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.

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.

When your pink hammer isn’t enough

Whether we like it or not, we’re not going to be right about what we think are the best options and solutions in our lives all of the time.

Even if the best option is a hammer with a pink handle.

I went on my first mission trip to Mexico over the weekend to help build some additions to a church down there. Everyone who went had received an email earlier in the week with reminders and whatnot, and the email included a tidbit about bringing a hammer if you have one. I got really excited about that part because I have the perfect pink-handled hammer.

Or so I thought.

As you can see, the hammers are quite different.

When we got to the worksite, I stepped out with my hammer all ready to go. Pastor Daniel, who is responsible for the building of more than 30 churches in the Tijuana area, chuckled and asked me what I was going to use my hammer for that day. When I told him it was to build the rest of the church, he laughed again and told me (in nicer words) that my hammer would be pretty useless.

Gasp!

I tried to convince him that my brute strength was all I really needed, but he still seemed pretty amused and skeptical and said that it would be better to go with one of the hammers they had there, but the choice was mine to make.

So glad that this gem of a friend was there with me. (Also, she’s a BA on the job site FOR SURE.)

As it turns out, that Pastor Daniel is a pretty smart guy. My hammer was barely bigger than the nails we were pounding, and it was very ineffective in that situation. I tried the pink hammer once and hit and hit and hit, and nothing really happened. But when I used the more powerful hammer on the exact same nail, there was a drastic difference in the outcome.

It’s never fun to be wrong.

I think that it’s easy to get caught up in the things that we think are best for us to the point where we have a bit of tunnel vision. I’m guilty of it—especially when it comes to guys. I always think I know for sure which ones are perfect for me, but I’ve clearly been wrong each time. Sometimes it’s ended in a guy I truly care about breaking my heart, and sometimes it’s ended in seeing a new crush walking hand-in-hand with someone who’s not me.

Years ago, I was convinced that this one fella was the right one for me (spoiler alert: he wasn’t). I had this idea in my head of what I thought he was really like—or maybe it was what I thought he should be like—but he wasn’t actually the guy I hoped he was. Instead of acknowledging and accepting the fact that he wasn’t my lobster, I kept using my pink-handled hammer tactic and tried, anyway. I remember one time I asked him if he wanted to go to a football game, and he told me that he had to clean his place. On a Friday night. As an adult with no mandatory chores.

That’s a worse excuse than “I have to wash my hair.”

And that’s only one example. There are far too many of those—times when I knew guys weren’t the guys I was meant to be with forever (or at all), yet I still tried to make it happen. I ignored the signs and red flags and, instead, kept hoping and praying that each one would be the one who would finally love me forever. I kept letting false hopes and hollow prayers take the place of what should have been patient endurance and trust that God will bring the right man into my life when He deems it best.

All because I was so convinced that the hammer with the pink handle was the best option.

I know that God’s plan for my life is so much better than anything I could ever imagine or create myself, so I don’t know why I don’t always live like that’s true. I keep taking these silly pink-handled hammers that look really good to me and trying to build big buildings on my own. You’d think that I would know better by now.

I certainly can’t guarantee that I won’t opt for the wrong choice of a hammer again (mess of a human over here), but I am going to make more concerted efforts to practice that whole patience thing that’s part of that other whole faith thing.

And maybe the next situation I face in which I could opt for a hammer with a pink handle when it’s the less effective option, I can look back in reflection and say, “nailed it!”

Because sometimes it’s better to launch the shot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which leads me to the basketball court.

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

Wise guy, that Jeff.

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

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

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

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

Because sometimes you have to let people help you

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

Especially when you’re in the hospital.

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHEN WILL I EVER LEARN??

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And she’s right.

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

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

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

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

So love them well, and let them love you.

Because dating should be as easy as friendship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m just sitting here thinking about froyo.

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

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

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

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

When you pursue what you know you should

Unfortunately, we don’t always get the things we want in life.

No matter how hard we chase them.

When I was a little girl, I used to follow my brother around everywhere and insist that he let me play in every pickup basketball and football game and street hockey game with him and all of his friends. He usually acted pretty annoyed about it but let me play (most of the time, anyway). Back then, I thought my brother was one of the coolest people who existed, and I wanted him to want to hang out with me—I pursued a strong sibling relationship with him.

What hurt, though, were the times when he didn’t want to spend time with me, too, particularly as we grew older in middle school and high school. I realize that some kids and teenagers go through stages in which they become “too cool” for their younger brothers and sisters, but it’s never enjoyable to be on the wrong end of a rejection, especially from someone you care about so much.

Thankfully, my brother can’t ever actually get rid of me, and I’ve enjoyed being able to spend more time with him in the last year or so as I’ve gone over to his house to spend quality time with my niece. Being halfway across the country now, I’m thankful for FaceTime to help me still be part of their lives.

