When your life resembles a carefree dance

There’s a song that tells us that “life’s a dance you learn as you go,” and I’ve always known that it’s full of truth.

Yet I’m just now letting it all sink in—you know, more than 20 years later.

Cue “I’ll Be There for You”

Two of my precious forever friends and I went to a park Saturday morning to catch up and also to take a picture on the Friends couch. When we arrived, we saw a handful of people dancing on the stage used for local performances and, as we later discovered, apparently Saturday morning yoga, as well.

I was immediately intrigued.

I started walking faster, excited for the possibility of dancing with some new friends (they weren’t aware of these upcoming friendships just yet), but I was slightly disappointed when I found out that it was an exclusive group. I spoke with a man who wasn’t dancing but looked like he was part of the in-crowd, and he told me that it was a professional dance group that travels around the country to teach dance to kids. The dancers were there this particular morning to shoot a promo video, and it wasn’t exactly open to the public (e.g., a feisty redhead who loves people and loves to dance).

I asked him if we could all dance together when they were finished recording, but he didn’t seem as enthusiastic about that idea as I had hoped. When the group had a small break a couple of minutes later, though, I asked all of the dancers if we could dance together just for a bit, and before I knew it, we were going at it free style.

And that’s the only way I know how to dance—with no rules or structure or expectations of any kind.

That moment of dancing with complete strangers who all have their own unique stories while my sweet friends watched and cheered me on was exactly what I needed that morning. I’ve had more on my plate lately than I likely should, and I’ve felt bogged down. I’ve also been dealing with some things in my heart that have been rather heavy on my emotions, as well. You know, life stuff. It’s tough sometimes. But being able to let go of everything for a few carefree moments felt like that moment when you’re swimming and have been holding your breath too long underwater and finally make it to the surface and breathe in fresh air that’s full of more life than you can explain.

I don’t do organized dancing well. I’m not a fan of knowing what move I’m going to do next or trying to think too hard about what steps I’m supposed to take. It’s too stressful, and it’s not me. I’d rather just go with my own flow and surprise myself. (However, not everyone supports that, and I once was kicked off of a dance floor at a very strict line dancing place in California because I wasn’t doing the line dance going on at the time.)

So why can’t more areas of my life be like my dancing—absolutely no idea what’s coming next but with no worries about not knowing?

We’re trying not to be too shocked by the dinosaurs around every corner in Jurassic World.

Life is always going to throw unexpected things at us, and it’s OK not to know what’s on the next page of your story. I used to read the last page of a book first so that I knew how it ended. I hated surprises. But in the past few years, my life has been filled with more transitions than I ever thought possible, and I’ve come to (almost) love the element of surprise that each new day holds. Sure, sometimes it’s truly frightening, but it’s mostly intriguing and beautiful.

Are there some mysteries in my life right now for which I wish I could go and read the last pages to make sure that everything turns out OK? Absolutely. But I’m not supposed to know that yet.

I’m not Marty McFly, and I don’t roam around with a genius named Doc who has a DeLorean that can take me to the past or the future, so there’s really no way for me to know what’s going to happen next. And I’m finally OK with that. I don’t read the last page of a book first anymore, because it’s going to end the same way whether I know what’s going to happen or not. It’s more important to focus on the story that leads up to that ending—after all, it’s all of the stuff in between that helps make the story what it is.

Our stories are uniquely ours, and we don’t always need to know what’s going to happen next year or next month or next week or tomorrow or even within the next couple of minutes. It’s OK to live in the unknown and dance without any structure whatsoever, even if it means you get kicked off of a dance floor every now and then.

Because your story will often end up better than you ever could have planned it, anyway.

Because having patient endurance certainly isn’t always easy

It’s not always easy to be patient and endure every trial that life throws your way.

Especially in times of travel and in issues involving matters of the heart.

Cue “I’ll Be Ready.”

I recently went to Florida with my parents and my sister for a fun little end-of-summer vacay. It was a nice getaway filled with “wave diving,” Baywatch running, beach walks, soaking up the sun, dinners at 4 p.m. to beat the crowds, lazy movie nights on the couch, and cannonballs galore. It was exactly what my soul needed—rest and relaxation near the ocean with my people.

