Because hope gives you strength

I’ve learned a significant amount about hope in recent years and have realized something that doesn’t make me feel guilty when I don’t pump iron as often as I should.

Hope makes us stronger.

Green (I call some people by last names or nicknames only) and Val are two of my sweet friends who have been with me through a lot over the years. I knew Green was going to be one of my besties when she offered me a ride home from a work event during my first few weeks at the company where we worked together for a couple of years and let me ask her a million personal questions about her life that she probably wasn’t expecting to talk about on such a short trip with someone she barely knew. But she’s always been one of those people who gets me and never makes me feel like I’m doing life all wrong.

I met Val through Green the day after a really tough moment in my life, and it wasn’t long before the three of us were the proud owners of Rangers season tickets with each other. Nothing brings people together quite like the dedication to fandom of your favorite sports teams.

But it wasn’t just a baseball season that we experienced together—it’s been multiple seasons of life. They both walked with me through a broken heart that I thought would never end and that put me in a bad place. I don’t like to think about how much it affected my mood and what I thought of myself, and I really don’t like the way it affected the type of friend and sister I was. While I can’t change the past, I can certainly change the way I respond to pain and rejection.

The Lord’s taught me a lot about who He is and who I am in Him since then.

He also taught me more than I could have imagined about hope. There’s hope in darkness and in those times when we have fallen and aren’t sure if we’ll ever be able to rise again. It’s that hope that fuels a fire within us and causes us to be brave when we want to give in to our fears. That causes us to believe when no one else believes. That causes us to keep moving forward when our minds try to tell us that it’s not possible. That causes us to stand and fight when hiding is the easier option.

We aren’t good at selfies, so this seemed like a better idea.

Green is getting married in the next year, and the three of us got the VAN, as we call ourselves (for Val, Amanda, and Natalie, obviously) back together some some old fashioned bridesmaids-dress-shopping fun. Val and I tried on maybe seven or eight dresses, all of which had completely different fits and looks on both of us. At one point, I looked in the mirror and then around me at all of the women trying on bridal gowns and prom dresses, and I was reminded about how different we all are—and I don’t mean in appearances alone.

We all go through completely different ups and downs and take journeys and paths that aren’t the same as those of others. We often face moments when we’re in such rough places that we aren’t even sure if things will ever get better. It seems as if the storms won’t ever end. Hope seems so distant that you aren’t sure if you’ll ever let it in your life again.

Dear friend, please turn on Mariah’s “I Can Make It through the Rain,” and please believe each lyric she belts.

Take Tiger Woods. The guy’s been through quite a bit since he entered the spotlight and captured America’s heart so many years ago. He had a very public and disappointing fall from grace, and he’s had persistent injuries with his back and knee since then. I can imagine that there were times when he felt hopeless and when he could have given up. But he didn’t. And then that final put on the 18th hole of the Master’s happened on Sunday, and he won his fifth prized green jacket. It was a beautiful moment as he hugged his son and then mom and the daughter as the crowd chanted “Tiger.”

It was living proof that hope is full of power—it gives you faith, it gives you strength, and it gives you the belief that those crazy things that maybe only you think are possible really aren’t so crazy at all.

You do you, girl.

Your past is behind you, and you don’t know what’s going to happen next year or next month or next week or even in the next hour. The best thing you can do is to live as boldly and as completely as you can in the very moment you’ve been given right here and right now. It might not be where you want to be, but it also doesn’t mean that you’re going to be there forever. There’s tremendous beauty in hope, and the more you cling to it, the more you will realize just how strong you can be—because He equips us in spite of our failures and weaknesses.

I’ve never won a major on the PGA Tour (although I was a two-time golf city champion back in the day, and it’s not important to point out that I won both years by default because I was the only girl), but I know what it feels like to finally have a big breakthrough after spending far too much time in the Land of Sorrows and Broken Hearts, where it feels like you’re the sole resident. I know what it’s like to have to spend time away from something you love so much so that you can heal and grow and learn and foster hope. I know what it’s like to cry more tears than you knew the eyes could handle, not knowing if you’ll ever be able to stop. And I know what it’s like to train myself on patience, taking small steps each day toward the bigger goal you’re chasing.

