Because your life is not a cookie-cutter creation

Your life likely looks completely different than those around you and maybe even completely different than you thought it would years ago.

It’s crazy to me that she doesn’t even realize how much she’s capable of achieving.

And you can trust that that’s probably a good thing.

I went to the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center School of Nursing graduation on Friday to see one of my girls graduate and receive her BSN degree. This young woman has been through quite a bit since I’ve known her when she was a freshman in high school, and she has handled every single trial and heartache with such grace and tenacity. I’m so proud of the person she’s become and can’t wait to see how she continues to change the world.

As I was sitting there listening to all of the accomplishments of various individuals in the program and thinking about how impactful nurses are, I had a brief thought of near regret enter my mind: Maybe I should have been a nurse. While I love helping people and supporting and encouraging them, I don’t think it’s exactly the career for me. That’s a lot of pressure to keep people alive—after all, I can barely keep myself alive.

I was having a conversation with someone on Saturday, and we were talking about various things about us and how we got to where we are now, and I said something I wasn’t really expecting to hear myself say: I wish I had kept playing soccer. I don’t like having regrets, but it’s one thing that I admit that I’d like to change about my past.

On Sunday, I went to my sister’s indoor soccer game, and for the second time that weekend, I wondered what my life would have been like if I had stuck with soccer. I was always pretty good at it growing up but then quit to focus on other sports in high school. I think there’s a little part of me, though, that has always wondered what might have been. What if I had continued to play? Where would I be now? The obvious answer is on the cover of a Wheaties box and inspiring girls across the world.

More realistically, it might have simply changed my college experience and where I went if I had decided/been good enough to play at that level.

I can “what if” until I’m blue in the face. The truth of the matter is that I didn’t pursue soccer, and I’ll never know what would have happened if I did. Or if I became a nurse. Or a million other possibilities of things I could have done. My life would be completely different in a number of ways, and I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

Besides, I’m in the now and need to live and be fully present in the now—not in the past or the future or a place and time that don’t actually exist.

Update: I’m not on the U.S. women’s national team.

We all make so many decisions on a daily basis—some seemingly small, others more monumental. But even those small decisions can be life-altering. Every single choice we make helps us get to the next steps on our journeys, and I think it’s so wonderful how unique and different all of our stories are. I’m fairly useless in the kitchen, but I do know that people who bake cookies and cupcakes are able to use special tools to make all of their desserts look alike, especially for occasions like bridal and baby showers and other festive celebrations. I think it’s really neat that God doesn’t do that when he creates people—He makes each person so special in his or her own way with a story that is completely different from every other human’s on the planet.

And I honestly believe that it’s really great that we often have no idea what’s in store for us.

I used to hate surprises. Like, truly hate them. I always used to read the last page of a book before I would even consider beginning it because I wanted to make sure that I was going to like the way it ended. I played it far too safely in so many areas of my life because risks meant unpredictable outcomes. Somewhere along the lines, though, I realized that not knowing where each choice I make and action I take are going to lead is so much better—for both my heart and my mind.

With the exception of Back to the Future (although that one did give me a little anxiety), I’m not a huge fan of movies about time travel or people switching places and messing with other people’s lives (I don’t like any version of Freaky Friday), mainly because I don’t like the idea of people being able to alter their pasts to change their presents. I know that many of us would like to be able to change the situations in which we find ourselves, but the struggles and storms are necessary to get us to the better places we need to be and to shape us into the individuals we were always meant to be.

It’s OK if your life didn’t turn out to be the way you thought it would. I don’t know all of the reasons why we have to go through the things we have to go through in life, but I do know that there’s purpose in everything—in every joy, every sorrow, every celebration, every season of mourning, every hope fulfilled, every broken heart, every success, every failure. Everything.

I’m not a nurse or a professional soccer player or a Grammy-winning singer (that was a pipe dream—I have zero musical talent) or an actress or a SportsCenter anchor or an Olympic athlete (I was so bad at gymnastics that they asked me to leave, and my sprinting career died when I realized that I’m not actually fast) or married to my lobster (thanks, Friends).

And I’m thankful for that.

My life is far from perfect—there have been some really tough mountains I’ve had to climb and moments that I’d rather forget than remember. But if Miley Cyrus taught me anything worth learning in life, it’s that it’s all about the climb.

We can’t actually hop in DeLoreans and go alter our pasts in hopes of changing our current situations, but we can use those times to learn and grow and guide our future decisions and actions.

And we can trust that everything that’s happened in our lives thus far is all part of the perfect plans for the unique and special journeys that become our own beautiful stories.

What’s your story?

I like to believe in possibilities that don’t seem like they’ll ever become realities.

Because stories have taught me that hope isn’t always wasted.

I love stories. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve enjoyed getting caught up in different tales and plotlines. I remember reading the Christy Miller Series in high school and talking about the characters and situations as if the people in the books were my actual friends, and I was a part of their world.

I also love hearing other people’s stories—their journeys that defined them and changed them and brought them to where they are now. Just last weekend, I met a couple who shared their story with me, and I was enthralled with every word of it. I loved hearing about how the steps where she first poured out her heart to him (and was rejected) were the same steps where he later told her how he felt about her and were then also the same steps where he eventually proposed. It’s their unique story, and it’s wonderful.

