Blog Posts

When you run into a dating app guy at work

I’ve always wondered what it would be like to run into someone I’ve interacted with on a dating app out and about in society.

And then it happened—at work.

I haven’t had what one would call “success” on the dating apps I’ve used. I’ve tried a few, but I only have an account for the Bumble now. I’m trying to have a positive attitude about it, but I’m still not a fan.

A couple of months ago, I chatted with a guy for quite a bit on the app, but the conversation eventually ended up fizzling out. Fast forward to last week, and I saw an unfamiliar name of an individual who was going to be in our weekly team meeting at work. I looked him up on LinkedIn to see if I’d seen him around the office before, but I instantly recognized him as someone I’d seen somewhere else: Bumble.

Well, this just got interesting.

Hi, I’m Natalie. I often end up in interesting situations.

He walked into the meeting after I did, and I didn’t feel it would be appropriate to say something to him then and create an awkward and embarrassing moment for him in front of everyone. It became quickly apparent that he recognized me, as well, so he didn’t make eye contact with me the entire time. He ducked out of the meeting a few minutes early, and I figured he probably had another meeting to get to right after that one.

Or perhaps he simply didn’t want to interact with me.

I saw him in passing right as I left the meeting, and seeing as how he was now empty-handed, he definitely didn’t look like he was rushing off to another one. It was obvious what I needed to do.

Me (stopping him and forcing him to talk to me): Hey, I know you.
Bumble guy (with a knowing-but-pretending-to-be-confused look on his face): Yeah, you look familiar. What’s your name?
Me: Natalie
BG (awkwardly looking at me and then looking away multiple times)
Me: Dude, we met on Bumble. We talked for a while, but it went nowhere.
BG (awkward laugh and sheepish expression, obviously wanting to turn and run): Yeeeaaaahhhhh.
Me: Don’t worry—I’m leaving soon. Next week is my last week. I’m going back to teaching.
BG (with an audible sigh of relief): Oh, whew. I guess we’re just two passing ships.
Me: Welp, good to see ya.

And then I turned and walked away.

That guy and I obviously weren’t meant to be, and it’s for the best. It reminded me that there are a number of things that haven’t worked out in my life (especially my dating life), and I know that there’s always been purpose behind those closed doors and diverted paths.

Being back in Dallas means getting to make mems with these gems.

Even leaving teaching to realize that it’s where my heart truly belongs was an unexpected turn in my life that has led me back to a place I’m beyond excited to be. Then I unexpectedly moved to California and went through a great deal of difficult emotions while I was out there, but it was one of the most incredible life-changing experiences that I wouldn’t trade, and it led me right back to where I’m supposed to be. And now I’m unexpectedly on dating apps at the age of 34 because all of the relationships that never happened that I wish did left me with an achy-breaky heart.

I’m still not sure how I’ll meet my lobster, but maybe that’s actually a good thing—after all, so many of the unexpected occurrences that have happened in my life have turned out to be better than I could have ever imagined. (However, if you know a single fella between the ages of 34–39 who is funny and kind and loves Jesus and sports and will dance with me and resembles Ryan Reynolds, please give him my number.) So I’m trusting that my future love story will be even better than any romcom I pretend I’m in every now and then.

And it will not involve two passing ships.

Because I’d rather not hesitate

Sports have taught me many important lessons in life, including one I needed to be reminded of recently: Don’t hesitate.

And it came courtesy of a pickle.

I went to the Rangers game on Sunday afternoon, and one of our players (I won’t throw him under the bus completely) frustrated me quite a bit early on in the game. He was on second base, and when his teammate crushed one deep into the outfield, he rounded third and started to head home. But then he changed his mind and decided to go back to third. At that point, though, it was too late, and he was in an actual pickle. (If you don’t know what a pickle is, The Sandlot is here to help. This is a cool one, too.

Thanks to sweet Cristy for the great tickets.

When our guy realized that he might not make it back to third without getting tagged, he went toward home again, then back to third. The third baseman had the ball, and the catcher had run too far when he made the throw, so home plate was wide open. The runner would have made it home if he had simply run full speed at that point, but he made a huge mistake.

He hesitated.

The third baseman was then easily able to catch him and tag him out as I let out a loud “NOOOOOO! Why didn’t you go?!?! You had it!” And then, as you’re supposed to do at ballgames, I turned to my friend Piper to make sure that she had seen what had just happened so that we could both agree that his hesitation ruined everything.

How much are we all like that baseball player? Rather than running as hard and as fast as we can at the things that we truly desire, we hesitate. We start to think and overthink, which can often be to our detriment. I mean, I get that we have brains for a reason, and we need to use them much of the time, but sometimes we just don’t—especially if those brains of ours are going to be crowded with fears and doubts and anxieties and lies and insecurities and assumptions and discouragement and all of the other negative factors that talk us out of doing the things we want and need to do.

Eating froyo and wondering where Starbucks guy is

After all, I hesitated with Starbucks cutie, and look where that got me. I went back one day recently, and he wasn’t there. IF YOU ARE OUT THERE READING THIS, CUTE GUY FROM STARBUCKS, LET’S GO EAT SOME FROYO TOGETHER. I’ve also hesitated way too many other times and am not proud of those moments, either. Michael Scott once quoted the great Wayne Gretzky in saying that “you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take,” which is true, but those shots you don’t take could also cost you more than simply missing out. For our Rangers friend, he was tagged out and didn’t get another chance to score a run. (I won’t blame the entire game on him, because we lost 12-4, but still. Come on, bud.)

