Your Dreams Aren’t Silly


When I was a little girl, I had quite a few lofty dreams of what my future looked like, and although not all of them panned out like I hoped they would (it turns out that you actually have to have some glimmer of talent to put on Taylor Swift-esque performances), I never let my hopeful childish heart stop dreaming them.

The dreaming wasn’t limited to my career aspirations, though—I also wanted a husband. And I still do. Let me be clear: I don’t just want a husband to have a husband. I want to build a life with a man who loves me for me and wants to spend the rest of his forever with me.

For some reason, as we continue to get older, the dreamer mindset we once had as little kids can start to disappear. Those hopes that you had when you were 7 years old don’t seem as possible when you’re 17 and even less so when you’re 27. But why should our hopes and passions fade just because they haven’t necessarily come true in the timeline that we wanted them to? Sure, I’m not going down the path to become a successful musician, and I never will, but had I truly desired that (clearly it didn’t turn out to be a huge passion of mine), then that’s a dream that I should make sure doesn’t stay just a dream forever.

When I was in the second grade, I published my first book. Granted, it was only published in my elementary school’s library, but still. It was a big deal to me. I mean, the pages were laminated. That’s huge, people! There was a ceremony for it and everything, and I won the Author of the Year award for my grade level. Each year after that, I published another book for the library, and the dream of becoming a writer started to stir up in my heart.

Roughly 26 years later, I still have that same dream. Yes, I’m a writer for my profession, but it’s not in line with what that little second-grader did way back in the ‘90s. My heart longs to write books and speak at conferences and events—I’m not there yet, though. And this is one dream that I’m not going to give up on in the way that we often do with things that seem out of our reach for too long. I believe in my heart that I have this passion for a reason, and God is going to use it. It’s not just a silly dream—it’s a dream that’s fueled by hope and trust and perseverance.

It’s the same with my desire to fall in love and be loved by a man forever. I recently started a book about praying for your future husband, and it’s allowed me to believe with my whole heart that it truly is possible that I will find that guy someday, and we will live our own version of a fairytale that only God could have written. I now remind myself every day that it’s also not just a silly dream—it’s a dream that can be fueled by hope and trust and perseverance.

You have the dreams you have for a reason. Don’t label them silly and forget about them forever. Don’t let chances pass you by because you’re afraid or think that you’re not capable. You are capable, and you are worth the fight to pursue those dreams.

Keep dreaming, sister. You’ve got this.

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?”

Be Intentional in the Way You Treat Others

I really don’t like trite expressions, but there’s one that’s grown in importance to me over the years: Say what you mean, and mean what you say.

It sounds so simple, yet it can actually be rather challenging, especially in terms of the relationships we have with people in our lives. Sure, it can sometimes be scary to say what’s in your heart, but I can think back to far too many times when I wish that I had said what I really wanted to say rather than hidden the truth or not been completely honest with someone who should have known my feelings.

Say what you mean—don’t say what you think other people want you to say or what seems like the safer option. It’s better to be bold and take a risk by saying what you mean rather than looking back in wonder or regret later for letting a prime opportunity pass you by.

The other half of that expression—meaning what you say—is even more important. I’ve been on the wrong end of someone not meaning what he said, and it hurt. A lot. I once let a guy lead me on for months and feed me some pie-crust promises (easy to make, easy to break), and I was left with a broken heart and an ocean full of tears. It’s really easy to let words fly out of your mouth, but actually living up to what you led someone to believe is another story entirely.

Make sure that what you’re telling someone is what you actually mean so that you don’t leave someone hurt and confused.

I’ve never been on a real date. I’ve been in 19 weddings and attended many more as a guest, but I’ve always either gone by myself or taken my sister as my plus one. For two of these weddings, I was supposed to have dates, but the guys both canceled. Two separate weddings. Two different guys. I wish that they both would have been honest with me from the start if they weren’t planning to go with me.

If you say you’re going to do something or be somewhere, do the thing, and show up to where you said that you’d show up. Otherwise, don’t initially commit to it.

