When you go for it

I love when football teams go for two-point conversions.

Sure, you could get the easy extra point, but why not get two the hard way, instead?

I went to Chicago over the weekend, where it was much colder than what I define as freezing in Texas—and the locals tried to tell me that it was a good thing I came when it had warmed up. The high was 35, people. Where’s the warm in that?

Chicago is cool but so very cold. At least I got to see sweet Elle!

When I went running Saturday morning, it was 30 degrees with some wet streets from the melted snow. Unfortunately, that meant that I had to pay a lot more attention to each step I took, because there were random patches of ice all over the place. I had come prepared with my ski mittens and warm clothes, so the run actually ended up being pretty nice.

As I was making my way back to my hotel, I ran past two bundled-up men walking to a bus stop, and one of them offered me a bit of encouragement: “Go for it, girl!” I really appreciate when people cheer each other on, whether it’s in sports or simply life in general, so I’m very grateful for that man.

And he reminded me how I want to continue to live.

I probably wouldn’t make a great head football coach. There’s a lot of strategy in the game that I would likely want to throw out the window when it came to fourth-down situations. I would want to go for it as often as possible, putting complete trust in my players to get the job done. (Although, according to this article, it looks like some coaches are embracing my beliefs.)

I’m not exactly sure why, but I’m fascinated by public transportation. Like, I freaking love it. I became a user of the “L” train (which I’ve wanted to ride ever since I saw this classic Oscar-worthy movie) while I was in Chicago, and I’m going to be perfectly honest with you: I felt pretty darn cool riding that thing. I felt so city. I can’t wait to go to New York City one day and spend some time on the subway.

I had downloaded an app that tracks the “L” and tells you when one of the trains will arrive at whatever station you specify. I was on my way to the station near my hotel and getting closer, but Google Maps said that I was six minutes away, while the train app was telling me that the next train would arrive in four minutes. No bueno. I had somewhere I needed to be and didn’t want to be late, but I felt a little defeated. But then I thought of the man I saw on my run.

Go for it, girl.

I heart Lake Michigan.

I started running, which was challenging in all of my layers and the boots I was wearing at the time. As you know, boots are made for walking, not running. I darted to a ticket kiosk as soon as I got to the station and quickly punched all of 14 thousand necessary buttons to charge my card. I grabbed the ticket and dashed through the gates toward the escalator, which just happened to be broken—OF COURSE IT WAS. I hustled up the stagnate metal steps, and just as I made it to the top, the trains doors were closing (it had arrived a minute early).

It was time for my movie moment.

I yelled “NOOOOOO, WAIT!!!!” as I ran toward the train, and I guess the driver must have seen me and felt a little gracious, because the doors suddenly opened as I made somewhat of a dramatic entrance and found an open seat. It was a nice moment that made me smile.

There are plenty of risks in life and too many setbacks and obstacles to count to go along with them, but there are often greater reasons to go after what you know in your heart you’re meant to go after.

It might be 4th and inches or 4th and long—sometimes you simple need to go for it. Submit the application. Send the text. Register for the race. Go talk to that cutie across the room. Book the trip. Sign up for the class. Address the issue. Audition for the production. Go on the date. Sing out loud. Say what’s on your heart. Dance. Ask the question. Tell your fears “no,” and do the thing you know you’re meant to do.

Go for it.

Trying to be a good role model for these angels

I spent far too many years being hesitant and thinking that I wasn’t good enough or pretty enough or whatever enough to take big risks. I can say with complete certainty that life is much more enjoyable when you’re confident enough to know that, even if things don’t pan out the way you hoped they would, at least you were brave enough to try.

Don’t let fear hold you back from anything. Look it straight in the face, and say “not today, not any day.” Then go for it, my friend. You’ll likely be glad you did.

And you just might find that you’re much more capable of doing the hard things than you ever imagined.

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.

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.

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.

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.

When you stop asking “why me?”

As little kids, we constantly ask why many things are the way they are.

Whether we realize it or not, though, we don’t truly change that habit when we’re adults.

