Walk Away from Those Holiday Blues

The holidays can be tough for many people, especially when you feel like you’re completely alone in the world and are constantly surrounded by reminders of family traditions and people in love—things that might be lacking in your current stage of life.

For some, the holidays are a time to relax, celebrate, and enjoy precious moments with family members and loved ones. For others, though, it can be a season of painful memories and perpetual feelings of loneliness. Even in your darkest times, though, there are still many reasons to be thankful and many ways to try to cheer yourself up, even if it’s just a little bit.

Holiday movies: Either commit hardcore, or avoid them altogether.
Sometimes, holiday movies can make you feel better. The Grinch (the one with Jim Carrey) and Home Alone (also Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, but stop after that one) are always great options of feel-good movies with a little bit of laughter tacked on there, too. And who can count out Christmas Vacation? That’s a classic for sure. If you’re feeling way too single, it might be best to steer clear of movies like The Holiday or essentially any Hallmark or Netflix Christmas romance flick. While they are the perfect amount of cheesy goodness, they also might tug at some heart strings that you don’t want to mess with right now.

Treat yo’ self.
Go get a pedicure or manicure or even a nice massage at a spa. You deserve to pamper yourself every once in a while, and a good time to do so is when you’re feeling down. Or take yourself on a date to dinner and a movie (follow the guidelines above regarding holiday movies, though). Another option is to treat yourself to a nice carriage ride to look at Christmas lights (if that’s an option in your area). Sure, it might remind you that you’re the only one in the carriage, but it’s also a good way to declare to yourself that you are worth a carriage ride, regardless of your relationship status, and you are strong and independent enough to take that adventure on your own.

Plan a trip or short getaway.
Depending on what your financial situation is, a short break from the ordinary could be just what you need. Whether you take an actual vacation and go someplace far away or just venture to a town closer to where you live, stepping outside of your day-to-day world is therapeutic and often healing for your heart and soul.

Send Christmas cards to those who are dear to your heart.
I love when people send me Christmas cards. It reminds me that people care about me and thought about me when they were putting together their lists. Years ago, I decided that my lack of husband and children wasn’t going to stop me from being a part of such a fun holiday tradition. Each year, I try to find something new and creative to do to put on a card, and then I print them out at CVS or Walgreens and mail them to all of my people. It’s now one of my favorite annual traditions! My life is mine to live, and I’m not going to let anything get in the way of that.

While these activities won’t make all of your problems go away, they might help just a little and soften the pain of what can truly be a difficult season for many people. Just remember that, even though it doesn’t always feel like it around this time of year, you are valued and loved, and you matter more than you realize. You are special, and you are a gift.

Be brave enough to believe that and live in that truth each and every day.

Don’t Run Away


Life is filled with a number of wonderful memories and joy that we can’t contain, but it’s also full of pain and tough times that feel like they’ll never end.

And when those struggles hit, don’t let them cause you to give up hope or run away.

Quitting often seems like the best solution—it’s usually pretty easy and feels like stepping away from our troubles completely will simply make them disappear. Let me be the one to break this to you: That’s false. Your problems don’t vanish or stay behind when you run away from them. That actually tends to make things worse.

When I was in college, I had trouble figuring out where I belonged. I started out at one school and felt overwhelmed and out of place the first semester (which are actually normal feelings for a college freshman), and I missed parts of my life that I had left behind. Rather than let myself get used to the transition, I ran away. I went to a different college for my second semester and hated it. So, naturally, I ran away again—back to the first college I went to.

After my sophomore year, the school dropped my major, so I left. Again. I went to the same college where my brother was, and I lasted a semester before deciding that I didn’t fit in there and needed to leave. Once again, I ran away. This time, I transferred to the school where my sister was and endured what ended up being one of the most difficult five months of my life. I figured there was no point in sticking around at a place that made me miserable, so I transferred back to the school I had attended the previous semester and stayed there for my entire senior year. (Yes, the fact that I still graduated in four years is an actual miracle.)

