Because you’re perfectly capable of making your own decisions

We’re all faced with more choices that we can count every day, whether they are life-changing decisions or simply options of whether or not to click all of the buttons to finalize that Amazon purchase.

But our individual choices all have one thing in common: They’re ours to make.

When I was a teacher, I truly loved my job, but it wasn’t because of the curriculum I wrote or the lesson plans I created or the grading I did—it was because I got to see students learn in their own unique ways and apply what they had learned in real-world situations. Yes, it made me genuinely happy when they improved their skills in the classroom, but it brought my heart even more joy when they were able to experience and benefit from the lessons they learned about life.

The truth is that we all learn differently, and we all need to go through different things and create different solutions that maybe wouldn’t be used by everyone around us. There’s nothing wrong with that. I think that sometimes you need to do what makes the most sense to you, even if others think you’re crazy or going about a situation entirely the wrong way.

There’s not always just one way.

Perks of trips to Texas: runs with my precious Jenger.

Over the weekend, I was in Texas with my family, and I came across a predicament of sorts. I had been at my sister’s house and was sitting on her couch and working on my computer while she took a little nap. I had a blanket wrapped around my legs because I’m apparently not a normal mammal and am very cold-blooded, but then my mom called me to ask me to go over to my parents’ house, so I got up and left. As I was driving over there, I noticed that my black leggings were covered in linty fuzz stuff from the blanket.

Side note: I agree with Gina Linetti’s suggestion that we always speak in emojis—I would insert the eye-rolling one or the face-to-palm girl right now.

I figured that my parents wouldn’t have a lint roller (they didn’t), so I asked if I could use some tape, instead. I began putting strips of masking tape all up and down my legs, and both of my parents questioned my tactic. My dad said that I simply needed to blot my pants with one strip of tape, while my mom suggested rolling tape into a ball and then rolling that down my legs. I didn’t like either of their ideas, so I opted for my own path on that one. (I’m pretty sure I owe my dad a new roll of tape now, though.)

Here’s the thing: My way wasn’t either of their ways, but it worked, and I was happy with my choice.

See? It’s effective and quite stylish.

Sure, my way might have cost more tape and taken longer, but that’s OK. I needed to do things my way in that situation—I needed to be reminded that it’s good to listen to your own heart and to be confident with your choices. Sometimes you’ll be right, and sometimes you’ll be wrong. Either way, you’ll have gained an experience that kept you in the moment and helped you to grow in one way or another.

I realize that there are much more serious things we all face in life other than fuzz on your favorite pants. There are both big and small decisions we have to make on a daily basis—do you take that job, send that text, run that red light, answer that call, move to that new place, order that shirt, order the burger or the wrap, accept that offer, wear this outfit or that one, watch that movie, attend that conference, buy those tickets, talk to that guy? SO MANY DECISIONS.

And they’re your decisions to make.

I’ve been trying more so lately not to let too many people’s opinions sway my judgment. While I don’t care what people think about me, I occasionally ask their thoughts regarding what I should do in certain situations more often than I should or would even prefer. While it’s sometimes good to seek wise counsel on certain matters, it’s also important to be able to do what you think you should do—because that’s who you are. So be you, and do the things you would advise yourself or someone else to do.

We made the decision to karaoke. It was clearly a very wise choice.

I think that it’s also important not to judge other people for the decisions they make or who they are as individuals. We’re certainly not going to agree with everyone, and we’re going to see people handle their situations differently than we would handle them if we were in their positions. But we’re not, and those aren’t are calls to make. We need to be able to find the balance of when our opinions are needed and when they’re not—because we often give our opinions simply because we think we know more than we do or are more capable than others when, in actuality, we need to stop telling others how to live their lives.

Don’t be afraid to make decisions, whether big or small. They’re definitely not always fun to make, but they’re part of learning and growing and becoming who you are. And don’t stress too much about what other people will think of your decisions—focus on what you think of your decisions.

Because some of the best decisions are made when you let your heart lead the way.

When you realize that you’re worth fighting for yourself

If you ever were to ask me where a lot of my inspiration comes from, I’d tell you that it’s quite often from little kids.

They’re such geniuses and probably don’t even know it.

I was in Texas over the weekend for a visit with family and some friends I haven’t been able to see in a while. Much of my time was spent with my nieces—those two little girls have captured my heart more than I thought anyone ever could.

Olivia was excited to show off her food.