Last Friday was not the best day of my life. When I woke up, my right eye was bothering me and had some weird goop coming out of it. Since I moved back to Texas a month ago, I’ve been having weird allergy issues that I didn’t have before I was in California. I figured those allergies were now getting to my eyes, so I put my contacts in and went running. The right eye was leaking weird stuff most of the run, but I thought it would be best to ignore it—I didn’t have time to deal with it.

I briefly glanced in the mirror after I showered and got dressed for work, and I couldn’t decide which looked worse: my hair that I hadn’t washed in seven or eight days (I know—gross) or the eye that was still goopy and getting redder by the second. It also hurt, and if I’m being honest, I had a slight irrational fear that it was simply going to fall out. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t Google how much glass eyes cost. I started thinking of Captain Ron and all of the jokes I could make, but then the fun stopped when I got into my car.

The battery was dead. Perfect.

I stopped the first cute guy I saw in my parking garage (JK—he was actually the first person I saw, but he was for sure a good-looking fella) and asked him if he had jumper cables, but he did not. He came over to look at my car and told me what I already knew: “Yeah, it sounds like the battery.” No kidding, Sherlock. I called Triple A and then had to go get a new battery. By the time I finally made it to work SUPER LATE, I had forgotten that I still had an eye filled with puss and pain until I went into the restroom and saw myself in the mirror. One of my coworkers said it looked like I had pink eye, so then I was sent to work from home since it spreads rather easily.

Pink eye is an evil beast. Also, the picture doesn’t do it justice.

I stopped by an urgent care on the way home, and the doctor there gave me the official diagnosis and a prescription for some antibiotic drops. Here’s one of the big problems with pink eye: It’s highly contagious and shows no mercy on its victims. Because I didn’t know I had it for most of the morning, I hadn’t been careful not to touch my left eye after rubbing my right. It wasn’t long before that same nasty goop was filling up my left eye, as well. By the end of the day, I had two disgusting eyes competing for the title of most painful and obnoxious. I hate you, pink eye. And I mean that. (Also, I didn’t think this was a thing adults get. I’m 34, not 7.)

When I woke up on Saturday morning, for a brief moment, I thought I had gone completely blind. I started trying to figure out how I was going to live the rest of my life with no sight. When my dramatic reaction ended, it took me probably six minutes or so to be able to get my eyes completely open. They were so crusted and dried shut that I’m surprised that I still have any lashes left. I went to look in the mirror, and the shallow part of me almost burst into tears.

You know the scene in Hitch when Will Smith has an allergic reaction, and his whole face swells up and becomes deformed? That’s basically what I saw when I looked at my reflection. My eyes were so completely swollen that I wasn’t recognizable. I didn’t even look like a real human. Thankfully, my eyes were also too swollen and nasty for me to be able to muster up any tears, so I just stared at myself for a few seconds in disbelief until I decided that I needed to go running. I figured that would help the swelling go down.

I essentially had to quarantine myself for most of the weekend, which was slightly depressing (but, as my sister pointed out, considering my lack of rest in the last few weeks, probably a little needed). I slept quite a bit and caught up on laundry—mainly because I needed to decontaminate everything that had come in contact in some form or another with my poisonous eyes.

As I was sitting at home and admittedly moping a bit, I remember making a comment when I was talking out loud to myself about how I felt like Job from Scripture. DRAMA QUEEN MOMENT. I had to stop myself—are you freaking serious, Natalie? He had A LOT more to deal with than I did. Sure, I had pink eye and a dead battery (that was replaced) and a few other things going on that seem like they’re constant plagues in my life, but I was nowhere near as distraught as that man was.

And then I remembered my promise to myself to steer clear of the “why me?” mindset.

I have “Be brave.” tattooed on my arm because sometimes I need the reminder. It isn’t always easy.

When we face situations we don’t want to face and go through the tough things that we really don’t ever want to go through, it doesn’t do much good to sit around and ask ourselves the one question we typically want to know: “Why me?” The truth is that you may never know why what happens to you has to happen to you. Or maybe you won’t know until way later in life. But the why shouldn’t make a difference, because you’re going through it regardless, my friend.

