Because one person can change your life without even knowing it

Every once in a while, one person comes into your life and changes it in more ways than you ever could have imagined.

And that person may have no clue that he or she did.

About two years ago, the pain of a broken heart that still isn’t fully healed began. Maybe I should have seen it coming; maybe there was no way for me to know. Either way, it happened, and it hurt. A lot.

Best.day.ever.

Right around that same time, though, this tiny human entered the world—sweet Olivia, the precious little girl who made me an aunt for the very first time. As soon as I saw her and held that angelic little body in my arms, I was smitten. Little did I know, this little girl would walk alongside me through a dark season that was filled with more crying than just her baby tears.

From the day she was born, I committed to be a big part of her life, and I certainly wanted her as part of mine. I went over to my brother’s and sister-in-law’s house at least once a week to spend time with her, and that hour or so each week was more dear to me than I’ll ever be able to explain fully.

Unfortunately, Olivia suffered from colic, which is such a horrible condition that’s quite common for many infants. It causes them to cry and cry and cry with no apparent cause or ways to calm down. I could sometimes get her to stop for a little bit, but it pained me to see her turning so red and crying so much. I know I’m not a parent, so I don’t know the complete pain it causes people with kids to see their own children hurt, but I know that it caused me enough pain to know that it’s got to be absolutely unbearable.

I mean, seriously. How cute is she?!

When homeboy hurt me, I cried more than I usually do. You know who was always there for me? That sweet little baby girl. She listened to me, she let me cry, she cried with me, and she reminded me that there are so many other people in my life who value me and who mean the world to me. Whether she knew it or not, she reminded me that, even when one guy makes me feel like I’m not good enough and not pretty enough and not worth enough of his time and energy, I am still enough. She made me feel loved when I felt completely unloveable.

I know that God brought her into this world in His exact time and with His exact purpose—Olivia is going to continue to change people’s lives for the better, and I’m absolutely certain of that. I met her right when I needed someone to walk with me through my heartache, and she’s continued to walk with me through that pain since the day she entered this world. Even though I live thousands of miles away, I still FaceTime with her every week and get to spend as much time as possible with her when I’m in town visiting my family.

There were lots of pics with my homegirls that day, but I promise that they were both happy. We’re still working on our photo opp faces.

Now Olivia has an adorable little sister, Evie, and she’s also been such an added blessing to everyone who meets her. There’s something about being an aunt that’s more special than froyo, and I don’t really know how to put it in the best words (even though words are supposed to be my thing). I honestly might not ever have kids, and that’s fine, but being an aunt brings me enough joy to fill all of the oceans. I think part of the reason for that is because of the way Olivia changed my life in ways she doesn’t yet understand.

But I don’t think that you have to be an aunt or uncle for something like that to happen. We often meet people who touch us and change us in incredible ways, and it’s not necessarily always because of anything significant that they did—it’s simply because they let us be who we are and reminded us that we are loved just as we are.

And you could also be that person to someone else.

You never know what storms other people are facing. There are so many different reasons people hurt—broken hearts, deaths of loved ones, lost jobs, financial hardships, broken friendships or family relationships, illnesses, uncomfortable or anxiety-causing situations at work or school—and we don’t always know what’s going on in each other’s lives. That’s just one more reason why it’s so important to show each other love when the world around us continues to fill itself with lies and hate.

For far too many years, I believed lies about who I was and what I wasn’t—too talkative, not pretty enough, not smart enough, not dateable, unloveable, unaccepted, rejected, too broken, too much of a mess. While I definitely don’t have it all together, I have much more confidence in who I am, and I don’t focus as much on what I’m not. That’s not important. What’s important is that I continue to live and love boldly so that those around me can see Jesus and know that they are sufficient in Him.

She truly makes this world a better place.

Olivia helped to remind me of that, and she didn’t even have to use any words to do so.

