Change

Last summer I spent an evening in Savannah, Georgia. My mom and I embarked on our yearly trip to meet some family members in Tennessee, and what was supposed to just be a fun rest stop amidst a 14 hour drive turned into a sort of turning point for me.

After a bad breakup and several attempts to find love (or more like comfort, in hindsight) in all the wrong places, prior to this day I hadn’t thought about how much I needed a new outlook . My mom has always been the person who understands me better than anyone else could dream of, and a week of me and her on the road did more good for me than I realized at the time.

To most people, this photo looks like nothing more than a semi-blurry picture of a girl in a restaurant. But I see a hundred problems hiding under the surface: a girl who has lost her sense of direction in life, who is beyond frustrated, mentally counting the calories in the meal she just ordered, and wondering how much longer she can stand to be alive.

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I was obsessed with appearances. I had to be the skinniest, prettiest person I could turn myself into. I had to be fit, working out for hours upon hours everyday until I felt sick. I learned to love the feeling of an empty stomach. I still do, though now I wish I didn’t. I  piled on makeup to the best of my ability and wore outfits that I thought made me look smaller. I had to fix everything, but found new problems with myself everyday. I took selfies and posted them on Instagram to prove to others and myself that I had confidence.

There is nothing wrong with taking care of oneself, or wanting to look nice and be healthy, but I took it to an extreme. I loved when my extended family commented on how great I suddenly looked. I loved that boys suddenly paid attention to me and girls wanted to be my friend. I loved that I had a secret, that I could reinvent myself by choosing who I spent my time with, that I could pretend to fit in with people other than my immediate family for a change.

But those things did not equate to happiness. I did not find salvation in any of them. All I felt was a constant ache for more, but I didn’t get anything more until I proved that, while I may not necessarily deserve it, I could work hard for better things. I could have the best intentions, be positive, and be genuine as often as possible.

I needed God, and acted (even believed at times) that He and I were perfectly okay with each other, but I found that I couldn’t simultaneously be abusing/lying to myself and be in a healthy relationship with Him. Praying means next to nothing if I turn around and act irrational the next minute, whether that be in the way I treat my body or the poor decisions I make to feel less empty.

Relying on frivolous things like appearances, other people’s validation, and success to bring you joy will only result in feeling worse off in the end. I was never more broken than I was at that time, but it was in the brokenness that I was able to make a change.

I didn’t figure everything out on that trip. I didn’t suddenly turn into a new person or have a great relationship with God in a day. Even now, our relationship falters. I’m human and while it’s not an excuse, it is a fact that I’m not going to be perfect. However, it was a turning point.

Throughout that single week, I made decisions that I truly believed would better my life. And sanity, if we’re honest. I had incredible conversations about salvation, thought a lot about what God wanted me to do and how He wanted me to treat myself, and it was because of those decisions that I finally was able to move forward with my life.

I have never been able to say that I am happy. Even in the best moments, I didn’t feel a constant sense of joy. But even on my darker days, I have hope now. I wouldn’t have that if I hadn’t made difficult, but responsible decisions back then. I had to face reality instead of complaining about it, and as soon as I did, my entire outlook on myself and my existence changed. I changed. I grew.

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I knew a boy who lived in a sea of rolling hills – the town he grew up in like waves far out in the ocean

I was a boat tied to the dock while he swam along the coast freely

 

We simultaneously put each other first and last while expecting harmonious synchronization

Two people forcing their way into a thing they called home even if it felt like a warzone

 

We got stuck between growing up and being grown up because it was the place we knew best

Comfortable in the discomfort of never knowing what might lie ahead but still feeling certain that we’d both be a part of each other’s futures

 

But a person shouldn’t be a Lighthouse

And we were far from perfect

 

Eventually the ocean turned dark and he went away as the tide swirled around my ankles, untying the rope that held me where I thought I’d always be safe

I drifted alone until he was barely a speck on the horizon, waving to me from the safety of warm grass, solid ground, and sunlight like a halo

 