And, I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not hesitate and, instead, run like Phoebe with my whole heart.

You might have heard me mention before that I’m not a huge fan of dating apps, but I am on them because it seems like there aren’t many people meeting each other many other ways these days. And some guys at my pool last weekend were living proof. A few of them were sitting on the layout chairs beside the pool, and I could tell that one of them was swiping left and right, and he wasn’t looking up from his phone at all. Then I looked at the pool full of half-naked girls without guys with them and then back to the fellas. It made no sense. There was an actual pool of girls in real life, and they weren’t even trying to talk to them.

I had overheard enough of their conversations to know that none of them seemed to be in a serious relationship (the term “one and done” was used at one point when one of them mentioned a girl he had gone out with recently), and maybe it was simply that they weren’t attracted to the girls in the pool, but it was a little odd to me that they weren’t talking to any of them. I know that I don’t live in the movies or TV shows, but there would definitely be some guys hitting on these girls in Hollywood productions. I have eyes that work—there were plenty of gorgeous girls there that day.

I never hesitate to get bright pink nail polish.

Although dating apps can be very beneficial and have sparked some lifelong relationships, they can also allow people to get so comfortable meeting people via apps that they hesitate in in-person situations. And I’m sure that many people feel like they’re in quite the pickles: Do they approach people they see and are interested in, or do they solely rely on meeting people online, because that’s where everyone seems to meet these days? To those of you who met in high school or college or through friends or on a plane or at Starbucks or in the produce section or at work or at a park or somewhere else that probably belongs in a romcom, bless you. I don’t mean to be whiny, but it’s rough out there.

I hope that you don’t hesitate and, instead, go full stride toward home plate when you get caught in a pickle of your own. Life shouldn’t always involve time for “logic” and thinking—sometimes we simply need to leave all fears and doubts behind and follow our hearts.

After all, we were always meant to be brave.

When you’re waiting on fireworks

While I’m not a huge fan of waiting until 9:30 p.m. for fireworks shows to begin, I endure it once a year.

Because they’re worth the wait.

The Fourth of July is one of my absolute favorite holidays. For starters, it’s in July, which might be my favorite month. I love summer and the beach, and I feel like July is a month that epitomizes both of those things.

Who doesn’t love an impromptu parade photoshoot?

And I really love fireworks. Maybe it’s the hopeful romantic in me, but there’s something about ready fireworks shooting up into the air and going off at just the right time to light up the sky in uniquely beautiful ways that makes my heart soar. I always picture the scene in The Sandlot when the boys are playing a night pickup game together on the beloved holiday, and they all pause—completely captivated—to look up at the remarkable fireworks show going on in the sky above as Ray Charles’ “America the Beautiful” plays in the background.

I also always think back to a night almost 20 years ago (how am I so old already??) when I was on a family vacation in Florida. We had gone on a trip with some of our extended family members in early July. On the night of the 4th, as we were waiting on the beach for the fireworks show to begin, I wandered off from the rest of the group for a little bit and walked along the shore, wrapped in my own thoughts.

I was just a young teenager at the time, but I was already feeling the pains of rejection that I had no idea would stick with me for far too many years. A lot of my friends had boyfriends or a handful of guys who were interested in them, and I could rarely even muster up the courage to speak to the guys I had crushes on back then. Walking on the beach alone that night felt lonely—and not simply because I was literally all by myself.

I hope this precious gem always knows how loved and valued she is.

I came to know Jesus the summer before I went into high school, so I was still learning what it meant to live a life of faith. (Heck, it’s been 21 years, and I think I’m still learning what that means every single day.) That night on the beach, I’ll never forget the prayer I prayed: God, please don’t ever let me give my heart away too soon. I want to wait for the right guy You have for me, wherever he may be. Even if that means my first kiss isn’t until it’s with my future husband—maybe that’d be for the best, anyway—I want to wait. I pray for his heart right now, and I pray that You would keep working in mine. And I pray that one day I’ll be able to watch fireworks with him on the beach. Amen.

Bless my heart. I had no idea what kind of waiting was in store for me.

I remember that prayer so well because I’ve thought back to it so many times since the words left my heart and my mouth. The fireworks started as soon as the “amen” popped out of my lips, and I knew with every ounce of my innocent heart that God had His own fireworks show prepared for my life.

I’d be lying if I said that this whole waiting process has been breezy and enjoyable. In fact, many days, it’s the opposite. But I think back to that moment when I was a teenager on the beach, and I’m confident that I was meant to say that prayer because God knew that there would be a great amount of waiting involved for me. I even get a little sad that my first kiss wasn’t with the last man I’ll ever kiss (well, unless I never kiss anyone again), because that’s what my young heart truly wanted.

I don’t know how much more waiting I’ll have to endure until I fall in love with the man who will love me back forever. If we go solely off of my success on dating apps and in-person interactions lately, it’s an indefinite amount of time. But I know that God often makes things happen in the blink of an eye. I don’t think it necessarily has to be “when you least expect it,” because I think there’s value in having expectations, but I do think it often happens how you least expect it—at least that’s what I’m hoping, anyway.

