Because you’re worth living fully and taking chances

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

Especially when you’re old(ish).

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

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

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

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

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

These gems help keep me hip.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like when we have no real reasons to be apologizing.

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

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

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

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

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

Because I’m not sorry for being me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When you don’t need an invite list

Even though an Evite email reminder or an invitation update sometimes seems like just another email to add an additional number inside the little red dot on your inbox icon, it’s actually so much more than that.

It’s a reminder that you’re loved.

When I was in the sixth grade (THE WORST), I was invited to a party that was mainly with those I considered to be the “cool” kids in my grade, and quite honestly, I was kind of surprised that I made the list. Being the shallow middle schooler that I was, I felt pretty great that I received an invite. (I seriously don’t like to think often about the person I was in those awful years, but I can’t change the past, so let’s just accept that I was immature and insecure and didn’t understand a thing about what it truly meant to love people.)

It’s nice to be invited places, isn’t it? I’ve gotten to the point in my life at which I have become comfortable inviting myself to join in on other people’s fun, which I’ve had to do a lot more of since moving to California almost a year and a half ago. I jokingly say that I quickly invade myself into people’s lives, but it’s kind of true, so maybe I’m not really joking. I mean, the first week I was here, I invited myself to church with a coworker and her husband. (But she’s one of my best friends now, so I’m glad I did.) And there have been so many other instances—both back in Dallas and out here—when I’ve asked if I could tag along to places or go over to people’s houses or join in on various events. I may or may not be my people’s own special version of Dennis the Menace (minus the troublemaker part) or that neighbor kid in Home Alone who mistakenly gets counted as Kevin in the van.

I think sometimes I forget, though, that not everyone is as intrusive as I am, and maybe I need to be better about making sure that I invite others when I set out to do things on my own. I recently hurt one of my favorite people in the world because I didn’t reach out and invite this person to experience parts of my life with me. When I’m not inviting myself places, I do pretty much everything on my own, and so I think I’ve maybe gotten too used to that for my own good that I forget that there are people who love me who want to do life with me. I need to remember that don’t have to be independent all of the time—it’s OK to invite people to walk alongside me in my journey every once in a while.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that feeling uninvited is a lot like feeling rejected. It makes you feel unwanted and like you weren’t even a thought in someone’s head. (Side note: If you haven’t read Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst, please put down whatever you’re reading right now, or pick up a book for the first time in ages, and READ THIS BOOK. SO good.) Being invited, on the other hand, creates the exact opposite feelings in your heart—you feel valued and loved and like you matter enough for someone to think about you specifically and then reach out to you to make sure that you’re there to experience the same things that person is about the experience.

Earlier this year, Beth, the first person I ever met at my church in the OC, mentioned having me over for dinner with her family when she heard that I didn’t have any plans on Easter. The following weekend on Easter Sunday, I didn’t see her at church and didn’t have her number, so I figured I’d just go home or go for a walk at the beach. But what did sweet Beth do? She got my phone number from someone else and texted me to remind me about the invite. I remember in that moment feeling like I wasn’t just another face at church on Sundays—I’m loved and known. It’s a wonderful feeling to be known and to know that there are genuine people in your life who want to know you and want to spend time with you. Maybe we all need some Beths in our lives.

Since moving to California, God has shown me and taught me so much about His sufficiency and who I am in Him. He’s reminded me in big ways just how loved I am and that I’m made complete and made worthy in Him. He’s reminded me that the invitation for His love and His grace is always there—there are zero exceptions. He’ll chase me down if He has to, but I never have to chase Him.

Because He’s always there with open arms and love to mend every hurt and every shattered piece of a broken heart. Always.

Don’t be afraid to invite yourself places. It doesn’t make you pathetic or desperate or fearful of being left out. It makes you brave to pursue people and love them well and also to make sure that you’re not doing life by yourself all of the time.

And don’t forget to invite others to come on adventures with you, too—even if an adventure is as simple as getting froyo or grabbing dinner or going for a walk.

