Because choosing love is worth the risk

There are supposedly five love languages (in case you’re wondering, or even if you’re not, mine is quality time), but there’s one that’s missing from the list.

Sports—sports are my true love language.

On more than one occasion, I’ve sat in the exact same spot for nearly 12 straight hours (minus some bathroom breaks here and there) watching college football. I’ve painted my entire body blue (also on more than one occasion) to show my fandom and win a spirit contest at Dallas Mavericks games. And now that I can watch basically any sport on my phone in any location, my life has changed significantly.

There are so many exciting moments in all sports, especially in college football. If you watched the West Virginia-Texas game a couple of weekends ago, you know exactly what I’m talking about. West Virginia was down 41-34 with the clock ticking down at the end of the fourth quarter. The Mountaineers scored and then had a choice—kick the extra point to send the game into overtime or go for the two-point conversion and win the whole thing right then and there. The commentators mentioned that the West Virginia coach is a bit of a risk taker in those types of situations and thought he’d go for it. Sure enough, they were right—Coach Holgorsen called for the two-point play.

A man after my own heart.

Those West Virginia players walked away with that 42-41 win because they had trusted their coach and his plan. He knew their abilities, and he knew that he had prepared them for that moment. I love seeing moments like that as they’re happening (unless it’s against my team, of course). They’re reminders that life is full of opportunities that we can either seize or let pass us by far too quickly.

I honestly have more moments of kicking the extra point instead of going for the two points than I’d like to admit. I can think back to exact instances when I wish I would have said something that I didn’t or do something differently than I did. It serves me absolutely no value to dwell on those missed chances, but they do motivate me to take more risks in my present.

The sign speaks for itself.

I think one of the greatest risks of all is loving people. Whether it’s giving your heart away to the one who makes it beat out of control or giving your heart to show others that they matter and that you care, there are significant risks involved. There’s the risk of that love being unrequited. There’s the risk of that love being questioned and frowned upon by society. There’s the risk of that love being given to individuals who have been labeled as undeserving.

Here’s the thing, though: No matter what the risks are, everyone needs love.

One day recently when I was at the beach, I was watching the waves come in when I noticed a man and woman and their precious daughter. The little girl was playing in the water with her dad and begging her mom to come join them. I watched as the mom barely let the water touch her toes before telling the sweet pig-tailed cutie that it was freezing. (The Pacific Ocean is very cold, especially this time of year. For some reason, kids never seem to notice things like temperatures.)

But then the little girl said “Please, will you, Mom? It will be so fun!” The woman had a sudden change of heart, went for the two-point conversion, and dashed out into the icicles—because she knew that the risk of freezing was nothing compared to the memories she was making with her daughter and husband and the joy they were all experiencing together. She chose love, and it was worth it.

Sure, not every risk you take will end the way you want it to. Sometimes you’ll go for that two-point conversion and walk away empty-handed. But sometimes you won’t. Like those West Virginia Mountaineers, maybe you simply need to trust the ultimate Coach and His plan. And maybe that means you choose love with the complete confidence that it’s worth it.

Don’t settle for the extra point when you know that you’re capable of getting two.

When you’re comfortable being the real you

I think it’s important for people not to be afraid to be different from those around them.

Because our differences make us unique.

My brother was in San Diego last week for a work conference, so I drove down there Monday night to have dinner with him. It’s very rare that any of my family members are in California, so I didn’t mind making the trek on a work night.

When I got to his hotel (which was where the conference was, as well), he was at a networking event. I got tired of waiting in the lobby, so I decided to find out where he was exactly. I befriended some women who were at the check-in table, and one of them led me out to the terrace where the event was. After making my way about halfway around the area, I spotted him chatting with a few people and didn’t want to interrupt. I had two options: I could stand around by myself and pretend to be looking at something interesting on my phone, or I could go talk to some of these people who probably didn’t want to talk about the things I wanted to discuss with them (you know, like the non-work-related stuff).

I obviously chose the latter.

Maybe my lack of lanyard with a nametag was a dead giveaway that I was an outsider.

I joined in a conversation with Nader and Randy, two older gentlemen who were very interested in their roles in the healthcare industry. After I asked a bunch of questions about their personal lives, they asked me what I do for a living. I had a brief moment when I thought about fibbing a little and playing the part of someone in their line of work who belonged at the conference, but then I remembered that I don’t like lying and that I’ve learned that it’s always better to be yourself in every situation ever.

