Because worrying shouldn’t replace joy

Worrying and stress try to take the place of joy and fun, and that’s just not right.

Especially when bikes hanging off of cars are involved.

When I first moved to California, I bought a beach cruiser at Walmart. I know that it’s not good to get attached to material things, but I love that bike. It’s the perfect seafoam green color, and it just makes me incredibly happy when I ride it.

For my move back to Dallas, I packed most of my bigger items (and by “most” I mean all two big things I actually own—my bed and my love seat) and a few other possessions in one of those cube things that you load yourself before the movers pick it up to transport it to your destination for you. The day that it was picked up, something hit me while I was at work: Shast! I forgot to pack my bike in there.

I almost cried.

This bike and I have a lot of memories together.

I was trying not to stress, but moving across the country (again) brings with it some anxieties that you try really hard to avoid but sometimes fail. The fact that I forgot to pack something that definitely wasn’t going to fit in my car—I have too many clothes, and I admit it—started giving me heart palpitations. How was I supposed to get my bike to Dallas from Orange County?! I immediately consulted the Google.

I researched the costs and logistics of shipping a bike, but most of them involved taking the bike apart in some capacity. Again, this is a $99 beach cruise from Walmart—it didn’t work that way. If you take off that front wheel, you lose that bike forever. I ended up buying a bike rack for my car and told myself that the spare tire on the back of it wouldn’t be an issue.

Sometimes it’s best to ignore reality for as long as possible, right?

My friend JP helped me attach the bike rack to my car and the bike to the rack, but there was definite concern from both of us with the soundness of it all. The spare tire simply complicated things and made it look and feel not as secure as I would have preferred. But I needed and wanted to get home, and I wanted to take that bike with me, so I was going to give it a go and hope and pray that it wouldn’t suddenly become unattached and fly off and hurt someone else on the road while I was driving.

My sweet sister made that long journey home with me just like she had made it out there with me—she helped send me out on that adventure and was now helping to bring me home. She’s the actual best. And she, too, had some slight concerns about my beach cruiser and the likelihood that it would make it the full 20–21 hours back to Dallas.

When I picked her up from the airport in Orange County late on Wednesday, we immediately drove down to San Diego to stay in a hotel for the night so that we didn’t have to share an air mattress and because a hotel down there was slightly more affordable than one in the O.C. and was along the way on the route I had decided we’d take back. We didn’t get too far before I became overly paranoid and had to stop at a gas station to check the security of the bike. Steph got out of the car to help inspect it with me and to try to tighten all of the straps. We decided that it seemed as tied down as it could get, and we’d trust that it would survive.

Perhaps you can see why I was a little concerned.

It was comical with that thing on the back. The parking situation at the hotel in San Diego was laughable, and I don’t know how larger vehicles are able to stay there with the tiny aisle between the two rows of cars and the packed-together spots that look like they can only fit MINI Coopers and smaller. Steph had to get out to guide me so that I wouldn’t hit another car, especially with the bike protruding out pretty majorly on the right side, and what should have been an easy turn became at least an 18-point maneuver. It was almost like the pivot scene from Friends but in a car.

The good news is that the bike made it the entire trip back to Dallas, and no one was injured or died. The bad news is that I wasn’t as relaxed as I should have been for a good portion of the trip, and I checked the security of that thing during every single stop we made. Sure, I reached a certain point when I stopped thinking about it and simply trusted that everything would be OK, but it took me a while to get there. I was worrying about something that I had no control over at that point, and my worries tended to magnify when I noticed any slack in the straps or tilting/shifting of the bike rack. In all honesty, the thing was super secure and wasn’t going anywhere, but it was tough not to check it in my rearview mirror probably more times than I’ve ever looked that way in the more than nine years that I’ve been driving this car.

Yet I didn’t worry about something that likely should have been a bigger concern—you know, like running out of gas in the middle of nowhere.

Road trip warriors at it again.

There was a stretch of desert that we went through that didn’t have a gas station for a pretty long time. I had checked before when I mapped out the trip to make sure that we wouldn’t encounter such situations, but it happened nonetheless. We were as far past empty as you can get, and my gas was burning much more quickly because of all that was in and on the car (apparently losing fuel at a faster rate that way is a thing—freaking science). At one point, I didn’t know if the gas pedal was actually working or if it was just my mind playing tricks on me that it was more difficult to push down and wasn’t really giving much oomph. Steph was getting pretty concerned, and I would have felt awful if she had given up her time and energy to travel across the country yet again with me only for us to run out of gas in a desert area full of mystery—not necessarily the good kind—and the words “no service” in the top left corners of our phones.

