Fairy Tales

When faith trumps fear

I got a tattoo the other day, this one in my handwriting, that says a mantra that I try to live by in every aspect of my life.

“Be brave.”

I’m not going to lie—when I first moved out to California, I was certain that it was a one-year thing and that I would move back to Dallas as soon as my lease was up. I longed for the familiarity of Texas and all of my people, and I thought where I was in California was merely going to be a brief stint in my life that I could simply chalk up as “one of those adventures I just had to have.”

And God probably smiled down at me knowingly, thinking that it wouldn’t be too long before I realized that, once again, His plan was different—and better.

I’ve grown to love where I am and love the community I’ve become a part of there. I’ve gotten involved in quite a bit, and it’s definitely helped me to get to know people and build relationships. Besides, you can’t really beat being able to go to the ocean pretty much whenever you want. I honestly think this place has helped to heal my soul and the broken heart that seemed like it would never end.

Just look at her. I CAN’T EVEN.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t things I miss about the world I left last fall. My second precious niece was recently born, and I was thrilled to take a trip back to Texas to meet sweet Evelyn (“Evie”) and spend some time with my family. Before I go any further, let me rave about HOW FREAKING ADORABLE SHE IS! This isn’t a biased opinion by any means. She is seriously tied for cutest human alive (with my other niece, Olivia, of course).

As soon as I landed, I went over to my brother’s and sister-in-law’s house (they had just gotten home from the hospital), and they let me spend time over there every single day I was in town. I usually FaceTime with my brother and Olivia once a week, but it was so nice actually to be with them and read with Olivia and play games and practice saying words and give her snuggles and go to the park and do all of the things that aunts can do. I was also so grateful to be able to hold little Evie and talk to her as if she actually knows everything I’m saying.

There’s something about being an aunt that brings joy to a person’s heart. I remember when Olivia was a baby, I used to go over there once a week to hang out with her, and I would talk to her about everything going on in my life. It was during a time when that aforementioned heartache was just beginning, and she helped me through so much pain. She listened, she sympathized (at least I’m going to say that’s what it was), she cried for me (we’ll also say that’s why she was crying and not because of colic), she let me cry, and she was just there for me. She’s my little best friend, and I was so scared that moving so many miles away would change that.

Even though being back in my old middle school is always weird, I’d go anywhere with this gem.

I was also afraid that being so far away from my sister (my adult best friend) would challenge our relationship, but it hasn’t. I stayed with her and her husband while I was in town, and that walking heart of a woman let me borrow her car for the entire time I was there, no questions about it. I was able to spend so much time with her going to dinner, watching Mulan and She’s All That and The Office while relaxing on her sofa, cheering on her soccer team that she coaches (she’s the best middle school girls coach around), and watching the play version of Legally Blonde performed by a bunch of eighth-grade students. My sister is the best.

The truth is, though, that distance doesn’t have to ruin a relationship—at all. And even though it hurts to be so far from certain people, I know that I’m right where I need to be.

I love seeing Olivia interact with my brother, and I’m sure Evie will be the same. Olivia lights up whenever she sees him, says “daddy” or “dada” as often as possible, clings to him at times, and trusts him more than anything. And he loves her more than life itself. That man would move mountains for that little girl, and his love is genuine and obvious. I was sitting and watching them together the other day, and I couldn’t help but wonder why I don’t always have that childlike faith and trust in God, the Father whose love is so much greater than any human’s could ever be. Instead, I tend to think that my own ways and plans are better and would suit my life perfectly.

And I’m usually wrong.

Homies 4 lyfe

More so lately, it’s become truly apparent just how much I needed to be exactly where I am in California at this exact time. Whether it’s because I need certain surroundings or people in my life or they need me, it’s all part of a plan that I couldn’t have put together more perfectly if I had plotted it for years. He had this in store for me and knew all along what’s best, and I honestly wish that I had been more trusting. It’s something I’m working on currently.

My life might not look anything like I thought it would years ago, but that’s because it’s not supposed to. Sure, I’m still the most single person you’ll ever meet, but that’s because God has something or someone else in store for me, and I simply have to trust Him as much as Olivia trusts my brother. I have to believe that He wants the best for me because He loves me more than life itself. He would move mountains for me, and His love is genuine and obvious—even when I don’t always act like I know that’s true.

Right now, I post pictures with my friends, my nieces, my sister, my other family members, sometimes even strangers, and I often post pictures by myself. There will hopefully be a day that I become minorly annoying by posting pictures with the man I’ve been praying for all along. Until then, I’m going to let my faith and my heart grow in ways I’ve never imagined, trusting like I’ve never trusted.

And, for me, maybe that’s part of what being brave is all about.

Because it’s OK to be a virgin

I’m 33 years old, and I’m a virgin.

There, I said it.

I know that sounds like an old age to be that inexperienced, but it’s true, and I’m not ashamed to admit that. And the older I get, the more thankful I am that some of the relationships I wished had happened didn’t actually happen because I’m pretty sure they would have ended quickly, anyway, when the guys I had crushes on realized that I wasn’t going to have sex with them.