I told them that I’m a proposal writer and was going to leave it at that, but they wanted to know more. I said I write for an infrastructure company, and they assumed it was hospital-related. I clarified and let them know that it was construction and infrastructure. Their facial expressions said exactly what I knew both of them wanted to say to me in that moment: What the hell are you doing here? So I smiled and then made Randy, who now lives in the Midwest, tell me all about his years of living in Texas.

I hated middle school, and looking back on those years makes me dislike almost everything about the person I was back then. I was selfish and constantly trying to be someone I wasn’t. I think that I was so insecure about who I really was that I was completely afraid to be me. I’ve accepted who I am, and while it’s healthy to grow and make changes in your life that are needed in order to better your life and your character, I also think that it’s important to be comfortable being you—no matter how messy and imperfect that person is.

Each sunset is unique and wonderful—just like all of us.

You don’t have to be afraid to be you. If you’re always acting like someone you’re not, then people will never really know the real you. For me, I want to know people fully and be fully known myself. I know that being open can place you in a rather vulnerable position, and there are certainly times to be a bit more guarded, but I think there’s value in letting people know the real you—the one we don’t necessarily see on Instagram. It can also help them to be more comfortable being more open with you, as well.

It doesn’t mean that everyone will expect you to be completely real with them, and they might not know how to respond at times. Take the woman in the bathroom at my work last week. She works in the company next to mine, and I’ve seen her in there before, but she’s not one of the ones I’ve gotten to know very well (I’ve had a lunch with some of them and text a few of them pretty regularly). Two of my buddies who work with me had just jokingly insulted me, and I was not acting dramatic about it at all. When I walked into the bathroom, the exchange below occurred.

Me: Hi! How’s it going?
Bathroom buddy: I’m good. How are you?
Me: Hurt and betrayed (again, not said in an overly dramatic voice by any means).
BB: (stares at me confused for a few seconds and then turns and walks out).

Neither of us was expecting what had just happened. I had to shrug it off. I’m not for everyone—and that’s OK. You probably won’t be for everyone, either. But, if you pretend to be someone else, that person also won’t be for everyone, so you might as well just stick with the original you.

You were made to be you on purpose. You’re where you are right now for a reason. The experiences you’ve had—both good and bad, wonderful and trying—haven’t been for nothing. Don’t hide behind a pretty life filter. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not, even if that means that you’re quite different from everyone around you.

Because different can be truly beautiful.

Because sometimes your plans aren’t as great as you think they are

Life often leads you down unexpected roads that leave you wondering how and why you got to where you are.

And sometimes you’re dressed as a strawberry while you’re on those alternate paths.

Over the weekend, all I wanted to do was rest. I had been sick for a few days and was zapped of most of my energy, so the thought of doing nothing but watching football and baseball sounded like perfection. And I obviously needed sunshine and the ocean to cure me.

When I headed for the beach Saturday, the sun was out, and the weather was pretty ideal. By the time I got to the beach about seven minutes later, though, it was overcast and kind of chilly, and there was a foggy marine layer hanging in the air. (My hair and I are not fans of the marine layer—at all.) I don’t understand how the atmosphere can be so drastically different a few miles apart, but it’s a thing out here.

I still laid my towel in the sand, put in my headphones, and stretched out as if I actually had a chance of soaking up some rays. Here’s something that you need to know about me: I hate—and I do mean hate—being cold. If I had been Jack, I absolutely would have made Rose scoot over to give me room on that freaking door that could easily fit two people.

It was in the 60s, and I wanted a blanket wrapped around me. I had not planned for a frigid and gray day at my place of peace. Why was I only in my swimsuit? Why was I not covering myself with my clothes or towel? I can’t explain my actions and inactions, but for some reason, I simply remained as I was and let the sounds of the waves drown out all of my discomfort as I fell asleep for a much-needed nap. It wasn’t quite the way I had planned it, but it was still oddly good.

I woke up feeling refreshed (but still cold) and gathered my things to go home so that I could change and go to my friend JP’s volleyball game (she coaches at a college nearby). I had a Halloween event that evening and still had no idea what I was going to be, though I was leaning toward Ariel because my friend has a mermaid dress that she said I could borrow. I also wanted to be Ms. Frizzle or Rainbow Bright or Strawberry Shortcake, but I didn’t have any outfits for those people. To keep things simple, maybe next year I should just be nothing. Or three-hole-punch Jim.