I remember saying a little prayer right then and there, and I felt a calmness that everything was going to be alright. Even if we had to walk to get gas (which I was confident we wouldn’t have to do), we would be fine. And guess what? We made it. We filled up with more gas than my tank can actually take, so that was special. I tried to be better about monitoring the gas the rest of the trip, but Steph ended up being the one to make sure to check with me every so often to see how we were doing in that department. I love that gal.

So why was I so worried about that bike?

I thought about it later and realized that I do this quite often in different areas of my life—I let myself get anxious about things that won’t get any better or any worse by my worrying. Some situations leave me trusting God completely, while others seem like they’d be better if I had a brown paper bag to breathe in and out of repeatedly. But what I need to remember is that, regardless of what happens, and even when things don’t go the way I want and hope them to, He’s still there, and He’s still good.

And nothing will ever change that.

We’re all going to find ourselves in moments when we have to choose between stressing out about things we can’t control or living fully in the present and enjoying every second of life that we can. It certainly isn’t always easy—there are plenty of scary and daunting situations people face every single day—but it’s absolutely possible.

Having fears and doubts doesn’t make you weak. It makes you human. But releasing those fears and doubts and letting yourself trust that there’s nothing that’s too big for God to handle makes you brave. Last May, I got “Be brave.” tattooed on my right inner forearm as a reminder that I want to live a life full of taking chances and chasing dreams and pursuing passions and speaking what’s on my heart and letting myself love in big ways and not ever letting fear keep me from doing anything I know I’m called to do—and doing it all with the complete faith that there’s a God who loves me more than I can ever comprehend.

Home.

My sister and I made it safely back to Dallas with no issues. We drove the long stretch to Midland the first day and stayed with me sweet cousin Rachel and her family for the night, and then we woke up and drove the remaining four or five hours home. Every single moving stress I had before and during that entire process is in the past. I’m back and settled in now, and everything feels right. And, as usual, the anxiety I felt was for naught.

The truth is that we don’t actually know what’s going to happen tomorrow or even in the next few seconds. Life is beautifully unpredictable, and that’s how it should be—because that’s how faith comes in to play. I hope that you never let fear cause you to miss out on the joy of the present, and I hope that you know that, no matter what happens in life, you’re valued and loved just as you are.

And I hope that you’re brave enough to believe that you’re worth that kind of love.

Because it’s nice to be thought of sometimes

Because I really love people and am fascinated by their stories and personalities, I sometimes I listen in on their conversations that don’t necessarily directly involve me.

Especially in elevators.

One day last week, I was on my way back up to the office after lunch, and the two women in the elevator with me were talking about a little note that her husband had written her and stuck in her purse that morning without her knowing it. It was simply a quick “Go kick today’s a$*. I love you!” note, but it seemed like a really sweet gesture to me. The woman’s friend agreed and said something that stuck with me.

It’s always nice to be thought of.

This is way old, but I love these sibs of mine.

As I stepped off of the elevator, that phrase resonated with me for a bit. She’s right—it’s truly comforting to know that someone out there is thinking of you and lets you know about it. I recently had something I had to face that gave me a bit of anxiety, and the morning of that day, both my brother and sister texted me to wish me luck and to let me know that they were thinking of me and love me. It touched my heart more than they likely knew, and it helped to ease some of my worries knowing that I had their love and support from afar.

As humans, we’re pretty sensitive creatures, so the opposite is true, as well: It can hurt when people don’t think of us or don’t reach out to show us that they care. Whether it’s our friends or family members or coworkers or those for whom we have deep feelings, the individuals in our lives can impact our moods and our hearts when it feels like they don’t truly care about us simply because they aren’t investing time and energy into showing us how much we mean to them.

I was so sad when Ashley moved to Nebraska, but I’m so thankful for our weekly phone dates.

I believe that you make time for the things that you want to make time for in life, and I think that’s why it means so much to me when people reach out and show that they care—because they’re taking time to remind you that they were thinking of you. They’re taking time to remind you that it’s nice to be thought of, and they want you to feel the joy from that. They’re taking time to stop whatever they’re doing to remind you that you’re loved.

