When you’re fearless in what you want

Once again, I’ve been reminded about the importance of being brave in every aspect of life.

And, once again, a young child brought it to my attention.

“I want a hug.”

My precious niece Olivia had a cold last week, so I worked from my brother’s house for a couple of days to help take care of her. She’s a little older than 2 1/2 now, and she’s gotten really good at saying what she wants. More than once, she came up to me and said “I want a hug” and then climbed up into my lap.

My heart soared, and I melted.

Olivia knew what she wanted to comfort her when she wasn’t feeling well, and she made it known. She wasn’t afraid to be open and honest, and she does that with everything that she wants. Like when I was eating Wheat Thins and some granola and a banana, I heard that little angelic voice say “I want some.”

I started thinking about it later and wondering why it’s so simple for little kids to be so sure and assertive with the things they want and need, yet we struggle to be as open about it when we get older. Sure, there are certainly things that kids declare they want that aren’t theirs to have (no, Olivia, this is not your phone), but I still commend them for being so bold.

They are actual angels.

When you’re that young, you hear the word “no” a lot more than you ever want, but you don’t really think much of it. It’s just another “no” that you eventually forget about (even if there is an ensuing hissy fit that follows for a little bit) before the next time that you pursue your interests. You don’t overanalyze why you were rejected or let it make you feel like you’re not good enough—you simply move on and continue with your life. There might be tears, and you might need to take a moment for some uncontrollable wallowing, but you don’t let such a minor setback get you down for too long.

Why is it so much more difficult for us to go boldly after the desires of our hearts when we get older? Why do we let fears hold us back from saying what we want? Sure, just like kids, we can’t have everything we think we need, but there are certainly times when we simply need to suck it up and chase the things that set our hearts on fire.

I can think of far too many times in my life when I should have been more like Olivia—when I should have said what was in my heart instead of shying away from declaring words that never actually made it into the air for anyone to hear. But that was years ago, and I’m way past done being the girl who’s too afraid.

As my girl Jess said in New Girl, “What’s wrong with a girl that’s fearless?”

Minus her choice of pronoun, I’m completely with Jess. There’s nothing wrong with a girl who chooses to be brave.

I wanted a pic with Dirk, so I asked to borrow a stranger’s cutout.

Brave enough to chase her dreams.
Brave enough to speak what’s on her heart.
Brave enough to love without reservation.
Brave enough to walk with her head held high.
Brave enough to say “yes” when she means it.
Brave enough to say “no” when she means it.
Brave enough to look fear in the face and say “not today.”

I hope that Olivia grows up to be an even braver woman than she is now and never lets fear keep her from taking chances that she knows she needs to take. And I hope that you don’t, either. No, you can’t always get what you want, but it’s often better to take the risk than to sit back and be far too content with what’s merely comfortable. Do you want the job? Apply for it. Do you want the raise? Ask for it. Do you want to get to know the guy at the gym you always see and think is cute? Ask him out. Do you finally want to say “I love you” out loud? Let the words leave your mouth. Do you want to dance your heart out? Get out on that dance floor, and let loose. You do you, sister, and don’t worry about what other people think or say about you.

Because there’s nothing wrong with a girl who’s fearless.

Because sometimes it’s better not to think

I’m a pretty passionate person about matters of the heart.

Especially when the heart leads you to make decisions that your head shouldn’t be deciding.

One day last week at work, my coworker and I had been working on something together, and he sent me some content to review. I made my revisions and told him that I would send it to the final person who needed to see it when I thought it was good to go. I fired it off not too long after that and let him know, and when I passed by him a few minutes later, the following exchange occurred.

Me: I sent it to him.
Him: Oh, you didn’t think very long.
Me: I didn’t need to think.
Him: Sometimes the best decisions are made that way.

Ohhhhhhh. That’s a good word, sir.

I know that this situation had to do with something at work and didn’t involve any life-altering decisions or anything like that, but what he said is so true and applicable to so many other areas of life. If you think about it, thinking about something for too long can actually ruin a decision. Like my buddy said, sometimes the best decisions are made without really thinking much—because they’re made based on what the heart feels is the best thing to do.

My friend Bear didn’t need to think about spending $27 on candy. She just did it. Genius.

