Belong Magazine:Tell Your Story

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Thrilled to be sharing another post about why you should tell your story. Head on over to the link below and you’ll find my piece on Belong Mag. This magazine is written by amazing women who have a heart for everyone to know you belong!

http://www.belong-mag.com/blog/2016/3/23/you-have-a-story

 

You Matter and You Belong,

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Dear Fellow Instagram Follower,

 

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Dear Fellow Instagram Follower,

I want you to know how much I enjoy seeing your pictures. I love the pictures of your family, your significant other, your favorite hobby, and what you had for lunch that day. I mean that genuinely. It truly is fun to see what friends do with their day, how their kids have grown, the new beautiful creation they have made. Your feed and your pictures are beautiful, as are you. However, I want you to know I don’t love your pictures because they are perfect.

I love seeing your pictures, not because of the filter you put on it, or the angle you took it at, the prime lighting in it, or because of how everything is staged perfectly. I love it because it’s a piece of a glimpse into your life. I love your pictures because they show me a snapshot of your life. But I want you to know, I recognize it’s just a snapshot. Probably one of hundreds in your twenty-four hour day.

While I love your pictures, I want you to know something. I don’t know what happened right before that picture was taken and I won’t know what happened after it. I don’t know if you have had a wonderful day or today has been really hard. Because it truly is just one picture in millions of pictures that will be taken throughout your life.

However, while I know it is just one picture I also want you to know your pictures have power. I am human and so sometimes in the midst of my own hard day I have to remind myself that I don’t know the full story behind your beautifully styled home, or your precious children laughing. But sometimes friend, Instagram is just hard. It makes me believe that everyone is having more fun, lives in a more beautiful house, and has the perfect family. I want you to know that I know those are lies but sometimes Instagram (and life) is just plain hard.

So I want you to know that whether you post the most delicious food pictures I have ever seen or the cutest baby picture in the world or just a mundane part of your day, they are all beautiful. Because friend, I hope you know we are all just doing the best we can. And while we keep doing the best we can, I hope we remember that as we scroll through each others Instagram feeds and as we post our own pictures. I hope we are champions for each other. I hope we build each other up with our posts. I hope we cheer each other on. I hope we support one another through each mundane or extremely difficult day. And I hope we know that we won’t always get it right and can give grace to each other when we don’t.

Because really I believe this idea of connecting with each other is beautiful. I believe that sweet community can be found (in places like Instagram) when we cheer each other on. I believe that we can give each other permission to be real and share the realness of our lives. So whether you have four followers or 400,000 followers, I hope you give yourself the permission to be real. I hope you know that people don’t love you for the beauty of the photos you share (and well if they do, maybe it is time to find a new community). I hope you share your mess and your beauty. I hope you give yourself grace in the midst of it all. And I hope you know that no matter what you share, it is enough. Because whether you share styled photos or unedited ones you are enough.

May you share the beauty in your life and the brokenness because they are both worth sharing. You never know who may need the reminder. So keep sharing your pictures and your stories. They make a difference and so do you!

Much love for you friend,

Your Fellow Instagram Follower

 

Dear College Girl,

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Dear College Girl,

Two years ago I was you. Six years ago I walked around the campus that would become my home and became you. And today I get the privilege of working with you. You truly are some of my very favorite people. I love college and college students. I truly do. Just today I stood on my alma mater’s campus. I cheered for my home team and I thought of you.

Here’s what I want you to know. I get you. I see you. You are loved. You are worthy. You are okay even if you aren’t okay. College is amazing, wonderful, scary and hard all wrapped into one. You are about to have possibly some of the best nights of your life and quite possibly some of the worse. You are going to laugh and cry harder than you ever thought possible. You are going to make it through and if you don’t then you are going to be okay too.

I hope you love college even if you don’t love everything about it. I hope you grow. I hope you give and get grace. I hope you come in a different person than you walk out. I hope you learn about yourself, about others and about the world around you. I hope you learn that it is okay to make mistakes and fail. I hope you learn from your failures. I hope you pick yourself up and try again.