And they’re taking time to invest in you.

I know that I sometimes need to be better about this. I try to check up on people as often as I can, but I want to make sure that I’m doing more to show them that they are thought of and that they matter. It’s such a big and crazy world, and it’s easy to feel like you’re lost in the shuffle and just yet another face in the crowd.

But please remember that you’re not just anyone or anything—you are unique you, and you are valued and loved, no matter how many people remind you that they’re thinking of you.

My sister gets me.

That’s certainly one thing that I’ve had to let myself focus more on over the years, because people are not always going to reciprocate my thoughts and feelings. There have been a number of guys who haven’t felt the way I feel about them, and they didn’t exactly remind me that they were thinking of me—probably because they weren’t. And that’s OK.

Yes, it’s always nice to be thought of, but it’s also not a requirement to my identity and sufficiency.

I hope that people remind you that they’re thinking of you, and I hope that it brings a smile to your face each time. But I also hope that you find joy and an immeasurable amount of smiles in the fact that you are already loved more than you’ll ever know.

I was running on the boardwalk recently, and this guy on a bike came alongside me and said “it’s a lot easier on a bike.” I kind of laughed and said “right, sometimes. I like a challenge. Also, you’re very attractive.” And then I picked up my pace and wove through the suddenly crowded sidewalk as he got a little trapped. (So I guess it’s not always easier on a bike, huh?) The fella didn’t chase after me, and I never saw him again.

I took this after running from the guy I called attractive.

After I did that, I laughed a little because I never would have been so candid like that years ago, which led me to reflect again on the notion of being thought of by people, specifically guys in my past. I normally didn’t immediately express my feelings of attraction for them, so my little confession to the biker prompted these thoughts of how I used to place way too much emphasis on what they thought of me and how often they would text me or talk to me or whatever.

As I kept running, I kept reminding myself that none of that actually matters, and it still won’t matter with any guy in the future. My worth isn’t in those guys or their levels of interest. Whether they think of me and let me know or not really isn’t that important. If they don’t care enough to show me, well, I think Ariana Grande said it best: “Thank u, next.”

And, while it’s always nice to be thought of, you’re enough as you are with or without those affirmations.

When you let yourself believe that you’re beautiful

I’ve always loved Target, but now it’s become an even more special place to me.

Because it’s a place where you can remind others just how beautiful and loved they are.

I was at the remarkable store the other day in the travel-sized items area because I know my priorities and needed a mini can of hairspray to have in my purse at all times. I started looking through my purse to make sure that I had enough toothpaste still left in there, as well, and then I lingered even longer when I started listening more intently to the conversation two teenage girls were having near me.

They were talking about an upcoming school dance they were about to have, and one of the girls (I’m going to name her Kirsten) was asking her friend (let’s go with Shelby) if she was going with some guy. The ensuing conversation went down right there at the end of the aisle of heartache and insecurity.

Shelby: No, I don’t think so.
Kirsten: Why not? You know you want to.
Shelby: Because he’s probably gonna go with Mykala. He was flirting with her a lot yesterday at lunch, and she’s so pretty. He doesn’t like me.
Kirsten: (says not-so-nice comments about Mykala that I’m not going to repeat
)

My heart broke. Did Shelby think that she wasn’t pretty enough to go with this boy? And Kirsten forgot to remind Shelby how beautiful she is and provide her with a bit of affirmation. I obviously needed to say something.

As I walked by them, I paused and said to Shelby: “You’re beautiful and should ask him, anyway.” And, even though she initially gave me one of those “I don’t want you all up in my business” looks and then muttered a sheepish “thanks,” I hope it encouraged her even just a little. (Yes, I do realize that it’s not always my place to jump in on other people’s conversations, but sometimes I do it—just ask anyone in my building who’s ever been in the elevator with me.)

I remember being Shelby’s age and feeling the same way she feels—like the other girls were prettier, and there was no way that any guy was ever going to want to go to a dance with me or date me. That’s why I always kept my crushes hidden (except for that one time I didn’t, and the guy I liked at the time wanted to make fun of me for having a crush on him). It caused me pain to hear the unhopeful tone in her voice as she told her friend that the guy she likes doesn’t feel the same way.

