Broken, But Not Destroyed

I’ve been here one year, one whole year since moving to Chicago and totally starting over.

I came with a lot of hope, but inwardly carrying so much pain. So much pain from a betraying relationship in my personal life, and a verbally abusive power in my work life.

But even in my walk of hope into the future, in hopes away from the past, I had no idea the amount of resistance I was about to face.

You see, previously at one point in all my hope as I left to start a new season in my life, I thought I could do anything, accomplish whatever I set my heart on.

But instead of encouragement, I faced the betraying, abusive voices: “Who do you think you are?? What do you think you’re trying to do? You are nothing. You are completely unvaluable.”

The people of power and influence in my life had bullied my spirit almost into the ground.

I feel like I’ve lived with the humiliation of my hopes being dashed, and ashamed I was ashamed.

And yet– how can I say this– I knew.

I knew that I was supposed to step into a role of helping businesses be successful. I knew it was also time to partner with non-profits to build sustainable business models for them to help provide work opportunities for trafficked and abused women, to teach these beautiful women that they are more than their bodies, that they are full of potential and skills and opportunities within business.

This kind of work, this kind of “helping businesses” is otherwise known as consulting. And I thought this was it, this was my calling.

But the oppressive cloud hung over my head all year, and I couldn’t get the ridiculing, scoffing voices out.

“Who do you think you are? A consultant??”

At times this past year I have felt that all was lost.

I have had total meltdowns more than I care to recall.

I have felt like I’ve been on the verge of complete disaster continually.

I have faced very real injustice, betrayal, and brutal insensitivity.

I wanted to walk away. But I didn’t quit. I couldn’t quit— how can I explain it? I knew that I knew I was supposed to pursue this calling.

For so long I knew that God’s love was for me, and I was down with that. But I really didn’t think his justice applied to me.

Oh, but little did I realize that justice is love in action.

It’s really powerful love giving really powerful purpose. It’s hope wrapped in a gift.

It’s real. It’s received.

So.

Here it is. A kind way God has worked justice for me.

Today I started a job as a small business consultant for a reputable consulting firm in Chicago.

Who… me??

How was I to know that they would need a consultant that specializes in marketing and non-profits, which are both my favorites and my passions.

And folks, that’s when I knew that the only voice that matters is the one that created me.

Others can point and scoff and even in pious judgment say to God, “Who does she think she is??”

And he simply smiles and answers, “The best. The most awesome. The biggest world changer. You see, she’s with me.”

It brings to me to tears, that it all had a purpose, that following a very small seed of struggling faith was much bigger than any other opposition.

Sometimes it takes being broken to realize that you can’t be destroyed.

Broken

How Dare You Call Yourself “Fat?”

What woman has not looked in the mirror and declared in real disappointment,

“I am so fat.”

I mean, who would want this? Nobody does. And especially not me. 

Sure, we know it’s not helpful or healthy to have a negative view of ourselves. And there’s an interesting tide turning in our culture that is actually encouraging women to embrace who they are and to view themselves in a positive, constructive way.

“But I just can’t do it,” you may think. “I really am fat. That’s just the way it is. And I hate it and am trying to do something about it. Hopefully things change…”

Please understand: your self-image goes way deeper than just calling yourself fat. What you are doing is actually belittling your self-worth. What you’re also saying is that not only it OK for you to call yourself that, but that other people can also call you that as well.

Image by Meg Gaiger

Image by Meg Gaiger

There’s a difference between accepting the reality of a situation versus your true identity. Saying “This is fat” is vastly different than saying, “I am fat.” (or insert whatever physical issue you have with yourself, that feature of you that whenever you think about it causes you to feel totally unvaluable). One is accepting something that perhaps needs to change due to health needs and personal aspirations; the other is setting your person at a negative identity standard.