What I realized—many years later, of course—was that the problem wasn’t the schools I went to or the people I met at those schools. I ran from all of those things, and I still wasn’t happy. In fact, I was in a bit of a depression for my junior and senior years of college. The problem was that I wasn’t facing the actual problem—the struggles I was facing in my heart. I didn’t feel like I was enough, and I was having trouble feeling like I belonged anywhere. Although I was going to church and pouring myself into Christian organizations, I felt more like I was just going through the motions and not actually making concerted efforts to grow in my faith.

I wasn’t finding my identity in Christ and didn’t know my worth in Him. In fact, I wasn’t finding my identity anywhere—and I certainly didn’t feel any worth.

I know that I’ve gone on the path that I have for a reason, and there’s no use thinking about what might have been, but I think I would have enjoyed my college experience a lot more if I’d had more hope in who I was and who I was meant to be.

My friends, I hope that you never find yourself in a place like this. I hope that you know that you are valued, you are loved, and you matter. Don’t let any person or situation make you believe any less. And don’t run away from the things that scare you or are difficult for you to face.

Be brave in those moments of anxiety and fear, and stand firmly, knowing that you are enough, and you are worth the fight.

Let Yourself Receive Compliments


I’m not exactly sure why, but sometimes it’s difficult for us to hear good things about ourselves—it’s as if compliments are only meant to be given and not received.

I can’t really explain why this is a thing. I love encouraging people and telling them all of the qualities they have that make them wonderful. I love seeing smiles dance across their faces when they realize that other people notice those traits about them. Yet, for some reason, I feel weird when I receive compliments.

I struggled for many years thinking that I wasn’t enough—not pretty enough for guys to be interested in me, not talented enough for various activities, not capable enough to achieve certain goals, and simply not enough for anyone or anything. I don’t know if it’s believing those lies for so long that led me to be uncomfortable with compliments, but it’s possibly a root cause.

Here’s something that you should know, though: It’s perfectly OK to let yourself be complimented—it might even actually be healthy.

No, you don’t need to fish for compliments (this is often something many people tend to do when they are feeling insecure), but it is important to be comfortable with letting other people offer you words of affirmation.

Letting people remind you that you’re enough.

Letting people remind you that you are worth more than you know.

Letting people remind you that you matter.

And letting people remind you that they see you for the person you are, and they still love you.

My boss recently told me how great of an asset I am to our team and how thankful he is that I came to work for the company—that I’ve already changed the culture there and provided tremendous value to the work we do. I felt myself start to squirm mentally, but then I decided to accept his words as truth and let them engrain themselves into my own belief. Because I needed to remind myself that I’m enough.

And so are you.

Don’t make excuses or blame your successes and positive characteristics on luck or say they are results of accidents of some sort. Instead, say “thank you,” and believe that the affirmation you’re hearing is full of genuine truth.

Compliments are meant to be given, but that means that people also have to receive them. Every once in a while, let yourself be one of those recipients. You don’t have to become a narcissist (after all, Taylor Swift says that she never trusts one), but you can let yourself be reminded of the good things about you and the positive qualities that you bring to the lives of others.

You are uniquely you for a reason, and there’s nothing wrong with letting the encouragement and uplifting words of others further affirm the remarkable treasure you are.

The Christian Dating Cliche: Guard Your Heart

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I call it a cliche, but it’s a rule to live by: Guard your heart.

When I was 15 years old, I found myself heartbroken for the second time in a year. Out of nowhere, the guy I had been dating (who I thought was so different than my ex-boyfriend) dumped me. He said God was calling him to do it.

Listen, I’m Christian, but I do not think a good way to break up with people is to claim that “God said so.” That is not loving. That is a cop-out. If God is really calling you to break up with someone, then give that person the reason why that may be. For example, it might be that the soon-to-be-ex wants to raise children with different values or has a different lifestyle. Even the cliche “I love you, but I’m not in love with you” is better than the “God told me to” line.

