When you stop asking “why me?”

As little kids, we constantly ask why many things are the way they are.

Whether we realize it or not, though, we don’t truly change that habit when we’re adults.

Last Friday was not the best day of my life. When I woke up, my right eye was bothering me and had some weird goop coming out of it. Since I moved back to Texas a month ago, I’ve been having weird allergy issues that I didn’t have before I was in California. I figured those allergies were now getting to my eyes, so I put my contacts in and went running. The right eye was leaking weird stuff most of the run, but I thought it would be best to ignore it—I didn’t have time to deal with it.

I briefly glanced in the mirror after I showered and got dressed for work, and I couldn’t decide which looked worse: my hair that I hadn’t washed in seven or eight days (I know—gross) or the eye that was still goopy and getting redder by the second. It also hurt, and if I’m being honest, I had a slight irrational fear that it was simply going to fall out. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t Google how much glass eyes cost. I started thinking of Captain Ron and all of the jokes I could make, but then the fun stopped when I got into my car.

The battery was dead. Perfect.

I stopped the first cute guy I saw in my parking garage (JK—he was actually the first person I saw, but he was for sure a good-looking fella) and asked him if he had jumper cables, but he did not. He came over to look at my car and told me what I already knew: “Yeah, it sounds like the battery.” No kidding, Sherlock. I called Triple A and then had to go get a new battery. By the time I finally made it to work SUPER LATE, I had forgotten that I still had an eye filled with puss and pain until I went into the restroom and saw myself in the mirror. One of my coworkers said it looked like I had pink eye, so then I was sent to work from home since it spreads rather easily.

Pink eye is an evil beast. Also, the picture doesn’t do it justice.

I stopped by an urgent care on the way home, and the doctor there gave me the official diagnosis and a prescription for some antibiotic drops. Here’s one of the big problems with pink eye: It’s highly contagious and shows no mercy on its victims. Because I didn’t know I had it for most of the morning, I hadn’t been careful not to touch my left eye after rubbing my right. It wasn’t long before that same nasty goop was filling up my left eye, as well. By the end of the day, I had two disgusting eyes competing for the title of most painful and obnoxious. I hate you, pink eye. And I mean that. (Also, I didn’t think this was a thing adults get. I’m 34, not 7.)

When I woke up on Saturday morning, for a brief moment, I thought I had gone completely blind. I started trying to figure out how I was going to live the rest of my life with no sight. When my dramatic reaction ended, it took me probably six minutes or so to be able to get my eyes completely open. They were so crusted and dried shut that I’m surprised that I still have any lashes left. I went to look in the mirror, and the shallow part of me almost burst into tears.

You know the scene in Hitch when Will Smith has an allergic reaction, and his whole face swells up and becomes deformed? That’s basically what I saw when I looked at my reflection. My eyes were so completely swollen that I wasn’t recognizable. I didn’t even look like a real human. Thankfully, my eyes were also too swollen and nasty for me to be able to muster up any tears, so I just stared at myself for a few seconds in disbelief until I decided that I needed to go running. I figured that would help the swelling go down.

I essentially had to quarantine myself for most of the weekend, which was slightly depressing (but, as my sister pointed out, considering my lack of rest in the last few weeks, probably a little needed). I slept quite a bit and caught up on laundry—mainly because I needed to decontaminate everything that had come in contact in some form or another with my poisonous eyes.

As I was sitting at home and admittedly moping a bit, I remember making a comment when I was talking out loud to myself about how I felt like Job from Scripture. DRAMA QUEEN MOMENT. I had to stop myself—are you freaking serious, Natalie? He had A LOT more to deal with than I did. Sure, I had pink eye and a dead battery (that was replaced) and a few other things going on that seem like they’re constant plagues in my life, but I was nowhere near as distraught as that man was.

And then I remembered my promise to myself to steer clear of the “why me?” mindset.

I have “Be brave.” tattooed on my arm because sometimes I need the reminder. It isn’t always easy.