I’m a strawberry. Duh.

After JP and her team won their match, I went to Party City for inspiration. As I was walking down the superheroes and My Little Pony costumes aisle, it hit me like Peter La Fleur pegged White Goodman while blindfolded to win the championship: I should be a strawberry. So I bought some red stuff and paid a visit to Target (my personal simultaneous haven and danger zone) to complete the ensemble. It wasn’t the original plan, but I’d argue that it turned out better. I didn’t even stay at the party very long, but at least it had a strawberry there briefly.

My beach day didn’t go as I had intended, and there were parts of it that weren’t very enjoyable, but it ended up being a time of escape and rejuvenation that I needed. And my costume certainly didn’t turn out as planned, but I wound up being a food-related item for the third year in a row (I was a peppermint milkshake last year and a yellow Skittle the year before) and liking my costume. With everything that’s been happening lately and the heaviness in my heart I’ve felt recently, I think that I needed some reminders that life doesn’t always pan out as you hoped or planned, and that’s OK.

And it’s often for the better.

I turned 34 earlier this month, which basically means that I need to stretch before everything, my desired bedtime will continue to get earlier, saying “no” to things I don’t want to do and events I don’t want to attend is a piece of cake, and I’ll sometimes pull muscles during my sleep (I swear this happened recently). I’m exactly nowhere where I thought I would be in life at this point. I thought that I would for sure be married to my forever guy by now, my career would be something entirely different, and I’d be living happily in Dallas.

In reality, I’m as single as the last piece of gum in the pack, I’m working a job I never would have expected but surprisingly absolutely love, and I live in what has become my favorite place on earth but that is nowhere near the great state of Texas. I have to trust that all of those things have been planned out with specific purpose by Someone who truly cares about me and has more than I could ever imagine in store for me. The guys I wanted to date, the relationships I wanted to happen, the words I wanted to hear, and the love I wanted to feel didn’t happen because they weren’t supposed to happen. It didn’t make sense to me then, and some of it still doesn’t make sense to me now, but I do know that I’m going to continue to believe that it’s all part of the story of my life that’s going to be better than one I could ever write.

My sister-in-law sent me one of my favorite songs by Lauren Daigle the other day, and the lyrics were a needed reminder that I have to repeat to myself often.

When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You

The hopes in your heart won’t always happen like you want them to, but that doesn’t mean that you should give those hopes up. Let them soar, but also be ready to go on a much different path than you ever expected with more twists and turns than you think your heart can handle.

Because some of the most magnificent stories are ones that you never see coming.

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.

Because you don’t always need Google Maps

There are certain pieces of technology that I honestly don’t know how I lived without many moons ago.

Especially Google Maps.

I have to admit that I’m not always the most directionally savvy person. I’d like to think that I’ve gotten significantly better over the years, but I think that a lot of that has to do with getting lost while running (you can learn your way around roads pretty easily if you get turned around in them a few times) and the prevalence of Google Maps (which is truly a Godsend).

Lately, though, I’ve relied on Google Maps less and less. I’ve lived in Orange County for a little more than a year now, and I can finally navigate my way around the area without using Siri’s voice (or whoever’s voice talks on Google Maps) for guidance. If you’re thinking that I should have been able to do that sooner than a year or so in, well I challenge you to move out here on your own and magically know which route is best and fastest and will get you exactly where you need to go at the time you need to be there. If you’re able to do that, please be my best friend, and I will learn your ways.

It felt nice to finish the proposal. Plus, I knew froyo was in my future.

Last week, I was in Salt Lake City for most of the week for work, and I’m certainly not very familiar with the area (except for where the nearest Chick-fil-A and froyo place were from the hotel). On our final day there, my coworker and I had some time to kill before we needed to be at the airport, so I just started driving us around the area in our rental car (after we got froyo, of course) so that we could enjoy all of the scenery that we hadn’t gotten to see while we were holed up in a conference room all week without much exposure to daylight. (It was rainy and kind of miserable outside, so we weren’t really missing out on much, anyway.)

I wasn’t using Google Maps for any of this—I was simply driving wherever I thought looked interesting. At some point, though, I said aloud that it would be really cool if I eventually got us to the airport without any help from the voice on the phone. Sure, there were road signs for me to follow, but it was still something that was going to be a bit more challenging than usual.

I’m proud to admit that I not only got us to the airport, but I also got us to the rental car return place without any use of Google Maps. ALL OF THE EMOJI PRAISE HANDS!