On my own I found my way to a new place where the waves didn’t crash, just sort of swayed back and forth

I found softer hands to hold, and the hills where I used to hide behind went away with the sunset

 

Now my new home actually feels like a home – nothing like the former secluded hideaway I wasn’t allowed to leave until God or somebody forced me out

It’s four walls and a bed to share, toes in the water, and a Lighthouse to lead me in every direction

 

We work now in tandem

Two people creating and discovering together, allowing for both self-identity and someone to trust

 

There are no hills or a need for them – only open sky and a horizon that is always bright

My tomorrow never seeming dim because I have something to bring me home and someone to go home to

More Like You

I see You in everything

So I know I am not alone

I know that You will call me home

 

Can You show me a better way

To live my life

All for Your grace

 

I want to take hold of You now

To just find out

How to be a better person

How to make You proud

 

You say that You are with me

And there’s no end to

Unfailing love everlasting

 

Passion and persistence

I wish I could do it for You too

 

So I will give You praise

I will give you all

Of my heart still beating

My everyday

 

I have heard You in the distance

The distance is in me

 

When we’re close I can feel You

When I’m far I need You

 

You are in everything

 

Everyone Is A Bit Of A Mess

I am broken.

So completely, unabashedly broken. Well at least the “unabashedly” part is a work in progress.

There is no definitive line between having it together and falling apart. Daily life is not set in black in white; even if it’s not always a rainbow of colors, it’s at least hundreds of variations of grey. Depends on the day.

Lately, I’ve been having some grey days. There are ups and downs, because among the “downs” I choose to let myself have some “ups,” which is an important lesson I wish I had learned a long time ago. But in the grey days I have learned to look closer at the reality of other people’s lives.

I am not the only person facing demons. Far from it, in fact.

Sure that seems obvious when actually saying it aloud or putting pen to paper, but it’s so easy to get caught up in your own head and not realize that your problems, while they have merit, are not exclusive. I would be wasting my time trying to compare my life to other’s because I can see their lives in easy black and white moments – I’m not feeling everything they feel or seeing every detail exactly like they can. To put it more eloquently, Steven Furtick says “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”

Even with the people I am closest to, with whom I get a glimpse of most of their good and bad moments, I could still easily point to all the ways in which they have their life more figured out than I do.

Me? I feel like a mess 24/7. I’ve never not felt like a mess. I’m a terrible communicator when it comes to my emotions (and I have a lot of them), I procrastinate out of fear, I push some people away and let in some that I shouldn’t, I think too much about self-improvement to the point of not actually doing anything to improve, I don’t pray enough. I’m going to stop there. You get the point.

Your immediate reaction, if you’re anything like me, may be “Yeah, but…”

But nothing. I am a mess in some ways, but not in others. It’s just not always easy to look past the ways in which you are a mess because those qualities tend to be more prevalent and problem-causing. The people in my life that I admire for their abilities to handle things all the time have their own faults and shortcomings that I’m not paying attention to because I’m too busy thinking about how much better than me they are.

A better use of time is, if you notice a quality you like in someone, point it out to them and learn from what they do. You can’t always mimic what other people do because you still have to be your own person and focus on the gifts that God gave you, but maybe there’s some sort of lesson in there for you as well.

Otherwise, calm down. Get it together. You’re fine. Everything is fine.

That’s pretty much my mantra when I’m freaking out about anything ever. But seriously, calm down and do something productive. Even if it’s not perfect, move in some sort of positive direction because sitting back and watching other people live their lives “better” than you is only going to bring you down and get you nowhere. My mom says something to the effect of, “If you’re not moving forward, you can only go backwards.” There is no safe middle ground.

Everyone else does not have it all together and you aren’t 100% a mess. Most of us are somewhere in the middle; our shortcomings are just way more apparent than other people’s. However that’s also no excuse to sit back and say “I’m doing fine.” It means that you may not be exactly where you should be, but you can work on that. In doing so, you can also remain positive and remember that no two people are doing or have done this ‘life’ thing the exact same way.

We’re all trying to figure it out.