When we face situations we don’t want to face and go through the tough things that we really don’t ever want to go through, it doesn’t do much good to sit around and ask ourselves the one question we typically want to know: “Why me?” The truth is that you may never know why what happens to you has to happen to you. Or maybe you won’t know until way later in life. But the why shouldn’t make a difference, because you’re going through it regardless, my friend.

Instead of asking why, ask yourself how—how much faith are you willing to place in a God who will never let you down? Ask yourself what—what are you going to do to be brave and fight the battle you’re facing? Ask yourself who—who do you want to be: the fearful or the fearless?

You don’t necessarily get to choose what happens to you, but you do get to choose how you respond to what you face in life. Whether it’s a dead car battery or pink eye or a much more serious illness or a broken heart or a loss or a shattered hope or an injury or a number of other things that put you in situations in which you never want to find yourself, you get to choose whether you do nothing but ask why or ask the bigger questions that you’re ultimately going to have to answer yourself.

I certainly don’t know why many things are the way they are, but I do know one thing: We were always meant to be brave.

Because worrying shouldn’t replace joy

Worrying and stress try to take the place of joy and fun, and that’s just not right.

Especially when bikes hanging off of cars are involved.

When I first moved to California, I bought a beach cruiser at Walmart. I know that it’s not good to get attached to material things, but I love that bike. It’s the perfect seafoam green color, and it just makes me incredibly happy when I ride it.

For my move back to Dallas, I packed most of my bigger items (and by “most” I mean all two big things I actually own—my bed and my love seat) and a few other possessions in one of those cube things that you load yourself before the movers pick it up to transport it to your destination for you. The day that it was picked up, something hit me while I was at work: Shast! I forgot to pack my bike in there.

I almost cried.

This bike and I have a lot of memories together.

I was trying not to stress, but moving across the country (again) brings with it some anxieties that you try really hard to avoid but sometimes fail. The fact that I forgot to pack something that definitely wasn’t going to fit in my car—I have too many clothes, and I admit it—started giving me heart palpitations. How was I supposed to get my bike to Dallas from Orange County?! I immediately consulted the Google.

I researched the costs and logistics of shipping a bike, but most of them involved taking the bike apart in some capacity. Again, this is a $99 beach cruise from Walmart—it didn’t work that way. If you take off that front wheel, you lose that bike forever. I ended up buying a bike rack for my car and told myself that the spare tire on the back of it wouldn’t be an issue.

Sometimes it’s best to ignore reality for as long as possible, right?

My friend JP helped me attach the bike rack to my car and the bike to the rack, but there was definite concern from both of us with the soundness of it all. The spare tire simply complicated things and made it look and feel not as secure as I would have preferred. But I needed and wanted to get home, and I wanted to take that bike with me, so I was going to give it a go and hope and pray that it wouldn’t suddenly become unattached and fly off and hurt someone else on the road while I was driving.

My sweet sister made that long journey home with me just like she had made it out there with me—she helped send me out on that adventure and was now helping to bring me home. She’s the actual best. And she, too, had some slight concerns about my beach cruiser and the likelihood that it would make it the full 20–21 hours back to Dallas.

When I picked her up from the airport in Orange County late on Wednesday, we immediately drove down to San Diego to stay in a hotel for the night so that we didn’t have to share an air mattress and because a hotel down there was slightly more affordable than one in the O.C. and was along the way on the route I had decided we’d take back. We didn’t get too far before I became overly paranoid and had to stop at a gas station to check the security of the bike. Steph got out of the car to help inspect it with me and to try to tighten all of the straps. We decided that it seemed as tied down as it could get, and we’d trust that it would survive.

Perhaps you can see why I was a little concerned.

It was comical with that thing on the back. The parking situation at the hotel in San Diego was laughable, and I don’t know how larger vehicles are able to stay there with the tiny aisle between the two rows of cars and the packed-together spots that look like they can only fit MINI Coopers and smaller. Steph had to get out to guide me so that I wouldn’t hit another car, especially with the bike protruding out pretty majorly on the right side, and what should have been an easy turn became at least an 18-point maneuver. It was almost like the pivot scene from Friends but in a car.