Because we all need to be reminded of how loved we are every once in a while.

Because anything worth doing is difficult at first

I love when people remind me of truths that I need to hear right when I need to hear them.

Even when those people aren’t even actually talking to me.

Hey. Let’s hang out.

When I was in Texas last week for Thanksgiving, I went to this huge lights display at the Rangers ballpark (I refuse to call it Globe Life) with my aunt and uncle and my cousins and their boys. While we were standing in line for ice skating, a woman and her daughter walked by, and I only caught one line of their conversation (something the mom said to the little girl)—but it was all I needed to hear.

Anything worth doing is difficult at first.

I have no idea what the context was, and I honestly don’t care. That kind of statement could be said anytime and anywhere and still be chalked full of nothing but truth.

I started thinking about all of the things I’ve done in my life that have been worth the risks or the pain they caused. Moving to California is obviously up top on that list—I endured some of the most challenging few months of my life as I tried to adjust to living in a brand new place with no familiar faces and suppress all of my tears the entire time (though I failed pretty badly at that in a few unforgettable moments).

One difficult thing about living in Cali is being so far away from this one.

Running and racing are also pretty high up there. There’s a crap-ton of training that goes into getting yourself ready enough to toe that start line with confidence, and the miles and workouts along the way certainly aren’t always walks in the park (like, literally, you can’t walk through training if you want to win).

Honestly, though, I think some of the things that have been the most difficult but worth more than I ever could have imagined are the chances I’ve taken that didn’t end the way that I wanted them to end—because they’ve helped me to become the person I strive to be.

A little more than two years ago, I poured my heart out to someone who had been toying with my emotions for far too long. He clearly didn’t care about me the way I cared about him, and he was able to walk far, far away from the situation while I stayed behind and tried to clean up the shattered pieces of my heart without letting the tears that wanted to leave my eyes get the best of me. My heart had never hurt so much, and I didn’t know what to do with all of the emotions that I wasn’t used to letting anyone see.

And this one.

If I had to rewind time, I’d still tell him all over again, though.

I don’t know when I’ll meet my forever guy or if I ever will, but I do know that I’m not willing to sit back and watch chances pass me by. It took a lot of years and a lot of pain to get to this point, but I know now that I’m worth the risk of letting my heart lead and trusting that, no matter what happens, my identity is not found in any man, and my worth does not depend on whether or not he chooses me out of every other girl in the entire world.

Because I’ve already been chosen by the only One who will never let me down.

I started a book that asks you to pray for your future husband for an entire month—31 days of praying for a man you’ve never met before. It was weird for me at first and, if I’m being perfectly truthful, a bit discouraging. You see, I’ve always had complete and unhesitant faith in everything I pray for with the exception of one thing: someone actually loving me and wanting to spend the rest of his life loving me. I’m not trying to throw a pity party—it’s simply something I’ve struggled with for years that I’m praying through often.

This is Carly, one of my favorite college volleyball players ever. She’s amazing and is learning more and more each day what it means to be brave.

My identity is in Christ, and it is certainly possible for me to be fully known and fully loved (especially because I already am). God has a plan for me, and it’s a plan that I need to trust and pray about without any doubt or reservations. As my sweet almost mother-in-law (well, she’s my brother’s mother-in-law, but I’ve adopted her, too, because I love her so much) reminds me, “it’s up to Him to decide if what you ask for lines up with what you need. But never be afraid to ask for it all. He loves for us to come BOLDLY to Him.”

I’ve been trying to live boldly in every aspect of my life, so why should prayer be any exception? Why should I not be praying for someone to love me and then praying for that actual man? Reflecting upon that has really helped me through this devotional book. The first few prayers were pretty weak—I was basically asking God just to let me think that it’s possible for me to be loved but that I was still struggling. My prayers have changed now, though. Instead, I’m asking boldly for God to bring a man in my life who can walk through the rest of it with me.