The day we left to head home to Texas, we had a 9:44 a.m. flight, and my dad likes to be early everywhere, so we left the place we stayed around 6 a.m. We returned the rental car and got to the airport with plenty of time to spare, so we breezed through security and went to sit at our gate.

Little did we know just how long we would be sitting there.

Mine and my sister’s phones both buzzed at the same time, and we looked down to see notifications that our flight was delayed. It was a minor annoyance, but I’ve flown enough to know that it happens sometimes. Looks like we had an extra hour to kill. But then the delays just kept coming. Before we knew it, our flight was going to take off much later than planned—as in FOUR HOURS later. Yes, I do realize that some people have flights delayed much longer or even canceled, but when you’re sitting at an airport hoping with everything in you to get home as soon as possible because you’re so exhausted and ready to be in the comforts of your own place, four hours seem like an actual eternity.

My mom helps make bad situations better.

I felt pretty bad for the airport and airline employees. Disgruntled people tend to take out their frustrations about a situation on those who honestly have no control over that situation—and there were quite a few unhappy individuals who were supposed to be on our flight that day. I think many of them hastily changed flights, because ours ended up being rather empty.

When the plane finally took off a little after 2 p.m., my only option to make it through the flight with complete sanity was to watch a cheesy romcom, so I naturally went with Rebel Wilson’s smash hit Isn’t It Romantic? I’m honestly not sure that I actually liked the movie, but it killed enough time for us to get back to Dallas.

When we all piled into my brother-in-law’s car when he picked us up from the airport, it felt like the moment when you were a little kid and waited all December long for Christmas to roll around, and you struggled to fall asleep on Christmas Eve but then FINALLY woke up to Christmas Day—and the world felt incredibly normal and not as if you’d just waited for what felt like forever to be in that moment.

Both of these precious young women waited patiently for their lobsters, and we get to celebrate KB’s wedding soon.

If we’re being completely honest here, no one really loves waiting (at least I haven’t met anyone who does, but if you do, I’d like to chat). Most of us have our own agendas and plans, and we like things to pan out the way we hope that they will. But that’s not reality. We can’t always control the situations around us, and sometimes we simply have to employ what’s known as patient endurance.

When I first heard that term, it didn’t make a ton of sense to me. If I’m having to endure something, I doubt I’m focusing much on being patient. But the more I reflected on what it really means, the more I wanted it to be something I’m able to practice and hone and model well for others.

A few years ago, I fell pretty hard for a guy who ended up leaving me brokenhearted. Throughout that entire time, I wrote down the Bible verse below on a sticky note and read it to myself at least once every day.

Patient endurance is what you need now so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that He has promised.

And I reminded myself to believe every single word of it.

Just waiting for my lobster like:

I still have to remind myself of this often. It’s easy to get so caught up in everything around me and in the plans I think are best for myself that I forget that He has a much better plan than I do. After all, I had to learn patient endurance for four years of frustrations and seeking for meaning in a career path that wasn’t truly where I was meant to stay—and it led me back to where my heart has been all along.

And I’m currently still patiently enduring (well, I’m certainly trying to master that “patient” part of it) this whole singleness thing and also sometimes wondering if it’s a perpetual endurance I’ll need. Whether I get my Christmas morning/car ride back from the airport (a.k.a. THIS) or not, the patient endurance is still a necessary part of my story so that I keep trying to pursue the Lord’s will in my life. If living by faith means never having a love like Nathan’s and Haley’s (if you weren’t a One Tree Hill fan, that might mean zilch to you), then that’s OK. He’s still good, and I’m still His.

And that’s worth every single struggle and pain patient endurance has ever brought with it.

Because your life is not a cookie-cutter creation

Your life likely looks completely different than those around you and maybe even completely different than you thought it would years ago.

It’s crazy to me that she doesn’t even realize how much she’s capable of achieving.

And you can trust that that’s probably a good thing.

I went to the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center School of Nursing graduation on Friday to see one of my girls graduate and receive her BSN degree. This young woman has been through quite a bit since I’ve known her when she was a freshman in high school, and she has handled every single trial and heartache with such grace and tenacity. I’m so proud of the person she’s become and can’t wait to see how she continues to change the world.

