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

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

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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When The Inside Doesn’t Match The Outside

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I could feel her looking at me as I stared out the window. She asked the question again and I knew I had to respond. “So you don’t think you’re thin enough to have an eating disorder?” I stared at her defiantly as I replied,”No”. But even as I said those words my voice trembled. Because I knew. I knew I was sick but I just couldn’t admit it. Not to her not to anyone. And the truth was I didn’t see it. When I looked in the mirror I didn’t think I looked thin, I didn’t think I looked like someone with an Eating Disorder. I didn’t think my insides matched my outsides.

I remember the drive to her office, how at every light I wanted to turn my car around. I remember walking up the stairs barely able to breathe and I remember sitting the open lobby waiting for her to come out and signal me back. And as I sat down and we began to talk. I remember wanting to jump up and run out. But I didn’t, I couldn’t leave because even then, even when I didn’t believe it I knew I needed to hear those words.

Three years later I can remember that conversation like it just happened. Those words were such a pivotal point in my recovery and my dietician words that followed forever impacted me. As I sat in her office that day and we talked about how even if I didn’t think I looked the part or believe it, I was sick.

The stronger I become in my recovery the more it impacts me the way we literally look at people with eating disorders (and people in general). I know for myself and many others there was the misconception that if I didn’t look a certain way I didn’t have a problem. I was small. I was thin. I was little but I would have never deemed myself anorexic. Yet I was.

The fact is that eating disorders come all shapes and sizes, they do not discriminate. No matter how much someone doesn’t believe they fit into a certain category because of the way they look. Size is not the determining factor in an eating disorder. Frankly for many years I “looked” healthy. I wasn’t what someone would consider too thin or too large. I was just average. However, even in my average days I was so so very sick.

The more I work with women who have struggled with an eating disorder the more that constant fact rings in my head that we cannot judge someone by their outward appearance. We have no idea the thoughts going on in their head. The control or lack of control that dictates their life.

Because here is the thing my friend, eating disorders are so much more than what the public sees. There is hiding. There is deceiving. There are things that go on that you would never know about when you look at their smile, at their darling outfit, at their laughter.

I was the girl who had it all together, who had the world at her finger tips, who truly seemed to be on top of the world. But I was sick. I was struggling. I was so desperate for help. But had you seen me, you would have never known.

You may have seen me comment on food. You may have seen me be a “picky eater”. You may have even see me count calories or exercise to the point of exhaustion. But you thought nothing of it, because in today’s society, talking negatively about our body or food is acceptable. You may have thought nothing of it because you too have those behaviors.

As a woman in today’s world, we are taught to care so deeply about what our outsides look like. We are taught to be put together. We are taught to look presentable even “pretty”. We are told to act as if all is okay. Here is the thing though, often times it is not okay. We struggle, we hurt, we often need help and sometimes we need to show that on the outside but we feel like we can’t. Many times the insides don’t match the outsides.

So my hope is this, that the next time we look at someone’s outward appearance we wouldn’t assume they have it all together. We wouldn’t assume that they don’t need help. We wouldn’t assume that they aren’t sick. While this so very much applies to eating disorders I believe it applies to so many other aspects of our lives as well. May we not judge the book by it’s cover but may we learn to read the book and know the story by heart.

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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