You are going to have some nights where you might sit and cry in your room because you think everyone is having fun without you. And then you are going to have some nights that are going to feel like a dream. I want you to know in the middle of it all you are okay. Instagram lies. Facebook deceives. And Twitter only shows 150 characters about someone’s night. That girl you sit next to is just as lonely as you sometimes. The boy who seems way too cool has no clue what he is doing. They haven’t done it before either and they are learning just like you are.

I want you to know you may walk out of college with some of your best friends and you may not. And both of those are okay. I truly hope you find wonderful friends, even if it takes years to get there. I hope you find your people, your home team, the people who you can call no matter what. I want you to find friends that love going out and having a great time but are just as content to sit at home and watch a movie and eat ice cream. Believe me you need the balance of both. Take lots of pictures, remember those moments, even when it seems like you are doing nothing. I promise those memories matter. Enjoy those people you get to spend these years with, because all too soon you could be scattered around the country.

I know you are going to face lots of pressure to look not only your best but also a certain way. And I am sorry. I am sorry that you will be faced with the constant pressure to conform to an ideal of beauty. I know it is oh so hard. I hope you know you are beautiful inside and out. I want you to know that the mirror lies and your beauty isn’t wrapped up in it. And if you struggle with how to handle all the pressure I hope you talk to someone.

In fact, I hope you find someone who is not your peer that you can talk to.  Whether it be, mentor, your professor, your campus minister, your counselor. Because I want you to know that there is absolutely no shame in asking for help. Whether it be a failed test, a relationship that ended, or an addiction. I want you to know that those people in your life are there for you. They want to help you! They know for all the wonderfulness that is college there is a lot of hardness a lot of darkness and they want to be there and walk through it with you.  They know struggle is inevitable and they want to be there for you in the midst of it.

Whether you join a sorority, a sports team, an academic club, a campus ministry or all of the above, I hope you enjoy it. I want you to find your niche and love it. I hope you become a part of something that you never imagined you could or would and fall in love with it. I hope you know it is never to late to try something new.

I want you to know that if you date that is wonderful and if you don’t that is okay too. I want you to know that the handsome boy you date, may be the most amazing man you have ever met, but he doesn’t own you. Not one single bit of you. Not your heart, not your mind, and not your body. I hope you have so much fun if you go on dates but I hope you know you aren’t committed to any more than a meal, coffee or the concert he asked to take you to. And that ring by spring thing, don’t take it too seriously sister. Because maybe you’ll meet the man of your dreams here (and indeed have that ring) and maybe you won’t but either way I promise you will be okay.

And sweet girl if these four (0r more) years aren’t for you I want you to know that is okay. These years indeed will shape you but they do not have to define you. They are minute in the scheme of life. So if college life isn’t for you I hope you find the stage in life that you love. Even more I hope you learn to love each part and stage in life.

I want you to know that I am sitting here cheering for you. I believe in you. And I could not love you more. Like I said you are some of my favorite people. So I hope you enjoy these years that will fly by and may you alway know you have a friend here. You’ve got this girl!

From your friend,

The Former College Girl

Perfect Isn’t Real

 

I’ve made two batches of brownies, done laundry, put away dishes, and the list goes on. I have done all of those things to avoid writing about what is on my heart. Because what I have to say I am not very good at putting into practice. In fact, I am pretty bad at it most days. However, that’s why I started writing here because I believe that grace is bigger and perfection kills dreams and breaks heart. I spent too many years in the downward spiral of perfection. So today, I need to remind myself of the truth. I need to choose present over perfect. I know that grace is bigger and that I have to continually lean into it in order to live a life of present over perfect. Because here is the truth, perfect isn’t real.

In the last year and half, I became a wife and to say my dreams came true would be an understatement. I love being a wife to my husband. I love serving him. Even in the midst of hard marriage talks and fights, life is filled with joy. Well, it is filled with joy, until I listen to the voices in my head, telling me, my dinners are gourmet enough, my house isn’t magazine worthy, I should love cleaning and picking up our house and heck sometimes those lies even say I am not good enough for my sweet husband. And when I sit down and listen to these voices, I realize what soul sucking lies they are. So this week I made a decision that I would choose present over perfect. I would choose to be in the moment, good and bad because I only have this life to live. As I sat down, I realized that the more I chose the present over “being perfect” the more I was able to see the grace at work in my own life.

