When faith trumps fear

I got a tattoo the other day, this one in my handwriting, that says a mantra that I try to live by in every aspect of my life.

“Be brave.”

I’m not going to lie—when I first moved out to California, I was certain that it was a one-year thing and that I would move back to Dallas as soon as my lease was up. I longed for the familiarity of Texas and all of my people, and I thought where I was in California was merely going to be a brief stint in my life that I could simply chalk up as “one of those adventures I just had to have.”

And God probably smiled down at me knowingly, thinking that it wouldn’t be too long before I realized that, once again, His plan was different—and better.

I’ve grown to love where I am and love the community I’ve become a part of there. I’ve gotten involved in quite a bit, and it’s definitely helped me to get to know people and build relationships. Besides, you can’t really beat being able to go to the ocean pretty much whenever you want. I honestly think this place has helped to heal my soul and the broken heart that seemed like it would never end.

Just look at her. I CAN’T EVEN.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t things I miss about the world I left last fall. My second precious niece was recently born, and I was thrilled to take a trip back to Texas to meet sweet Evelyn (“Evie”) and spend some time with my family. Before I go any further, let me rave about HOW FREAKING ADORABLE SHE IS! This isn’t a biased opinion by any means. She is seriously tied for cutest human alive (with my other niece, Olivia, of course).

As soon as I landed, I went over to my brother’s and sister-in-law’s house (they had just gotten home from the hospital), and they let me spend time over there every single day I was in town. I usually FaceTime with my brother and Olivia once a week, but it was so nice actually to be with them and read with Olivia and play games and practice saying words and give her snuggles and go to the park and do all of the things that aunts can do. I was also so grateful to be able to hold little Evie and talk to her as if she actually knows everything I’m saying.

There’s something about being an aunt that brings joy to a person’s heart. I remember when Olivia was a baby, I used to go over there once a week to hang out with her, and I would talk to her about everything going on in my life. It was during a time when that aforementioned heartache was just beginning, and she helped me through so much pain. She listened, she sympathized (at least I’m going to say that’s what it was), she cried for me (we’ll also say that’s why she was crying and not because of colic), she let me cry, and she was just there for me. She’s my little best friend, and I was so scared that moving so many miles away would change that.

Even though being back in my old middle school is always weird, I’d go anywhere with this gem.

I was also afraid that being so far away from my sister (my adult best friend) would challenge our relationship, but it hasn’t. I stayed with her and her husband while I was in town, and that walking heart of a woman let me borrow her car for the entire time I was there, no questions about it. I was able to spend so much time with her going to dinner, watching Mulan and She’s All That and The Office while relaxing on her sofa, cheering on her soccer team that she coaches (she’s the best middle school girls coach around), and watching the play version of Legally Blonde performed by a bunch of eighth-grade students. My sister is the best.

The truth is, though, that distance doesn’t have to ruin a relationship—at all. And even though it hurts to be so far from certain people, I know that I’m right where I need to be.

I love seeing Olivia interact with my brother, and I’m sure Evie will be the same. Olivia lights up whenever she sees him, says “daddy” or “dada” as often as possible, clings to him at times, and trusts him more than anything. And he loves her more than life itself. That man would move mountains for that little girl, and his love is genuine and obvious. I was sitting and watching them together the other day, and I couldn’t help but wonder why I don’t always have that childlike faith and trust in God, the Father whose love is so much greater than any human’s could ever be. Instead, I tend to think that my own ways and plans are better and would suit my life perfectly.

And I’m usually wrong.

Homies 4 lyfe

More so lately, it’s become truly apparent just how much I needed to be exactly where I am in California at this exact time. Whether it’s because I need certain surroundings or people in my life or they need me, it’s all part of a plan that I couldn’t have put together more perfectly if I had plotted it for years. He had this in store for me and knew all along what’s best, and I honestly wish that I had been more trusting. It’s something I’m working on currently.

My life might not look anything like I thought it would years ago, but that’s because it’s not supposed to. Sure, I’m still the most single person you’ll ever meet, but that’s because God has something or someone else in store for me, and I simply have to trust Him as much as Olivia trusts my brother. I have to believe that He wants the best for me because He loves me more than life itself. He would move mountains for me, and His love is genuine and obvious—even when I don’t always act like I know that’s true.

