Story Seeker

The Insecurity War

Once upon a time (because this is how all the best stories begin), I met a girl named Macy. I can't remember the specifics, but I knew that I had heard so many great things about her from so many people around my church, Hope. She just seemed like somebody I wanted to be friends with. Now, I've probably known her for more than a year, and I'm so incredibly grateful I get to call her friend.

This girl is a gem. She has this infectious joy and radiance about her that just lights up every room she's in. She's absolutely beautiful, completely genuine in every way, and one of the sweetest people I have ever called friend. She has a warm and welcoming way about her that makes you feel loved and valued when you interact with her-- she asks great questions, encourages endlessly, loves deeply, and is just such a delight.

You know those people that just make life sweeter and brighter and better? That's Macy. I love it.

Macy chases after Jesus in a way that is just so evident and so beautiful. Every conversation I've had with her, it's so clear that her heart is completely for Him, and that she's living every day in pursuit of what He has for her, even if it's things she never expected or necessarily wanted herself. That's true faith.

I'm so grateful for the times I've gotten to sit with Macy over iced chai lattes and just catch up. She doesn't live in Richmond anymore sadly, and I treasure the times she comes through town and I get to grab time with her! I've always left feeling encouraged and a lot less alone in whatever season of life I'm going through. She just gets it.

She's always adventuring around the country (and making me jealous), making time for the people she loves and always making the most of her trips and explorations. Even though she's a new teacher this year and I'm sure busier than she's ever been, she still took time to be part of this project and support what I'm doing here. What a friend.

I'm so excited and honored to share Macy's story with you!

My name is Macy. I am 22, a recent graduate of Clemson University, and a Social Studies teacher at Blythewood High School outside of Columbia, South Carolina. After years of saying I never wanted to return to the Columbia area, I have once again found myself here. And I love it.  Navigating through the waters of post-grad, “real world” life is beautiful and scary all at the same time, but I know that wherever I am His hand guides me.  This story is just a glimpse of my life, but it needs to be shared because it seems to follow and impact me throughout every season so far.

When I was four years old, I remember standing in front of my bathroom mirror, barely tall enough to see myself in it. I was wearing a turtleneck, jumper, and my hair was a wreck (some things never change).  I asked myself, “Do I think I am pretty?”  Immediately I heard a voice in my head that said, “No.” Unknown to me at the time, but my war with insecurity had just begun. 

Insecurity followed me and planted more roots within me throughout the following years. It seemed like the older I became, the more I grew displeased with myself. In high school, this led to bad decision after bad decision in a search to find fulfillment, satisfaction, and a sense of belonging. This search mostly occurred through an obsession with relationships with boys. As long as I had a boy’s attention, I was silent about anything else that happened. I remember the first time a boy took advantage of me. I did nothing to stop it because I thought that a moment of desire from a boy would be enough to fill the insecurity in my heart. It never worked, but for some reason I kept thinking it would. I entered a season of continual sexual involvement with boys, never once finding strength within myself to fight for my worth. I’ve been taken advantage in many situations, from a room full of people to riding alone in a car with a boy. Insecurity makes us do things that we know are wrong, but appear to be easier to do than stand our ground and fight. So we give in. And we may feel okay for a moment, but that quickly fades.

When I began walking with the Lord in college, insecurity still followed me. While the impact of insecurity looked different than before, I still felt it deep within my soul. Insecurity left a constant feeling of unworthiness and dissatisfaction. If anything, it actually continued to increase and plant more roots within my soul. I am pretty open now about the fact that I did not enjoy most my college experience. I never felt like I belonged and experienced some of the loneliest years yet. It was a hard season, both emotionally and physically (ask me about breaking my foot some time). Yet, I endured. And I learned. And I grew.