Instead of asking why, ask yourself how—how much faith are you willing to place in a God who will never let you down? Ask yourself what—what are you going to do to be brave and fight the battle you’re facing? Ask yourself who—who do you want to be: the fearful or the fearless?

You don’t necessarily get to choose what happens to you, but you do get to choose how you respond to what you face in life. Whether it’s a dead car battery or pink eye or a much more serious illness or a broken heart or a loss or a shattered hope or an injury or a number of other things that put you in situations in which you never want to find yourself, you get to choose whether you do nothing but ask why or ask the bigger questions that you’re ultimately going to have to answer yourself.

I certainly don’t know why many things are the way they are, but I do know one thing: We were always meant to be brave.

When you’re fearless in what you want

Once again, I’ve been reminded about the importance of being brave in every aspect of life.

And, once again, a young child brought it to my attention.

“I want a hug.”

My precious niece Olivia had a cold last week, so I worked from my brother’s house for a couple of days to help take care of her. She’s a little older than 2 1/2 now, and she’s gotten really good at saying what she wants. More than once, she came up to me and said “I want a hug” and then climbed up into my lap.

My heart soared, and I melted.

Olivia knew what she wanted to comfort her when she wasn’t feeling well, and she made it known. She wasn’t afraid to be open and honest, and she does that with everything that she wants. Like when I was eating Wheat Thins and some granola and a banana, I heard that little angelic voice say “I want some.”

I started thinking about it later and wondering why it’s so simple for little kids to be so sure and assertive with the things they want and need, yet we struggle to be as open about it when we get older. Sure, there are certainly things that kids declare they want that aren’t theirs to have (no, Olivia, this is not your phone), but I still commend them for being so bold.

They are actual angels.

When you’re that young, you hear the word “no” a lot more than you ever want, but you don’t really think much of it. It’s just another “no” that you eventually forget about (even if there is an ensuing hissy fit that follows for a little bit) before the next time that you pursue your interests. You don’t overanalyze why you were rejected or let it make you feel like you’re not good enough—you simply move on and continue with your life. There might be tears, and you might need to take a moment for some uncontrollable wallowing, but you don’t let such a minor setback get you down for too long.

Why is it so much more difficult for us to go boldly after the desires of our hearts when we get older? Why do we let fears hold us back from saying what we want? Sure, just like kids, we can’t have everything we think we need, but there are certainly times when we simply need to suck it up and chase the things that set our hearts on fire.

I can think of far too many times in my life when I should have been more like Olivia—when I should have said what was in my heart instead of shying away from declaring words that never actually made it into the air for anyone to hear. But that was years ago, and I’m way past done being the girl who’s too afraid.

As my girl Jess said in New Girl, “What’s wrong with a girl that’s fearless?”

Minus her choice of pronoun, I’m completely with Jess. There’s nothing wrong with a girl who chooses to be brave.

I wanted a pic with Dirk, so I asked to borrow a stranger’s cutout.

Brave enough to chase her dreams.
Brave enough to speak what’s on her heart.
Brave enough to love without reservation.
Brave enough to walk with her head held high.
Brave enough to say “yes” when she means it.
Brave enough to say “no” when she means it.
Brave enough to look fear in the face and say “not today.”

I hope that Olivia grows up to be an even braver woman than she is now and never lets fear keep her from taking chances that she knows she needs to take. And I hope that you don’t, either. No, you can’t always get what you want, but it’s often better to take the risk than to sit back and be far too content with what’s merely comfortable. Do you want the job? Apply for it. Do you want the raise? Ask for it. Do you want to get to know the guy at the gym you always see and think is cute? Ask him out. Do you finally want to say “I love you” out loud? Let the words leave your mouth. Do you want to dance your heart out? Get out on that dance floor, and let loose. You do you, sister, and don’t worry about what other people think or say about you.

Because there’s nothing wrong with a girl who’s fearless.