There are many decisions in life that need a good amount of thought put into them. I mean, just the other day, I was with my friend Bear at an acai bowl place and had to take some time thinking about which bowl was best to get that morning. It was important to consider the ingredients and the level of satisfaction that I felt each bowl would bring me. After a couple minutes of careful thought, I made a truly wonderful decision that made my taste buds and my heart very happy.

But not everything requires you to stand in front of a menu board and analyze every aspect of every option—because sometimes you simply have to go for it without thinking.

I’d like to give a super real example from Gilmore Girls. When Rory Gilmore was trying to decide between Harvard and Yale, she made a pros and cons list. She had always dreamed of going to Harvard before she ever even visited it, but after visiting both Harvard and Yale, her heart felt more drawn to Yale. She let fears get in the way of that feeling, though, and she then tried to think about her decision too much. Lorelai ended up having to step in to make her daughter realize that she actually wanted to go to Yale more, which meant that that was the school she should choose.

This clearly involved no thought whatsoever.

I know that sometimes when we decide with our hearts or go with our gut instincts those choices don’t always end up being the best ones for us—especially when they’re choices we make because we’re blinded by feelings we have for people—but sometimes they do. And taking chances is often the only way to find out. Risks can be scary, but they can also result in some pretty incredible things.

And taking chances actually isn’t as frightening when you don’t overthink them.

I watch the NBA All-Star Game every year, and I kept that tradition alive over the weekend. The game usually involves almost a negative amount of defense, so the score is always ridiculously high (this year, Team LeBron beat Team Giannis 178-164). Despite that, it’s still a lot of fun to watch because the players are jacking up insane shots and putting on some circus-like spectacles. It’s not like baseball was up until a couple of years ago, where the game actually mattered and had home-field advantage implications during the World Series, so the players are simply having fun the entire time and putting on a show for their audience. They’re not thinking a ton—they’re just enjoying themselves and taking chances that they might not necessarily take in normal game situations.

And those chances often leave Reggie Miller saying “ooooohhhhhhh” and “daaaaaaaannngggggg” right along with the rest of us watching from home and begging for the replay.

You never have to think twice about enjoying life with forever friends.

I realize that we were given brains for a reason and that it’s good to use them. But we were also given very powerful hearts that often need to overpower the things that our brains are telling us to do. If I listened to my brain rather than my heart most of the time, I don’t think that I’d be the person I am today. I think that I would be much more fearful and much more cautious—two things I simply don’t want to be. I know what it feels like to be rejected and to have my heart broken as a result of going with my heart and not my brain. But I wouldn’t change those decisions. They’re the ones my coworker was talking about when he said that sometimes the best decisions are made without thinking.

Because if you’re constantly thinking and never simply letting your heart lead the way, how will you let yourself grow and fail and love and realize how brave you actually are?

I hope that you let yourself take chances without thinking about them too much. I hope that you let yourself pursue your dreams without always making pros and cons lists. I hope that you let yourself love others completely in big ways.

And I hope that you never let yourself think that you aren’t brave enough to take risks that come straight from your heart.

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 tough times lead to a heart that feels hashtag blessed

There are certain talents I have that aren’t very applicable to my actual life.

You know, like being able to sing the alphabet backward faster than I can sing it forward.

As I was sitting and staring out at the ocean (one of my all-time favorite pastimes) the other day, I was thinking about how thankful I am that God brought me out to California. Of all of the places in the world He could have called me, it’s here—this place of wonder that brings me peace, energy, and the occasional dorsal fin sighting.

My New Kids on the Block shirt and I really love it out here.

In all honesty, I never saw such a big and risky move coming and wouldn’t have done it if the plans I had wanted to happen and prayed for constantly actually came true. I didn’t understand at the time why God wasn’t doing what I wanted Him to do, but it’s very clear to me now that He had something entirely different—and entirely better—for me planned. And I’m also appreciative that the whole “pack up your life and move to California” thing came on so quickly and took me by complete surprise.

Because I needed to endure the tough times I faced without knowing what was ahead.

On that same day that I was down by the water and reflecting on those bits of gratitude, there was a car show going on at that beach at the same time. I had noticed it when I got there (I mean, it was pretty hard to miss), but I had no intention of checking out the cars. I was just there to soak up some sunshine and watch the waves. When I left, I stopped at the basketball court area where the car show was to dust the sand off of my feet before putting on my sandals. I was sort of in the way of a guy trying to get pictures of a car at what appeared to be some artsy angles, and then he started talking to me.