The good news is that the bike made it the entire trip back to Dallas, and no one was injured or died. The bad news is that I wasn’t as relaxed as I should have been for a good portion of the trip, and I checked the security of that thing during every single stop we made. Sure, I reached a certain point when I stopped thinking about it and simply trusted that everything would be OK, but it took me a while to get there. I was worrying about something that I had no control over at that point, and my worries tended to magnify when I noticed any slack in the straps or tilting/shifting of the bike rack. In all honesty, the thing was super secure and wasn’t going anywhere, but it was tough not to check it in my rearview mirror probably more times than I’ve ever looked that way in the more than nine years that I’ve been driving this car.

Yet I didn’t worry about something that likely should have been a bigger concern—you know, like running out of gas in the middle of nowhere.

Road trip warriors at it again.

There was a stretch of desert that we went through that didn’t have a gas station for a pretty long time. I had checked before when I mapped out the trip to make sure that we wouldn’t encounter such situations, but it happened nonetheless. We were as far past empty as you can get, and my gas was burning much more quickly because of all that was in and on the car (apparently losing fuel at a faster rate that way is a thing—freaking science). At one point, I didn’t know if the gas pedal was actually working or if it was just my mind playing tricks on me that it was more difficult to push down and wasn’t really giving much oomph. Steph was getting pretty concerned, and I would have felt awful if she had given up her time and energy to travel across the country yet again with me only for us to run out of gas in a desert area full of mystery—not necessarily the good kind—and the words “no service” in the top left corners of our phones.

I remember saying a little prayer right then and there, and I felt a calmness that everything was going to be alright. Even if we had to walk to get gas (which I was confident we wouldn’t have to do), we would be fine. And guess what? We made it. We filled up with more gas than my tank can actually take, so that was special. I tried to be better about monitoring the gas the rest of the trip, but Steph ended up being the one to make sure to check with me every so often to see how we were doing in that department. I love that gal.

So why was I so worried about that bike?

I thought about it later and realized that I do this quite often in different areas of my life—I let myself get anxious about things that won’t get any better or any worse by my worrying. Some situations leave me trusting God completely, while others seem like they’d be better if I had a brown paper bag to breathe in and out of repeatedly. But what I need to remember is that, regardless of what happens, and even when things don’t go the way I want and hope them to, He’s still there, and He’s still good.

And nothing will ever change that.

We’re all going to find ourselves in moments when we have to choose between stressing out about things we can’t control or living fully in the present and enjoying every second of life that we can. It certainly isn’t always easy—there are plenty of scary and daunting situations people face every single day—but it’s absolutely possible.

Having fears and doubts doesn’t make you weak. It makes you human. But releasing those fears and doubts and letting yourself trust that there’s nothing that’s too big for God to handle makes you brave. Last May, I got “Be brave.” tattooed on my right inner forearm as a reminder that I want to live a life full of taking chances and chasing dreams and pursuing passions and speaking what’s on my heart and letting myself love in big ways and not ever letting fear keep me from doing anything I know I’m called to do—and doing it all with the complete faith that there’s a God who loves me more than I can ever comprehend.

Home.

My sister and I made it safely back to Dallas with no issues. We drove the long stretch to Midland the first day and stayed with me sweet cousin Rachel and her family for the night, and then we woke up and drove the remaining four or five hours home. Every single moving stress I had before and during that entire process is in the past. I’m back and settled in now, and everything feels right. And, as usual, the anxiety I felt was for naught.

The truth is that we don’t actually know what’s going to happen tomorrow or even in the next few seconds. Life is beautifully unpredictable, and that’s how it should be—because that’s how faith comes in to play. I hope that you never let fear cause you to miss out on the joy of the present, and I hope that you know that, no matter what happens in life, you’re valued and loved just as you are.

And I hope that you’re brave enough to believe that you’re worth that kind of love.

When you don’t let your singleness define you

As I continue to get older and grow more and more single (is that possible??), I’m beginning to learn more about what it means to love and be loved, regardless of my relationship status.

Because my singleness does not define me.