But not everything we pursue turns out so great—including when we pursue people.

I think I’ve always been a people pursuer. I love people—I love spending time with them and hearing their stories and sharing inside jokes and making memories and reaching points when you know each other’s special quirks and tendencies. It’s comforting to know others and to be known by them.

My sweet friend Jayna is one who wholeheartedly pursues friendship. She even sacrificed an entire afternoon to help me pack the day before I moved so that she could spend time with me.

It’s not always easy, though, because a lot of people are very busy, and sometimes it’s more difficult than I would like to connect with them. Whether it’s work or family or social activities, we all have a tremendous amount of stuff going on in our lives, and I think a lot of times we get so caught up in our own worlds that we forget to pursue some of our relationships. I know I’m guilty of this, though I’ve been trying to be better about reaching out to people more often, especially now that I live so far away from most of my people.

Starting over in a new place has also been challenging because I definitely have to do quite a bit of pursuing to form new friendships and reach those levels with new individuals to where we know each other well and become more like family. I’ve come to a point in my life where I’m not ashamed to ask people right off the bat to grab coffee (I don’t even drink coffee) or go for a walk or something so that we can get to know each other better. And I pretty much consider everyone a friend after at least one conversation. I don’t mind pursuing people—I like for people to know that they’re important enough to have others want to make time for them.

But there’s one area of my life that I don’t necessarily want to pursue someone—and that’s obviously in the whole love and dating arena. It’s not because I believe in some conventional gentleman-has-to-ask-out-the-lady thing; it’s more that I simply want someone to want me for a change.

I’ve gone my entire life being interested in guys who are never interested back or only lead me on for a little while, and it often feels like I’m chasing them, but I’m on a treadmill going nowhere, and they’re on the normal ground actually moving. I don’t want that—at all. I think that’s one reason I don’t like dating apps: I don’t like to feel like I’m having to pursue a relationship and forcing something that might not be there. I want someone to fall for me out of everyone else in the world and pursue me for once.

Is that so wrong?

I was thinking the other day about how God continually pursues us, and we don’t always pursue Him back. We’re too busy being wrapped up in all of the busyness in our lives that keeps us chasing all of the things. I’m trying to be more diligent about pursuing Him and the opportunities He’s given me rather than chasing after the things that may not be right for me. I’m going to try not to worry about whether or not I may be single for the rest of my life, and I don’t want to let my heart get broken again by focusing so much on someone who may or may not have ever actually cared for me.

Will I still pursue the friends and family members who are placed in my life? Absolutely.

Because everyone deserves to be pursued and feel loved.

Hearts are stronger than distance

I love people and hearing their stories.

And I really love when their dreams come true.

My dear friend Crystal (I call her Peltz) is someone who has become one of my favorite people over the years. I met her during my first year of teaching, and I’m pretty sure it was destiny that we were meant to be friends. You know those people who just get you? Peltz is definitely one of those people for me.

We coordinated our outfits on my birthday one year.

We used to take what we called “upstare” pictures (which are basically us staring off into the distance) every Wednesday. I don’t even know how exactly they got started, but they became something fun we did on a weekly basis, and we occasionally even coordinated our outfits for them or had themed pics. We tried to come up with something fresh and creative each week. Was it silly? Probably. But we didn’t care—it was our thing.

Peltz is one of those friends who is genuine through and through and will drop everything in a heartbeat to help you when you need it. There was one day during a teacher workday when I started having unbearable pain, and some of my coworkers insisted I go to the hospital. Peltz immediately stepped in and said she was taking me there, no questions asked. She stayed with me the entire time (and kept me highly entertained, obviously) and even called my parents to make sure my family knew what was going on (and of course they showed up and to this day still ask about her and go on and on about what a great friend she is). She had so much she needed to be doing to get ready for the new school year, but she didn’t even act concerned about any of that—her main focus was making sure I was OK.

I had a ruptured ovarian cyst, so it was a long day in the hospital. She stayed the entire time and ended up taking me back to my car at the school later. Understandably so, she was pretty hungry and stopped at Chick-fil-A for a grilled chicken sandwich, and she gave me her extra Chick-fil-A sauce. I love that stuff, and I’m pretty sure I told her it’s so great that I could drink it—thus, a challenge was issued. So, in the front seat of her car, I downed that sauce on its own. I can’t say it’s something I’ll do on the regular anytime soon, but it’s a moment with Peltz I’ll never forget.

Then once she tried to trap me in a science lab.

I’ve known for years that my dear friend wasn’t planning on staying in Texas forever. Her heart has always been in Maine, and I was filled with joy for her when I found out that her dream is finally coming true. She’s found a wonderful job and home for her family to live in her favorite place on earth. The selfish part of me is already heartbroken that she’ll be so far away, but the other part of me knows this is exactly what she wants and what she needs.