Guy fascinated by cars: Did you get in the water?
Me: No way. It’s too cold.
GFBC: But it’s so hot and nice out today.
Me (still amazed by what people out here consider “hot”): Yeah, but the water is still like 4 degrees.
GFBC: Well, did you check out the cars?
Me: No, I’m only here for the ocean. (You know, the ocean that I don’t actually get in.)
GFBC: But they’re right here, and how often do you get a car show like this?
Me: I see cars all the time. I drive one.
GFBC: But how often do you see cars on the beach like this? And these are classics!
Me: I’m not that interested in cars. I just like when they work.
GFBC: I don’t know how to respond to that.
Me: Welp, see you later. Enjoy your day!

It turns out that we’re all thankful for different things.

This is my friend Monique, who invited me to a BBQ with no actual BBQ. I need to educate these people on what such an event entails.

What I didn’t explain to that guy that day was why the beach is so significant in my life—that it’s been a constant reminder of God’s love for me. That I stare out at the vast, expansive ocean and am reminded that I am valued. That I am loved. That I matter. It’s the beautiful destination of a journey that I haven’t always been so thankful to endure but that I’m incredibly grateful for now.

For him, maybe cars have something to do with everything he’s faced in life. Or maybe he just really likes them. I probably should have asked him. Regardless, he has a reason to find happiness from a car show on the beach.

I had a conversation the other day with my friend JP, and she was talking about working toward goals with the end already in mind. She mentioned how, in order to make it to that place you want to reach, you have to take all of the steps in between to get there. As she put it, “you can’t go from A to Z without going through all of the other letters in the alphabet.”

Ohhhhh OK. That’s a gooooooood word, sister.

JP is right—you can’t just snap your fingers and end up where you want to be. We’re not all Sabrina the Teenage Witch. And you’re not always going to know what letters B through Y have in store for you before you get to Z. You simply have to keep going with the hope and faith that you will eventually get to where you need to be. It’s going to hurt sometimes, but getting to that ultimate place your heart desires will be worth the pain you face. For me, it involved heartache and rejection. It involved doubt. It involved fear. It involved insecurities and anxiety. It involved more tears than I ever even knew I was capable of crying.

This sums up how I feel.

But it all resulted in joy and a shift in my heart that changed my life forever.

Not every day is going to be wonderful. People are going to disappoint you. Your sports teams are going to let you down (I’m looking at all three of you, Mavs, Cowboys, and Rangers). Pain is going to inflict itself upon you when you least expect it. Don’t let those troubles stop you, though. Whether she realized it or not, JP quoted the great Dory when she said “I don’t know, maybe the only thing to do right now is to just keep swimming.” I encourage you to do the same—just keep swimming.

Through the pain. Through the broken hearts. Through the doubts. Through the fears. Through the disappointments. Through the tears. Through every bad thing that ever comes your way. Just keep swimming.

And trust that your heart will one day be thankful for the hardships it had to endure.

When you let your heart feel

I can’t always explain the feelings in my heart and the things it leads me to do, but I do know that I trust it.

And that I need to let it express those feelings more.

I consider myself a fairly intelligent person, but there are definitely times when I don’t really do that whole “thinking” thing. The other night, I was at a restaurant and using one of those old-school ketchup bottles that you have to hit to get the actual ketchup out. After I did, some ketchup kind of dripped out on the side of the mouth of the bottle, and I licked it off. Yes, I licked a restaurant’s ketchup bottle. I wasn’t thinking—I just did it. By the time I realized what I was doing, it was far too late.

There are quite a few areas of my life in which I don’t really let my brain be in charge. I’m more of the heart-thinker type. When I know in my heart that I’m supposed to do something, I typically don’t give it much thought—I just do it.

Nike has clearly gotten the best of me.

I’m sure that important heart thoughts are going on here.

While I use my heart for a lot of decisions and whatnot, I don’t always do the best job of letting it feel and express all of the emotions that it needs to. I’m a bottler in that regard. I’m not big on tears (I cry maybe two or three times a year), but when I do cry, it’s a disaster. I’ve usually been storing away all of the tears I suppressed in moments when I probably should have cried but pushed away the waterfall of emotions, instead. It’s not a good situation.