 

Redefining Strength

Brash and fervorous;

Fictitious;

A muse for who lives inside her head;

Can I will her to come out;

To scream for me instead;

 

To be candid and raw;

Unapologetic;

Fear only known;

When it’s just foreign enough to be exciting;

 

Anger and strife and unkempt words;

Harsh and held so high;

Gorgeous without grace;

Marching through fire in solitude;

Born throwing fists before a simple compliment;

Inhuman, unfeeling, and always on top;

 

No one wants to paint a quiet leader;

But waves are not made with words;

No matter the amount of venom pouring from her tongue;

 

Woman and feminine;

Feminine and kind;

Kind and forgiving;

Forgiving and strong;

Strength does not scream the loudest;

Nor does it always have to whisper;

 

Passion manifested in every form;

She can lead;

Useful as she was made;

 

Vexation and recklessness are synonymous in nature;

There is more to strength than masculinity and aggravation;

Hone the skills you were given;

 

Boldness is not always loudness;

 

Standing firm in her beliefs;

Speaking with love;

Leading with intelligence.

 

Insecurities, Trials, and John 13:7

Thank God for a God that actually cares about our well-being.

“Jesus replied, ‘You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.'” (John 13:7)

As we live in a culture obsessed with bodies – equally our own and each other’s – there will likely be many times in which it’ll become difficult to keep our opinions about ourselves in perspective.

Is it sometimes shallow? Maybe. Is it a challenge regardless? Absolutely. I, as does everyone else, struggle with insecurities about my personality and capabilities but that’s another topic for another day. Right now we’re focusing on the stuff that shouldn’t matter nearly as much, but does anyway: outward appearance.

After having relatively short hair for well over a year and being semi-overweight, I decided that I wanted neither of those things for myself ever again. I was convinced that if I was stick-skinny with hair that hit my waist, I would be considered “pretty.” My long thick hair acted as a shield to hide behind as well, so that was an added bonus.

When I achieved both the long hair and stick-skinny body, big shocker, I was still insecure. Sure I felt better about my appearance in some ways, but my attention just shifted from one set of insecurities to another.

On top of that, once I reached my goal it wasn’t enough. I needed more. It seemed counteractive to stop after all the time and effort I had put in, so I didn’t. I worked out for hours upon hours, kept a journal in which I made sure every bite throughout my day was accounted for, ate so little I got used to feeling dizzy and loved that I never felt hungry anymore. I made secret Pinterest boards of tiny girls with long hair as inspiration to keep pushing myself. I took notice of the sudden increase in positive attention I was receiving.

I haven’t touched my calorie-counting notebook in months. I still have it at hand, I know exactly where it is, but I haven’t touched it. I’ll get rid of it in due time when I know I won’t be tempted to simply start a new one.

The reason I’m mentioning some details of my problems with food is not to garner attention or sympathy of any kind. Dear Lord, this is not about me saying “Hey feel sorry for me even though I did this to myself!” I debated whether or not it was a good idea to share any personal information at all, but in the end I decided that it serves a purpose. I’ve learned a lot from it and while I’m only skirting over the details here, the lesson in the end is what’s worth sharing.

As Joyce Meyer says, “I may not be where I want to be, but thank God I’m not where I used to be.”

I’m at a point where I have gained weight because I’m actually eating consistently. Though sometimes I still tell people I have eaten when I haven’t. I’m finding myself comparing my body to the women on Instagram who have unnaturally contorted their bodies, no matter what size, to appear curvy in all the right places. With my slouchy posture and my bodies natural tendency to send all my fat to my belly and face, I often feel quite literally like the grossest person to walk the earth. But man, I can eat and actually enjoy it most of the time. I don’t panic anymore because I don’t have the time or energy to work out for 5 or more hours everyday. I don’t panic when I don’t get to work out at all, though granted I probably should move around more than I do now. I can think about things that actually matter and leave the house without looking “perfect” and be okay with it.

God did this thing to me that I absolutely hated, and I’m still not loving, but I am beyond grateful for. He took away all my crutches at once. He made me feel uglier and more insecure than I have ever felt.