I babysat Olivia and Evie on Saturday night so that my brother and sister-in-law could have a nice date night out together. The girls and I watched football (we won’t discuss the outcome of the Cowboys game right now—it’s still too soon), and after Olivia saw me eating Wheat Thins with my dinner, she later grabbed the box and ate them while we were watching the game. I’ve clearly taught her well. Prior to the disaster that occurred at LA Memorial Coliseum that night, Olivia (who is almost 2 1/2) was playing with everything in site while Evie (a little more than 8 months) sat and watched in glee and occasionally attempted to crawl toward something—she’s SOOOO close to crawling!

At one point, Olivia was standing on the fireplace ledge and then squatted down. I’ve always told her to be careful whenever she gets up there (it’s not high from the ground at all, but she’s also still a tiny human), but that night, she looked over at me and said “I be careful. No get hurt. Dangerous.” It was as precious as you might imagine, and I told her that she was right.

Besties for life

The next morning, I was over at my brother’s and sister-in-law’s house again, and Olivia showed off her new talent (that I wasn’t expecting) of jumping off of the couch into my arms. Unlike the night before, there was zero hesitation—she got up on that couch and went for it, regardless of whether or not I was ready for her. I think she knew I would catch her, no matter what, so there was no fear there. There was security and comfort, which helped to increase her level of confidence. On Saturday night, though, she didn’t have me right there in front of her, and she knew what might happen if she tried to jump on her own.

If I were standing on that ledge, of course I would jump. Yes, it would probably technically be more of simply a step off, but still—there wouldn’t be any holding back or worrying about getting hurt. I’m confident that nothing would be likely to happen.

I started thinking about that while I was on my flight home Sunday afternoon and realized that those childlike tendencies don’t necessarily leave us when we become adults. We still seem to be able to jump when we know that there’s complete security, but we’re a lot more hesitant when we’re unsure of the outcomes ahead.

If I’m being perfectly honest, though, that’s not how I always want to live. Sure, there are certainly times when you shouldn’t just jump at something without thinking or considering the consequences and potential outcomes, but there are many times when it’s better (even if it is incredibly scary) to take chances and step into the unknown. For me, when I have those strong tuggings at my heart that are pushing me to do something that frightens the Capri Sun out of me—especially when I’m being taken out of my comfort zone—I try to remind myself that I’m not actually jumping off of a fireplace ledge onto the hardwood floor like a 2-year-old.

Because I do have Someone there who will catch me.

That doesn’t mean that every chance I take is going to end like I want it to end. I’ve had plenty of failures and broken hearts to remind me of that. But it does mean that, even when those setbacks and heartaches happen after making a risky jump, I know that I’m still going to be OK. Those things can’t defeat me, and I don’t need to let them try. My God is a lot stronger than that.

This girl has been through it all with me.

During middle school, high school, college, and even some of my 20s, I was the girl standing on the fireplace ledge who was afraid to jump. Unlike in Olivia’s case, though, there wasn’t any real physical danger for me—it was simply the risk of getting my heart hurt. I think my fear stemmed from the fact that a broken heart, for me, hurts far worse than any physical pain I could ever face (and I’ve endured quite a bit of physical pain). You know what, though? I’ve survived each heartache I’ve had, and I truly believe that I’m stronger because of it. I think that the trials we face in life have ways of building us and growing us in ways we might never have thought possible. We’re usually not grateful for them while we’re going through them, but hopefully we can look back at those times and know that they were part of our journeys—part of the paths we needed to take to get us to where we are today and help us to become the individuals we have become.

I hated the color of my rental car. Naturally, my dad wanted to take my pic in front of it.

I don’t know where you are in your life today. Maybe you’re standing on that fireplace ledge with more reservations than you can count. Or maybe you’re on that sofa and about to take a leap of faith. I’m rooting for it to be the latter, because I’m rooting for you.

You’re worth taking chances and doing the things that might make you a little queasy. You’re worth letting your heart feel deeply and love intentionally. You’re worth pursuing the passions that set your heart into motion. You’re worth running full force ahead toward your dreams. You’re worth the investment of time and energy. You’re worth being loved.

And you’re worth fighting for yourself.

Because anything worth doing is difficult at first

I love when people remind me of truths that I need to hear right when I need to hear them.

Even when those people aren’t even actually talking to me.

Hey. Let’s hang out.

When I was in Texas last week for Thanksgiving, I went to this huge lights display at the Rangers ballpark (I refuse to call it Globe Life) with my aunt and uncle and my cousins and their boys. While we were standing in line for ice skating, a woman and her daughter walked by, and I only caught one line of their conversation (something the mom said to the little girl)—but it was all I needed to hear.

