When people truly care for each other

When you genuinely care about someone, there’s an unspoken trust and assurance that you would do whatever is in your power to love and protect that person.

Especially when it comes to matters of the heart.

My two nieces are two of my best friends. I would do absolutely anything for those little gems, and I can’t even accurately describe the amount of joy that fills my heart each time I get to spend precious moments with them. I’ve talked before about how much Olivia changed my life when she was born three years ago, and both of them continue to impact me in more ways than I can explain.

They’re the actual cutest.

I was recently at their house watching a fairy movie with them, and Olivia was sitting in my lap because she had hurt her foot. Sweet little Evie has taken up pinching as a new hobby and began pinching and slapping my legs. She’s too cute for me to get upset about it, and it didn’t actually hurt, but I also don’t want her pinching and hitting other people because her aunt let her do it, so I reminded her that it’s not nice to do so.

And then something happened that made me actually want to cry.

Olivia began defending me and putting her hands and arms and legs and everything she could between Evie’s tiny hands and my legs. (Precious Evie thought it was a game and began giggling and trying to get around Olivia.) When Evie slapped my knees, Olivia would kiss them to try to make them better. I put my hand to my heart to see if it was still functioning properly because I thought maybe it had actually melted. Once again, even though I’m the adult, that adorable little human took care of me.

There’s something about genuine love that changes people.
That heals people.
That gives hope to people.
That removes doubt.
That removes fear.
That wipes away tears.
That reminds the heart why it beats.

We aren’t anyone else’s opinion of us.

There are far too many ways that people in this world can feel neglected and unloved. While we may have people in our lives who will help shield us from pinching and slapping, there are times when we’ll feel much more exposed to people’s words and actions that hurt our hearts more than anything else. What’s important to remember in those moments, though, is that we aren’t other people’s opinions of us.

Which is something you might need to remind yourself of often if you use a dating app.

A month or so ago, I went out with a guy who said he wanted to go out again and then texted me the same thing later, and then I never heard from him again. But I’m not his opinion of me. I once had a guy find out that I don’t drink, and he said “hard pass” on me. But I’m not his opinion of me. I’ve been ghosted more than once. But I’m not their opinions of me. My friend was downright stood up and never heard from the guy who was supposed to me her. But she’s not his opinion of her.

Just like you aren’t anyone else’s opinion of you.

This pic is super old, but it always reminds me how loved and cared for I truly am.

It feels nice when people show you that they care about you, which is another reason why I think it’s so essential that we show people that we care about them—so that they know without a doubt that they are valued, that they are loved, and that they matter. When I was talking to my students last week about respecting one another, I reminded them that it takes a lot less energy to be kind to someone than it does to be mean. I don’t even know if that’s scientifically accurate, but it makes sense to me, so that’s what I told them. Sure, sometimes showing you care takes effort, but like my mom told me, the more you do it, the more natural it becomes to you.

As I sat there the other day with Olivia on my lap, I realized that the way she defended me is the way Jesus defends me every day. He swoops in and heals my wounds and genuinely cares about and loves me. Does that mean that pain won’t ever happen and that broken hearts will mend as quickly as I want them to? As much as I wish that were the case, no. But it does mean that I can live with the certainty that He’s always fighting for me, and my identity is found in Him—not in other people or in what they think of me.

And that’s all the assurance that I’ll ever need.

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.

Because it takes more than time to heal a heart

The great Selena Gomez once said that “the heart wants what it wants.”

And then sometimes the heart wants what it needs.

When I moved out to California last September, I had no idea how much I would come to love this place and all of the people in it. It took a little while, but it slowly and quickly (it’s weird to explain) became rather apparent that I’m exactly where I’m meant to be.

In the fall of 2017, I wasn’t having the best year. I had just had my third kidney surgery of the year after months and months of constant pain and discomfort, and to top it off, I was still trying to get through the worst broken heart I’ve ever had. To be perfectly honest, that heart thing was actually a lot worse than all of the kidney stuff.

When I realized that God was calling me to California, I was reluctant at first. I didn’t want to leave my people and the city I’d known and loved for my entire life. It felt comfortable and safe. When I finally accepted that this is what He wanted me to do, I tried to get excited for a new adventure. It all happened so quickly, and I didn’t have much time to get really sentimental about much. Shortly after I moved out here, though, I had plenty of time for that—and I gave in.

These girls are proof that the next generation is full of greatness.

I eventually told myself that God probably just brought me out here to heal my heart, and I would be able to return to Dallas in a year or less. While I do think that God knew exactly what He was doing bringing me out here—and perhaps healing really was part of it—that mindset that I had limited the scope of just how capable He is and how much more He wanted to give me.

