Find Your Courage, and Keep It

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I was never that girl who always had a boyfriend, and part of that is because I was never that girl who told guys how she felt.

I was the girl who held it all in but told her friends and posted hopelessly romantic Taylor Swift lyrics on Tumblr, hoping he would notice even though he was not on Tumblr. I put it out in the universe, OK? That should have been enough.

But it is, of course, not enough. If you go about your dating life this way, your crushes will at most only ever hear rumors or have suspicions that you like them. Or, even worst, your crush will be endlessly pestered by your friends—trust me, you do not want this.

Sure, if this were a rom-com (Did you all see To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before yet? It is a perfect film. PERFECT.), the boy in question would still make a move, but life isn’t quite a rom-com, and I don’t want you to live the way I did.

If you have feelings for someone, just tell him. Make your life easy. Why spend time pining over guys if they can just tell you upfront to move on? Why spend time pining if you could be together right now if his feelings are the same?

I know it’s scary. I know you don’t want to hurt. But, at a certain point, you have to make a decision either to move on or to make a move. Do not waste time sitting on the sidelines hoping someone will finally make the call to put you in the game.

I had one moment of bravery in high school. I was sitting in my last class for the day, and I suddenly decided that enough was enough. I knew the guy I liked had feelings for me, but he had done nothing about it. He hadn’t asked me out. He hadn’t confessed that he liked me. I felt like I was being strung along. and it was time to do something about it.

The bell rang, and I burst out of class, speed walking through the halls. I was going to find him. I was going to confess that I liked him. I was going to tell him that I knew he liked me and that he needed to do something about it, or I was done. I was out. Out!

Unfortunately, this one single moment of bravery was abruptly snuffed out. I ran into a friend in the hall, and as I speed walked past him, he knew something was up. He slow jogged along with me and pestered me about what my rush was. I confidently told him what I was about to do.

I don’t recall what he said that made me stop my crazed run through the hall—I’m sure just about anything would have worked since it took so much just to get my courage up to that point.

I sadly listened to my friend as he talked me out of my brave act, and I went on pining and moping for another few months. That friend was genuinely trying to look out for me, but that confrontation and confession was something I needed to do. It was something I would have been proud to do.

Ladies, take control of your lives. Yes, it’s scary when feelings are on the line, but how much better would it be if you could either have those feelings returned or get the answer you need to find someone who is a good fit for you?

Be brave.

And once you have that courage, don’t let anyone take it away from you.

Trust Life’s Unexpected Turns

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There will come a time in your life when something unexpected happens that changes the route your life was previously on. In fact, odds are that this will happen multiple times.

When I was a freshman in college, I had plans to be a big-time political news commentator. I had big opinions, and I wanted them to be heard—I wanted to make a difference. I was thrilled when I began chasing that dream by writing a political column for the school paper.

It only took a year for this dream to be squashed. It was a year of tears and isolation as I realized that people who share big opinions are not looked on kindly by people with opposing opinions.

Then I was told that I would not be needed back as a political commentator for the next school year. I was crushed. My dream began to unravel at the seams. Was I not a good writer? Was it my content? Was it my beliefs? My confidence spiraled.

Though this unexpected event crushed me, it was actually a blessing in disguise. That year writing publicly about politics was actually a horrible experience for me, a perpetual people pleaser. Knowing that half of the school population disliked me for my opinions was my worst nightmare.

Throughout the year, there had been other red flags that this was not a lifestyle I wanted to pursue. Not being invited back to the paper was the final kick I needed to realize that being in the spotlight was not for me. I didn’t need to grow a thicker skin. I needed to find a new career.

Since then, things have definitely improved. I found a better calling in public relations and marketing fields. I still get to write, I’ve been able to work on political campaigns, and best of all, I don’t have to cringe when opening my inbox wondering if I’ve received any hate mail.

Recently, my husband and I moved from California to Nebraska. That was another huge life change that was rather unexpected. I had no plans to leave our shiny new Southern California apartment. I had no plans to leave my first real full-time job. I had no plans to leave my family (whom we had just finally moved near).

But life happened, and just a little more than a year after starting the life of my dreams, we packed everything up and moved halfway across the country.

At first, I just wasn’t sure what God’s plan was other than us saving some money. But, only six months into our new lives, I’ve realized that this is once again a blessing in disguise.

Moving gave us the ability to buy a home (something we wouldn’t have been able to do in California for years and years), flex my creative writing skills, fall in love and raise an adorable Border Collie puppy, and I just found an amazing new job that is exactly the type of place I’ve wanted to work since I decided to move into the public relations field.

