Fairy Tales

Because your skills don’t define you

I know that it’s not good to compare myself to others, but I have to admit that sometimes I still let myself fall into that trap.

Especially when escape rooms and dog surfing competitions are involved.

I went to my first escape room last week, and I would like to commend the creator of these things because they’re definitely a unique way to have fun with a group of people. But I was running kind of late and was slightly frazzled when I got there, so I didn’t hear all of the instructions. When we were locked in the room, I sort of felt like I didn’t know exactly what was going on, but everyone else seemed to know what to do.

Clearly a room full of geniuses

People started finding clues right and left, while I sort of stumbled upon one or two by accident. At one point, I was just kind of walking around the room and feeling almost useless. I used to read a lot of Nancy Drew books, and I watch Brooklyn Nine-Nine on the reg, so I was a little disappointed to realize that the only really somewhat intelligent thing that I did was know that one of the clues meant that we needed to look through the peep hole of the door.

One thing that I did notice, though, was just how different each person’s skillsets were. Our brains are all wired differently, which isn’t a bad thing by any means. And that definitely proved to be a huge benefit for our group in the escape room because people’s different perspectives and thought patterns all collaborated well together.

We ended up making it out of the room with a little more than nine minutes to spare, and I quickly got over the fact that I didn’t feel like I did much because I looked around at the people surrounding me and couldn’t help but smile—they’re my people, and they love me whether I’m more of a Sherlock or a Watson (though I still think that I could be more like a Sherlock).

And not having certain skills doesn’t make you any less of a person.

I love this crew, and we love watching dogs surf.

Surfing dogs further reminded me of that over the weekend. I mentioned last year that I went to a dog surfing competition that essentially changed my outlook on life. Once again, this epic event didn’t disappoint. We watched the talented pups ride the waves in either with their owners or other dogs on their boards. It’s one of the most entertaining things you’ll ever see. One thing that I absolutely love about this competition is how much the dogs simply don’t care about what the people think of their performances—whether they stay on their boards all the way to the shore or crash and burn, they gleefully trot back on the sand and wag their tails, excited to go back out in the water for more runs.

Because they know that one setback or one flaw doesn’t mean that they’re not good enough.

She’s quickly become one of my best friends and favorite humans ever.

We all have our gifts and passions, and they’re not going to be the same as every else’s. And they shouldn’t be. There are many skills that I lack that I enjoy seeing other people have in abundance. I like knowing that my friend Amanda is always going to ask me the hard questions and make me address my feelings and emotions when I don’t want to. I love that my friend JP will sew up my shirt I put a hole in for me so that I don’t have to staple it. I appreciate that my friend Michelle could tell me about anything and everything going on in the political realm if I wanted to know. I’m thankful that my sister knows how to bake pies and stuff so that there are always enough dishes at Thanksgiving, and I can just show up empty-handed or with something store-bought.

Just because you can’t do something as well as someone else doesn’t mean that you aren’t capable of some pretty wonderful things yourself. (After all, it’s for the best that we’re not all lining up to be on The Voice.) Your skills matter, and they can be used in incredible ways if you’re not constantly focusing on the ones you don’t have, instead. So don’t forget to remind yourself every once in a while that you are talented, and you do bring value to others.

Because you’re capable of much more than you know when you actually believe that’s true.

When you stop believing the lies

Like many individuals, I’m not a fan of lies and the pain they cause people.

Especially when those lies are things we believe about ourselves.

I lead a group of high school sophomore girls at my church, but on Sunday evening, we had some leaders out of town, so I took all of the girls for the small group portion. The topic of discussion was lost hope and the feelings of rejection, and I went a little bit off script and decided to make all of the girls acknowledge and dismiss some of the lies in their lives. We went around the circle, and they all shared the lies that they’d either been told about themselves or that they believed about themselves.

These are some of my precious gems, and I couldn’t adore them more.

As each girl shared, my heart broke a little bit more. I felt so defensive of them as I heard these beautiful and precious young women share that there were certain things about their looks and talents that didn’t make them good enough, that they were “too much” of this and that, and that they were “useless” in certain regards. It truly hurt to hear these sweet treasures say that they felt ugly and not valued.

We discussed why these were all lies and addressed each one individually. I then went back around the circle to have each girl say “I am [name]. I am beautiful, and I am enough” and then asked her if she actually believed it. And I hope that they all genuinely know that those words they repeated are true.

It’s pretty easy not to feel valued in this world, regardless of whether or not you’re dealing with the emotional rollercoaster ride that is adolescence. Life isn’t always going to go your way, and whether you like it or not, rejection is something you’ll likely face at some point or another. I can’t really think of a more dignified way to say it right now, so I’ll just say this: It sucks. It might make you think that you’re too much of something or not enough of something else. That’s not necessarily the case, though—sometimes you simply aren’t meant to do what it is that you thought you were supposed to do.

We’re all so different, which is a good thing. Those differences don’t make us better or worse than one another—they simply make us uniquely made. Life would be ridiculously boring and predictable if we were all essentially clones of one another.