I’m in my final week in the O.C., which is exciting and sad and weird all in one. I’m beyond happy to move back to Dallas and be reunited with my family and people who have stuck with me through years of joy and pain and all of life’s celebrations and trials. At the same time, though, it’s bittersweet to be closing this chapter of my life that has honestly transformed my heart in more ways than I could have imagined.

Got a gorgeous hike in with sweet Arinda

My friend Arinda makes a vision board every year, and I became interested in making one of my own after hearing her talk about it and her reason behind making one at the start of each new year. On the final weekend in December, I went over to her house, and we sat together cutting out magazine pictures and words that pertain to my life and the goals and hopes and dreams I have for myself. She always picks a word to be her key focus, and there was only one that popped into my head and wouldn’t go away.

Freedom.

We cut out the individual letters for that word, and it has its special place on my board. I covered the rest of it with the images and words we had found, and it’s my new visual representation of who I am and what I’m anticipating for 2019. (As a side note, the only board I could find was this canvas-material thing with bows and some little girl on it that I found at Target in the kids section. I did my best to cover it up, but you can definitely see bits of it through my collage of stuff. Life, you know?)

We are enough.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized how fitting the word freedom is for my life right now. I genuinely believe that God called me out to California on purpose and with specific intention, and I believe that one reason was to be set free—free from anxiety, free from the pain of a broken heart, free from fear, and fear from the notion that I’m not enough.

I’m going back to Dallas stronger than I was when I left. I don’t say that to be boastful or to boost your opinion of me, because it honestly has nothing to do with me or with anything I did on my own. I say it because it was all part of God’s plan for me.

I’m as single as they come, and that’s always been something that’s been a little difficult for me. It’s tough to see nearly everyone around me falling in love and starting families while I’m still sending in RSVPs for one and never being able to drive in the HOV lane legally and twirling on the dance floor on my own during the slow songs. For far too long, I let my singleness define what I thought of myself, and I let it be something that diminished my opinion of who I was. I let it convince me that I simply wasn’t enough—not pretty enough, not funny enough, not good enough, not smart enough, not strong enough, not whatever enough.

But “not enough” is a lie.

These girls are going to change the world.

I found freedom from that nonsense during this last more than year and a half. My singleness allowed me to come out here on my own. My singleness allowed me to ask people to be my friends and spend time with me without worrying about messing with someone else’s schedule. My singleness allowed me feel more alone than I ever had and realize that the only One I need is with me all of the time everywhere I go. My singleness allowed me to invite myself places without thinking twice. My singleness allowed me to lead other single and unmarried women and encourage them and pray with them for their future husbands. My singleness allowed me to drop what I was doing and be there for a group of high school girls when they needed me most.

And my singleness allowed me to experience the freedom from the fear and pain that my singleness has brought me for far too many years.

Lifers.

Sometimes we need to take journeys we weren’t expecting to grow and learn lessons that we never knew we needed to learn. We may even be fortunate enough to make some lasting friendships along the way, and I’m so grateful for the lifelong relationships I formed in California. I know in my heart that the distance of miles and miles in between the different states won’t tarnish these friendships. I know that some friendships are only meant to last for certain seasons of our lives, but I didn’t make many of those out here—I’m more of a lifer.

I think one reason that I was able to form such friendships is because I’m letting myself be completely real and open and honest with people more than I ever have. I’m more comfortable being me, even around guys I have feelings for or think are attractive. Heck, I even sent a message on Instagram to my friend’s dentist because he’s a hottie, and she said he was single and that we might be a good match for each other. He never replied, but I’m cool with that.

There’s freedom in finally being OK with the rejections that used to hurt me.

I love Kerry and Nick (and precious Eva!!) with my whole heart.

When you break a bone, it often returns to a stronger state than it was as a result of the calcium that built up during the healing process. I left Dallas with a broken heart that I thought would never be whole again, but I’m returning home with a heart so mended and capable of much more that it ever has been because of the love that built up around it and in it during this healing process.

Life is often unpredictable and will lead you to places you weren’t planning to go. And those are often journeys that you need to go on by yourself in order to discover that you’re never alone as you think you are. Your relationship status doesn’t define you, and don’t ever be afraid to do anything simply because there isn’t someone else with you to make the journey. It might be the adventure you need to help you become who you were always meant to be.

