I sold myself…..and now I know why.

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I started selling myself when I was 14. Not the on the corner selling. Not online selling. But the please pay attention to me and love me kind of selling. Please tell me I am enough selling. My mother did not drop me at a brothel in order for my siblings to survive. I did it to myself. Some choices I made. Some were made for me.

Me in my skin tight jeans. Me in my overalls. Me in my long skirts. Me in my short skirts. It had nothing to do with what I was wearing or who I was. It had to do with who I wasn’t. I don’t ever dare compare myself to the millions of children each year that are forced into sex work. Or the girls who are walking the red light districts in their villages to survive. Never. I would never even think that the horror that they experience every day is in any way comparable to my mid- western choices. But one thing I thing I can relate to is the shell of the person that I became. When you give yourself away and are left with just a shell of disconnect.

I turn forty next month. If I think about it long enough I can get anxious and start thinking of all of the things I have yet to accomplish and the things I never became or missed. Having lived forty years I have to say that the last five have been the hardest and yet produced most growth. Through being stuck in Uganda and not knowing when I would see my whole family again. To suffering from PTSD, depression, anxiety, and attachment issues when I returned. And then to be hit with more news of another child who had been suffering all along. And to watch as she went through years of testing and evaluation in order to receive a diagnosis that is lifelong. I have walked through grief and relief all on the same breathe.

But nothing can compare to knowing that I more fully myself than I have ever been. I am confident that I am stronger and braver than I ever thought I could be. I am more confident that my experiences in the past are ONLY used for good. And thank you Jesus that he is letting me see the fruit of that pain today.

But me taking off my clothes for years did more damage than anyone could see. It left me lonely for the next 25. I know that others argue when you give yourself away it won’t affect you. God forgives you and you are fully redeemed. Yes. Yes to all of that. But it does not take away the reality that you are not all of you were supposed to be. There was so much of me missing. So many parts of me still lay in backseats, parks, beaches, hotels, and beds. So much of me lingered there for years waiting for my soul to collect me. Waiting for me to forgive.

And I think all the time of the sweet angels all over the world tonight that are asking others to love them. To buy them. To sell them. I want to scream and plead. I want to hold them and love them and tell them “you are already enough. “

I want to tell them it will take years for the pieces of you to fully return to a new healed soul. But this is not my job. My job is to be there voice. I can. You can. I now work for an organization called Trades of Hope. We partner with marginalized women all over the world. We sell jewelry that is ethically produced by using Fair Trade principle. By marketing their creations we offer artisans a way to provide for their families without entering into slavery, a way to keep their children rather than giving them to orphanages or to the sex trade. I love everything about this company. But the thing I love the most is that 25 years ago God saw the mess that I was making of my life and continued to make for years and whispered gently “I will make all things new.”

Yet it wasn’t until now I that I hear Him.

But he said to me , “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

2Cor 12:9

Eggs and Rice- living the truth of who you are

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When I was younger I remember my mom making scrambled eggs and rice with cinnamon on it a few times a month. It was usually when my dad was late at work or out of town. At least that is what I told myself. Yet as I have gotten older and become a mom to five hungry mouths every night I realize that may have not been the truth. The truth of which I believed is not the truth at that dinner table. The truth was more likely that these items were all that was left in the cupboards by the end of the pay period. The truth was is that it was easy to make and quite filling for a table full of athletes. The truth was is that she may have been so exhausted from working third shift as a nurse, driving all of us to school, sleeping a few hours every day and then picking us all up from school and to our events later that this was the best she could do. The truth was is that we were excited when it was “eggs and rice night” because we thought it was a treat.

Lately I have had this memory in my head and continually poking at my heart. What is my eggs and rice? What is my truth?

When is the moment when we decide to live truth filled lives? To embrace and stand in who or what we are?

I can count many times that I was asked out for coffee or a meal with someone and the whole time there my stomach would be turning because I couldn’t afford to be there. I had no right to even except the invitation. I knew that I would have to make the last fifty dollars in our bank account last until the end of the week not knowing how that was going to happen. Yet I was more concerned about saying no and looking foolish then living the truth of where I was financially.