The same boy who used that line on me also told me over and over that he thought God was telling him that I was “the one.” OK, dude. I think he was confusing what he wanted with what God was saying to him. Just saying.  

Anyway, I was heartbroken. Crushed. I couldn’t get out of bed. It had taken me months to snap out of my last heartbreak, and I couldn’t face the inevitable road of pain that I knew I was about to walk down again.

My mother, being wise, called me out of school and drove me right down to our church offices to speak with the high school pastor. I’m really thankful for the heartfelt talk he gave me. It really did help—not so much with the pain, but I think he saved my faith. I could have easily turned sour and cynical toward the church and God. After all, did God really tell that boy to dump me? Why would He let me get hurt again?

Ladies, regardless of your religion, it is important to guard your heart and your faith. People lie. People make mistakes. People say things without thinking. I’m sure that boy didn’t mean to hurt me. Honestly, for all I know, maybe he was—VERY WRONGLY—flirting to convert, and he thought he was actually doing a very nice thing by getting me more involved in church. Maybe it was some weird test I didn’t pass.

It doesn’t matter why he said what he said. I should never have allowed myself to be that caught up in someone that my entire world would be shattered by a breakup.

Breakups are hard, and they hurt. As Lorelai Gilmore would suggest, they require wallowing, but they should not derail your entire life—at least not at 15 years old or after only a few months of dating.

Guard your heart. Be sure that you don’t allow your boyfriend to become your world. Keep time for friends and family. Don’t text 24/7 (as tempting as that might be). Schedule phone calls, or have a cut-off time for text conversations.

Most of all, value yourself. You are far more than a relationship. You are more than some boy’s words.




 

Your Reflection in the Mirror Isn’t Your Identity


Have you ever looked in the mirror and thought to yourself “
UGH!”?

I know that I have.

I remember the first time that I saw the movie Princess Diaries and the thought that I sometimes felt like I could relate to Mia Thermopolis. Big hair that can’t be easily tamed is real, girl. One morning before school, she looks in the mirror and says “as always, this is as good as it’s going to get.”

I feel your pain, sister.

That was often my mindset—well, except for the fact that I always wanted my reaction to my reflection to be better. I wanted to be prettier. I wanted my hair to look less frizzy and more beautiful. I wanted boys to like me and actually pursue me. I wanted to feel like I was worthy.

Here’s what I didn’t understand, though: I was already worthy just as I was.

It’s not necessarily always an easy truth to accept, although it should be. I feel like it should be pretty simple—my worth is not found in what I look like or how many guys are interested in me; it’s found in who I am in Christ. I could have the frizziest hair in the entire world (and that’s probably sometimes fairly accurate) and still be just as valuable as the days when it’s actually presentable. The point is that it’s not what you see in the mirror that determines who you are—it’s what’s in your heart.

I’m sure that you’ve heard the expression “it’s what on the inside that counts,” and you might roll your eyes and think that people usually only say that about other people they think aren’t very attractive or when they’re trying to make sure that others don’t develop shallow mindsets. Sure, it’s a trite expression, but it carries such tremendous truth. It truly is what’s inside your heart that makes you beautiful.

But, of course, we women typically want to look attractive. Here’s my suggestion to you: Stop focusing on all of your flaws, and start embracing what makes you uniquely you. When you look in the mirror, don’t focus on the zit in the smack-dab middle of your forehead. Instead, compliment yourself on your remarkably captivating eyes or your contagious smile.

Rather than looking in the mirror and telling yourself that “this is as good as it’s going to get,” remind yourself that you are full of beauty and worth every bit of love there is in this world—you are enough, now and always.

But What Do You Want?


When you’re in a relationship, whether it’s fairly new or one you’ve been in for a while, it’s easy to get caught up in what your significant other wants and forget about what
you want.

If you’ve ever been in a relationship—or if you’re in one currently—think about a time when you did something simply because it’s what your boyfriend wanted to do. More likely than not, you can come up with at least one example, and that makes perfect sense. Relationships involve compromising and also sucking it up sometimes and taking part in activities that you may have no desire to do (e.g., seeing a Star Wars movie when you absolutely hate Star Wars).