Charlie Brown was so right: “There’s nothing like unrequited love to drain all the flavor out of a peanut butter sandwich.”

And that was right after good ol’ Chuck had told his best buddy Linus that the Little Red-Haired Girl didn’t notice him because he was “nothing.” Oy. WHY MUST YOU BREAK MY HEART, CHARLIE BROWN? I hope that Shelby doesn’t think of herself the same way that sweet CB sees himself.

Monique is obviously gorgeous on the outside but also has such a beautiful heart.

It’s hard not to feel that way sometimes, though. I can think of too many times when I felt like I wasn’t good enough or pretty enough or popular enough or whatever enough to have even the slimmest chances to end up with the guys I liked in high school. And I wish that it had ended there—but it didn’t. I spent more years in college and in my 20s still thinking that I was lacking all of the things a young woman needed to catch the eye of any fella. I was eating nothing but bland peanut butter sandwiches.

And then something changed in my heart, which eventually helped to change my mind. I wish that I could say that those doubts never returned, but I’m a human woman, and they have a tendency to resurface every once in a while. I’ve gotten a lot better about getting rid of those thoughts, though, and replacing them with affirmations of who I am, rather than what I’m not.

My friend Monique gave me some solid advice recently. We were talking about something completely different, but I’m going to start applying it to almost every area of my life.

“If one of your nieces told you this, what would you say to her?”

I hope that sweet Evie always smiles when she sees her reflection.

If Olivia or Evie ever tried to tell me that she saw herself in a negative way or that she wasn’t good enough for someone, I would immediately refute those lies and replace them with the truth of how wonderfully made she is and how precious and valued she is. I would tell either of them: “Don’t talk about my niece that way.” (Thank you to my friend Ana for telling our book club that her husband always says “don’t talk about my wife that way” when she says something negative about herself.)

And maybe that’s something that we should say to ourselves more often: Don’t talk about myself that way.

I hope that Shelby got the courage to ask that boy to the dance. And, even if she didn’t, I hope that she eventually believes that she is beautiful and enough as she is, regardless of whether or not some guy feels the same way about her that she feels about him.

I hope that you know that your worth isn’t determined by what other people think, either. You have your own unique gifts and your own unique look, and you’re beautiful as you are. Don’t let anyone take that away from you.

And please don’t ever get the same mindset as our friend Charlie Brown and think that you’re nothing—you’re more something special than you may know, and I hope that your peanut butter sandwich always has an abundance of flavor.

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.

When you believe that crazy things aren’t so crazy

I love the honesty and genuineness that kids bring to pretty much any situation.

Even when their truthfulness stings.

I was asked to help out in the children’s ministry at church on Sunday morning, which I definitely didn’t mind. I lead a group of high school girls and sometimes speak for the junior high kids, so I figured I might as well work with the younger ones at some point, too. I love kids, so I knew it would be fun.

And apparently truth-telling, as well.

I was making bracelets with two sweet girls named Aubree and Riley and asking them questions about their lives. They liked saying how old they are, so more than once, Riley told me that she’s 7, and Aubree reminded me that she’s 8. When Riley asked me how old I am, I told her, and she replied with something that stung a little, mainly because I wasn’t expecting it.

“You’re older than my parents.”

Oy. When I used to babysit and teach swim lessons and work at a daycare center, the parents were always older than I was. It’s weird now working with kids who could easily be my kids or whose parents could be my younger siblings—or are even young enough that they could be my former students. (It’s crazy to think that some of my former students are in their late 20s or have already hit the big 3-0.)

Aubree then told me her parents’ ages—34 and 35, so at least I’m not completely ancient yet—and asked me if I have kids. I said no and that I wasn’t married, which was followed by what those precious little unfiltered mouths always seem to ask.

Aubs: Why aren’t you married?
Me: Just hasn’t happened yet.
Aubs: You should find a husband.
Me: Thanks for the advice. I’ll get right on that.

I believe in being yourself at all times, even if that means stopping to take pictures like this.

Honestly, I love the way kids’ minds work. They don’t necessarily always factor in logistics or reality—they simply believe that essentially anything is possible. I mean, take Jack, for instance. When I asked the kindergarteners and first graders what they want to be when they grow up, he said that he wants to be a “donut seller” and charge $20 per donut so that he can be rich. That’s ambition. That’s hope. That’s a dream. Granted, it’s not practical, and his likelihood of success with that price isn’t great, but he doesn’t care. Right now, to him, anything is possible, regardless of any outside factors.