This is an issue that comes up many times for me. I have friends who are let’s say a “bit better off in their bank accounts” than we are. My pride seems to creep in when I see them asking how they should decorate their houses on Facebook when all I can think about it how we are ever going to pay the heating bill or put food on the table next week. Yet when I choose to live and claim my “eggs and rice” and am honest with God. He shows up. In countless stories of “this could only be God” in our lives.

My “eggs and rice” weaves its way into every area of my life. For example my kids conferences at school were not Facebook worthy. In fact they were hard. To sit across from the teacher trying to figure out how we can intervene and help my sweet girls. I left in tears and called my best friend feeling defeated. My truth is that my child is not perfect and will never measure up to yours. My “ eggs and rice “ is that my teenagers are hard. I mess up with them all the time. I have given them more reasons to go to therapy than not to. My truth is that marriage is more than I can handle most days. I like to be alone and hate to be touched. My truth is that I made the mistake of loving my friends more and better than my husband for years. My truth is that I have an ugly jealous heart that needs to apologize regularly for not leading with grace. My truth is that I feared my father more than God in my life. My truth is that I went for years not apologizing to my sister and lost so many moments of memories because of my justified self- righteous attitude. My truth is that asking for forgiveness is so hard for me. My truth is that my PTSD kept me in bondage of fears that I could never utter out loud. My truth is that I feel overwhelmed with my daughter’s future. My truth is that I have a difficult time forgiving myself for my past that plays in my head all the time. My truth is that I sometimes hide when my kids come home from school because it’s just so hard. My truth is that I live in fear of my eating disorder rearing its ugly head again. My truth is that I don’t talk about international adoption because of the horrible things that I saw. My truth is I grieve daily that I can’t have any more kids because of my post-partum depression.

My truth is that my “eggs and rice” are messy. Yet I know this. God can take my “eggs and rice” and weave them into something beautiful and redemptive. He always does.

Dear Moms, Do you know what beautiful is?

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Dear Moms, Do you know what beautiful is?

Earlier this week I wrote a post to my daughters about what beautiful is.

This got me to thinking. Do WE  actually know what beautiful is?

Someone had asked me recently to do a photo session with the hubs. I would love to say that I was excited and elated to have our pictures taken by an amazing photographer. But the first thing that went through my mind was give me a month until I can lose a few more pounds….and then I’ll be ready.

How many of our beautiful moments are wasted on waiting? On being ready….

And if we are waiting than what are we teaching our daughters? What are we teaching ourselves?

I will be beautiful when I find the man to love me.

I will be beautiful when I can walk down the aisle in a gorgeous white gown.

I will be beautiful when I lose all of this baby weight.

I will be beautiful when I am a size 8 again. ( who am I kidding I’d like a size 10 these days)

I will be beautiful when I cover the grey in my hair.

I will be beautiful when I can wear a bathing suit.

I will be beautiful when I spend hundreds of dollars to drink shakes.

I will be beautiful when I stop trying so hard.

I will be beautiful when I can fit into last summer’s clothes.

I will be beautiful when I have a chest like hers.

I will be beautiful when my hips don’t stick out so far.

I will be beautiful when my arms don’t sag.

I will be beautiful when he notices me.

I will be beautiful when I have the job I worked for.

I will be beautiful when my husband pays attention to me.

I will be beautiful when my stomach is hard.

I will be beautiful when I have all my makeup on.

I will be beautiful when someone notices me.

I will be beautiful when I am loved.

I will be beautiful when I my life looks like yours.

I will be beautiful when I am as thin as I was in college.

I will be beautiful when someone wants me.

 I will be beautiful when I see my reflection and not be repulsed.

I will be beautiful when others tell me I am.

So we wait. You wait. I wait. We waste our lives waiting. Waiting to beautiful.

All the while trying to raise daughters to know that they are beautiful.

They are beautiful now.

YOU are beautiful now.

