When you know that you’re fully known

It’s nice to be able to go new places and meet new people.

But it’s also really refreshing to go places where you know people who make you feel known, too.

When I initially moved back to Dallas, I figured things would be pretty simple—I’d immediately feel right at home, and everything would be great. I wasn’t expecting all of the challenges I would face and how tough it would be to feel known again.

No, I don’t for one second regret moving back. It’s where I’m meant to be, and I’m confident in that. I’m forever grateful for the time I was able to live in Orange County, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. But I will admit that, other than the ocean and the people I met there, I truly miss the feeling of being fully known.

When I moved to California, I knew zero humans. As soon as I met people, I would ask them to go to coffee with me—and I don’t even like coffee. I was desperate for community, and I was willing to do whatever I could to get to know as many people as possible so that my new home would actually feel like a welcoming place.

Like most people in this world, I didn’t want to feel like a complete outsider.

It wasn’t long before I had found a church home and got as plugged in as I could. I served in the high school ministry. I served on the welcoming team. I served in the women’s ministry and eventually led a bible study. I joined a life group and then led it for a season. I knew people at my church and within my community, and they knew me.

And being known is a beautiful feeling.

It’s not easy to feel like you’re starting all over. Yet again. I guess I assumed that, because I’m from Dallas and have spent most of my life here, it wouldn’t be a huge adjustment moving back after being gone for only a little more than a year and a half. I also guess there’s a reason why that saying about assuming things exists.

I’m attending a different church than the one before I moved, and I’ve started to get connected there. But, like with anything else in this life, it takes time. I’m on a serve team that allows me to meet new people every Sunday, which has been tremendously helpful, but it’s also been weird not already knowing everyone and being a go-to person for others when they need help with something. It’s certainly a transition going to a place where no one knows your background or what your heart’s desires are.

I don’t mean to sound whiny—I’m truly grateful for where I am and the opportunities that I’ve been given. But I’m also giving myself permission to acknowledge that any big life changes bring a number of different challenges with them. They create seasons of struggle at times, and it’s OK to admit that you’re going through some rough stuff when you’re in the midst of it. And I’m in the midst of it.

I think we all have the intrinsic desire to be known by people—for them to know our likes and dislikes, our quirks, our faults, our strengths, what makes us laugh, and a bunch of other little and big things that make us the unique individuals we are. It’s one reason why the show Cheers was so successful and why the theme song is one so many of us sing with happy hearts.

Because we really do want to be where everybody knows our names.

I’m single. If you know me (or if you don’t, probably), this is not news to you. I was talking with a friend recently about relationships and how, although I will accept if I’m meant to be single forever, it would be nice to be in love and find my lobster. I love how people in relationships truly and deeply know each other. I’m not big on games at wedding showers, but I do get a kick out of the videos people make in which the groom is on camera answering some questions the way he thinks the bride will answer, and then she answers them in real time, and the video plays to see if he was right. (I did a somewhat poor job of explaining that, so hopefully you know what I’m trying to describe.) The videos are usually super cute and funny, but it’s also rather endearing to think that two people can know so many things about one another that other people often don’t.

It’s two people who are known by one another and love each other in spite of all of their combined imperfections—and it’s beautiful.

I love nicknames. They’re personal and often have backstories to them. Even if they don’t, they’re usually only used between people who know one another well enough not to use formal names. (I tend to give people nicknames almost right off the bat, so just assume we’re immediate BFFs if I call you something else very soon after we meet.) I like my name, but when people call me Nat or NatMer or Nattles or Nattie or Nat Nat, I get really happy, and I think it’s because, in those moments, I feel known and loved.

Sweet Fritzy. I don’t think I’ve ever called her by her first name.

It’s truly a beautiful thing when someone—whether it’s a significant other, a family member, a friend, or another meaningful person in your life—knows you completely and still loves you relentlessly. Because that’s the way God loves us. I know that I’m always fully known and fully loved by Him, and it’s a knowledge and a love that surpass any that I could find on this earth.

And that’s what I have to keep reminding myself and what I hope you will remind yourself, as well. There will certainly be times in life when we feel like we’re on the outside looking in and like we aren’t seen. But we are. You are seen. I am seen. And we’re so dearly loved that it’s pretty ridiculous.

I’m thankful that God gives us humans for us to love and to show us His love, even though ours is a more imperfect version. I hope that, regardless of what type of season you’re in right now, you know that you’re valued and loved as you are and that you matter dearly.

And I hope that you’re able to go often where everybody knows your name.

When you stop believing the lies

Like many individuals, I’m not a fan of lies and the pain they cause people.

Especially when those lies are things we believe about ourselves.