I truly am the world’s biggest biggest people pleaser. I want everyone to be okay with my choices and okay with who I am. If I am being honest it used to kill me when someone didn’t like me. But when I live my life dictated by the standard of perfection that I and other people set for me, I am even more of a mess. I am a stress case. I control, anything and everything in my life. I miss out on life. And I am the worst version of me. And the worst part is that I believe the lie that life is a story about me.

In my heart, I truly believe in grace. A grace so scandalous that it not only saved my soul but it took a wretch like me and used my story to bring glory to the One who wrote it. I believe that grace saved my life and saved me from destroying myself. When I lean towards perfection I don’t recognize grace and even more I don’t exercise. I believe that I can do it all on my own and frankly I don’t need any help. I am more selfish than ever. And I end up on the kitchen floor in tears because the room doesn’t look perfect, and I am exhausted because I’ve been too focused on my selfishness. That is what perfection does, it wrecks me, but grace, it saves me.

So today, tomorrow, this week, and here after, I’m deciding to try and live in the present. I am choosing present over perfect. This is where I get to see grace at work.  My friend, life is hard but it is a million times harder when we let perfection rule it. So how about you choose present over perfect? How about you take some time to live in the present and see grace at work? It is worth it I promise.

Much love,

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Why I Won’t Call You Skinny

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I remember the first time I heard the words that will stay with me forever. I remember the smile on the woman’s face as she looked at me with envy and I remember the pride that exuded from me that day thinking I had just won a gold metal.  No those words weren’t you are amazing. No they weren’t you are so smart or kind. They weren’t even you are beautiful. Those words which held me in a death trap for over a decade were, “You are so skinny!”

I was ten years old and standing in the school hallway before class. A former teacher looked at me and gushed as she told me how skinny I was, how much weight I had lost, and how incredible I looked. I learned on that day; skinny was to be praised, skinny was noteworthy, skinny made people stop and notice, and skinny was what I should strive to be. My heart breaks and I literally feel sick as I think of that young, innocent girl holding her princess backpack as her grasp of beauty begins to slip through her fingers.

I think if only the teacher had known I lost weight because of mental issues that were weighing me down, if she had only known each day at lunch I traded my home packed lunch for half of a subway sandwich (that a girl who’s mom was on the subway diet gave her each day). And if only she knew once I was given that six-inch sandwich I never managed to eat half of it. If only she knew, ironically the same year, I learned about how important skinny was, I also learned what eating disorders were. However, I never even dreamed I could have an eating disorder, because I wasn’t an emaciated Ballerina and I didn’t throw up my food. So how in the world could I have a problem? That same year I would stand outside my Reading Class with a headache so terrible I could barely focus because I had eaten nearly nothing that day. The only thought which crossed my mind as I stood there, was “If this is what it takes to be skinny, it is worth it”.

For over a decade I would believe the lie, “skinny was the best thing possible”. Skinny fueled my Ed. I would try to brush off every compliment related to my size. I would deny it when someone said I was smaller than them. Shrug my shoulders when size “x” didn’t fit me. I would laugh when someone asked me for my diet and exercise tips. Inside, I would be thrilled. I was ecstatic of the praise and attention. Proud that my size had earned me this “privilege”.

Secretly though, I was dying, physically, mentally and emotionally. I thought in order to be loved, in order to be valued, in order to be praise worthy I needed to stay this skinny. It was a losing game because no matter what the number on the scale said, no matter how small the size got, no matter how many people complimented, it wasn’t enough. And even more, the skinnier I got, the more I lost MK. I had no idea what true beauty was and that it had nothing to do with the size you were.

Looking back I don’t blame the woman who stopped me in the hallway, she didn’t cause my eating disorder. My Ed was about so much more than that. That woman merely played the part that society has taught us to play. We are taught from an extremely young age that beauty and (even more) size are important. We are taught to praise and take notice of size. We are taught that size defines our worth and who we are.