It becomes a problem, though, when you’re constantly the one having to sacrifice your wants and happiness to accommodate the other person.

If you reach a point in your relationship when you feel drained from consistently having to set your preferences to the side in order to make the other person happy, then it might be time to reconsider whether or not he is the right person for you. For me, I know that I want to be with someone who cares about me enough to want to experience my interests with me and who also wants to invite me along to his own hobbies and interests—someone who honors and respects me enough to acknowledge that relationships are about more than one person. He shouldn’t be constantly catering to what I want to do, and he shouldn’t expect me constantly to cater to what he wants to do.

It has to work both ways for the relationship actually to thrive.

This isn’t exclusive only to romantic relationships, though. It can certainly become the case in friendships, but there should still be that same general understanding. Friends should respect that, while they aren’t going to have every single thing in common with one another, they can still enjoy time together by sharing experiences and memories by partaking in each other’s hobbies and interests. My sister doesn’t like big crowds (like, at all), yet she’s come with me to multiple concerts and sporting events because she knows that I enjoy those things, and she enjoys spending time with me.

But compromises like that can’t be one-sided. I’ve gone places with her (like going to see a musical starring her middle school students on a Friday night), as well, because my sister is my favorite person, and I like sharing moments with her—even if those moments take me places that I might not have necessarily gone without her.

When you’re on your own, sure, it’s much simpler to do what you want when you want. I guess that’s one of the perks of being single. When you finally meet the person who makes your heart beat faster, though, you need to accept the fact that sometimes you will find yourself in situations and places you don’t necessarily want to be (I’m looking at you, State Fair). Just make sure that your choices aren’t always taking the back seat.

Because sometimes it’s OK to ask yourself a question that must be posed once in a while: “But what do I want?”

Don’t Lose Yourself While Trying to Find Yourself


As you’re growing up and learning more about life and how you fit in this world, it can be easy to stray away from your true identity while you’re trying to figure out who you really are.

Sometimes we tend to let other people influence our likes and dislikes. I wish that I could say I’ve never done this, but that would be a lie. When I was in college, I was in that stage in which I was starting to fall for a guy who was one of my good friends, and I suddenly found myself listening mainly to the kind of music he liked and not as much to the country tunes that I actually preferred. Sure, I did actually like the songs he liked, but I then started only listening to those bands and those genres rather than paying attention to what I wanted to hear.

Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation—suddenly thinking that the things you find interest in aren’t really as great as you once thought they were? That maybe you should learn to like more of the things that the people around you like? If that’s the case, please know that you’re not alone. Sadly, most of us probably do this way more than we would care to admit.

Even when I started off in my first career as a sports reporter, I thought that I had to act or present myself a certain way in order to be accepted and respected, especially because I was a woman in a male-dominated profession. I wish that the younger version of me would have understood that losing my own identity in order to try to be someone I definitely wasn’t was a horrible idea.

When I fell really hard for a guy who broke my heart, I sometimes found myself hesitant to let certain things about me be made known to him simply because I thought that he was looking for something—or someone—completely different. That’s not a healthy way to move toward what you want to be a genuine relationship.

I’m proud of the person I am today, flaws and all, and I’m glad that I don’t have to hide who I am or strive to impress others by changing my likes and dislikes. I don’t like chocolate. I don’t like marinara sauce, so I don’t like most pizzas. I eat Wheat Thins with everything. I put ketchup on almost anything. I would rather watch sports all day than anything else on television. I hate snow. I’m morally opposed to fantasy football. I’m a virgin who has only kissed one guy, so my experience level is near zero. I have an unashamed love for country music. I can’t stand Star Wars.

Ladies, don’t ever try to hide the things that make you you, and don’t try to create an image of you that isn’t actually you. Growing up isn’t always easy, and there will be times in life when you really are trying to figure out who you are and where you belong in this world—and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. It’s natural. But don’t soil that time of discovery and the experiences you have along the way with false pretenses that you have to force yourself to feel or believe.