As I was sitting there listening to all of the accomplishments of various individuals in the program and thinking about how impactful nurses are, I had a brief thought of near regret enter my mind: Maybe I should have been a nurse. While I love helping people and supporting and encouraging them, I don’t think it’s exactly the career for me. That’s a lot of pressure to keep people alive—after all, I can barely keep myself alive.

I was having a conversation with someone on Saturday, and we were talking about various things about us and how we got to where we are now, and I said something I wasn’t really expecting to hear myself say: I wish I had kept playing soccer. I don’t like having regrets, but it’s one thing that I admit that I’d like to change about my past.

On Sunday, I went to my sister’s indoor soccer game, and for the second time that weekend, I wondered what my life would have been like if I had stuck with soccer. I was always pretty good at it growing up but then quit to focus on other sports in high school. I think there’s a little part of me, though, that has always wondered what might have been. What if I had continued to play? Where would I be now? The obvious answer is on the cover of a Wheaties box and inspiring girls across the world.

More realistically, it might have simply changed my college experience and where I went if I had decided/been good enough to play at that level.

I can “what if” until I’m blue in the face. The truth of the matter is that I didn’t pursue soccer, and I’ll never know what would have happened if I did. Or if I became a nurse. Or a million other possibilities of things I could have done. My life would be completely different in a number of ways, and I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

Besides, I’m in the now and need to live and be fully present in the now—not in the past or the future or a place and time that don’t actually exist.

Update: I’m not on the U.S. women’s national team.

We all make so many decisions on a daily basis—some seemingly small, others more monumental. But even those small decisions can be life-altering. Every single choice we make helps us get to the next steps on our journeys, and I think it’s so wonderful how unique and different all of our stories are. I’m fairly useless in the kitchen, but I do know that people who bake cookies and cupcakes are able to use special tools to make all of their desserts look alike, especially for occasions like bridal and baby showers and other festive celebrations. I think it’s really neat that God doesn’t do that when he creates people—He makes each person so special in his or her own way with a story that is completely different from every other human’s on the planet.

And I honestly believe that it’s really great that we often have no idea what’s in store for us.

I used to hate surprises. Like, truly hate them. I always used to read the last page of a book before I would even consider beginning it because I wanted to make sure that I was going to like the way it ended. I played it far too safely in so many areas of my life because risks meant unpredictable outcomes. Somewhere along the lines, though, I realized that not knowing where each choice I make and action I take are going to lead is so much better—for both my heart and my mind.

With the exception of Back to the Future (although that one did give me a little anxiety), I’m not a huge fan of movies about time travel or people switching places and messing with other people’s lives (I don’t like any version of Freaky Friday), mainly because I don’t like the idea of people being able to alter their pasts to change their presents. I know that many of us would like to be able to change the situations in which we find ourselves, but the struggles and storms are necessary to get us to the better places we need to be and to shape us into the individuals we were always meant to be.

It’s OK if your life didn’t turn out to be the way you thought it would. I don’t know all of the reasons why we have to go through the things we have to go through in life, but I do know that there’s purpose in everything—in every joy, every sorrow, every celebration, every season of mourning, every hope fulfilled, every broken heart, every success, every failure. Everything.

I’m not a nurse or a professional soccer player or a Grammy-winning singer (that was a pipe dream—I have zero musical talent) or an actress or a SportsCenter anchor or an Olympic athlete (I was so bad at gymnastics that they asked me to leave, and my sprinting career died when I realized that I’m not actually fast) or married to my lobster (thanks, Friends).

And I’m thankful for that.

My life is far from perfect—there have been some really tough mountains I’ve had to climb and moments that I’d rather forget than remember. But if Miley Cyrus taught me anything worth learning in life, it’s that it’s all about the climb.

We can’t actually hop in DeLoreans and go alter our pasts in hopes of changing our current situations, but we can use those times to learn and grow and guide our future decisions and actions.

And we can trust that everything that’s happened in our lives thus far is all part of the perfect plans for the unique and special journeys that become our own beautiful stories.

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.