Last Tuesday, I thought that it was a normal day, but it was apparently actually a day for the waterworks. I think it had been since January or February, so I guess it was time. As usual when this happens, I was not expecting it—it just happened. We had a night of prayer and worship at my church, and my heart started to feel heavy on the drive over there. When I got inside, I began to notice that my eyes and their rusty tear ducts were weakening. I warned my friend Amanda that I felt like I was on the verge of crying but that I thought I would be able to hold it back.

Samsonite—I was way off.

I was holding it together until we started singing “Do It Again,” a song I really love. The first three lines played, and I lost it.

Walking around these walls
I thought by now they’d fall
But You have never failed me yet

I think the weight of the truth and power behind those lyrics hit me hard. I immediately bolted out of the room and into a corner in an empty hallway so that I could sit on the ground and commence what became ugly, convulsive sobbing. I couldn’t stop. I tried. I failed. The tears had started, and they weren’t letting up anytime soon. I finally gave up even trying to stop and just let the crying and all of the feelings consume all of me. It was exhausting.

By the time the song ended, that sweet Amanda was sitting on the floor next to me with her arm wrapped around me. She didn’t need to say anything for a while—she just let me let out the emotions that had been in hiding for too long. Then she prayed with me, and we chatted a little before rejoining everyone else.

I just really like this picture of Amanda and me. There’s a lot going on in our expressions.

Later that week, I was running and thinking about a lot of different things, particularly how quickly life happens and how every single event and moment we face has purpose for the places we’re supposed to go, the things we’re supposed to do, and the people we’re supposed to be. I reflected on a rather painful time a couple of years ago that deeply impacted me. And then I did something I’ve never actually done before: I thought about every single emotion I felt during that time and even after, and I let myself actually feel those things. I didn’t cry or stop running or have any outward showing of anything—I simply let my heart do what it does best.

I let my heart think for me.

We all have different ways of processing and expressing our emotions, and I’m not expecting a monumental change for me anytime soon. I’m not perfect by any means (after all, I did lick a ketchup bottle that’s the property of a restaurant where people other than just me eat), and I’m honestly still trying to figure out this whole “life” thing. But one thing I realized on that run was that, while I may not normally know how to deal with my emotions, there’s one thing that my heart feels that I know what to do with: love. It’s not simply an emotion or action—it’s so much more that I’m not even sure there’s an accurate word to describe exactly what it is.

But I do know that we’re all capable of it.

Maybe you’re like me and don’t cry very often. Or maybe you’re the type of person who cries merely from hearing the theme song of This Is Us. And I’m sure that there’s a balance in there somewhere, too. Regardless, I know that it’s OK to let yourself feel. It’s OK to let yourself cry. (Yes, this is a slight pep talk to myself, too.) It’s OK to hurt and laugh and mourn and rejoice and ache and smile and let every other feeling be one that you acknowledge in a healthy way, even if that includes throwing rocks at a building or breaking plates and hitting things with a baseball bat at a place called The Anger Room. But, most of all, it’s OK to let your heart love.

Because that’s the most important heart thing of them all.

Because your heart is stronger than what people think of you

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Joy, you don’t know my heart.

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

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

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

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

Say what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because it takes more than time to heal a heart

The great Selena Gomez once said that “the heart wants what it wants.”

And then sometimes the heart wants what it needs.

When I moved out to California last September, I had no idea how much I would come to love this place and all of the people in it. It took a little while, but it slowly and quickly (it’s weird to explain) became rather apparent that I’m exactly where I’m meant to be.

In the fall of 2017, I wasn’t having the best year. I had just had my third kidney surgery of the year after months and months of constant pain and discomfort, and to top it off, I was still trying to get through the worst broken heart I’ve ever had. To be perfectly honest, that heart thing was actually a lot worse than all of the kidney stuff.

When I realized that God was calling me to California, I was reluctant at first. I didn’t want to leave my people and the city I’d known and loved for my entire life. It felt comfortable and safe. When I finally accepted that this is what He wanted me to do, I tried to get excited for a new adventure. It all happened so quickly, and I didn’t have much time to get really sentimental about much. Shortly after I moved out here, though, I had plenty of time for that—and I gave in.

These girls are proof that the next generation is full of greatness.

I eventually told myself that God probably just brought me out here to heal my heart, and I would be able to return to Dallas in a year or less. While I do think that God knew exactly what He was doing bringing me out here—and perhaps healing really was part of it—that mindset that I had limited the scope of just how capable He is and how much more He wanted to give me.