YOU are beautiful now because you have stood up for a friend. YOU are beautiful now because you fought for your marriage. YOU are beautiful now because you walked away from toxic relationships. YOU are beautiful now because you forgave. YOU are beautiful now because you received grace. YOU are beautiful now because you fed those around your table. YOU are beautiful now because you chose the harder road. YOU are beautiful now because you so said no. YOU are beautiful now because you survived. YOU are beautiful now because you were a voice for those who could not speak. YOU are beautiful now because you chose children over chores. YOU are beautiful now because you gave when no else would. YOU are beautiful now because you stayed when others walked away. YOU are beautiful now because you live in truth. YOU are beautiful now because you are using your gifts. YOU are beautiful now because you put down your phone and paid attention to what you were missing. YOU are beautiful now because you are stronger today than yesterday.

It’s time to stop waiting my friends. Waiting to take the pictures.

Today. In this moment. YOU are beautiful.

 

The Clothes I Wear Say Who I Am #SheSharesTruth

The clothes I wear say who I am.

When I was younger I imagined that early on I wore clothes that said
Adventurous spirit
Tree climber with skinned knees
Roller-skater who was afraid to fall
Dare devil that loved the challenge
Imaginative storyteller
Creative with space
Quiet thinker

I’m not sure of the exact age, but I can speculate, when I started noticing these clothes disappear.
They would get shoved under my pillow. Or in the corner. Maybe they got left under the picnic table that fateful summer.

Whatever happened, I seem to find new shirts to wear. Ones that spoke for me.

Quiet spirit
Confused
Sad storyteller
Fearful thinker
Afraid
Imaginative girl who never knew the difference between the stories she told and what was real.

When the knees stopped being skinned and my pigtails were gone, I started letting others put clothes on me.
Or take them off.
And at the end all I was left with was clothes that said

Empty

As a teenager I wore empty like it owned me.

It did. It owned me.

Empty love. Empty food. Empty exercise. Empty puking. Empty drugs. Empty attention. Empty feelings. Empty touch. Empty alcohol. Empty lying. Empty school. Empty fear. Empty friends. Empty security. Empty soul. Empty faith.

Empty.

I continued to wake up every day for years and decide that this was what I was going to wear. I deserved to wear it. There were days or moments when I wanted to find another shirt to wear. To borrow someone else’s shirt. To see if what they were wearing would fit me. I was convinced that I could feel better in what they carried on their backs then the years of weighted clothes I carried on my shoulders.

Years later I knew it was safe to start taking the shirts of lies off. I had begun to surround myself with souls who breathed life into me. Who called out truth. Who saw the truth and leaned in even closer.

When I began to explore the thought that there was a God who wanted to slowly come to me with palms open I was timidly skeptical. Was I willing to take the layers of clothes I had worn off? Was I willing to throw them away? Was I willing to lay them ALL at his feet? Was I brave enough to let others see the scars that I had been covering for years?

I was.

I am.

Naked.

Exposed for the world to see.
For Christ to wash me.
For my husband to understand me.
For my friends to receive me.
For the mirror to reveal me.
Who I was years ago. Who I am today.

Enough.

The shirt He asks me to wear.

He asks you to wear everyday
says
Enough.

You are not what happened to you. You are not who cheated on you. You are not your child’s illness. You are not your pain. You are not your divorce. You are not your weight. You are not the food you eat. You are not the alcohol that devours you. You are not your addiction. You are not your husband’s rage. You are not the fear that drowns you. You are not the loss you ache for. You are not the girl who didn’t know better. You are not the countless times you gave yourself away. You are not the porn that calls you back to feast. You are not the secrets that hold you captive. You are not your job that engrosses you. You are not your child’s behaviors. You are not the girl you used to be.

You.Are.Enough.

You are brave enough.
You are courageous enough.
You are enough.

Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” Ruth 2:10

It’s time. It’s time to take off the layers of lies you’ve been wearing. It’s time to stop letting others put filth on you. It’s time to be brave enough to wear the truth Christ has been holding in his arms for you.
The truth that says

Enough.

Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, Ruth 4:14

#SheSharesTruth
#SheReadsTruth

stories in a plaid skirt

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I am a storyteller.

Since I was in third grade and got called into the office for being a  liar “storyteller” , I knew what I could do well. The Catholic school teachers had no time or patience for those with imagination. Or in my case survival. They had no room in between Mass and penmanship to focus on the little girl in her plaid skirt telling stories again. Consequences needed to be given. Punishment in the form of penance was the only reasonable result of an over active mind. Hail Mary’s were a sure cure for such a thing.

 I continued. Continued to tell stories. Whether true or not, stories were my protection. My voice. If you would listen close enough you could hear me. Hear me trying to tell you. Tell you I needed to be heard. I needed you to know that I needed….

So here I am years later realizing that I have continued to tell stories to myself. Stories that I believed were true.

My clothes are getting a little tight lately…..

The story: I am out of control. I will always struggle with my weight. I need to starve myself. I need to binge. I need to purge. I will never be attractive. I will never be enough.

The truth: I have been digging into some trauma in my life. Weight is my protection. Food is how I have protected myself. I am getting healthier from the inside out and the weight will come off again. My husband still loves me. Jeans come in bigger sizes.

My marriage is harder than ever…..

The story: It will never be saved. I just don’t know how to be a wife. He married a girl with U-haul of baggage. He deserves someone better than me.

The truth: We all have issues. We are working through them. We are getting help. We are facing our crap. God has us together for a reason. He is not leaving. I am not leaving. We will walk through any fire together. For the love….He prays over me while I sleep….

I need to say yes to you and to anyone that asks….

The story: This is how to make everyone happy. I don’t like people mad at me. I want to be the one to make you smile. I have the creativity and will power to accomplish this. I want to feel loved. I want to feel needed.

The truth: When I say yes I am saying no to the people in my home. I was not called to be a martyr I was called to be a wife and a mom. I am dishonoring my family by being so busy. It is not healthy to be busy. It is so much better for all of us if I say no. I have kids at such difficult stages and I need to lean into them.

My kids don’t want me around…..

The story: I have failed as a mom. I am too busy with other projects. I have lost my chance to connect. I will do better with the younger ones.

The truth: I have pulled away. I have not been present for a while now. I have a difficult time connecting emotionally. I am getting help. I am taking that next step. One moment at a time. Guilt is a useless feeling it does nothing to change a behavior.

The stories that I have told myself, the stories that have carried me are being let go. One by one they are being asked to leave. Being released. Filtered. With gratitude being sent away.

Stories have protected me.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Cor 3:17

 It’s time for the truth. Truth is safe for me now. Truth is where I need to remain.

Remain and heal.

Charcoal stained lips.

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Second floor of the dorm, they had just completed it that spring.

I  lay on the bathroom floor.

Cold tile against my ribs. Hair matted, crusted with last night’s red pasta sauce. Head propped on the toilet.

Because of your wrath there is no health in my body; my bones have no soundness because of my sin. Psalm 38:3

 Not sure if my roommate could hear me crying.

This time. This time I had taken too many. Too many little blue pills that promised to make me feel better and look thinner. She had tried to hide them in her room behind her Biology book.

 I lay there and could taste the tears, salty, wondering who would find me first.

Maybe she hears me.

Maybe she hears my emptiness.

I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart. Psalm 38;8

 I can’t move.

 My heart is going too fast.

Help.

Someone see me.

My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light is gone from my eyes. Psalm 38:10

The ambulance came that night. As morning pushed her way in.

 My brother knelt over me crying. I could hear them say someone had found me like this.

This way. The way where the price of being thin had now caught the attention of the entire campus. The sirens rang my addiction for the seminary students to judge.

 Tubes shoved down.

Raw throat, black charcoal spewed over the grey tattered t-shirt of the boy who broke my heart that winter.

Friends that would never come. Never come to see the girl with the charcoal lips. They had given up watching me pile bowls of cereal on my cafeteria tray. Cereal they knew they would hear coming back up within the hour.