The following night, my good friend Amanda and I drove down to San Diego to see a John Crist comedy show—he’s hilarious, by the way—and something interesting happened on the drive back to the OC. First of all, it started pouring rain IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA. We aren’t used to that out here. But the actual interesting event on that drive was the highway patrol car that pulled out in front of us and started swerving back and forth across all of the lanes. Apparently this is a thing.

Thankfully, Amanda knew what was happening, because I had zero clue. The cops do this to slow down traffic either simply to prevent congestion or to protect the cars from something up ahead, such as a wreck or stalled vehicle. The whole time it’s happening, you’re required to stay behind the patrol car and not pass it until its flashing lights are off and it’s driving normally in one lane again. Even though it’s super confusing and frustrating, it’s actually for the safety of everyone.

And, as Amanda pointed out, sometimes you simply need to be slowed down in life in order to avoid something that could be a bit detrimental for you.

Amanda’s really wise. I hop in donation bins. It’s a balanced friendship.

There are many occasions when it’s really good to be able to do things all by yourself—like make it to the airport rental car place without Google Maps or carry all of your groceries from your car in one trip (I have this down to an art). Independence is a good quality. But there are times when that independence isn’t necessarily going to benefit you, especially if you’re stubborn about it (like I can often be), and you need people like the highway patrol officers to help you slow down a bit to keep you from potential harm.

I tend to go pretty hard in sports and in life, and it’s only been recently that I’ve realized (well, with the help of Amanda bringing it to my attention) just how rarely I consider my well-being or put it before much of anything else. It’s definitely one of those self-improvement areas I need to work on some more. After all, flag football usually shouldn’t be a sport in which you get more than one concussion.

I love people, and I love reminding them that they matter and are valued and loved. But shouldn’t I be treating myself the same way? If I’m called to love others as I love myself but am not actually showing myself the love and grace I aim to extend to others, that’s not a good thing. Whether physically or at the heart level, it’s important to take care of yourself.

I guess sometimes it’s OK—and probably actually more than OK—to slow down a little and even to let someone else remind you to slow down. You might not always require Google Maps to get you where you need to be, but you might need a little extra help to ensure that you get there in one piece, even if that means that it takes a little longer than you anticipated.

Because you’re worth the extra time, and you’re worth the extra love and grace that you can give yourself.

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 skills don’t define you

I know that it’s not good to compare myself to others, but I have to admit that sometimes I still let myself fall into that trap.

Especially when escape rooms and dog surfing competitions are involved.

I went to my first escape room last week, and I would like to commend the creator of these things because they’re definitely a unique way to have fun with a group of people. But I was running kind of late and was slightly frazzled when I got there, so I didn’t hear all of the instructions. When we were locked in the room, I sort of felt like I didn’t know exactly what was going on, but everyone else seemed to know what to do.

Clearly a room full of geniuses

People started finding clues right and left, while I sort of stumbled upon one or two by accident. At one point, I was just kind of walking around the room and feeling almost useless. I used to read a lot of Nancy Drew books, and I watch Brooklyn Nine-Nine on the reg, so I was a little disappointed to realize that the only really somewhat intelligent thing that I did was know that one of the clues meant that we needed to look through the peep hole of the door.

One thing that I did notice, though, was just how different each person’s skillsets were. Our brains are all wired differently, which isn’t a bad thing by any means. And that definitely proved to be a huge benefit for our group in the escape room because people’s different perspectives and thought patterns all collaborated well together.

We ended up making it out of the room with a little more than nine minutes to spare, and I quickly got over the fact that I didn’t feel like I did much because I looked around at the people surrounding me and couldn’t help but smile—they’re my people, and they love me whether I’m more of a Sherlock or a Watson (though I still think that I could be more like a Sherlock).

And not having certain skills doesn’t make you any less of a person.

I love this crew, and we love watching dogs surf.

Surfing dogs further reminded me of that over the weekend. I mentioned last year that I went to a dog surfing competition that essentially changed my outlook on life. Once again, this epic event didn’t disappoint. We watched the talented pups ride the waves in either with their owners or other dogs on their boards. It’s one of the most entertaining things you’ll ever see. One thing that I absolutely love about this competition is how much the dogs simply don’t care about what the people think of their performances—whether they stay on their boards all the way to the shore or crash and burn, they gleefully trot back on the sand and wag their tails, excited to go back out in the water for more runs.