Listen, there will be times in your life when you will think, “Come on, God—what are You doing?” Those are usually the times when you will grow the most and become the person you need to be for the next season of your life—a season that might just be better than the previous.

Embrace those unexpected turns or roadblocks in your life. They will probably lead you somewhere you never considered going before—somewhere you might be glad you found.

Don’t Be Afraid to Take Risks

Seeing as how we shared a quote from Chip Gaines on our social media pages last week, it may come as no surprise to you that I am a huge fan of the Gaines family.

A few years ago, I had no idea who Chip and Joanna Gaines were. I saw their photos all over magazines in line at the grocery store, but all I knew was that they were on HGTV. I was a little surprised that a couple on that channel was of interest to news tabloids (though today it’s not surprising at all), but other than that, I thought nothing of them.

Then I became aware that they were under attack for the church they attended. After that I began to pay a little more attention to them; as a Christian myself, it’s always interesting to see how others—especially those in the spotlight—handle those types of situations.

At some point last year, I became completely enamored with this joyful and delightful couple. I loved watching their show. I loved Joanna’s Target line. It was beyond just liking their style or products. I grew to respect them as people. I loved that they involved their kids in their work. I loved that they worked hard as a family. I loved that Chip was always bringing animals home. I loved that they lived on a farm. I began to think that maybe my own similar dreams were possible.

After reading their books, The Magnolia Story and Capital Gaines (OK, I lied—I am still in the middle of the latter), I respected Chip and Joanna even more upon learning about how they’ve reached the level of success they have today.

I think, in the back of our minds, we can sometimes make excuses for why some people are successful—as if to make excuses for why we aren’t or why we can’t reach that same level of success. We think, “Oh, well that’s because they had money to begin with” or “Well, they knew people in the industry.”

What I love about the “Magnolia story,” if you will, is how honest the Gaines are about what it took to get where they are. This couple took risks to see their dreams come to fruition, and it worked because they weren’t fearful of failure. They saw failure as a learning opportunity and never as something to be ashamed of.

Taking risks is something I’ve always feared because, ultimately, I didn’t see failure as acceptable. To fail, in my mind, was to be not good enough or to have not worked hard enough.

Chip and Joanna have given me an amazing gift. They’ve helped me understand that sometimes failure is out of our control, and there are times when it’s actually necessary to experience failure in order to learn the life lessons needed to accomplish greater feats.

Whatever your dream is in this life, go for it. Do not be afraid of failure. Keep running after it until it’s in your grasp. Do not let fear intimidate you or cause you to second-guess your abilities. Life is far too short not to achieve all you can.

Chip and Joanna worked hard to make their dreams and goals a reality. You can, too.


What are your dreams? What risks are necessary to make those dreams come true?

Not Killing People with Kindness


Most of us have probably heard the expression “just kill them with kindness,” but I don’t really like that expression, mainly because of the word “kill.” I think I would prefer it to be something like “just show people love, no matter what.”

It’s highly possible that I’m overthinking a small expression that’s probably simply supposed to mean killing the meanness until it becomes ineffective or causes mean people actually to be nice, but I like to spin it to make it more positive—I mean, if you’re going to claim to be kind, go all the way in.

I think genuine kindness isn’t shown as often as it should be, and the only people who can change that are people. If someone is trailing you on the way into a building, it doesn’t take much time (maybe two or three seconds) to hold the door so that it doesn’t slam in the individual’s face. I promise it won’t make you any later than you already are or any more on time than you were going to be. Two or three seconds don’t have that much impact on tardiness.

But they have heavy impact on how you can make others feel.

There are a tremendous amount of opportunities in every single minute of every single day to show people kindness. Yes, it does become more difficult when others are rude or downright evil toward you or someone you truly care about, but that doesn’t make it necessary for you to act the same way. This is when the whole “loving people no matter what” comes into play.

Don’t try to kill a person with kindness—try to love him or her with it, instead.

There have been instances in my life in which I’ve been treated badly, and I can’t say that I’ve always responded in the best ways possible. Let’s be real here, shall we? Being nice is really challenging at times. It’s much easier to throw every ounce of kindness you think you might have out the window and say what’s really on your mind.

What I’ve learned, though, is that when you let your heart be transformed by love, those mean thoughts won’t last very long, and you’ll realize that the mean things that people say to you often have nothing to do with you at all. The mistreatment that you receive is likely the result of someone else going through something trying and painful, and you just happen to be getting the brunt of it all. No, that doesn’t make it justifiable, but perhaps it might give you a bit more empathy to extend love and grace rather than fire back with quick-witted and spiteful remarks.