Right now, I post pictures with my friends, my nieces, my sister, my other family members, sometimes even strangers, and I often post pictures by myself. There will hopefully be a day that I become minorly annoying by posting pictures with the man I’ve been praying for all along. Until then, I’m going to let my faith and my heart grow in ways I’ve never imagined, trusting like I’ve never trusted.

And, for me, maybe that’s part of what being brave is all about.

#noregrets—advice from a guy on a plane

I know it’s trite to say, but I truly believe that everything happens for a reason.

Especially when it involves the person you sit next to on an airplane.

My friend Amanda and I went on a trip to San Diego over the weekend, and we ended up catching an earlier flight home (so that we wouldn’t get home super late on a Sunday night), so we weren’t sitting near each other on the plane. Instead, I wound up next to some guy named Chris.

I started talking to him a little before the flight took off, and we discussed a variety of different things pertaining to our individual lives. He gave me a lot of great advice, but one thing he said to me really stuck with me: When you’re young, and you’re single, let your heart take you where it needs to go—because you don’t want to look back years from now and regret that you didn’t take enough chances.

And it was exactly what I needed to hear.

(By the way, I never told homeboy I’m single. I think I just have an aura about me.)

I’ve made some recent decisions that I’m currently pursuing, and not everyone thinks they’re good ideas. For me, I firmly believe they’re right for right now. I know every decision we make—even the small ones—can impact our lives in huge ways, but sometimes the decision not to do something can be even more significant.

And I don’t want to live in regret.

I’ve mentioned before all of the times I haven’t let guys know how I feel, and I’ve never won their hearts. I’m not saying they all would have fallen madly in love with me if I had said something, but I also don’t know what would have happened—and sometimes I wonder.

What if I had taken a chance and shared my heart? What if I had been brave in a moment when I really wanted to be brave, rather than let that moment pass by? What if I had trusted my heart? What if I had done something that was not quite in the realm of the comfort zones I’m so used to at this point?

And I’m not a fan of living in the Land of What If.

Even this trip with Amanda was sort of an on-a-whim thing. I wanted a little getaway to San Diego, and she loves that city and was gung-ho about going. We somewhat spontaneously booked the flights and got the rest of the details of the trip in place. No, it wasn’t the wisest financial decision I’ve ever made, but I’m OK with that.

Because it was totally worth it.

This was right before our cartwheels in the sand. I’m pretty sure we both pulled muscles (aging sucks), but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

It’s one of those trips I’ll look back on and be really glad I took it. First, if you’ve ever spent any time with Amanda, you’d understand why. She’s one of the greatest people I know and an ideal travel buddy. Second, it was a needed escape for a little bit to somewhere I love: the beach. The beach brings me a lot of peace and clarity, especially when I can sit for a while on a lifeguard stand and just stare out at the seemingly unending ocean water (which we made sure to do on this trip, of course).

Chatting with Chris at the end of the trip was truly what I needed with my heart full of hope and mind full of anxiety that I’ve had lately. I needed the change of flights, and I needed to chat with this guy.

And I think God knew that and put us both on that particular row on that particular flight.

I will say that Chris didn’t want to be my BFF or anything—no one was sitting in the window seat (yes, Amanda and I could have sat on the same row, but discussing that would involve the angry face emoji), and he suggested I scoot over and sit there. I contend it’s because he’s a little bit of a larger man and needed more space and arm room. I mean, he gave me his business card and offered to buy me a sandwich on the plane, so I don’t think my presence or talkative personality repelled him that much.

He did, however, remind me that I definitely want to live my life without singing Hanson’s great “If Only.” You can only sit along the shoreline for so long until you realize it’s time to run into the water or do a cartwheel in it, regardless of how cold it feels.

Because sometimes that chilly water is exactly what you need to set your heart on fire.

Wisdom from a fitting room attendant

It turns out you can receive deep insight in some unlikely places.

Like the fitting room area at Nordstrom Rack.

Making decisions hasn’t always been my strong point. After all, I did go to four colleges in four years—two of them twice. There are some things that I know exactly what I want: froyo flavors, movie theater seats, guys, my go-to hairspray brand, work-related stuff, what my walk-up song would be and a number of other seemingly important things that present a variety of options. But then there are other things that cause me stress in trying to decide: which health care plan to choose, whether or not I really need everything I pick up when I’m walking through Target, how many more miles I can drive after the little light comes on to remind me that it’s time for an oil change, and so many other things that I simply can’t decide which ones to list.

And then there was the dress situation.