I love the movie Hitch. Yes, it has a great storyline for Hitch and Sara, but Albert Brennaman really makes that movie what it is for me. The man does his own thing, and he learns to be unashamed of who he is. Hitch tries to tell him to act a different way, but Albert reverts back to his actual personality and demeanor. I love what he says when Hitch questions his dancing: “That’s just a lot of me being me.”

I hope this little homegirl always knows how valued she is and never loses her spunk.

And that’s what we should all be doing—a lot of us being us.

Albert spills mustard on his shirt while sitting in floor seats at a basketball game, and it doesn’t faze him. He kisses Allegra Cole and ignores the instructions Hitch had given him regarding how to act when doing so (the dramatic toss of his inhaler was perfect). He dances the only way he knows how (which, as he was told by Hitch, was very badly) without caring about the opinions of those around him. He lives life his way, and he doesn’t let the lies that could potentially hinder him keep him from going after what he wants. He doesn’t even believe that he isn’t good enough for Allegra.

And guess what? He gets the girl in the end.

People might ridicule you or judge you or make you feel like there’s something about you that makes you inadequate. It’s also possible that you believe those lies about yourself without the help of anyone else making you think them. Stop believing those lies, and start reminding yourself that you are worth the investment in yourself to believe that you are capable and worthy of what your heart desires.

Lies are destructive, so remind yourself of this truth: You are enough.

And please believe it.

Because sometimes it’s better to launch the shot

There are some things in life with which you might be extremely familiar in some ways but that can still teach you or remind you of truths you need to hear.

For me, two of those things are weddings and basketball.

On Monday night (their first night as a married couple in their home), they had me over for dinner. I love them more than froyo.

When I met Amanda and Phillip back in January, I knew from the second that I saw them that I wanted them to be my people. (I’m pretty sure that they didn’t initially feel the exact same way, but I think I grew on them.) They got married over the weekend, and it was so fun and so special to be a part of their day and to see them start their forever together. I love seeing people take chances on love and chances on each other—it’s beautiful bravery that can change their lives in ways they’ve never imagined.

So as not to stray from the norm, I went solo to the wedding. I sat at Table 5 with a bunch of people I didn’t know (most of whom work with her or are married to people who work with her), and I knew from the second that I sat down that it was going to be a great night. And this is kind of a big deal—I really don’t like numbers in increments of five. But meeting new people brings me tremendous joy, and these people immediately made me feel welcome into their circle (they pretty much all knew each other already). They didn’t judge me in any way and didn’t ridicule me for bringing my own ketchup and Wheat Thins to accompany my tacos.

They simply did what people have the ability to do best—they loved me for who I am.

My Table 5 homegirl Ashleigh is so freaking awesome that it’s ridiculous.

It can be tough to be vulnerable and genuine sometimes, but I really think that there’s no reason to live any other way. Yes, you’re taking a chance by putting your real self out there, but it’s a chance that you need to take if you want people to know the real you.

Whether you’re the person walking down the aisle or the person getting floor burn on the top of her foot from the dance floor (I’m not referring to anyone specific), weddings are good places not only to remember to love people for the individuals they are, but they’re also good places to remember that you have to take chances every once in a while in life if you want your dreams to come true. Take Amanda and Phillip, for instance: They took chances on each other, and now they’re spending the rest of their lives together.

Which leads me to the basketball court.

I joined a men’s basketball league. A couple of my coworkers are on a team, and it sounded like my cup of tea. Our first game of the season was Monday night, and it was a lot of fun (especially because we got the W). There was one point in the game when I got the ball and had an open three, but I didn’t take it. I passed it off, instead. A few of the guys had been yelling “shoot it,” and then my teammate Jeff later said this to me: “Sometimes you just have to go for it and launch it up there. If you miss, meh, you miss. Just shoot it.”

Wise guy, that Jeff.

He’s right. The next open three I had, I took the shot. I missed. It was really ugly, actually. (Behind the arc is not my sweet spot—I’m more of an elbow shot kind of girl.) But I felt better about actually launching it up there, like Jeff had advised me. I really do believe that it’s often better to try something and fail at it than never to try at all. You have to take chances in life if you truly want to live.

You can’t make shots that you don’t take. You can’t achieve dreams that you don’t work toward. You can’t do life with people if you don’t take the time to know them and invest in them.

I’m thankful that I got that second chance at the three-pointer. That’s not always the case, though. You only get one life, and you don’t always get multiple chances at the opportunities that are placed in front of you.

So launch that shot—and, as soon as it leaves your hands, believe with everything in your being that it’s going to be nothing but net.

When you worry about situations that don’t even exist

Things aren’t necessarily always as bad as you think they will be.

But that doesn’t stop us from letting our imaginations get the best of us.

I think it’s easy sometimes to create worst-case scenarios in our minds that don’t actually exist, and we end up dealing with unnecessary anxiety. There’s an episode of Modern Family that depicts this pretty perfectly when Claire freaks out about Haley’s whereabouts and what possibly could have happened within the last 24 hours. She spirals down a crazed worry path, but it turns out that Haley was upstairs in her room the entire time, and all of Claire’s panicking was for naught.