They might be great burns that seem pretty clever, but they could also do more damage to a person who’s already in need of more love than you’ll ever know.

I faced a recent situation that gave me enough time for a choice: I could say what I was thinking (which certainly didn’t have kindness written all over it), or I could show that person the same amount of grace and mercy that God shows me every single day. Thankfully, I chose the latter, and I didn’t say what was on my mind—I said what was on my heart, instead.

I walked away feeling better than I would have if I had said something on an equal level as the other person, and I can only hope that the other person did, as well. As Cady Heron said during her epic mathletes moment, “calling somebody else fat won’t make you any skinnier, calling someone stupid doesn’t make you any smarter, and ruining Regina George’s life didn’t make [Cady] any happier.”

It doesn’t make you weak or cowardly not to fire back insults at someone or be mean to someone who’s mean to you. It’s brave to show love when it’s easier to show hate. It’s brave to love someone who seems almost unlovable. It’s brave to let love take over your heart and do the talking for you.

So don’t worry about killing people with kindness—just love them, and the kindness will come naturally.

Finding Hope in the Midst of Tragedy

As I write this, the Holy Fire in Southern California is blazing away not far from my parents’ backyard.

I hope, hope, hope, and pray that by the time this is published the fire is mostly contained or completely extinguished.

My heart breaks thinking about all of the wildlife being displaced, fighting for their lives. My heart breaks thinking about all of the people who have had to face the question of “What in my home can I not live without?”

My heart breaks for the people who have had to make the hard decision of what precious memories are to be left behind in homes they may not be able to return to. My heart breaks for the people who didn’t even have that option.

I cannot fathom how anybody could commit such an act that could cause so much pain. I cannot fathom how anybody could purposely cause such mayhem and destruction.

For those of you who have had to face tragedy, I cannot possibly know what you have gone through. You are far braver than I am.

We will all inevitably face some tragedy in our lives. We will all lose people we love. We will all go through hardships and trials.

In those times of darkness, it is so vital that we cling to the love in our lives. Think of those who give you purpose. Think of those who need you.

You could lose all of your possessions in a fire, but so long as you have loved ones and people to cling to, you’re going to be OK.

And, if you feel alone, I urge you to find a community to help you as you rebuild your life. Find it in a church or a support group. Find it through volunteer work.

It’s people who can bring us those first flutters of that “everything is going to be alright” feeling. In your darkest times, don’t hide. Don’t push people away. Cling to them. Let them in.

Don’t push hope away.

Be Brave Enough to Pursue Your Dreams


It’s really easy to get comfortable and set in your ways—there’s safety and familiarity in the areas of life that you know well.

But what about those places and situations with which you aren’t familiar but want to be? What about those dreams you have that seem pretty unattainable on many levels—the ones that you put in the back of your heart as dreams that are too big and too lofty ever to happen?

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a lot of different things. At one point, I thought I was going to be an Olympic sprinter. That wasn’t exactly in my DNA or natural talent bank. I now run only long distances, and I’m nowhere near the Olympics. I also considered being a well-known singer or gymnast, but the sounds that my voice produces in song are not ones that would sell records to anyone with ears, and I was essentially asked by my instructor to leave my gymnastics class because I was so awful.

So, no, not all dreams come true. But if I had spent every single day doing sprint workouts on the track or taking voice lessons or ignored my instructors comments and committed to actually being able to complete at least a straight cartwheel, then maybe my story would have involved some different dreams. But, to be perfectly honest, my heart was never fully committed to those pursuits.

There was something about writing, though, that I always loved. The more I wrote, the more I dreamed about writing more. When I was in second grade, I published my first book (granted, it was in my school’s library, but still—I was a published author, and I was proud of it). I used to write songs and poems and stories that only I ever read, but I knew that one day my words would mean something to more people than just my hopeless-romantic teenage self.

I studied journalism in college in hopes of becoming a sports reporter. I had been watching SportsCenter for years and admired the different anchors and sidelines reporters, especially the women. I wanted to do what they did in the written form, and I wanted young women to see my words and know that they were just as capable of chasing and achieving their dreams in what was largely a man’s arena in the world.

