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

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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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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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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Living Doesn’t Happen in the Waiting

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“I have always, essentially, been waiting. Waiting to become something else, waiting to be that person I always thought I was on the verge of becoming, waiting for that life I thought I would have. In my head, I was always one step away. In high school, I was biding my time until I could become the college version of myself, the one my mind could see so clearly. In college, the post-college “adult” person was always looming in front of me, smarter, stronger, more organized… And through all that waiting, here I am. My life is passing, day by day, and I am waiting for it to start. I am waiting for that time, that person, that event when my life will finally begin… That thing I’m waiting for, that adventure, that move-score-worthy experience unfolding gracefully. This is it. Normal, daily life ticking by on our streets and sidewalks, in our houses and apartments, in our beds and at our dinner tables, in our dreams and prayers and fights and secrets – this pedestrian life is the most precious thing any of use will ever experience.”

When I was young, summer was my favorite time of year. Summer meant the pool, no homework, sleeping in, snow cones, and hanging out with friends. It was the best of times. It also meant another thing; it meant waiting rooms.I grew up with many precious elderly people in my life.  As precious as they may have been, I learned quickly the more elderly they were the more time we spent in the doctors office. Many of my summer days were spent in the waiting rooms of various doctors offices. And it was in those waiting rooms that I learned the biggest lessons.

Each time we headed out for the doctor’s office. I would bring my piled up bag with enough books to last several days, my personal CD player with tons of CDs (hello 90s!), my journal and fifteen different colored gel pens. However, no amount of fun items could make up for the waiting. It was during the time in the waiting room that I learned really how terrible at “waiting” I am. And even more as I reflect back to my time in the waiting room I recognize that I spend much of my life simply waiting, instead of living.

I remember being a freshman in high school. I was desperately in like with a real live movie star friend three years older than me. I thought life would be so much more bearable if he would just ask me to be his girlfriend. So I sat by the phone and waited every night for a call, sometimes it came and sometimes it didn’t but I waited. I waited and I missed out on opportunities on hanging out with friends and building other relationships because I was so focused on the waiting.

Fast forward three years later and I knew my life would be perfect if I just got into TCU. So I sat and I waited. Nothing in life seemed as important as that, so I never entertained the idea of another school and frankly didn’t want to hear about my friends school choices because I was too focused on my waiting. And when I was accepted it became about waiting on the the right dorm, the right classes, the right friends…so I waited more and I missed out on some great friends and classes because I couldn’t stand the waiting.

In college, I had dreams of becoming a phenomenal District Attorney. So I waited hoping that my dream would one day be a realization. I was so enthralled with my waiting that I missed out on clear signs that attorney life was not for me. After I realized my attorney dreams were not for me, I began to plan my non profit dreams, waiting to one day be ready for them and instead missed out on helping with other amazing non profits because I was waiting on my own to happen. And what I have found in all my waiting is that I let my life pass me by. I don’t live it and I miss out.

So much about this season of life has been about transition for me. Transition out of a world and city I knew so well. Transition into a new job. Transition in moving. Transition into marriage. Transition in friendships. Transitions in leaving friends physically. And as I sit here in the midst of transition, it is so easy for me to wait. It is so easy and safe to sit and wait for the next chapter as I finish the work with the ministry I love. It is so easy to sit and wait to be a mom. To wait and adopt. To wait to live in a “real house”.  It is easy to sit and wait for the life that I want to happen to unfold around me. However, the waiting doesn’t do me any good. The waiting tells me it’s okay to sit around and not live my life but to merely wish it away, to wish for my big moment and to forget what life is happening around me.

