The Blog

Lessons Learned from 26
  • Determination

    It's only appropriate to post about my big brother Travis today, on Friday the 13th, because he is the majority share-holder in my deep love of horror movies. If you've ever been around Travis and I you know that we make sport of disagreeing on virtually every topic, but scary movies has never, ever been one of them. I remember many summer nights spent up in the entertainment room watching movie after movie after movie, whether they were good or bad. I haven't stopped craving scary movie nights since, much to the chagrin of basically all of my friends.

    So, it's a great day to celebrate the other big lesson Travis has taught me over the last year: to have drive and determination. These are hard-fought qualities in my life. I'll be the first to admit that I'm a lay-on-the-couch and sleep-in-on-the-weekends kind of a girl. In fact, my family has a running joke about trying to get me to do anything at a single-digit time on the weekend. I'm really not ashamed - sleeping in and being lazy are what weekends are for! Because of this, I've always admired people who have that underlying determination to do whatever it takes to make their dreams a reality. I know I previously posted about passion, which is also key to this kind of endeavor. Unfortunately, sometimes passion isn't solely sufficient, like when you have a highly sought-after dream.

    You see, Travis wants to be a rocket scientist. (You know, the kind that don't impress Shania Twain much.) For as long as I can remember he has loved all things space. He even went to space camp when he was a kid, where he notoriously didn't shower for the duration. He graduated high-school and immediately went into the Navy, but quickly deduced that work sucks if your heart isn't in it. So, as soon as he got out of the military he got to work. I'll tell you, and he may, too, that he didn't necessarily have it all together initially. But who of us does?! 

    That fact made it even more incredible to watch him over the last year. I've watched him bust his ass ('scuse the language, but it's true) in classes and apply for his dream internship, with NASA. Despite its highly competitive nature, he snagged that puppy and found himself spending last summer at Marshall Space Flight Center, the very same place he attended space camp. (Don't worry - he showered this time.) His hard work was recognized, and he was even featured as an intern of the week. If you know Travis, you can imagine how hilarious it was to "follow" him around for a day via social media. 

    After summer ended he finished off his (second) undergrad degree and rolled right into graduate school at UTEP, which is not only revered, but also notable for the fact that nearly all (if not 100%) of graduates in the mechanical engineering program find placement at one of the big-name space companies. In addition, he's doing work for NASA in the labs while getting through school. 

    I think we could all have been content with his efforts at that point. (And by content, I mean secretly laying in bed rolling my eyes because of course he would wind up being wildly successful, just to hold it over my head for years to come.) But no, he didn't stop there. He's packing up the car and heading back to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center this summer as a co-op student. 

    Consider me floored. I mean, I knew he was smart, but COME ON. Way to make a girl look like a slacker! Being the non-competitive human that I am, I could just sit around and mutter to myself "I could've been an engineer had I wanted to" (it's okay to scoff at that) - but I'm actually trying to take notes from Travis this time around. I'm putting my nose to the grindstone on my own little side project that I've been dreaming up for quite some time. It probably won't get my name in the headlines or gain me fame in the space exploration circles anytime soon... but, hey: baby steps! 

    Stay tuned for more on that. And be subtle with your admiration of Travis, if you will... he doesn't need an ego boost. Trust me.

  • Grace

    I woke up this morning wishing that I had a twin-sized bed. I don’t think I’ve wished for a twin sized bed since… well, ever. But here’s the thing. About six months ago I got a puppy - Glen Coco. Admittedly, she is the cutest, sweetest little gal on the planet. However, she, like all dogs, has her moments where she is an absolute terror. Most of these moments involve her stealing some article of my clothing (she prefers smaller things like socks, bras, undies and shoes, as they are more proportional to her size) and immediately running under the bed with it. The queen-sized bed. That is pushed up against the wall. 7 times out of 10 I have to move the whole dang bed to retrieve my stolen socks or running shoes. Thus, the wishing for a twin bed. 

    It’s a lesson in grace. A big, huge, constant lesson. Let me just say that I admire you, parents. I don’t know how you do it, but I can only hope that GC is preparing me for if I one day become a momma of human children. 

    I think the most surprising thing is not only how much grace I have to exercise with her (“why would you eat that toilet paper?” “seriously?! stop digging in your bed!” “oh my gosh, you have a million toys, leave my shoes alone!”) but also how much grace I’ve had to dump on myself. More often than not when she has an accident, it’s my fault. She’ll poop in the apartment and my immediate thought is “well, I had to drag her back inside against her will, but she had been out there for 15 minutes and hadn’t made a move yet!” I don’t always pay close enough attention to if she’s by the door, or I’ll get caught up in cooking dinner and not notice when she’s sniffing around. 