When you let tunnel vision blind you

The ocean is so vast and incredible and filled with more species of sea animals than most of us could ever imagine.

Yet, for some reason, we often only allow ourselves to focus on one.

I went whale watching over the weekend, which is something I’ve wanted to do pretty much since I moved out here about a year and a half ago. I really wanted to see some dolphins, and I guess seeing whales would be kind of cool, too. I mean, they’re rather beastly creatures, and witnessing their grandeur up close sounded like an intimidatingly fascinating idea.

They’re my kind of people.

It’s been a bit cold in Southern California lately. I realize that there are so many other parts of the country suffering much chillier temperatures, but I’m not in the business of comparison—it’s cold here for what we’re accustomed to, so I’m going to stick with my statement. I knew that it was going to be even colder out on the water, so I did my best to bundle up and prepare for whatever was in store for me for the next few hours.

I’m glad that I wore four layers—they still weren’t enough, though. The spray from the ocean water made it even worse (remember the drink Ocean Spray?? Maybe someone who went on a whale watching excursion came up with that), and I’m so grateful that my friend Jose let me borrow his gloves toward the end of our time on the water. Regardless of how cold it felt out there, it was an adventure that I’m grateful I got to take. I was able to spend an afternoon with some wonderful people I get to have as friends in my life as we took part in a quest to find and see the beautiful phenomenon of giant ocean creatures in their natural habitat.

And I was reminded that we’re so often chasing after things that may or may not be meant for us to the point that we don’t pay attention to what’s actually right in front of us.

I never actually saw Dustin, but I heard his voice quite a bit. He was our tour guide, and I think he was driving the boat. I’m not actually sure. I just trusted that someone who knew what he or she was doing was behind the wheel (or the helm, for all of you nautical type). But Dustin was the one telling us about the differences between seals and sea lions and informing us where the whales were and our strategies for making sure that we would get to see them. There was even a drone sent out from the boat to get better shots and also to help us find the path the whales were taking.

I don’t see any whales, bro.

We never saw the whales up close. We saw them blowing air from the water from a distance, but I still haven’t seen a whale in real life. On the way to try to see them, though, we saw quite a few bottlenose dolphins—and my heart soared. I honestly cared more about seeing dolphins than whales, so it was a special moment having a front row seat as they swam right in front of the boat. I really wanted to see them jump out of the water—I’m a product of romcoms and happy endings, people, so I want the fairy tale fantasy stuff—but it didn’t happen. Still, it was a breathtaking few minutes of my life.

Dustin let us see the dolphins but then kind of brushed them aside to remind us that we needed to go farther out in the water to see the whales. I understand that the thing is called a whale watching tour, so it was important to stick to the task at hand. At the same time, though, we were missing some true greatness that was right before us because we were so focused on pursuing something that we would never actually obtain.

And it was in that moment that I realized that I’ve done that far too many times—I’ve chased the things that are fleeting and missed out on some beautiful opportunities that were directly in front of me.

I think that it’s important to go wholeheartedly after your dreams and remain determined to achieve your goals. However, I think it’s also important to acknowledge the wonderful chances you’re given along the way. Maybe you’re meant to reach what you’re striving for so passionately—but maybe you aren’t. You might be going after a whale when you’re actually meant to encounter dolphins, instead.

There will be trials you face along the way—whether it’s the spray of the ocean, the gusts of wind that knock your breath out of your lungs, the bad breath of the sea lions that makes you want to hurl (whether you took Dramamine or not), or the loss of circulation in your extremities (thanks a lot, Raynaud’s)—and those are times when you have to remind yourself why you’re there in the first place and that you can do hard things.

And it’s also when you need to remind yourself that there is beauty and wonder outside of your tunnel vision.

I saw the same amount of whales on my hike as on the tour.

I’ve definitely had my fair share of times when I allowed tunnel vision to take over and cloud my sight of everything else around me because I was chasing whales I’d never actually reach. And don’t you know that some of those whales were guys who caused me to ignore many dolphin guys around me? I did it frequently with running, too. I would focus solely on the big accomplishments and PRs so much that I would miss the little victories that didn’t happen on race day that I was gaining along the way.