I lead a group of high school sophomore girls at my church, but on Sunday evening, we had some leaders out of town, so I took all of the girls for the small group portion. The topic of discussion was lost hope and the feelings of rejection, and I went a little bit off script and decided to make all of the girls acknowledge and dismiss some of the lies in their lives. We went around the circle, and they all shared the lies that they’d either been told about themselves or that they believed about themselves.

These are some of my precious gems, and I couldn’t adore them more.

As each girl shared, my heart broke a little bit more. I felt so defensive of them as I heard these beautiful and precious young women share that there were certain things about their looks and talents that didn’t make them good enough, that they were “too much” of this and that, and that they were “useless” in certain regards. It truly hurt to hear these sweet treasures say that they felt ugly and not valued.

We discussed why these were all lies and addressed each one individually. I then went back around the circle to have each girl say “I am [name]. I am beautiful, and I am enough” and then asked her if she actually believed it. And I hope that they all genuinely know that those words they repeated are true.

It’s pretty easy not to feel valued in this world, regardless of whether or not you’re dealing with the emotional rollercoaster ride that is adolescence. Life isn’t always going to go your way, and whether you like it or not, rejection is something you’ll likely face at some point or another. I can’t really think of a more dignified way to say it right now, so I’ll just say this: It sucks. It might make you think that you’re too much of something or not enough of something else. That’s not necessarily the case, though—sometimes you simply aren’t meant to do what it is that you thought you were supposed to do.

We’re all so different, which is a good thing. Those differences don’t make us better or worse than one another—they simply make us uniquely made. Life would be ridiculously boring and predictable if we were all essentially clones of one another.

I love the movie Hitch. Yes, it has a great storyline for Hitch and Sara, but Albert Brennaman really makes that movie what it is for me. The man does his own thing, and he learns to be unashamed of who he is. Hitch tries to tell him to act a different way, but Albert reverts back to his actual personality and demeanor. I love what he says when Hitch questions his dancing: “That’s just a lot of me being me.”

I hope this little homegirl always knows how valued she is and never loses her spunk.

And that’s what we should all be doing—a lot of us being us.

Albert spills mustard on his shirt while sitting in floor seats at a basketball game, and it doesn’t faze him. He kisses Allegra Cole and ignores the instructions Hitch had given him regarding how to act when doing so (the dramatic toss of his inhaler was perfect). He dances the only way he knows how (which, as he was told by Hitch, was very badly) without caring about the opinions of those around him. He lives life his way, and he doesn’t let the lies that could potentially hinder him keep him from going after what he wants. He doesn’t even believe that he isn’t good enough for Allegra.

And guess what? He gets the girl in the end.

People might ridicule you or judge you or make you feel like there’s something about you that makes you inadequate. It’s also possible that you believe those lies about yourself without the help of anyone else making you think them. Stop believing those lies, and start reminding yourself that you are worth the investment in yourself to believe that you are capable and worthy of what your heart desires.

Lies are destructive, so remind yourself of this truth: You are enough.

And please believe it.

Because one person can change your life without even knowing it

Every once in a while, one person comes into your life and changes it in more ways than you ever could have imagined.

And that person may have no clue that he or she did.

About two years ago, the pain of a broken heart that still isn’t fully healed began. Maybe I should have seen it coming; maybe there was no way for me to know. Either way, it happened, and it hurt. A lot.

Best.day.ever.

Right around that same time, though, this tiny human entered the world—sweet Olivia, the precious little girl who made me an aunt for the very first time. As soon as I saw her and held that angelic little body in my arms, I was smitten. Little did I know, this little girl would walk alongside me through a dark season that was filled with more crying than just her baby tears.

From the day she was born, I committed to be a big part of her life, and I certainly wanted her as part of mine. I went over to my brother’s and sister-in-law’s house at least once a week to spend time with her, and that hour or so each week was more dear to me than I’ll ever be able to explain fully.

Unfortunately, Olivia suffered from colic, which is such a horrible condition that’s quite common for many infants. It causes them to cry and cry and cry with no apparent cause or ways to calm down. I could sometimes get her to stop for a little bit, but it pained me to see her turning so red and crying so much. I know I’m not a parent, so I don’t know the complete pain it causes people with kids to see their own children hurt, but I know that it caused me enough pain to know that it’s got to be absolutely unbearable.

I mean, seriously. How cute is she?!

When homeboy hurt me, I cried more than I usually do. You know who was always there for me? That sweet little baby girl. She listened to me, she let me cry, she cried with me, and she reminded me that there are so many other people in my life who value me and who mean the world to me. Whether she knew it or not, she reminded me that, even when one guy makes me feel like I’m not good enough and not pretty enough and not worth enough of his time and energy, I am still enough. She made me feel loved when I felt completely unloveable.