I decided my hair wasn’t good enough anymore. That it desperately needed blonde highlights. So after my failed attempt and a 5 hour hair appointment in which they turned my long curls into an actual rat’s nest that I couldn’t run my fingers through, I had to cut my hair insanely short. And it was a bad cut. Really. Bad. Hair: gone.

I felt like God was pushing me to quit the job that kept me working out consistently (for reasons beyond just that). Also I was at home more often due to taking a break from school, which meant quicker access to food and more people to keep me accountable for how much I ate. Weight: gained.

As an added bonus, my acne came back and it hit me even harder than it did when I was 15. Face: irritated and scarred.

When this all happened, I was embarrassed. I didn’t want to leave the house, I didn’t want people to see me, I didn’t want people to think I was okay with looking the way I did even though there was nothing I could do about it right away (and I didn’t even look bad, nor was it a big deal at all, but obviously my head was not in the rational thinking zone at the time). There was a lot of crying, some anger on my part, but thank God it happened because I learned firsthand about the difference between taking care of oneself and being obsessive.

I’ve never been satisfied with the way I look. I’ve had multiple drastic style changes, hair changes, makeup changes, weight changes, anything you can think of. I like to try new things because it’s fun, but mostly I do it because once I get an idea in my head I somehow convince myself that I need to do it or I won’t be complete. Which, obviously, is completely illogical. However, the insecure part of my brain convinces itself that that one change is what will make me feel better. Again, illogical, because it never works.

But God broke me of that mentality. Not only did he take away the things that made me feel “pretty” and comfortable so that I would be forced to appreciate the person He made me to be and stop freaking out about every insignificant and minor detail, but He also put people into my life who unknowingly helped a lot.

He gave me a close friend who supports me, talks about the way I look and dress positively, but would 100% kindly tell me the truth if prompted. She often greets me with an enthusiastic “You look so cute,” and looks for positives in the things I am insecure about.

He also gave me a boyfriend who doesn’t cater to my every whim. He loves me, he is kind, he does things for me, he compliments me often. He also recognizes that while he can encourage me, that’s all he can do. So many women look to their significant others to save them. To worship the ground they walk on and baby them every time they get a little bit down on themselves or knocked down by every little problem, but that only perpetuates an emotionally dependent attitude. I’m grateful that I was given a relationship in which we can support, love, comfort, and talk to each other about anything as a team, but at the end of the day we know we can’t change the negative things in one another. He can’t make me be less insecure and I don’t expect him to because that’s my problem I have to face. And in hindsight, I wouldn’t want a boyfriend who showers me with compliments solely to make me feel better because I know that every time he calls me beautiful, every time he hugs me tighter when I’m about to leave, every time he does anything romantic or kind or loving he wholeheartedly means it. Romanticism for the sake of romanticism has no real heart and I’m grateful that God gave me somebody who won’t coddle me.

So yeah, I’m not going to lie and turn this into some huge redemption story. I’m still insecure. Everyone is insecure to some degree. Confidence is just faking it until it doesn’t bother you anymore, but with God I was able to really put things into perspective and see how little the problems I have with myself matter. I still have moments throughout the day when I look in the mirror and I’m not happy with what’s looking back at me. I still have moments when I fail. I still have moments when I let my emotions get the best of me.

But they are moments. They will come and they will pass and we are given the strength to choose how we will respond to them and we can be forgiven when we mess up. I can choose to sit around and mope all day about the way I look, or I can get up and do something else or even go (healthily and within reason) do something about it.

God taking away what made me comfortable was what pushed me to realize how ridiculously caught up in myself I was, but I could have easily chosen to ignore it and feel sorry for myself instead. We are not made to be complacent bystanders, and God often puts us into situations and expects us to turn it into something positive and useful. Whether it is bettering ourselves or being able to relate to and help others with similar situations (or, more likely, both of those things simultaneously), there are no coincidences if you choose to look beyond only your feelings.

“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” (1 Peter 1:6-7)