Anything worth doing is difficult at first.

I have no idea what the context was, and I honestly don’t care. That kind of statement could be said anytime and anywhere and still be chalked full of nothing but truth.

I started thinking about all of the things I’ve done in my life that have been worth the risks or the pain they caused. Moving to California is obviously up top on that list—I endured some of the most challenging few months of my life as I tried to adjust to living in a brand new place with no familiar faces and suppress all of my tears the entire time (though I failed pretty badly at that in a few unforgettable moments).

One difficult thing about living in Cali is being so far away from this one.

Running and racing are also pretty high up there. There’s a crap-ton of training that goes into getting yourself ready enough to toe that start line with confidence, and the miles and workouts along the way certainly aren’t always walks in the park (like, literally, you can’t walk through training if you want to win).

Honestly, though, I think some of the things that have been the most difficult but worth more than I ever could have imagined are the chances I’ve taken that didn’t end the way that I wanted them to end—because they’ve helped me to become the person I strive to be.

A little more than two years ago, I poured my heart out to someone who had been toying with my emotions for far too long. He clearly didn’t care about me the way I cared about him, and he was able to walk far, far away from the situation while I stayed behind and tried to clean up the shattered pieces of my heart without letting the tears that wanted to leave my eyes get the best of me. My heart had never hurt so much, and I didn’t know what to do with all of the emotions that I wasn’t used to letting anyone see.

And this one.

If I had to rewind time, I’d still tell him all over again, though.

I don’t know when I’ll meet my forever guy or if I ever will, but I do know that I’m not willing to sit back and watch chances pass me by. It took a lot of years and a lot of pain to get to this point, but I know now that I’m worth the risk of letting my heart lead and trusting that, no matter what happens, my identity is not found in any man, and my worth does not depend on whether or not he chooses me out of every other girl in the entire world.

Because I’ve already been chosen by the only One who will never let me down.

I started a book that asks you to pray for your future husband for an entire month—31 days of praying for a man you’ve never met before. It was weird for me at first and, if I’m being perfectly truthful, a bit discouraging. You see, I’ve always had complete and unhesitant faith in everything I pray for with the exception of one thing: someone actually loving me and wanting to spend the rest of his life loving me. I’m not trying to throw a pity party—it’s simply something I’ve struggled with for years that I’m praying through often.

This is Carly, one of my favorite college volleyball players ever. She’s amazing and is learning more and more each day what it means to be brave.

My identity is in Christ, and it is certainly possible for me to be fully known and fully loved (especially because I already am). God has a plan for me, and it’s a plan that I need to trust and pray about without any doubt or reservations. As my sweet almost mother-in-law (well, she’s my brother’s mother-in-law, but I’ve adopted her, too, because I love her so much) reminds me, “it’s up to Him to decide if what you ask for lines up with what you need. But never be afraid to ask for it all. He loves for us to come BOLDLY to Him.”

I’ve been trying to live boldly in every aspect of my life, so why should prayer be any exception? Why should I not be praying for someone to love me and then praying for that actual man? Reflecting upon that has really helped me through this devotional book. The first few prayers were pretty weak—I was basically asking God just to let me think that it’s possible for me to be loved but that I was still struggling. My prayers have changed now, though. Instead, I’m asking boldly for God to bring a man in my life who can walk through the rest of it with me.

Someone who knows everything about me and still loves me. Someone who wants to celebrate my victories with me. Someone who wants to comfort me after the losses. Someone who wants to be known by me. Someone who lets me love him for who he is and is perfectly comfortable being his true self around me at all times. Someone who makes me laugh and appreciates my quirks. Someone who loves that I eat Wheat Thins at every meal and doesn’t get embarrassed when I bust them out at a public restaurant. Someone who carries ketchup packets with him for the times when we’re at a Mexican restaurant, and I’ve run out or forgotten mine for my quesadillas. Someone who will watch sports with me. Someone who will pray with me and worship with me.

Someone who will give me his heart and not give mine back to me in thousands of tiny pieces.

It may not happen exactly as I hope, and it may not happen at all, but I’m still going to pray boldly for it. It may have caused me heartache along the way, and there may be more to come, but that’s a risk that I’m willing to take.

So take those chances. Chase those dreams. Know that YOU ARE WORTH THE FIGHT. Let yourself believe that those things are possible, even when they seem like they aren’t.