What if I told you it didn’t though? What if I told you striving for skinny and even more perfection won’t get you anywhere but heartache. If you know me today you know, no matter how much weight you may have lost or gained, I will never comment on your size. I will never tell you how skinny you are. I will never say you look like you’ve put on weight. Because I don’t believe commenting on people’s sizes is appropriate in any way, shape, or form. I don’t believe your view of beautiful should be determined by a size, by a comment, by a magazine, or by comparison.

When we take time out to comment on something we are stating what we feel is important to say. When we comment, worth is put in our words. I never want someone to think they are valued for their size. Because size doesn’t define worth. Size doesn’t define beauty.

May you know you are beautiful for millions of things but your size should never dictate your beauty. And may we work together to stop using words like skinny or fat or commenting on size in general.

And may you always remember how loved and worth it you are,

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The Words You Say

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I was two when I said I didn’t look pretty and meant it. I was three when I learned what a diet was and how to do it. I was five when I was called the word fat and it devastated me. I was nine when I noticed what the scale said and what those numbers really meant. I was ten when I was called skinny and it encouraged me that starving myself was okay. I was twelve when a boy commented on my physical appearance and it stayed with me. I was fifteen when I missed a state mandated fitness test because I was terrified to see the numbers on the scale and what the teacher would say. I was too young to learn and be impacted by those words and yet it happened.

And the truth is it is happening to young girls and boys no matter how young they are and no matter whether we want to admit it or not. We think they are too young to fully understand the impact of our words, too young to have these struggles, too young, they aren’t

So today I want to take a moment to talk to those young girls, the moms of young people, the teachers to these kids, and anyone who interacts with these young people on a daily basis. Take notice of these young people because they see the world in a manner that you can’t. They see the beauty and they see the pain. They are confused and trying to become the best individuals they can, so stop putting pressure on them to be the best. Encourage them, love them.

Today across the world, there are young girls skipping lunch, running to the bathroom, literally running for miles, pouring over magazines, crying in the mirror, trying to fit into a certain perfect size jeans, writing in their diary because some boy told them they weren’t pretty. And it matters…it is not just simple words. Your words, their words, they matter and they hold more weight than you could ever realize. We have to start changing this and it starts with changing the conversation.

Stop telling them they are beautiful solely for their physical appearance. Tell them they are beautiful inside and out. Tell them they are important, their opinions matter, they are going to change the world. Their physical beauty is fleeting and could change in an instant but their beautiful hearts are forever. Tell them they are loved for the unique individual they are. Tell them there is no one like them in the world, because it is true.

Moms, Dads, teachers, friends, pastors, mentors, young people, you have a chance to change the conversation and it starts today. I hope today that you feel loved and tell others how loved they arefor who they are on the inside and not just on the outside because that is what matters. From a young lady who has fought harder than anyone should ever have to, to believe this truth, I promise changing the conversation, it is worth it.

You are so very loved,

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She Told Me I Was Fat

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It happened nearly nineteen years ago and I still remember it like it was yesterday. I was on the playground, a young five-year-old. I was in a purple t-shirt dress, my long curly hair bouncing as I climbed up the to the top of the slide. Suddenly, she looked at me, a girl whose name I will never remember but whose words were imprinted on my heart. She looked right at me and said, “You’re fat!”. That is all she said and walked away. I honestly have no idea if we were friends, or if I even knew her name but even now nearly nineteen years later I remember my heart breaking. I remember it was all I could do to get home without crying. I remember telling my mom and grandmother. I remember my little heart and head couldn’t understand but even at five I knew that fat meant ugly and she had called me fat, which meant I was ugly.

Fast forward seventeen years later to two years ago, I am with a woman who loves me and knows my struggle, yet as we walk across the parking lot she grabs my arm looks at me and smiles. “I am so glad you dropped all that extra weight because you are just too pretty to not be tiny. I am so glad you are your tiny self again. You are just beautiful like that.” I starred at her not believing the words that just left her mouth and my heart and head took me right back to my five year old self who was broken-hearted because someone called her fat and therefore ugly. It didn’t matter that I knew I hadn’t changed sizes, it didn’t matter that I knew that this woman had an Ed and therefore couldn’t speak truth, it didn’t matter that I knew my beauty wasn’t defined in my size, it didn’t matter that I KNEW that fat and ugly are NOT synonymous, it stung. I have wrestled with what she said and  the sting that it cause and why it hurt so bad. Friends I think the truth I remembered in the midst of the sting is worth sharing.