Ok, for my height and age I know I’m 30 pounds overweight and I need to get down to a safe target weight because anything over that at risk for future heart disease” or “I’m at 25% body fat and I want to challenge my body and mind to get down to 18%“: both of those are challenging and goal oriented. But once you attach personal worth to either of those phrases you have fallen into a trap of control and fear. Can you see the difference? One is objective. The other says I’m not worthy enough unless I change.

I personally have gone through lots of physical ups and downs: the chubby, awkward middle school age, to the fit high school athlete, to gaining weight due to emotion struggles and depression, to again losing weight and gaining muscle unlike any other time in my life, which led me to become a kickboxing fitness trainer and motivator. I’ve gone through these cycles myself (and continue to do so) which for me have been usually tied to some emotional issue or crisis. I have also watched others go through the same or similar cycles. And let me tell you something, your waist size will never change how you feel about yourself. It is always a mental choice.

Why is this so important? Perhaps you don’t realize the fight for womanhood in the world, perhaps you don’t realize that the freedom fought for by tens of thousands of those in service for our country includes your freedom to be equal, included, and valued.

Maybe you don’t know that in most of the world women are culturally preached to be what you flippantly call yourself everyday: stupid, fat, incapable, dirty, lazy, ugly, worthless, unvalued, undeserving.

Maybe you don’t realize that not only is there verbal degradation to women in other cultures, but also honorable practices of rape, domestic violence, honor killings, genital cuttings, sex trafficking, and slavery.

What you have is a privilege. You have no right to call yourself less than what you’re worth. So why do you discard your freedom, why do you disdain your freedom? While you may think that you are setting standards of humility, you are actually practicing a most selfish attitude.

You were made for so much more.

You see, this could be an intervention before your beliefs become your living reality, because once you believe that I’m just fat, that’s all I’ll ever be, and nobody wants me, and I don’t deserve anything, and nothing good will ever come from me or to me, then you set yourself up to live in total misuse and abuse. That means that people mistreating you isn’t a problem. Or that you accepting verbal mistreatment isn’t a problem. Or that you being raped isn’t a problem. Or that your boyfriend beating you isn’t a problem. Or that your boss manipulating you isn’t a problem. Or that other people hating you isn’t a problem.

Do you realize that the success and expansion of our cities and nation is truly impacted simply by your self-perception? How you view yourself will spread and it will become an ideal of others around you, like a virus. Look at history; there is no culture that has thrived that has also demeaned and misused women. Instead it shows decline.

Maybe you were rejected by some guy for some other attractive woman. Maybe you were cheated on in favor of the “hot” girl. Maybe your husband chooses porn over you. Maybe you feel like you can’t get noticed or a date unless you look or dress a certain way or have a certain body figure.

Yeah, I get it. Two hands raised. It rots. But let me tell you something: How someone treats you says more about them then it does about you. How someone treats you says more about them then it does about you. If you’re rejected by someone, that says NOTHING about you and EVERYTHING about them. Your value is never determined by some other person. I know it hurts, but quite simply they don’t really know you (or themselves, for that matter). Please, I beg you, believe this.

If you believe you are not valuable, then you will never accomplish anything valuable because you have nothing to offer of value to this world.Bully

 

However, if you believe you are valuable, and worthy, and accepted, and beautiful as is, then you can in return offer that to each person you encounter. And then you can start influencing lives, and then you start living your dreams, and then you start living with purpose. It’s going to look different than everyone else’s, than mine, than your family’s. We often get confused that if we live intentionally and on purpose that it has to be on a stage and written on a blog and shared thousands of times on Facebook. False. Influence happens one-on-one and social media doesn’t need to see or know about it.

Next time you off-handedly think or say, “I’m fat,” rethink your statement and verbally speak something affirmative about yourself. Or surround yourself with someone who will. Yeah, it might sound silly. But I believe that life and death is in the power of the tongue and your verbal words have much deeper impact than you will ever imagine. Word by word, day by day, change your system. Search out your identity. Because until you believe it for yourself these words are just smoke and ashes.