Yes, sometimes life happens, and you do have to back out on plans that you made. But have you ever said to someone “we should get together soon” or “yeah, I’ll be there for sure” or “I’ll be praying for you” without truly thinking about what you’re saying or actually having the intention of following up with that person, going to whatever you agreed to go to, or later thinking about what you said that you’d be praying about? While it’s great to offer friendliness and support to others, it’s important to be intentional in what you say and to make sure that you follow through on the promises you make.

The human heart is strong, but it’s also extremely fragile at the same time. What you say to people and the way you treat them can impact them in bigger ways than you think. That’s the thing, though—if you’re not being intentional, you’re probably not even thinking about how your words and actions can affect others.

Every person matters and deserves to feel valued, so let’s make more efforts to remember that and be intentional in what we say and do.

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.

Every Kiss Matters


When I was younger, I had this dream of exactly where my first kiss would happen: in a perfect little white gazebo with Christmas lights brightening it up. I wish that I could say that this came true, but it definitely did not.

Each year that went by, I let this desire grow. As a teenager, it seemed ideal. As a college student, it seemed pretty perfect that I had waited so long and that it would happen where I always wanted it to. As a young woman in my 20s, I continued to let my fairy tale grow, but I think that part of me knew that it wasn’t going to happen exactly as I’d always hoped.

Instead, that long-awaited lip-lock moment happened at a local track after an event in which some of the people I knew in the running community had participated. But, to me, on that stuffy summer evening in Texas, it felt like such an ideal moment at the time, even though it was nowhere near anything I had conjured up in my imaginative mind.

I had waited more than 27 years for that kiss (yes, I didn’t have my first kiss until that age, and no, I haven’t been kissed since that time nearly six years ago), and it was very special to me. My hopes soared at the possibility of this guy being the guy I had waited for to come along and take me by the hand to be forever his. Sadly, that wasn’t how the story ended, and it actually resulted in a heartache that I’ve (thankfully) gotten over at this point. Even though that guy hurt me, and I don’t have any feelings for him anymore or ever really think about him, that kiss is something that will always be a significant moment in my life.

Because every kiss matters.

Now, I know this might not always seem true if you play games like spin the bottle (do people still do that??) or whatever, but I believe that all kisses have (or at least should have) meaning. They’re important. They’re sacred. They’re special. A kiss is a moment you share with another person, and it can often be a piece of your heart that you’re giving away.

Kisses also sometimes lead to more than kissing, and if kisses are sacred and special, think of how much more sacred and special those stronger intimate moments are.

I’m going to be honest with you about something: Even though that first kiss of mine is a cherished memory, there are times when I honestly wish it had never happened. I know that your first kiss won’t always be with the person you end up with forever, but I guess that I was sort of hoping it would be—or at least that the guy who kissed me wouldn’t turn out to be someone who really didn’t care about me at all.

By this point in the story, you’ve probably realized that I’m also a virgin, and that’s something that I’m not ashamed to admit. For me, my virginity is now something that I protect and something that I’m definitely not going to give away to someone who is only going to walk away. I know that sex is often treated as something more casual in today’s society than it used to be in the past, but it’s still something that’s special. I believe that sex is something that’s meant to be shared between a husband and a wife, though I’m not trying to preach to or condemn anyone who feels differently.

What I do want to remind you of, though, is that you are worth more than a moment of passion, and you deserve to know that you matter and that you are enough. That truth can often get lost in kissing and sex because, as women, we tend to let our hearts do the thinking. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s something that makes it hurt a lot more when we give pieces of our hearts away without, in return, filling those missing pieces with the love and pieces of the hearts of the guys we love.

It’s never easy to go through a broken heart, especially when you’ve given yourself emotionally and physically to someone—whether that’s through a simple kiss or more. I think that’s part of why people frequently remind young women to guard their hearts because, while our hearts are one of the strongest parts of us, they can also be extremely fragile.

We all make our own choices in life, and sometimes we don’t really have time to think about them much (or we choose not to) when we’re in moments in which our desires take over completely. Just remember that you are valuable, and what you have to give runs much deeper than anything physical.

Every kiss and every intimate moment matter because you matter.

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