Because comfortable isn’t always for you

If the last few years have taught me anything, it’s that letting yourself step away from what’s comfortable often allows you to become stronger and more capable of being fearless.

Even when it involves shoving cake in your face in front of a bunch of people with iPhones while you’re celebrating a birthday you’ll likely never remember.

Post-cake cuddles. Also, how is she already 1?!

My sweet niece Evie turned 1 today, so we celebrated with a big party for her over the weekend. She’s such a joyous little angel, and it was wonderful to be able to get together with family and friends to watch her do an actual face dive straight into her precious tiny cake.

She wasn’t so sure about that cake at first, though, so she was hesitant to eat it. But she really loves food, so maybe it was because she was surrounded by a bunch of people singing to her. I’m not sure I’d be super thrilled about eating cake in front of a crowd when I wasn’t wearing a shirt, either. My brother helped her out by taking a little bite first to show her that everything was safe, and then she trusted him to feed her some, too. It wasn’t long before she was sticking her hands in there and eating the heck out of that cake.

As we stood around her and watched for a while, almost everyone with his or her phone out taking pictures and videos (it’s now hitting me how much we put kids through—and, the more adorable you are, the worse it is), I held my older niece, Olivia, so that she could see more of the action better. She kept reaching her hand out, and I asked her if she wanted cake. When she nodded yes, I tried to put her down so that she could walk up there, and she used a death grip to cling to my neck and told me that she didn’t want to go down.

I never knew how fun balloons were until Olivia came into my life.

A few minutes later, we had déjà vu all over again. I couldn’t help but wonder what made her so fearful. I asked her why she didn’t want down to go get cake, and she didn’t answer me but, instead, just buried her head in my shoulder and clung even more tightly.

I get it, sweet pea. I get scared sometimes, too.

Both of my nieces reminded me of just how huge of a role faith plays in our lives. Evie was unsure of the cake until my brother went before her and showed her that it was good. She trusts him. Olivia, who is a wild child of a free spirit but sometimes gets slightly shy when lots of people are around, wasn’t keen on the idea of going up on what looked more like a stage than a backyard porch step to eat some of a cake that her younger sister was skeptical of after the paparazzi of onlookers had just sung some strange song directed at Evie. It was safer to stay in my arms and let me get my upper body workout for the month. She trusts me.

Has there ever been something that you truly wanted to do but were afraid to take the risk because there was too much unknown involved? I’ve been there far too many times, especially when those risks involved my heart. I’ll never forget a moment I had years ago to say something bold that I let slip away faster than a future NFL Hall of Famer running the 40-yard dash at the Combine. I had feelings for a guy who was supposedly just my friend, and he had just said something that made me think there was an inkling of a chance that he could possibly feel the same way. We stared at one another for a long three-ish seconds that any romcom would have written perfectly, and I did the only thing I thought I was capable of doing: I looked down and then away.

I wasted a perfectly good opportunity to be brave because I let fear think that it has more power than it actually does.

This one also teaches me a lot about faith and not always letting yourself be comfortable.

Olivia and Evie are just little kids, so it’s perfectly understandable that they are still learning how to be brave. But I hope that I can set a good example for both of them—I’m not that same fearful girl who looks down and away. But they also continue to teach me every day what it means to have constant and complete faith.

The world and the situations we face aren’t always going to be just how we want them to be. There’s going to be hurt. There’s going to be pain. There will fear and anxiety and heartache and challenges and setbacks and so many other things that make us want to curl up in little balls and stay right where we are so that we feel completely safe and comfortable.

But comfortable doesn’t help us grow. Comfortable doesn’t challenge us. Comfortable doesn’t allow us to become the bold women and men we were always meant to be. Comfortable doesn’t help us to run full throttle toward our dreams. Comfortable doesn’t let us take the chances that we need to take and make the changes that we need to make.

And comfortable doesn’t do much other than hold us back from all of the great things our hearts have yet to encounter.

You’re never too young for lip gloss.

I know that it’s easy to cling tightly to what we know and not do what we need to do to grow and change and be brave. But what I’ve found is that it’s far better to cling tightly to the God you may not be able to see but Who is still always there and intentionally walk straight into the fear that’s in front of you. You might fall along the way. You might fail. You might end up with a completely different outcome than you ever imagined. But, whatever happens, I can tell you with certainty that it’s worth it—it’s worth it to take the risk instead of looking back years later and wishing that you had. Remind yourself now that YOU CAN DO HARD THINGS, and please believe it with your whole heart.