It’s taken me a lot of thinking, and praying, and reading as I’ve worked through this thing called identity. Welcome to the constant struggle of my life. Some readings I’ve found helpful are “Fight Like A Girl” by Lisa Bevere and the book of Ephesians, chapters 1-3. And seriously consider what it means to be a child of God because ultimate identity is understanding why you’re here and who you were originally intended to be, and that is a treasured, valuable daughter in Christ, with God your Father!

Pretty mind blowing if you ask me.

And please, feel free to share this message with others. It’s not always an easy story to tell, but it’s worth the transparency.

Why would I move to Chicago?

I’m convinced there’s two ways that you can live your life.

You can either…

a. wait until you are forced to make a decision due to strain and stress, simply allowing the inevitable to happen to you, or

b. think about and anticipate the next step and then move forward towards it on your own initiative.

The second one is definitely a lot more difficult because sometimes it doesn’t make sense or have a path of perfect logic all wrapped up in a pretty package ready to present to everyone that asks.

So…I’m moving back to Chicago is normally how I announced this decision, just kind of dropped the bomb because being subtle is not exactly one of my natural attributes.

Typical response? What?! WHY!?! You can’t go!

We like you here.

You’re successful at your job.

You’ve made an impact on lives.

You’re having fun and you’re happy.

We need you.

We didn’t get to do everything we wanted to do with you yet.

This is a great city.

Greenville is one of the most awesome, inexpensive cities to live.

It’s COLD up there!

But seriously, it’s FREEZING up there! You can’t survive!!!

You have really good opportunities here you can pursue.

You love this city.

It won’t be the same without you.

Yes. Yes, I do agree with every single one of those. I honestly do.

But you know what I’ve had to learn over my whole life? Those descriptions shouldn’t be true in just one place or location or season of life. Maybe it should follow you everywhere you go.

Because every person, place and situation I’m in I have decided to pursue leaving it in a better place than when I started. And what I want to leave behind is not really my name, but virtues and values. Like love, happiness, joy, peace, kindness, hope, honesty, strength, trust, humility, generosity, and faith.

Because those things last forever.

My life isn’t just about the here and now. I live the realities of the kingdom of God, and he came up with those values in the first place. So I just want to nurture them wherever I go, knowing that those will generate success with or without me.

So if I remember that this life isn’t all about me and always being known as the best, the funniest, the best trainer/manager, or the greatest friend then I am free to come and go as I feel because I’m not defined by what others want for me or say about me. I know who I am, and that’s a chosen, valuable, worthy woman and daughter of God, so I’m free to make a decision about what I want to do right now.

Will I mess up? Oh yes. And I have before. But life is about learning, not getting to a place of comfort and being too afraid to move because I might get hurt at some point. If that’s your view then get ready because life will throw trials at you anyway. You pretty much can’t ever escape hurt, pain or mistakes. So it can catch you by surprise as you’re living a stoic life, or you can take it in stride as you’re constantly moving forward and ahead. I’m very imperfect and make a lot of mistakes, but I’ve learned to move forward instead of living in a reality of my past, making it my present which distorts and kills my future.

Does that mean you have to move out of state? No. That’s just what is going to work best for me right now. I have always had a love for cities. I also have a sick amount of school debt that I need to really focus on paying off, so I’m going to try to get a job where I can pay off debt like a boss, develop my love for marketing, steward my bachelor’s degree and MBA… and guess what? Chicago, one of the cities I really like, happens to be where my relatives and family live close to! So I kind of just put two and two together. See what I did there?

And by the way, I’m really going to miss Greenville and all my friends and experiences there. This wasn’t the easiest decision and it took about 9 months from beginning to end. But I knew it was time, and because I have so many amazing people in my life that made it that much harder. I’m blessed to have to many influences in my life and such good memories to look back on.

So why Chicago? …you may ask

The easy answer to that is my family lives there and I grew up in a suburb of Chicago. I am definitely glad to live closer to family and be more involved than I have since elementary.

But the whole story? I actually went all “researchy” and decided to make a list of all the things I was looking for in a city and what I thought I wanted to do in life and find a place that lined up.