I want to make sure that I’m more aware of the dolphins all around me and that I don’t simply focus on the whales that I may or may not ever see. It’s great to have goals, and I hope that you achieve all of yours, but it’s also beneficial to notice all of the greatness that surrounds you that may not be what you initially think is best for you.

Because sometimes you’ll set out on a quest for whales and not find what you think you’re looking for—but perhaps the dolphins you encounter were what you were meant to find all along.

Because sometimes your plans aren’t as great as you think they are

Life often leads you down unexpected roads that leave you wondering how and why you got to where you are.

And sometimes you’re dressed as a strawberry while you’re on those alternate paths.

Over the weekend, all I wanted to do was rest. I had been sick for a few days and was zapped of most of my energy, so the thought of doing nothing but watching football and baseball sounded like perfection. And I obviously needed sunshine and the ocean to cure me.

When I headed for the beach Saturday, the sun was out, and the weather was pretty ideal. By the time I got to the beach about seven minutes later, though, it was overcast and kind of chilly, and there was a foggy marine layer hanging in the air. (My hair and I are not fans of the marine layer—at all.) I don’t understand how the atmosphere can be so drastically different a few miles apart, but it’s a thing out here.

I still laid my towel in the sand, put in my headphones, and stretched out as if I actually had a chance of soaking up some rays. Here’s something that you need to know about me: I hate—and I do mean hate—being cold. If I had been Jack, I absolutely would have made Rose scoot over to give me room on that freaking door that could easily fit two people.

It was in the 60s, and I wanted a blanket wrapped around me. I had not planned for a frigid and gray day at my place of peace. Why was I only in my swimsuit? Why was I not covering myself with my clothes or towel? I can’t explain my actions and inactions, but for some reason, I simply remained as I was and let the sounds of the waves drown out all of my discomfort as I fell asleep for a much-needed nap. It wasn’t quite the way I had planned it, but it was still oddly good.

I woke up feeling refreshed (but still cold) and gathered my things to go home so that I could change and go to my friend JP’s volleyball game (she coaches at a college nearby). I had a Halloween event that evening and still had no idea what I was going to be, though I was leaning toward Ariel because my friend has a mermaid dress that she said I could borrow. I also wanted to be Ms. Frizzle or Rainbow Bright or Strawberry Shortcake, but I didn’t have any outfits for those people. To keep things simple, maybe next year I should just be nothing. Or three-hole-punch Jim.

I’m a strawberry. Duh.

After JP and her team won their match, I went to Party City for inspiration. As I was walking down the superheroes and My Little Pony costumes aisle, it hit me like Peter La Fleur pegged White Goodman while blindfolded to win the championship: I should be a strawberry. So I bought some red stuff and paid a visit to Target (my personal simultaneous haven and danger zone) to complete the ensemble. It wasn’t the original plan, but I’d argue that it turned out better. I didn’t even stay at the party very long, but at least it had a strawberry there briefly.

My beach day didn’t go as I had intended, and there were parts of it that weren’t very enjoyable, but it ended up being a time of escape and rejuvenation that I needed. And my costume certainly didn’t turn out as planned, but I wound up being a food-related item for the third year in a row (I was a peppermint milkshake last year and a yellow Skittle the year before) and liking my costume. With everything that’s been happening lately and the heaviness in my heart I’ve felt recently, I think that I needed some reminders that life doesn’t always pan out as you hoped or planned, and that’s OK.

And it’s often for the better.

I turned 34 earlier this month, which basically means that I need to stretch before everything, my desired bedtime will continue to get earlier, saying “no” to things I don’t want to do and events I don’t want to attend is a piece of cake, and I’ll sometimes pull muscles during my sleep (I swear this happened recently). I’m exactly nowhere where I thought I would be in life at this point. I thought that I would for sure be married to my forever guy by now, my career would be something entirely different, and I’d be living happily in Dallas.