You don’t have to have it all together. None of us actually does. You’re likely going to face setbacks at different times, but that doesn’t mean you’re a failure or won’t ever see your dreams come true—it simply means that your story has some unexpected chapters to make it more interesting and to build your character. As one of my favorite sports media professionals Sam Ponder said, “Here’s to another season of learning that the imperfection and messiness of life [are] where joy and gratefulness grow.” Amen, sister.

So let the hope surface, and let it grow, my friend—and you, too, will one day be able to fist pump for being brave enough to believe in what once seemed impossible.

Because you’re worth living fully and taking chances

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

Especially when you’re old(ish).

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

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

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

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

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

These gems help keep me hip.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When you 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.

When your heart needs a reminder

I think it’s important to be open and genuine, and sometimes that involves sharing your heart and being vulnerable when you might not want to.

Right now is one of those times for me.

I’m not going to lie—sometimes it’s really tough being single when you’re an adult. Even if it’s not necessarily true, it seems like every other human being around you is in a relationship and has his or her person to do life with and make memories together. And plenty of people you don’t even ask have their opinions regarding what you should or shouldn’t do to make sure that you don’t spend the rest of your life singing the catchy Farmers Only jingle.

It can be such a special status at times.

This hat is the greatest purchase I’ve made in a long time.

I’ve shared before that, while I’ve never actually had a boyfriend or even been in a relationship (or on what I consider to be a real date), I’ve had my heart broken. And I feel like I’m currently going through a never-ending heartache that I can’t seem to escape, no matter what I do. Unfortunately, there’s no timetable for mending a broken heart—we’re all so different, and we all handle our pain in different ways.

For me, I’ve always tried to deal with emotional pain the same way I deal with physical pain: I ignore it. I do this for as long as possible, and then I usually reach a point when I have to face the fact that the pain is actually there, and there’s no way to pretend it’s not there anymore—I simply have to acknowledge it.

It’s been almost two years since my heart was ripped out of my chest, thrown to the ground, smashed into thousands of tiny little pieces, and then stomped all over by the guy who walked away from it. I thought that I would be over it by now, and I honestly thought more recently that I was. But one day last week reminded me that I was once again just masking pain that was still prevalent. It still hurts, and I still miss him, which makes me feel foolish and pathetic.

But I also know that I’m neither foolish nor pathetic—I’m simply a girl who cares about a boy who doesn’t care about her. It’s not exactly the classic romance tale, but it’s my current reality.

One evening last week, I went to a panel discussion at a church that’s somewhat connected with mine, and the topic was about dating in today’s society. It was kind of difficult to take advice from the married couples up there (especially the ones who had been married for 20 years and more), and I wish they would have had more than one single person to share some insight, but I ended up having a rather enlightening moment on my own in the midst of it all.

As I was listening to some of the couples share their stories of how they met, I began to feel alone and a little sad. I haven’t cried in a while, and I have a feeling the waterworks are coming soon. (Part of that not acknowledging my emotional pain thing that I do means that I ignore moments when I want to cry, so I end up bottling up a crap-ton of emotions, and they typically come pouring out all at once when I least expect them to.) I did the only thing that ever makes sense to me when everything around me makes zero sense: I started praying.

God knows my heart, and I began unloading it in a prayer of brokenness, asking Him what I was supposed to do. I hate the online stuff—it’s not part of my story, and I know it. But I’m hurting, and I’m still sad about [homeboy’s name]. God, if I’m supposed to be single forever, can you please take away this desire in my heart? And, regardless, can you please take away my feelings for him? Am I ever going to meet my person? What do I do, Lord?

