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 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

 

Saying No to New Year’s Resolutions

 

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A year ago I was a new wife. I had just moved to a new town six months before. I was terrified at building new friendships,  scared about calling this place home. I was anxious and thrilled to be a wife to my sweet husband but had no clue what I was doing (I still don’t). This last year has certainly been one for the books. In a short year’s time, I celebrated my first year of marriage, finished my first year working for a ministry I love, celebrated my brother’s wedding, learned some hard things about my health and was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, had my writing published in magazines and on the web, gained friendships with some amazing women, and put down roots into calling this place I love home.

Last year, I moved from the only place I had every called home to a small town that I was’t quite sure of. I married my best friend, insanely in love, but having no true idea what marriage would be like. I became a mentor to many students in which I had to admit that I too did not have my life together. This year I began to call this town I live in home. I fell more in love my best friend, and more in love with these students that I have the privilege of walking through life with. I began to realize that I truly can’t do it all and that I need others help much more than I ever want to admit. I learned that people are kinder and more understanding than I ever realized. I was humbled in the way that my writing was shared. I was thankful for each friend who never left my side when I felt like I had nothing to give and a husband who shows more grace than I ever thought possible. 2015 was a year I will never forget. It was hard, it was beautiful, it was painful at times, but it was so so sweet.

So here I am two days from the new year and looking back there is not a thing I would change. I made mistakes and I learned from them, but without these mistakes and triumphs of the past year I wouldn’t be where I am today. So my friends, I want to let you in on a little secret I am not making any New Year’s Resolutions this year and I want to encourage you not to either.

As soon as I was old enough, I jumped on the idea of making new resolutions at the beginning of each year. It was an opportunity for me to lose weight, do better, and ultimately “become more perfect”. I started off each year with the idea that this would be the year I was size x. This would be the year that I got the guy. This would be the year that I would be recognized for my grandiose achievement. In short, this would be the year that I would become perfect MK. As you can imagine, by day two I was exhausted by my strict regiments of what I should and shouldn’t do in order to have the perfect year. So after years of being controlled by perfection, I am throwing the resolutions out the window. Because really they mean nothing to me other than an excuse to exercise my perfectionism.

So this year I have an idea for you or more for us. What if instead we made a decision each day to love more when someone is unloveable. What if each day we decided that we wanted to step outside our comfort zone. What if we showed grace to ourselves and others when it is the hardest. What if we encouraged each other instead of putting one another down. What if we realized that some days are hard and require more love and care. What if we pursued that dream we are terrified of.  What if we realized that some days we may just have to throw our hands up in the air because it all seems like to much. What if this year we gave up the idea that we need to be perfect and gave ourselves grace.

That is what I want my new year to be about, making choices each day and pursuing grace instead of perfectionism. If I’m honest by the end of each year I couldn’t have told you exactly what my resolutions from the year before were. This next year I want to smile as I look back and know that it may not have been a perfect year but it was filled with grace.

Here is to throwing out resolutions and wishing each of you a beautiful New Year!

May you know how loved you are this year and always,

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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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When Perfection Destroys

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At barely two I looked into the mirror, about to take a photo with my family and new baby brother and I starred back at my reflection. In the video that records this scene, you can hear my mother telling me to come on. I refuse to come take the picture and there I sit in front of the mirror and announce to myself and my family around me, “My hair don’t look pretty”.

Now some may think that little two year old girl was precious for saying that but honestly I think even at two that statement was a huge indicator of my personality. For whatever reason, I “knew” that I couldn’t take a picture because my hair didn’t look, “pretty”…it had to be perfect. And that is how I lived the first twenty years of my life striving for perfection that was unattainable.

Growing up I was the epitome of the “Little Miss Perfect”. And while I claimed to hate the nickname, deep down I loved it, because it meant I was doing something right. It meant that I was achieving what others thought was perfection. Oh how wrong they were, because inside I was dying. Do you know how hard it is to try to do everything right and perfect all the time.  It was exhausting. And that is where my eating disorder helped me out, he told me exactly what I needed to do to achieve the ultimate perfection and that was be the thinnest possible.

ED had a solution for every failed test, bad situation, breakup, loss, and it was, control it, with food. And the more I let ED take control, the farther I moved away from all that made me happy. Of course he told me the thinner I got, the more I was reaching perfection. However, the thinner I became, the more I lost, grades, relationships, friendships, social events, energy, and ultimately happiness. Yet, ED promised just a few more pounds and I would be there. Well, it never happened. No matter how thin I got, it never worked. And then one day I realized, this whole perfection thing wasn’t any fun, and it sure wasn’t getting me anywhere but despair.

That’s where grace came in and that is where the healing began. However, I didn’t learn that grace overnight but it was the  pain and suffering that got me there. Without these circumstances I am not sure grace would be as real to me as it is now. It finally sunk in that the God that I loved, didn’t love me because I was perfect, He loved me in spite of the fact that I wasn’t. And nothing I could do would make Him love me any more or any less than He did right then. As my dear friend says, “It’s okay that we’re not okay because Jesus is better than being better.” It was that message that made the darkness bearable and reminded me that there was light at the end even when I couldn’t see it. And those people who thought I was so perfect, well they loved the not perfect MK even more, because she was real. Unlike, perfect MK they could identify with the real MK (funny how I was convinced they wouldn’t know how to handle not perfect me).

So what about today? Do I still strive for that perfection? Even those questions make me laugh out loud. Because, today I cannot live without grace, because I am one big mess! And the fact that I am not perfect is totally okay. “Perfect MK” lived a really miserable life that led to a really horrible relationship with ED and other destruction. MK today, she messes up about every other minute. However, she is learning to accept the fact that it is okay, because in her imperfect mess she is loved deeply.

Maybe perfection in any aspect is your goal. My guess is on some level it’s tearing you apart. Let me tell you no matter how hard you try it’s not going to get you anywhere but misery and heartache. And even more, I bet the people in your life would love the not so perfect you even more than you could ever imagine. So just remember it’s okay to not be perfect, in fact it is extremely freeing!

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