Someone who knows everything about me and still loves me. Someone who wants to celebrate my victories with me. Someone who wants to comfort me after the losses. Someone who wants to be known by me. Someone who lets me love him for who he is and is perfectly comfortable being his true self around me at all times. Someone who makes me laugh and appreciates my quirks. Someone who loves that I eat Wheat Thins at every meal and doesn’t get embarrassed when I bust them out at a public restaurant. Someone who carries ketchup packets with him for the times when we’re at a Mexican restaurant, and I’ve run out or forgotten mine for my quesadillas. Someone who will watch sports with me. Someone who will pray with me and worship with me.

Someone who will give me his heart and not give mine back to me in thousands of tiny pieces.

It may not happen exactly as I hope, and it may not happen at all, but I’m still going to pray boldly for it. It may have caused me heartache along the way, and there may be more to come, but that’s a risk that I’m willing to take.

So take those chances. Chase those dreams. Know that YOU ARE WORTH THE FIGHT. Let yourself believe that those things are possible, even when they seem like they aren’t.

Because anything worth doing is difficult at first.

When running into the water is brave

I know I’ve mentioned this more than once, but I don’t like to be cold.

Like, at all.

There’s been a recent heat wave here in Southern California, and we’ve hit some temperatures that I thought I left behind in Texas. I’ve been used to upper 70s as the highs for months now, but last weekend gave us some of those lovely triple-digit temps that make you feel like you’re melting.

Not cool, bro. (I hope you appreciate what I did there.)

OK, fine. Let’s be brave and go into the Pacific.

My forever friend Maddie came to visit me over the weekend, and we did what any typical gals in their early 30s (or probably any age, really) would do on such a warm Saturday: We went to the beach. Now, I typically don’t like to get in the water in the Pacific Ocean—it’s rather chilly, after all. Maddie went ahead and tested it out, and even though the day was beyond warm, her reaction was enough to let me know that getting in the water was essentially the same as diving into the Arctic when you’re covered in ice cubes. But for some weird reason, I got up and walked toward the water, anyway. I figured putting my feet in there would cool me off enough.

Mads was still in there (she had obviously lost her mind for a moment), and she was urging me to come in farther. I got until the water was almost to my knees, and I yelled out that I was being brave. Then Maddie said something that I wasn’t expecting.

“That’s not what brave looks like—just run!”

I don’t really like to be challenged on my boldness, so I took off running straight into the water. I’ll admit that I didn’t go super far (mainly because I didn’t want to wash my hair—judge me on my shallowness and laziness all you want), but I did go much farther than I had originally planned. I didn’t like the feeling of being so cold, but I guess it did end up feeling a bit refreshing as I walked back to my towel.

There’s a whole world out there waiting for us to be brave.

The truth is that Maddie was right—being brave doesn’t look like standing in one place, shaking, and not moving forward at all. It’s not brave to pretend like you’re being brave. Instead, it’s brave to take chances and to run after the things that you need to without sitting there and thinking about all of the things that could go wrong or make you feel uncomfortable.

In fact, being brave is hardly ever about being comfortable.

Years ago, I had feelings for a guy who was my good friend. In my head, I thought about all of the things that I could say to him and imagined what it would be like finally to get it all out of my heart. But I never said a word to him. Not one single word. I stood there, just like I did on that shoreline, and I let myself think that I was right where I should be and that I shouldn’t go any farther out into the water. I can tell you right now that I wish that I had run toward him and told him about everything I was feeling for him. I wish that I had let myself be completely uncomfortable and had poured my heart out. I wish that I didn’t worry about the equivalent of washing my hair or feeling cold.

I wish that I had simply dove into the rushing cold waters without thinking with my head but, instead, with my heart.

I chased down a group of teenage girls for this pic. I knew at least one of them would be a talented photographer.

I can’t make those wishes come true now, but I can certainly change the way I take on the waters that scare me in the present and in the future. I can think more with my heart and not so much with the overly worried voices in my mind. I don’t want to fear those cold waves—I want to run toward them without hesitation. I want to know not only what it looks like to be brave but also what it feels like to be brave in every aspect of my life.