Hashtag single and hanging out at a tree

It’s kind of weird being a virgin today, especially as an adult. My purity is something I value and protect, and if I ever actually lasso in a husband, I hope he will appreciate it.

A few years ago, I had a gun pulled on me. In the months of fear that followed, I wasn’t frightened by the fact that someone could have killed me (he easily could have shot me but didn’t) but by the idea that what I think he really wanted to do was rape me.

And, to me, that was scarier than dying.

As you might know, I struggle with kidney stone issues and had to have three surgeries last year. When I experienced my first kidney stone trauma a few years ago (it was actually a month before the gun situation), before the doctor and nurses did the CT scan to know what it was, they thought that my pain had something to do with a possible pregnancy. I kept telling them that there was zero chance that I was pregnant and finally had to say (or probably yell) something along the lines of “unless another messiah is coming, there’s no chance that I’m pregnant!”

They all exchanged some uncomfortable looks and finally stopped doing painful tests that were unnecessary.

A little later, one of the nurses was giving me some pain meds in the IV, and this was our delightful conversation.

Nurse: So, you’re really a virgin?
Me (in too much pain to care about much of anything): Yes, I’m not a liar.
Nurse: It’s just hard to believe—that’s all.
Me: Why?
Nurse: We don’t see many women your age in here who are—or at least not ones who scream it out loud at male doctors.

So I guess I did yell it.

I recently volunteered at the Brave Conference, and I hope the young women who attended know that they’re enough and that it’s OK to wait to have sex.

I know that not every girl or woman is going to make the same decision I’ve made, and I don’t judge anyone for living differently than I do, but I’m going to stick to the promise I made myself so many years ago to wait until I marry the man I was always meant to be with to have sex. And if I never fall in love and make those vows, then I guess I’ll die a virgin, as well.

The other night, I was at a swanky bar with a couple of friends, and some guy I had never seen before in my life came up from behind and hugged me. First of all, NO. Don’t touch me. Then he asked me if I’m a real redhead and told me that there’s only one way to find out. That was his cue to leave. It took a few minutes to get him away from us, but he finally left. If he had stayed any longer, I was probably going to punch him in the face. I’m sure there are still some good guys out there, but it’s moments like those that I’m thankful that I still have something that a guy like him hasn’t taken from me.

I know that we all have different beliefs, and as I said before, I’m not judging anyone for anything, nor do I think that I’m better than anyone for the choices I’ve made. But I do want people to know that it’s OK to wait. It’s OK to live your life differently than others. It’s OK to follow your own path, even if it seems to take you a lot longer to get somewhere.

I’m not sure if it’s my fate in life to be single forever, but I really do hope to fall in love with a man who loves me back and shows me that love as often as he can. I hope to create memories together and support each other’s dreams. I hope to hold hands and dance and laugh until our abs hurt. I hope to know in my heart that he’s the man I’ve been hoping for and is the reason why I had to go through broken hearts and crushed hopes—because he’s the one the Lord has been leading me to all along.

And he will be worth the wait.

When going to a concert by yourself is normal

I love seeing other people passionately pursue their hopes and dreams.

Especially when they’re doing so in the name of love.

Santa Barbara is gorgeous, especially when standing on the wharf.

Last week, I drove up to Santa Barbara to go to the Kelsea Ballerini concert by myself. My friend was originally supposed to go with me, but life happens, and she wasn’t able to. I’ve gone to concerts by myself, so it wasn’t that big of a deal—and at least I knew beforehand that I was going solo (I’ve been stood up at two different concerts)—but I still might have had a small pity party for myself. I mean, it was slightly depressing to see most people there with their friends or boyfriends or moms or dads or even grandparents (I sat next to Joyce, who was there with her husband and their two granddaughters).

The concert was at a pretty small venue, and my seat was a lot closer than I thought. Right after the opening act, the security guys were talking in a little huddle, and then a woman and her daughter, who was in a wheelchair, were relocated to the aisle right next to me because they couldn’t see a thing from where their seats were. The mom, Sarah, had made a sign for her daughter, Shelby, to hold saying that it was Shelby’s first concert and that she loves Kelsea. Sarah kept raising the sign during each song, hoping and hoping more strongly that Kelsea would see it.

At one point, KB was about to sing a somewhat slower song and was talking to the crowd a bit, even acknowledging some of the signs. Sarah was jumping up and down, and those of us around her were trying to get the singer’s attention, too. We were off to the side, so she didn’t see us. But then one of the security guys saw what was going on and let Sarah wheel Shelby to the front row. She took it even a step further and wheeled her all the way to right in front of Kelsea and started talking to her. Kelsea ignored the music behind her and listened intently to Sarah as Shelby met her hero.

When they came back to their spot, Shelby was over-the-moon excited! Sarah had mentioned to me before that her daughter often gets overlooked, but Sarah did everything she could that night to make sure that wasn’t the case. After the next song, Kelsea Ballerini gave sweet Shelby the jacket she wore for that number and then said over the microphone that she wanted them to stay after the show so that she could talk to them more. Shelby was clearly having the best night of her life, and Sarah was in tears. Many people around us were crying, as well. She is a mom who fights for her daughter and does everything she can to make her feel loved and valued.