I’ve definitely been guilty of that more than once in my life, and I let those anxious thoughts get the best of me recently.

If you’re worried about being on a trip without your purse, get yourself a pink fanny pack from the nearest Walmart. It’s less than $8 and is a total game changer.

Last week was rough for a number of reasons, mainly because of the whole kidney stone thing. I’ve been feeling like a train wreck since then because something still isn’t right (don’t worry—I’m going to the urologist this week), and I didn’t do a great job of making sure that I got enough rest. I made the perhaps unwise decision to play in my flag football game on Saturday morning, and when I was getting closer to the beach, I noticed a strange sound coming from my car’s front right tire. I started worrying that my car was falling completely apart and that I was going to have to get an entirely new car ASAP if I wanted to be able to drive anywhere. But I really don’t want a car payment right now, so this wasn’t going to be good at all.

I parked on one of the streets near the beach and got out of my car to inspect the damage. All I saw was some circular silver thing stuck in my tire, and I wasn’t able to pull it out, no matter how hard I tried. I didn’t have time to deal with it at the moment because I needed to get to my game, but during my walk over to the beach field, I started thinking about how I was going to return to a flat tire, and I didn’t know how to change a flat. I didn’t want to have to call anyone to help me, so I then started worrying about trying to figure it out on my own and putting it on the wrong way.

By the time I got back to my car, the tire was still intact, and I drove to the nearest America’s Tire (I have a lifetime warranty with Discount Tire, and America’s Tire is the same thing as Discount out here), but it had closed at noon that day. I called two more America’s Tire stores, but it turns out they all closed at noon for some company event ON THE ONE DAY THAT I NEEDED THEM TO HAVE THEIR NORMAL HOURS.

As I drove to the nearest auto place that Google Maps had found for me, I started panicking about how much it was going to cost to fix it or get a brand new tire all because freaking America’s Tire had to have a company event. (I honestly hope that all of the employees had a great time—I used to love it when my company in Dallas would close early to have some fun as a company family.)

I sat inside and watched college football on my phone (don’t ask me why the store had a throwback NBA game on its TV, instead) and had a convo with God to try to get rid of my worrying. It wasn’t too long later that the guy who had been working on my tire came in with the keys and gave them to the guy behind the counter, who turned to me and said that I was all set. It was a bolt that had been in my tire, and homeboy had removed it and then patched up the hole. I braced myself as I asked him how much it was, and he said four words that made my heart soar: “Don’t worry about it.”

He didn’t realize it, but he was speaking to me about so much more than the tire.

All of that worrying and stressing ended up being a waste of energy that I really didn’t have in the first place. I feel like I should know by now that going down the worry path is a horrible idea and usually leads me in the wrong direction. What’s the point in stressing so much about situations that don’t even exist and may never be actualities?

I’m really thankful for people like Amanda who remind me what it means to be a good friend and go through tough times together. (P.S. IT’S HER WEDDING WEEK!!!!)

I have a lot of unknowns ahead in my life right now, and at least one has been causing me more anxiety than it should. Here’s the truth, though: I can handle anything that comes my way, because I know that I’m never alone, and God has never once turned away from me—and He won’t start now. No, that doesn’t mean that everything will always work out in my favor, but it does mean that I can endure the trials and trust Him through them all.

Life is going to throw challenges at us, and there will be times when it leaves us feeling anxious about what may or may not happen. There are questions constantly filling our minds: How much is this going to cost? What if I can’t afford this? What if I’m single forever? What if the dreams in my heart don’t come true? What am I going to do if this happens? What am I going to do if this doesn’t happen?

You can “what if?” until you’re blue in the face, and you can sweat over your mind’s inquiries until you wear yourself out completely. But, rather than spending all of your energy worrying about things that aren’t realities and may never be, why not use it to enjoy where you are, trust that what needs to happen will happen, and love the people in your life in this very moment?

Because one bolt in your tire can’t destroy the entire car.

Because sometimes you have to let people help you

Humility comes in a variety of different forms and often hits you when you least expect it.

Especially when you’re in the hospital.

I’ve struggled with kidney stones for years now and even had to undergo three different surgeries last year because of these tiny little demons that feel anything but tiny as they try to pass through your body. I can say with absolute certainty and maybe a bit of spite that I hate kidney stones. And I do mean HATE.

Sadly, the change in climate from Texas to California didn’t stop the wrath of the stones.

JP is a winning volleyball coach with a winning personality (obviously).

I currently live with a couple I’ve come to see as family. Kris and JP are truly wonderful, and they let me third-wheel it with them quite often. We’ve watched a lot of Brooklyn Nine-Nine together and had plenty of heart-to-heart chats, as well. They’re my people.

One really exciting thing we’re doing together now is the Tour de OC, which basically means that we’re going to eat at a bunch of different places in our area on Monday nights. Two days ago was supposed to be our first Tour de OC outing, but my body decided to go and ruin that plan.