Yes, there are going to be plenty of times in our lives when we’re faced with the decision to stand exactly where we are and stay comfortable or not only step out of those comfort zones but take off running from them as fast as we can. I hope that I’m able to choose that second option—and I hope that you are, too.

We were never meant to stand on the shoreline and watch the world and all of its opportunities pass us by as the waves crash at our feet.

When you live like you won’t fail

I’m not ashamed that I learn a great deal about how to live from little kids—I love their boldness and blind faith.

And now I’m even taking life lessons from their toys.

My friend Amanda and I were playing the pitch-n-catch velcro game the other day, which allows you to catch even some of the worst throws (not that we were throwing any of those, though). You can get pretty confident with your showmanship in that game, and she brought up the analogy of how differently we might live our lives if we went into everything knowing we wouldn’t fail.

Daaaaaaang. Cue deep convo during a game of catch.

I consider myself a confident person, but I can’t say that I go into every situation with complete belief that I’m going to be successful. But why? Sure, it isn’t going to happen all of the time, but why is it so difficult to believe that it will?

When you play a normal game of catch with a baseball and glove, you might drop it, or you might throw one way off target. It’s bound to happen at some point. But is it so wrong to believe that you are going to catch it or throw a perfect ball each time right before the ball goes through the air? When you’re playing the pitch-n-catch game, you don’t even have to worry about any of that. Even when Amanda’s velcro “glove” broke (I clearly don’t know my own strength), the ball still stuck to it.

You can CATCH us in the 2020 Olympics. (You’re welcome.)

It makes me think about the scene in The Sandlot when Smalls first plays with the gang, and Benny tells him to stick his glove up in the air, and Benny would hit the ball into it. Smalls stands out in the outfield with his glove held nervously in the air and quietly says to himself “please catch it.” Would he have been as worried if it were part of the velcro game and if he knew that he wouldn’t fail?

Let’s talk about my lack of dating life now.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I spent far too many years of my life not taking chances because I always assumed that rejection was going to be the only thing I received from the guys I thought were right for me. But what would have been so bad about being brave in those moments? What would have happened if I had believed that the tennis ball would stick to the velcro in those situations? I guess I’ll never know, but I can certainly change the way I let myself think now.

What if, from now on, I believe that I actually have chances with the fellas who catch my eye? I don’t mean this in a conceited way but more in a velcro-game-of-catch way. It doesn’t mean that it will always work out, but it does mean that I will be more comfortable being genuine and vulnerable because I’ll have that no-fail attitude. I think it sounds like a pretty solid plan.

And this is something that we can practice in other areas of our lives, as well. No, we won’t always be successful in every single thing we attempt, but we can change our mindsets going into each one. Besides, striking out doesn’t make you a complete failure—it simply means that you have some adjustments to make the next time you go up to bat. Failures allow us to learn and grow.

When playing the velcro game, every once in a while, a person can launch a horrible throw that is completely out of reach of the person with the other velcro glove, and the perfect toss-catch streak ends. But that doesn’t mean that the person throwing it the next time will think the failure rate is now going to increase. Instead, that comfort of not failing is still there—there’s confidence and belief that the ball will land exactly where it’s supposed to on that velcro.

I don’t know about you, but I want to live more like I’m playing the pitch-n-catch velcro game. I want to go into situations without hesitation or fear of failure.

When I finally step on the starting line again to race, I don’t want to fear failure.
When I go into work at my new job each day, I don’t want to fear failure.
When I send a text or talk in person to a fella I fancy, I don’t want to fear failure.
When I finish writing my book and work to get it published, I don’t want to fear failure.

I want to be as brave as I was throwing that tennis ball at a velcro target in each and every moment of my life. What would my life look like if I were? What would your life look like if you were?

Living like you won’t fail doesn’t make you egotistical; it makes you brave and confidently hopeful.

 

What’s an area of your life in which you wish you wouldn’t worry about failing?

Because paper towels can be shower towels

I really appreciate good life reminders from unexpected sources.