Because you matter enough to challenge what’s comfortable and trust a God who will never leave you or let you down.

Sometimes you need to throw stuff

When life gets tough, there are times when perhaps all you want to do is throw birthday cake to the ground.

And sometimes you actually need to do that.

I aged another year yesterday, and I met up at Eatzi’s with my friend Betsy so we could catch up for a bit. I’m dealing with some stuff I don’t want in my life right now, and I told her before I ended the day that I wanted to throw a piece of birthday cake to the ground. She bought me a piece of cake from Eatzi’s and said we should carry out the plan at the pumpkin patch we were about to go to.

She has a great thought process.

When we got to the pumpkin patch, I didn’t think it was the best idea to throw the cake there—the people in charge looked way too nice for us to pollute their gourd grounds. The “Fossil Fest” across the parking lot, however, appeared to be the perfect place.

Betsy found her ideal pumpkin, bought him and put him in the car, and then we made our way to the Fossil Fest, though we still had no idea what such a thing actually entailed. (I only found two plastic bones on the ground while we were there, so maybe it was some type of treasure hunt. I’m still pretty uncertain.) We spotted a creek that looked like a great place to throw some cake, so I made the short trek down to the rocks.

I then wished the ground a happy birthday and gave it the “Tower of Power” cake slice from Eatzi’s.

It was a good moment, and I think it made both of us feel a little better for at least a brief time. While I’d prefer beating the crap out of a piñata—I mean, you get to take frustration out on something that’s created to be destroyed, and then you get candy—throwing cake on the ground was quite arguably one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long time.

Later that day, I was walking up the sidewalk to my parents’ house to watch the Cowboys game with them, and I saw a dad with his three children out for a walk and inspecting the grass. One of the little boys started talking to me about his swimming endeavors (HE’S OFF THE FLOATIES, PEOPLE!), and then his brother came over and told me that he was really sad. I asked him why, and he explained that a ladybug had landed on him, and that made him really happy, but then it opened its wings and “fell” (translation: flew away), and that made him really sad.

I hear ya, bro.

Sometimes the things we want to happen in life—like catching ladybugs—don’t happen, and we get upset. It hurts, and there might not be much we can do to make the pain go completely away. I sure hope that little boy finds some birthday cake to throw to the ground soon.

We met a scarecrow AND got stickers.

I know the difficult times in life don’t last forever, but they feel like they do when you’re in the midst of them. That’s when you need people like Betsy and others in your tribe to stick with you and even buy you cake that’s only going to be mutilated on rocks in a creek.

You might have some lost ladybug sadness every once in a while, and that’s OK. But you have to find what helps you keep your head up when you’re not sure you can. For me, it was throwing something to the ground.

Because, like humans, I think the ground needs some cake every now and then.

Forever and always

On this day 29 years ago, I gained a best friend I should have treated better during our younger days.

Because she is the greatest thing that ever happened to the 90s.

My sister’s first car was one of the coolest rides I wasn’t able to drive (because I will likely never be able to master the art of driving a standard). It was a black Jeep Wrangler that we affectionately called the BK (Big Killa). I loved when we went places together in that car. Riding in the BK made a person feel like a Hollywood star (or maybe it just made us feel that way—whatever).

I will never forget one afternoon, my sister and I were cruising around our town with the top down and the sun beating down on us. We were belting our hearts out—most likely to the stellar Michelle Branch—when out of nowhere, it started pouring. I’m not talking an exaggeration of a little downfall. I’m talking POURING. The sun was still out, and the top was still down. Needless to say, we were soaked. As a girl who is pretty shallow about her hair, this would normally not be an ideal situation for me. But, to be honest, in this instance I really didn’t care much—because of my sister. She was laughing, and I started laughing. It only rained for a couple of minutes, and then we were just two girls who were sopping wet and driving around town singing. And so sopping.

My sister is one of those people who makes the rain more enjoyable.

forever and always collage

The Runt is 29 today. If you had asked me 29 years ago just how much that little girl would have impacted my life, my 2-year-old self would simply have no idea. I never would have admitted this when we were little kids, but she has always been my best friend. Even when we fought like crazy at times, I never could stay mad at her. She just makes you feel better simply by being around her.

Back in February, I had been thinking about something for a while, so I texted my sister to see if she had ever thought about getting a tattoo. The next thing I knew, the following Sunday we were on our way to a tattoo place and getting inked. I got the word “forever,” and she got “always,” both in Greek. I don’t care how cheesy it sounds, but we’re sisters forever and always, always and forever. Plus, it was one more special thing we did together, and it’s kind of permanent, so it was a pretty solid sisterly bonding activity.