During my junior year of college, I took a sports reporting class from a professor who quite apparently was of the mindset that women weren’t as qualified as men when it came to knowing and writing about sports. Up until that point, I had never made less than an A on any type of assignment in any of my journalism classes. I don’t mean this to sound boastful, but it was something I was good at doing. I had been covering sports as a beat reporter for multiple sports since I was in high school, and I knew that I was capable and competent. This professor, however, tried to tell me differently.

I went to his office one afternoon to discuss a grade he had given me on a story, and he essentially told me that I wasn’t any good and that I should consider changing my major and my intended career path. When I became a sports reporter as my first job out of college, I emailed him my first story that I wrote.

Your dreams are your dreams, and nobody can tell you that they’re too big or too small or that they’re anything other than your dreams. You are capable of achieving more than you might even know right now—so let yourself dream big. Sure, not every single hope you have for your future will come true, but the long process of training or working hard or doing whatever you can to accomplish what you desire will grow your character and make you a stronger person just for being brave and having enough faith to try.

Don’t be afraid to go boldly after your dreams—after all, they won’t become realities unless you dare to make them come true.

Don’t Try So Hard to Fit In


Why fit in when you were born to stand out?
This quote is often attributed to Dr. Seuss, though many on the Google claim that he never actually said it. Regardless, it’s a good question to ask yourself.

I didn’t like middle school (some of you might refer to it as “junior high”). Looking back, I didn’t even like the person I was during middle school. I would argue that those are the worst years of a person’s life (or at least in the running for topping that classification), and pretty much everyone is trying to figure out how to act and what to say in this weird thing we call life. Nobody is actually “cool,” but far too many people think they are.

And middle school kids can be mean—like, really mean.

I remember feeling like I was constantly being judged (and I probably was). It didn’t matter if you were the most popular kid or the kid you thought nobody actually paid attention to—you felt like everyone was watching your every move to make sure that what you did was acceptable.

I’d now like to recount some memories about Doc Martens and Tommy Hilfiger. I need to preface these tales with the fact that I don’t actually really like either of these brands. I don’t have anything against them, but I simply don’t care for them. They don’t make anything that truly strikes my fancy. Yet, for some reason or another, I had to wear their stuff.

Doc Martens became super trendy when I was in the sixth grade. (They might actually be a thing again, but I’m not hip enough to know, so I’m only referring to them as if they’re a thing of the past.) They were these huge clunky boots that were WAY too pricey, but everyone had them. Thus, that meant that I needed a pair. Did I actually want a pair of these particular shoes? I mean, I guess I did at the time simply because they were the “in” footwear, but I don’t think that they actually appealed to me. No offense to anyone who wears them or to you, Doc, but I think they’re kind of ugly, actually. But I convinced my parents that I needed to have these shoes. We didn’t have a ton of money when I was growing up, so I feel rather guilty now that I begged my parents to buy me shoes that I didn’t need or even truly think were that great.

Then there was Tommy Hilfiger. Let’s be real—TH is better for the fellas. Again, if you like wearing this line of apparel, keep doing you, girl. When I was in sixth grade (and maybe seventh, too), Tommy Hilfiger collared shirts suddenly became super popular to wear. They were boys shirts, but all of the girls wore them, too. Again, this was not a brand that I could even afford, but I simply had to have shirts with some silly logo on them. (WHY was I so ridiculous?)

I think what upsets me most about my fashion choices is that they weren’t me. Instead, I was just trying to fit in with the people around me because I thought that it was what I was supposed to do. You know what I have learned in my many years since those horridly awkward days? It’s so much better to be myself rather than to try to be like everyone else.

Because being independent and unique is beautiful.

What you wear compared to what the people around you wear doesn’t matter. What they think of you doesn’t matter. What they might say about you doesn’t even matter. What matters is what you think of yourself and what you say about yourself. What matters is how you love yourself so that you can love and learn to be loved by others, as well.

You are a gem. Don’t ever forget that. Rather than trying to fit in with this world, go stand out as the one-of-a-kind creation you were always meant to be.

It’s OK to Be Quiet

My Post (37)Recently, I was at Petco with my 6-month-old puppy, Cooper. Now, Cooper has had some fear issues. She is extremely apprehensive of strangers and the outdoors, in general. She’s been improving a ton, though, and we try to take her everywhere we go (when possible) so that she can socialize with more people and other dogs.

A week or so ago, I was in Petco with Cooper. I usually have to carry her around the store because she’s so aware and fearful of the other dogs and humans doing their own shopping. This time, though, Cooper was doing amazing. She pranced right in and sniffed around, walking down aisle after aisle with me. I was so pleased and excited for her that she reached this new milestone.