Maybe you’re doing really well in life right now and are fortunate enough not to be going through any tough times or hardships. Or maybe you’re in a rough patch full of more tears than all of your years combined and feel like you’ve been forgotten. Or maybe you’re even somewhere in the middle and have a lot of great things going for you but also have been struggling at times.

Whatever season of life you’re in right now, I hope that you know that you are valued, you are loved, and you matter. I hope that you have someone like Olivia come along and remind you of that, and I hope that you can be an Olivia to someone else, as well.

Because the more love we show to others to let them know that we care for them—their hurts, their celebrations, and simply their existences—the better this world will be.

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.

That time my unborn niece got me out of a ticket

Sometimes you can learn a lot about and from a person you least expected to offer you anything valuable.

You know, like a cop who pulls you over for speeding.

Saturday morning was hectic. I didn’t get much sleep Friday night and woke up early to go run at the lake the next morning. On my way home, I stopped at Target because I had a baby shower to attend that day and needed to get some things for my niece.

I’m already ridiculously excited about being Aunt Nattie to a human (in addition to being so for my sister’s dog and cat, of course), and the trip to Target only magnified that. I wanted to buy her ALL of the things. I saw so many items there that she doesn’t necessarily need but really absolutely must have. I mean, every little girl needs a Texas Rangers pacifier and a onesie that says “I woke up like this” on it.

I don’t know how much time I spent in the baby section thinking about all of the fun things that will come with being an aunt, but it was long enough that I knew I needed to hustle so that I could get home to shower, get ready and make the trek out to where the shower was, which was about 40 minutes away. I had already used some of my allotted time looking at clothes and shoes for me—and I’m proud to say I stayed strong and didn’t let anything jump into my shopping cart.

I tried to leave my place on time. I really did. But sometimes we simply fail in our efforts. I’m normally a pretty punctual person, but Saturday wasn’t reflective of that. And when you’re running late and trying to get somewhere as quickly as possible, that whole “following the law” thing doesn’t always happen.

But sometimes those blue and red flashing lights do.

Getting pulled over is definitely not an ideal situation ever, and it’s especially not good when you’re already behind schedule. When the cop asked me why I was driving so fast, I told him it had been a stressful week and that I was late to a baby shower in honor of my niece.

And then I decided we needed to talk more.

no ticket
How I feel about being an aunt (and not getting a ticket)

I asked him if he has kids, and he said he has a young daughter. I mentioned that I hoped having a kid would cause my brother to be a little more mature and less selfish, and the officer told me that from the moment he held his daughter in his arms for the first time, his entire life was changed forever. He said his wife and daughter are by far the two most important things in his life, and he wouldn’t trade one moment with them for anything in the entire world. We chatted a bit more, and he even gave me some quality advice: “There are a lot of clowns out there, so make sure you hold out for the man who won’t trade a moment with you for anything in the world.”

Then he gave me another pointer before letting me go without a ticket: “And slow down on the roads, too.”

I never thought I would say this, but I’m really glad I got pulled over Saturday. I got a pep talk from a guy who probably has a bad reputation on the highways, and I was reminded that people are so much more than the perceptions we have of them. Homeboy really has a genuine heart, and I’m sure a lot of people forget that when he’s simply doing his job by issuing them traffic violation tickets. (Thankfully he skipped me on that one.) It was enlightening to see how much love he has for his wife and daughter—his eyes and smile lit up his entire face when he was talking about them, and I didn’t for a second question anything he said.

It’s easy to get going too fast in the car, and I think it’s just as easy to have a lead foot in life off the road, as well. But I guess if you’re going to have those moments you wouldn’t trade for anything in the world—the ones the officer was talking about—then you can’t really speed through everything. You have to trust that you’ll get to where you need to be when you need to be there. It’s easier to floor it and reach your destination as quickly as possible, but that’s not always the best option. We often need to traffic jams and slower speeds to help us learn and grow.

I hope I’m able to offer my niece wisdom and hope like the cop did for me, because I know she’s going to be something special.

After all, she’s not even born yet and already got me out of a speeding ticket.