It was absolutely one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to.

I love seeing love in action. I loved seeing Sarah love her daughter big enough to get an award-winning performer’s attention in the middle of her concert. I loved seeing Kelsea Ballerini love big enough to stop in the middle of her show and make a 13-year-old girl’s hopes come true. I love being reminded of how big God loves me by taking away my feelings of being alone by letting me witness such big love in such an unexpected place.

I needed a pre-concert pic on the wharf, of course.

That’s the thing about big love—it’s real, and it’s powerful. It wouldn’t stand you up at a concert. It wouldn’t commit to going with you to one of your best friend’s wedding and then bail on you. It wouldn’t commit to going with you to your sister’s wedding and then bail on you. It doesn’t make you feel inadequate. Big, real love fights for you and lets you know that you’re enough.

Because, friend, you are enough.

I know that I may not have had things work out as I wished they would when it comes to the guys I’ve had feelings for, but I also know that I have a God who is on my side and who fights for me. Did I recently have a guy basically say “hard pass” when he found out I don’t drink? Sure. Is my heart still not completely mended from the guy who shattered it a while back after making me believe he really cared for me? Absolutely. And did the guy who gave me my first kiss years ago eventually make me cry? You bet he did.

But none of those things means there’s something wrong with me.

The nonprofit organization my friend Ashley and I are working on is meant to spark boldness in young women to walk with confidence, and I need to model that every day, too—especially when it comes to how I view myself in terms of being able to be loved.

I hope that you fight for love. I hope that you see big love in action. I hope that you let yourself love in big ways.

And I hope that you always remember that you are worth fighting for and worthy of big love.

Because dating should be as easy as friendship

Being an adult certainly isn’t the easiest assignment in the world.

If you have a friend like Amanda, keep her. End of story.

Especially when the word “dating” is thrown out there.

I live the life of a single girl—a very single girl—so I’ve grown accustomed to going to places alone and having solo adventures. At the same time, though, I’ve also made some wonderful friends since I moved to Cali, and I get excited when I have others along for the journey with me.

My sweet friend Amanda and I recently went on a beach boardwalk walk (one of my new favorite pastimes) together and were talking about all things life. One thing we discussed was how making friends as an adult is kind of like dating. It’s a lot easier to make friends when you’re in school—you’re placed in this huge atmosphere that really isn’t that huge, you’re around the same people all of the time, and you’re thrown into a lot of the same activities together, so the friendships happen pretty naturally.

When you’re a grownup, though, it’s different. You have to make conscience efforts, and you actually have to ask people for their numbers and find time in your busy schedules to make the hanging out part of the friendships actually happen. After you spend time together once, one of you has to make the suggestion that you should get together again soon, or maybe that relationship doesn’t actually become anything more than a mere acquaintance thing.

For me, adult friendships aren’t difficult, because I’m pretty shameless (cue Garth Brooks). I ask people to coffee all of the time, and I hate coffee. I’ve even straight up used the phrase “we should be friends” on more than one occasion. I’m not sure if I should be embarrassed about that, but I’m not because I’ve actually made friends that way. I love people, and I love spending time with them. I love knowing them and being known.

Why, then, is it so hard for me to do this when it comes to actual dating?

For some reason, I’m more hesitant about being honest with a guy I’d like to spend time with than I am with a stranger whom I don’t want to be a stranger anymore. Sure, I’ve gotten a little better, but there’s still the fear and anxiety of being rejected and feeling like I’m not enough.

Friend, whether it’s dating or friendship, you are enough.

Maybe this should be my new tactic to get guys to ask me out.

I certainly have to remind myself of this often. I’ve mentioned before (probably more times than you’d ever want to hear) that it can be tough to live your life solo while almost everyone around you is either dating, engaged, or married while you’re sitting on the sidelines wondering if anyone will ever actually want to take you on a real date. One thing I’ve always valued about true friendship is that it’s genuine, and you know that the other person wants to spend time with you, too—you’re both pursuing each other, in a sense. With dating, though, it seems like it’s much more of a guessing game than any friendship ever is.

Sure, there are some friendships that become one-sided, and you eventually move on and realize that perhaps those individuals were only in your life for different seasons. So I guess that’s one way dating relationships are pretty similar, because all of those certainly don’t last forever. Though I don’t really like saying this, many of the friendships that I’ve lost along the way haven’t caused me a ton of emotional pain. While I might have been sad for a bit, I knew that growing apart is sometimes just a part of life.

So why does it hurt so much more when it’s a guy who is walking out of your life than a friend with whom you might have been even closer? Honestly, I think it comes down to the importance we place on those relationships because of the way they make us feel. It’s nice to feel wanted by someone (and I’m really hoping that I will know how that feels one day) so much that he chooses you over everyone else. Maybe that’s the real difference—your friends probably have many other friends, but your person picks you and only you.