And you’re certainly worth taking the chance to find out.

Because life can be chaotic and peaceful all at once

Life can get chaotic and doesn’t always pan out the way we thought it would, which can sometimes feel downright disappointing.

But the changes of plans are often for our own good and lead to much more than we could have imagined.

One day last week, my coworker Martin told my friend Megan and me that there were cookies downstairs in the lobby of our building. Because of my deep love for cookies (I might be my own special version of the Cookie Monster), I wasted no time in making Megan and Martin rush down there with me so that we could all enjoy some sweet treats together. I was really excited about those cookies. I even grabbed a paper towel to bring back some extra loot.

When we reached the first level and exited the elevator, though, we found a completely empty lobby. Martin swore that there had just been an entire tray full of cookies, but there were zilch in sight—not even a single human was in the area. As we turned to go back upstairs with empty stomachs (well, except for Martin, since he had already gotten to devour his fair share of cookies), we spotted it sitting on top of the concierge stand: an empty tray with nothing but scattered cookie crumbs so tiny that they would probably even be passed up by ants.

That paper towel is too empty.

Needless to say, Megan and I were highly disappointed. Martin had gotten our hopes pretty sky high, but we walked away from the situation with unsatisfied cravings and sullen hearts.

Later on, I began thinking about how expectations can sometimes turn out differently than what we originally hoped, but it doesn’t always end with us holding empty paper towels and staring at cookie-less trays. There are so many areas of life that we can’t control, but we can control how we react to the situations we encounter and how we adapt to the adversities and unexpected path diversions on which we find ourselves.

I recently went to one of my favorite spots in Orange County: The Wedge. It’s a place in Newport Beach that’s on the far end of Balboa Peninsula where the waves are typically more ginormous than most other areas. I love walking a nice distance out onto the jetty and staring out into the ocean as the waves come crashing against the rocks and the shore.

It’s chaotic and peaceful all at once.

As I was walking out onto the jetty, I had to be very cautious of where my feet were landing and on which rock I was choosing to step next. It’s a jaggedy surface, and slipping and falling would be a very disastrous and painful situation. After I sat out there for a while and then made my way back toward the shoreline, I realized that I probably wasn’t taking the exact same path I took out there—I hadn’t memorized which rocks had been my go-tos, and I didn’t have a plan of any sort. I was simply jumping from one rock to the next with the hope that it was the right decision. There was no overanalysis or great deal of thought put into any of it. But I liked it that way.

Because it was chaotic and peaceful all at once.

Since I’ve been out in California, my life—in particularly, my heart—has changed in tremendous ways. The path I took to get out here and the reasons I was led out here aren’t necessarily the same path and reasons that are taking me back home. But, just like when I moved out here more than a year and a half ago, I don’t know what God has in store for me. I just know that He’s calling me to do something, and I want to follow His calling. At times, that looks and feels like jumping to different rocks without knowing exactly which one is the next one but simply leaping to it as I get there. My life feels like it’s all over the place right now, and half of the time I have no idea what day of the week it is, but that’s OK.

Because life can be chaotic and peaceful all at once.

This is the face of a girl who has no idea what’s next.

There are many unanswered questions that I have and that other people have asked me. I’ve let go of the anxiety, though, because I know that this isn’t a cookies-all-gone situation. Yes, I have some pretty lofty expectations for my future and goals and dreams I want to achieve, but I believe with all of my heart that the same God who has never let me down won’t fail me now. That doesn’t mean that I’ll always get everything I want to go my way, but it does mean that He has a plan for me that I’m going to trust and follow—I want my dreams to align with what He has in store for me.

We’re going to face major letdowns and dashed hopes that hurt the heart. We’re going to experience failures. We’re going to go on journeys that we might have never seen ourselves taking and encounter unknowns that make us uncomfortable. But one thing I’ve learned over the last year or so is that sometimes the only way to grow and achieve great things is to become completely uncomfortable.