I’ll forever love California, but this right here is why I moved back to Texas.

This Fourth of July, I ran with my sister, then went to a city parade with my family, then over to my brother’s for some burgers and swimming with the fam, and then to watch fireworks with some dear friends. As I looked up at the beautiful sky that evening, surrounded by two couples, I couldn’t help but have a heart full of gratitude. No, I still didn’t have my man to watch fireworks on the beach with me like I prayed for so many years ago, but I have more love in my life than I ever imagined possible. And I really do have an answered prayer—I prayed that I would wait for the right guy for me, and I have.

I recently finished reading Everybody, Always by Bob Goff and was once again reminded of how big and powerful love is with or without romance ever involved. (If you haven’t read this book, get it ASAP. While you’re at it, get Love Does, as well. They’re both life-changing reads, and I’m not exaggerating.) In this time of waiting, I’ve been given a countless amount of opportunities to love others, and I want to make sure that I’m not passing these up because I’m too busy focusing on what I don’t have. If we constantly focus on what we think we’re missing in life, we’re actually going to miss out on a lot more because we won’t see what’s actually in front of us.

My ride or die—forever and always

I don’t know when I’ll find my lobster, but I’m OK with that. There’s a lot of good that can happen in the waiting and a lot of beautiful heart transformation that can take place during that time. The girl who prayed that trusting prayer years ago on a memorable July night in Florida has gone through quite a bit to get to where she is now and has learned the tremendous value that can come from independence and singleness. I wasn’t meant to walk the same paths as my friends and follow the same timelines of their lives—that’s part of the beauty in the uniqueness of all of our journeys.

If you’re like me and in the waiting zone for something in life, know that you’re right where you need to be. I have to hope and believe that all of the waiting isn’t for naught. I’m trusting that you’ll make it through all of the pain and the tough times to get to that beautiful finish line of endurance to your heart’s desire.

And it will be a freaking fantastic fireworks show that you’ll know forever and always was worth the wait.

Maybe Starbucks is the best dating app

One day last week, I had some time to kill before my hair appointment, so I went to a Starbucks nearby so that I could use the Wi-Fi and work on a few things I needed to complete. I don’t actually like coffee, so I usually just buy an Ethos bottled water so that I feel like I’m giving at least a little financial contribution while I’m using the free internet there. Plus, it helps children have access to clean water, so I’m a fan.

I opted for one of the cozier chairs and noticed a good-looking man sitting in one of the four of them. The other three were open, so I sat at one somewhat across from him after double-checking with him that it wasn’t occupied. He had his headphones in and appeared to be on a call. I tried listening in every once in a while to figure out what type of businessman he is—people fascinate me, so I’m always curious to learn more about them.

Thanks to a small bladder and kidney stones that won’t quit, it wasn’t long before I needed to use the restroom. I didn’t want to pack up all of my stuff and risk losing my chair (there weren’t that many people there, so it honestly wasn’t a great possibility), so when it sounded like Cute Guy wasn’t on the phone anymore, I got his attention.

Me: Hey, do you mind watching my stuff for a few minutes while I run to the restroom?
CG: How do you know I’m not going to steal it?
Me: We both know you’re not.
CG (noticing my Avengers Band-Aid on my knee): How’d you get your owie?
Me (immediately falling for someone who uses the word “owie”): I cut myself shaving.
CG: That’s not a very good story.
Me: You didn’t let me finish. I reopened a wound that I got while hiking the Incan Mountains in Peru. I noticed a llama off in the distance and became distracted, so I went after it, and I wasn’t paying attention, so I tripped on a rock and gashed open my knee. When I was shaving, I forgot about it and ripped the scab off. Hence the Band-Aid.
CG (with a swoon-worthy smirk on his face): Yeah, that’s definitely a better story.

Just wondering if I should go back to Starbucks soon

I walked to the restroom with a sense of pride at being able to create a fib so quickly. I’m not sure if it’s actually a quality I want to have, but I felt like it benefitted me in this particular instance. Also, I do realize that they’re actually called the Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu mountains, so maybe I’m not that great of a liar after all.

When I came back, I thanked him but also let him know that I told him I knew he wasn’t a criminal. He blamed it on the fact that there were security cameras in place. Touché, guy.

Not too long after that, I looked at my watch and decided it was time to leave for my appointment. As I stood up again, CG took out his ear phones and said “You can’t leave me.” I explained that I had an appointment, and he said something else I don’t really remember because I was staring into his eyes trying not to fall for some guy I may never see again but also secretly hoping that he’d ask for my number.

Dear Hollywood, why isn’t reality always like a romcom? Sincerely, a hopeful romantic.

We tied for first but then got third because we didn’t know the Rotten Tomatoes score for 10 Things I Hate About You (eye roll).

In hindsight, perhaps I should have asked for his. I need to stop assuming that every good-looking man in this world has a girlfriend. As one of my friends pointed out, it would have been a good moment to have a business card on hand. How stalkerish would it be to show up at the same Starbucks on the same day around the same time? And how much do I actually care? I mean, I know I’m not a psycho.

