Because our backflips are all different

I’m thankful for the people in my life whom I don’t know who remind me of the important lessons in life.

Especially when those people are little kids who are way smarter than they even know.

On a recent walk on the beach, I saw a girl doing backflips of a tiny sand ledge that had formed naturally near the water. She was ridiculously good, and as I walked by, I made sure to let her know. When I told her, a little boy with her (I’m assuming her younger brother) yelled “watch me!” before performing what I can only describe as one of the most uncoordinated front somersaults I had ever seen combined with a turbo roll of some sort.

When he got up, he looked at me and smiled before shrugging and saying a statement that I wish we were all saying as comfortably and confidently as he did.

“Mine’s a little different.”

Yes, that was the perfect word for it: different. What was so wonderful was that he wasn’t ashamed of that at all. In fact, he was pretty darn proud. He had made it a point to have me watch him perform his own version of the tumble his sister had perfected, and by most people’s definitions, his was so much worse. To him, though, it was worthy of showcasing.

I told him that it was beautiful, and I wasn’t lying. Sure, when I first saw it, the word “ugly” probably popped into my mind. But when I realized what it was to him and how he had actually tried, my perspective changed entirely. You see, what this precious little boy has already learned at such a young age that so many adults still haven’t seemed to grasp is so simple: Our lives are going to look completely different from other people’s, and that’s perfectly fine. We don’t need to shy away from who we are and the things we can or can’t do as well as other people.

Because beauty looks different for everyone.

It’s pretty easy to get caught up in the comparison game—suddenly we’re not smart enough or pretty enough or fast enough or thin enough or strong enough or making enough or talented enough or dating enough or experienced enough or traveled enough or social enough or whatever enough. It seems that someone’s always doing a backflip that’s better than yours, while you’re following with an uncoordinated somersault combined with a turbo roll of some sort.

But what if, rather than getting frustrated or feeling embarrassed that the things in your life look different from those in everyone else’s, you embraced those distinctions and were proud of the things you’ve been able to accomplish and were happy to say that you’re still trying. What if, when you started comparing some aspect of your life with someone else’s, you stopped for a moment to say “mine’s a little different” and were OK with that?

As a single girl approaching my mid-30s (IT CAUSES ME GREAT PAIN TO SAY THAT), I have to do a lot of that in my life, especially around the holidays. I’ve definitely embraced it in terms of making my own Christmas cards that look quite different from most of the ones I receive with families and couples and pets on them. Mine features only me—and sometimes a superimposed orca whale jumping over me—but hopefully someday you’ll get a card from me with my lobster (but the Friends version of a lobster and not an actual lobster, which I realize might be confusing based on my previous statement about the whale).

At church over the weekend, we were setting up for all of the Christmas Eve services and were creating a photo setup so that people could take their pictures in front of a pretty lit-up backdrop with a wreath in the background and trees on both sides. We were trying to make it the perfect size for families to take pictures. I understand why, but I also had a soft spot in my heart in that moment for all of the people who would be coming to church by themselves. I took a picture by myself in the setup right after I had just taken a picture of a precious couple followed by a family all together. When I looked at my photo, I couldn’t help but think of how different it looked from the ones I had just taken. For a second or two, I started to feel sad, but then I remembered the little boy on the beach, and I reminded myself that different isn’t bad. I didn’t need to look at all of the extra space in my photo and see emptiness—it’s merely extra room to welcome in more people in my heart and give more love.

You don’t have to be like everyone else. You won’t be. And you shouldn’t. Your life doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s. It won’t. And it shouldn’t. You may have a pristine backflip, or you may have one that resembles that of the turbo-rolling little boy on the beach. Either way, give yourself a little grace for simply getting out there and trying.

Because, either way, you’re enough being you, regardless—and especially because—of how different you are.

Because the holiday season can be tough

I love almost everything about Christmas—the scents that permeate throughout the air, the general feeling of love spreading everywhere, the beautiful lights bringing life to homes and streets, and the togetherness that becomes so integral.

But that togetherness aspect can also cause a lot of pain—especially when you don’t have it.

My sweet friend Monique shared a quote with me the other day (I’m not actually sure where she got it—Pinterest, maybe—and I didn’t even ask. I just thought it was really good and one of those things I needed to hear in the moment in which I was at the time.