People often say that “time heals all wounds,” and I’m sure that time has something to do with it, but I think that there are so many more factors that can help you forget about all of the pain that ensues when you’ve been hurt badly by someone you thought cared about you. When things like that happen, I think that God puts certain people in your life to help remind you that you are worth so much more than someone’s feelings (or lack thereof) for you.

We’re both thankful that “Jurassic World” isn’t a reality.

I lead a group of high school girls at my church, and last Friday night was a “red carpet” event that a few of them had planned together. They came up with the idea themselves and then spent months putting it together to make sure that everything went smoothly and was a nice welcome for the upcoming freshmen. I AM STILL SO FREAKING PROUD OF THEM! The entire night was a blast, and it brought so much joy to my heart to see how excited and happy they were. Toward the end of the night, I looked around the room and thought to myself “yeah, I’m going to be alright.”

That’s not to say that I won’t ever think about homeboy or won’t feel twinges of hurt if a memory pops into my heart, but it does mean that I’ve got plenty in my life to find joy in to help drown out any pain still lingering.

Celine has always reminded me that my heart will go on.

If you’re a living, breathing human, you’re likely going to face some type of heartache in life. If you don’t, well, you probably won’t ever have Nicholas Sparks write a novel reflecting your life. When it happens, know that there’s no specific timeline for how long it takes to heal—it’s different for everyone, and it may take you way longer than you thought it would. But, during that time, it’s important to let those people who would fight for you be there for you and let you cry or throw rocks or be goofy or do whatever when you need to—and who will do those things right alongside you just to make sure you’re doing what you need to heal. Those gems are keepers for sure.

We have limited time here on earth, but we sure do get a lot of opportunities to spend that time with people. Don’t be afraid to let them love you, and don’t be afraid to love them right back.

Your heart will thank you.

Because we live in the present, not the past

There are a lot of things I want to make sure I avoid doing in life so that I can truly be the kind of person I hope to be.

And that includes not living in the past.

Memories are sometimes wonderful, and they are also sometimes very painful. Either way, they are events that already happened, and we can never go back to those exact moments in our lives—we can’t make the great ones happen all over again just as they did, and we can’t erase those hurtful instances that we wish had never occurred and now live in our minds and hearts forever.

There are some things about my past that I don’t like to talk about or think about too often (or at all, actually), but I recently was asked to share my story with my community group at church, and what I didn’t want to resurface is part of my story and has helped mold me into the person I am today. And, while it’s OK to talk about memories—whether they are filled with joy or full of heartache—I think it’s much more important to live in the moments you have now and not dwell on those you can never get back.

This has been a big focus for me lately because I feel like I’ve started a completely new life, which I guess I kind of have in a way. Moving to California wasn’t something I was expecting to do, and I left my entire life and all of my people back in Dallas. I’m not going to lie—when I first moved out here, it was pretty tough. If you had asked me a month or two ago, I would have said I’m absolutely moving back to Dallas as soon as my lease is up in the fall. One year would be plenty.

Like Elsa said, “the past is in the past.” My present involves sitting on lifeguard towers by the ocean, and I’m happy about that.

But now I feel settled and at home, and I’ve really started to get connected at my church and with a community of people around me. I get to lead a small group of high school girls each Sunday night, I tutor high school kids on Wednesdays after work, I’m plugged in to a community group, I’ve made friends through flag football, and I even found a solid group of girls I’m able to run with on Monday evenings. I’ve grown to love this place and the people in it.

Sure, I still love Dallas and all of my people there, but I’ve learned that I can’t live there when I don’t actually live there. For a while right after the move, I kept having FOMO (it’s SO real, people) about so much that was going on with my friends and at my old job, and I wondered if I had made a huge mistake by leaving it all behind.

But then I remembered that God called me out here—and He doesn’t make mistakes.

I’m still able to FaceTime with my family members and have phone dates with my friends, but I can’t be at all of the events they are and be part of all of the memories they’re making without me. And that’s OK. I’m in California now, and I’m surrounded by beauty all around me, including new friendships and opportunities—and this is where I need to be. You truly can’t be two places at once (if you don’t believe me, ask Cory Matthews or Fred Flintstone), and it’s silly to try. Besides, how can you genuinely enjoy where you are and what you’re doing if you’re not actually completely present?

I’ve also had to remind myself about this more than once lately when it comes to those painful feelings that result from a broken heart. What happened happened, and there’s nothing I can do about it now. I can’t change anything I said (although I don’t regret pouring out my heart, even if it was scary and didn’t end the way romcoms do), and I certainly can’t change anything he said or did—or didn’t say or do.

But I can change my heartset now (I can’t remember if I told y’all about the word I made up—or maybe other people say it, too—for people who tend to think with their hearts more than their minds). I can still have hope that I won’t experience heartache for the rest of my life, and I can still have hope that one day I will find someone who loves me for the person I am and doesn’t want to chase after other things, instead.