There have been tattoos; there have been arguments; there has been laughter; there has been crying; there has been silliness; there have been deep discussions; there has been sitting on the front porch with golf clubs when we were home alone and thought we heard something in the closet; there have been pep talks; and there’s still so much more to come.

I think back to that Jeep story a lot and smile every single time. There have been quite a few rain storms in my life, and my sister has been there for every single one. She was the one who left work in the middle of the day (it’s harder to do than you might think when you’re a teacher) and rushed to the hospital to be with me when I had kidney stones earlier this year. She’s always the one to tell me guys are stupid (or other mean adjectives) when they don’t like me. She was the one to run in with me and cross the finish line with me at my second marathon when I was in an obvious amount of pain. She is the one I call when I am on the verge of tears and need my sister to tell me it’s OK to cry.

I know you might not have a sister. You might not have a brother. You might not be close with your siblings. But I hope that you have someone in your life who makes the rain storms better. I don’t believe we were meant to be hermits and go through life alone. We have people around us for a reason. Hold on to the gems—the ones who know you and truly care about you.

They are the ones who are forever and always.

A beautiful day, indeed

I’ve learned how important it is not to take people for granted.

Especially family.

I know I have talked about how wonderful my mom is before, but today is her birthday, so I’m doing it again–and I’m not sorry about it.

One thing I’ve realized about my mom is that she is one of the reasons I love love so much, because she is a true model of what real love is and what real love does. I didn’t always pay attention like I should as a kid, because I was too busy worrying about the things I thought were the most important things in the world. And, sadly, none of those things even matter anymore.

Happy birthday, Mom!

When we were growing up, my mom worked at a preschool for many years. At one point, we only had one family car, and so my mom rode her bike to work almost every single day. During those years, she worked some part-time jobs, too, all to ensure that we could take part in all of the activities we wanted to and have everything we needed without having to worry about not being able to afford them. Then she went back to school and not only earned her bachelor’s degree but got a master’s, as well. (After I started teaching, I went back and took night classes to get my master’s. I cannot even imagine doing that while also having to take care of three kids and be a wife. I have no idea how she did that–and never once complained.) I will always remember the smile on her face when she walked across that graduation stage, and I think her joy was found more in her family being there rather than a diploma she was receiving.

She’s now a kindergarten teacher, and I truly believe it takes a very special person to be able to do that job every day. And my mom is the perfect person for it. Her patience is something I strive to achieve in my own life but usually fail. I mean, I’ve never seen her be mean to anyone. Ever. She just really gets what life is about, and she never lets pride get in the way of treating people kindly.

I’ll never forget when I was a sophomore in college and had to go to the hospital for pancreatitis. I didn’t let my roommate call my parents until I knew it was something serious, and I think she ended up calling them when I was drugged up with IV pain meds and not aware of anything that was going on around me. Before I knew it, my mom and sister were suddenly in my room at 2 a.m. or some ridiculous time like that. They had driven the three hours late at night simply because they cared. My sister ended up catching a ride home with a family friend the next day, because she had to go back to school, but my mom stayed with me for all four or five days that I was there. She always made sure the nurses were in my room the instant I needed them, and she even slept on some tiny, uncomfortable chair the first couple of nights until the hospital provided a bed for her. But she wasn’t even worried about any of that, because I don’t think she even knows how to put herself before anyone else–she always thinks of others first. Always.

I know moms often make sacrifices for their kids, but there were so many, and she never once acted like she was inconvenienced. And when she forgives, she forgives completely and never ever brings up the wrongs again. She also has so much strength and determination and never believes when people tell her something can’t be done–she’s full of too much hope for that.

She’s also taught me so much about staying young at heart. She’s the type of person who will climb trees with you, go on froyo dates with you, skydive with you (she did so with my brother), watch Gilmore Girls or One Tree Hill with you, dance with you (she owns the dance floor), be part of the Boot Scarf Club with you, take selfies with you, and wave dive in the ocean with you like you’re little kids. She loves to enjoy life with the people she loves–and her genuine joy is contagious.

I could go on and on about this woman and her beautiful heart. There are so many things about her that I try to make sure are reflected in me. She makes it look so easy, though. How is it that in the 30 years I’ve been on this earth I’ve never heard her say one bad thing about anyone? It’s because she always lets love win.

And, on her birthday, I can’t help but quote this woman and mean it will all of my heart: “It’s a beautiful day!”