Since moving to California, I’ve been trying not to think about my lack of a dating life (even though I know it’s the main topic of most of my blogs—but it says “flying solo and writing about it,” so you really shouldn’t be shocked about that), especially now that it’s been so long since one homeboy broke my heart so many moons ago back in Texas. Instead, I want to focus on investing my time in others to help them know how valued and loved they are and how much they matter. I want them to know just how much God cares for them and that they are enough in Him.

I’m just sitting here thinking about froyo.

And it’s also something I’m reminding myself of often.

We were meant to have friendships and relationships with others. We were meant to live boldly. We were meant to love people well. And that’s how I want to live my life—even so boldly that I am comfortable enough walking up to a guy I fancy and saying, “Hey. We should go grab froyo or walk the boardwalk together soon.” I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

When you think about it, life really is a lot shorter than we realize. And the older you get, the more quickly it seems to fly by. I hope that you live every day as completely as you can and that you never miss out on an opportunity because you were afraid. I hope that your friendships are many and that your love is bold.

And I hope that you always know that you are enough as you are.

Because ghosting has actually become a thing

There are many things all of us humans could do better in life (besides accurately forecast the weather).

Like treat people well.

I’ve mentioned before how I feel about online dating, though I’m happy for the people who have their success stories from it. One thing that drives me crazy about it is how easy it is for people to dodge those they suddenly realize aren’t what they’re looking for without so much as a “hey, this just isn’t going to work.”

Is that really so difficult to say—especially if you’re not even saying it to a person’s face?

I have a friend who had been chatting with a fella for a while now and was supposed to get together with him recently. But then when it came time for them actually to hang out, he vanished. When she reached out to him to check on their plans, nada. Zilch. Zip. He straight up just didn’t respond, and she didn’t hear from him again.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had friends experience this, whether after meeting someone on a dating app or elsewhere. I realize that these people who do the whole “ghosting” thing, as the hip people call it, usually don’t have deep relationships with the people from whom they suddenly vanish, but it still makes no sense to me why anyone would lead someone on only to stop all communications completely.

And I can’t say that I haven’t fallen victim to this myself.

This is just part of who I am.

I’ve been on the wrong end of a text that never got a response or a hand-written note that was never even acknowledged (that one hurt quite a bit). Oftentimes these situations leave us hurting and wondering what could possibly be so wrong with us that we can’t even get the people we truly care about to give us enough of their time even to respond. Maybe some individuals are forgetful or extremely busy, but you make time for the things you want to make time for in life, and it doesn’t take that long to reply to someone.

I spent more years than I would like to admit thinking that I simply wasn’t good enough for guys—I wasn’t pretty enough or smart enough or experienced enough or whatever enough for them to think I was worthy of their time. Friends, I hope that you never feel this way. It’s a horrible place to be. I’m confident now that I don’t need to worry about any of that because I was uniquely made as I am for a purpose and on purpose. I have quirks, and I’m never going to look like a supermodel, but there might be someone out there who will be captivated by me for me.

I hope that you’ve never been suddenly ignored by someone you thought really might care about you as much as you care about him, and I hope that you never do that to someone else, either. It might be the easy way for you, but think about how you would feel if it did actually happen to you. Regardless, I truly hope that you know that your worth doesn’t change based on someone else’s words and actions—or lack thereof both.

Being single isn’t always easy, especially with each year that goes by and each friend and family member you watch fall in love, get married, and start life together with someone else. And now with all of those dating apps that are out there, it’s even more challenging at times to meet people organically. Like I’ve said before, my ideal way to find someone is getting hit with a frisbee in a park by the guy who is my person, and he runs over to check on me, and sparks fly (I’ll keep you updated on if that happens).

The more I go through life, the more I appreciate people who are genuine. While it’s not necessarily the best idea to be honest about everything that’s on your mind at all times, I do think it’s important to be sincere in how you treat people and that you match your words with how you actually live your life. And one big part of treating people well and loving them well is not leading them on. Whether you’re afraid to hurt someone’s feelings or are only regarding your own feelings at the time, it’s not a good idea to make someone believe you care when you actually don’t.

Legos and Barbies are toys—people’s hearts are not.

When you don’t let your appearance define your beauty

Like love, I think that beauty is often best displayed when it’s in action.

Especially out on the dance floor.

There’s a really pretty view of a lake behind us, but we’re completely blocking it, so you’ll just have to trust me that it’s gorgeous.

The weekend was full of travel for me. I flew from Orange County to Dallas late Friday night, got a couple of hours with my family Saturday morning, drove down to Austin with my friend for our friend’s wedding, took a long Lyft ride to the Austin airport and flew to LA early Sunday morning, and then rode back to Orange County with a coworker friend who was nice enough to offer to pick me up all the way up in LA.

I’m currently exhausted.

It was worth it, though. I loved being able to spend time with my family and snuggle my precious niece, and it was so nice to reunite with some of my friends and celebrate the love of Nina and her sweet hubs. And, as I’ve mentioned before, I LOVE the dancing that happens at wedding receptions.