Because anything worth doing is difficult at first.

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.

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 sometimes you have to let people help you

Humility comes in a variety of different forms and often hits you when you least expect it.

Especially when you’re in the hospital.

I’ve struggled with kidney stones for years now and even had to undergo three different surgeries last year because of these tiny little demons that feel anything but tiny as they try to pass through your body. I can say with absolute certainty and maybe a bit of spite that I hate kidney stones. And I do mean HATE.

Sadly, the change in climate from Texas to California didn’t stop the wrath of the stones.

JP is a winning volleyball coach with a winning personality (obviously).

I currently live with a couple I’ve come to see as family. Kris and JP are truly wonderful, and they let me third-wheel it with them quite often. We’ve watched a lot of Brooklyn Nine-Nine together and had plenty of heart-to-heart chats, as well. They’re my people.

One really exciting thing we’re doing together now is the Tour de OC, which basically means that we’re going to eat at a bunch of different places in our area on Monday nights. Two days ago was supposed to be our first Tour de OC outing, but my body decided to go and ruin that plan.

I had been having some weird back pains earlier in the day, and I had a feeling that I knew what was going on but didn’t really want to acknowledge it, so I did what I do best when I have physical pain: I ignored it. As usual, it wasn’t my best decision, and it kept getting worse. I also couldn’t stop going to the bathroom all day, but I told myself that I was just really well-hydrated.

WHEN WILL I EVER LEARN??

I hung out with some friends and then went to the beach for a bit before going home to shower and get ready for the inaugural night of Tour de OC. After I showered, I was in so much pain that I decided to lie down in bed until it was time to go. I lasted maybe three minutes and couldn’t find any way to get comfortable, so I went downstairs to tell Kris and JP that I was going to have to bail on them and go to the ER, instead. Because who doesn’t love a good trip to the hospital when you’re supposed to be relaxing and enjoying a good time on Labor Day?

I don’t remember taking this picture, but apparently I texted it to multiple people.

As I practically collapsed on the bottom of the stairs when I called out for JP and didn’t get an answer, Kris came in and insisted that he drive me. I started to say “no,” but then he cut me off and said he was going to get his keys. JP had just gotten up from a nap, and she texted me right after we left to say that she was on her way and would meet us there and stay with me.

I won’t bore you with all of the details of my time in the ER or tell you about how weird I get when I’m drugged up (because I honestly don’t remember half of the things I said), but I will tell you that JP sat on what looked like the most uncomfortable little chair in that ER room with me and made sure that I had someone to talk to and someone simply to be there with me. Hospitals can often be lonely and scary places, and she didn’t want me to have to go through that alone, even though it was something I’ve faced and dealt with before.

As an added bonus, college football is back (ALL OF THE PRAISE HANDS!!), and we were able to watch that in our room to give me some comfort, too.

That right there is a true friend. When you find one, keep her.

One thing that I’ve always struggled with is allowing other people to help me. I think that I’ve gotten so used to doing everything on my own that I’ve become almost completely uncomfortable with people offering to do things for me. The sweet nurse Emily insisted on going into the bathroom with me to make sure that I didn’t fall after she had just pumped a bunch of pain meds into my veins, and I tried to tell her that it wasn’t necessary. It wasn’t because I was weirded out by someone being in the bathroom with me (she faced the door the entire time, and I’ve helped my fair share of brides go to the bathroom on their wedding days)—it was more that going to the bathroom is something that I’ve always done on my own, and I don’t want someone else to be inconvenienced by having to help me do something, especially when it’s something that I’m perfectly capable of doing myself. (Although, in this case, she was probably right that I would have fallen because she gave me some pretty powerful stuff, and I was struggling to walk like a normal human.)

When the worst part was finally over (when the stone makes its way through the ureter and enters the bladder), JP drove me home after we made a pit stop for some food. I had tried to buy her dinner, but she wouldn’t let me and said that I need to stop trying to pay people back for things and stop apologizing for her having to be at the hospital, because I would have done the same thing for her. Then she hit me with this truth: Sometimes you just have to let other people take care of you.

And she’s right.

Yes, it’s important to be independent and to know how to navigate this life without someone else telling you what to do, but it’s also important to know when you can’t do everything yourself and that there are people in your life who love you and care about you and actually want to do things to help. They’re not doing those things out of obligation or for selfish purposes—they’re simply acting out of genuine love.

No, that guy did not share his Chick-fil-A with us.

