful things to do outside (I LOVE hiking and walks on the boardwalk). Sure, the culture is much different than what I was always accustomed to in Dallas, but it’s good to be exposed to lifestyles that aren’t the same as ours. But even after making some lifelong friends and trying to make California feel more like an actual home, it’s never felt that way. Despite people welcoming me into their lives (and me sometimes inviting myself in), I’ve still always felt like an outsider. I tried to convince myself that I could live here forever, but I think somewhere in my heart was always the longing to be back in Dallas with my family and all of my people.

Back in November, I started feeling pretty homesick. I remembered that same feeling the year before, so I told myself that it was just the holiday season stirring up some emotions, and I simply needed to get through the next couple of months to feel normal again. But I think that I knew deep down that there was more to it than that. There was an ache for my family that I had never felt so strongly, and there was a tugging at my heart telling me to go back home.

Home—where we’ve always been told is where are hearts are.

I did the only thing that made sense to me: I prayed. And then I reached out to some of my trusted prayer warriors so that they could pray alongside me, as well. I still didn’t feel a complete peace about anything yet, though. I didn’t know what to do, and I didn’t want to let emotions cause me to make a decision that didn’t need to be made yet. Uprooting my life in California and moving back across the country wasn’t exactly a simple thing that I could undo if I thought it was the wrong choice, so I wanted to make sure that those feelings were valid and meant something more.

I’ll never forget the morning when everything became completely clear to me. I was at work and had too much on my mind at the time. I felt overly conflicted and stressed, and I silently cried out to the only One who could help me.

“God, I need You to tell me what to do. When You called me out to California, You made it completely clear that it’s what I was supposed to do. I need You to do that again. I need You to let me know if I’m supposed to go back to Dallas now or if I’m just feeling a bunch of emotions. Please just show me exactly what You want me to do.”

Less than two hours later, I was reading Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst (a book I highly recommend, by the way) at lunch, when everything became so entirely real and true, and all of the haze and confusion from the past few weeks disappeared. There’s a part in the book when Lysa is trying to talk herself into jumping from a pole in one of those obstacle things in which you’re harnessed in and attempting to grab a bar hanging in the air after your leap. Her feet weren’t moving, so her friend Bob Goff (also another amazing author) came alongside her and finally said the thing that gave her the courage she had been trying to find all along: “You’re absolutely loved. Whenever you’re ready, jump.”

As soon as I read that line, I once again heard that voice that has guided me and comforted me through so much already: There’s your answer, my sweet girl. It’s time.

There was suddenly a quietness that came over me, and I breathed out all of the anxieties that had been haunting me for those past few weeks. If I’m being perfectly honest, though, there was also a little bit of fear inside of me. It wasn’t fear about having to start over yet again or leaving behind some pretty incredible people and a beautiful place of sunshine and beach days. Rather, it was a fear of failure. Did moving home mean that I wasn’t capable of living in a world of the unknown all by myself? Had I let myself down? Was it childish and wimpy to move home just because I missed my people and my place?

But then I had to stop. And breathe. And thank God again. And trust Him. I hadn’t failed. I had done the hard thing, and I had lived through it. I had enjoyed it. I had grown and learned and gained community and healed and led others and become humbled and discovered truths I had never known.

Like LeAnn Rimes, I’m staring out into the great unknown.

So much has happened in my life since I moved out to California, and I started to reflect on how God had worked in my heart and changed it in tremendous ways. As I sat in church a few weekends after that moment of clarity, I began wondering why it is I had been out here for the time I was, and then I heard that calming voice again: I’ve been training and equipping you, and now you’re ready. I don’t know exactly what that means for what’s ahead of me, but I do know that I’m excited (or “stoked,” as some of my Cali people say). I know what it looks like to be brave, and I want to live that way every chance I get.

There are a great deal of unknowns right now, and that’s OK. I didn’t meet the man who will be my forever guy while I was out here (sorry for those of you who were hoping for that), and my career future is definitely still a mystery (especially since I’m walking away from a job I love and some truly incredible coworkers), but I know and trust that He knows what He’s doing. It’s going to be tough to leave my people here, and I have no clue what the future holds, but I know Who holds it, and I’m thankful that He’s taking me back to Texas to be closer to Mare and Skipper and Steffie Robyn and Broski and Teddy and Katie and Livs and Evie and so many others.

We all have different paths and journeys we take in life, and they won’t all look the same. They shouldn’t. In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy said the following: “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.” I don’t completely agree with that, though. I think that sometimes you have to allow yourself to step outside of your comfort zone to learn and grow and become the person you were always meant to be. It might lead you right back to your backyard, but at least you stepped out to somewhere new and allowed yourself to be braver than you thought you could be.

Dorothy was right about the “no place like home” thing, though.

Because change and failure are inevitable

You often hear people say that change is hard—and it certainly is at times—but I think there are moments when you feel its impacts more powerfully than you thought possible.

Like when you’re at a roller skating rink.

It’s been raining an absurd amount in Orange County lately, and I’m not a fan at all. I require much more sunshine and far less humidity and wetness than we’ve experienced in the past month or so in order to function properly. I usually like to do things outside on the weekends (like hang out at the beach, go hiking in the canyons, ride the ferry and walk around Balboa Island, etc.), but those outdoor activities have been rather limited recently.