You know, like ‘90s romcoms and gyms without towels.

I’ve been thinking a lot about change lately and how it’s such a constant in life—which is kinda funny if you think about it. One of the things that it most consistent in life is the thing that ruins consistency.

Two of my gal pals and I were watching You’ve Got Mail the other night (call us basic—whatevs), and there’s a line in there when Kathleen Kelly admits that she needs to close her bookstore that stuck out: “Closing the store is the brave thing to do. You are daring to imagine that you could have a life doing something else.” (P.S. I’m sorry that I forgot to mention the spoiler alert, but if you haven’t seen that movie by now, that’s another discussion in itself that we need to have.)

I had never really thought of it that way. I think that because I grew up playing sports, and one of my favorite things to do now is play and watch them, I’ve always thought of quitting something or giving something up as failing and everything that’s the opposite of brave. Yet here Birdie is telling the world that sometimes admitting defeat and moving on is brave.

I guess being brave looks different for everyone.

Just calling Taylor Swift so that we can write a song about my broken heart.

I’ve mentioned probably more times than anyone cares to hear that I went through a pretty rough heartache not too long ago, and the healing process took (and maybe even is still taking) way longer than I wanted or expected. But there was this huge part of my heart that wanted him to be the guy for me. It crushed me even to think that he wasn’t, and it made me feel like I would never find anyone like him.

For me, being brave meant finally admitting that it was a good thing to find someone not like him. Sure, he had a lot of the qualities I love in a person, but the bottom line is that he didn’t love me or even care about me the way my forever person will. Being brave meant closing the door to that book store, so to speak, and daring to imagine that someone else will captivate me more than he ever did and make me feel things that he never did.

Former NFL wide receiver Eric Boles was a guest speaker at my church over the weekend, and he always brings a good word. If everyone spoke about life in sports analogies like he does, I think that I would understand a lot more. I mean, the guy said that “yesterday’s home runs do not win today’s games.” That’s gold, people. He also said something else that really stuck. He was talking about when a quarterback is looking to throw to his receiver while the opposing team is charging at him and trying to distract his focus. Some quarterbacks will just heave it out there with the faith that their receivers will be where they’re supposed to and make the catches. If they wait too long to throw the ball, though, things might get ugly—and painful. Then he let his next words sink in: Don’t hold onto the ball too long.

Just like quarterbacks, sometimes we just have to let go with the faith that what will happen next will be better than holding on.

This is how I felt about using paper towels after my shower at the gym.

One day last week, I went running at the beach and then had somewhere to be but didn’t have enough time to drive back to my apartment. However, there was an LA Fitness in the area, and I convinced the guy at the front desk to let me borrow a shower without paying a guest fee or being forced to talk to anyone about a membership just to get a day pass. What I didn’t realize until I got into the locker room, though, is that this LA Fitness didn’t have any towels. None. Zero. Zip. So I did what any reasonable person would do: I used a bunch of paper towels to dry myself off.

In situations like that one, I’m pretty good at adapting. Sure, I would have much rather had an actual towel and not felt like I’m a walking sitcom in many regards, but I didn’t think twice about taking a new path and didn’t dwell on the no-towel issue. I had faith in those paper towels to get the job done.

Why can’t it be that easy when other things don’t go the way we wish?

It can be tough to believe that there’s something else out there for you when you’ve always believed your life was supposed to go a certain way. Whether it’s with your career or a relationship or where you live or whatever—sometimes there are moments when you simply have to face the facts that what you’ve been planning might not be what God has planned for you. It might hurt your heart to say goodbye, but it also can make even more room in your heart for something that brings it more joy than you ever could have imagined.

And whether it gets you a Super Bowl win or not, launching that ball into the air just might be the brave thing to do.

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 playing in the ocean doesn’t have to be scary

There are so many battles I’ve faced in life that I never want to relive.

More specifically, the flu.