And then I heard this quiet, calming voice that has spoken truth to me so many times: Don’t you trust me? I’ve never let you down.

Talk about a sucker punch to the gut. This big and powerful God who has the entire world in His hands—the One who called me out to California and has provided for me in more ways than I could ever have imagined—truly cares about me and has a plan that is more perfect than anything that I could ever create. He’s never failed me, and He won’t start now. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to walk into the elevator at work tomorrow and meet the man of my dreams, but it does mean that, whether or not I do ended up falling in love with the one guy who picks me out of every other girl in the world, He’s got big plans for me.

God also gave me a Saturday morning run with my sweet cousin Rachel, who was in town last week. I’ve always looked up to her, and she’s always listened to my heart and provided encouragement. I hope you’re able to meet her one day. She’s freaking amazing.

And I do trust Him.

We sang two songs in church Sunday that both had lines about God never failing us and never letting us down. I think it was His way of reminding me (along with countless others who needed to hear it) that He is who He says He is, and He’s taking care of the things that cause me worry and anxiety—He’s funny like that.

I don’t know what you’re going through in life. Maybe you’re like me and wish that you could find love in a world that seems to be more challenging for the single folks every day. I hope that you don’t lose hope. I hope that you keep pressing on through the storms of heartache that try to knock you down. I hope that you know that you are worthy and enough with or without someone else standing by your side.

And I hope that you know that you are loved by the One who will love you more than anyone else in the entire world ever could.

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 fall down

Life is filled with ups and downs and moments when you have to pick yourself back up when times get tough.

Especially when you actually fall.

I’ve started running with a fun group of gals on Monday nights, and it’s become one of my favorite runs of the week because I actually get to run with other humans. For the past two weeks, I’ve run with my new friend Hilary, who is about as friendly as they come. She’s one of those people whom you meet and instantly know you were meant to be good friends.

Last week, though, I ran part of my Monday evening run solo while she ran with the precious 10-year-old (and by far the youngest of the crew) for a few miles. We planned on me turning around and then meeting back up with Hilary to finish the rest of our run together. It seems like a pretty reasonable plan, right? Plus, there’s not that much to running on a boardwalk other than following the path, so surely everything would be fine.

Let’s please remember the individual involved in this scenario—I have a way of ending up in ridiculous situations.

I turned around after a certain amount of time and headed toward where we started. When I was almost back, I saw Hilary running toward me, and we both threw our arms up in purposely exaggerated excitement. I signaled to her to question if we were turning around again to go the direction from which I had just come (the lighting is better that way), and I turned as she got to where I was. However, I wasn’t really paying attention to the ground below me—I rarely do when I run, which I realize isn’t always the smartest thing ever—so I didn’t notice the wet and sandy concrete that happened to be right where my feet were trying to turn the rest of me around.

I bit it. Hard.

Here’s a closeup for you.

It was like this slow-motion fall scene in a movie that I didn’t see coming, but it felt quite dramatic. As soon as it happened, I didn’t really want to look down because I knew it was going to be ugly, so I tried to keep running. Hilary suggested that we walk for just a second and maybe rinse off my leg, but I didn’t want to put water on it yet—it would sting. Like I typically do, I opted to ignore my pain and just keep running.

By the end of the run, I noticed just how much my leg stung and then looked down and saw how gross it was. When I got home, after I showered (and somehow avoided the water directly hitting my left leg), I made what might have been one of my poorest decisions of the day: I poured rubbing alcohol on my leg. Remember how I didn’t want water to touch it? Let me tell you something you probably already know. RUBBING ALCOHOL BURNS SO FREAKING MUCH ON AN OPEN WOUND.

The scrape hurt a bit (even though it doesn’t look so bad here), but it was still a fun run with Hillz!

I bandaged up my leg with all I had that night, which were some My Little Pony Band-Aids. I went to the grocery store the next day and used Avengers ones after that because they made me feel a little tougher. While My Little Pony characters are certainly bada$*es, there’s something about having Captain America and Black Widow on your bloody leg that says, “Hey. Don’t mess with me.”