I had been having some weird back pains earlier in the day, and I had a feeling that I knew what was going on but didn’t really want to acknowledge it, so I did what I do best when I have physical pain: I ignored it. As usual, it wasn’t my best decision, and it kept getting worse. I also couldn’t stop going to the bathroom all day, but I told myself that I was just really well-hydrated.

WHEN WILL I EVER LEARN??

I hung out with some friends and then went to the beach for a bit before going home to shower and get ready for the inaugural night of Tour de OC. After I showered, I was in so much pain that I decided to lie down in bed until it was time to go. I lasted maybe three minutes and couldn’t find any way to get comfortable, so I went downstairs to tell Kris and JP that I was going to have to bail on them and go to the ER, instead. Because who doesn’t love a good trip to the hospital when you’re supposed to be relaxing and enjoying a good time on Labor Day?

I don’t remember taking this picture, but apparently I texted it to multiple people.

As I practically collapsed on the bottom of the stairs when I called out for JP and didn’t get an answer, Kris came in and insisted that he drive me. I started to say “no,” but then he cut me off and said he was going to get his keys. JP had just gotten up from a nap, and she texted me right after we left to say that she was on her way and would meet us there and stay with me.

I won’t bore you with all of the details of my time in the ER or tell you about how weird I get when I’m drugged up (because I honestly don’t remember half of the things I said), but I will tell you that JP sat on what looked like the most uncomfortable little chair in that ER room with me and made sure that I had someone to talk to and someone simply to be there with me. Hospitals can often be lonely and scary places, and she didn’t want me to have to go through that alone, even though it was something I’ve faced and dealt with before.

As an added bonus, college football is back (ALL OF THE PRAISE HANDS!!), and we were able to watch that in our room to give me some comfort, too.

That right there is a true friend. When you find one, keep her.

One thing that I’ve always struggled with is allowing other people to help me. I think that I’ve gotten so used to doing everything on my own that I’ve become almost completely uncomfortable with people offering to do things for me. The sweet nurse Emily insisted on going into the bathroom with me to make sure that I didn’t fall after she had just pumped a bunch of pain meds into my veins, and I tried to tell her that it wasn’t necessary. It wasn’t because I was weirded out by someone being in the bathroom with me (she faced the door the entire time, and I’ve helped my fair share of brides go to the bathroom on their wedding days)—it was more that going to the bathroom is something that I’ve always done on my own, and I don’t want someone else to be inconvenienced by having to help me do something, especially when it’s something that I’m perfectly capable of doing myself. (Although, in this case, she was probably right that I would have fallen because she gave me some pretty powerful stuff, and I was struggling to walk like a normal human.)

When the worst part was finally over (when the stone makes its way through the ureter and enters the bladder), JP drove me home after we made a pit stop for some food. I had tried to buy her dinner, but she wouldn’t let me and said that I need to stop trying to pay people back for things and stop apologizing for her having to be at the hospital, because I would have done the same thing for her. Then she hit me with this truth: Sometimes you just have to let other people take care of you.

And she’s right.

Yes, it’s important to be independent and to know how to navigate this life without someone else telling you what to do, but it’s also important to know when you can’t do everything yourself and that there are people in your life who love you and care about you and actually want to do things to help. They’re not doing those things out of obligation or for selfish purposes—they’re simply acting out of genuine love.

No, that guy did not share his Chick-fil-A with us.

It’s a hard truth for me to swallow, but I know that it’s something that I need to embrace more, especially if I ever expect to be in a relationship someday. There’s going to come a time when a guy loves me and truly wants to do nice things for me, and I shouldn’t push that away. No, I don’t need chairs pulled out for me or bags carried for me—I do circuit strength training workouts, so I’m good there. But every once in a while, I will likely need someone to hold my hand when I’m anxious, to bring me extra Wheat Thins when I’m sick, and to remind me that he’d rather pick me up from the airport than have me take an Uber with a stranger whose ear I’d likely talk off.

You can’t always do everything on your own. Sometimes you need people. I don’t believe that God intended us to do life all alone—that’s why other people exist.

So love them well, and let them love you.

When you unashamedly live your best life

When you’re little, you think most heroes need capes and have special superpowers that give them abilities to save the world and whatnot or are people who have left significant marks in history.

At some point, though, you realize that heroes are actually often everyday people who don’t necessarily achieve monumental feats.

I’ve worked at my new job for a little more than two months now, and I truly love it. The work is incredibly interesting and challenges me in a good way, and my coworkers have already become like family to me, whether they like it or not.

Here’s a rock in that “garden.” Also, meet my new pink jellies. Hello, 80s.

I also really love the building where we work, particularly this sculpture garden right outside. I’m not really interested in artsy stuff, and there aren’t really many sculptures (they’re just rocks and triangle things), and it’s not an actual garden (it’s mainly concrete with a little man-made stream thing and some cacti), but it’s a cool area. I think it’s kind of famous, too, because there are often professional photo shoots (I saw some models there last week) and music videos going on below us as we work, and it seems to be a popular tourist attraction. I sometimes use my lunch breaks to sit on the cozy chairs and read because it’s a busy but peaceful area.

And it’s apparently also a great place to work on your tan.