In reality, I’m as single as the last piece of gum in the pack, I’m working a job I never would have expected but surprisingly absolutely love, and I live in what has become my favorite place on earth but that is nowhere near the great state of Texas. I have to trust that all of those things have been planned out with specific purpose by Someone who truly cares about me and has more than I could ever imagine in store for me. The guys I wanted to date, the relationships I wanted to happen, the words I wanted to hear, and the love I wanted to feel didn’t happen because they weren’t supposed to happen. It didn’t make sense to me then, and some of it still doesn’t make sense to me now, but I do know that I’m going to continue to believe that it’s all part of the story of my life that’s going to be better than one I could ever write.

My sister-in-law sent me one of my favorite songs by Lauren Daigle the other day, and the lyrics were a needed reminder that I have to repeat to myself often.

When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You

The hopes in your heart won’t always happen like you want them to, but that doesn’t mean that you should give those hopes up. Let them soar, but also be ready to go on a much different path than you ever expected with more twists and turns than you think your heart can handle.

Because some of the most magnificent stories are ones that you never see coming.

When your heart needs a reminder

I think it’s important to be open and genuine, and sometimes that involves sharing your heart and being vulnerable when you might not want to.

Right now is one of those times for me.

I’m not going to lie—sometimes it’s really tough being single when you’re an adult. Even if it’s not necessarily true, it seems like every other human being around you is in a relationship and has his or her person to do life with and make memories together. And plenty of people you don’t even ask have their opinions regarding what you should or shouldn’t do to make sure that you don’t spend the rest of your life singing the catchy Farmers Only jingle.

It can be such a special status at times.

This hat is the greatest purchase I’ve made in a long time.

I’ve shared before that, while I’ve never actually had a boyfriend or even been in a relationship (or on what I consider to be a real date), I’ve had my heart broken. And I feel like I’m currently going through a never-ending heartache that I can’t seem to escape, no matter what I do. Unfortunately, there’s no timetable for mending a broken heart—we’re all so different, and we all handle our pain in different ways.

For me, I’ve always tried to deal with emotional pain the same way I deal with physical pain: I ignore it. I do this for as long as possible, and then I usually reach a point when I have to face the fact that the pain is actually there, and there’s no way to pretend it’s not there anymore—I simply have to acknowledge it.

It’s been almost two years since my heart was ripped out of my chest, thrown to the ground, smashed into thousands of tiny little pieces, and then stomped all over by the guy who walked away from it. I thought that I would be over it by now, and I honestly thought more recently that I was. But one day last week reminded me that I was once again just masking pain that was still prevalent. It still hurts, and I still miss him, which makes me feel foolish and pathetic.

But I also know that I’m neither foolish nor pathetic—I’m simply a girl who cares about a boy who doesn’t care about her. It’s not exactly the classic romance tale, but it’s my current reality.

One evening last week, I went to a panel discussion at a church that’s somewhat connected with mine, and the topic was about dating in today’s society. It was kind of difficult to take advice from the married couples up there (especially the ones who had been married for 20 years and more), and I wish they would have had more than one single person to share some insight, but I ended up having a rather enlightening moment on my own in the midst of it all.

As I was listening to some of the couples share their stories of how they met, I began to feel alone and a little sad. I haven’t cried in a while, and I have a feeling the waterworks are coming soon. (Part of that not acknowledging my emotional pain thing that I do means that I ignore moments when I want to cry, so I end up bottling up a crap-ton of emotions, and they typically come pouring out all at once when I least expect them to.) I did the only thing that ever makes sense to me when everything around me makes zero sense: I started praying.

God knows my heart, and I began unloading it in a prayer of brokenness, asking Him what I was supposed to do. I hate the online stuff—it’s not part of my story, and I know it. But I’m hurting, and I’m still sad about [homeboy’s name]. God, if I’m supposed to be single forever, can you please take away this desire in my heart? And, regardless, can you please take away my feelings for him? Am I ever going to meet my person? What do I do, Lord?

And then I heard this quiet, calming voice that has spoken truth to me so many times: Don’t you trust me? I’ve never let you down.

Talk about a sucker punch to the gut. This big and powerful God who has the entire world in His hands—the One who called me out to California and has provided for me in more ways than I could ever have imagined—truly cares about me and has a plan that is more perfect than anything that I could ever create. He’s never failed me, and He won’t start now. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to walk into the elevator at work tomorrow and meet the man of my dreams, but it does mean that, whether or not I do ended up falling in love with the one guy who picks me out of every other girl in the world, He’s got big plans for me.