Saturday night was no exception—that dance floor became my BFF. There were a few young girls out there (I’m guessing between the ages of 9–12ish), and two of them were standing in an area toward the back and not dancing. I kept trying to get them to dance, but they seemed a bit afraid and remained in their safe zone. It makes me sad when people don’t dance. Sure, there are probably some people who really just don’t enjoy it, but I think that there are a lot of people who probably do or would actually love it but are scared of looking ridiculous.

When it comes to dancing, sometimes the more ridiculous, the better.

Bear legitimately hates dancing, but we’re still friends.

Later in the night, those two girls finally started busting out their dance moves, and they looked like they were having the time of the lives. I was so happy, and I was filled with even more joy when they twirled across the floor with me during the slow songs—single people don’t always have to avoid the dance floor during the love ballads.

At one point, the DJ played Alessia Cara’s “Scar to Your Beautiful,” and my new homegirls and I were belting the lyrics together as we danced. In that moment, my heart made a silent wish that those girls would believe those lyrics with all of their hearts and that they would always know that they’re enough—that they don’t have to change who they are to try to fit the molds of who they think the world wants them to be. I hope that they always know how beautiful they are and that they should always dance every chance they get without worrying about what the people around them think.

When I boarded the plane (which Chrissy Metz from This Is Us was on, by the way) Sunday morning, there was a very attractive fella sitting in the row diagonally behind me. I immediately became more concerned than I would like to admit about my appearance (which was what someone who rolled out of bed at 4:34 a.m., threw on some clothes, and brushed her teeth might look like), but then I thought of my sweet little dancing friends, and I stopped. It didn’t matter what I looked like right then—what mattered was that my heart was full, and I’m confident in who I am. I even spoke to Mr. Attractive a little later, but I don’t think that we’ll be having our own wedding anytime soon.

In moments of fear, I hope I have the courage of the girls who were brave enough to dance. And I hope you do, too. We weren’t meant to stand in corners and watch as the world passes us by. We were meant to live—and live boldly—as the people we were always meant to be.

Because even with our scars and wounds and broken hearts and tears and fears and mistakes and flaws and memories and messes, we are beautiful.

Because the small victories matter

Even though I would like to be talented at everything I try and on my A game at all moments, that’s definitely not the case.

At all.

Some days are much more difficult than others in a number of ways, and they remind me that I can’t be good at all of the things—or even do all of the things—all of the time. Simply put, I’m a freaking human.

Fun fact: Ashlie and I have the same birthday!

Saturday was one of those extremely humbling days for me. It started off pretty well. I had a nice run, and then I ate froyo and got to hang at the beach for a bit with my friend Ashlie, and I didn’t do anything significantly wrong—but the day was still young.

During my flag football game that afternoon, I was just off. I dove to pull a flag off the quarterback and basically ate sand (and somehow missed his flags completely), and then I ran a route I wasn’t supposed to and didn’t get open. The worst, though, was when I made a really great catch and should have knelt immediately to get the girl first down (I still hate those and think they should be ousted), but I ran and tried to get the touchdown, instead. Thankfully, we got one on the next down, but our QB was pretty pissed with me when I did that.

I felt a little discouraged after that game. I’m an athlete, and I’m good at football, so why did I suck so much that day?

That evening, I served in the children’s ministry during my church’s Saturday Easter service. It was a blast playing with the kids, and we had a bunch of fun activities lined up for them after service ended. The first of those was the candy drop. We stood on the balcony overhead, while the children and their parents were on the first floor below. There was a large squared-off space in which we dropped the candy for specific age groups when the student ministries director said “go.” When we got to the final group, we decided to drop all of the buckets of candy (we had quite a few left) at once. However, when we heard “go,” the bucket somehow got caught on my wrist, so my drop was a little delayed, and when the candy fell, it was at such an odd angle that it hit a bunch of kids—and their parents who weren’t even trying to participate—on their heads.

Oops.

This is my free-hand version of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. I got skillz.

I felt really bad but tried to shake it off as I hustled downstairs to go man the glitter tattoo station. I’ve applied temporary tattoos on myself before, but apparently I was much better at it when I was a kid. Multiple children left my side of the table with partially messed up tattoos. And I’m pretty sure only half of the glitter was actually going to stick because I had issues figuring out the whole stencil thing. Needless to say, one of my strengths in life is not in the arena of art (unless it involves creating homemade birthday cards with markers, crayons, and colored paper). I had to apologize to more than one parent for my poor abilities, but they were very gracious about my talent deficiencies.

As I drove home that evening, I reflected on the many situations that had made me feel a little inadequate. Friends, that’s a horrible road to travel. Then I remembered something that took me out of my negative place: I got Kyla to stop crying.

Kyla is an adorable 2-year-old who was in the children’s area while her mom was in service Saturday night. She had been crying for a while, and no one could get her to stop. She really wanted her mom, and she wanted her right then and there. I took her from the arms of a frazzled volunteer, and I soon convinced her that it was better for her to have fun until her mom got back, and then she could tell her all about the exciting things she did. Before I knew it, we were listening to a story, painting a picture, and then playing with some of the other children.

