When tough times lead to a heart that feels hashtag blessed

There are certain talents I have that aren’t very applicable to my actual life.

You know, like being able to sing the alphabet backward faster than I can sing it forward.

As I was sitting and staring out at the ocean (one of my all-time favorite pastimes) the other day, I was thinking about how thankful I am that God brought me out to California. Of all of the places in the world He could have called me, it’s here—this place of wonder that brings me peace, energy, and the occasional dorsal fin sighting.

My New Kids on the Block shirt and I really love it out here.

In all honesty, I never saw such a big and risky move coming and wouldn’t have done it if the plans I had wanted to happen and prayed for constantly actually came true. I didn’t understand at the time why God wasn’t doing what I wanted Him to do, but it’s very clear to me now that He had something entirely different—and entirely better—for me planned. And I’m also appreciative that the whole “pack up your life and move to California” thing came on so quickly and took me by complete surprise.

Because I needed to endure the tough times I faced without knowing what was ahead.

On that same day that I was down by the water and reflecting on those bits of gratitude, there was a car show going on at that beach at the same time. I had noticed it when I got there (I mean, it was pretty hard to miss), but I had no intention of checking out the cars. I was just there to soak up some sunshine and watch the waves. When I left, I stopped at the basketball court area where the car show was to dust the sand off of my feet before putting on my sandals. I was sort of in the way of a guy trying to get pictures of a car at what appeared to be some artsy angles, and then he started talking to me.

Guy fascinated by cars: Did you get in the water?
Me: No way. It’s too cold.
GFBC: But it’s so hot and nice out today.
Me (still amazed by what people out here consider “hot”): Yeah, but the water is still like 4 degrees.
GFBC: Well, did you check out the cars?
Me: No, I’m only here for the ocean. (You know, the ocean that I don’t actually get in.)
GFBC: But they’re right here, and how often do you get a car show like this?
Me: I see cars all the time. I drive one.
GFBC: But how often do you see cars on the beach like this? And these are classics!
Me: I’m not that interested in cars. I just like when they work.
GFBC: I don’t know how to respond to that.
Me: Welp, see you later. Enjoy your day!

It turns out that we’re all thankful for different things.

This is my friend Monique, who invited me to a BBQ with no actual BBQ. I need to educate these people on what such an event entails.

What I didn’t explain to that guy that day was why the beach is so significant in my life—that it’s been a constant reminder of God’s love for me. That I stare out at the vast, expansive ocean and am reminded that I am valued. That I am loved. That I matter. It’s the beautiful destination of a journey that I haven’t always been so thankful to endure but that I’m incredibly grateful for now.

For him, maybe cars have something to do with everything he’s faced in life. Or maybe he just really likes them. I probably should have asked him. Regardless, he has a reason to find happiness from a car show on the beach.

I had a conversation the other day with my friend JP, and she was talking about working toward goals with the end already in mind. She mentioned how, in order to make it to that place you want to reach, you have to take all of the steps in between to get there. As she put it, “you can’t go from A to Z without going through all of the other letters in the alphabet.”

Ohhhhh OK. That’s a gooooooood word, sister.

JP is right—you can’t just snap your fingers and end up where you want to be. We’re not all Sabrina the Teenage Witch. And you’re not always going to know what letters B through Y have in store for you before you get to Z. You simply have to keep going with the hope and faith that you will eventually get to where you need to be. It’s going to hurt sometimes, but getting to that ultimate place your heart desires will be worth the pain you face. For me, it involved heartache and rejection. It involved doubt. It involved fear. It involved insecurities and anxiety. It involved more tears than I ever even knew I was capable of crying.

This sums up how I feel.

But it all resulted in joy and a shift in my heart that changed my life forever.