Sk8er girlz

My friend Monique and I had originally planned to go on a walk on the boardwalk Saturday, but constant downpours prevented that from happening. We were trying to decide what to do, and I suggested that we hit up a local roller skating rink. I mean, what else would two single girls do on such a dreary Saturday than put on some roller skates and relive the glory days of youth? I’ve actually gone to quite a few in my adult years, but it had definitely been a while, and I figured that it would be a fun thing to do on a rainy weekend day.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one who thought so. The place was PACKED. I don’t recall ever seeing a line out the door at any roller rink—at least not in any year after 1994 or so—so Monique and I were a little perplexed when we had to park in the parking lot next door because of the zero spots available in the rink’s lot and then wait much longer than 28 seconds to be at the front of the line.

Once we actually got inside, we immediately felt crammed. It was almost tough to breathe because there was practically no space anywhere. We laced up our rented skates in a clustered area with humid air that had the stench of a high school football locker room. When we finally got out on the rink, the process of skating was complicated by the multiple people (both adults and children) using PVC roller skating trainers to keep them from falling. To be honest, though, I really think those things made it more dangerous for everyone else.

I just landed a triple axel.

As I skated a few laps outside of the lines that the rink “referees” very strictly enforced as off-limits territory, I looked around and realized how much has changed since I was a kid. For starters, the PVC skating frame things were killing me. How are we supposed to learn if we never let ourselves fall? I understand that people don’t want to get hurt and break bones and whatnot, but can you really get that injured from falling on a surface similar to that of a gym floor. I don’t want to criticize anyone, but I also think that people are becoming too soft and overly cautious. Falling is part of life, and if you never let yourself get rid of training wheels and skating frames and bowling bumpers, you’re never going to allow yourself to grow and take chances that lead to greater things than you ever could have imagined.

Then there were the arcade games. None of them even accepts quarters. Instead, you have to have a card that you scan in order to activate the games. Maybe it’s because not many people carry cash or change around with them anymore, but it was so strange to see that putting coins in the machines wasn’t even an option. I didn’t get to play the claw game that grabs stuffed animals (I used to be really good at that one back in the day) because I wasn’t willing to go find out where and how to get one of the digital cards. I did happen to have two quarters in my pocket, though, because the lockers only take quarters to lock and get the keys out—but, unfortunately, those Washingtons are apparently useless in the arcade section.

I’m sad to admit that we didn’t last very long at the rink.

Later that day, I began thinking about how much has changed over the years—in society, in our entire world, in childhood experiences, and in my own life. Some changes are really great and easy to embrace. Others cause us emotions that aren’t so joyous and leave us anxious or upset in more ways than one. However we end up feeling as a result of those changes, though, doesn’t prevent them from happening and engraining themselves into our lives.

Trying to break into a cabinet—just a typical Friday.

And I also couldn’t stop thinking about failing and why we’re so afraid of it. I certainly don’t like failing. Just ask my coworker Barry, whose desk cabinet I tried to pick lock last Friday. He had locked his computer and coffee in there and left the key at his house, and I told him that I could get it open. I know how to pick lock a door, and I’ve opened cabinets before, as well, but this one was giving me more of a challenge than I expected. I spent nearly an hour working on that thing (I swear I’m actually a productive employee) and wasn’t able to get it open.

I felt like a complete failure—I had let both Barry and myself down.

My coworker Jim made me feel a little better later when he took a look at my unlocked cabinet and assured me that the lock was actually more complex and had some special bar, so you would essentially have to break the whole thing to get it open without the key. When I had originally suggested the breaking thing prior to speaking to Jim, Barry didn’t like the idea of me vandalizing company property. (Thankfully, his son brought him the key later in the day, so it all ended up being OK.)

I didn’t succeed at picking the lock, and I lost a bobby pin and paperclip in the process. It can also be argued that I lost an hour of work productivity, but I justified it because I think it’s important to help our friends when they need it. I’m pretty sure my boss would agree (and that’s what we’re going to continue to believe). I’m glad that I at least tried, though, even though I wasn’t completely positive of what the outcome would be going into it.

I’ve definitely had my fair share of worries and fears hold me back in the past from going after changes and things that might result in rejection or failure. I don’t want to live like that anymore, though. I want to be willing to step outside of my comfort zones and adapt to changes and learn from failures. I’ve actually had many changes in my life over the last few years, and there are certainly more on the way. I think they’ve been good for me, and I want to continue to be able to adapt to them and know that, no matter what happens, God has a plan that’s better than anything I could conjure up in my head.

And I want to know that I’m living as bravely as I can and learning from the times when I fall. Just because you fall down doesn’t mean that you’re down forever—it simply means that you’ve been given the opportunity to rise back up, dust yourself off, and give it another go.

Change is tough. Failure is probably even tougher. But they’re both inevitable. You’ll face change at some point in your life, and you’ll also fail at some point. Maybe change and failure both happen at the same time, which really isn’t a fun situation. They’re both huge aspects of life, though, and you simply have to learn how to deal with them. Sometimes you have to throw the PVC skating trainers to the side and go at it without so much hesitation. It’s how little kids learn to crawl and then walk—they fall, and then they get right back up and try again later.

I hope that you’re letting yourself learn to be comfortable with the changes you face and the failures that are possibilities in your life. The chance of failure means that there’s also the chance of success. You won’t always make it around the rink without a stumble or two, and that’s OK. The next lap could be the best one you’ve ever taken. But you won’t know unless you’re willing to get out there again and take a chance or two with the risk of failure still hanging in the air. Take on those opportunities and changes without fear—you’re braver than you think and worth believing that you’re capable of great things.

And you might find that you’re able to roll with the changes and setbacks much more boldly.

When you let tunnel vision blind you

The ocean is so vast and incredible and filled with more species of sea animals than most of us could ever imagine.

Yet, for some reason, we often only allow ourselves to focus on one.