I know that God brought her into this world in His exact time and with His exact purpose—Olivia is going to continue to change people’s lives for the better, and I’m absolutely certain of that. I met her right when I needed someone to walk with me through my heartache, and she’s continued to walk with me through that pain since the day she entered this world. Even though I live thousands of miles away, I still FaceTime with her every week and get to spend as much time as possible with her when I’m in town visiting my family.

There were lots of pics with my homegirls that day, but I promise that they were both happy. We’re still working on our photo opp faces.

Now Olivia has an adorable little sister, Evie, and she’s also been such an added blessing to everyone who meets her. There’s something about being an aunt that’s more special than froyo, and I don’t really know how to put it in the best words (even though words are supposed to be my thing). I honestly might not ever have kids, and that’s fine, but being an aunt brings me enough joy to fill all of the oceans. I think part of the reason for that is because of the way Olivia changed my life in ways she doesn’t yet understand.

But I don’t think that you have to be an aunt or uncle for something like that to happen. We often meet people who touch us and change us in incredible ways, and it’s not necessarily always because of anything significant that they did—it’s simply because they let us be who we are and reminded us that we are loved just as we are.

And you could also be that person to someone else.

You never know what storms other people are facing. There are so many different reasons people hurt—broken hearts, deaths of loved ones, lost jobs, financial hardships, broken friendships or family relationships, illnesses, uncomfortable or anxiety-causing situations at work or school—and we don’t always know what’s going on in each other’s lives. That’s just one more reason why it’s so important to show each other love when the world around us continues to fill itself with lies and hate.

For far too many years, I believed lies about who I was and what I wasn’t—too talkative, not pretty enough, not smart enough, not dateable, unloveable, unaccepted, rejected, too broken, too much of a mess. While I definitely don’t have it all together, I have much more confidence in who I am, and I don’t focus as much on what I’m not. That’s not important. What’s important is that I continue to live and love boldly so that those around me can see Jesus and know that they are sufficient in Him.

She truly makes this world a better place.

Olivia helped to remind me of that, and she didn’t even have to use any words to do so.

Maybe you’re doing really well in life right now and are fortunate enough not to be going through any tough times or hardships. Or maybe you’re in a rough patch full of more tears than all of your years combined and feel like you’ve been forgotten. Or maybe you’re even somewhere in the middle and have a lot of great things going for you but also have been struggling at times.

Whatever season of life you’re in right now, I hope that you know that you are valued, you are loved, and you matter. I hope that you have someone like Olivia come along and remind you of that, and I hope that you can be an Olivia to someone else, as well.

Because the more love we show to others to let them know that we care for them—their hurts, their celebrations, and simply their existences—the better this world will be.

Because love is better

When I was a teacher, my school’s motto was one I really loved: “Work hard. Be nice.”

I wish people everywhere had that motto.

Since the very first time I heard the song “Tim McGraw” on the country radio station, I’ve been a Taylor Swift fan. Over the years, her honest lyrics have gotten me through crushes gone wrong, guys not noticing me, moments of humiliation, trusting my heart, surviving the worst broken heart I’ve ever experienced, and a number of other situations and emotions that really only her words in the form of songs could make me feel like someone else knows the exact same feelings I was going through at the time.

“Teardrops on My Guitar” was my mantra more than once and played over and over on those nights I was alone when everyone else was out on dates (so, basically every night). I belted “You Belong with Me” (which is also one of my favorite music videos of all time) in front of my mirror on multiple occasions and in my heart every single time I walked by the guy who had captured it. “Fearless” is the tune I sing with the hope of one day being able to experience it as a reality with my perfect person (I really do want to dance in a storm in my best dress in the middle of a parking lot). “Love Story” has been my ring tone since 2008 (no, I’m not kidding), and I’ve performed it so many places (including at multiple weddings and on a boat) that it’s borderline ridiculous. “Red” accurately describes so many emotions a person can feel about another person all at once, and I relate to it so well. “All Too Well” is a beautifully sad story that I feel every single girl can listen to and think about her first love and first broken heart and feel a true sense of comfort.

I could go on and on about every song she’s ever written and how those lyrics have mattered in big ways.

And then I heard her new single “Look What You Made Me Do,” and I saw the music video premier, and there was one emotion I felt that overshadowed any others I might have drawn from the lyrics: sadness.

The song in itself isn’t sorrowful—it’s more vindictive than anything. But what makes me so sad is the cause of it. I don’t know Taylor Swift. I’ve never met her and have no idea what she’s really like without the cameras on her. I like to believe that she’s just as kind and fun and goofy and human as she seems. I like to believe all of the stories I hear about how giving and caring she is to all of her fans. Yes, I’m a fan, so of course I’m going to defend her, but I’m also going to defend what’s right and the way that people should and should not be treated.