So here was my line of thinking: First, I’ve had a heart for helping broken women, specifically through freeing those that have been involved in sex trafficking and human slavery. So I researched the top 10 cities in America where that’s prevalent as well as the cities with the highest crime, since those overlap. It may seem like an odd way to research where to live, but if you are a child of God then you have the power of the kingdom everywhere you go, so why not go somewhere that actually needs change instead of a place to just blend in? Maybe we can try to live life on purpose?

Second, I googled the top culturally diverse cities. I love being exposed to and surrounded by a wide variety of cultures. It keeps you thinking, changing, and humble and I personally enjoy diversity.

Third, I searched which cities have the best cost of living. I’m not at a financial advantage right now in my life, so that was a very practical consideration.

The top cities that came up after all that consideration were Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco, Tampa, Detroit, Phili, and Houston. After considering them, I crossed off ones that I legitimately couldn’t afford and ones that I did NOT want to live in (bad experiences in Detroit), and Chicago just made sense. I was familiar with it and had family there.

So thus the decision. Not sexy or glamorous or miraculous. Maybe God gave us a mind and resources so that we can use them to make decisions and maybe we get our panties way too much in a wad over the next steps in life because “I don’t know if it’s right or wrong.”

There’s no right or wrong. Just do something. Just start. That’s the hardest part because then you’re vulnerable. It’s much easier to stay put and be easily understood. Sometimes we care way too much about what other people think and want for our lives than what we want out of life and who we were made to be and do.

Leonardo da Vinci said something pretty insightful and I’ll leave with this:

It has long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.

Leonardo

 

 

25 years.

25.

It’s a pretty good number. It’s the cost of obtaining a treasure from the gum ball machine. It’s the year your car insurance goes down (supposedly). 1925 was the year Scotch tape was invented!

It’s also a great time for everyone to remind you that you have crossed the quarter-century threshold.

thanks friends.

It’s been a great time to think. remember. I clearly remember the day I turned 24. If my calculations are correct, that would be 1 year ago.

1 year ago. I had just graduated from grad school.

The next day I was leaving for a 2 month missions trip to Spain, England and Italy. My life was very simple. and condensed. like Campbell’s chicken noodle soup. And I had about 5 banana boxes and 3 suitcases to my name packed away in Greenville.

All I knew at that moment was that I was going to Europe to live with broken people and serve where needed.  After that there were no plans, no job, no income, no “direct revelation” about next steps.

I would not in a million years dreamed up what has happened in 1 year. 1 single, solitary year. Can I even begin to describe…? A couple thoughts come to mind about this past year.

Unstable.

The 5 months after graduation were a little out-of-hand, borderline ridiculous: 14 homes, 9 churches, 4 countries, 6 cultures, 15 couches/beds/mattresses, 7 ministry offers, thousands of dollars. And when it was all said and done I was still broke, jobless, homeless, and directionless, without a clue of where in the world I was supposed to be.

Even when I got a job (check that: when God gave me a job) and came back to Greenville, I had a huge struggle with financial instability. I had to wait 3 weeks before getting paid, on top of being unemployed for 5 months. Back to my mathematical insight, when you add $0 + $0, you get a very stressful life transition.

It took a long time to recover from that, longer than I wanted to wait. Through tears and faith-straining, God taught me patience and trust. I was horrible at it, but He was teaching me none-the-less.

He taught me to practically boot strap.

He taught me to not feel guilty about saying “no” to certain activities or opportunities.

He taught me to pray, and to love Him more than money by thinking about Him more than money.

He showed me I’m actually a very fearful, controlling person that is in need of a Savior every single day.

Bi-polar

This descriptive overlaps with the previous one, yet focuses more on my emotions. My emotions were up and down, and tended to stay down for long periods. Then I’d go through deep, soul-stirring moments of Jesus-love and be soaring, and then I’d be discouraged about a difficult situation or sin. I knew that I wanted Jesus more than anything, but this war kept raging in my heart more than I’ve ever noticed before in my life.