I went whale watching over the weekend, which is something I’ve wanted to do pretty much since I moved out here about a year and a half ago. I really wanted to see some dolphins, and I guess seeing whales would be kind of cool, too. I mean, they’re rather beastly creatures, and witnessing their grandeur up close sounded like an intimidatingly fascinating idea.

They’re my kind of people.

It’s been a bit cold in Southern California lately. I realize that there are so many other parts of the country suffering much chillier temperatures, but I’m not in the business of comparison—it’s cold here for what we’re accustomed to, so I’m going to stick with my statement. I knew that it was going to be even colder out on the water, so I did my best to bundle up and prepare for whatever was in store for me for the next few hours.

I’m glad that I wore four layers—they still weren’t enough, though. The spray from the ocean water made it even worse (remember the drink Ocean Spray?? Maybe someone who went on a whale watching excursion came up with that), and I’m so grateful that my friend Jose let me borrow his gloves toward the end of our time on the water. Regardless of how cold it felt out there, it was an adventure that I’m grateful I got to take. I was able to spend an afternoon with some wonderful people I get to have as friends in my life as we took part in a quest to find and see the beautiful phenomenon of giant ocean creatures in their natural habitat.

And I was reminded that we’re so often chasing after things that may or may not be meant for us to the point that we don’t pay attention to what’s actually right in front of us.

I never actually saw Dustin, but I heard his voice quite a bit. He was our tour guide, and I think he was driving the boat. I’m not actually sure. I just trusted that someone who knew what he or she was doing was behind the wheel (or the helm, for all of you nautical type). But Dustin was the one telling us about the differences between seals and sea lions and informing us where the whales were and our strategies for making sure that we would get to see them. There was even a drone sent out from the boat to get better shots and also to help us find the path the whales were taking.

I don’t see any whales, bro.

We never saw the whales up close. We saw them blowing air from the water from a distance, but I still haven’t seen a whale in real life. On the way to try to see them, though, we saw quite a few bottlenose dolphins—and my heart soared. I honestly cared more about seeing dolphins than whales, so it was a special moment having a front row seat as they swam right in front of the boat. I really wanted to see them jump out of the water—I’m a product of romcoms and happy endings, people, so I want the fairy tale fantasy stuff—but it didn’t happen. Still, it was a breathtaking few minutes of my life.

Dustin let us see the dolphins but then kind of brushed them aside to remind us that we needed to go farther out in the water to see the whales. I understand that the thing is called a whale watching tour, so it was important to stick to the task at hand. At the same time, though, we were missing some true greatness that was right before us because we were so focused on pursuing something that we would never actually obtain.

And it was in that moment that I realized that I’ve done that far too many times—I’ve chased the things that are fleeting and missed out on some beautiful opportunities that were directly in front of me.

I think that it’s important to go wholeheartedly after your dreams and remain determined to achieve your goals. However, I think it’s also important to acknowledge the wonderful chances you’re given along the way. Maybe you’re meant to reach what you’re striving for so passionately—but maybe you aren’t. You might be going after a whale when you’re actually meant to encounter dolphins, instead.

There will be trials you face along the way—whether it’s the spray of the ocean, the gusts of wind that knock your breath out of your lungs, the bad breath of the sea lions that makes you want to hurl (whether you took Dramamine or not), or the loss of circulation in your extremities (thanks a lot, Raynaud’s)—and those are times when you have to remind yourself why you’re there in the first place and that you can do hard things.

And it’s also when you need to remind yourself that there is beauty and wonder outside of your tunnel vision.

I saw the same amount of whales on my hike as on the tour.

I’ve definitely had my fair share of times when I allowed tunnel vision to take over and cloud my sight of everything else around me because I was chasing whales I’d never actually reach. And don’t you know that some of those whales were guys who caused me to ignore many dolphin guys around me? I did it frequently with running, too. I would focus solely on the big accomplishments and PRs so much that I would miss the little victories that didn’t happen on race day that I was gaining along the way.

I want to make sure that I’m more aware of the dolphins all around me and that I don’t simply focus on the whales that I may or may not ever see. It’s great to have goals, and I hope that you achieve all of yours, but it’s also beneficial to notice all of the greatness that surrounds you that may not be what you initially think is best for you.

Because sometimes you’ll set out on a quest for whales and not find what you think you’re looking for—but perhaps the dolphins you encounter were what you were meant to find all along.

Because sometimes it’s better not to think

I’m a pretty passionate person about matters of the heart.

Especially when the heart leads you to make decisions that your head shouldn’t be deciding.

One day last week at work, my coworker and I had been working on something together, and he sent me some content to review. I made my revisions and told him that I would send it to the final person who needed to see it when I thought it was good to go. I fired it off not too long after that and let him know, and when I passed by him a few minutes later, the following exchange occurred.

Me: I sent it to him.
Him: Oh, you didn’t think very long.
Me: I didn’t need to think.
Him: Sometimes the best decisions are made that way.

Ohhhhhhh. That’s a good word, sir.

I know that this situation had to do with something at work and didn’t involve any life-altering decisions or anything like that, but what he said is so true and applicable to so many other areas of life. If you think about it, thinking about something for too long can actually ruin a decision. Like my buddy said, sometimes the best decisions are made without really thinking much—because they’re made based on what the heart feels is the best thing to do.

My friend Bear didn’t need to think about spending $27 on candy. She just did it. Genius.

There are many decisions in life that need a good amount of thought put into them. I mean, just the other day, I was with my friend Bear at an acai bowl place and had to take some time thinking about which bowl was best to get that morning. It was important to consider the ingredients and the level of satisfaction that I felt each bowl would bring me. After a couple minutes of careful thought, I made a truly wonderful decision that made my taste buds and my heart very happy.