Maybe he didn’t see when I tried to suavely move my sunglasses from on top of my head to my face and got them stuck in my hair. But maybe it’s better if he did. It’s good for people to know others’ quirks.

And I happen to have a lot of those.

In other news, it’s Wednesday, so I’m going to share the things for which I’m thankful this week:

  • 10 Things I Hate About You trivia night on Monday—such a blast with some of my gals.
  • The changes that just keep happening in my life, even though some of them are more challenging than others.
  • Running with my brother and sister lately. I cherish those times.
  • My new community group, which is full of women who pour out the love of Jesus like flour in cake batter (I think that’s an accurate comparison) and make every single human feel valued and adored.

What are you Wednesday pieces of gratitude this week?

Because we all have our own unique ways of healing

The healing process is an interesting thing because it looks completely different for everyone.

Especially when it’s your heart that needs mending.

I adore every second with my nieces. They’re the actual most precious humans alive, and I can’t be convinced otherwise. Olivia, who is almost 3, is getting smarter and smarter each time I see her, and I swear that her vocabulary increases 13-fold every week.

Highlight of my week every week

That little angel has been teaching me so many things about life since the day she entered this world. When she was born, I was going through one of the most difficult periods of my life and wasn’t very good about dealing with all of the emotions I felt. I was hurt and betrayed and felt so many more things that I couldn’t quite process. She had colic, so I would hold her in my arms while she wailed, and I would tell her everything that was on my heart. I told myself that the tears she couldn’t help but cry were partially shed for me, since I wasn’t able to let me own fall.

In the moments when we were together and the colic wasn’t as bad, she would quietly listen to all that I had to say, and I like to think that she was giving me some pretty solid words of comfort and affirmation in her head. I heard ya, girl.

Now that she’s older, she’s able to feel people’s pain for them and shows a genuine concern when she thinks someone is hurting. When I was spending time with them on Saturday, Olivia saw a Band-Aid on my knee and said that she needed one, too. I was changing Evie’s diaper and said I’d get her one as soon as I was finished. Olivia then jumped on a pillow and yelled “owie!” and grabbed her knee and said again that she needed a Band-Aid.

We went through about seven different Band-Aids because she kept changing her mind on whether she wanted Dory or Nemo, and she wasn’t happy with me that those were the only options in my purse. I told her that my Wonder Woman ones were at home, and Avengers were in my work desk, but she eventually was happy with Dory. It’s funny, though, because her knee “wound” must have transferred to her arm, because that’s where the Band-Aid ended up after she had removed three or four from her knee.

Just over here putting Band-Aids on legs with no owies to stop tears

At one point, Evie started crying, so Olivia took her used Band-Aid and put it on Evie’s leg, saying “Sugar needs one—she’s sad.” OH, MY HEART. I love the innocent simplicity of her logic: Someone is hurting, and there’s an easy way to make the pain go away. There’s no overthinking anything or worrying about if you’re actually going to be OK. Instead, you just put a Band-Aid over the pain, and it somehow makes it feel better.

I wish that it were always that easy.

I wouldn’t describe myself as being good at dealing with pain. In fact, my strategy is usually to ignore it. I once ran a half marathon on a fractured hip because I didn’t want to acknowledge an injury. I also went an entire day at work with a giant kidney stone trying to travel through my body because I figured that the pain would go away if I ignored it long enough. It didn’t work, and I ended up having two surgeries because that stone was too big and got stuck and created some issues.

I tend to do the same with emotional pain—I ignore it as long as possible until I can’t anymore. It’s not really the best idea, because I usually end up not letting myself cry when I should, so all of my emotions bottle up, and then I turn into Niagara Falls when my tear ducts can’t contain the tears anymore. As much as I don’t like to admit it, I’m pretty sure that it’s not healthy.

Healing looks different for everyone, and there’s really no set timetable for how long it takes each person. You may have a broken bone that takes nine weeks to heal, while someone else’s only takes six. Your broken heart may feel like it’s never going to mend, while your friend was able to bounce back pretty quickly after a breakup. You may need to throw rocks at a building when you’re going through heartache, while your friend might need to lie on the couch and wallow.

When I was a young kid, I had a horrible wipeout when I got going too fast while riding a steep downhill and hit a divot in the sidewalk. I still have a bad scar from it, and I remember there being a lot of blood. I honestly don’t remember a ton about the pain, but I do remember that my mom made me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and suddenly everything was OK. It’s like there was a powerful healing love in that sandwich that made the hurting disappear.

When I moved to California, for me, healing meant sitting on a lifeguard tower and staring out at the ocean. It’s where I felt the most peace. It’s where I felt the Lord’s presence most strongly and was reminded of just how big and powerful His love and grace are. It’s where I was reminded of the vast expanse of the ocean and how small I am in comparison to it, yet how significant I still am to the God who created the ocean and everything in it—and the same God who also created me.

It’s kind of like those moments of solitude on Tower 13 were giant Band-Aids for my heart.

I’ve learned that comparisons are usually not healthy. Whether you’re comparing yourself to other people or to yourself from years ago, you’re likely going to create your own feelings of inadequacy by doing so. But you are who you are on purpose and with purpose, and you’ve taken the journey you have with intention, as well—including the pain you’ve faced and the healing you’ve gone through to be rid of it.