When I was in the deepest darkest days of Ed, beauty meant one thing, it meant being thin. However, no matter how desperately thin I got it, was never enough. I could never see myself as beautiful, only ugly. My view of myself was defined in something temporary, in something that the world tells me is important. My beauty was defined in my physical appearance which is something that will never be perfect. The more I watch TV, flip through magazines, or browse pintrest the more disgusted I am. You see I am a true girly girl at heart. I love anything that sparkles and glitters. I love pretty dresses. I love nail polish. I love lipstick. I love getting all dressed up. And at the same time I love my sweatpants. I love my big shirts. I love throwing up my hair in a top bun and wearing no make up for days. But I have learned that none of those define me. And the more I look at the media and the more I hear young girls and older women talk the more my heart breaks, because the overarching message is this: You are beautiful when… you are size x, you have perfect hair, you have a clear face, your nails are manicured, you have beautiful clothes. And it all is just not truth. As women I believe we have an innate desire to want to feel beautiful but I have learned that beauty in no manner comes from my physical appearance. If you read my post, “Why I Won’t Call You Skinny” you know that I believe, beauty is not defined in a size!

I know you just read that last sentence and were tempted to stop reading because you don’t believe me. You don’t believe that beauty is not about your physical appearance but I promise your beauty does not depend on your physical appearance and I desperately need you to believe that. Because until you do, you can’t fight the lies of the world that tell you otherwise. The statement from my friend and the girl when I was five stung because it defined me solely by my physical appearance, it defined me as only good enough or beautiful enough if I met certain standards, and it hurt to be put in such a narrow, rigid box of lies. And any time someone tries to define us in one way I believe it hurts because we are soo much more than what are face and body looks like. However, I will be the first to say that it is hard to not believe the lies that the world tells us but it is absolutely so much more fulfilling and life giving to fight the lies.

I truly believe that I have the most beautiful friends and family in the world. However, their beauty has everything to do with their heart, their faith, their love for others, their ability to show grace and has nothing to do with their size, their clothes, their hair or makeup. The truth is my hair will one day turn gray. I will have wrinkles and saggy skin. I will probably shrink. My teeth my fall out. I may have age spots. I may gain or lose weight.  And yet I will still be beautiful and so will you. If I prescribed to the world’s idea of beauty, I am not sure how I could get out of bed in the morning. Many days I wear yoga pants, big t-shirts, and my hair in a messy bun. I get zits, my hair normally needs to be washed, more days than not I don’t wear makeup, so if I spent my time following the world’s idea of beauty, why would I get out of bed. Frankly, I would be terrified I wouldn’t match up. But each day I get up, I fight the temptation to give into the lies of the world and I remember that I am fearfully and wonderfully made and am absolutely beautiful, no matter what my physical body looks like.

Honestly,  I wish I could say that everyday, every hour, every minute, I believe this truth but I don’t and frankly some days are just harder than others. Some days I fight the lies of my past life with Ed and the lies of the world. But I remember that I am aiming for grace, not perfection and each time I remember the truth and live in the truth, that is beauty. Beauty surrounds me in the smiling faces of those who love me as my messy broken self, beauty is in the scars of battles won, beauty is living in freedom and not bondage. The world lies and tells us beauty is in the face but I am hear to tell you it is in the heart. Beauty is all around you and I dare you to see it and live in it this week. Whether you are wearing sweats, a prom dress, a swim suit, a wedding gown, or pajamas, you are beautiful.  My prayer is that you will discover how truly beautiful you are this week, because that is freedom, that is living in truth. And in case no one has told you today, you are absolutely beautiful inside and out just the way you are. Believe that truth this week friend and live in the freedom of discovering real true beauty.

All my love,

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