They stopped asking me to go out to dinner with them. Wasting money on food . Wasted on a girl who cared more about the size of her jeans, than the relationships she left walking through the bathroom door.

My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds, my neighbors stay far away. Psalm 38:11

They had tried to save me. Tried to send me nutritional printouts through campus mail. Tried to distract me with activities and conversations.

I am like a deaf man, who cannot hear, whose mouth can offer no reply. Psalm 38:14

But where the mind wants to go, there the addiction stays.

Trapped in the image of emaciation is where control was found. Where no one would see the pain that I forced out multiple times a day. Toilets, trash cans, napkins, pillow cases, showers, ditches. When grief would surface, the quicker it could be driven out, the more I could breathe. The more I could have control again.

Yet this morning.

When night was leaving me there on the tiled floor.

When the secret was made public.

Here is where He found me.

Here is where I began to see the emptiness. Emptiness  in the sin that had bled me of actual feelings. Another addiction that clouded any connection others tried to grasp from me.

Oh Lord, do not forsake me; be not far from me, O my God. Come quickly to help me, O Lord my Savior. Psalm 38:21-22

Here on the tiled floor is where He met me. That is where He is meeting you.

#shereadstruth

prego at summer camp….and what my mother taught me.

[Read more…]

you are worth the fight.

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Let’s be honest. Sometimes January is hard. Some call it the “after Christmas blues”. I call it ” I want to have sand between my toes blues”. I am done with schedules and making lunches that don’t involve swimming somewhere in the day.  Don’t get me wrong I love the snow. I am a Michigan girl threw and threw and I love big sweaters, cute boots, gingerbread lattes, homemade bread, stews and building snowmen with my kids.

But January also brings with it a grayness of that blankets me. There are days when it feels just too heavy to breathe.

Last January, was the lowest that I have ever been. From December to March I daily battled fear and anxiety that left me feeling like I was screaming underwater and no one heard me crying for help. I tried to paint a picture to those that were not in my daily life that we were all holding it together. Because that is what we do. When we feel like our world may come crashing in on us. We hold it up. We need others to believe that things are going great. Because if we actually took the pictures of reality we would have to face it. And facing it seems just too raw. Either way I was held captive inside my own mind by one who only brought darkness and lies. I couldn’t bear for that truth to be known.

So I did what I needed to do. I went to counseling. Every week I sat on a couch and poured my fears out into those walls. I sat there as my therapist reassured me what was true and what were the lies that kept beating into my very being. Because at that point I could not discern the difference.

I let people in. And by let people in I mean that I was very selective. Very. Only a handful of those I love know the truth of what the battle looked like in my soul.

But the in between. The in between moments were just for me and Jesus. I learned how much I needed my Savior. His word was the only thing I could read. I came to understand the depth of His love for me. I was such a mess and I needed Him to be gentle with me.I clung with everything in me to Exodus 14:14.  The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still. He does. He needed to. I would lay in bed closing my eyes picturing him building a wall of protection around me fighting the battle that was determined to take my soul. And he fought. He guarded. He won. He won long before I was thought of but the spirit inside of me needed to believe.

This year. This year I know and am aware of what my triggers are. The things that draw me under quickly.

Lack of sleep– this girl needs it. Like at least eight hours a night. I have a friend who goes on like four or five. Yeah, not over here. Lack of sleep gets my thoughts all jumbled up and my judgment less than par.

Food– I feel better when I eat better. So if I am all about the junk food then I am not caring about myself well. Even though I do crave the most delicious Pistachio ice cream from Grahams something fierce.

Exercise– I actually have just realized this more in the last year than before. I love exercise. I love feeling stronger and more in control of my body. It also raises my serotonin level and self-esteem.

Connection– When I am feeling depressed I become an introvert. Not like a Zen introvert. More like a “you just piss me off” introvert. Not saying that a day or two of regrouping is a sign that I am in trouble. It saying that if I am ignoring phone calls and texts for days you might want to show up on my doorstep. I might be angry but I need to know I’m not in this alone.

Jesus– most of all I need him. I need to soak in his grace. I need to know I am still being fought for.