What happens as we get older that makes us think that things are less likely to happen for us and to us? What is it that kids have that we don’t that allows them to let their hopes soar so high that they’re those high-in-the-sky-apple-pie hopes? Why do we lose that childlike faith as our age number ticks up a notch each year?

Here’s the thing, though: We don’t have to lose that kind of faith.

I haven’t accomplished all of the things in life that I’ve set out to accomplish. There are some goals I have that are floating out there that I still want so badly to become part of my story. For whatever reason, though, they aren’t yet. But that doesn’t mean that they never will be.

For Jack and Aubree and so many more of those kids, it’s so simple—you want something, and you’re going to make it happen. There are no doubts. There are no fears. There are no hesitations. There are no questions or anxieties or discouragements or logistics or factors or anything that we eventually start to use as determinations of whether or not the desires we have are practical enough or not.

For those believing kids, nothing matters but the fact that they know that something is possible, and that’s that.

It’s not too late to make your dreams realities. It’s not too late to set new goals. It’s not too late to become the person you’ve always wanted to be. If you want to be like Jack and be a donut seller and charge a ridiculous amount, you do you (and good luck to you).

Your story is just that—yours. You aren’t required to justify or make excuses or apologies to anyone else for being the person you are. So be you. Go after the desires of your heart. Love people in big ways without caring about what you’ll get in return.

And never let go of that childlike faith that once let you live more boldly than you ever knew you could.

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 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 the guy at Sprouts thinks you’re hitting on him

I don’t think I’ve ever been rejected without actually being interested in someone first.

Until now.

I was in Sprouts the other day, and I was trying to process what had been a really rough afternoon. I’m not going to go into a great deal of detail about it right now, but my current work situation has not been good. At all. I was hoping that the rest of the evening would not involve any instances that would make me feel just blah.

But it turns out that my wish for a Pollyanna ending to the day would have to wait.

I was getting some gummy bears out of the bin things there, and some fella was in the same area. He made a comment along the lines of “that’s a lot of candy for someone your size” (to quote Kelly Kapoor and Dr. Mindy Lahiri, “how dare you?”), and I told him that I am just really passionate about gummies. But then I felt the need to promote the Sprouts gummy bears. People, if you haven’t tried them, please do so soon. Then I also recommended that he try the penguin gummies at Trader Joe’s because their tummies are filled with a gooey center. I made sure to remind him, though, that the golden bag of HARIBO bears always win in the end.

Let me get one thing clear here that you might already know about me: I love talking to people. I tend to strike up conversations with strangers on the regular, no matter where I am and with whom I’m talking. I just really like people.

Apparently this one thought I liked him a bit too much.

“Thanks for letting me know. But before this conversation goes any further, you seem sweet and cute in your own little way, but I just wanna say that I’m not really looking for anything right now.”

Wait, what? Complete misunderstanding, bud.

I said the first thing that popped into my head that wasn’t insulting: “Good to know. But I’m not really looking for anything right now but good gummy bears.”

I’ve been rejected before, but at least I usually made efforts in those instances. All I had to do for this homeboy to kick me to a curb I had no intentions of encountering was make mere conversation about one of the best candy options out there. Really, guy?

Oh. Hey, ocean. I heart you.

If this had happened years ago, I think I would have been more bothered by his immediate response to turn me down, especially with the whole “cute in your own little way” comment. That didn’t really get to me, though—I was more disturbed by the fact that I couldn’t even have a conversation with a guy without him thinking that I was hitting on him. I suppose I should appreciate his honesty, but perhaps he should have waited to make sure I was actually interested in him before telling me that I’m not the one who can capture his heart.

(By the way, I will say that this fella was attractive, but I wasn’t attracted to him. Trust me, it makes sense.)

I know that my level of singleness hasn’t changed since I was in the womb—and that can be a bit defeating at times, especially as everyone around me continues to get married and start families—but that is certainly no reason to get upset about yet another guy not wanting to pursue me. I mean, I need someone who is actually going to care a little bit more about my love for gummy bears, anyway. He’s not that guy.