To revert back to those glorious carefree days of childhood, Grandmother Willow said it best in Pocahontas: “Listen with your heart, and you will understand.” Let your heart be what guides you in your journey to discovering who you are.

Because if you lose yourself while you’re trying to learn more about who you are, then you’ll never know or become the real you you’re meant to be.

How to Embrace the Single Life

Life can start to feel a little lonely when the majority of your friends start dating, getting engaged, and then walking down the aisle toward the men who make them swoon. But just because your friends are all becoming one half of couples doesn’t mean that you have to feel left out and sorry for yourself.

Being in a season (or what seems like a lifetime) of singleness can actually be a true blessing, whether or not it seems like it at the time. There is an entire world out there for you to explore and a countless amount of people you can meet along the way.

While the list below definitely doesn’t include every benefit to flying solo, it hopefully provides some encouragement and a reminder that you certainly don’t have to be in a relationship with someone to have a good time—even at events that are full of mostly couples.

You don’t have to consult with anyone.
You can pretty much do whatever you want when you want to, and you don’t have to coordinate your plans around those of a significant other. Decide last minute that you want to go on a quick weekend getaway or road trip? Go for it. Craving Chinese food tonight? Get it, girl. Your schedule is your schedule, and you don’t have to double-check with someone else to make sure that you’re still getting in that QT with your man. Sure, it will be nice eventually to be able to share your experiences with someone else, but for now, embrace the time you have to maintain a lifestyle that goes with the flow of what you’re feeling and what you want to do.

You save a lot of money on holidays.
One thing that I’ve always appreciated about being single is the fact that I don’t have to worry about what to get someone on Valentine’s Day and all of the other gift-giving holidays. I’m sure that I will love getting presents for my main squeeze when I actually have one (except for on Valentine’s Day because I will never celebrate that one), but my wallet and I are currently very appreciative in this solitary season.

You can still dance.
The dance floor was created to be filled with people busting out their greatest (and not-so-great) moves. Even when those slow songs come on, don’t feel like you have to use those ballads as excuses to go to the bathroom, stand in the corner, or pretend that you need a break or that you have something in your shoe. You can dance all by yourself during slow songs—I do it all of the time, even at wedding receptions. It’s freeing. Get out there and twirl, girl. Hopefully one day you’ll have someone to sway with you and spin you around the dance floor during the slower songs, but until then, let yourself enjoy the songs that you want to enjoy.

You develop a unique independence.
Being single allows you to become much more self-sufficient, especially when you actually do many of your life activities alone and not always in groups or with your friends. It’s good when you can learn and practice some basic skills—cooking (or, in my case, being able to use a microwave most efficiently), changing a tire, putting together furniture, seeing a movie by yourself, eating out alone, managing your finances—without the help of anyone else. Those things will make you that much more ready when you finally do stumble upon the man you’ve been hoping and praying for all along.

You learn more about yourself.
The more you know about yourself, the better you’re able to let yourself be known by someone else. A season of singleness is a great time to discover even more of your preferences and tendencies as well as what exactly you want in a relationship and what types of qualities you want in a guy.

You learn to love yourself for the person you are.
Yes, you can still love yourself when you’re in love with someone, but being single allows you to invest in yourself more than you ever have before. It’s a really good time to develop more of an appreciation for the qualities that make you you. I spent far too many years thinking that I was single because there was something wrong with me, but that was a lie that I shouldn’t have let myself believe. The things that make me the woman I am are not bad things, and someone will appreciate them someday and love me for all of my quirks and in spite of my faults.

We all have different timelines, and just because you aren’t on the same page as your friends might be in terms of relationships and experience doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with you or that you can’t enjoy life as a single woman. You already have so much going for you, and you can continue to pursue your own passions without worrying about what you don’t have in life.

You’ll find the right person when you’re supposed to, but don’t miss out on all of the wonderful opportunities in front of you because you’re too busy squinting far off into the future.

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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