But not everything requires you to stand in front of a menu board and analyze every aspect of every option—because sometimes you simply have to go for it without thinking.

I’d like to give a super real example from Gilmore Girls. When Rory Gilmore was trying to decide between Harvard and Yale, she made a pros and cons list. She had always dreamed of going to Harvard before she ever even visited it, but after visiting both Harvard and Yale, her heart felt more drawn to Yale. She let fears get in the way of that feeling, though, and she then tried to think about her decision too much. Lorelai ended up having to step in to make her daughter realize that she actually wanted to go to Yale more, which meant that that was the school she should choose.

This clearly involved no thought whatsoever.

I know that sometimes when we decide with our hearts or go with our gut instincts those choices don’t always end up being the best ones for us—especially when they’re choices we make because we’re blinded by feelings we have for people—but sometimes they do. And taking chances is often the only way to find out. Risks can be scary, but they can also result in some pretty incredible things.

And taking chances actually isn’t as frightening when you don’t overthink them.

I watch the NBA All-Star Game every year, and I kept that tradition alive over the weekend. The game usually involves almost a negative amount of defense, so the score is always ridiculously high (this year, Team LeBron beat Team Giannis 178-164). Despite that, it’s still a lot of fun to watch because the players are jacking up insane shots and putting on some circus-like spectacles. It’s not like baseball was up until a couple of years ago, where the game actually mattered and had home-field advantage implications during the World Series, so the players are simply having fun the entire time and putting on a show for their audience. They’re not thinking a ton—they’re just enjoying themselves and taking chances that they might not necessarily take in normal game situations.

And those chances often leave Reggie Miller saying “ooooohhhhhhh” and “daaaaaaaannngggggg” right along with the rest of us watching from home and begging for the replay.

You never have to think twice about enjoying life with forever friends.

I realize that we were given brains for a reason and that it’s good to use them. But we were also given very powerful hearts that often need to overpower the things that our brains are telling us to do. If I listened to my brain rather than my heart most of the time, I don’t think that I’d be the person I am today. I think that I would be much more fearful and much more cautious—two things I simply don’t want to be. I know what it feels like to be rejected and to have my heart broken as a result of going with my heart and not my brain. But I wouldn’t change those decisions. They’re the ones my coworker was talking about when he said that sometimes the best decisions are made without thinking.

Because if you’re constantly thinking and never simply letting your heart lead the way, how will you let yourself grow and fail and love and realize how brave you actually are?

I hope that you let yourself take chances without thinking about them too much. I hope that you let yourself pursue your dreams without always making pros and cons lists. I hope that you let yourself love others completely in big ways.

And I hope that you never let yourself think that you aren’t brave enough to take risks that come straight from your heart.

Because it’s nice to be thought of sometimes

Because I really love people and am fascinated by their stories and personalities, I sometimes I listen in on their conversations that don’t necessarily directly involve me.

Especially in elevators.

One day last week, I was on my way back up to the office after lunch, and the two women in the elevator with me were talking about a little note that her husband had written her and stuck in her purse that morning without her knowing it. It was simply a quick “Go kick today’s a$*. I love you!” note, but it seemed like a really sweet gesture to me. The woman’s friend agreed and said something that stuck with me.

It’s always nice to be thought of.

This is way old, but I love these sibs of mine.

As I stepped off of the elevator, that phrase resonated with me for a bit. She’s right—it’s truly comforting to know that someone out there is thinking of you and lets you know about it. I recently had something I had to face that gave me a bit of anxiety, and the morning of that day, both my brother and sister texted me to wish me luck and to let me know that they were thinking of me and love me. It touched my heart more than they likely knew, and it helped to ease some of my worries knowing that I had their love and support from afar.

As humans, we’re pretty sensitive creatures, so the opposite is true, as well: It can hurt when people don’t think of us or don’t reach out to show us that they care. Whether it’s our friends or family members or coworkers or those for whom we have deep feelings, the individuals in our lives can impact our moods and our hearts when it feels like they don’t truly care about us simply because they aren’t investing time and energy into showing us how much we mean to them.

I was so sad when Ashley moved to Nebraska, but I’m so thankful for our weekly phone dates.

I believe that you make time for the things that you want to make time for in life, and I think that’s why it means so much to me when people reach out and show that they care—because they’re taking time to remind you that they were thinking of you. They’re taking time to remind you that it’s nice to be thought of, and they want you to feel the joy from that. They’re taking time to stop whatever they’re doing to remind you that you’re loved.

And they’re taking time to invest in you.

I know that I sometimes need to be better about this. I try to check up on people as often as I can, but I want to make sure that I’m doing more to show them that they are thought of and that they matter. It’s such a big and crazy world, and it’s easy to feel like you’re lost in the shuffle and just yet another face in the crowd.

But please remember that you’re not just anyone or anything—you are unique you, and you are valued and loved, no matter how many people remind you that they’re thinking of you.

My sister gets me.

That’s certainly one thing that I’ve had to let myself focus more on over the years, because people are not always going to reciprocate my thoughts and feelings. There have been a number of guys who haven’t felt the way I feel about them, and they didn’t exactly remind me that they were thinking of me—probably because they weren’t. And that’s OK.

Yes, it’s always nice to be thought of, but it’s also not a requirement to my identity and sufficiency.

I hope that people remind you that they’re thinking of you, and I hope that it brings a smile to your face each time. But I also hope that you find joy and an immeasurable amount of smiles in the fact that you are already loved more than you’ll ever know.