People often say that “time heals all wounds,” and I’m sure that time has something to do with it, but I think that there are so many more factors that can help you forget about all of the pain that ensues when you’ve been hurt badly by someone you thought cared about you. When things like that happen, I think that God puts certain people in your life to help remind you that you are worth so much more than someone’s feelings (or lack thereof) for you.

We’re both thankful that “Jurassic World” isn’t a reality.

I lead a group of high school girls at my church, and last Friday night was a “red carpet” event that a few of them had planned together. They came up with the idea themselves and then spent months putting it together to make sure that everything went smoothly and was a nice welcome for the upcoming freshmen. I AM STILL SO FREAKING PROUD OF THEM! The entire night was a blast, and it brought so much joy to my heart to see how excited and happy they were. Toward the end of the night, I looked around the room and thought to myself “yeah, I’m going to be alright.”

That’s not to say that I won’t ever think about homeboy or won’t feel twinges of hurt if a memory pops into my heart, but it does mean that I’ve got plenty in my life to find joy in to help drown out any pain still lingering.

Celine has always reminded me that my heart will go on.

If you’re a living, breathing human, you’re likely going to face some type of heartache in life. If you don’t, well, you probably won’t ever have Nicholas Sparks write a novel reflecting your life. When it happens, know that there’s no specific timeline for how long it takes to heal—it’s different for everyone, and it may take you way longer than you thought it would. But, during that time, it’s important to let those people who would fight for you be there for you and let you cry or throw rocks or be goofy or do whatever when you need to—and who will do those things right alongside you just to make sure you’re doing what you need to heal. Those gems are keepers for sure.

We have limited time here on earth, but we sure do get a lot of opportunities to spend that time with people. Don’t be afraid to let them love you, and don’t be afraid to love them right back.

Your heart will thank you.

Because sometimes you really do need to check your heart

I didn’t know that a comedian’s words that were meant to be a joke could have such a strong impact in my life.

Especially when they relate to me being so single.

Every week, my dear friend Amanda and I go on a walk on the boardwalk and talk about all things life. Last week, we made a whole afternoon/evening of it by also putting together her wedding invitations. On our way to the beach, we made a pitstop at Joanne’s to get some more ribbon, and there were huge bubble wands on sale for 75 cents right by the checkout area—and I’m a sucker for things like that.

I’m not sure I’ve ever loved a random photographer so much. Also, you can sort of see the bubbles in the air.

As we were walking and chatting and letting the bubbles soar through the Pacific air, we got on the topic of my heart and how it feels when I’m surrounded by couples. Honestly, at this point, I’ve gotten used to it—but I’ve never really checked my heart.

I love John Crist. He’s absolutely hilarious (you should follow him on the Insta if you don’t already). He has a bit he does in which he makes fun of something by saying “check your heart.” For instance, he might say something like “when the self-checkout at the grocery store skips an item, but you just bag it and keep going—check your heart” or “ever skipped church to watch a football game—check your heart.” (It’s funnier when he does it. I promise.)

While his stuff is just for fun, I’ve actually been thinking a lot lately about checking my heart from time to time. I mean, it’s a rather important part of me, after all. So when Amanda and I were talking about my heart in terms of being single in the midst of couples, I was thankful to have people in my life who care about me enough to ask those types of questions.

The truth is that I like being able to spend time with couples and families, even when I’m the only one there who is flying solo. It makes me feel included and loved in spite of my status. I think it would hurt more if I knew that people had purposely not included me because I would be the only person not part of a couple.

One of my former coworkers and his family were in town over the weekend, and he invited me to a get-together with his family and friends. It was another one of those situations in which I was somewhat of an outsider, but I didn’t feel like an outsider at all—I felt like I was part of the family.

And I love that family feeling.

I might be biased, but I think it’s a good idea not to forget about the single people in your life. Everyone is different, so maybe someone you invite won’t show up to something where it will be mostly couples and families, but at least the invite is there to show that he or she is always welcome. It’s important for those single people to know that they are enough as they are.

Perhaps one day I will take a picture on a ferry with the guy who’s my guy. Until then, this is what you get.

I was recently having a conversation with someone I had just met, and he asked me why I’m single. That’s always a tough question that I’m never quite sure how to answer. I still don’t know, other than that it’s not part of the Lord’s plan for me right now. Yes, I would love to love and be loved by the person who is meant to be my lobster forever, but that’s not where I am in life right now—and that’s OK.

Because being single can actually be a very powerful thing.