Sometimes it takes learning how to be perfectly lonely just so God can show you what being perfectly loved feels like. Never doubt the season He has your life in.

Quite honestly, the holidays are the best (and by “best,” I obviously mean “worst”) time for a single gal to feel lonely. You look around, and almost everyone you know is coupled off and enjoying holiday festivities together. The Hallmark Christmas movies all end perfectly for the women who suddenly fall in love and realize that they’ve found their lobsters. The TV commercials all feature families or people in love doing all of the things together. Target puts out an entire section called “MATCHING FAMILY PAJAMAS” and not “MATCHING SINGLE GIRL PAJAMAS” or a simple “MATCHING PAJAMAS.” (I love you with my entire heart, Target, but I cannot thank you for that stake to my heart right now.)

This will be the first Christmas that I’ve ever been away from my family. Sure, a handful of people I know out here have offered to have me join in on their gatherings—which is so thoughtful, and I’m incredibly thankful—but being a part of other people’s traditions and celebrations together won’t be the same (and might even be slightly uncomfortable if they do gift exchanges as I sit there and watch it all or scroll through Instagram), even though my family doesn’t actually do anything super special.

I already feel the pains of missing out on my niece Evie’s first Christmas and precious time with my niece Olivia as she celebrates her third Christmas. And watching The Grinch or Christmas Vacation or any of the Pitch Perfects or really any movie with my sister. And my parents having a stocking ready for me as my mom reminds me that Santa comes to their house every year and that he was confused that I don’t live there anymore, so he left my stocking there so that my parents could give it to me. (I’m 34, Mare. I’ve known for years.) And simply being there.

I know that I’m not alone in all of the feelings of being alone during this season. There are many people out there who either don’t have families or aren’t close with their families or aren’t able to be with their families for the holidays this year. Yes, it’s tough. But I have to remind myself that I CAN DO HARD THINGS. You can, too—whether that means getting through the holidays alone or getting through the holidays with your people. We are in this holiday season and in the different seasons of our lives for reasons we might not know right now. We just need to remember that we are where we need to be.

When I first moved to California more than a year ago, I felt very alone. I knew zero people, and I basically begged anyone I met to be my friend. I invited so many people to go to coffee, and I hate coffee. You know what, though? Since I moved out here, I’ve experienced more love than I think I’ve ever felt in my entire life.

Time and time again, God has reminded me of who He is and who I am in Him. He’s reminded me that I am loved. He’s reminded me that I am valued. He’s reminded me that I matter. And He’s surrounded me with so many incredible people who have poured into me and invited me (or let me invite myself) into their lives. I truly believe that that’s one of the reasons He called me out here—to remind me of how absolutely loved I am as His daughter. He knew exactly how and where this needed to happen. I questioned it at first, but as usual, He showed me that it’s always best just to trust Him from the get-go.

Years ago, I started sending out Christmas cards to my people. I LOVE Christmas cards and began getting more of them as my friends all started getting married and creating families. (Side note: This may sound mean, but pics of crying babies in Santa’s lap are some of my personal faves, so always feel free to send those my way. I can see why they’re crying—you put them in these men’s laps who are complete strangers and have what they might see as scary beards and then expect them to smile. No, thank you.) I decided that me not having a husband and dogs or kids wasn’t going to stop me from making cards, too. It’s become one of my favorite annual traditions, and I get excited about coming up with new ideas for what to put on my cards each year.

Because you can’t let unfulfilled hopes stop you from living your best life.

Every season of your life isn’t going to be perfect or even remotely good. You will go through some that feel like unending winters full of blizzards and snow (I hate snow and anything that makes me cold) and horrid temperatures and all of the things that feel dark and uncomfortable. But then you’ll have seasons that feel like beautiful spring and summer afternoons that you could bask in forever. Regardless of what season you face, just know that you are still loved through each one, and YOU CAN DO HARD THINGS.

You can make it through a lonely holiday season. You can make it through being single when everyone around you is not. You can make it through a prolonged winter. You can make it through the rain. (I just really wanted to say that last one because Mariah is my homegirl and because it is also fitting.)

I hope that you remember during this season that you’re loved just as you are and that you’re never as alone as you feel.

What are some of your favorite holiday traditions?

Who is someone in your life (and maybe it’s even you) who could use some encouragement in this holiday season?