It made me think about someone I thought was that guy, though.

For a while, he cared about the things I liked, and he cared about what I thought about him. He cared about me (or so I thought), and I cared about what he thought about me. I don’t like caring what people think, though I know we often care about what the people we care about think of us (that was a mouthful). However, there’s a difference between caring and letting those opinions change your own opinions of yourself or help to define who you are in any way.

When the guy I actually had feelings for suddenly didn’t seem to care about me anymore, I immediately wondered what was wrong with me. I don’t particularly like admitting that, because I don’t particularly like that one person had so much influence on the way I saw myself. I am enough as I am, and no one’s opinion of me or treatment of me can change that at all.

Ever.

The water was cold, but we actually (sort of) got in it.

When my friend Hannah and I were on our way home from Laguna Beach on Saturday, we were singing Disney songs at the top of our lungs in her car. I’m not even close to being a good singer, but that didn’t stop me from singing as if I’m actually Mariah’s soul sister. Hannah doesn’t care about that, though, and that’s the way it should be. We should be comfortable being ourselves at all times—whether we’re on excursions with our friends or in a room full of people we don’t know yet. I don’t have to win my friends’ hearts, and I don’t need to try to win any guy’s heart, either.

He should want me to have it for free.

I hope you never let someone else’s words or actions toward you make you feel like you’re not enough. No matter what anyone else thinks, you’re worthy of love and capable of love. Please don’t forget that.

And please don’t let that determine how many gummy bears you get at Sprouts.

Because ghosting has actually become a thing

There are many things all of us humans could do better in life (besides accurately forecast the weather).

Like treat people well.

I’ve mentioned before how I feel about online dating, though I’m happy for the people who have their success stories from it. One thing that drives me crazy about it is how easy it is for people to dodge those they suddenly realize aren’t what they’re looking for without so much as a “hey, this just isn’t going to work.”

Is that really so difficult to say—especially if you’re not even saying it to a person’s face?

I have a friend who had been chatting with a fella for a while now and was supposed to get together with him recently. But then when it came time for them actually to hang out, he vanished. When she reached out to him to check on their plans, nada. Zilch. Zip. He straight up just didn’t respond, and she didn’t hear from him again.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had friends experience this, whether after meeting someone on a dating app or elsewhere. I realize that these people who do the whole “ghosting” thing, as the hip people call it, usually don’t have deep relationships with the people from whom they suddenly vanish, but it still makes no sense to me why anyone would lead someone on only to stop all communications completely.

And I can’t say that I haven’t fallen victim to this myself.

This is just part of who I am.

I’ve been on the wrong end of a text that never got a response or a hand-written note that was never even acknowledged (that one hurt quite a bit). Oftentimes these situations leave us hurting and wondering what could possibly be so wrong with us that we can’t even get the people we truly care about to give us enough of their time even to respond. Maybe some individuals are forgetful or extremely busy, but you make time for the things you want to make time for in life, and it doesn’t take that long to reply to someone.

I spent more years than I would like to admit thinking that I simply wasn’t good enough for guys—I wasn’t pretty enough or smart enough or experienced enough or whatever enough for them to think I was worthy of their time. Friends, I hope that you never feel this way. It’s a horrible place to be. I’m confident now that I don’t need to worry about any of that because I was uniquely made as I am for a purpose and on purpose. I have quirks, and I’m never going to look like a supermodel, but there might be someone out there who will be captivated by me for me.

I hope that you’ve never been suddenly ignored by someone you thought really might care about you as much as you care about him, and I hope that you never do that to someone else, either. It might be the easy way for you, but think about how you would feel if it did actually happen to you. Regardless, I truly hope that you know that your worth doesn’t change based on someone else’s words and actions—or lack thereof both.

Being single isn’t always easy, especially with each year that goes by and each friend and family member you watch fall in love, get married, and start life together with someone else. And now with all of those dating apps that are out there, it’s even more challenging at times to meet people organically. Like I’ve said before, my ideal way to find someone is getting hit with a frisbee in a park by the guy who is my person, and he runs over to check on me, and sparks fly (I’ll keep you updated on if that happens).