The thing is, though, distance can’t ruin those true friendships and relationships that are meant to last. People sometimes leave, but the bonds don’t—they remain for as long as you let them.

Life is full of people and possibilities. Some people simply pass through our lives, and we only have limited time with them. Others are there for the long haul. Either way, they can impact us in so many ways and change our lives in what seems like a mere matter of seconds.

I have stories of heartache to prove it.

Change isn’t easy, and it’s not always embraced. But I don’t think it’s something that should necessarily be feared. It can be good for our hearts in ways we could never imagine.

She bought us tiny pink hats. THE BEST.

Peltz is gone from Texas, but I know she isn’t gone from my life. (Plus, we have matching necklaces that say “love” and matching tiny pink hats, so we’ll always have a special heart connection.) I love that she’s chasing her dreams, and I can’t wait to see what else is in store for her.

There’s a lot that happens in a single lifetime. There are adventures and dreams and hopes and opportunities and wins and losses and broken hearts and celebrations and so many other things. But it’s the people who make all of those things worth it.

And it’s those people—people like Peltz—who remind you every day why it’s so important to love and to live as big as you can.

Cures from Dr. Seuss

I think there are certain things in life that everyone of every age should do on a more regular basis.

You know, like read Dr. Seuss books.

I went over to my brother’s/sister-in-law’s house Sunday to hang out with my niece, Olivia. She’s the most adorable human ever (this is fact, not opinion). She’s currently going through a crying stage, and homegirl sure can cry A LOT. I don’t know how babies can cry so much and for so long and not become completely exhausted. When I cry hard for more than maybe two minutes, I’m physically and emotionally drained. The rest of the day might as well not exist.

My brother and I both tried holding her and getting her to calm down, and then he suggested I read to her because sometimes she stops during story time. I liked that idea, so I went and grabbed Green Eggs and Ham, the book my sister bought for Olivia. She even wrote a sweet note in the front for Olivia to read when she’s able, so I made sure to read that to her before starting the book.

And then a miracle occurred.

story-time-with-olivia
Seriously. Her cuteness is ridiculous.

There was silence. There was peace. There was a serenity that came over her precious little face. She closed her eyes as she listened intently (I’m convinced that’s what she was doing) to each word about the main character telling Sam-I-Am how much he hates a food he’s never tried.

I’m going to tell you something true: I needed Seuss’ words that day just as much as Olivia did.

Maybe it’s the rhyming. Maybe it’s the innocence. Maybe it’s the weirdness of green food not being so weird. Maybe it’s the life lesson of giving something unfamiliar a chance. Maybe it’s the hopeful reality that people really can change. Maybe it’s the example of someone not giving up on a friend. Maybe it’s the combination of all of those things that makes this book magical in so many ways.

For Olivia, it provided a comfort that allowed her to escape her fit of tears. For me, it provided fond memories and the reminder that you can still remain positive when you’re constantly having negative things thrown your way. I know a lot of people like to look at it from the unnamed guy’s perspective and the idea of keeping an open mind to things you’ve never tried, but I really like that Sam-I-Am because he never gives up on his friend. I mean, Sam-I-Am could easily walk away after the first time no-name homeboy rejects his green food, but I think Sam-I-Am knows deep in his heart that his friend needs him to be there for him and continue to encourage him.

So he doesn’t walk away—he stays.

He is so nice about it, too. He keeps suggesting different places and with what different animals that one can eat green eggs and ham. He doesn’t get frustrated. He doesn’t raise his voice or show impatience like his buddy. He doesn’t say anything negative. He simply stays upbeat, fully believing there will be a successful outcome.

And he’s right.

I wish I could be more like that Sam-I-Am sometimes. When life has you down, it’s easy to stay down. It can be difficult to find the positive things about a situation that has negativity constantly in your face. I looked down at the sleeping Olivia, and I realized that we all have our own Sam-I-Ams in our lives—those people who are there for us when we need them the most and pull us back to our feet when we’ve fallen down. They’re the ones we sometimes try to push away, but they don’t actually go anywhere—they stay. They know we need them, and they don’t walk away. Olivia and I needed that reminder that day.

Seuss may not have been an actual doctor, but he sure knew how help heal a hurting heart.

The hope for the future

It’s not fair to make assumptions about people before getting to know them.

Even assumptions about high school and college kids.

I’ve always kind of been an advocate for young people, pretty much ever since I was one. I told myself I wouldn’t grow up to be one of those adults who looks at teenagers and says, “Kids these days!” or something of the sort. And, for the most part, I feel like I still have that same attitude I did back in the day.