When doing the brave thing means going home

We’re often called to step outside of our comfort zones, which sometimes means physically moving to entirely new places without knowing how long we’ll be there.

And then sometimes we’re called back home.

When I moved out to California a little more than a year and a half ago, I had no idea what was in store for me. I simply knew that God was calling me out here, and I didn’t know what else to do but to trust that He had something planned that I didn’t know about yet but would soon find out. There were certainly moments of doubt and fears and uncertainties when I first got out here, but He constantly reminded me that He was in control, and I didn’t need to worry about anything. More than once, I heard His voice assure me of a truth that has always been true but became much more real in my life since leaving Dallas.

Trust Me—I’ve never once failed you, and I won’t start letting you down now.

I mean, how could I not love it here?

Truth be told, I’ve loved my time in Orange County. The beach is my place of peace, and there’s so much nature surrounding you and so many wonderful things to do outside (I LOVE hiking and walks on the boardwalk). Sure, the culture is much different than what I was always accustomed to in Dallas, but it’s good to be exposed to lifestyles that aren’t the same as ours. But even after making some lifelong friends and trying to make California feel more like an actual home, it’s never felt that way. Despite people welcoming me into their lives (and me sometimes inviting myself in), I’ve still always felt like an outsider. I tried to convince myself that I could live here forever, but I think somewhere in my heart was always the longing to be back in Dallas with my family and all of my people.

Back in November, I started feeling pretty homesick. I remembered that same feeling the year before, so I told myself that it was just the holiday season stirring up some emotions, and I simply needed to get through the next couple of months to feel normal again. But I think that I knew deep down that there was more to it than that. There was an ache for my family that I had never felt so strongly, and there was a tugging at my heart telling me to go back home.

Home—where we’ve always been told is where are hearts are.

I did the only thing that made sense to me: I prayed. And then I reached out to some of my trusted prayer warriors so that they could pray alongside me, as well. I still didn’t feel a complete peace about anything yet, though. I didn’t know what to do, and I didn’t want to let emotions cause me to make a decision that didn’t need to be made yet. Uprooting my life in California and moving back across the country wasn’t exactly a simple thing that I could undo if I thought it was the wrong choice, so I wanted to make sure that those feelings were valid and meant something more.

I’ll never forget the morning when everything became completely clear to me. I was at work and had too much on my mind at the time. I felt overly conflicted and stressed, and I silently cried out to the only One who could help me.

“God, I need You to tell me what to do. When You called me out to California, You made it completely clear that it’s what I was supposed to do. I need You to do that again. I need You to let me know if I’m supposed to go back to Dallas now or if I’m just feeling a bunch of emotions. Please just show me exactly what You want me to do.”

Less than two hours later, I was reading Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst (a book I highly recommend, by the way) at lunch, when everything became so entirely real and true, and all of the haze and confusion from the past few weeks disappeared. There’s a part in the book when Lysa is trying to talk herself into jumping from a pole in one of those obstacle things in which you’re harnessed in and attempting to grab a bar hanging in the air after your leap. Her feet weren’t moving, so her friend Bob Goff (also another amazing author) came alongside her and finally said the thing that gave her the courage she had been trying to find all along: “You’re absolutely loved. Whenever you’re ready, jump.”

As soon as I read that line, I once again heard that voice that has guided me and comforted me through so much already: There’s your answer, my sweet girl. It’s time.

There was suddenly a quietness that came over me, and I breathed out all of the anxieties that had been haunting me for those past few weeks. If I’m being perfectly honest, though, there was also a little bit of fear inside of me. It wasn’t fear about having to start over yet again or leaving behind some pretty incredible people and a beautiful place of sunshine and beach days. Rather, it was a fear of failure. Did moving home mean that I wasn’t capable of living in a world of the unknown all by myself? Had I let myself down? Was it childish and wimpy to move home just because I missed my people and my place?

But then I had to stop. And breathe. And thank God again. And trust Him. I hadn’t failed. I had done the hard thing, and I had lived through it. I had enjoyed it. I had grown and learned and gained community and healed and led others and become humbled and discovered truths I had never known.