I’ve been given so many opportunities lately to love others and to invest in people God has placed in my life. Yes, I could certainly still do this if I weren’t single, but it definitely feels special to me right now because it reminds me that the Lord is always looking out for me. Even when I’m as single as can be, He’s going to make sure that I never feel alone, and He’s going to find ways to show me that He makes me capable of so much more than I could ever imagine and that He’s given me certain passions and dreams for specific reasons.

If you’re single, I hope you that you let yourself feel comfortable being surrounded by couples and families, and I hope that you let them invite you in and love you as you are. Check your heart, and be honest with yourself and those who care about you.

And know that, whether you’re single or dating or engaged or married or whatever, you are enough.

When faith trumps fear

I got a tattoo the other day, this one in my handwriting, that says a mantra that I try to live by in every aspect of my life.

“Be brave.”

I’m not going to lie—when I first moved out to California, I was certain that it was a one-year thing and that I would move back to Dallas as soon as my lease was up. I longed for the familiarity of Texas and all of my people, and I thought where I was in California was merely going to be a brief stint in my life that I could simply chalk up as “one of those adventures I just had to have.”

And God probably smiled down at me knowingly, thinking that it wouldn’t be too long before I realized that, once again, His plan was different—and better.

I’ve grown to love where I am and love the community I’ve become a part of there. I’ve gotten involved in quite a bit, and it’s definitely helped me to get to know people and build relationships. Besides, you can’t really beat being able to go to the ocean pretty much whenever you want. I honestly think this place has helped to heal my soul and the broken heart that seemed like it would never end.

Just look at her. I CAN’T EVEN.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t things I miss about the world I left last fall. My second precious niece was recently born, and I was thrilled to take a trip back to Texas to meet sweet Evelyn (“Evie”) and spend some time with my family. Before I go any further, let me rave about HOW FREAKING ADORABLE SHE IS! This isn’t a biased opinion by any means. She is seriously tied for cutest human alive (with my other niece, Olivia, of course).

As soon as I landed, I went over to my brother’s and sister-in-law’s house (they had just gotten home from the hospital), and they let me spend time over there every single day I was in town. I usually FaceTime with my brother and Olivia once a week, but it was so nice actually to be with them and read with Olivia and play games and practice saying words and give her snuggles and go to the park and do all of the things that aunts can do. I was also so grateful to be able to hold little Evie and talk to her as if she actually knows everything I’m saying.

There’s something about being an aunt that brings joy to a person’s heart. I remember when Olivia was a baby, I used to go over there once a week to hang out with her, and I would talk to her about everything going on in my life. It was during a time when that aforementioned heartache was just beginning, and she helped me through so much pain. She listened, she sympathized (at least I’m going to say that’s what it was), she cried for me (we’ll also say that’s why she was crying and not because of colic), she let me cry, and she was just there for me. She’s my little best friend, and I was so scared that moving so many miles away would change that.

Even though being back in my old middle school is always weird, I’d go anywhere with this gem.

I was also afraid that being so far away from my sister (my adult best friend) would challenge our relationship, but it hasn’t. I stayed with her and her husband while I was in town, and that walking heart of a woman let me borrow her car for the entire time I was there, no questions about it. I was able to spend so much time with her going to dinner, watching Mulan and She’s All That and The Office while relaxing on her sofa, cheering on her soccer team that she coaches (she’s the best middle school girls coach around), and watching the play version of Legally Blonde performed by a bunch of eighth-grade students. My sister is the best.

The truth is, though, that distance doesn’t have to ruin a relationship—at all. And even though it hurts to be so far from certain people, I know that I’m right where I need to be.

I love seeing Olivia interact with my brother, and I’m sure Evie will be the same. Olivia lights up whenever she sees him, says “daddy” or “dada” as often as possible, clings to him at times, and trusts him more than anything. And he loves her more than life itself. That man would move mountains for that little girl, and his love is genuine and obvious. I was sitting and watching them together the other day, and I couldn’t help but wonder why I don’t always have that childlike faith and trust in God, the Father whose love is so much greater than any human’s could ever be. Instead, I tend to think that my own ways and plans are better and would suit my life perfectly.

And I’m usually wrong.