This is my friend Laz, who called himself the Black Bond that night.

I went to a wedding Saturday night, and I determined I had nothing to wear to it and needed a new dress. So, I found myself at Nordstrom Rack Saturday, and I ended up in the fitting room with more options than necessary. Somehow I narrowed them all down to two. But then I had to make a decision. Needless to say, this was not a good situation. Add to that the fact that I was in a time crunch, and it’s the perfect equation for a potential disaster. (Yes, I do realize that picking one dress over another is not a life-altering moment.)

I stepped out of the fitting room with both dresses in hand and went to ask the opinion of the fitting room attendant. She said she liked the black one better than the rose-colored one because something about the waist made it look fancier. Then the following conversation ensued:

Me: Are you sure? You think it’s the black one that wins?

Fitting room attendant: What does your heart tell you?

Me: My heart? It’s a dress. I’m not sure my heart is telling me anything, other than maybe that I need to hurry up.

FRA: Yes, but the heart has a way of connecting with your mind in times like this.

Me: Is this like a Grandmother Willow thing?

FRA: Who?

(Apparently she hasn’t seen Pocahontas.)

Me: She’s a tree. So, I guess I should go with the black one?

FRA: I think so. But ultimately it’s not the dress that really matters. It’s the person wearing it.

I’ve never had such an insightful experience while shopping.

When I was at the wedding later that night, I realized how right she was. While I often notice people’s attire, I never think much of it. I’m more concerned with the actual people than what they’re wearing. I don’t think anyone would have treated me any differently if I had worn the rose dress instead of the black one. I know there are certainly times when people are judged and treated poorly because of their clothing, but that doesn’t mean it’s right, and it doesn’t mean we need to care so much about what we wear. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be presentable, but I don’t think I should have had so much trouble making a decision about which dress to buy. Love the people, not the clothes. That fitting room attendant is a wise gal.

And she was on the right track about the heart thing, though I still don’t know that I’m going to apply that in all of my shopping escapades. I remember taking a yoga class years ago, and the instructor told us to lead with the heart. I really like that saying because I don’t always like to try to apply logic to situations in which logic would just ruin things. Some things don’t make sense, and perhaps they simply shouldn’t. They don’t even need the scrutiny of decision making because you just know what you’re supposed to do. You’re being the person in the dress rather than the dress itself, and you’re leading with the heart.

That’s something our homegirl Pocahontas knew how to do all too well—with the help of Grandmother Willow, of course.

Say it—don’t type it

All of the advanced technology we have these days has simultaneously helped and hurt many aspects of our daily lives.

Like our abilities to communicate effectively.

I usually consider myself a pretty good communicator (it’s kind of my job to be so), but there are times when I’m just really bad at getting my message across when I really want to. Sometimes we need to say the things that are on our minds or hearts, even when we’re afraid to do so or nervous about what the other person might think or say back. When I was walking through Kroger over the weekend, I heard O-Town’s smash hit “All or Nothing,” and I couldn’t help but sing it out loud (obviously) but also be reminded how important it is to say out loud the words your heart needs to say.

speech2 edit
Sometimes you’ve just gotta speak

This has always been a problem for me with the fellas. A few years ago, there was a guy who captured my heart, kissed me, then made some pie-crust promises and moved across the country. For the next almost 10 months, I felt really confused and wanted so badly to know if anything would ever happen. Sure, we talked a lot, but it was mostly through texts and nothing that gave me any clarity. He’s the only guy I’ve ever kissed, so I guess my heart was a little more impacted than it should have been. But I never just came out and said everything I wanted to say to him. I let crappy communication win, and I lost.

Sometimes I even communicate poorly with my best friend, my own sister. We had a recent misunderstanding in which she hurt my feelings and didn’t even realize it. All I had to do was tell her, but instead I tried to be tough about it and let it go. Meaning and intention can often get lost in texts, and I should have picked up the phone and called her rather than getting upset and staying silent. But I didn’t, and I wasted time being upset about something that really wasn’t anything. When we chatted in person, it became clear to me how silly I had been in not saying what I should have originally said. I let crappy communication win, and I lost.

I’m not going to say a ton about emails. They are probably worse than texts when it comes to being able to decipher tone, especially if sarcasm is involved. A lot of times at work, I just go talk to the person I need to speak with rather than sending an email, depending on what I need to talk about with that person. I did this a lot when I was teaching, too, especially if it was an email from a parent. I preferred picking up the phone and calling in those instances because it’s a lot easier to be able to talk about such matters when you’re having real conversation.