Don’t be afraid to take chances and let your heart make the decision to leap to the next rock without overthinking it. Don’t be afraid to love in big ways and take risks on people—people are worth love and worth risks. Don’t be afraid to be yourself and do the things that you know in your heart are right for you to do.

And don’t be afraid to live your life with passion and spunk as you walk into the unknown with complete confidence in who you are.

When doing the brave thing means going home

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

And then sometimes we’re called back home.

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

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

I mean, how could I not love it here?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because change and failure are inevitable

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

Like when you’re at a roller skating rink.

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

Sk8er girlz

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

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

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

I just landed a triple axel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because you’re worth living fully and taking chances

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

Especially when you’re old(ish).

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

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

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

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

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

These gems help keep me hip.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When you stop merely wishing

There are some really innocent things that we do in our childhoods that we don’t necessarily think can hurt us later in life.

Like making wishes.

I went to see Wicked in Hollywood with my good friend Amanda and her mom last week. It was such a great play, and the lead roles have incredible voices that I like to pretend I have when I’m singing in the car or the shower. There was a line from one of the songs that really hit me and got me thinking, though.

Wishing only wounds the heart.

As a girl so full of hopes and dreams that I actually believe are possible, this pierced my heart to hear those words. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that wishing truly can wound the heart—a reality that Disney never taught me long ago.

I think that wishing is a lot different than hoping and dreaming. When you have hope, you back it with faith and trust. There’s an anticipation, and you let your confident expectation drown out doubt. You have an optimistic outlook, and you might even put some patient endurance behind that positivity. A dream is a vision you have of something wonderful that doesn’t exist yet but will in the future. You work toward it—you strive with everything you have to make that dream come true. There’s a need for perseverance and faith as you continue through your journey to get that desired outcome.

A wish, on the other hand, is a desire that you toss out into the air (often silently), and you don’t necessarily do anything about it. Why is it that, when you make a wish on birthday candles or after you get the bigger end of the wishbone, you aren’t allowed to tell anyone what you wished if you actually want it to come true? You can tell people your dreams, and they can support you as you chase them down. You can tell people your hopes, and they can pray for you and alongside you as your hopeful expectations begin to grow.

But wishes are different.

I’ve made a lot of wishes in my life, and I frequently find myself wishing each time I witness a shooting star, see 11:11 on the clock, and get my hands on a dandelion. Maybe that’s because it’s sometimes fun to take part in childlike activities like that—the innocence of it all reminds you of how simple life was before you knew all of the things you wish you didn’t. If I’m being perfectly honest, though, a lot of the wishes I make are for realities that I don’t always believe in my heart are going to happen.

Which, like the song says, only wounds the heart.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick because you believe so positively that what you desire will happen. The actual hoping part itself doesn’t hurt—it actually fills the heart with joy and excitement. But wishing only wounds the heart because there isn’t always much confidence behind a wish.

I don’t want to be a wisher—I want to be a dreamer and a hoper. I want to go after the dreams I have and fully trust in what the future holds and Who holds it regarding the hopes in my heart. I know that’s not always easy, but there are quite a few things in this world that I’ve faced that have been more challenging, and I’ve lived through them. I just have to remind myself that I CAN DO HARD THINGS.

During the last year and a half (well, it’s almost been that long) since I’ve been in California, God’s been doing a lot of work in my heart and grown my faith in more ways that I can describe. Moving out here and knowing zero people made it much more apparent to me just how sufficient He is—how He truly is all we need in life. At the same time, though, He’s surrounded me with amazing people and more love than I ever knew possible. That’s not something I ever wished for, but it’s certainly something that I hoped for with all of my heart.

I’m going to change my wishing tactics so that the things I wish don’t just stay wishes but, instead, become hopes and dreams. I’ve spent too many years letting wishing wound my heart, and a heart wasn’t made to hurt so much. It wasn’t made to break when you’re reminded of what you don’t have. It wasn’t made to ache each time the dandelion particles flying through the air as a result of your breath scatter in every direction. It was made to love and love well.

Don’t let wishing diminish your hope—wishing may wound the heart, but hope will fill it with love.

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.