I was running on the boardwalk recently, and this guy on a bike came alongside me and said “it’s a lot easier on a bike.” I kind of laughed and said “right, sometimes. I like a challenge. Also, you’re very attractive.” And then I picked up my pace and wove through the suddenly crowded sidewalk as he got a little trapped. (So I guess it’s not always easier on a bike, huh?) The fella didn’t chase after me, and I never saw him again.

I took this after running from the guy I called attractive.

After I did that, I laughed a little because I never would have been so candid like that years ago, which led me to reflect again on the notion of being thought of by people, specifically guys in my past. I normally didn’t immediately express my feelings of attraction for them, so my little confession to the biker prompted these thoughts of how I used to place way too much emphasis on what they thought of me and how often they would text me or talk to me or whatever.

As I kept running, I kept reminding myself that none of that actually matters, and it still won’t matter with any guy in the future. My worth isn’t in those guys or their levels of interest. Whether they think of me and let me know or not really isn’t that important. If they don’t care enough to show me, well, I think Ariana Grande said it best: “Thank u, next.”

And, while it’s always nice to be thought of, you’re enough as you are with or without those affirmations.

Because you’re perfectly capable of making your own decisions

We’re all faced with more choices that we can count every day, whether they are life-changing decisions or simply options of whether or not to click all of the buttons to finalize that Amazon purchase.

But our individual choices all have one thing in common: They’re ours to make.

When I was a teacher, I truly loved my job, but it wasn’t because of the curriculum I wrote or the lesson plans I created or the grading I did—it was because I got to see students learn in their own unique ways and apply what they had learned in real-world situations. Yes, it made me genuinely happy when they improved their skills in the classroom, but it brought my heart even more joy when they were able to experience and benefit from the lessons they learned about life.

The truth is that we all learn differently, and we all need to go through different things and create different solutions that maybe wouldn’t be used by everyone around us. There’s nothing wrong with that. I think that sometimes you need to do what makes the most sense to you, even if others think you’re crazy or going about a situation entirely the wrong way.

There’s not always just one way.

Perks of trips to Texas: runs with my precious Jenger.

Over the weekend, I was in Texas with my family, and I came across a predicament of sorts. I had been at my sister’s house and was sitting on her couch and working on my computer while she took a little nap. I had a blanket wrapped around my legs because I’m apparently not a normal mammal and am very cold-blooded, but then my mom called me to ask me to go over to my parents’ house, so I got up and left. As I was driving over there, I noticed that my black leggings were covered in linty fuzz stuff from the blanket.

Side note: I agree with Gina Linetti’s suggestion that we always speak in emojis—I would insert the eye-rolling one or the face-to-palm girl right now.

I figured that my parents wouldn’t have a lint roller (they didn’t), so I asked if I could use some tape, instead. I began putting strips of masking tape all up and down my legs, and both of my parents questioned my tactic. My dad said that I simply needed to blot my pants with one strip of tape, while my mom suggested rolling tape into a ball and then rolling that down my legs. I didn’t like either of their ideas, so I opted for my own path on that one. (I’m pretty sure I owe my dad a new roll of tape now, though.)

Here’s the thing: My way wasn’t either of their ways, but it worked, and I was happy with my choice.

See? It’s effective and quite stylish.

Sure, my way might have cost more tape and taken longer, but that’s OK. I needed to do things my way in that situation—I needed to be reminded that it’s good to listen to your own heart and to be confident with your choices. Sometimes you’ll be right, and sometimes you’ll be wrong. Either way, you’ll have gained an experience that kept you in the moment and helped you to grow in one way or another.

I realize that there are much more serious things we all face in life other than fuzz on your favorite pants. There are both big and small decisions we have to make on a daily basis—do you take that job, send that text, run that red light, answer that call, move to that new place, order that shirt, order the burger or the wrap, accept that offer, wear this outfit or that one, watch that movie, attend that conference, buy those tickets, talk to that guy? SO MANY DECISIONS.

And they’re your decisions to make.

I’ve been trying more so lately not to let too many people’s opinions sway my judgment. While I don’t care what people think about me, I occasionally ask their thoughts regarding what I should do in certain situations more often than I should or would even prefer. While it’s sometimes good to seek wise counsel on certain matters, it’s also important to be able to do what you think you should do—because that’s who you are. So be you, and do the things you would advise yourself or someone else to do.

We made the decision to karaoke. It was clearly a very wise choice.

I think that it’s also important not to judge other people for the decisions they make or who they are as individuals. We’re certainly not going to agree with everyone, and we’re going to see people handle their situations differently than we would handle them if we were in their positions. But we’re not, and those aren’t are calls to make. We need to be able to find the balance of when our opinions are needed and when they’re not—because we often give our opinions simply because we think we know more than we do or are more capable than others when, in actuality, we need to stop telling others how to live their lives.

Don’t be afraid to make decisions, whether big or small. They’re definitely not always fun to make, but they’re part of learning and growing and becoming who you are. And don’t stress too much about what other people will think of your decisions—focus on what you think of your decisions.

Because some of the best decisions are made when you let your heart lead the way.

When you let yourself believe that you’re beautiful

I’ve always loved Target, but now it’s become an even more special place to me.

Because it’s a place where you can remind others just how beautiful and loved they are.

I was at the remarkable store the other day in the travel-sized items area because I know my priorities and needed a mini can of hairspray to have in my purse at all times. I started looking through my purse to make sure that I had enough toothpaste still left in there, as well, and then I lingered even longer when I started listening more intently to the conversation two teenage girls were having near me.

They were talking about an upcoming school dance they were about to have, and one of the girls (I’m going to name her Kirsten) was asking her friend (let’s go with Shelby) if she was going with some guy. The ensuing conversation went down right there at the end of the aisle of heartache and insecurity.