I think a lot of my fascination with stories has to do with the fact that they make people who they are. You wouldn’t be the person you are today without your story. Sure, there are some chapters we may not like, but I think that’s the case with many stories out there. We can’t go back and rewrite those portions of our lives, though, which can be a bit frustrating at times. I can think of quite a few sections of my story that I would like to change, but I can’t—because then it wouldn’t be my story. It’s like trying to say Simba never should have run away after Mufasa died. Sure, it wasn’t his greatest decision, but that needed to happen for him to discover who he was and what it really meant to be king.

bridge
My only concern about falling was getting my hair wet (yes, I’m that shallow).

I went on a walk at the lake with my friend Maddie on Sunday, and we sat on the ground and caught each other up on everything going on in our lives. We’ve been friends since we were 3 years old, so we’ve been doing this whole life thing together for a pretty long time. We’ve been there through the ups and the downs. We’ve laughed together. We’ve cried together. We’ve climbed pretty much everything imaginable together. We’ve gone on numerous adventures together. We’ve turned playgrounds into our own worlds together (both as kids and as adults). We’ve torn up dance floors together. We’ve won city softball league championships together.

And through it all, we’ve shared stories together.

To be truthful, I have no idea where my story is going. I don’t know what the next chapter looks like. I can’t even tell you what’s going to happen in this chapter—I do know it’s been a frustrating one, though. But I’m trying to trust that the painful part will be worth whatever the rest of the story holds. I want to be strong enough to keep my head up (as people keep telling me to do) and still love others well when all I really want to do is eat gummy worms and raspberry Pop-Tarts while I wallow.

Because I want my story to be one that’s worth telling.

haunted-house
Even the haunted house we went to had a storyline, which made the experience that much better.

I wish we could all sit around campfires or in hammocks or on beach chairs or on park swings or on curbs or on rooftops—anywhere, really—and listen to each other’s stories more often like Maddie and I do. Then maybe we could understand one another more and not be so quick to make judgments or call names or say hurtful things. Until that happens, I think the best thing to do is to try to make your story as wonderful as possible.

After all, there’s no other story like it—so make it one you can’t wait to tell people.

That “FRANKIE SAY RELAX” T-shirt is wise

I’m not always jealous of infants and toddlers, but I think they have something going for them with that whole required nap time thing.

It’s genius.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not very good at resting. Don’t get me wrong–I love a good nap, but I often have a difficult time letting myself slow down long enough to do pretty much nothing. But, what I have come to realize is that “nothing” is sometimes actually so much more than “something.”

I went on the women’s retreat with my church over the weekend, and at first I was somewhat stressing about it. I mean, I just felt like I had so much work to do on so many different things, and an entire weekend away was a lot and not exactly what I needed. Well, it turns out it was actually so much more than what I needed.

I was reminded of three extremely important truths on the retreat that I overlook far too often:

Disconnecting isn’t always a bad thing. I think it’s quite easy to get caught up in constantly checking emails or social media networks that we often forget that it’s OK (and even healthy) to escape from them every now and then. Leave work behind you for a bit. I was able to chat and have authentic conversations with people all weekend without a phone constantly in my hands. And there was no need to take and post a boatload of pictures, either. A picture may be “worth a thousand words,” to some, but I’d prefer a genuine chat with actual words any day. (I’m not saying I don’t love pictures and never post them; I’m simply saying not every single moment has to be documented.)

Everyone has a story. You might read that and think, “Duh,” but how often do you actually consider that in your daily life? We’re surrounded by other individuals–many whom we don’t know–yet we rarely take the time truly to care about who they are. Maybe the person who rolled her eyes at you when she saw you were struggling with the self-checkout process while she was standing behind you at the grocery store is going through a rough divorce; perhaps the man who cut you off on the highway is rushing to be on time to his son’s last high school baseball game ever; it’s possible that the guy at the gym you think is cute won’t look your way because he’s trying to recover from a broken heart; maybe your workout buddy has been moody lately because she’s enduring some storms in her personal life.

Sometimes we have to look at situations and try to see beyond what’s simply on the surface.

I enjoyed getting to know so many different individuals of all different ages and walks in life over the weekend and being able to hear their unique stories. We all have stories–sometimes we just need people to listen to them.

PEACE
Yes.

True peace does exist. We live in a very busy world. It’s full of chaos and struggle. The madness can consume you if you let it. But there is so much peace in Christ. Just seeing the work of God in nature can be enough to make you sit and stare up at the sky in wonder. How does He do it? And why does the same God who created all of this love me in spite of how flawed I am? Being reminded of His crazy agape love He has for us–a love that loves us simply for who we are–is comforting in a way that I can’t explain. It provides a peace like nothing else can or ever will.

Every once in a while, it’s good to get away and find that rest and relaxation our souls long for and need. Your iPhone (or whatever you non-Apple people use) can’t function for you if you don’t charge it. Similarly, people need their own versions of recharging in order to live life and to live it fully.

And when you find that peace, you may discover just how big of a “something” that “nothing” really is.