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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The Story Matters

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I am a bookworm. I can sit all day with a book or two, captured in the beautiful world of storytelling. Hand me a cup of coffee to go with that book and you may not see me for days. There is something about reading and falling in love with a story that captures my heart. In fact, some of my favorite books I like to reread over and over again. I love knowing what is going to happen in the book and getting excited when certain parts of the story are unfolding, knowing the conflict will subside and it will end beautifully or at least well. I love knowing the characters and understanding how each one plays into the storytelling. There are certain books that I have read so many times that I could tell you the story from beginning to end, tiny details included. This last year has been one of my favorite years for books, because as much as I love fiction I also love to read true stories of real people. And this year, some of my dearest friends have written some beautiful books and shared their stories with the world.

It hit me though the other day as I was flipping through one of my dear friend’s books, that sometimes I treat my life like my favorite books. I treat my life like the stories I have read assuming that everyone already knows the book cover to cover, so it is safe to just keep living the same story over and over again quietly. And even more, that tons of people have my story and in fact they tell it better.  However those my friend are lies, and when I keep quiet about my story assuming that everyone knows it (or doesn’t need to hear it), I keep quiet about the transforming grace that changed my life. Because, only I can tell my story and only you can tell yours.

I used to live a life of darkness, of fear, of shame. While one may say this sounds awful, for me it was safe. My eating disorder, my pain, my control kept my life safe because it was what I knew. Stepping out of the darkness was the best thing I could have ever done but it was in no way safe. However, it was go0d. As I gained courage, strength, and hope, I was able to step away from the darkness that controlled my life. It didn’t make each day not scary but it made it good because I was learning a new way to tell and live out my story. I wasn’t living my life in the same way and throughout the hardship and pain beauty began to unfold that I never thought was possible.

Even nearly five years into recovery, life can still be hard and on those bad days I have to remind myself to tell my story. I have to remind myself that I don’t live the story of shame but I live a story of grace. Life is hard and it is anything but safe but the goodness in the midst of hardships are what makes life beautiful. It would be so easy to sit on this side of the computer and tell you how beautiful and wonderful life is. I could live in the fantasy world of the beautiful literature that I love so much. However, I made a decision when I began to write, that I would tell my story and even on the hardest days that is what I do.

So why do I do it? Why do I continue to be vulnerable, to pour my hear out, to share the messiness of my life? Why on some of my worst days, do I sit down and type out the messiness? I do it, because I believe our stories matter. I believe the truth and the realness of our life stories is vital to share. I believe that as one of my favorite authors says, that when we share the brokenness and beauty of our lives that the gospel truly comes to life. The gospel becomes a real life story of redemption and not just abstraction. The other day over coffee, someone asked me about my story and I hesitated. We were sitting face to face and for a moment I was scared. It is a million times easier to share a story with tons of people you don’t know versus the one person you are staring straight at. But I took a deep breath, looked this friend in the eye, and I told my story. I told my story of grace. I told it because my story matters and so does yours. Every time we are brave and choose to be vocal instead of silent about our stories we give people the opportunity to see grace at work.

The truth is my story is one of millions. However, as I said before no one else can tell my story and no one else can tell yours. No one has walked in your exact shoes and lived out every minute of your life, except you. So on the days that I feel like listening to the lies and the shame I decide instead to tell my story. I choose to tell my story of the grace that changed my life. It’s easier to believe the lies, it’s safe, it’s what I have always known. It is harder to believe the truth, it is harder to believe grace but it is good. And each time I have an opportunity to tell that story of grace it becomes a little sweeter.

Friend, I don’t know what each of your stories are. I have said this many times but I wish I did. I wish I could sit down over coffee and hear your beautiful story. I can guarantee you though, without ever having heard your story, that your story matters, not just to you but to the world. Every time you tell your story of real true grace, you allow the gospel to be present, you allow barriers to be broken down, you allow someone else to feel welcome to share their own story. Believe me it’s easy to retell the stories we’ve lived our whole lives and listen to the lies, rather than to tell the story of grace. Because, that story of grace no doubt includes a lot of growing, stretching, and changing. Our stories of grace involves telling of the broken messiness and the heartache in our lives but man is it worth telling.