Surrounding yourself with good people helps, too.

I wish that Olivia’s tactics were always effective and that putting a Band-Aid on your leg or arm would make all of your pain go away. Whatever your healing looks like—whether it’s a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or paying money to go break things in a giant rooms (very therapeutic) or eating ice cream in your pajamas or a number of other activities you can do to take your mind off of what you don’t want to think about—it’s unique to you and what you need. Don’t feel like you have to do things the way someone else did, and don’t worry if it takes longer than you thought or hoped it would. You’ll get there eventually, and hopefully you’ll remember what made you heal more than you’ll remember the pain itself.

And you’ll likely be grateful that you went through everything you did to get to where you are now.

Because dating apps have taken over

If you’re not currently in the dating world, I applaud you.

Because it’s a rough place to be.

Honestly, I don’t know if I can even consider where I am as “in the dating world” since I’m not actually going on any dates with anyone. I did, however, decide to try the life of a dating app girl again, and I can tell you that it’s just as unenjoyable as I remember.

This is how dating apps make me feel.

I’m not trying to be a negative Natalie, because there are surely a number of positive reasons to use the apps, and I know many people who have met their husbands and future husbands this way, but the amount of success I have experienced is currently sitting at a number less than zero, and I’m beginning to lose all hope in humanity.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I hate that ghosting is a thing. Like, why is it OK to lead a person on and then disappear? And it’s incredibly easy to do on these apps with people you don’t even know yet. I was talking to one guy in the app who suggested that we should meet. He seemed like a nice guy and messaged me the next day asking me how my day was. I replied and then never heard from him again. Most of the stories I have are pretty similar: We’re having conversations, make unconfirmed plans to get together, and then nothing.

If you’re not interested in someone, that’s perfectly fine—everyone is not for everyone. But I feel like it’s better to be honest than to leave people wondering what in tarnation just happened.

I miss Monique. Cali seems far sometimes.

I was chatting with my sweet friend Monique recently, and we were sharing our frustrations with the current reality we face (and, yes, we are completely aware that it’s a first-world problem and that there are much more pressing concerns that people have on a daily basis). She mentioned that she doesn’t think it’s too much to ask to want a guy who will text her back in a timely manner and then said something that was funny and so true: You don’t even have to give my dad any goats!

Seriously, fellas. You have it a lot easier than some of your bros back in the day.

I think one of the most important things to remember—whether you’re using dating apps or miraculously meeting people the more old-fashioned way—is that your worth is not determined by someone else’s opinion of you. It can be easy to start questioning yourself for multiple little things: Do I not look good in any of the pictures I chose? Did I not say something clever enough on my profile? Was that a stupid response? Why did he match with me and not respond at all? Why did he stop talking to me? Why aren’t any guys interested in me?

And so many more—these are only a handful of the ones I’ve heard more than once. If you met your person online or through an app, I commend you for your perseverance. I’ve all but thrown in the towel and joined a convent, but there are qualifications I don’t meet that prevent me from becoming a nun.

For those of you single gems out there, I don’t have much quality advice to offer you regarding how to meet your lobster. I even messaged a guy I don’t know on Instagram to tell him that he’s cute, and that went nowhere. So I’m clearly no expert.

I’m just happy to be here.

But I would encourage you not to lose hope. Sometimes you have to go through a lot of crud to get to the good stuff. You might get your heart broken. You might get your feelings hurt. You might hear more than one pie-crust promise. You might experience frustration and confusion and discouragement. You might spend more than one Saturday night watching Modern Family reruns while eating Gushers on your couch. You might legitimately research the requirements to become a nun. You might go through a heart-wrenching time and expend more energy than you ever wanted and ask the question “WHY?” more times than you can count.

And you might just discover that you’re a heck of a lot stronger than you ever knew.

It’s great if you want a relationship—there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having that desire. I’m right there with you. But know that it won’t ever complete you, no matter what Jerry Maguire says. Your sufficiency and your identity can’t be found in other people. Whether you meet someone on a dating app or in person or not at all doesn’t change who you are and how valued and loved you are.

Because it’s a value and love that can only come from the One who would never swipe left or even think about ghosting you.

When you know that you’re fully known

It’s nice to be able to go new places and meet new people.

But it’s also really refreshing to go places where you know people who make you feel known, too.

When I initially moved back to Dallas, I figured things would be pretty simple—I’d immediately feel right at home, and everything would be great. I wasn’t expecting all of the challenges I would face and how tough it would be to feel known again.

No, I don’t for one second regret moving back. It’s where I’m meant to be, and I’m confident in that. I’m forever grateful for the time I was able to live in Orange County, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. But I will admit that, other than the ocean and the people I met there, I truly miss the feeling of being fully known.

When I moved to California, I knew zero humans. As soon as I met people, I would ask them to go to coffee with me—and I don’t even like coffee. I was desperate for community, and I was willing to do whatever I could to get to know as many people as possible so that my new home would actually feel like a welcoming place.

Like most people in this world, I didn’t want to feel like a complete outsider.

It wasn’t long before I had found a church home and got as plugged in as I could. I served in the high school ministry. I served on the welcoming team. I served in the women’s ministry and eventually led a bible study. I joined a life group and then led it for a season. I knew people at my church and within my community, and they knew me.