    The most difficult times are when she is outright defiant. I catch her chewing on the furniture or digging in my bed and I give her a firm “NO” or “YOU BETTER NOT!” while maintaining eye contact only to have her immediately continue on with the same behavior. But you know what? These are the moments that I most appreciate God. 

    How infuriating must it be for Him to sit on His throne and watch me, time and again, flat out ignore his instruction. I’m not proud of it, but I can’t tell you the number of times I feel God leading me in one direction, but blatantly walk the other way, thinking I might know best, or that it won’t end that badly. But you know what? I don’t know best. And it will end badly. 

    So, that’s how my dog is teaching me about grace, as silly as that may sound! The best part is, she’s constantly being disobedient and frustrating the snot out of me, but I love the mess out of her and would not trade her for the world! How lucky are we to serve a God who views us in that same manner?!

  • Hope

    I’ve noticed a pretty big trend in my life over the last year or so. It’s pretty easy to spot your friends who don’t know the Lord because they definitively lack hope. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re negative all of the time, or drag the room down… but there’s just something a little lackluster about their attitude towards life and the future and everything in between. I used to think it was a joy thing, but it’s becoming more and more clear that it’s a hope thing. 

    I have the requisite, God-given Jeremiah 29:11 hope. I know that there is more to this life. I get excited about things. I allow myself to feel hopeful about new opportunities, up-and-coming trips, flannel-clad boys… you get the idea. But I wouldn’t say that I am just bubbling over with hope. And my closest heart friends can tell you that there are certainly times when I all-out lack it. 

    That’s where Melanie comes in. I feel sorry for each and every one of you that doesn’t know Melanie, that hasn’t had a chance to spend a day with her curly-headed self. She brightens up every room she walks into and has the cutest little country accent when she talks about “momma and daddy.” (Hi, Martha & Randy!) But, just like any of us, Melanie has been dealt some bad cards, especially relationally. You’d never know it, though. 

    I realized in writing this that I don’t really know how Merriam-Webster would define hope. I know what it means, of course. And I certainly know how it feels. But how would I define it? I’m coming up empty… so I looked it up for us. 

    hope: to want something to happen or be true and think that it could happen or be true

    Now – I know what the bible says about faith, but as that definition settled in my stomach I started to realize that maybe hope is a bigger part of Christianity than I thought! God does specify that “He knows the plans he has for [us]… plans to prosper [us] and not to harm [us], plans to give [us] hope and a future.” Hope and a future. Of equal importance. 

    Melanie has shown me that. When she found herself in situations that would have sent me straight to my comfy bed for the day, she laced up her tennis shoes and put some pep in her step. Instead of wallowing she set her sights on the sunshine and took control of her life. She was so unequivocally full of hope that she never for a second took pity on herself. She never worried that she’d be an old maid, lonely in her rocking chair. She never gave fear or dread the time of day. 

    She and I “meet in the middle” for dinner every couple of weeks. No matter what topic I bring to the table – if I’m lonely in the midst of married and engaged friends, if I’m dreadfully miserable at work, if a friend seriously let me down… again – she has the perfect answer. Usually along the lines of “Oh honey!!! I’m so sorry! Go and get yourself a large Dr. Pepper… you deserve it! And you know what? Tomorrow will be a better day!!!!” She never makes me feel silly for my dramatic ways, but she also never lets me sit in them and get comfy. She pulls me right on up out of the mud, dusts off my shoulders, reminds me of God’s promises, and sends me on my way. 

    And let me tell you – over the last year I’ve needed someone to be the hope that I lacked. She has stepped up to bat and hit that sucker out of the park and I really, truly don’t know what I would have done without her. So thanks, Mel, for loving me the best way you know how, and for always showering me with your contagious hope. 

  • Passion

    I like to think that I’m a passionate person. I’m a little bit passionate about a lot of things. I’m passionate about Jesus, about people, about design, about writing, about music, about marketing, about reading, about my puppy, about peanut butter, about outlet malls… okay, you get the idea. But I’ve never known any sort of overwhelming passion, the kind that pushes me, that I want to chase after with my whole heart. 

    It reminds me of a verse. I had this written out on a sticky note, attached to my computer at my last job – “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” Colossians 3:23 I’ve never known that feeling, to work at something with all of my heart. I’m selfish with my heart. I like to keep it for myself, and only give partial bits to lots of things. It’s definitely a flaw.

    But it’s not a flaw you’ll find in my friend Hunter. You see, Hunter plays the drums. Plays might not even be a good enough word… he dominates a drum set. He once joked that I use more words than he makes hits on a drum, which, let’s be honest, is probably true. I’m prolific. But it would be a close race. He is really, really good at drumming, easily the best I know. (I’m not some sort of drumming aficionado, much to my dismay, but I’ve been told he is remarkable, past what my untrained eyes can surmise.)