A woman approached and asked if she could pet Cooper. I said yes but asked her to go slowly. Cooper has been known to snarl if people approach her too quickly (we are working with her on this).

The woman tried to let Cooper sniff her hand, but Cooper wasn’t interested and stayed near me. I could tell that the woman thought this wasn’t normal dog behavior. She started asking questions about Cooper with a concerned tone as if she was trying to pinpoint where we’d gone wrong with her training. In the end, she suggested we try socialization classes.

I was polite but left the encounter rather upset. I kept thinking to myself, “just because my dog isn’t interested in you doesn’t mean she’s broken.”

Now, I’m not saying this line of thought is healthy; I was taking this all way too personally, and Cooper really does need more socialization. That’s why she was at Petco, after all.

But it did remind me of how I sometimes feel since I’m a more introverted and shy person. I have often felt as if people can think less of me for being too quiet or too private or see me as unsocial.

I’ve seen this with other shy or introverted folks, as well. I think all too often that we can look at quiet people and think that they’re broken, that they need our help. We need to break them into the social scene. We need to drag them out of their houses and to parties. We need to build their confidence.

What I want to stress here is that it’s OK to be an introvert. It’s OK to be shy. It’s OK to be an extrovert. It’s OK to be outgoing. It’s OK to be a combination of these traits. We are all broken in our own way, and usually it has nothing to do with how much we enjoy socializing or talking.

Quiet introverts can still be confident—maybe they just express that in different forms than spoken words. Quiet introverts can still enjoy socializing—they just need time alone to recharge. Quiet introverts have just as much to offer as outgoing extroverts, and we desperately need both in the world.

Regardless of where you fall on that shy or loud, introvert or extrovert spectrum, the world needs you. Because, yes, we all love a good party, but sometimes we need the quiet.

You are not broken because you prefer the latter.

 

You Voice Matters


When I lived in Texas, I had to report to jury duty once. It’s a civic responsibility about which many people grumble, and it takes up a lot of your time when you have to take an entire day out of your life to sit and hear about other people’s potential crimes. It feels like such a long and arduous process.

Like those grumblers, I can’t say that I was looking forward to being a possible juror. I had a lot going on at the time, and my mind was in a million other places. When I got to the courthouse, I entered the room with what seemed like thousands (it wasn’t) of other people and took a seat with a book. A little later in the morning, some video started playing letting us know why we were there. There was one line in that video—and pretty much the only thing from that entire day—that I remember.

“Your voice matters in the Texas justice system.”

I kept thinking it over and over in my head. My voice matters. I didn’t care so much about that Texas justice system part, but I really liked being told that my opinions and what I have to say are valued and appreciated.

And I want you to know that yours are, too.

As women, we don’t always get the platforms and respect that we deserve. This is often particularly true if you’re a young woman. People might even make you feel like you don’t have any right to speak up or the authority to preach or teach or be the voice of those who can’t speak for themselves. My dear, I’m going to tell you right now that this is completely false. Hear this, and know it to be true.

YOUR VOICE MATTERS—and in more places than the Texas justice system.

No matter what age you are, no matter what race you are, no matter what gender you are, no matter what your social status is, no matter what your educational background is, no matter what your relationship status is, no matter what—your voice matters. And it needs to be heard.

So often, we sit and let others do the talking for fear that what we say isn’t smart enough or maybe is too controversial. Or perhaps we think that others will judge us or don’t respect us enough to hear what we have to say. Unfortunately, many women face this in the workplace and are more silent than they should be in meetings that are dominated by men or other women by whom they’re intimidated. I hope that you will help to break this mold and mindset and be part of the change that allows women to be more comfortable speaking up and pursuing more leadership opportunities with the confidence that they have strong and valuable voices in all areas of life.

Sister, please speak up. Please be brave. Please let boldness flow out of you to the point where you can’t contain it. Please don’t ever let fear keep you from saying what you want and need to say.

If you’re passionate about sharing your heart through writing, go for it. If you want to study theology and work toward becoming a pastor or speaker, go for it. If you want to teach or mentor others, go for it. If you’ve been holding back the feelings in your heart but really want to declare them out loud to the guy you love, go for it. If you have something to say in your meeting at work, go for it (and don’t start off with “I’m sorry” or some other way of apologizing before expressing what’s on your mind). Whatever it is that you know you need to say in whatever the situation, go for it. Don’t let fear or intimidation hold you back.

You have a beautiful and powerful voice—so let it be heard.

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