Like LeAnn Rimes, I’m staring out into the great unknown.

So much has happened in my life since I moved out to California, and I started to reflect on how God had worked in my heart and changed it in tremendous ways. As I sat in church a few weekends after that moment of clarity, I began wondering why it is I had been out here for the time I was, and then I heard that calming voice again: I’ve been training and equipping you, and now you’re ready. I don’t know exactly what that means for what’s ahead of me, but I do know that I’m excited (or “stoked,” as some of my Cali people say). I know what it looks like to be brave, and I want to live that way every chance I get.

There are a great deal of unknowns right now, and that’s OK. I didn’t meet the man who will be my forever guy while I was out here (sorry for those of you who were hoping for that), and my career future is definitely still a mystery (especially since I’m walking away from a job I love and some truly incredible coworkers), but I know and trust that He knows what He’s doing. It’s going to be tough to leave my people here, and I have no clue what the future holds, but I know Who holds it, and I’m thankful that He’s taking me back to Texas to be closer to Mare and Skipper and Steffie Robyn and Broski and Teddy and Katie and Livs and Evie and so many others.

We all have different paths and journeys we take in life, and they won’t all look the same. They shouldn’t. In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy said the following: “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.” I don’t completely agree with that, though. I think that sometimes you have to allow yourself to step outside of your comfort zone to learn and grow and become the person you were always meant to be. It might lead you right back to your backyard, but at least you stepped out to somewhere new and allowed yourself to be braver than you thought you could be.

Dorothy was right about the “no place like home” thing, though.

Because change and failure are inevitable

You often hear people say that change is hard—and it certainly is at times—but I think there are moments when you feel its impacts more powerfully than you thought possible.

Like when you’re at a roller skating rink.

It’s been raining an absurd amount in Orange County lately, and I’m not a fan at all. I require much more sunshine and far less humidity and wetness than we’ve experienced in the past month or so in order to function properly. I usually like to do things outside on the weekends (like hang out at the beach, go hiking in the canyons, ride the ferry and walk around Balboa Island, etc.), but those outdoor activities have been rather limited recently.

Sk8er girlz

My friend Monique and I had originally planned to go on a walk on the boardwalk Saturday, but constant downpours prevented that from happening. We were trying to decide what to do, and I suggested that we hit up a local roller skating rink. I mean, what else would two single girls do on such a dreary Saturday than put on some roller skates and relive the glory days of youth? I’ve actually gone to quite a few in my adult years, but it had definitely been a while, and I figured that it would be a fun thing to do on a rainy weekend day.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one who thought so. The place was PACKED. I don’t recall ever seeing a line out the door at any roller rink—at least not in any year after 1994 or so—so Monique and I were a little perplexed when we had to park in the parking lot next door because of the zero spots available in the rink’s lot and then wait much longer than 28 seconds to be at the front of the line.

Once we actually got inside, we immediately felt crammed. It was almost tough to breathe because there was practically no space anywhere. We laced up our rented skates in a clustered area with humid air that had the stench of a high school football locker room. When we finally got out on the rink, the process of skating was complicated by the multiple people (both adults and children) using PVC roller skating trainers to keep them from falling. To be honest, though, I really think those things made it more dangerous for everyone else.

I just landed a triple axel.

As I skated a few laps outside of the lines that the rink “referees” very strictly enforced as off-limits territory, I looked around and realized how much has changed since I was a kid. For starters, the PVC skating frame things were killing me. How are we supposed to learn if we never let ourselves fall? I understand that people don’t want to get hurt and break bones and whatnot, but can you really get that injured from falling on a surface similar to that of a gym floor. I don’t want to criticize anyone, but I also think that people are becoming too soft and overly cautious. Falling is part of life, and if you never let yourself get rid of training wheels and skating frames and bowling bumpers, you’re never going to allow yourself to grow and take chances that lead to greater things than you ever could have imagined.