I had found a small victory, and that’s all I needed to boost my spirits.

Not a professional

Sometimes that’s all it takes—one simple victory that might not seem like much but was actually a pivotal moment or event that impacted you in bigger ways than you ever could have imagined. It doesn’t matter that I wasn’t Jerry Rice during my game or that I didn’t have a flawless candy-dropping experience or that there are a handful of children walking around with chipped temporary Easter tattoos (they would have rubbed off some eventually, anyway). What matters is that Kyla wasn’t missing her mom and was able to enjoy her time with the other kids and me for at least a little while.

I love Maya Angelo’s quote that “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I hope that I can remember that more often and try to make people feel better rather than trying to impress them with my words or abilities.

You’re going to have those “off” days, and you’re going to have moments when you wish you had certain talents and abilities that you don’t. Life is just tough sometimes. But, rather than focusing on everything you can’t do or don’t do well, think about those things that you’re really great at doing, and do those things often. You have those gifts and talents for a reason, and they’re meant to be used, not overshadowed by all of the flaws that you think you have.

I’m single and don’t seem to be able to attract the guys I like for long enough for them to stick around or pursue me, but I’m really good at encouraging people and leading them, and that’s what I’m going to focus on right now. It’s OK that I don’t have a boyfriend or husband; I have a community of people I love and trust and am excited for what’s possibly ahead. I don’t need to worry or stress about the things that I don’t have right now—I’d rather pay more attention to the gifts I’ve been given. In those moments when I think I don’t have love, I’m going to remind myself that I’m able to love and be loved in bigger ways than my mind can fathom.

I hope that you know how special you are as you are, and I hope that you’re able to focus on the unique things that make you who you are, and I hope you let them shine as brightly as light from the sun when you first walk outside after being in a dark movie theater.

Because light will always beat the dark shadows that try to ruin it.

When you let yourself be fully known

I certainly don’t know everything in life, nor do I want to (I’m looking at you, science), but there’s one thing of which I’m absolutely sure.

I want to know people.

When I was a little girl, I was a bit shy. That’s definitely changed now (in fact, I will talk to anyone and everyone and sometimes have to remind myself to shut my mouth at certain times), but one of my aunts used to have to bribe me with grapes to talk to her. She knew that if she offered me grapes, which I love, I would actually speak. She really knew me.

I enjoy being known by people and getting to know them well so that I’m familiar with all of their likes, dislikes, quirks, and things about them that make them the unique individuals they are. I think it’s challenging for us sometimes, though, to let ourselves be known by others, especially people we haven’t known for long periods of time.

In the past, I know there were situations (especially in those awful middle school days—seriously what I consider to be one of the worst eras of life) in which I was afraid to be completely myself. It can be scary to have people know the real you when you’re nervous that you might be judged for being who you are. Have you ever felt that way—hesitant to let your true self show because it might be too different for those around you?

Thankfully, I’ve become comfortable with who I am. I know that I’m very flawed, and some people might even consider me weird (after all, I do carry a sandwich bag of Wheat Thins with me at all times and bust them out at every meal, regardless of where I am), but that’s OK. At least they know the real me.

I was thinking about this a lot last week as I traveled to Utah to visit a friend. When I was on the shuttle from the airport to the rental car place, I started chatting with some of the people also hitching rides, and I asked a few of them what they had in their excessively large bags. They told me they were skis and looked at me like I was silly to ask such a thing, and I made a comment that they could have been poles for pole vaulting (these guys didn’t strike me as track and field guys, but you never know).The guy next to me made a joke about me being afraid that they were weapons, and I told him that if I’m going to travel in a shuttle with a murderer, I’d like to know.

I continued to chat with the older man (Jerry) sitting to my left, and I asked him if he went to UT. He had no idea what I was talking about—apparently UT doesn’t stand for the University of Texas to everyone—so I pointed out that the cooler he was holding was burnt orange and had a longhorn on the front. He told me he bought it because he liked the way it looked, and I then learned that he was actually from Toronto and had a bunch of shrimp in the cooler to take to his family members.

At one point, he looked at me and said “You sure do ask a lot of questions.” I told him that I just really like people and getting to know them and hearing their stories. I thought he might be annoyed with me about that time, but then he said something that surprised me a little: “Well, I appreciate it. It’s better than riding next to someone who pretends like you’re not even there.”

Meet some of my Cali family. They don’t like that I put ketchup on my mac and cheese, but they still love me.

I think that, deep down, most people want to be known by people. Sure, it can be scary in some situations, and you might be afraid that it can steer people away, but the ones who truly care about you are going to accept you for who you are. I used to hesitate in being my complete self with guys I had feelings for because I thought that I wasn’t good enough just as I was. That was a complete lie, and I never intend to live like that again. I am who I am, and if a guy doesn’t love me that way, then he can find someone else who fits his image of the ideal woman.