Right after the fall happened, my leg hurt pretty badly, but the pain was minimized by having Hilary right there by my side. The rest of the run was filled with genuine conversation and a solid steady pace that I probably wouldn’t have gone after the fall if I had been by myself.

As I’ve mentioned before, moving to California has been challenging in a lot of ways. If I had moved here with someone, I think it would be a lot different. But I wasn’t supposed to move here with anyone, so it’s required me to make sure I find ways to surround myself with the right people who will be in my tribe. I could sit here and whine to you about how being single and living alone means that there was no one there to take care of my leg for me when I got home and how I really wish I had someone to hold my hand when life gets really rough—and part of me really wants to whine more about that in this moment—but there’s truly no point. That’s not in the cards for me right now, so I won’t complain any further.

What I will do is remind you that it’s important not to let the thoughts of the things you don’t have overshadow the wonderful things that are already in your life. There are going to be times when you’re doing great, and your actual life might be a direct reflection of an Instagram post, but then there are also going to be seasons when it seems like all you’re doing is falling down. Let the people around you help you up—let them remind you that it’s OK to acknowledge your pain and that you’re strong enough to keep going. Let them be those friends who run (or walk) alongside you and talk about all of the things in life, both good and bad, and what the hopes in your heart are.

Find those people, and never let them go.

Falling down isn’t the worst thing in the world. It hurts when it happens, and it might hurt for a little while after, too. And if the fall involves a broken heart, that “little while” might actually last a lot longer than you would prefer.

And that’s when you have to fight.

Please don’t stay down when you fall. You’ll miss out on so many great things if you do—you’ll miss out on running on the boardwalk with a friend or new career opportunities or exciting adventures or a man who will finally be the one you’ve been waiting to capture your heart forever and not break it. It’s OK to fall, as long as you get back up.

Besides, you might get to wear some really cool Band-Aids when you do.

Encouragement from an Uber driver

Every once in a while, you need a stranger to tell you something to make you really believe it.

And sometimes that stranger is your Uber driver.

I recently met someone for dinner and was ready to leave almost immediately after we sat down. Sure, he is a really nice guy, and I can pretty much talk to a wall if I have to, but I simply didn’t want to be there. My mind was elsewhere, and I wanted to go home.

And of course I had to be the one to say, “I probably should get home soon.”

He asked me if I was sure that I didn’t want to go anywhere else. Yes, I was sure. I had taken an Uber there simply because I didn’t want to deal with the parking in the area, and he suggested that I ride in his Uber and that we could just drop me off first. I suggested “no.”

Thankfully, my Uber driver was practically there, so I didn’t have to wait long before hopping in the car and escaping that evening. That’s when I met Josh, a sage I wasn’t expecting. He asked me how I was doing, and I said I was sort of alright. Then he asked me why.

Josh, you just opened a can of worms, buddy.

I gave him a condensed version of my evening, followed by a very abridged explanation as to why my heart hurts and why I think it shouldn’t anymore. Then I asked him questions, and he told me how he met his girlfriend (whom he’s been dating for almost three years) and how special she is to him. And he told me that there’s a guy out there who thinks the same of me but doesn’t know it yet and that, when I meet him, I’ll know he’s the one.

And even though I had only known Josh for about four minutes, I believed him.

Right before I got out of the car, he turned around to shake my hand and told me it had been a pleasure chatting with me. Then he said, “Just keep the faith, Natalie. That’s the most important thing—you have to have faith.”

That’s a good word, bro.

And sometimes you hang solo.

I don’t know what the future holds. I know that I’m going through some tough stuff that I feel like I should be over by now, and I don’t understand why it still hurts, but it does. Honestly, I sometimes feel ridiculous that my heart doesn’t feel mended, but I can’t seem to change that right now. I have to believe that Josh is right, though: I need to have faith.