Then there were the arcade games. None of them even accepts quarters. Instead, you have to have a card that you scan in order to activate the games. Maybe it’s because not many people carry cash or change around with them anymore, but it was so strange to see that putting coins in the machines wasn’t even an option. I didn’t get to play the claw game that grabs stuffed animals (I used to be really good at that one back in the day) because I wasn’t willing to go find out where and how to get one of the digital cards. I did happen to have two quarters in my pocket, though, because the lockers only take quarters to lock and get the keys out—but, unfortunately, those Washingtons are apparently useless in the arcade section.

I’m sad to admit that we didn’t last very long at the rink.

Later that day, I began thinking about how much has changed over the years—in society, in our entire world, in childhood experiences, and in my own life. Some changes are really great and easy to embrace. Others cause us emotions that aren’t so joyous and leave us anxious or upset in more ways than one. However we end up feeling as a result of those changes, though, doesn’t prevent them from happening and engraining themselves into our lives.

Trying to break into a cabinet—just a typical Friday.

And I also couldn’t stop thinking about failing and why we’re so afraid of it. I certainly don’t like failing. Just ask my coworker Barry, whose desk cabinet I tried to pick lock last Friday. He had locked his computer and coffee in there and left the key at his house, and I told him that I could get it open. I know how to pick lock a door, and I’ve opened cabinets before, as well, but this one was giving me more of a challenge than I expected. I spent nearly an hour working on that thing (I swear I’m actually a productive employee) and wasn’t able to get it open.

I felt like a complete failure—I had let both Barry and myself down.

My coworker Jim made me feel a little better later when he took a look at my unlocked cabinet and assured me that the lock was actually more complex and had some special bar, so you would essentially have to break the whole thing to get it open without the key. When I had originally suggested the breaking thing prior to speaking to Jim, Barry didn’t like the idea of me vandalizing company property. (Thankfully, his son brought him the key later in the day, so it all ended up being OK.)

I didn’t succeed at picking the lock, and I lost a bobby pin and paperclip in the process. It can also be argued that I lost an hour of work productivity, but I justified it because I think it’s important to help our friends when they need it. I’m pretty sure my boss would agree (and that’s what we’re going to continue to believe). I’m glad that I at least tried, though, even though I wasn’t completely positive of what the outcome would be going into it.

I’ve definitely had my fair share of worries and fears hold me back in the past from going after changes and things that might result in rejection or failure. I don’t want to live like that anymore, though. I want to be willing to step outside of my comfort zones and adapt to changes and learn from failures. I’ve actually had many changes in my life over the last few years, and there are certainly more on the way. I think they’ve been good for me, and I want to continue to be able to adapt to them and know that, no matter what happens, God has a plan that’s better than anything I could conjure up in my head.

And I want to know that I’m living as bravely as I can and learning from the times when I fall. Just because you fall down doesn’t mean that you’re down forever—it simply means that you’ve been given the opportunity to rise back up, dust yourself off, and give it another go.

Change is tough. Failure is probably even tougher. But they’re both inevitable. You’ll face change at some point in your life, and you’ll also fail at some point. Maybe change and failure both happen at the same time, which really isn’t a fun situation. They’re both huge aspects of life, though, and you simply have to learn how to deal with them. Sometimes you have to throw the PVC skating trainers to the side and go at it without so much hesitation. It’s how little kids learn to crawl and then walk—they fall, and then they get right back up and try again later.

I hope that you’re letting yourself learn to be comfortable with the changes you face and the failures that are possibilities in your life. The chance of failure means that there’s also the chance of success. You won’t always make it around the rink without a stumble or two, and that’s OK. The next lap could be the best one you’ve ever taken. But you won’t know unless you’re willing to get out there again and take a chance or two with the risk of failure still hanging in the air. Take on those opportunities and changes without fear—you’re braver than you think and worth believing that you’re capable of great things.

And you might find that you’re able to roll with the changes and setbacks much more boldly.

Because sometimes it’s better not to think

I’m a pretty passionate person about matters of the heart.