While I taught high school for seven years, I was able to interact with a bunch of those individuals I always promised to defend. I learned a lot about them—and a lot from them. I think it’s easy to forget that we can actually gain wisdom from people who are younger than we are. I know it’s a crazy thought, but we still don’t know everything we think we do as grownups. It’s a painful reality I deal with daily. And, even now that I’m removed from the everyday high school world, I still believe that some of the most promising individuals aren’t even old enough to buy alcohol or have their own health insurance.

From an adult standpoint, it’s really easy to look at younger people—including college kids—and be instantly annoyed. They’re too loud. They’re immature. They overreact about everything. They’re selfish. They gossip too much. They’re not independent enough. They don’t care about others.

I can tell you right now that, not only are those assumptions not always accurate about everyone in that age range, but a lot of those things are true—at least at some point in time or another—of just about any human who ever existed. I’m loud at times. I sometimes act like I’m still in high school. I’ve overreacted once or twice (or more, whatever). I’m not always selfless like I wish I could be. I’ve said not-so-nice things about others. I sometimes still ask my parents for help (I mean, my dad drove me to my race—and even the expo the day before—last weekend). I try to put others first but sometimes fail. Perhaps you can relate, too.

But people still give us chances we don’t deserve—and even the younger ones should get the same.

my girlz
They are all taller than I am now

My teaching career led me to some of the relationships I value most in my life. There’s a handful of girls I was able to teach for their entire high school careers, and I am now lucky enough to act as their mentor/friend as they make their journeys through college and into the “real world.” One is even about to enter in her last semester ever and has a pretty little engagement ring on her finger. (How the heck did time pass this quickly?!) I cherish the times I get to spend with them and consider it an honor that they devote time to spend with me when they come home on their breaks. We keep up through texts, emails and phone convos the rest of the year, and those regular communications really are so important to me—because those girls are important to me. They are years younger than I am, but they teach me so much every single day.

They know what it means to love. They know what it means to serve. They know what it means to trust. They know what it means to work their a$*es off. They know what it means to chase dreams. They know what it means to celebrate successes. They know what it means to learn from failures. They know what it means to experience heartbreak. They know what it means to be judged. They know what it means to feel scared. They know what it means to be brave. They know what it means to care. They know what it means to be independent. They know what it means to forgive.

And they know what it means to show the world that there is no age limit to being someone who can truly change others’ lives for the better.

There’s Hannah, who is the epitome of persistence. She has a genuine heart for others and doesn’t give up on people (including herself) ever. Her selflessness continues to inspire me as she puts her passion to use.

There’s Courtney, who shared a first day of high school with me (hers as a student, mine as a teacher). She’s one of those people who will support you through everything and make you smile every chance she gets. She’s solid through and through. If we had grown up together, we would have been best friends for sure. She’s become one of the most confident and caring people I know, and she understands and appreciates the things about me that some people think are weird.

There’s Fritzy, who has one of the kindest hearts of anyone you will ever meet. Ever. I don’t think she knows how to be mean. It’s not in her DNA. She has the biggest heart for individuals with special needs, and I admire how adamantly she is pursuing a career in that field. She has become a strong leader in so many areas of her life, and she continues to amaze me with her wisdom and understanding of things that people generally assume those her age don’t know.

There’s Anna, who never fails to let me know when she uses her AP style skills in college. She has shown over the years how valuable her creativity is, and I’ve enjoyed seeing her put it to such great use. She also really knows how to show people in her life how much they mean to her. She’s the keeper friend you want in your life.

There’s Kelsey, who has seriously transformed in a number of ways since I met her in her freshman year of high school. She’s a college sophomore now and might be the best definition of a Jesus feminist I know (along with her sister, Courtney, of course). If you want to sit down and have a quality heart-to-heart and talk about all things life and guys and dreams and fears and Taylor Swift, then you should go get froyo or coffee with her.

There’s Bennett, who will always be my “running daughter.” I can’t even express how proud I am of her. She has overcome so much and has become the kind of person I would want my own daughter (if I had one) to be. Her independence and assurance of who she is are things I hope other young women see in her and become inspired by. When she is grateful for you, she lets you know—and does so in a way that touches your heart and makes you want to cry, even when you’re not sure you have tear ducts that function. She’s a gem in every sense of the word.

I don’t think we should overlook people because of their ages. Younger people are going to be adults someday, and some of them act more like adults than real grownups, anyway. The thing is, they’re people—just like you and me. We were once younger, and I know I didn’t want people giving up on me or treating me like I was an annoyance just because I was a certain age. All people deserve to feel valued. All people deserve to be loved. And all people deserve to know that they matter.

And that’s something I learned from a bunch of high schoolers who will always hold a special place in my heart.