When I sit around and wait I don’t enjoy my life. Just like the ten year old sitting in the waiting room hoping that any minute it will be time to go, I have sat and waited for my big moments to happen. And when they don’t I am disappointed. I am unenthusiastic about life because I know that something better might be around the corner. And when they do they are wonderful but they eventually end and life goes back to normal pace. I don’t like that idea that I am just waiting for bigger, better, moments than what is happening right now. So I made a decision to stop waiting and start living. Because living and living life to the fullest is what I am about, not waiting for life to pass me by. I cannot change my age or my position in life but I can change my attitude towards my life and I can start living each day instead of waiting for tomorrow for everything to fall into place. I can work hard, I can love others, I can show grace, I can have faith and I can live each precious moment of this life given to me to the fullest.

Friend, maybe you are a young twenty year old waiting for your life to begin. Maybe you are teenager waiting for that boy to ask you out. Maybe you are waiting for that girl to say yes to your date. Maybe you are a young mom waiting for her kids to just get over this difficult period. Maybe you are a middle aged adult waiting for this job you have hated for so many years to end. So like me your story is one of waiting. Just like sitting in a stark and and pale waiting room, you are sitting and waiting for your life to be what you want it to be. Friend, this waiting is frustrating and difficult and in the end you miss out on your life because you are waiting for a better life to happen. Don’t get me wrong I want you to have the biggest and brightest dreams but in the midst of the dreams I want you to stop waiting for the big moments to happen and for everything to fall into place. I want you to start living each and every little moment of this precious life you were given and not waste it. So this week will you do me a favor? Will you stop living life in the waiting room and start living it to the fullest?

You are loved my friend,

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Stop Looking In the Mirror

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I was a little over two when I realized that beauty mattered, way too young for a little girl to discover whether she was beautiful or not. I loved watching and participating in fashion shows at an early age and I loved watching beauty pageants. I was a little girl who loved anything to do with pretty dresses, high heels, and sparkles. This girly love wasn’t all together a bad thing, until I let it define and take over me. However, once my quest for beauty began is when I lost it all.

At two I looked in mirror before a family photo was taken and told my parents and grandmother, “My hair don’t look pretty.” What at the time was a funny comment from a precious little girl turned into my mantra. In the years that followed I would look in the mirror, and would always find something that “didn’t look pretty”.  Mirrors tortured and taunted me, no matter what anyone else said. Every time I heard the words, “You’re beautiful.” it was all I could do not to laugh, because there was no way I could have believed it.

The mirror is where I found my truth. If the mirror said I looked good (which it rarely did) than the day would go well and if the mirror showed that one hair was out of place than game over. For me, overcoming my issues had a whole heck of a lot to do with me not seeing myself as beautiful. They were all lies and I know that now but it can still be difficult. It didn’t just happen overnight and it certainly didn’t happen without a whole lot of work. As a woman, I think I can safely say that I believe all women struggle with the idea of beauty and feeling beautiful. We live in a society that is rampant with ideas of beauty, false, unattainable, unrealistic standards of beauty. It wasn’t until I finally realized and accepted that beauty wasn’t in a made up face, it wasn’t in high fashioned clothes, it wasn’t in a size zero, that it began to sink in. Beauty used to mean a specific size and specific numbers, but it doesn’t anymore.

And the reason it doesn’t matter anymore is because I realized some pretty incredible and important truths. Beauty is in the smiles that spread across faces when we experience joy, beauty is in the laughs that echo from our mouths as we enjoy our lives, beauty is in the eyes that sparkle as dreams come true, beauty is in the grace that we live our lives by.

My worth will never again be determined by my outside appearance, for I am worth far too much for that and so are you. Beauty is measured by the heart and the love and grace we show to others.

All of this sound like too much to swallow? It once did to me too, but now I know that it is completely true. I don’t ever want to live up to the world’s standards of beauty because it only causes, pain, heartache, and a life surrendered to these. I no longer have to have my life dictated by these unreachable standards and neither do you. Because whether you realize it or not, I know it’s true….YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL and my prayer is that you would see and realize this beauty and know that it is lasting. So this week don’t look into the mirror for your beauty look into your heart.

All my love,

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