God also gave me a Saturday morning run with my sweet cousin Rachel, who was in town last week. I’ve always looked up to her, and she’s always listened to my heart and provided encouragement. I hope you’re able to meet her one day. She’s freaking amazing.

And I do trust Him.

We sang two songs in church Sunday that both had lines about God never failing us and never letting us down. I think it was His way of reminding me (along with countless others who needed to hear it) that He is who He says He is, and He’s taking care of the things that cause me worry and anxiety—He’s funny like that.

I don’t know what you’re going through in life. Maybe you’re like me and wish that you could find love in a world that seems to be more challenging for the single folks every day. I hope that you don’t lose hope. I hope that you keep pressing on through the storms of heartache that try to knock you down. I hope that you know that you are worthy and enough with or without someone else standing by your side.

And I hope that you know that you are loved by the One who will love you more than anyone else in the entire world ever could.

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.

When surfing dogs inspire you

Sometimes you find admiration and inspiration from something you’d never expect.

You know, like a surfing dog.

Some friends who used to live in Southern California had informed me of an annual dog surfing competition in Huntington Beach that I needed to attend. I’m not even a big animal lover, but I wasn’t sure I could live with myself if I missed something like this. I’m impressed by humans who can surf, so dogs on surfboards sounded a little incredible.

And they didn’t disappoint.

On Saturday morning, I got my a$* kicked by some rather monstrous hills during my run through a canyon, so I was pretty tired and looking forward to relaxing in the sun. I packed my bike in the back of my car and drove out to Huntington Beach (I could probably ride there if I want to go for a really long ride, but please read the previous sentence about running hills earlier that morning for my justification of not making that trek) and then rode from where I parked out to the special dog beach. I didn’t realize how popular this event really is until I pulled up and saw the large crowd gathered around a bunch of oddly talented dogs.

Please click the links to the videos. This pic doesn’t truly capture the greatness.

I was able to squeeze my way toward the front to get a good spot for viewing this ridiculously amazing spectacle, and we all waited in anticipation for the next round of competitors. The humans surf with their dogs (so maybe the animals really aren’t that talented), and the pups just kind of chill on the end of the surfboards and ride the waves back to the shore. It’s certainly entertaining—that’s for sure. One guy even did a little hop trick, and the end of the board with the dog on it went up at a slight angle for the rest of the way, and that dog just stayed there like he was king of the sea (sorry, but that’s Ariel’s dad’s role, bud).

One rather funny moment occurred when, on the next little run, that same dog fell off of the board and into the water right before they reached the shore. It was pretty hilarious, but don’t worry—he was fine. In fact, he popped back up like nothing had happened and then had a very impressive final run a few moments later.

As I was watching all of this, I realized just how much trust those dogs have in their owners and how much resilience they have when things don’t exactly go as planned.

I’m not sure that’s always the case for this human.

I thought back even to my run that morning. Like I said, those hills pretty much owned me, and it was a reminder of how I’m not quite in the running shape I’d like to be in right now. Sure, it’s still been less than a month since I had two kidney surgeries within a three-week period, but it can be discouraging when you used to be somewhat good at something and now feel average at best. I beat myself up about it both during my run and for a fair amount of time after.

And I feel like that’s not super uncommon. It can be easy to dwell on lots of things in life that aren’t so great—things from our pasts, things we did recently and might regret, things we are dreading. We think about them too much rather than realizing that they are things we can’t change, and we need to focus on the here and the now. It’s better to live in the moment than to live in the land of “what if” or the world of “if only.” I’ve had to remind myself of that quite a bit lately with all of the recent changes and uncertainties.

I think I was happy that I wasn’t the one surfing with those dogs. I’d prefer my first attempt to be free of all K9s.

The truth is, though, that perhaps we really should be more like those absurd surfing dogs. They don’t care about the possibilities of falling into the ocean, they aren’t concerned with previous crappy attempts that didn’t pan out, they don’t stress about how they compare to the other dogs around them, and they certainly aren’t acting anxious about whether or not the crowds watching are pleased with them or not. Instead, they simply do what they know they are supposed to do: stand on those surfboards with poise and excitement and enjoy every single second of it.