And being known is a beautiful feeling.

It’s not easy to feel like you’re starting all over. Yet again. I guess I assumed that, because I’m from Dallas and have spent most of my life here, it wouldn’t be a huge adjustment moving back after being gone for only a little more than a year and a half. I also guess there’s a reason why that saying about assuming things exists.

I’m attending a different church than the one before I moved, and I’ve started to get connected there. But, like with anything else in this life, it takes time. I’m on a serve team that allows me to meet new people every Sunday, which has been tremendously helpful, but it’s also been weird not already knowing everyone and being a go-to person for others when they need help with something. It’s certainly a transition going to a place where no one knows your background or what your heart’s desires are.

I don’t mean to sound whiny—I’m truly grateful for where I am and the opportunities that I’ve been given. But I’m also giving myself permission to acknowledge that any big life changes bring a number of different challenges with them. They create seasons of struggle at times, and it’s OK to admit that you’re going through some rough stuff when you’re in the midst of it. And I’m in the midst of it.

I think we all have the intrinsic desire to be known by people—for them to know our likes and dislikes, our quirks, our faults, our strengths, what makes us laugh, and a bunch of other little and big things that make us the unique individuals we are. It’s one reason why the show Cheers was so successful and why the theme song is one so many of us sing with happy hearts.

Because we really do want to be where everybody knows our names.

I’m single. If you know me (or if you don’t, probably), this is not news to you. I was talking with a friend recently about relationships and how, although I will accept if I’m meant to be single forever, it would be nice to be in love and find my lobster. I love how people in relationships truly and deeply know each other. I’m not big on games at wedding showers, but I do get a kick out of the videos people make in which the groom is on camera answering some questions the way he thinks the bride will answer, and then she answers them in real time, and the video plays to see if he was right. (I did a somewhat poor job of explaining that, so hopefully you know what I’m trying to describe.) The videos are usually super cute and funny, but it’s also rather endearing to think that two people can know so many things about one another that other people often don’t.

It’s two people who are known by one another and love each other in spite of all of their combined imperfections—and it’s beautiful.

I love nicknames. They’re personal and often have backstories to them. Even if they don’t, they’re usually only used between people who know one another well enough not to use formal names. (I tend to give people nicknames almost right off the bat, so just assume we’re immediate BFFs if I call you something else very soon after we meet.) I like my name, but when people call me Nat or NatMer or Nattles or Nattie or Nat Nat, I get really happy, and I think it’s because, in those moments, I feel known and loved.

Sweet Fritzy. I don’t think I’ve ever called her by her first name.

It’s truly a beautiful thing when someone—whether it’s a significant other, a family member, a friend, or another meaningful person in your life—knows you completely and still loves you relentlessly. Because that’s the way God loves us. I know that I’m always fully known and fully loved by Him, and it’s a knowledge and a love that surpass any that I could find on this earth.

And that’s what I have to keep reminding myself and what I hope you will remind yourself, as well. There will certainly be times in life when we feel like we’re on the outside looking in and like we aren’t seen. But we are. You are seen. I am seen. And we’re so dearly loved that it’s pretty ridiculous.

I’m thankful that God gives us humans for us to love and to show us His love, even though ours is a more imperfect version. I hope that, regardless of what type of season you’re in right now, you know that you’re valued and loved as you are and that you matter dearly.

And I hope that you’re able to go often where everybody knows your name.

Because storms can destruct your plans but not your spirit

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that you can’t always trust weather apps.

Especially when Texas storms are involved.

On Sunday afternoon, after spending some time with my sweet nieces, I met my parents at their country club to hang out at the pool. They had just finished golfing, and the 95-degree weather called for some cooling off.

I don’t know exactly how one human can be so precious, but she is.

When I left my brother’s house, though, I noticed that it wasn’t as sunny as it was when I had gotten there, and the sky looked rather ominous to the left (which I’m pretty sure was the north or northeast or something in that general direction).

Shortly after arriving at the pool, I schooled my dad in a game of P.I.G. (I love pools with basketball hoops) and then went to sit with my mom for a bit while she ate lunch. The sky kept getting darker, and my hopes to bask in the sun that day were completely shot. We were chatting for a bit and then decided that we should probably leave soon because the wind was starting to pick up rather quickly.

I put some shorts on over my suit but then decided that I wanted to take the swimsuit bottoms off because they were still pretty wet. So I covered my towel over me and was going to attempt a clandestine operation without even having to take off my shorts completely. However, that situation was quickly interrupted when the wind suddenly started blowing everything, including the couch cushions off of the outside furniture where I was sitting. Everyone started fleeing toward the covered area by the entrance, so I had to wrap my towel around me and join them.

And I hoped with each step that my towel was secured enough and wouldn’t blow up until I was able to stop and make sure that I was completely decent.

We don’t mind storms, but give us all of the animal crackers, please.

I told my parents I was going to drive home, but when I got in my car, it started swaying back and forth, so I ran back to where they were, and we all huddled behind the back of the building until we were ushered into the tennis shop. At one point, a giant table umbrella started blowing toward the cars, and I ran to stop it before it got too far. I’m only including this because I felt incredibly strong lifting that thing up and securing it in a closed-off area. You can compare me to Hercules if you’d like.