I first saw Reesa (or maybe it’s Risa) a few weeks ago, and I immediately respected her. She was wearing a tank top and some black denim shorts—not exactly the attire of everyone else who works in the surrounding buildings—and she looked like she knew exactly what she was doing as she strode toward the cozy chairs from our neighboring building with big headphones on and a don’t-mess-with-me attitude written on her face.

I watched in fascination as she pulled one of the chairs out from under one of the umbrella-shaded areas directly into the middle of the sunshine. She sat down and stretched out, kicked off her shoes, closed her eyes, and blocked out everything and everyone around her. She was tanning in the middle of the day at work, and she didn’t give a rat’s a$* about what anyone thought about her.

I loved her.

I continued to see her do the same thing on a daily basis, sometimes even tanning in her dress (hiking it up a bit, of course), moving her tank sleeves completely off her shoulders, or eating peanut butter straight from the jar. She was living her best life, and other people’s opinion’s of her (and, trust me, there are plenty—people in both buildings watch her, seem shocked, and talk about her later) mean absolutely nothing.

One day last week, I decided that I needed to talk to her. I wanted her to know how much I admire her. I consider myself someone who does what she wants and doesn’t place much value on what people think of her, but this was an entirely new level—and I’m inspired.

I walked downstairs with my coworker who was going to get a soda from the cafe next door, and I veered off to go talk to this woman who seemed like she wanted to talk to zero people. She had her eyes closed and headphones on, was in her standard tank/shorts ensemble, and was clearly in “do not disturb” mode.

So, naturally, I tapped her on the arm.

I introduced myself and essentially told her that she is my hero, and we had a really nice conversation. I learned a lot about my new friend, and she had been having a bad day and was glad to have someone say something positive to her. I also learned that she never used to take lunch breaks—like, ever—and so her husband told her that she should spend some time out in the sun every day that she could during the summer, and she was taking him up on that.

Pick any song of hers to listen to, and your ears and heart will thank you.

We really don’t know anything about one another until we actually make efforts to get to know each other. I left that conversation feeling uplifted. Reesa gets it. We don’t have to try to impress other people, and sometimes we simply need to do what’s best for us, even if that means being judged by others. Honestly, who really cares what they think?

Years ago, Colbie Caillat came out with “Try” a song that is raw and honest and reminds us that we don’t have to see ourselves how we think others see us. It’s not about other people liking us—it’s about us liking ourselves for who we are. I remember playing this for some of my high school girls when I was a teacher, and I wish every human in the world would listen to this song and let the lyrics resound in their hearts. (P.S. I was able to meet Colbie on Saturday night when I was out with some friends, and she is just as beautiful in person and even more so on the inside.)

I hope that Reesa continues to get her sunshine every day, and I hope that she continues to care zero amount about what people think of her. I also hope that more people will live life like she does—boldly and with complete confidence in who she is and what she’s doing.

We should really try less to impress others and try more to love them.

Because it’s what you believe about yourself that matters

Over the years—and it seems like even more so lately—I’ve learned that what I think about myself and believe about myself has much more value than other people’s opinions of me.

Especially guys’ opinions of me.

I talk quite a bit about how I have struggled in the past with my confidence when it comes to the fellas. It’s easy for me to be assured of myself in essentially every other area of life, but it’s another beast entirely when it comes to how I’ve tended to see myself in terms of being attractive to guys. There’s more than one reason for this, but the big one is because all of the previous rejections (and the indirect rejections) I’ve faced made me believe that I simply wasn’t enough for anyone.

It’s a complete lie, but some lies have a tendency to engrain themselves in our minds in painful ways.

Not too long ago, one of my friends gave me the number of a guy she thought would be a good match for me. While I would have preferred for him to have my number, instead, he apparently knew that his friend was giving me his number and that I’d be reaching out.

I thought about not texting him, but then I remembered that dignity is overrated, and I honestly had nothing to lose by sending a text to some guy I had never met. What ensued was one of the most boring conversations known to man. When I reached out, he replied and then sent a selfie so that I could “put a face with a name.” I thought that was a little interesting, but maybe it’s normal or something, so I sent him a picture of me with my nieces (and clarified that they were my nieces). After that, there was not much said at all. I get that it was kind of a weird situation, but he did know about me from his friend, and he easily could have kept the conversation going. He chose not to, though.

I then had a choice to make: I could get upset at the realization that he had seen my picture and decided that he wasn’t interested, or I could say “meh, oh well” and get on with my life.

Thankfully, I chose the latter. If this had been years ago, I probably would have gotten upset about homeboy not thinking that I’m pretty and started to feel uglier than I already believed myself to be. Sadly, it’s fairly easy to fall into that trap. But I’ve spent too much time trying to figure out why I’ve been single this long, and I don’t want to do that anymore. I’d rather continue to trust that this ever-long season (or lifetime—whatever) of singleness is with purpose and that I’ll meet the man I’m supposed to love and be loved by forever when I’m supposed to meet him.

This just seemed like a good spot for a photo.