I’m about to make what’s probably one of the world’s worst analogies, but I’m going to go with it. When I was in the seventh grade, I went on a ski trip for a long weekend, and it had been gloomy weather back in the Dallas area while I was away. When I came back, though, my face was super red and looked sunburned because I had gotten a really bad case of windburn on the mountains. I was in the worst stage in life ever (i.e., middle school), and I already thought I was super unpretty, so having to go to school with a face the perfect shade of Christmas was the exact opposite of what I wanted to do.

I really don’t care if someone calls me “tomato face” now, but it hurt in seventh grade.

Sure enough, my face didn’t go unnoticed. In fact, two of the more “popular” boys in my grade were in my science class, and they didn’t let me live it down. They kept asking me why my face was so red when there had been no sun in Dallas recently, and then they started calling me “tomato face.” Even after the windburn went away, the not-so-friendly nickname they gave me stuck, and that’s how they referred to me the rest of the year. I’ve mentioned before that I used to have really tough struggles with self-confidence when it came to guys—because I never thought I was pretty enough for them to like me—and being called “tomato face” all year by them sure didn’t help matters in that department much.

And this was merely commentary from two boys at one middle school, which is nothing compared to what celebrities experience, especially now with all of the access to social media. It’s so easy for people to insult others and make judgments, and I just don’t think it’s right, nor do I think it’s fair. I don’t care if that sounds whiny, but I’m so tired of people being so hateful. Haven’t we seen enough of that in life? I realize that people in the spotlight have to learn to deal with negative comments and the haters out there, but I don’t think that makes any form of hatred acceptable—especially when it makes a person feel like the woman she used to be is completely dead because of the reputation she’s been given.

I would hate for anyone to be called “tomato face” and feel hurt because of it, and I hate that so many worse things are said I about so many people all of the time. I saw it far too often when I taught high school, and it broke my heart every single time. I know we’re human and aren’t going to be nice every single second of our lives, and we’re certainly going to make mistakes, but I think it wouldn’t hurt if we all made more concerted efforts to care about other people and what our words and actions can do to them. And I know we’re all capable of it. I saw it every day when I taught high school—you can think whatever you want about teenagers, but some of them sure could teach a lot to adults out there. I saw them care for people. I saw them not let hate take over. I saw them love in big ways.

I don’t like that Taylor Swift feels the way she does, and I really don’t like that there are so many other individuals out there who often feel that way, too—whether they’re famous or not. I wish we could all feel like we’re not tomato faces. I wish that we could all know that it’s OK for us to be the people we are and not change because we feel judged. I wish we could all know something I told my students as often as I possibly could, because I fully believe it with all of my heart.

You are valued. You are loved. And you matter.

More than just

Sometimes life can make you feel like you’re in a giant gum ball machine.

And you’re just another gum ball in the mix.

Every once in a while, it’s easy to feel insignificant in this world. I could throw some stats at you about approximately how many individuals there are, but those are just numbers. And people shouldn’t be numbers. But I will tell you this: there are a lot of people on this earth.

And each and every single person matters.

SISTAsista
She’s more than just a sister

I think that’s something we often forget, even about ourselves. Last week I was in a meeting, and someone introduced me as just followed by what my role was in that meeting. It took me by a bit of surprise, and it certainly made me think later about how we sometimes look at other individuals as just this or just that.

But we are not just anything.

When you call someone just something, you take away some of his or her significance in this world. That girl who makes your coffee every morning isn’t just a barista–she’s the person who greets you with a smile and helps you start your day off right; that man talking to his players after the game isn’t just a coach–he’s a motivating life-changer; that woman at the corner with the stop sign in her hand isn’t just a crossing guard–she’s a protector of the innocent; that man putting all of those flyers and bills in your mailbox isn’t just the postman–he’s the ensurer of delivery; that woman at the bank isn’t just a teller–she’s a trusted financial institution necessity; that kid you saw goofing around in the department store isn’t just a teenager–he’s a future leader; that woman who was at the park in the middle of the day isn’t just a stay-at-home mom–she’s a lover and a caretaker who does more in one day than anyone can imagine; that reflection you see staring back at you in the mirror each day isn’t just another face in the crowd–you’re a beautiful being who deserves to feel loved and valued every single day.

Sometimes work, relationships, or a number of occurrences that happen in your day can make you feel so minuscule. In the grand scheme of things, yes, we are pretty small–but we have a BIG God who cares more for us than we can even fathom. And He certainly doesn’t see you as just anything.

God didn’t see David as just a young man but used him to defeat Goliath and lead nations; God didn’t see Esther as just a helpless woman but used her to risk her life by going before the king to plea for the lives of her people to be spared; God didn’t see Paul as just a sinner on the road to nowhere but transformed him and used him to live a life for Christ and tell others about Him; God didn’t see Mary as just a young virgin but chose her to carry the Savior of the world; God doesn’t see you as just anyone and can use you to do mighty things, too.

You are valued, you are loved, and you matter–and that’s so much more than just anything.