Because the truth is, my story isn’t about me at all but about a grace that changed my life. My story should have never been told and it certainly should have never been read worldwide, but it is and that is absolutely not about me but about the grace that transformed my life. And that story, is worth stepping out of the safe for. So friend, tell your story this week. Tell your story of grace and redemption and watch other people tell their story. And one day friend, I hope I get to sit next to you and listen as you tell your story.

You Are Loved and Your Story Matters,

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And in case you are looking for some beautiful books where people share their stories, these were written by some incredible people I call friends:

Get Your Story Straight: A Teen’s Guide to Learning and Living the Gospel-Kristen Hatton

If You Could See As Jesus Sees: Inspiration for a Life of Hope, Joy, and Purpose-Elizabeth Oates

This Is Awkward: How Life’s Uncomfortable Moments Open the Door to Intimacy and Connection– Sammy Rhodes

And a book that I was lucky enough to be on the launch team for:

Looking for Lovely: Collecting the Moments that Matter-Annie Downs

Grace In My Eating Disorder

 

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This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. It is a week that sheds like on an illness that haunts millions. A little over a month ago I shared my story for Rooted Ministry. I would love if you would follow me there to read more of my story… http://rootedministry.com/articles/grace-my-eating-disorder

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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Why Not

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I’ve been staring at the blank screen for awhile now praying that some thought that I have jumbled in my head would come to fruition. I never meant to write a blog. I never meant to share my story. I never meant for people to relate. I was just one girl with a story, my story. And I decided that my story might be worth telling. Telling your story for the first time is like jumping into freezing cold water on a scalding summer night. You are scared to death to jump but once your body hits the cool refreshing water you realize that jumping was the best idea. Not only do you feel refreshed,  but you also feel invigorated. You know that it was the right decision to jump and that the next time you are faced with the option you will be sprinting towards the cool pool of refreshing water.

When I first told my story I knew I had to do. I had to do it to break down the walls that I was this “Little Miss Perfect”. I wanted to show others that grace is life changing and healing is real. I shared not only because I wanted to but because I had to. As I began to open up, I received message after message saying that someone else related to my story and they appreciated me sharing. It was not just kind, it was humbling to know that my simple story had a bigger purpose.

As I continued to share my journey I was given opportunity after opportunity to talk about my life and the experiences that led to making me who I am. As life gets busy and sometimes hard I find myself looking at this blog and wondering should I still keep writing? Does this matter? Am I wasting my time? But in my heart I know I am not and that I absolutely have to keep working.

So why do I do it? Why do I continue to be vulnerable, to pour my hear out, to share the messiness of my life? Why do on some of my worst days I sit down and type out the messiness? I do it, because I believe our stories matter. I believe the truth and the realness of our life stories is vital to share. I believe that as one of my favorite authors says, that when we share the brokenness and beauty of our lives that the gospel truly comes to life. The gospel becomes a real life story of redemption and not just abstraction. The other night someone asked me about my story and I hesitated. We were standing face to face and for a moment I was scared. It is a million times easier to share a story with people you don’t know versus the one person you are staring straight at. But then I took a deep breath and I told my story, I told my story of grace. I told it because my story matters and so does yours. Every time we are brave and choose to be vocal instead of silent about our stories we give people the opportunity to see grace at work.

The truth is my story is one of many. However, there is no one else who can tell my story and no one else who can tell yours. So on the days that I feel like listening to the lies and the shame I decide instead to tell my story. I choose to tell my story of the grace that changed my life. It’s sometimes easier to believe the lies, it’s often times what we feel is safe and what we know best. It is harder to believe the truth, it is harder to believe grace is bigger, but each time I have an opportunity to tell the story of grace it becomes not only more true but also a little sweeter. So why not share your story…

Much love,

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