The past heartaches don’t have to have a grip on me if I don’t let them. What people think of you or don’t think of you can’t influence the way you think of yourself if you don’t let it. As the remarkably feisty Detective Rosa Diaz (if you’re not a Brooklyn Nine-Nine fan, please rethink your life decisions) once said, “you can’t let other people’s opinions get in the way of what you want, especially because other people suck.” While the second half of that quote might be a bit harsh, she makes a valid point about not allowing what other people think dictate the way you live.

I’ve mentioned before a guy who shattered my heart and made me feel more emotions than I knew I had and how he made me feel like I wasn’t enough in a lot of ways. And I let him. I let what he thought of me (or what I thought he thought of me) and his words and actions heavily influence the things I believed about myself.

I’ll never forget the conversation I had with my cousin Rachel (whom I’ve mentioned I admire and respect in so many ways) at Thanksgiving almost two years ago. The broken heart was still very fresh, and I stood in front of her on the verge of tears in my aunt’s and uncle’s driveway and uttered four words that no woman should ever ask herself or anyone because of how some guy made her feel: “What’s wrong with me?” And I’ll never forget how, before wrapping her arms around me, Rachel made me look her in the eyes as she reminded me that nothing is wrong with me, and I should never let anyone else make me feel like there is.

I think of that moment often because I know that she’s right. It’s not what someone else thinks of me that’s important—it’s what I think and believe about myself that truly matters. If I don’t believe I’m worthy of love, that’s a much bigger issue than some guy thinking I’m not attractive enough to be his type.

Don’t let other people control your own view of yourself. You were made uniquely and purposely to be the person you are, and you don’t have to be ashamed of or defend yourself for being who you’re meant to be. I can tell you firsthand that it’s so freeing to be able to be comfortable with who you are rather than constantly trying to figure out what you need to change about yourself to be more acceptable. It’s a waste of your time and energy, and you’ll enjoy life so much more if you simply embrace who you are and invest that time and energy into pursuing your passions and loving others as they are.

The same way that you should be loved.

Because one person can change your life without even knowing it

Every once in a while, one person comes into your life and changes it in more ways than you ever could have imagined.

And that person may have no clue that he or she did.

About two years ago, the pain of a broken heart that still isn’t fully healed began. Maybe I should have seen it coming; maybe there was no way for me to know. Either way, it happened, and it hurt. A lot.

Best.day.ever.

Right around that same time, though, this tiny human entered the world—sweet Olivia, the precious little girl who made me an aunt for the very first time. As soon as I saw her and held that angelic little body in my arms, I was smitten. Little did I know, this little girl would walk alongside me through a dark season that was filled with more crying than just her baby tears.

From the day she was born, I committed to be a big part of her life, and I certainly wanted her as part of mine. I went over to my brother’s and sister-in-law’s house at least once a week to spend time with her, and that hour or so each week was more dear to me than I’ll ever be able to explain fully.

Unfortunately, Olivia suffered from colic, which is such a horrible condition that’s quite common for many infants. It causes them to cry and cry and cry with no apparent cause or ways to calm down. I could sometimes get her to stop for a little bit, but it pained me to see her turning so red and crying so much. I know I’m not a parent, so I don’t know the complete pain it causes people with kids to see their own children hurt, but I know that it caused me enough pain to know that it’s got to be absolutely unbearable.

I mean, seriously. How cute is she?!

When homeboy hurt me, I cried more than I usually do. You know who was always there for me? That sweet little baby girl. She listened to me, she let me cry, she cried with me, and she reminded me that there are so many other people in my life who value me and who mean the world to me. Whether she knew it or not, she reminded me that, even when one guy makes me feel like I’m not good enough and not pretty enough and not worth enough of his time and energy, I am still enough. She made me feel loved when I felt completely unloveable.

I know that God brought her into this world in His exact time and with His exact purpose—Olivia is going to continue to change people’s lives for the better, and I’m absolutely certain of that. I met her right when I needed someone to walk with me through my heartache, and she’s continued to walk with me through that pain since the day she entered this world. Even though I live thousands of miles away, I still FaceTime with her every week and get to spend as much time as possible with her when I’m in town visiting my family.

There were lots of pics with my homegirls that day, but I promise that they were both happy. We’re still working on our photo opp faces.

Now Olivia has an adorable little sister, Evie, and she’s also been such an added blessing to everyone who meets her. There’s something about being an aunt that’s more special than froyo, and I don’t really know how to put it in the best words (even though words are supposed to be my thing). I honestly might not ever have kids, and that’s fine, but being an aunt brings me enough joy to fill all of the oceans. I think part of the reason for that is because of the way Olivia changed my life in ways she doesn’t yet understand.

But I don’t think that you have to be an aunt or uncle for something like that to happen. We often meet people who touch us and change us in incredible ways, and it’s not necessarily always because of anything significant that they did—it’s simply because they let us be who we are and reminded us that we are loved just as we are.

And you could also be that person to someone else.