In our own ways, we all have brokenness, and we may have things from our pasts that we don’t like to think about or maybe don’t even want other people to know. And we also probably all have some really great recollections in our lives that we wish we could hold onto forever and maybe even be in those moments again (think Uncle Rico in Napoleon Dynamite).

We are where we are for reasons we may or may not know right now (or ever, maybe), but I fully know in my heart that everything happens with purpose. Each moment you have is special in that you will never get it back. Whether it hurts to the point of making you ugly cry or brings so much happiness to your heart that you can hardly contain your joyful feelings, you’ll never have that same moment again. You don’t need to go back to it over and over again. You don’t need to keep hoping it will return and last forever. You don’t need to beat yourself up and constantly wish that it had never happened. You don’t need to let it hold you back from doing the things you know you’re meant to do. You simply need to be fully where you are now—be present in your present.

It’s the only way you’ll do anything worth remembering someday.

When you love like your heart has never been broken

I love how people can create works of art that touch your heart and make you truly think or feel in remarkable ways.

And I really love when they come in the form of song lyrics.

Thankfully, I found a country music station out here that plays not only the current hits but also some from previous eras of my life—you know, like 90s Shania Twain and Faith Hill and some of the classics by George and Garth. But I still love many of the popular songs that are out there now, so I appreciate the variety this station brings. There’s a song I love by Old Dominion called “No Such Thing As a Broken Heart,” and it really spoke to me the other day in a way that was more than me simply singing along to a catchy tune—the lyrics hit me right in the gut of my heart the way most Taylor Swift songs do.

The chorus goes a little something like this:

‘Cause you can’t keep the ground from shaking
No matter how hard you try
You can’t keep the sunsets from fading
You’ve gotta treat your life like
You’re jumping off a rope swing, baby
‘Cause the whole thing’s really just a shot in the dark
You’ve gotta love like there’s no such thing as a broken heart
You’ve gotta love like there’s no such thing as a broken heart

As I was driving home from work one day last week and listening to these words, I began to wonder if I live like that—like no past hurts could ever get in the way of the things I say and do now when it comes to matter of the heart.

Just driving and listening to this solid jam (I’m pretty sure I was at a stoplight)

I honestly think that answer has sort of changed over time. If you had asked me when I was in college, I would have told you that I was still afraid to open my heart to anyone because I went through all of high school thinking that no boy would ever love me. That feeling came as a result of one boy wanting to make fun of me when he found out I had a crush on him, another getting my hopes up that he was going to ask me to prom but then went with another girl, and another boy spending a lot of time with me and sparking feelings in my heart while he was simultaneously chasing another girl.

And those are merely a few examples.

I think that I would have had a similar opinion right out of college, too. There was a guy who was one of my really good friends, and when another friend of mine let it slip that I had feelings for him, everything changed, and our friendship eventually faded like an image in your rearview mirror. It gave me the mindset that I was always going to get burned if I ever even started to think that love might actually come my way. I figured it was best always to hide my feelings and try to bury them before they ever became too real.

Then, in my late 20s, I fell for a guy to whom I gave my first kiss away (yes, I waited a very long time for that), and I let myself hope it might have actually meant something to him. I’m not sure if it did, but he moved away, led me on for a little while, and then stopped talking to me. I know it was for the best—he wasn’t the right person for me—but it still hurt.

Somewhere along the way, though, I decided none of that stuff in the past mattered. I’ve learned to be somewhat braver when it comes to sharing my heart, and I hope I can continue to do that in the future, even after my most recent heartache that topped them all. I know that all of the crud we experience in life is with purpose, so I have to believe that the pain from rejection and crushed hopes is making me stronger and getting me ready for whatever it is that’s ahead of me in life—whether that’s alone or with someone else.

I really like Old Dominion’s comparison: You’ve gotta treat your life like you’re jumping off a rope swing, baby, ’cause the whole thing’s really just a shot in the dark. It really is true—we have no clue what’s ahead of us, but sometimes you simply have to leap and be ready for wherever it is you land and for whatever ends up happening. It’s often difficult for me to accept that I don’t live in a romantic comedy, and the plot isn’t always going to end up with the ending I dream up in my head, but I have to brace myself for reality.

Do I still want that moment in a parking lot in the pouring down rain when I’m pouring my heart out to the guy who stole my heart, and he actually feels the same, and then we have that dramatic kiss moment? Absolutely.

And I can’t let any former heart-shattering moments change that.

I still believe in fairy tales and epic love stories. I believe in true love. I believe in people being meant for each other. I believe in wishing on shooting stars and dandelions for the simple reason that you have hope in your heart for something special. I believe in letting someone know how much you care, even if it means facing rejection. I believe in finding that one person who makes your heart beat wildly out of control and makes you forget about everyone and everything.

And I believe in loving like there’s no such thing as a broken heart.