But for those in-person convos, there is one thing you still need that often gets diminished when you realize you can’t hide behind a screen or turn off the read receipts and take a sufficient amount of time to reply: courage. Last week, I was having lunch in a quiet couch/lobby-type-but-not-a-lobby area of the hotel adjacent to the building where I work, and this very attractive human being sat on the couch next to me and began working on his laptop. We exchanged glances and smiles a few times, and I really wanted to ask him out on a Cheetos date (I have a history of doing that). But I didn’t. I didn’t say one word to him. I got up and left without saying anything I wanted to say, and now we will never eat Cheetos together. Ever. I let crappy (nonexistent) communication win, and I lost.

I think we need to forget about all that technology has become and listen to the advice of two musical geniuses: Michelle Branch and John Mayer. Michelle has some lyrics I relate to entirely: “Well, it’s all so overrated, not saying how you feel. So you end up watching chances fade and wondering what’s real.” And Johnny boy says exactly what I wish I could live by: “Even if your hands are shaking, and your faith is broken; even as the eyes are closing, do it with a heart wide open. Say what you need to say.”

So, say what you need to say.

And it just might be a win for your heart.

We all know what assuming does

Coca-Cola sure knew what it was doing back in 1971.

Too bad we aren’t all singing on hilltops together today.

I really don’t like assumptions and stereotypes. Unfortunately, though, we have been seeing a lot of this lately. Then it leads to others making additional assumptions and stereotypes about the individuals who made the original assumptions and stereotypes. It’s this never-ending cycle that only leads to more hate.

And hate is the last thing we need more of in this world.

We’ve seen a lot of this exposed in the media lately, especially with policemen. I mean, I will admit that in the past my friends and I have joked about how police are the “mean” ones, and the firemen are the “cute” ones. But I’ve never actually thought police are bad people—it’s actually the opposite. I can’t imagine the stresses and pressures they have to deal with on a daily basis, nor do I want to face such anxiety regularly. And I don’t think it’s fair to stereotype all people in this profession.

Or for any reason.

I remember when the attacks on September 11 happened, shortly after there was a lot of prejudice against Muslims in our country. One of my best friends all through childhood and those awkward teenage years was Muslim, and I really didn’t like hearing people say comments against people of that religion. She didn’t like it, either. While what happened on that day was a horrible act of terrorism, it didn’t mean that every single person in a similar category as the attackers was a terrorist.

Assumptions and stereotypes don’t allow you to get to know a person. Instead, you already have these preconceived notions that hinder you from seeing what’s in front of you. This doesn’t mean you should be blind to people who actually might be out to wrong you, but it does mean that you shouldn’t judge someone simply because he or she has been labeled or categorized unjustly.

I took a selfie but not because of insecurities or narcissism, which one might assume

I’m from a wealthy suburb, but I’ve never lived in a huge house, and I’m not rich; I was once a sports reporter, but I never wanted to be “the next Erin Andrews”; I’m 30 and single, but I’m not constantly on the lookout for a husband—I’m content with being single forever if that’s what I’m supposed to be; I’m from Texas, but I don’t have a horse; I’m a runner, but I don’t run a marathon every day (you’d be surprised how often I hear that one); I have red hair, and I have a soul; I’m a woman, but I hate chocolate and flowers.

Those are just a handful of assumptions I’ve heard people make about me throughout my life, and they are nothing compared to some of the hateful assumptions and stereotypes that many others face constantly. I know we don’t live in a perfect world, and people are always going to find ways to criticize others, but why? Why do we have to treat other people as if they are below us just because we think we know “truths” about them?

In some ways, I wish more people thought like little kids. If you’ve ever seen little kids on a playground together, they don’t question skin color or parents’ occupations or house sizes or anything. They just play and enjoy each other’s company. They get lost in their own little worlds where hate and judgment don’t exist and don’t get in the way of forming genuine relationships. I love the purity and innocence before the world gets a hold of them and tries to change their minds.

And you can only hope it won’t change their hearts.

There are certainly evil people in this world, and there are those who make bad decisions and represent something bigger in a bad way. But not everyone who is somehow likened to those individuals is guilty of the same things. When you close off your mind and only use such a narrow vision, you close off part of your heart, as well.

All people are valued. All people are loved. And all people matter.

And it’s time they knew it.