Shelby: No, I don’t think so.
Kirsten: Why not? You know you want to.
Shelby: Because he’s probably gonna go with Mykala. He was flirting with her a lot yesterday at lunch, and she’s so pretty. He doesn’t like me.
Kirsten: (says not-so-nice comments about Mykala that I’m not going to repeat
)

My heart broke. Did Shelby think that she wasn’t pretty enough to go with this boy? And Kirsten forgot to remind Shelby how beautiful she is and provide her with a bit of affirmation. I obviously needed to say something.

As I walked by them, I paused and said to Shelby: “You’re beautiful and should ask him, anyway.” And, even though she initially gave me one of those “I don’t want you all up in my business” looks and then muttered a sheepish “thanks,” I hope it encouraged her even just a little. (Yes, I do realize that it’s not always my place to jump in on other people’s conversations, but sometimes I do it—just ask anyone in my building who’s ever been in the elevator with me.)

I remember being Shelby’s age and feeling the same way she feels—like the other girls were prettier, and there was no way that any guy was ever going to want to go to a dance with me or date me. That’s why I always kept my crushes hidden (except for that one time I didn’t, and the guy I liked at the time wanted to make fun of me for having a crush on him). It caused me pain to hear the unhopeful tone in her voice as she told her friend that the guy she likes doesn’t feel the same way.

Charlie Brown was so right: “There’s nothing like unrequited love to drain all the flavor out of a peanut butter sandwich.”

And that was right after good ol’ Chuck had told his best buddy Linus that the Little Red-Haired Girl didn’t notice him because he was “nothing.” Oy. WHY MUST YOU BREAK MY HEART, CHARLIE BROWN? I hope that Shelby doesn’t think of herself the same way that sweet CB sees himself.

Monique is obviously gorgeous on the outside but also has such a beautiful heart.

It’s hard not to feel that way sometimes, though. I can think of too many times when I felt like I wasn’t good enough or pretty enough or popular enough or whatever enough to have even the slimmest chances to end up with the guys I liked in high school. And I wish that it had ended there—but it didn’t. I spent more years in college and in my 20s still thinking that I was lacking all of the things a young woman needed to catch the eye of any fella. I was eating nothing but bland peanut butter sandwiches.

And then something changed in my heart, which eventually helped to change my mind. I wish that I could say that those doubts never returned, but I’m a human woman, and they have a tendency to resurface every once in a while. I’ve gotten a lot better about getting rid of those thoughts, though, and replacing them with affirmations of who I am, rather than what I’m not.

My friend Monique gave me some solid advice recently. We were talking about something completely different, but I’m going to start applying it to almost every area of my life.

“If one of your nieces told you this, what would you say to her?”

I hope that sweet Evie always smiles when she sees her reflection.

If Olivia or Evie ever tried to tell me that she saw herself in a negative way or that she wasn’t good enough for someone, I would immediately refute those lies and replace them with the truth of how wonderfully made she is and how precious and valued she is. I would tell either of them: “Don’t talk about my niece that way.” (Thank you to my friend Ana for telling our book club that her husband always says “don’t talk about my wife that way” when she says something negative about herself.)

And maybe that’s something that we should say to ourselves more often: Don’t talk about myself that way.

I hope that Shelby got the courage to ask that boy to the dance. And, even if she didn’t, I hope that she eventually believes that she is beautiful and enough as she is, regardless of whether or not some guy feels the same way about her that she feels about him.

I hope that you know that your worth isn’t determined by what other people think, either. You have your own unique gifts and your own unique look, and you’re beautiful as you are. Don’t let anyone take that away from you.

And please don’t ever get the same mindset as our friend Charlie Brown and think that you’re nothing—you’re more something special than you may know, and I hope that your peanut butter sandwich always has an abundance of flavor.

Because you’re worth living fully and taking chances

Time seems to go by really quickly, even when some of the days feel far too long.

Especially when you’re old(ish).

There’s some 10-year challenge that’s been trending on social media, so I’ve seen a lot of posts lately of split-screen pictures showing what people looked like back in 2009. While I didn’t jump on board that ship, it did get me thinking about how quickly 10 years go by. It doesn’t feel like I graduated college almost 12 years ago, but I did. It doesn’t even feel like I’ve been living in California for a year and a half, but I have.

I’m 34, and my favorite drink is Capri Sun.

I don’t remember thinking time was flying by when I was younger, but I was also too busy focusing on trying to grow up too fast. Some moments stick with us forever, and others become distant memories that we don’t recall as well as we might prefer. Some things we want to remember; others we wish we could forget. But each one of those moments has helped us to get to where we are right now and to become the people we are today.

I’m 34, and I often joke about the fact that I’m officially old. It’s like my body decided to start reminding me of my age when I hit 30—if you don’t stretch before breathing, everything’s going to hurt. The truth is, though, I’m really only older than I used to be, which doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m old. Maybe that whole “age is just a number” saying is true. Or there’s that one about only being as old as you feel. I’m not sure about that one sometimes, though, because that would make me 77 some days.

I often like to live like I’m still a kid. No, I can’t go completely rogue and ignore all of my responsibilities that are part of adulting, but I love the carefree attitudes of kids and the inherent ability they all seem to have to be able to find joy in almost any situation. I mean, my sweet niece Olivia was having crazy fun “dropping” (her word for throwing, apparently) toys behind her bed while we were FaceTiming over the weekend. When did stuff like that stop being so enjoyable for some of us?

These gems help keep me hip.