When you’re single during the holidays

There are moments in life when a single person can suddenly feel very single.

Like when you’re sitting at a bar all by yourself waiting for people who are never going to show up.

I love Christmas time. I really do. But it can be difficult sometimes for a single gal to go through the holiday season and not be constantly reminded that she’s always sending in RSVPs for one. Let’s face it—most of the festivities surrounding Christmas are either geared toward or more enjoyable with families and significant others.

Ice skating.
Horse-drawn carriage rides.
Looking at lights.
Mistletoe.
Holiday parties.
Decorating cookies or gingerbread houses.
Watching Christmas Vacation.
Beginning and carrying on special Christmas traditions.
Anything on New Year’s Eve.

These are only a handful of things that are better when done with your loved ones. I’m not saying I can’t do some of these things with my parents or siblings and in-laws, but these activities usually make me wish I had that one person in my life with whom I could share all of the memories.

When I came home for Christmas this year, I knew it wasn’t going to be the easiest thing in the world because I would have to leave again and be reminded that I don’t get to see all of my people as often as I’d like. Some of my friends and I had plans to meet on Saturday night, and I was looking forward to catching up with them and also hanging out at one of my favorite bars/restaurants in Dallas.

By the time I got there, two of them had already let me know they couldn’t make it, and I hadn’t heard from any of the others. I then became that girl who was at a bar all by herself—and I don’t even drink. I sat down next to two guys, but we didn’t exactly become besties. They started talking about how one of their friends had just gotten married and said they would rather die than do that—after all, marriage is suicide, anyway. Then our wonderfully uplifting conversation continued as they told me all about how much they hate their jobs and are planning to start a business together so that they can be their own bosses. They aren’t sure what type of business yet, but they’re still in the planning stages. Good luck, fellas.

After they left so that they could make it to the Stars game on time, I sat there for a bit by myself. I don’t know why I was hopeful that any of my friends might still show, but I was. I texted my sister to let her know my current lowly status in life, and she told me to head over to my parents’ house and that she and Theo (her hubs) would go there, too, and we could all hang out.

I got up and left. On the way out, I looked around at some of the couples still there and told myself it really wasn’t the time to feel sorry for myself. Then I walked outside and saw a city full of pretty Christmas lights and waited in the cold for my car.

Being surrounded by beautiful lights in winter weather magnifies loneliness more than the heart can understand.

Just sitting in the cold until my parents got home

When I got to my parents’ house, I realized that I had left my purse at my friend’s house (where I was staying), so I didn’t have a key. No one was home, so I sat on their porch and froze. I realize it would have been smarter to walk back to my car and wait there, but this just seemed more fitting for my situation at the time.

I texted a selfie of me sitting outside to my sister, and she called me. She was in the car with Theo and had me on speaker phone and said they were on the way back to their apartment because she didn’t know I was going to show up. I hadn’t responded to her text but thought it was understood that I’d be there. In the background, Theo said, “We’ll be there in two seconds.” He’s a really good guy.

Before I knew it, my parents were back, and Theo and Steph walked through the door, and we all played Heads Up! together. At first, we played in teams, but then Theo suggested we shouldn’t even keep score and just have fun playing as a big group—as a family.

My sister and Theo have been married a little more than a year, and never once have I felt like a third wheel around them. I may joke about being the fifth wheel sometimes when I’m with them and my parents, but it never actually feels that way. They include me in anything and everything, and they provide more love and support than I ever would have thought possible.

Then on Christmas, we all went over to my brother’s house, and his wife’s family was there, as well, and we had one big Christmas celebration together. I loved it. God always puts the right people in our lives at the right times. Plus, any day I get to spend time with my precious niece is pretty much the best day ever.

Time with her is the best.

I know not everyone who’s single has a great family situation, but hopefully you at least have friends who are like family and can be there for you when you feel like you’re all alone—especially during the more difficult seasons of life. Sure, there are still going to be those moments when you’re watching people get on those stupid carriage rides to go look at Christmas lights in Highland Park (I actually don’t think they’re stupid at all and hope someday to be able to go on one), but the hurt you might feel in those instances doesn’t have to last, so long as you surround yourself with people who will always love you know matter what.

Because love can make you forget the pain a broken heart brings—even if only for a little while.