    Raw talent doesn’t make a man, though. We’ve seen that adage play out plenty of times (coughJohnnyManzielcough) and known it to be true. Success takes someone who is willing to chase after something, to work at it with their whole heart. Hunter does that. His day job(s) are teaching percussion and drum lessons at a local music shop and the high school. But "after hours"? He played drum set for the high school show choir last season. He helped with the high school drumline last fall. He’s in a (really good) band called the Bama Gamblers who travel to play gigs around the southeast more weekends than not. And when he doesn’t have a gig with the Bama Gamblers, chances are he picked up a gig with some other local musician. 

    As you may have guessed a. he’s pretty hard to hang out with cause he’s #busy and b. he’s seriously dedicated to his craft. He’s taking every opportunity he can to play, because he loves it. Because he’s passionate about it. And because he's working at it with his whole heart. Really - the man loves few things other than drumming, his family and Dr. Pepper. 

    He simply lives out his passion with every ounce of drive, creativity and determination in his body, and I find that so inspiring. I crave to love something like that, to hone my skills in that way. And I truly believe, just by knowing Hunter and watching him hustle over the last year, I’ve developed a little more passion and begun to see my work in a little bit of a different light. It makes me want to come home and do that freelance job. Or write that blog. Or develop that crazy idea into something tangible. 

    So thanks, Hunter - for showing me what it looks like to really and truly work at something with your whole, entire heart.

  • Faith

    I think that faith is one of those buzzwords in Christianity. Everyone has faith. I mean, we believe in Jesus, don’t we? All it takes is a mustard seed, after all. And I don’t doubt that. I don’t think that any shred of faith is too small to save your life. But I’m learning, more and more as I get older, that there are certainly different amounts of faith to be had. And, to be frank, some people just excel at being faithful. My friend Danielle is one of those people. 

    Dani D. (as I like to call her) rolled into my life about two years ago. She was this energy-filled ball of laughter who was willing to be anything we needed her to be in the workplace, and we all know how rare that is. Joy is her default emotion, and she radiates it. (Can I get an amen from all members of her fan club?!)

    I’ve learned a lot of things from Danielle, which is sort of funny because she’s 6 years my junior and I was kind-of, sort-of her manager at work… but, hey: wisdom knows no age limits or hierarchy. Far-and-away the biggest thing I’ve learned from her is that MAN I have little faith. You know, like in Matthew 8:26 when Jesus straight up calls out the disciples by saying, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” I mean, I feel you, Jesus. I hate to be woken up from my slumber, too, especially for something totally insignificant like a storm potentially drowning my boat. I get it. Danielle is that for me. She would never actually come out and say “you of little faith” — possibly because I would have some comeback about how 50% of the sentences she types don’t even qualify as English, but also because she’s not that kind of friend. 

    But this whole thing is about people who teach through their actions anyway, amiright? 

    Let me digress and say this: I consider myself to have a healthy dose of faith. I’m not easily stressed by the things of this world because I fully understand that God has a plan, and I trust in that. But, as strange as this might sound, I think I only have faith for the big things. I believe our God is a big God, and I know He can move mountains and raise people from the dead. And it’s not that I don’t have the everyday life kind of faith, but… well, maybe I don’t. 

    Allow me to explain. I get headaches, bad ones, pretty often. If you know me, you know this. I carry around Excedrine Migraine in my purse, always. Or… almost always. One day I was at work and had a killer headache. (I guess I didn’t have the pills in my pocketbook that day.) So I’m sitting there, fingers digging into temples, all out irritated and torn between gouging my eyes out and running away to vomit (no one ever said I’m not dramatic) when Danielle rolls over to my desk. (Literally - she rolled her desk chair right over.) She looked at me, as if I were the most dense being on planet Earth, and said “why don’t you just ask Jesus to take that mess away?” 

    … CAN HE DO THAT?! If I pray and trust, will God just *bam* dissolve this headache of mine into thin air? It was a concept I had never even considered. Again - not that I don’t have faith, but doesn’t He have more pressing matters to deal with? 

    He doesn’t. Danielle taught me that. The cool thing about God, about this colossal powerhouse, is that YOU are His most important relationship. Your needs are above all else. Your problems are His biggest concern. And yet, somehow, miraculously - so are mine. And so are Danielle’s. He doesn’t have to prioritize because EVERYONE is number one in His book. 

    I think I’ll just drop the mic right there. I’m not going to overshare on that point, but I hope you all know it’s the truth. You’re number one, baby. Better believe it. Have FAITH.

    [Editor's note: Danielle is using that big faith of hers to take a leap and move to Peru this fall to persue life as a missionary with an organization that has captured her heart. If you've been looking for a way to give back, consider supporting my girl! Find out more by clicking here.]