Another thing that I think we often lose as we get older is that special boldness to do and say what we want. Sure, there are some shy little kids who sometimes try to hide behind their parents’ legs, but even they usually start to come out of their shells after a few minutes of becoming familiar with their surroundings and the people there with them.

The other day, I was sitting on the shore, and there were a few little kids near me. One of those big ugly sea birds landed on the sand, and I didn’t really pay attention to it. I don’t like birds much. The kids, however, suddenly took off running straight toward the bird, laughing uncontrollably as they did. It was quite entertaining to watch—that bird wanted nothing to do with them, but they didn’t care at all. They were caught up in the moment and were enjoying every single second of it.

I realize that everything is much simpler when you’re that young and don’t fully understand much of the world around you. Yes, there are times in life that are full of struggle and pain and heartache and tears and so many feelings and stuff that feels like more than you can handle—and none of that should be ignored. It’s important to acknowledge reality and what you’re going through and the emotions that start to build up inside of you, but I think that it’s also good to live like a kid every once in a while and not focus on all of the “what ifs” and potential outcomes and, instead, just run straight toward what your heart desires.

What would that look like in your life? Would that mean chasing a dream that you’ve been afraid to pursue? Telling someone how you feel? Opening your heart to love? Taking a trip or journey that you’ve wanted to take but simply haven’t yet?

Me to a stranger: Will you take a picture of me flexing?

Why do we often overthink things without just doing them? It sometimes makes a lot more sense to run after the ugly sea bird without giving it a second thought. I know that I don’t want to look back at moments in my life and wonder what might have happened if I had simply been just a little bit braver—“If Only” isn’t the Hanson song that I want to describe my life. The years truly do go by so quickly, and I want to live them fully and without hesitation. I want to know that the wrinkles I’m eventually going to have are worth every single smile and every single laugh because I was able to enjoy the precious moments I’ve been able to experience.

I hope that the next time you compare pictures of yourself from years apart you see someone who has grown in tremendous ways yet still has that youthful belief that truly anything is possible. Because it is. I hope that you see someone who is bold and is confident in who you are. I hope that you see someone who knows that you’re enough and lives with the truth that you’re worth people’s time and love.

And I hope that you see someone who takes chances and doesn’t let moments pass by when they’re right there in front of you.

When you realize that you’re worth fighting for yourself

If you ever were to ask me where a lot of my inspiration comes from, I’d tell you that it’s quite often from little kids.

They’re such geniuses and probably don’t even know it.

I was in Texas over the weekend for a visit with family and some friends I haven’t been able to see in a while. Much of my time was spent with my nieces—those two little girls have captured my heart more than I thought anyone ever could.

Olivia was excited to show off her food.

I babysat Olivia and Evie on Saturday night so that my brother and sister-in-law could have a nice date night out together. The girls and I watched football (we won’t discuss the outcome of the Cowboys game right now—it’s still too soon), and after Olivia saw me eating Wheat Thins with my dinner, she later grabbed the box and ate them while we were watching the game. I’ve clearly taught her well. Prior to the disaster that occurred at LA Memorial Coliseum that night, Olivia (who is almost 2 1/2) was playing with everything in site while Evie (a little more than 8 months) sat and watched in glee and occasionally attempted to crawl toward something—she’s SOOOO close to crawling!

At one point, Olivia was standing on the fireplace ledge and then squatted down. I’ve always told her to be careful whenever she gets up there (it’s not high from the ground at all, but she’s also still a tiny human), but that night, she looked over at me and said “I be careful. No get hurt. Dangerous.” It was as precious as you might imagine, and I told her that she was right.

Besties for life

The next morning, I was over at my brother’s and sister-in-law’s house again, and Olivia showed off her new talent (that I wasn’t expecting) of jumping off of the couch into my arms. Unlike the night before, there was zero hesitation—she got up on that couch and went for it, regardless of whether or not I was ready for her. I think she knew I would catch her, no matter what, so there was no fear there. There was security and comfort, which helped to increase her level of confidence. On Saturday night, though, she didn’t have me right there in front of her, and she knew what might happen if she tried to jump on her own.

If I were standing on that ledge, of course I would jump. Yes, it would probably technically be more of simply a step off, but still—there wouldn’t be any holding back or worrying about getting hurt. I’m confident that nothing would be likely to happen.

I started thinking about that while I was on my flight home Sunday afternoon and realized that those childlike tendencies don’t necessarily leave us when we become adults. We still seem to be able to jump when we know that there’s complete security, but we’re a lot more hesitant when we’re unsure of the outcomes ahead.

If I’m being perfectly honest, though, that’s not how I always want to live. Sure, there are certainly times when you shouldn’t just jump at something without thinking or considering the consequences and potential outcomes, but there are many times when it’s better (even if it is incredibly scary) to take chances and step into the unknown. For me, when I have those strong tuggings at my heart that are pushing me to do something that frightens the Capri Sun out of me—especially when I’m being taken out of my comfort zone—I try to remind myself that I’m not actually jumping off of a fireplace ledge onto the hardwood floor like a 2-year-old.

Because I do have Someone there who will catch me.

That doesn’t mean that every chance I take is going to end like I want it to end. I’ve had plenty of failures and broken hearts to remind me of that. But it does mean that, even when those setbacks and heartaches happen after making a risky jump, I know that I’m still going to be OK. Those things can’t defeat me, and I don’t need to let them try. My God is a lot stronger than that.

This girl has been through it all with me.