Faith that someday it won’t hurt anymore. Faith that things will happen as they should. Faith that I will be fine flying solo forever if that’s how things turn out. Faith that there’s really only One I need, anyway.

Sure, it’s difficult to be single sometimes, but I think I also need to remember how great it can be, too. I mean, there’s a lot of independence gained and a lot of times when you have to learn to be brave in situations when you really want someone there to hold your hand. And I get to choose what to eat for dinner every night and what will be watched on the TV, so that’s a plus.

Life often happens in ways we don’t want, but we still have to face those situations and choose how we respond. I hope I can take Josh’s words to heart and always respond by keeping the faith. Faith gives us hope, and faith is also a huge part of what love is all about.

I hope you’re able to meet someone who gives you hope, or I hope you’re that person who offers it to someone else. It’s nice when we can lift one another up and provide encouragement when it’s needed most.

Because that’s a love that can be shared with everyone.

That time I had a dating app for about 12 hours

There are many times in life when I should stick with my initial gut instinct.

Like when it comes to avoiding dating apps.

Even though many people have often encouraged me to do so, I’ve never wanted to join online dating sites or apps. I realize it works for some people and has even resulted in long-term relationships and marriages, but I just don’t have a desire to do it.

Which explains zilch about my actions last Wednesday.

I was standing with my friend Amanda, waiting for a work meeting to begin, and for some reason I don’t know, I turned to her and said I was thinking about downloading a dating app. She said I should and then help me set it up and showed me how to use it.

Before the day ended, I deleted it.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not really even seeking anyone. Do I eventually want to find the person I love who loves me back and forgets everyone else when I walk into a room? Sure. But I don’t want to force it. Maybe I was just feeling emotional or frustrated that day—I’m not exactly sure what made me make that temporary rash decision, because I knew as I was downloading it that it wasn’t really what I wanted to do.

It could be that I was looking for something to help me get over the heartache I’ve been going through, because absolutely nothing seems to be working. I don’t like this type of pain—it’s so much more difficult to ignore than physical pain is. It hurts a lot when someone plays with your heart and emotions for months and then decides to show you that he doesn’t actually care about you at all and really doesn’t even care about the friendship you had, either. So maybe I downloaded the app to try to forget about that.

Shocker: It didn’t work.

tree
Sometimes sitting in trees makes me feel better.

I’d rather meet someone by getting hit with a frisbee at a park or by making some comment that he finds endearing on a random encounter (yes, I know I watch too many romantic comedies). I usually don’t like surprises, but in this case, I want it to be something that takes me by surprise. And I want it to be something that makes me forget about the past broken hearts—not because I tried but because that’s simply how naturally powerful it is.

When I was a freshman in high school, I went to the local YMCA with my sister, and I told her to lie about her age (she was one year too young) so we could get in and go play basketball without our parents there. She got yelled at by a lady who worked there, and we had to leave. She cried the whole walk home and wouldn’t talk to me. Our mom saw us as she was driving home and picked us up, and then my sister wouldn’t talk to me in the car, either. She went straight into her room, shut the door and continued not to talk to me. I’m well aware that I had been a horrible older sister that day and deserved it. But this was my baby sister, and I needed to make her feel better.

Cue LeAnn Rimes.

I took our family boombox (ah, the glory days) into her bed room and sang “The Light in Your Eyes” to her. I apologized, she forgave me, and that song has held a special place in our hearts ever since.

So I wasn’t surprised when she called me on Sunday morning when I was very upset, and she busted out some of the lyrics. I had been training for months for a half marathon I was supposed to race that day, but recent kidney issues and some new back pain prevented me from being able to run without pain for the past few days. I woke up Sunday in enough pain to know that 13.1 miles would only make things a lot worse. I texted my sister later that morning to see if she was awake, and she immediately called me. I told her that I felt like the rain just wasn’t stopping, and she told me that there was only one thing she needed to remind me of in that moment.