Especially when the heart leads you to make decisions that your head shouldn’t be deciding.

One day last week at work, my coworker and I had been working on something together, and he sent me some content to review. I made my revisions and told him that I would send it to the final person who needed to see it when I thought it was good to go. I fired it off not too long after that and let him know, and when I passed by him a few minutes later, the following exchange occurred.

Me: I sent it to him.
Him: Oh, you didn’t think very long.
Me: I didn’t need to think.
Him: Sometimes the best decisions are made that way.

Ohhhhhhh. That’s a good word, sir.

I know that this situation had to do with something at work and didn’t involve any life-altering decisions or anything like that, but what he said is so true and applicable to so many other areas of life. If you think about it, thinking about something for too long can actually ruin a decision. Like my buddy said, sometimes the best decisions are made without really thinking much—because they’re made based on what the heart feels is the best thing to do.

My friend Bear didn’t need to think about spending $27 on candy. She just did it. Genius.

There are many decisions in life that need a good amount of thought put into them. I mean, just the other day, I was with my friend Bear at an acai bowl place and had to take some time thinking about which bowl was best to get that morning. It was important to consider the ingredients and the level of satisfaction that I felt each bowl would bring me. After a couple minutes of careful thought, I made a truly wonderful decision that made my taste buds and my heart very happy.

But not everything requires you to stand in front of a menu board and analyze every aspect of every option—because sometimes you simply have to go for it without thinking.

I’d like to give a super real example from Gilmore Girls. When Rory Gilmore was trying to decide between Harvard and Yale, she made a pros and cons list. She had always dreamed of going to Harvard before she ever even visited it, but after visiting both Harvard and Yale, her heart felt more drawn to Yale. She let fears get in the way of that feeling, though, and she then tried to think about her decision too much. Lorelai ended up having to step in to make her daughter realize that she actually wanted to go to Yale more, which meant that that was the school she should choose.

This clearly involved no thought whatsoever.

I know that sometimes when we decide with our hearts or go with our gut instincts those choices don’t always end up being the best ones for us—especially when they’re choices we make because we’re blinded by feelings we have for people—but sometimes they do. And taking chances is often the only way to find out. Risks can be scary, but they can also result in some pretty incredible things.

And taking chances actually isn’t as frightening when you don’t overthink them.

I watch the NBA All-Star Game every year, and I kept that tradition alive over the weekend. The game usually involves almost a negative amount of defense, so the score is always ridiculously high (this year, Team LeBron beat Team Giannis 178-164). Despite that, it’s still a lot of fun to watch because the players are jacking up insane shots and putting on some circus-like spectacles. It’s not like baseball was up until a couple of years ago, where the game actually mattered and had home-field advantage implications during the World Series, so the players are simply having fun the entire time and putting on a show for their audience. They’re not thinking a ton—they’re just enjoying themselves and taking chances that they might not necessarily take in normal game situations.

And those chances often leave Reggie Miller saying “ooooohhhhhhh” and “daaaaaaaannngggggg” right along with the rest of us watching from home and begging for the replay.

You never have to think twice about enjoying life with forever friends.

I realize that we were given brains for a reason and that it’s good to use them. But we were also given very powerful hearts that often need to overpower the things that our brains are telling us to do. If I listened to my brain rather than my heart most of the time, I don’t think that I’d be the person I am today. I think that I would be much more fearful and much more cautious—two things I simply don’t want to be. I know what it feels like to be rejected and to have my heart broken as a result of going with my heart and not my brain. But I wouldn’t change those decisions. They’re the ones my coworker was talking about when he said that sometimes the best decisions are made without thinking.

Because if you’re constantly thinking and never simply letting your heart lead the way, how will you let yourself grow and fail and love and realize how brave you actually are?

I hope that you let yourself take chances without thinking about them too much. I hope that you let yourself pursue your dreams without always making pros and cons lists. I hope that you let yourself love others completely in big ways.

And I hope that you never let yourself think that you aren’t brave enough to take risks that come straight from your heart.