I can’t put into words how much I adore Kerry and Nick. We rode a ferry and sat on a lifeguard tower to watch the sunset Saturday, and it was the best.

And, friends, let people know you, because you are enough just as you are, too.

When I first moved to California, I had a number of really tough days of feeling alone and like no one really knew who I am or anything about me. All of my people back in Dallas know me so well, and I know them. But here, everything felt so different, and I questioned whether or not I truly belonged. It’s amazing how quickly your situation can turn around simply because people care enough to know you. My friend Ashley and my friends Kerry and Nick were my first friends out here, and they took time to invest in me. It’s been a little more than six months now, and I’ve found a true community of people who know me well and accept me as I am—and it’s really nice to feel known again.

This gal is pretty much a walking heart. Precious time with Janae was just what I needed last week.

I had lunch with my sweet friend Janae during my trip, and she’s one of those people who deeply and genuinely cares about others. She listens, and she accepts people for the individuals they are, even when they are complete messes. We’ve all been there, and we all have our storms we battle through at times. Chatting with her made me feel more at peace with myself and where I am in life. She knows me, and she cares for me just like I care for her and the encouraging and brave woman she is. I don’t have everything figured out, and I’m still as single as they come, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

Ashley and I are starting a nonprofit organization called Tower318, and our mission is to spark boldness in young women to walk with confidence. We want them to know how valued and loved they are and how much they matter—just as they are. It took me a while to realize that, and Ashley and I hope to be able to share with them and inspire them to live boldly and confidently.

And I hope that you will live the same way.

We are fully known and fully loved by God, and I think it’s important to show others that they are fully known and fully loved by us, too. That’s one reason why I think it’s necessary to make time for people. I know that life can get ridiculously busy, but you make time for the things that you want to make time for in life. You never know just how much those precious minutes or hours you give to others can impact them.

And you never know just how much letting them be fully known by you can spread love like a wildfire.

“That’s because you’re still single”

Sometimes I have to try really hard to love other people, especially people I don’t know very well.

Because people can be very difficult to love at times.

One day last week, I was at the grocery store on a day after work when it seemed like everyone in that area had decided to go to the store at the same time. I use self-checkout whenever I can, and even that had a line backed up. Whenever I have to wait in line, I like to talk to the people in line with me because, well, why not?

I was talking with a nice woman in front of me about her purse (I LOVED the color of it), and I made a comment about how I rarely take my purse with me inside the grocery store anymore because I always end up using the handheld baskets and prefer less weight on my shoulders. I said something about how I couldn’t even remember the last time I used an actual cart. It was more of me thinking out loud than anything, and I certainly wasn’t expecting the response that ensued.

“That’s because you’re still single.”

Wait, what? I had quite a few responses running through my head as she continued to talk about how shocking it can be to realize how much food a family goes through each week. The nicest thing I could think to say was “or I just really like strength training,” which totally contradicts what I said about my purse, but whatever. This woman seemed really nice, and I’m sure she didn’t mean her comment to be hurtful, but I couldn’t help but feel a slight sting when she said it. After all, I hadn’t even told her that I’m single. Maybe it’s just that obvious, but still.

I really wanted to Photoshop my wrinkles out of this pic, but I didn’t. You’re welcome.

The truth is that I am still single, but there could be worse things in life. I mean, I don’t know that I would have moved out to California if I weren’t still sending in RSVPs for one to everything—and I know I’m exactly where I need to be right now. We all have our own paths we need to take, and it’s a really good thing that they’re not all the same.

Before I moved, I went through a really rough heartache for far longer than I thought it was going to last. In all honesty, I can’t say the hurt is completely gone, but I guess time does actually help sometimes. I didn’t move to run from the pain, because that type of stuff will go with you wherever you are. I moved because God called me out here—and I’m so thankful that He did. Not only have I met some truly incredible people, but I’ve also been reminded of His sufficiency, largely because I am still single.

Sure, you can certainly know He’s sufficient when you’re married or dating, but it was my singleness that helped me to see it even more clearly. I moved out here all by myself and knew no one, and it was really lonely at first. Over and over, I asked God why He called me out here, and one day as I was driving in my car and crying out to Him, everything became so clear when I felt His voice whisper because I am sufficient.

That’s all I needed to hear.

I know that I want to fall in love. I know that I want someone to love me back. I know that I want to have a permanent dance partner. I know that I want someone to appreciate my quirks and probably tease me about them in a loving way. I know that I want someone to kiss me in the parking lot in the pouring rain, and I know he’ll be worth me getting my hair wet. I know that I want someone to be my cheerleader just as much as I am his. I know that I want to find my person who will be my person forever.

But, even though I hope for it all to happen someday, I know that it’s simply not in the cards for me right now.

Whether you’re single or not, I hope that you know how much you matter just as you are. Not every person you meet in the grocery store is going to make you feel that way, but please call me if you need the reminder. I’ve been there. I’m glad I didn’t say anything snarky back to the woman in the store, though I was pretty close to doing so. I’m trying to be better about loving others well, even when I really don’t want to.

