When you’re waiting on fireworks

While I’m not a huge fan of waiting until 9:30 p.m. for fireworks shows to begin, I endure it once a year.

Because they’re worth the wait.

The Fourth of July is one of my absolute favorite holidays. For starters, it’s in July, which might be my favorite month. I love summer and the beach, and I feel like July is a month that epitomizes both of those things.

Who doesn’t love an impromptu parade photoshoot?

And I really love fireworks. Maybe it’s the hopeful romantic in me, but there’s something about ready fireworks shooting up into the air and going off at just the right time to light up the sky in uniquely beautiful ways that makes my heart soar. I always picture the scene in The Sandlot when the boys are playing a night pickup game together on the beloved holiday, and they all pause—completely captivated—to look up at the remarkable fireworks show going on in the sky above as Ray Charles’ “America the Beautiful” plays in the background.

I also always think back to a night almost 20 years ago (how am I so old already??) when I was on a family vacation in Florida. We had gone on a trip with some of our extended family members in early July. On the night of the 4th, as we were waiting on the beach for the fireworks show to begin, I wandered off from the rest of the group for a little bit and walked along the shore, wrapped in my own thoughts.

I was just a young teenager at the time, but I was already feeling the pains of rejection that I had no idea would stick with me for far too many years. A lot of my friends had boyfriends or a handful of guys who were interested in them, and I could rarely even muster up the courage to speak to the guys I had crushes on back then. Walking on the beach alone that night felt lonely—and not simply because I was literally all by myself.

I hope this precious gem always knows how loved and valued she is.

I came to know Jesus the summer before I went into high school, so I was still learning what it meant to live a life of faith. (Heck, it’s been 21 years, and I think I’m still learning what that means every single day.) That night on the beach, I’ll never forget the prayer I prayed: God, please don’t ever let me give my heart away too soon. I want to wait for the right guy You have for me, wherever he may be. Even if that means my first kiss isn’t until it’s with my future husband—maybe that’d be for the best, anyway—I want to wait. I pray for his heart right now, and I pray that You would keep working in mine. And I pray that one day I’ll be able to watch fireworks with him on the beach. Amen.

Bless my heart. I had no idea what kind of waiting was in store for me.

I remember that prayer so well because I’ve thought back to it so many times since the words left my heart and my mouth. The fireworks started as soon as the “amen” popped out of my lips, and I knew with every ounce of my innocent heart that God had His own fireworks show prepared for my life.

I’d be lying if I said that this whole waiting process has been breezy and enjoyable. In fact, many days, it’s the opposite. But I think back to that moment when I was a teenager on the beach, and I’m confident that I was meant to say that prayer because God knew that there would be a great amount of waiting involved for me. I even get a little sad that my first kiss wasn’t with the last man I’ll ever kiss (well, unless I never kiss anyone again), because that’s what my young heart truly wanted.

I don’t know how much more waiting I’ll have to endure until I fall in love with the man who will love me back forever. If we go solely off of my success on dating apps and in-person interactions lately, it’s an indefinite amount of time. But I know that God often makes things happen in the blink of an eye. I don’t think it necessarily has to be “when you least expect it,” because I think there’s value in having expectations, but I do think it often happens how you least expect it—at least that’s what I’m hoping, anyway.

I’ll forever love California, but this right here is why I moved back to Texas.

This Fourth of July, I ran with my sister, then went to a city parade with my family, then over to my brother’s for some burgers and swimming with the fam, and then to watch fireworks with some dear friends. As I looked up at the beautiful sky that evening, surrounded by two couples, I couldn’t help but have a heart full of gratitude. No, I still didn’t have my man to watch fireworks on the beach with me like I prayed for so many years ago, but I have more love in my life than I ever imagined possible. And I really do have an answered prayer—I prayed that I would wait for the right guy for me, and I have.

I recently finished reading Everybody, Always by Bob Goff and was once again reminded of how big and powerful love is with or without romance ever involved. (If you haven’t read this book, get it ASAP. While you’re at it, get Love Does, as well. They’re both life-changing reads, and I’m not exaggerating.) In this time of waiting, I’ve been given a countless amount of opportunities to love others, and I want to make sure that I’m not passing these up because I’m too busy focusing on what I don’t have. If we constantly focus on what we think we’re missing in life, we’re actually going to miss out on a lot more because we won’t see what’s actually in front of us.

My ride or die—forever and always

I don’t know when I’ll find my lobster, but I’m OK with that. There’s a lot of good that can happen in the waiting and a lot of beautiful heart transformation that can take place during that time. The girl who prayed that trusting prayer years ago on a memorable July night in Florida has gone through quite a bit to get to where she is now and has learned the tremendous value that can come from independence and singleness. I wasn’t meant to walk the same paths as my friends and follow the same timelines of their lives—that’s part of the beauty in the uniqueness of all of our journeys.