It’s a hard truth for me to swallow, but I know that it’s something that I need to embrace more, especially if I ever expect to be in a relationship someday. There’s going to come a time when a guy loves me and truly wants to do nice things for me, and I shouldn’t push that away. No, I don’t need chairs pulled out for me or bags carried for me—I do circuit strength training workouts, so I’m good there. But every once in a while, I will likely need someone to hold my hand when I’m anxious, to bring me extra Wheat Thins when I’m sick, and to remind me that he’d rather pick me up from the airport than have me take an Uber with a stranger whose ear I’d likely talk off.

You can’t always do everything on your own. Sometimes you need people. I don’t believe that God intended us to do life all alone—that’s why other people exist.

So love them well, and let them love you.

When you realize that you’re not inadequate

I think we can all agree that being an adult is sometimes (or a lot of the time) tough.

Especially when you have to acknowledge self-improvements that you need to make.

I used to race a lot—like a lot. I think there was one year when I ran at least one road race a month, and three or four of those races were half marathons. I developed a love for running long ago, and there was something about racing that caused me anxiety in a good way but also helped grow my confidence in a number of ways, as well.

Then 2017 happened.

This will always be one of my all-time favorite racing memories—and all of my people were there for it (even sweet Olivia was there in Katie’s tummy).

At the end of 2016, I started to have weird (and pretty much constant) internal pain and frequently had blood in my urine (sorry if that’s TMI for you). I had been training for the half marathon that I ran every December in Dallas, and I was excited for it because I felt more confident than ever going into it. But around Thanksgiving that year, that pain I’d been having escalated. I ran the eight-mile Turkey Trot and didn’t do as well as I’d hoped, and a large reason for that was because I was in so much pain.

When I woke up the morning of the half marathon, I could barely walk and knew the race was out of the question. I later went to multiple doctors, and months went on before it was finally determined that I needed to have kidney surgery. I had a total of three kidney surgeries in 2017, which meant that racing was, to quote John Crist, a “for sure no.” There were quite a few periods of time that year when I was thankful if I was even able to run—it’s certainly not easy or pleasant when you have a stent in you.

It’s been a tough journey since then, and it’s not like those surgeries ended all of my issues with kidney stones. Though I’ve been able to train much more than I did last year, I haven’t been racing at all, and I’m honestly nervous about getting back out there.

Amanda has become one of my best friends, and I love that she always speaks truth and asks me how my heart is.

My dear friend Amanda and I were talking about this the other day and why I feel such a need to do well when I race. Aside from just being a competitive person, why is it so important for me to feel accomplished when I cross the finish line? We talked about it for a bit, and it definitely runs deeper than simply wanting to win or achieve my goals. (By the way, Amanda is freaking amazing, and if you ever need a life coach or counselor/sage, she’s your girl.)

I started thinking about this more later that day, and it became pretty clear: In the past, I let winning races or running fast times make me feel like I was enough. There are more than a few areas of my life in which I don’t always feel like I’m adequate—I had a really rough time in college and trying to figure out where I belonged; I’ve had multiple careers and don’t always feel like I’m excelling in them; I’m 33 and am just now in the process of getting a passport (meaning, I’ve never even left the country); I’ve never been in a relationship, which certainly makes me feel like a failure in more ways than one; and so many other things. But when I crossed those finish lines and had accomplished what I set out to accomplish, I was good enough. When I didn’t, I wasn’t.

My friends, those were lies.

It’s great to have goals and passions and to pursue those goals and passions, but it’s also good to realize that you aren’t going to hit the bullseye every single time you aim for it. One day last week, I cut a tag out the side of the inside of my dress because it was really bothering my leg. But when I cut it, it was even pokier and worse. So I cut it where it was threaded in, and the next thing I knew, there was a hole in the side of my dress. I don’t have an emergency sewing kit (and, even if I did, I wouldn’t know how to use it), so I stapled my dress. I also spilled a large amount of water—not once but twice—all down the front of that same dress on that very same day. And those were the good things that happened that day. Obviously, I was killin’ it in life. But I survived the day, and I wasn’t less of a person because of it, just like I won’t be less of a person if I run a race and am slower than I want to be.

You just have to take one look at my hair to see how much of a mess I am. But that’s just part of my story.