You never know what storms other people are facing. There are so many different reasons people hurt—broken hearts, deaths of loved ones, lost jobs, financial hardships, broken friendships or family relationships, illnesses, uncomfortable or anxiety-causing situations at work or school—and we don’t always know what’s going on in each other’s lives. That’s just one more reason why it’s so important to show each other love when the world around us continues to fill itself with lies and hate.

For far too many years, I believed lies about who I was and what I wasn’t—too talkative, not pretty enough, not smart enough, not dateable, unloveable, unaccepted, rejected, too broken, too much of a mess. While I definitely don’t have it all together, I have much more confidence in who I am, and I don’t focus as much on what I’m not. That’s not important. What’s important is that I continue to live and love boldly so that those around me can see Jesus and know that they are sufficient in Him.

She truly makes this world a better place.

Olivia helped to remind me of that, and she didn’t even have to use any words to do so.

Maybe you’re doing really well in life right now and are fortunate enough not to be going through any tough times or hardships. Or maybe you’re in a rough patch full of more tears than all of your years combined and feel like you’ve been forgotten. Or maybe you’re even somewhere in the middle and have a lot of great things going for you but also have been struggling at times.

Whatever season of life you’re in right now, I hope that you know that you are valued, you are loved, and you matter. I hope that you have someone like Olivia come along and remind you of that, and I hope that you can be an Olivia to someone else, as well.

Because the more love we show to others to let them know that we care for them—their hurts, their celebrations, and simply their existences—the better this world will be.

When you realize that you’re not inadequate

I think we can all agree that being an adult is sometimes (or a lot of the time) tough.

Especially when you have to acknowledge self-improvements that you need to make.

I used to race a lot—like a lot. I think there was one year when I ran at least one road race a month, and three or four of those races were half marathons. I developed a love for running long ago, and there was something about racing that caused me anxiety in a good way but also helped grow my confidence in a number of ways, as well.

Then 2017 happened.

This will always be one of my all-time favorite racing memories—and all of my people were there for it (even sweet Olivia was there in Katie’s tummy).

At the end of 2016, I started to have weird (and pretty much constant) internal pain and frequently had blood in my urine (sorry if that’s TMI for you). I had been training for the half marathon that I ran every December in Dallas, and I was excited for it because I felt more confident than ever going into it. But around Thanksgiving that year, that pain I’d been having escalated. I ran the eight-mile Turkey Trot and didn’t do as well as I’d hoped, and a large reason for that was because I was in so much pain.

When I woke up the morning of the half marathon, I could barely walk and knew the race was out of the question. I later went to multiple doctors, and months went on before it was finally determined that I needed to have kidney surgery. I had a total of three kidney surgeries in 2017, which meant that racing was, to quote John Crist, a “for sure no.” There were quite a few periods of time that year when I was thankful if I was even able to run—it’s certainly not easy or pleasant when you have a stent in you.

It’s been a tough journey since then, and it’s not like those surgeries ended all of my issues with kidney stones. Though I’ve been able to train much more than I did last year, I haven’t been racing at all, and I’m honestly nervous about getting back out there.

Amanda has become one of my best friends, and I love that she always speaks truth and asks me how my heart is.

My dear friend Amanda and I were talking about this the other day and why I feel such a need to do well when I race. Aside from just being a competitive person, why is it so important for me to feel accomplished when I cross the finish line? We talked about it for a bit, and it definitely runs deeper than simply wanting to win or achieve my goals. (By the way, Amanda is freaking amazing, and if you ever need a life coach or counselor/sage, she’s your girl.)

I started thinking about this more later that day, and it became pretty clear: In the past, I let winning races or running fast times make me feel like I was enough. There are more than a few areas of my life in which I don’t always feel like I’m adequate—I had a really rough time in college and trying to figure out where I belonged; I’ve had multiple careers and don’t always feel like I’m excelling in them; I’m 33 and am just now in the process of getting a passport (meaning, I’ve never even left the country); I’ve never been in a relationship, which certainly makes me feel like a failure in more ways than one; and so many other things. But when I crossed those finish lines and had accomplished what I set out to accomplish, I was good enough. When I didn’t, I wasn’t.

My friends, those were lies.

It’s great to have goals and passions and to pursue those goals and passions, but it’s also good to realize that you aren’t going to hit the bullseye every single time you aim for it. One day last week, I cut a tag out the side of the inside of my dress because it was really bothering my leg. But when I cut it, it was even pokier and worse. So I cut it where it was threaded in, and the next thing I knew, there was a hole in the side of my dress. I don’t have an emergency sewing kit (and, even if I did, I wouldn’t know how to use it), so I stapled my dress. I also spilled a large amount of water—not once but twice—all down the front of that same dress on that very same day. And those were the good things that happened that day. Obviously, I was killin’ it in life. But I survived the day, and I wasn’t less of a person because of it, just like I won’t be less of a person if I run a race and am slower than I want to be.

You just have to take one look at my hair to see how much of a mess I am. But that’s just part of my story.

Here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter how many races I’ve won. It doesn’t matter how successful I’ve been in my career. It doesn’t matter how many dresses I’ve ripped holes in trying to cut out tags. It doesn’t matter how many staples I’ve used trying to patch them back up. It doesn’t matter how many dates I’ve had (or, in my case, haven’t had). It doesn’t matter how many guys have looked my way. None of those things holds value in my worth. I can’t let deferred hopes or unattained goals make me feel like I’m not good enough.