We hung out in the tennis shop for a little bit with the lifeguards and animal crackers (the shop has little dispensers of them, which I now think should be a thing everywhere) until we thought it was safe enough to leave. Right when I got to my car, the rain started pouring—I’m really glad it waited, because I had just washed my hair on Saturday, and I didn’t plan on washing it again probably until the following Saturday (judge all you want). As I was driving home, I thought about my expectations for the day versus what had actually happened and how easily and quickly my plans had been altered.

Oh. Hello, life.

It’s definitely not the first time that’s happened, and I know that it won’t be the last—it seems like there are quite a few moments when I have to call an audible and change up what I originally had planned. And, if we’re being honest, most of the time, it’s not even by choice.

When I was a little girl and then a high schooler and then a college gal and then a young woman in my 20s, I always had hopes that each next year would be the year that I would meet my person and fall in love forever. Throughout that span, there have been a few times I thought that had happened. Obviously I was wrong. Because, each time, there was always some big wind that swept in and ruined the plans I had in my heart that I thought were the right ones. They weren’t, though. Just like, for whatever reason, we weren’t meant to spend the entire afternoon at that pool on Sunday, I wasn’t meant to end up with those guys who had charmed their way into my heart.

One thing that can be so frustrating about storms is that they are incredibly powerful and daunting while they’re happening, and they cause you stress because sometimes you don’t know what exactly to do—you simply have to act in the moment and try to get to safety as soon as possible. You often have to wait them out, and they might even leave behind some damages that take significant amounts of time to repair.

I love these tiny tots, even when they’re trying to steal my watch.

The weather in Texas is odd at times. Shortly after that crazy storm that caused a construction crane to fall into an apartment complex (such a sad situation), knocked a billboard sign down onto some parked cars, and left multiple neighborhoods without power, the sun was shining. If you were simply an onlooker, if it weren’t for the tree limbs in the middle of the roads and what seemed like the majority of stoplights being out, you might never know just how bad the storm was or even that it actually happened.

Much like we don’t always know what personal storms people have faced merely by looking at them.

Our plans won’t always happen as we hoped—whether we like it or not, storms will pass through, and we’ll need to change our courses of action. Maybe you didn’t get the job. Maybe you didn’t end up with the person you wanted to love you forever. Maybe you’re facing some daunting health issues. Maybe you’re experiencing a financial hardship. Maybe you trained really hard for something and got injured before you even got to compete. Maybe you lost a championship in the final second after leading the majority of the game. Maybe you lost all of your possessions in a natural disaster. Maybe you worked your entire young adult life toward a certain career only to realize that it’s not something you truly enjoy like you imagined you would.

There are a million more maybes, all of which could spin your world out of control and leave you feeling all alone and unsure of what to do next. Feeling isolated in life’s storms can be pretty scary, especially when they appear to be never-ending. But I hope you know and believe with all of your heart that you’re never completely alone and that you’re braver than you realize you are.

Storms certainly have the power to change our plans and even possibly cause some destruction in our lives, but they don’t have the power to change who we are and how strongly we fight if we don’t let them.

Because numbers don’t determine your worth

There are a lot of numbers in our lives, and we often put too much emphasis on how much value those figures truly have.

Even in Yelp ratings.

One day recently while I was at my pool, I overheard two young women next to me chatting. I had forgotten my headphones, so I really had no choice but to listen to them as I silently read my book. Their conversation drew me in because it baffled me. They kept saying numbers in relation to people, and then I realized they were talking about people’s ratings.

At first, I thought they were rating guys they knew, and I felt like I was listening to a conversation on a sitcom or something, but I thought the numbers they were giving were extremely low, so maybe they were expecting everyone to look like Ryan Reynolds. Then they said something about Yelp, though, so I figured maybe people have ratings on Yelp like they do on Uber. I’m honestly still not sure exactly what they were talking about because they paused that topic to take a selfie for Snapchat, and then their conversation transitioned to their Snapchat streaks (whatever those are—I’m not well-versed in that app).

Listening to them made me think about how much numbers try to define our lives.

I wrote a book that I’m trying to get published, and I recently spoke with a literary agent who seemed interested in helping me get connected with a publisher. I sent her information regarding my book and some sample chapters, and she said she was very impressed. Then she asked for how many Instagram followers I have, and she was not so impressed. In fact, she told me to reach back out to her when I had built up my platform a bit more and had closer to 20,000 followers.

Well that was a sucker punch to the gut.

I’m cool with not having 20,000 followers as long as I have my sis.

This whole numbers thing starts pretty much from the moments we enter the world—we’re given Social Security numbers to identify us, and the numbers just keep coming from there. We have student and employee ID numbers that often seem to replace our names. Then there are our heights. Our weights. Our grades and test scores and class rankings. Our credit scores. Our salaries. Our likes. Our number of followers.

So.many.numbers. It can be exhausting.

When I was running more competitively and racing almost monthly, I cared about numbers more than I like to admit. I stressed over my mileage, my splits during speed work, my paces on tempo and even easy runs (which made my easy runs not so easy), my overall place in each race, what my PRs were, and what my time was each time I crossed that finish line. It was almost (or completely) obsessive how much I cared about those numbers more than I did actually allowing myself to enjoy doing something I truly love.