That sounds like a pretty solid way for a human to live, too.

Sure, we aren’t dogs with humans riding on the backs of our surfboards, but we definitely face a bunch of ups and downs in life—and sometimes we crash and burn, while other times we rise above the waves and coast on them to what we consider successes. Regardless, during those times when we find ourselves in situations that make us a little bit (or a lot) afraid or looking back on those that we maybe want to forget, it’s important to remember that it’s often those moments that help to make us stronger and help to make us who we are.

And we might find that we really are like the dog who falls off of the surfboard, gets back up like nothing happened, and goes back out for another try.

Closed doors can make you stronger

I really don’t like trite expressions, but I guess there’s a reason they exist.

Perhaps they were true at least once.

I’m sure we’ve all heard the saying “When one door closes, another door opens” many times, and maybe there’s a logical explanation for that. But is it really true? Or is it one of those things we say to make people feel better when we don’t actually know what’s going to happen? Aren’t there some doors that simply close, and other open doors have nothing to do with the ones that closed? Or will there always be another door that opens for you solely because another one just closed in your face?

I’m still trying to figure that one out.

It can be pretty painful when a door in your life closes when you really hoped it would be one you’d walk through. My mom used to love the store Coldwater Creek—in fact, she loved it so much that she once got a part-time job there so that she could not only make a little extra cash but also get a discount on all of the clothes she wanted to buy. (I’m surprised she wasn’t featured in the Coldwater Creek catalogues, seeing as how she was decked out in the apparel from head to toe.)

Imagine her reaction when she found out her favorite store was closing its doors forever.

park
When you find out you didn’t get a callback to be one of Beyoncé’s background dancers

Imagine how people feel when doors close on things that matter so much more than skirts and shirts and dresses and whatnot. You’ve likely been there before—it’s not a fun place to be. You might realize a closed door will never open again. You might wonder if it’s closed temporarily for renovations. You might know in your heart that the door is merely closed for a bit, and you simply need to wait outside until it opens again.

But what do you do if you really don’t know?

I’ve started watching the Netflix original series The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and Kimmy literally had a door closed on her for 15 years, living in a bunker until she and the three other girls with her were finally rescued. She walks through the open door that once closed on her, and she goes on to find a tremendous amount of other doors welcoming and daring her to walk through. One thing I love about Kimmy is that she never loses hope, and she doesn’t give up on her goals—or on people. There are a lot of doors that continue to slam in her face, but she keeps fighting, either by trying to kick those closed doors back open or by directing her path elsewhere.

Doors closing have been fairly common in my world lately. Some of them don’t bother me too much—others leave me wondering why they ever offered even little lights of hope at all if they were only going to close right when it seemed like I was about to walk through them. So much about life doesn’t make sense to me, and maybe it isn’t supposed to. I don’t always understand why things happen the way they do and why there sometimes has to be so much pain involved. I was thinking about this Sunday in church when the band started playing a familiar tune I love as the final worship song, some of the lines reminding me that I don’t need to concern myself with any of the doors anywhere.

And I can see a light that is coming
For the heart that holds on
A glorious light beyond all compare
And there will be an end to these troubles
But until that day comes
Still I will praise You

It’s easier to say not to worry rather than actually not worry, but the truth is that worrying doesn’t really do any good. It doesn’t open closed doors or find other opportunities. We’re probably all going to face a lot more closed doors in our lives than we want to, but the hurt that happens after won’t last forever. It can be really difficult to trust and have faith during those times, but sometimes that’s all we can do—be the hearts that hold on.

There may be other doors that open when certain doors close, but even if it seems like there aren’t, that doesn’t mean there isn’t any hope left. The door that closes closes for a reason. It may be for a while; it may be forever. Either way, the sadness or frustration or pain or whatever emotion you feel afterward will eventually fade, and you may or may not see the reason you had to go through what you did. But it’s important to keep going through the rain when you’re there and find the strength you may not have even known you have.

Because there’s a light that is coming for the heart that holds on.