Because they know that one setback or one flaw doesn’t mean that they’re not good enough.

She’s quickly become one of my best friends and favorite humans ever.

We all have our gifts and passions, and they’re not going to be the same as every else’s. And they shouldn’t be. There are many skills that I lack that I enjoy seeing other people have in abundance. I like knowing that my friend Amanda is always going to ask me the hard questions and make me address my feelings and emotions when I don’t want to. I love that my friend JP will sew up my shirt I put a hole in for me so that I don’t have to staple it. I appreciate that my friend Michelle could tell me about anything and everything going on in the political realm if I wanted to know. I’m thankful that my sister knows how to bake pies and stuff so that there are always enough dishes at Thanksgiving, and I can just show up empty-handed or with something store-bought.

Just because you can’t do something as well as someone else doesn’t mean that you aren’t capable of some pretty wonderful things yourself. (After all, it’s for the best that we’re not all lining up to be on The Voice.) Your skills matter, and they can be used in incredible ways if you’re not constantly focusing on the ones you don’t have, instead. So don’t forget to remind yourself every once in a while that you are talented, and you do bring value to others.

Because you’re capable of much more than you know when you actually believe that’s true.

When you stop believing the lies

Like many individuals, I’m not a fan of lies and the pain they cause people.

Especially when those lies are things we believe about ourselves.

I lead a group of high school sophomore girls at my church, but on Sunday evening, we had some leaders out of town, so I took all of the girls for the small group portion. The topic of discussion was lost hope and the feelings of rejection, and I went a little bit off script and decided to make all of the girls acknowledge and dismiss some of the lies in their lives. We went around the circle, and they all shared the lies that they’d either been told about themselves or that they believed about themselves.

These are some of my precious gems, and I couldn’t adore them more.

As each girl shared, my heart broke a little bit more. I felt so defensive of them as I heard these beautiful and precious young women share that there were certain things about their looks and talents that didn’t make them good enough, that they were “too much” of this and that, and that they were “useless” in certain regards. It truly hurt to hear these sweet treasures say that they felt ugly and not valued.

We discussed why these were all lies and addressed each one individually. I then went back around the circle to have each girl say “I am [name]. I am beautiful, and I am enough” and then asked her if she actually believed it. And I hope that they all genuinely know that those words they repeated are true.

It’s pretty easy not to feel valued in this world, regardless of whether or not you’re dealing with the emotional rollercoaster ride that is adolescence. Life isn’t always going to go your way, and whether you like it or not, rejection is something you’ll likely face at some point or another. I can’t really think of a more dignified way to say it right now, so I’ll just say this: It sucks. It might make you think that you’re too much of something or not enough of something else. That’s not necessarily the case, though—sometimes you simply aren’t meant to do what it is that you thought you were supposed to do.

We’re all so different, which is a good thing. Those differences don’t make us better or worse than one another—they simply make us uniquely made. Life would be ridiculously boring and predictable if we were all essentially clones of one another.

I love the movie Hitch. Yes, it has a great storyline for Hitch and Sara, but Albert Brennaman really makes that movie what it is for me. The man does his own thing, and he learns to be unashamed of who he is. Hitch tries to tell him to act a different way, but Albert reverts back to his actual personality and demeanor. I love what he says when Hitch questions his dancing: “That’s just a lot of me being me.”

I hope this little homegirl always knows how valued she is and never loses her spunk.

And that’s what we should all be doing—a lot of us being us.

Albert spills mustard on his shirt while sitting in floor seats at a basketball game, and it doesn’t faze him. He kisses Allegra Cole and ignores the instructions Hitch had given him regarding how to act when doing so (the dramatic toss of his inhaler was perfect). He dances the only way he knows how (which, as he was told by Hitch, was very badly) without caring about the opinions of those around him. He lives life his way, and he doesn’t let the lies that could potentially hinder him keep him from going after what he wants. He doesn’t even believe that he isn’t good enough for Allegra.

And guess what? He gets the girl in the end.

People might ridicule you or judge you or make you feel like there’s something about you that makes you inadequate. It’s also possible that you believe those lies about yourself without the help of anyone else making you think them. Stop believing those lies, and start reminding yourself that you are worth the investment in yourself to believe that you are capable and worthy of what your heart desires.

Lies are destructive, so remind yourself of this truth: You are enough.

And please believe 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.

When you worry about situations that don’t even exist

Things aren’t necessarily always as bad as you think they will be.