Here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter how many races I’ve won. It doesn’t matter how successful I’ve been in my career. It doesn’t matter how many dresses I’ve ripped holes in trying to cut out tags. It doesn’t matter how many staples I’ve used trying to patch them back up. It doesn’t matter how many dates I’ve had (or, in my case, haven’t had). It doesn’t matter how many guys have looked my way. None of those things holds value in my worth. I can’t let deferred hopes or unattained goals make me feel like I’m not good enough.

Because I am enough—just as I am. I was made in the image of Christ, and I don’t have to be someone else or put a bunch of W’s in the win column. I don’t have to pursue this type of perfection that I’m never going to obtain. I’m going to lose. I’m going to rip clothes. I’m going to have my heart broken. It’s just part of life.

But it doesn’t change my worth.

At the Brett Eldredge concert at the OC Fair, there was a sign that said “TEXAS-SIZED,” so I obviously had to take a picture in front of it.

I might be in love with Brett Eldredge. I’ve always loved his music, but I recently saw him in concert, and I fell hard for him. He has a song called “Somethin’ I’m Good At,” and he mentions a ton of things that aren’t really parts of his skillset, but he is able to love well and put a smile on the face of the girl in the song who has captured his heart. I’d like to be like that—if I fail at all other things in this world, I would like to be able to love people well. I won’t always be capable of doing everything I want in life, but I can always show love to others. We all can. People need love, and they need to know that they are enough.

And so do you.

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.

Because you might miss out when you’re scared you’re missing out

Some of the most valuable things I’ve learned have come from the most unlikely places.

You know, like Urban Dictionary.

I used to have my students to help me out with the latest lingo and snazzy expressions people are saying these days. Since I’ve been out of the teacher world, the struggle has been real for me to keep up with all of the hip quips. If I want to know what something means, I usually have to resort to Urban Dictionary.

One thing I’ve learned is that FOMO refers to the “fear of missing out,” and I think it’s a pretty legit abbreviated expression because it’s very true—certain things truly do make you feel like you’re being left out of some really great memories. I mean, just open up your FaceBook or Instagram app, and take a look at all of the fun events and activities your friends are a part of, and you might experience some of the symptoms of FOMO.

Why am I not there?
Why are they having so much fun without me?
Why was I not invited?
Why did I choose to sit at home when I could be out with them?
Who is that new person in this picture with my friends?
What if I’m missing out on some really wonderful memories?

There are just so many questions that come along with the FOMO moments.

I must admit that I’ve had many FOMO times in my life, even before it was a hashtag. When I was in high school, most of my friends started dating, and I sat back and waited for my turn (still waiting, by the way). It was the same story in college and after that, and then everyone started getting engaged, and I felt like I was being left behind.

When I went through all of those issues with my kidneys recently and wasn’t able to run much, I started to feel like I was missing out on a lot in the local running community, especially because I had to miss out on a some of the bigger races I love running. I still haven’t raced in almost a year, so it’s been rough.

Not thinking about what I’m missing out on—pondering important things, instead

Since I moved to California, I’ve definitely had my fair share of moments of feeling like I’m missing out on some really great things with my people back home. When I see pictures of my friends, I want to be there with them. When my sister texts me pictures of her with my mom, I want to hop on a plane and go take a selfie with them. When my brother sends me pics of my sweet niece, I want to rush over to their house like I used to every weekend and hang out with them.

I recently had to remind myself, though, that if I spend so much time thinking about what I’m missing out on elsewhere, I’m actually really missing out on the moment right before me.

No, I don’t have a husband or a boyfriend or a date to anything ever, but my singleness has never actually gotten in the way of my life. Maybe one day someone will fall in love with me, but if he doesn’t, then I can’t let that stop me from dancing on my own and enjoying every moment I can.

No, I haven’t gotten to race or be anywhere close to in racing shape in quite some time, but for some reason or another, I needed that time away from all of that. I needed to slow down a little, and I reached a point when I realized that my main focus needed to be on enjoying those moments when I wasn’t hooked up to IVs and in so much pain that I couldn’t even get up to walk without it being a struggle.

No, I don’t live in Texas anymore, but there are a lot of great people and great places in California, and I don’t want to miss out on them because I’m focusing so much on what I’m missing out on somewhere else. God called me out here for a reason, and I’m going to trust whatever it is and not what it’s not.

The wise and poetic Hannah Montana said it best: “Life’s what you make it, so let’s make it rock.” You can’t be everywhere with everyone all of the time—you only can be where you are in the moment. None of us knows how many moments we’ll get, so it’s important to be present and to make each one count.

Because if you’re so busy letting the fear of missing out get the best of you, you’re actually missing out on more than you know.