The more I go through life, the more I appreciate people who are genuine. While it’s not necessarily the best idea to be honest about everything that’s on your mind at all times, I do think it’s important to be sincere in how you treat people and that you match your words with how you actually live your life. And one big part of treating people well and loving them well is not leading them on. Whether you’re afraid to hurt someone’s feelings or are only regarding your own feelings at the time, it’s not a good idea to make someone believe you care when you actually don’t.

Legos and Barbies are toys—people’s hearts are not.

A Letter to Young Women

I’m not a very emotional person, but every once in a while, something really gets to me and makes me want to cry.

Like when high schoolers are trying to be adults too soon.

I was at Target the other day and overheard a conversation between two teenage girls that broke my heart a little bit. It made me want to write a letter to all young women. So I did.

Dear little beauty,

I know everything feels like such a big deal right now, but it actually is all a big deal—just in a different way than you think. It’s not that a Tweet without enough favorites will be the end of the world, but the decisions you make today might be bigger than you imagine.

big possibilites
Truth

Guys are wonderful. They really are. But they are also complete disasters. If one of them doesn’t like you back, it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you. It just means that picture-perfect idea of the two of you together really isn’t that perfect. It’s not meant to be. Eat some ice cream, and let it go.

I know we already decided that guys are wonderful (while simultaneously being disasters), but I promise they aren’t so wonderful that you need to give anything to them before you’re ready. I don’t feel the need to be more specific than that. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. And if you think you want to do something, really think about if you actually want to do it. You might find you don’t want to.

It’s not nice to make fun of people or to say bad things about them behind their backs (or to their faces). This might sound weird, but you will actually feel better about yourself and life in general when you are kind to people. There’s a peace that comes along with love.

Your parents are not gifts of torture to you. They might actually be really cool grownups. Yes, some people really are in bad family situations and don’t have parents who serve as the best role models and support systems, but if you’re lucky enough to have parents who care about you, it’s not required in the adolescent behavioral handbook (which, to my knowledge, doesn’t actually exist in print anywhere) that you act like you hate your parents. When you’re an adult and practically best friends with them (OMG—the thought is so terrifying!), you will be sad you wasted so many years trying to rebel against them when they were, in actuality, simply trying to do what was best for you.

I’m not going to go into a tremendous amount of detail on this, but drugs can kill you. Alcohol can also kill you. Most drugs are illegal. Underage drinking is illegal. Temporary escapes from reality just aren’t worth it.

I know this is a crazy thought, but your teachers actually care about you. I can say this with certainty because I was a teacher. And I deeply cared for my students. I still do. Every.single.one. Teachers don’t have the easiest gigs in the world, and you don’t know what battles of their own they have to face on a daily basis. They don’t want you to fail, and it will surprise you how stuff they instilled in you will pop up later in your life in beneficial ways. It’s heartwarming.

Sometimes it’s hard to find friends you can genuinely trust. Even as an adult, you meet people who aren’t necessarily the individuals you thought they were. But there are some who are gems—they’re the ones who stick with you through the toughest times in your life and the best times in your life. They’re the ones who don’t judge you or make you feel like you have to be someone you aren’t.

Here’s the bottom line: you’re special. You don’t have to be like other people. You don’t have to try so hard to fit in or stand out. You’re wonderful as you were made.

You are valued. You are loved. And you matter.

Life doesn’t magically become some utopia when you enter the real world and become an adult. There’s still gossip. There are still pressures. There are still guys who will break your heart. There are still guys whose hearts you will break. There are still friends who aren’t really good friends. There are still temptations and bad decisions.

But the sooner you realize your worth, the stronger you’ll be when you have to take on anything life hands you.

God didn’t make any mistakes when He created you, and you don’t have to change who you are to please other people. You can achieve so many things. You can dream big dreams and not let people shoot them down. You can be confident and not care what other people think or say about you.

It’s OK to be you. It’s OK to say “no” to people. It’s OK to hang out with your family. It’s OK to wait to date or kiss or be in a relationship. It’s OK not to rush through life. It’s OK to wear clothes that didn’t cost a lot of money. It’s OK to fail sometimes. It’s OK to forgive people who hurt you. It’s OK to ask for grace when you hurt others. It’s OK to show love to people you don’t think deserve it. It’s OK to be scared. It’s OK to be brave.

And it’s OK to grow up in your own unique way.

I’m rooting for you—I know how you feel, sister.

LOVEloveLOVE,

Someone who understands