Identity Crisis

Actually, it was more of an identity loss. crushed. God piled up everything that I loved and was finding my identity in and called it “Idolatry” and that was really hard for me to take, so I fell flat on my face. He told me to burn my idols and turn from them before they turned on me.

But, everything? Even my mind? My thoughts, my dreams, my passions?

God: “Yes, they have become idols. Your heart is an idol factory. You sacrifice them and I’ll give them back when and where I decide, if I ever do. You say you’re ‘Complete in Thee’, but you’re not. So let go and cling to Christ. Do you love me more than these?”

That was a very dark time for me because I had for the first time truly come face-to-face with my wicked heart of idolatry. And it was not fun. And then I wasn’t sure whether I had ever truly loved Him, or wanted Him for the gifts He gives. Yes, Jesus became more precious to me that anything during that time, but it took months to “recover” and fully understand the hope, promise and victory of the Gospel. It’s still a struggle.

By the way, yesterday (after I wrote the first draft of this post) a friend sent me this sermon from T4G to listen to about God’s plan in disappointments and dashed hopes. HIGHLY recommend it. Disappointments are purposeful!

Faith

Always remember that it’s not about the quality or quantity of faith, but WHO IT’S IN! My faith was often with fear and trepidation and cold sweats, but thank God it never was or is about me! How relieving!

This past year I was more often that not in situations where I had no other alternatives but to pray for God’s protection, guidance, and provision.

Obstacles included traveling alone, finding correct buses and trains in foreign places, language, money for travel, money for bills, money for moving, money for gas, a job, place to live, a table to eat at, a bed to sleep on, a friend to encourage me…the list is endless.

Yet here I am. Still sane. ish. And full of praise to Him because HE DID IT! Don’t forget that. Don’t praise me. Just stop. I mean go. Go praise Him.

Single

Yes, I just said the bad 6-letter S-word. Let’s face it– it often awkward and/or inferior, and not only in our culture, but also in the church. I mean, have you ever seen a movie where this awesome person is going about life, trying to find this missing piece that will make their world complete, looking for that true love and affirmation…and then they find it! They get to be single for the rest of their life!!

Highly unlikely.

Yet– watch this– isn’t it awesome that no one has to “wait” for fulfillment and completeness and purpose?? Please read the Gospel! Jesus fills that empty hole and missing piece in our hearts! every. single. time.

So…. anyway, on this earth, I am experiencing challenges that naturally come as a result of living alone and being single, not married or dating. The main one has been the need and desire to talk about something discouraging or exciting or even mundane, and there’s simply no one around to share that with in the moment. In particular I have had many discouraging times coming home from work, and I often just wished I had someone to talk to. I found myself keeping things to myself and mulling over it in my mind.

But I soon found that to be unhealthy and, actually, ungodly. That’s why the Body of Christ is so important. I now make it a practice to immediately text or call a very close friend if something happens that I need to release and be open about.

It’s also been challenging not having another person closely peering into my life and challenging me. Not many people challenge me, question my intentions, point out inconsistencies, reveal my laziness. I’m always unsure if I have gone as far as I could’ve, because I’m the only standard to my standards.

Again, I’m finding that I shouldn’t just “accept” these things, but need to do the extra leg-work to seek out others in the Body to meet those needs of mine. And it’s ok to admit need, weakness, insecurity. Christ DIED for His Church, so it’s pretty important that I work hard to involve them in my life. And practically, if I practice keeping to myself while I’m single, then that is how I’ll eventually live out marriage.

So that just about sums it up. I’d like to think that this time next year will be full of stability and normality…but, eh, that is pretty unlikely.  Actually this past week right before my birthday God has been specifically guiding my prayers about a next step and/or phase in my life. Scary, exciting, fearful, invigorating, challenging…

I can’t wait to see what next year’s post “26” will be. Praising Him for 25.

The day of my birthday. 25 years ago.