Not every day is going to be wonderful. People are going to disappoint you. Your sports teams are going to let you down (I’m looking at all three of you, Mavs, Cowboys, and Rangers). Pain is going to inflict itself upon you when you least expect it. Don’t let those troubles stop you, though. Whether she realized it or not, JP quoted the great Dory when she said “I don’t know, maybe the only thing to do right now is to just keep swimming.” I encourage you to do the same—just keep swimming.

Through the pain. Through the broken hearts. Through the doubts. Through the fears. Through the disappointments. Through the tears. Through every bad thing that ever comes your way. Just keep swimming.

And trust that your heart will one day be thankful for the hardships it had to endure.

When running into the water is brave

I know I’ve mentioned this more than once, but I don’t like to be cold.

Like, at all.

There’s been a recent heat wave here in Southern California, and we’ve hit some temperatures that I thought I left behind in Texas. I’ve been used to upper 70s as the highs for months now, but last weekend gave us some of those lovely triple-digit temps that make you feel like you’re melting.

Not cool, bro. (I hope you appreciate what I did there.)

OK, fine. Let’s be brave and go into the Pacific.

My forever friend Maddie came to visit me over the weekend, and we did what any typical gals in their early 30s (or probably any age, really) would do on such a warm Saturday: We went to the beach. Now, I typically don’t like to get in the water in the Pacific Ocean—it’s rather chilly, after all. Maddie went ahead and tested it out, and even though the day was beyond warm, her reaction was enough to let me know that getting in the water was essentially the same as diving into the Arctic when you’re covered in ice cubes. But for some weird reason, I got up and walked toward the water, anyway. I figured putting my feet in there would cool me off enough.

Mads was still in there (she had obviously lost her mind for a moment), and she was urging me to come in farther. I got until the water was almost to my knees, and I yelled out that I was being brave. Then Maddie said something that I wasn’t expecting.

“That’s not what brave looks like—just run!”

I don’t really like to be challenged on my boldness, so I took off running straight into the water. I’ll admit that I didn’t go super far (mainly because I didn’t want to wash my hair—judge me on my shallowness and laziness all you want), but I did go much farther than I had originally planned. I didn’t like the feeling of being so cold, but I guess it did end up feeling a bit refreshing as I walked back to my towel.

There’s a whole world out there waiting for us to be brave.

The truth is that Maddie was right—being brave doesn’t look like standing in one place, shaking, and not moving forward at all. It’s not brave to pretend like you’re being brave. Instead, it’s brave to take chances and to run after the things that you need to without sitting there and thinking about all of the things that could go wrong or make you feel uncomfortable.

In fact, being brave is hardly ever about being comfortable.

Years ago, I had feelings for a guy who was my good friend. In my head, I thought about all of the things that I could say to him and imagined what it would be like finally to get it all out of my heart. But I never said a word to him. Not one single word. I stood there, just like I did on that shoreline, and I let myself think that I was right where I should be and that I shouldn’t go any farther out into the water. I can tell you right now that I wish that I had run toward him and told him about everything I was feeling for him. I wish that I had let myself be completely uncomfortable and had poured my heart out. I wish that I didn’t worry about the equivalent of washing my hair or feeling cold.

I wish that I had simply dove into the rushing cold waters without thinking with my head but, instead, with my heart.

I chased down a group of teenage girls for this pic. I knew at least one of them would be a talented photographer.

I can’t make those wishes come true now, but I can certainly change the way I take on the waters that scare me in the present and in the future. I can think more with my heart and not so much with the overly worried voices in my mind. I don’t want to fear those cold waves—I want to run toward them without hesitation. I want to know not only what it looks like to be brave but also what it feels like to be brave in every aspect of my life.

Yes, there are going to be plenty of times in our lives when we’re faced with the decision to stand exactly where we are and stay comfortable or not only step out of those comfort zones but take off running from them as fast as we can. I hope that I’m able to choose that second option—and I hope that you are, too.

We were never meant to stand on the shoreline and watch the world and all of its opportunities pass us by as the waves crash at our feet.