So sweet one, if this is you. If this is where you are at or where you have been you are not alone. Keep fighting. Keep choosing love, as my sweet friend begs me. Choose to believe that you are more than the lies that tear you apart. You are worth fighting for.

the best me.

Image I secretly love watching people post all of the amazing things that they are going to do each year. I do the same thing. I start out determined that no carb will ever touch my lips again. That this will be the year that I will run a marathon. That this will be my best year. I place these outrageous expectations and goals on myself without seriously thinking how long it took me to get this far. I forget how many times I needed to fall flat on my face before I realized that I was worth the fight. The fight of being a better version of myself.

And if I were being honest.  I believed that the better version was always thinner with great skin. I believed that the better me would never have to deal with anxiety and depression again. The better me would do crafts with her kids. The better me would be published and accomplished by now. The better me would have enough money to not have to worry month to month. The better me would not lose her temper and want to run away. The better me is strong and can hold it all together. The better me would have the energy and the capacity to homeschool her children. The better me would be comfortable in her own skin. The better me would be able to balance life with a perfect looking home. The better me would be an amazing wife full of patience and encouragement.

The better version of me though is the forgiven me. The forgiven me doesn’t care what size jeans I wear or what you wear. The forgiven me knows that anxiety is crippling but is where I feel the most protected by my Savior. The forgiven me knows that I will constantly struggle with sticking my finger down my throat and that this reality is ugly. The forgiven me knows that there is a better way to health and is fighting daily for it. The forgiven me craves scripture but at times forgets to even say hello to God some days. The forgiven me knows what it is like to confess my sins to a friend and they just be held closer. The forgiven me knows that to admit that every day I wake up scared that I won’t be a good person much less a good mom is humiliating. In reality I know the forgiven me is flat on my face broken at the feet of Jesus. The forgiven me feels loneliest in a room full of people but understands that it is just  another issue that is just being kneaded out of me. The forgiven me knows that being a wife is something that I wrestle with every day. The forgiven me knows that I wrestle because of the choices that I made in my past. And the shame I carry haunts me.

And the forgiven me. The best me, knows that this is all being worked out. Worked out not for my best. But for His best. So whatever I need to wrestle with, or fight for, or cry myself to sleep for is sufficient. It’s for the best. He will make all things new this year.

this year, this year let’s tell the truth.

cropped-train.jpgSweet girl , I see you. Roaming aimlessly through the grocery store, legs heavy, wondering if anyone else can see. I can see that it took every fragment of energy you could assemble just to get dressed today. Trying not to make eye contact with the cart coming towards you. Inside screaming “please don’t talk to me, please just don’t”. I see you. I see you in the store wandering through aisles touching random clothing. Touching something that won’t drink anymore energy out of you. I see you. I see you driving through the Starbucks waiting for a stranger to smile at you with no expectations. A short conversation about the weather is all your soul needs to know it is still sane. I see you. I see you picking up your kids from school ringing your hands together, trying to suppress the anxiety that the other moms give you. I see you. Measuring yourself against them without ever exchanging a word. I see you sitting at dinner shoving food down your throat praying that it will all come back up. I see you in church. Sitting, pleading that the darkness that you feel is pursuing you isn’t evident to all. I see you feeling more alone in church than by yourself. I see you. I see you crying when your child asks what is for dinner and you don’t have the strength to think past cereal. I see you when someone asks you to make a decision and you claim that you just can’t. I see you when you the night seems to engulf you and you beg God for the sun to rise earlier that day. I see you when you hear your husband walk out the door to work and everything in you wants him to recognize that you should not be alone. I see you.

You are not alone sweet one. You feel alone. I know you do. You seem to think you are the only one.  Except that there are others out there who want to scream “Me too!”. They want to come alongside you. Hold your hand. And whisper so gently, I see you.

 

After suffering from post-partum depression after each of my children.  I have decided that I no longer want to let the darkness control my life. I will be a voice for those that depression and anxiety hold captive.

I wanted you to know that this is a safe place to say….me too.