Homies 4 lyfe

More so lately, it’s become truly apparent just how much I needed to be exactly where I am in California at this exact time. Whether it’s because I need certain surroundings or people in my life or they need me, it’s all part of a plan that I couldn’t have put together more perfectly if I had plotted it for years. He had this in store for me and knew all along what’s best, and I honestly wish that I had been more trusting. It’s something I’m working on currently.

My life might not look anything like I thought it would years ago, but that’s because it’s not supposed to. Sure, I’m still the most single person you’ll ever meet, but that’s because God has something or someone else in store for me, and I simply have to trust Him as much as Olivia trusts my brother. I have to believe that He wants the best for me because He loves me more than life itself. He would move mountains for me, and His love is genuine and obvious—even when I don’t always act like I know that’s true.

Right now, I post pictures with my friends, my nieces, my sister, my other family members, sometimes even strangers, and I often post pictures by myself. There will hopefully be a day that I become minorly annoying by posting pictures with the man I’ve been praying for all along. Until then, I’m going to let my faith and my heart grow in ways I’ve never imagined, trusting like I’ve never trusted.

And, for me, maybe that’s part of what being brave is all about.

#noregrets—advice from a guy on a plane

I know it’s trite to say, but I truly believe that everything happens for a reason.

Especially when it involves the person you sit next to on an airplane.

My friend Amanda and I went on a trip to San Diego over the weekend, and we ended up catching an earlier flight home (so that we wouldn’t get home super late on a Sunday night), so we weren’t sitting near each other on the plane. Instead, I wound up next to some guy named Chris.

I started talking to him a little before the flight took off, and we discussed a variety of different things pertaining to our individual lives. He gave me a lot of great advice, but one thing he said to me really stuck with me: When you’re young, and you’re single, let your heart take you where it needs to go—because you don’t want to look back years from now and regret that you didn’t take enough chances.

And it was exactly what I needed to hear.

(By the way, I never told homeboy I’m single. I think I just have an aura about me.)

I’ve made some recent decisions that I’m currently pursuing, and not everyone thinks they’re good ideas. For me, I firmly believe they’re right for right now. I know every decision we make—even the small ones—can impact our lives in huge ways, but sometimes the decision not to do something can be even more significant.

And I don’t want to live in regret.

I’ve mentioned before all of the times I haven’t let guys know how I feel, and I’ve never won their hearts. I’m not saying they all would have fallen madly in love with me if I had said something, but I also don’t know what would have happened—and sometimes I wonder.

What if I had taken a chance and shared my heart? What if I had been brave in a moment when I really wanted to be brave, rather than let that moment pass by? What if I had trusted my heart? What if I had done something that was not quite in the realm of the comfort zones I’m so used to at this point?

And I’m not a fan of living in the Land of What If.

Even this trip with Amanda was sort of an on-a-whim thing. I wanted a little getaway to San Diego, and she loves that city and was gung-ho about going. We somewhat spontaneously booked the flights and got the rest of the details of the trip in place. No, it wasn’t the wisest financial decision I’ve ever made, but I’m OK with that.

Because it was totally worth it.

This was right before our cartwheels in the sand. I’m pretty sure we both pulled muscles (aging sucks), but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

It’s one of those trips I’ll look back on and be really glad I took it. First, if you’ve ever spent any time with Amanda, you’d understand why. She’s one of the greatest people I know and an ideal travel buddy. Second, it was a needed escape for a little bit to somewhere I love: the beach. The beach brings me a lot of peace and clarity, especially when I can sit for a while on a lifeguard stand and just stare out at the seemingly unending ocean water (which we made sure to do on this trip, of course).

Chatting with Chris at the end of the trip was truly what I needed with my heart full of hope and mind full of anxiety that I’ve had lately. I needed the change of flights, and I needed to chat with this guy.

And I think God knew that and put us both on that particular row on that particular flight.

I will say that Chris didn’t want to be my BFF or anything—no one was sitting in the window seat (yes, Amanda and I could have sat on the same row, but discussing that would involve the angry face emoji), and he suggested I scoot over and sit there. I contend it’s because he’s a little bit of a larger man and needed more space and arm room. I mean, he gave me his business card and offered to buy me a sandwich on the plane, so I don’t think my presence or talkative personality repelled him that much.

He did, however, remind me that I definitely want to live my life without singing Hanson’s great “If Only.” You can only sit along the shoreline for so long until you realize it’s time to run into the water or do a cartwheel in it, regardless of how cold it feels.

Because sometimes that chilly water is exactly what you need to set your heart on fire.