I understand that numbers have significance. At the end of the game, the number of points or runs or goals matters in determining the winner. The time on the clock matters in declaring who ran or swam the fastest. And there are a heck of a lot of other numbers that matter for various reasons, especially in sports.

But, while those numbers mean different things, they don’t define us, and they certainly don’t determine how much we matter.

Just wondering where my own version of Ryan Reynolds is.

If you know me or have been reading my blog for a while, you know that the number of boyfriends I’ve had doesn’t need any actual hands to count, and the number of dates I’ve been on isn’t much higher. When I was in high school and college and even in my 20s, I let those nonexistent numbers make me believe things about myself that weren’t true. Just like I did with some of my race results, I let them make me believe that I wasn’t good enough. In running, it meant that I wasn’t good enough because I wasn’t fast enough. In dating (or not dating, rather), it meant that I wasn’t good enough because I wasn’t pretty enough or experienced enough or big-boobed enough or whatever enough for the guys I was interested in at the time.

And I hate that even numbers have the power to put that “not enough” mentality inside our minds and change the way we view ourselves and our worth.

Friendship isn’t measured in numbers.

Numbers are always going to be there telling us how much we make and owe and weigh, how our posts are doing on social media, how many points we scored, how fast or slowly we finish whatever feats we’re trying to accomplish—I could keep going, because there are a number of numbers out there. But no matter how much worth those numbers hold in our lives and in the lives of those around us, those numbers can’t determine our worth if we don’t let them.

I hope that you don’t let the numbers in your life define who you are or change the way you see yourself. Some entities may only know you as a nine-digit number, but God knows and calls you by name and cares about every single thing about you. You don’t have to stress and worry about all of the numbers trying to tell you who you are or what you are or aren’t. In the end, those numbers honestly don’t mean anything of value.

Because you’re worth infinitely more than any number that exists out there.

When “safe” isn’t always the answer

It’s easy to be content and trust for the best to happen when you feel safe.

But it’s in those moments when we’re called to be brave that we become who we were always meant to be.

Oh, my heart.

Saturday was the perfect day to stay inside. It was storming pretty badly for most of the late morning and afternoon, and I think we were under a tornado watch. I had invited myself over to hang out with my pretend mother-in-law, Darla (my brother’s mother-in-law who has quickly become one of my besties), and my precious nieces, and I was not sad when I ended up staying there most of the day since it was too nasty outside for me to want to walk outside to my car and drive home.

How is it possible for one human to be this adorable?

I’m not one to be scared of weather. I actually sometimes enjoy thunderstorms—as long as I’m inside somewhere curled up on a couch. And that’s exactly what I got to do Saturday as I snuggled with my nieces and chatted about anything and everything with sweet Darla. The girls didn’t seem to be fazed by the occasional roar of thunder or the fairly constant pounding rain, and I think it’s because they felt completely safe—they were in a place free of danger with two women who would literally do absolutely anything for them.

So what was there to fear?

I think that’s an easier attitude to have when you’re a little kid, though. You don’t pay much attention to the storms or the chances of bad things happening because they aren’t actually there, and you don’t tend to worry as much about things that are merely possibilities when you’re in your safe place. Sure, there might be monsters under your bed when you’re all alone in the dark, but suddenly everything is just fine when your mom or dad comes in the room and flips on the switch. You’re safe again, and worries disappear.

I remember one time when I needed a good cry, and I went and sat/laid on the floor of my closet and wallowed for a while. Mind you, I lived in an apartment all by myself, so zero people would have seen me crying. But there was something about that space that just felt safe—that made me feel like it was OK to let out all of my feelings and allow my face to turn into a red splotchy tear-stained disaster. So I stayed in there until I was finished with my sobfest and ready to face the world again. (And by “face the world,” I obviously mean just move from my closet to the couch to watch basketball.)

Braving the NKOTB crowds. The real hero was the air hockey table.

I thought about that time again on Saturday when I walked to my car when the rain had let up. It felt really peaceful out, and I didn’t have to worry about getting my hair all nasty or my clothes soaked. I was in a safe place. As I started to drive home, though, another torrential downpour began, and there were moments when I couldn’t actually see the road, which probably should have been pretty concerning. But the moment I pulled into my parking garage, I was shielded from the storm, and I knew that I didn’t have to worry about anything. It seems like a pretty sturdy structure. Could it be destroyed? Sure. But it feels pretty safe to me.

So what is there to fear?

Bad things happen in life. That’s pretty inevitable. But there are also amazing things that happen every single day—from the smallest pieces of joy to the most monumental miracles you couldn’t even imagine. Why focus on the storms and the dangers and the “what ifs” and the possible rejections and the risks and the chances of failure and all of the other junk that might or might not happen when we could be focusing on the here and now right in front of us and taking those chances we need to take, even if they don’t necessarily feel “safe” to us?

Nothing about this situation is safe.

While paying attention to your safety is obviously important in many areas of your life, a lot of the time it’s better to remember what C.S. Lewis said about Aslan in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”

It won’t always feel safe to do the things we need to do that other people might even see as crazy, but I trust that the One who calls me to do those crazy things is there with me every single step of the way.

And I feel completely safe with Him—because I know that He’s good.