During middle school, high school, college, and even some of my 20s, I was the girl standing on the fireplace ledge who was afraid to jump. Unlike in Olivia’s case, though, there wasn’t any real physical danger for me—it was simply the risk of getting my heart hurt. I think my fear stemmed from the fact that a broken heart, for me, hurts far worse than any physical pain I could ever face (and I’ve endured quite a bit of physical pain). You know what, though? I’ve survived each heartache I’ve had, and I truly believe that I’m stronger because of it. I think that the trials we face in life have ways of building us and growing us in ways we might never have thought possible. We’re usually not grateful for them while we’re going through them, but hopefully we can look back at those times and know that they were part of our journeys—part of the paths we needed to take to get us to where we are today and help us to become the individuals we have become.

I hated the color of my rental car. Naturally, my dad wanted to take my pic in front of it.

I don’t know where you are in your life today. Maybe you’re standing on that fireplace ledge with more reservations than you can count. Or maybe you’re on that sofa and about to take a leap of faith. I’m rooting for it to be the latter, because I’m rooting for you.

You’re worth taking chances and doing the things that might make you a little queasy. You’re worth letting your heart feel deeply and love intentionally. You’re worth pursuing the passions that set your heart into motion. You’re worth running full force ahead toward your dreams. You’re worth the investment of time and energy. You’re worth being loved.

And you’re worth fighting for yourself.

Because you don’t have to be sorry for being you

It’s interesting to me that it can be so tough for us to apologize when we know we’re wrong, but other “I’m sorry” statements are so simple to make.

Like when we have no real reasons to be apologizing.

When you hurt someone or wrong someone in some way, there’s a need to say you’re sorry. Perhaps you have to cancel plans on someone or are running late somewhere and send an apology text—there’s nothing wrong with that. But there are other times when you might say you’re sorry for something for which you really shouldn’t have to apologize.

Especially if what you’re doing is simply being you.

I remember reading an article a couple of years ago that mentioned how women often apologize for things in the business/office setting that they shouldn’t be—things like speaking up in meetings or presenting ideas that would bring about potential changes and innovations. (I don’t know if men do this as often, but the article focused mainly on women.) Ever since then, I’ve tried to be more aware of times when I might be saying sorry and not actually meaning it.

I’m not sorry for asking a stranger to take my picture.

I eat Wheat Thins with everything and at every meal. I love them with my whole being. I have them with me at all times—there’s always a box in my car, and I carry a sandwich bag of them with me in my purse. Yes, I do bust them out at the dinner table in public places. I remember going to dinner with some new friends a little more than a year ago, and when I got my Wheat Thins out, I said “sorry, I eat them at every meal.” As soon as that first word came out of my mouth, I immediately regretted it. I wasn’t sorry. At all. So now I make sure that I never apologize for having Wheat Thins when I’m eating.

Because I’m not sorry for being me.

I don’t believe that eating my favorite food hurts anyone, even if other people think it’s bad manners. I didn’t go to cotillion at any point in time, and I’ve never been that great with manners, anyway.

Have you ever noticed yourself saying sorry for something for which you really had no reason to apologize? Have you ever said sorry for bothering someone when what you’re about to say is really no bother at all? Have you ever apologized for not being perfect? I’m not sure why we do this. We have the abilities to speak our minds and share our hearts and go after our dreams, and we don’t have to be sorry for any of that. You do you, boo.

And in the same way that we shouldn’t be apologizing for being ourselves, we shouldn’t expect other people to be sorry for the unique individuals they are—we should be giving them love and encouragement and room to continue to grow so that they can be comfortable being themselves.

I was speaking to the junior high students at my church last weekend, and I was talking about accepting others and loving them not just in spite of their differences from us but also because of those differences. I thought back to when I was in middle school and how I was an absolutely horrible example of that. I didn’t know Jesus yet, and I was very selfish and far too concerned with what people thought of me and what I thought of others. It’s not a time of my life that I’m proud of by any means.

I’ve said this before, and I stand by it: Middle school is the worst period of life. It’s such an easy time to be mean and judgmental, and you’re still trying to figure out who you are and what life is and what’s cool and what’s not, and you have no idea of what the genuine and important things in life are yet. I’m sure that there are some mature kids in that stage of life who are rare gems, but for the most part, it’s a painful and awkward stage that we all have to go through as a rite of passage into (hopefully) becoming more mature adults who are concerned with more than popularity and what brands of clothing you’re allowed to wear and which ones are faux pas.

You know what, though? Even though that period of life can be very superficial and unwelcoming, being an adult doesn’t suddenly become easier just because you’re no longer begging your parents for Doc Martens and wearing overalls with only one side buttoned because it looks so much cooler (you feel me, 90s middle schoolers??). It can still be tough to feel like you’re accepted and like you belong, and there will be people who judge you and make you want to apologize without even knowing why you’re saying sorry. But if you’re not doing anything wrong, you have no reason for those apologetic words.

Because you don’t have to be sorry for being you.

I’m also not sorry for wearing shirts under crop tops.

I’m going to keep checking myself to make sure I’m not starting sentences off with “I’m sorry, but” and then following that statement with something for which I feel no actual sorrow. I won’t ever be sorry for eating Wheat Thins. I won’t ever be sorry for having an idea and wanting to share it. I won’t ever be sorry for wanting a turn to speak at a meeting. I won’t ever be sorry for telling a guy that I have feelings for him. I won’t ever be sorry for having the passions and dreams I have. And I won’t ever be sorry for not being other people’s opinions of me.

When you need to make improvements or changes in your life or your behavior or your attitude or whatever, make them. If you’ve hurt people or have legitimate reasons to say you’re sorry, make those apologies. At the end of the day, though, I hope that you’re confident in the person you are and the person you strive to be, and I hope that you never apologize for the things that need no sorries to go along with them.

Because you don’t have to be sorry for being you.