I don’t know when my immune system became such a pansy. When I was a teacher, I had an immune system like a champ. But I kicked off this month with strep throat, and I ended it with the flu. I will say that it’s quite a fitting end to the year that was pretty hellish for me—a broken heart that acts like it doesn’t know how to mend and three kidney surgeries that caused my body all sorts of pain. Good riddance, 2017.

I’ve only had the flu one other time, and it was miserable. (I know I just made a humble brag about not getting sick a lot while I was a teacher, but I actually got the flu during my last year of teaching, thanks to one of my precious little darlings coming to school with the wretched virus and spreading it throughout my classroom.) This time around was no better—in fact, it might have been worse.

I was feeling really tired last Friday night, and I credited it to all of the travel and Christmas festivities. I didn’t feel that great when I woke up on Saturday morning, but I figured running would make everything better. It didn’t. I decided to go for a walk outside before getting froyo, and I barely survived—every single muscle in my body felt so ridiculously sore. I couldn’t think of anything significant I’d done that would make me feel that way (other than getting old), so I just did what I do best in these types of situations, and I ignored all of my symptoms.

Two of my friends from Dallas were in town for a wedding, and I was supposed to babysit for their sweet little girls that night. I started to feel a bit delirious, though, and my temperature kept rising. I found a thermometer I forgot I owned that I received from one of my stays in the hospital earlier in the year, and my temp was a little more than 100 degrees. Less than 30 minutes later, it was more than 101 degrees. I didn’t think that was a good thing. My friend and I agreed that it was best that I didn’t watch their kids that night (I felt awful about that, but I’m pretty sure I was also highly contagious), so I took some NyQuil and got in bed around 3:30 p.m.

Other than getting up to use the restroom and take more NyQuil and Advil, I didn’t get out of bed until after 7 a.m. the next day. I needed to run to Target for a couple of things but felt really dizzy (turns out that I had misread the dosage of NyQuil and had taken it more often than you’re supposed to—oopsies). I called my sister as I was driving there just in case something happened in my drugged-up state. At least someone would know.

I can’t explain what happened. I didn’t even know it was bleeding.

I spent most of Sunday in bed and fell asleep for the night around 6:30 p.m. (yes, on New Year’s Eve). There were many moments when I was in bed for those two days that I wished there were someone there to take care of me. I’m normally a very independent woman, but every once in a while, it would be nice to have someone there to get me more water or a cold (or warm—I don’t even know which is better) towel for my head or monitor my NyQuil intake when I really need it.

On Monday, though I wasn’t feeling much better, I went for a run (bad idea—my whole body was weak and hurt) and came back to a shoe full of blood. I guess I had a cut on my foot that had bled like crazy when I went running. With the way my life has been going lately, it seemed like such a fitting way to ring in 2018.

A little later, I got froyo and then went for a walk on my favorite beach to go sit on my lifeguard tower, which has quickly become my go-to spot—it brings me peace and clarity. And the view is absolutely beautiful. Every once in a while, I even see dolphins (well, their dorsal fins) swimming in the distance.

I didn’t capture a pic of dolphins. Sorry.

As I was sitting on my tower, I saw two young kids playing in the water. My initial thought was that those youngins were crazy—it was WAY too cold to be in the ocean! First of all, the Pacific always feels pretty frigid, but it was also now January and barely 60 degrees outside. The more I watched them, though, the more I realized they didn’t care at all. Their parents were definitely avoiding getting in there with them, but those kids didn’t mind because they weren’t worried about anything.

There’s something about being young and carefree that makes you forget about all of the possible things that could go wrong with the good things. You’re so caught up in having fun and exploring the ocean and all of its shells and waves and sea life that you don’t really acknowledge just how much of an ice cube your body could become from spending more than four seconds in there.

This tower has become a very important part of my life.

In that moment, I was reminded that life doesn’t always get easier when we want it to—in fact, sometimes the opposite occurs. It doesn’t mean the trials will last forever, but they can certainly endure for much longer than we’d ever prefer. Those are the times I wish I were more like a kid again—so resilient and unconcerned with what comes my way but, instead, enjoying every moment I have and embracing the newness and exciting opportunities I’m given on a daily basis.