Life can take your dreams and turn them upside down
Friends will talk about you when you’re not around
Reality can really cut you down to size
But don’t ever lose that light in your eyes

Keep on shining
Keep on smiling
Don’t lose faith, and don’t lose heart
When you’re crying
Just keep trying to remind yourself
You’re a shining star
Yes, you are

It was exactly what I needed to hear.

I know that broken hearts don’t last forever. They might last longer than we want them to, but the wounds will heal. It’s often difficult to remember that during the tough times, but it’s good to have people like my sister around to sing to you to remind you.

Things won’t always go the way we want them to, but it’s OK to hope that they will. That’s why I’m going to continue to avoid the online stuff and dating apps—because I want to believe that maybe one day I really will be taken by surprise when I least expect it.

But even if I do stay single forever, I’ll still let the song remind me: Don’t ever lose that light in your eyes.

Not better left unsaid

Sometimes putting words out into the air for others to hear is absolutely frightening.

But most times it’s completely worth it.

I sort of talk quite a bit, but I haven’t always said what needs to be said in the moments those things need to be said. I used to bite my tongue and swallow my words out of fear that what I really felt would become known—and for some reason, that would be a bad thing. This was especially true with guys because the last thing I ever wanted was for a guy I had a crush on to know about that crush. There were a variety of reasons for that, but it really all boiled down to being afraid.

And so silence was my answer.

There was a song I remember from Avril Lavigne’s album that I listened to on repeat in high school called “Things I’ll Never Say.” I always felt the lyrics were pretty accurate to many of my situations. Homegirl sings, “What’s wrong with my tongue? These words keep slipping away. I stutter, I stumble, like I’ve got nothing to say,” and then the end of the chorus says, “Guess I’m wishing my life away with these things I’ll never say.”

But I don’t want to wish my life away.

be brave (edited)
My favorite bracelet

I can think of so many times when I had opportunities to speak up, and I didn’t. I let those chances slip through my fingers—chances to share my heart and find out if the other person felt the same or not. But, instead, I never knew.

And I think not knowing is so much worse than taking a risk that might end in heartache.

I’ve really only done this heartache-risk thing twice in my life. A little more than a few years ago, there was a guy I didn’t think I was interested in at first. (Or, I at least told myself I wasn’t interested in him.) But when he started showing interest in me in an obvious way, I couldn’t really fight my feelings anymore. Neither of us had actually said anything to one another, though, and I wasn’t sure I could do that. I tend to be a pansy in that regard.

For some reason or another, I decided I was just going to tell him exactly how I felt. And so I did. It was probably one of the scariest moments of my life, but the words just started pouring out, and I couldn’t stop them. He said a few things, too, and then he kissed me. It sounds like a good situation—until he led me on for about 10 months and then broke my heart.

The second heartache-risk thing was when I asked a guy out (in person) and had to stand there face to face and get hurt. That one was definitely worse.

Even though both situations ended up involving pain and unwanted outcomes, I don’t regret either. I don’t want to be the girl in the Avril Lavigne song anymore, because I think sometimes not saying what you want to say can wind up being the biggest regret of all. After all, what’s the worst that could happen? Rejection? Take it from someone who has felt that a number of times in life: It’s not as bad as always wondering and never knowing.

I’m sure there are times when it’s more appropriate to hold your tongue—like if you’re thinking something not so nice that really isn’t necessary to say. But when it comes to matters of the heart, as my sister always reminds me, “What do you have to lose?”

And the answer can’t be “dignity” because I think it actually takes more dignity to do something you’re beyond terrified to do than to be too scared or prideful and say nothing. I’m going to have to quote Hilary Duff again: “If you lose a moment, you might lose a lot. So, why not?” You might end up with a broken heart, or you might end up with everything you imagined and more.

Either way, it’s worth the risk to leave your own Wonderland.