But that doesn’t stop us from letting our imaginations get the best of us.

I think it’s easy sometimes to create worst-case scenarios in our minds that don’t actually exist, and we end up dealing with unnecessary anxiety. There’s an episode of Modern Family that depicts this pretty perfectly when Claire freaks out about Haley’s whereabouts and what possibly could have happened within the last 24 hours. She spirals down a crazed worry path, but it turns out that Haley was upstairs in her room the entire time, and all of Claire’s panicking was for naught.

I’ve definitely been guilty of that more than once in my life, and I let those anxious thoughts get the best of me recently.

If you’re worried about being on a trip without your purse, get yourself a pink fanny pack from the nearest Walmart. It’s less than $8 and is a total game changer.

Last week was rough for a number of reasons, mainly because of the whole kidney stone thing. I’ve been feeling like a train wreck since then because something still isn’t right (don’t worry—I’m going to the urologist this week), and I didn’t do a great job of making sure that I got enough rest. I made the perhaps unwise decision to play in my flag football game on Saturday morning, and when I was getting closer to the beach, I noticed a strange sound coming from my car’s front right tire. I started worrying that my car was falling completely apart and that I was going to have to get an entirely new car ASAP if I wanted to be able to drive anywhere. But I really don’t want a car payment right now, so this wasn’t going to be good at all.

I parked on one of the streets near the beach and got out of my car to inspect the damage. All I saw was some circular silver thing stuck in my tire, and I wasn’t able to pull it out, no matter how hard I tried. I didn’t have time to deal with it at the moment because I needed to get to my game, but during my walk over to the beach field, I started thinking about how I was going to return to a flat tire, and I didn’t know how to change a flat. I didn’t want to have to call anyone to help me, so I then started worrying about trying to figure it out on my own and putting it on the wrong way.

By the time I got back to my car, the tire was still intact, and I drove to the nearest America’s Tire (I have a lifetime warranty with Discount Tire, and America’s Tire is the same thing as Discount out here), but it had closed at noon that day. I called two more America’s Tire stores, but it turns out they all closed at noon for some company event ON THE ONE DAY THAT I NEEDED THEM TO HAVE THEIR NORMAL HOURS.

As I drove to the nearest auto place that Google Maps had found for me, I started panicking about how much it was going to cost to fix it or get a brand new tire all because freaking America’s Tire had to have a company event. (I honestly hope that all of the employees had a great time—I used to love it when my company in Dallas would close early to have some fun as a company family.)

I sat inside and watched college football on my phone (don’t ask me why the store had a throwback NBA game on its TV, instead) and had a convo with God to try to get rid of my worrying. It wasn’t too long later that the guy who had been working on my tire came in with the keys and gave them to the guy behind the counter, who turned to me and said that I was all set. It was a bolt that had been in my tire, and homeboy had removed it and then patched up the hole. I braced myself as I asked him how much it was, and he said four words that made my heart soar: “Don’t worry about it.”

He didn’t realize it, but he was speaking to me about so much more than the tire.

All of that worrying and stressing ended up being a waste of energy that I really didn’t have in the first place. I feel like I should know by now that going down the worry path is a horrible idea and usually leads me in the wrong direction. What’s the point in stressing so much about situations that don’t even exist and may never be actualities?

I’m really thankful for people like Amanda who remind me what it means to be a good friend and go through tough times together. (P.S. IT’S HER WEDDING WEEK!!!!)

I have a lot of unknowns ahead in my life right now, and at least one has been causing me more anxiety than it should. Here’s the truth, though: I can handle anything that comes my way, because I know that I’m never alone, and God has never once turned away from me—and He won’t start now. No, that doesn’t mean that everything will always work out in my favor, but it does mean that I can endure the trials and trust Him through them all.

Life is going to throw challenges at us, and there will be times when it leaves us feeling anxious about what may or may not happen. There are questions constantly filling our minds: How much is this going to cost? What if I can’t afford this? What if I’m single forever? What if the dreams in my heart don’t come true? What am I going to do if this happens? What am I going to do if this doesn’t happen?

You can “what if?” until you’re blue in the face, and you can sweat over your mind’s inquiries until you wear yourself out completely. But, rather than spending all of your energy worrying about things that aren’t realities and may never be, why not use it to enjoy where you are, trust that what needs to happen will happen, and love the people in your life in this very moment?

Because one bolt in your tire can’t destroy the entire car.