I don’t need to worry about not having anyone to care for me when I’m sick or dwell on the heartache that one person has caused me. I’ve been given the chance to live in a beautiful place where I’m surrounded by God’s constant reminders of His presence, and I know that He’s enough. Maybe one day I’ll love someone who will love me back. Maybe I won’t. Either way, it’s OK. I’d rather live like I’m playing in the ocean without caring about the temperature. It’s much more enjoyable that way.

And perhaps someone else on a lifeguard tower will see me running fearlessly in the water and be inspired to do something brave.

Another reason to dislike jury duty

I’m not always as tough as I’d like to be.

And I don’t like to admit that.

Last week I had jury duty (no, not on the same day as G-Dub), and it was a day I would like to forget. Sure, most people aren’t huge fans of getting summoned, but it turned into an experience I was not expecting.

After we watched some thrilling video explaining a little bit about our civic responsibility and the jury duty process, my number got called to go be part of the voir dire for a case. I went with the herd upstairs and waited until the bailiff came to assign us our specific numbers. I was 27, which gave me a corner seat in the back row. As much as I’d love to drop the “Nobody puts Baby in a corner” line, I kind of preferred it that day—and it later turned out to be a good thing I was there.

jury
Waiting for civic fun

The case involved a car incident from a few years ago, and a couple was trying to get money from the defendant. The prosecuting attorney did his little spiel and asked us questions, making notes on his legal pad. He reminded me of someone I used to know (and not in a good way), so I was very happy when he was finished talking. I shouldn’t have been so excited, though.

The defense attorney stepped up for her turn, and not long into her talking, she said something I wasn’t ready for. She mentioned the intersection where the car incident occurred, and it was the exact same two cross streets where a rather traumatic experience happened to me. Of all of the places in the entire metroplex, WHY THERE?? I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a panic attack of the magnitude of the one that ensued. I stopped breathing temporarily, my heart was beating faster than I felt I could handle, and I had no idea where I was. My mind flashed back to that dark morning on that empty street, and all I could hear was the forceful voice of the man holding the gun. All I could see was darkness and him standing there with his weapon in his hand, ready to do whatever he wanted. All I could feel was the need to run as fast as humanly possible away from this unknown man who had followed me. And all I could do was pray.

After a few moments, I finally came back to reality. As I said, it’s good I was in that corner, as it allowed me not to cause a scene with my unexpected overwhelming fear. I didn’t hear a word the defense attorney for the rest of the time. Finally, everyone stood up because the judge had given us a break so they could decide who the 12 jurors would be. I stayed back to talk to the judge, and obviously I was not chosen for the case.

I feel kind of wimpy that this thing that happened to me six months ago is able to haunt me so much. Maybe some people think it’s ridiculous because nothing actually happened. Maybe they have the opinion that the cop did that it isn’t a big deal because the guy didn’t shoot at me. For me, that’s not the scary part. I think I’m more afraid of what could have actually happened. If I had stopped running, what would he have done? Would I be here right now? Would I be scarred for life? I know it’s not good to live in the mindset of “what if,” but what frightens me the most is that he is still out there, and there are still so many individuals out there looking to take advantage of others. I’m not afraid of death, but I’m terrified of rape.

And it’s a crime that is far too often overlooked.

Perhaps it is ridiculous that I still can’t even drive down that street or that I get anxiety when I unexpectedly hear the intersection where he stood and yelled at me. But there are things in life that affect us all in different ways, and this one is apparently taking me longer to get over than I would like.

I don’t think it’s wrong to be afraid—but I also don’t think it’s good to live life in fear. At some point, I will have to go on that street again. At some point, I will have to stop panicking when I hear the street names. At some point, I will have to be brave enough to sit through a full day of jury duty.

Every day is a new day to walk away from pain. Every day is a new day to become stronger. Every day is a new day to be brave.

And every day is a new day to celebrate the fact that you have a new day.