Because I am enough—just as I am. I was made in the image of Christ, and I don’t have to be someone else or put a bunch of W’s in the win column. I don’t have to pursue this type of perfection that I’m never going to obtain. I’m going to lose. I’m going to rip clothes. I’m going to have my heart broken. It’s just part of life.

But it doesn’t change my worth.

At the Brett Eldredge concert at the OC Fair, there was a sign that said “TEXAS-SIZED,” so I obviously had to take a picture in front of it.

I might be in love with Brett Eldredge. I’ve always loved his music, but I recently saw him in concert, and I fell hard for him. He has a song called “Somethin’ I’m Good At,” and he mentions a ton of things that aren’t really parts of his skillset, but he is able to love well and put a smile on the face of the girl in the song who has captured his heart. I’d like to be like that—if I fail at all other things in this world, I would like to be able to love people well. I won’t always be capable of doing everything I want in life, but I can always show love to others. We all can. People need love, and they need to know that they are enough.

And so do you.

Because your heart is stronger than what people think of you

More and more in life, I’m starting to realize that people try to define who we are for us.

And more and more in life, I’m trying to remind others just how not OK that is.

I was at the grocery store one day last week, and there was a man in front of me who was very loud. That’s not necessarily always a bad thing—it was simply drawing attention to him, though. So, naturally, I started listening to what he was saying.

He was telling the cashier (don’t get me started on this store not having self-checkout) how he is filled with joy. I thought that was good to hear, but then my positive attitude toward this man was quickly diminished.

He went on to say that he’s not from around here (join the club, bro) and that everyone in this area is “so nasty.” (Umm, excuse me?) He said that, at his church back home, everyone is filled with joy, and you’ll never see someone not praising Jesus for life. Then he kept going on about how he carries joy with him everywhere, but the “people around here don’t know what joy is—they’re nasty.”

Sir, I think you need to get to know people before deciding you know them.

I was about to say something when he turned to me and said, “See, she doesn’t have joy. Nasty!”

Mr. Joy, you don’t know my heart.

He turned and bolted out the door before I could even say a thing to him. It’s probably for the best—I’m not sure I had a ton of nice things to say in that moment.

You can judge me, but you can’t define who I am. I’m enough in Christ. The end.

I wasn’t upset about the fact that the man called me nasty—he can think whatever he wants about me—but I didn’t like that he was going around calling an entire county nasty simply because not everyone here lives their lives the exact same way he does. I don’t want to judge him for his words or actions, but I do pray that he realizes how powerful love is and how people need love more than they need to be called nasty. There are some tremendous people with beautiful hearts here and everywhere throughout the entire world, and there are also people who might be a little more rough around the edges. Let’s not judge them; let’s love them, instead.

The next day at work, some of my coworkers were having a conversation and joking around, and one of the guys said that it’s pretty bad if you’re older than 30 and still not married, “especially if you’re a woman.”

Say what?

I was not able to remain silent in this moment, so I invited myself into their convo. He didn’t realize that I was listening (or that I was older than 30), so then he started trying to backtrack and win me over by saying that I look younger than 30.

First of all, thank you for saying that. Second, let’s talk about what you just said.

Mr. Chatty Coworker, you don’t know my heart.

It’s challenging enough sometimes knowing myself that I’m in my 30s and haven’t been in an actual relationship, so I don’t really need people reminding me and claiming that it’s basically pathetic to be my age and still this single. I go through seasons of being OK with it and seasons of feeling lonely. I feel like I just transitioned out of that lonely one into one that’s more comfortable, so maybe the enemy was trying to make me feel discontent again—who knows?

Regardless, I can’t let people’s words and opinions of me change what I think or say about myself. And I hope that you won’t let other people’s words and opinions of you change what you think or say about yourself. They cannot define who you are—unless you let them.

We don’t know what everyone else is struggling with or what storms they might be facing in their lives. Instead of judging others or assuming you know them, perhaps give them a little grace, or even take the time to get to know them. You might find that your attitude toward a person can change when you actually take time to learn more about him or her with a heart perspective.

We’re not all going to live our lives the same way, and that’s a good thing. People don’t have to express joy the same way you do. People don’t have to have the same relationship timelines that you do. People don’t have to spend the same amount of time at their jobs or in their hobbies as you do. People don’t have to like all of the same movies or foods or pastimes or whatever as you.

And you don’t have to be like everyone else, either. It’s important to be genuine, to be real. People can’t know the real you and your heart if you aren’t being who you actually are. If they judge you for being you, then so be it. Your identity shouldn’t be the result of what someone else thinks it should be. That goes for all types of relationships—with strangers who know nothing about you, with family members who know everything about you, with your friends who are your ride-or-die lifers, with acquaintances, with people you might look at as enemies, and with the person whom you love or are dating.

Be authentically you—it’s harder for people to know your heart if you don’t truly know it yourself.