If you’re like me and in the waiting zone for something in life, know that you’re right where you need to be. I have to hope and believe that all of the waiting isn’t for naught. I’m trusting that you’ll make it through all of the pain and the tough times to get to that beautiful finish line of endurance to your heart’s desire.

And it will be a freaking fantastic fireworks show that you’ll know forever and always was worth the wait.

Strangers aren’t always so strange

It’s typically not wise to get in a car with a stranger.

But it might be acceptable if it’s a parked car with the promise of warmth and Destiny’s Child.

We have the opportunity to meet a lot of people in life, but some of them we won’t ever talk to. In some cases, that might be for the best. In others, though, we might miss out on moments we truly need in life.

When we’re little kids, we’re usually taught not to talk to strangers, which is probably a good thing because of all of the dangers that are out there in the world. It’s a sad reality. But when we get older, how far does the “stranger danger” belief have to go? Personally, I like talking to people I know and people I don’t know. I like to hear their stories and learn interesting tidbits about life from them—like when a mountain man I met while I was taking a break on a ski trip in my college years told me that mittens actually keep your hands much warmer than gloves do. To this day, I think about that conversation every time I put on gloves or mittens. I think one thing I love most about meeting new people is being reminded that every single person matters, and so many of them can quickly show you that there’s still a lot of good in this world.

One day last week, I went with my coworker/friend Michelle during our lunch break to grab ice for an event later that day. When we got in her car to head back to the office, the car didn’t start. She kept turning the key, and the car would sound like it was trying to start, but it just wouldn’t. I told her to pop the hood (as if I actually knew what I was doing), and I went to look in the engine while she kept trying to start it. I had zero clue what I was even looking for, but thankfully some guy came over to try to help. He thought it was the battery, but he couldn’t get the battery cover to pop off, so he suggested we call Triple A. I kept flagging strangers down to ask if they had jumper cables, and I was baffled at how many people don’t carry those around with them (or maybe they do).

Thankfully, some high school baseball players were happy to help and happened to have the cables. Their efforts failed (it turns out it wasn’t a battery issue at all, and her car had to be towed), but we were grateful for their willingness to help, and I was glad to learn how to hook up cables to jump-start a car. We didn’t know those young guys, and we will likely never see them again, but they helped us out when we felt helpless.

Then came Saturday, which was full of strangers all over the place. It was the annual Dallas St. Patrick’s Parade & Festival, which means more than 120,000 people were roaming around Greenville. Even though the previous weekend gave us 80-degree weather and time at the pool, Saturday’s high was barely 60 with morning temps in the low 40s. And it was windy, which means it felt like it was about 17 degrees out, give or take a few.

St. Patty's Parade
We are not in a stranger’s car anymore.

When my coworker/friend Fred (her real name is Emily, but I don’t call her that) and I arrived to watch the 5K race, I wondered why the weather had to hate us that day—I was wearing two pairs of pants and boots and had three layers on underneath my snowboarding jacket, and I was still cold. After the race ended, we went to go meet our coworkers so that we could stand another two-and-a-half hours IN THE COLD before the parade was set to begin. We were standing at a corner waiting to hear back from them on where they were exactly, and I’m guessing it was pretty obvious we were freezing our tails off, because the next thing we knew, some lady parked right by us opened her door and asked if we wanted to get in her car to stay warm. Fred looked at me questionably, but I made the call and hopped in the back seat of the woman’s car. She introduced herself as Shannon, and boy was she a firecracker!

Shannon apologized for the smoke smell (it was slightly suffocating), and she told us about her husband who “works with NFL teams” (not sure what exactly he does) and began chatting about a variety of things. She even handed us a CD book to pick out some tunes to dance to. Homegirl can dance. While I didn’t mind the LL Cool J she had playing, when I spotted her Destiny’s Child CD, I handed it to her, and she was delighted. That car was hopping as soon as “Bootylicious” was fired up. I wasn’t sure how Fred felt about this situation, but she looked a little uncomfortable, so I thanked Shannon and told her it was time for us to go find our group—even though it was much warmer in her car. We didn’t know that woman, and we may never see her again, but she helped us when we were feeling helpless.

I encountered many more people I didn’t know that day: There was the woman who let me cut in front of her in the line for the Porta Potty, the little girl who helped me get warmer by making me play “Ring around the Rosie” until I was dizzy, the Harley Davidson guy who gave me a new perspective on why burgers and sunshine can often overshadow the bad things in life, the woman who complimented my hair after a coworker’s kid said it looked like an octopus, and so many other people who probably have incredible stories and insights into life. They help us when we feel helpless.

I know you shouldn’t necessarily talk to every single person out there. There are certainly people who have cruel motives, but sometimes you simply have to trust that the right people have been put in your path at the right time. They might be there to help you in some way, or perhaps you’re helping them out somehow.

We really all need each other—strangers don’t always have to remain strange to us.