And the good news is that I can still live a life full of love even though I’m still single.

When you set off the fire alarm at winter camp

Sometimes you make mistakes that make you feel like the messiness just keeps piling up in life.

And sometimes you have a hearty crowd to see the mishap happen live.

These are some truly remarkable young women right here.

Over the weekend, I went to my church’s winter camp as a leader for the freshman girls group in the high school ministry. It was a few days packed full of fun, craziness, and helping kids learn the importance of loving others. As with most of our activities within the high school ministry, there were a variety of games, some of which involved a bit of ridiculousness.

On Saturday, we got a full rundown of some rules that were specific to the venue that hosted us for the weekend. One of those rules was not to pull the fire alarms unless there was an actual fire emergency. We were all warned about the trouble and fine by the fire department that would ensue if an alarm was pulled when there weren’t any flames or anything. Ruben, the guy in charge, also told us that, because we knew all of this and because there wouldn’t be any planned fire drills that weekend, any alarm meant that there was a real fire, and we all needed to evacuate and head to some location that he mentioned.

Essentially right after that reminder speech, we went to our meeting space for a few games and a message for the high schoolers (there were also students in the fourth and fifth grades as well as students in junior high). We played a game called “Poser” or something like that, and as soon as a pose popped up on the screen, you had to mimic it. The judges chose the worst poser each time, and that person was out. I was right next to an exit door, so when the handstand pose was shown, I decided to use that to help keep me balanced. Here’s the prob: There was a fire alarm right next to the door, and I definitely hadn’t noticed it.

I think you know where this is going.

Somehow—a way that I will never truly know—my foot managed to hit the alarm and pull it completely down. I honestly didn’t really feel it too much, but when I was standing upright, I looked over and saw my co-leader Kate’s face with a sheer look of horror and panic on it. I was wondering what she was worried about because I thought maybe I had accidentally opened the door somehow, but I didn’t think that was such a bad thing.

Then a piercing and persistent noise began that let me know that I had done something much worse.

The moments that followed were filled with chaos, people making jokes to me about my little slip-up, and others trying to assure me that it was just an accident and that surely I wouldn’t have to pay the massive fine to the fire department. I already started mentally preparing for that fine and thinking of how I could convince them to let me get on a monthly payment plan.

One of the other leaders had sprinted down to the main office of the camp (in the cold and misty rain, mind you) to let Ruben know that it was a false alarm and to see if he could please call the fire department so that it wouldn’t send a truck full of good-looking firemen out. Even though we didn’t get to see the eye candy, it was actually a much better situation for me, because it meant that I didn’t have to pay the enormous amount of moolah to cover the fine.

At least I know how to dress like a penguin when the situation calls for it.

I’m not going to lie—I do a lot of clumsy things in my life, but this one affected more than just me. I mean, all of the elementary and junior high kids had already started evacuating their buildings, and some of those poor students probably thought it was a real fire, which likely freaked some of the younger ones out quite a bit. And that wasn’t the only thing I did that pointed out my flaws that weekend—I also spilled a bunch of batteries everywhere when I was trying to turn off an electric candle, spilled Cinnamon Toast Crunch all over the cabin room floor when I was trying to clean up, got lost on a morning run in an area that I didn’t know (and ended up having to hop a fence because of it), and took my girls into the closed dining hall to get some tea to take back to our rooms (but, as it turns out, we were not allowed to be in there at the time). It’s also possible that I stole a book that I thought belonged to our student ministries leader but doesn’t.

But all of my flaws and all of my failures are part of who I am.

I know I’m not perfect, and I’m very aware that I never will be. Sometimes I try to be, but I’m way too human for that to be possible. One thing I’ve been trying to focus more on lately is loving others well. I want people to know that they are valued, that they are loved, and that they matter and that nothing can change that—including the things they do that make them feel ashamed or maybe even stupid.

I’ve also been trying to love myself better in spite of my failures, as well. How can I expect these precious young women to believe what I’m telling them and live lives that reflect it if I can’t even do so myself? It took years, but I’ve gotten to a point at which I can kick fire alarms and accidentally break rules without beating myself up about it. I used to think that some of the things that made me me—like my quirks and klutziness and lack of heart-stealing beauty—made me not good enough for guys to love me. But what I have to remind myself of often and what I continue to remind the girls in my group is that it doesn’t matter what guys (or anyone else, for that matter) think of us because God made us as we are to be the people we’re supposed to be.

I guarantee that I’m going to mess up many more times in life. Heck, I’ll probably make multiple mistakes today alone. It is Monday, after all. But mistakes often lead to lessons, and lessons often lead to growth. We won’t always know why they happen to us or because of us, but those mistakes and those failures and those moments when you want to crawl in holes and hide for a while are all integral parts of our stories. I think that getting knocked down and getting back up again (you know, like Chumbawamba, though I’m not sure if the subject matter is the same here) is bold. It takes courage, and it takes accepting and admitting that you aren’t as perfect as you’d like to be—and that’s OK.

Even if you end up kick a fire alarm or two along the way.