Insecurity is often coupled with an abuse of the word “enough.” If I could just be skinny enough, pretty enough, rich enough, funny enough, smart enough, cool enough, then I would defeat insecurity. When Jesus went to the Cross, He took all of this with Him. The only “enough” that mattered after the Cross was that Jesus became enough. He is the only thing that is truly enough to satisfy me. The mindset that if I could just be enough for someone or something then I would defeat insecurity was not necessarily wrong. It was just flawed. I tend to fill in the position of someone or something with temporary things, but rarely turn towards Jesus for help. 

The thing that annoys me about how we handle dealing with insecurity is that we treat it like a battle. A battle is a one-time thing. Insecurity is not a one-time thing. It is something that has been deeply driven into so many of our souls by sin, culture, and the enemy himself. It’s difficult to accept, but when I think poorly of myself, I actually insult God Himself. In Genesis, we see God looking down on Creation with favor. Genesis 1:31 says, “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good….” Who am I to look upon an aspect of his creation, myself, and tell Him I don’t like it?

If we are going to truly fight and defeat insecurity, we have to be ready to endure the many battles that accompany this war. The sweet thing about this war is that we already know the end result. If we endure and fight, we will be victorious. Our anchor is in our Savior, not anything of this world. Our Savior is ready to bring beauty to these ashes.

Insecurity has brought me many scars. The thing I love about scars is how much we can learn from them. Scars show us the painful effects of a decision, situation, or choice while teaching us to not engage in them again. My scars hold me accountable. They allow me to be able to better help others. Do not be ashamed of your scars, they are part of your story. Insecurity may be a part of your story, but it is not your entire story. Jesus’ last words on the Cross were “Tetelestai.” This translates to “it is finished.” This means that insecurity is finished for us. It no longer has to keep domain over our lives. We can fight it.

From the Story Seeker Archives

Since I'm currently on a two-week road trip across the country and back, there won't be any new stories this week or next. Have no fear though, here are several amazing stories back brought to life from the archives of the past year!

Joy. Freedom. Adventure.

"Surrendering my own sense of control is something I’ll always struggle with because it is such a deeply rooted habit. In the past year though, I’ve learned the beauty of total surrender. By putting my trust in something bigger than myself, I’m taking a huge risk. But this risk has completely changed me."

this story was originally published july 23, 2014

Fire and Ice.

"The reality of the situation, however, (and the reality I had managed to overlook as I struggled with my decisions) is that I never played the game simply to make the NHL. I play for the sound of skates hitting the ice. I play for the smooth, glistening, fresh-cut sheet. I play for the sweat, the soreness, the pain, and the pressure."

this story was originally published october 8, 2014

Learning. Growing. Loving.

"It has now been a year, and we’ve discovered that it is the uncertain, anxious, and expectant waves in our marriage that has taught us to love more than we thought imaginable. In faith, we decided to get married when we did because that’s what we felt God was guiding us to do. Today, we have no doubt about His plan, as He has opened doors left and right for us to continue walking forward in the intention He has for our marriage."

Interested in sharing your story? You'll find everything you need to know here-- drop me an email and let's chat! I can't wait to hear from you.

Not Over Yet

Way back in December, I got an email from a girl named Samantha who wanted to share her story with me. I have to admit: the email got totally buried in my inbox. Blame it on a busy holiday season or just a totally forgetful brain of a girl who is really bad at responding to emails...

Fast forward to April, and she emailed again. Thank goodness for people who give me grace and don't give up on me even when I totally drop the ball! In her email, she shared that because of how things had played out since December, she now clearly knew the story she wanted to share. How cool is that? I never meant to leave her hanging for so long, but it was in that season that the Lord worked in her life to really bring about a story she wanted to share with the world. 

She emailed me and shared so much about her life and I absolutely loved it! Email is not the best way to get to know somebody (I would always always rather meet someone face to face for coffee to really connect) but she was so warm and friendly and sweet and I knew we would get along great!

And guess what? I dropped the ball AGAIN. Like, come on, Rachel, EMAIL PEOPLE BACK. I felt horrible. I had read her email right when I got it and was so excited to reply...and then totally didn't.

She gave me even MORE grace. She STILL wanted to be part of this whole thing. I was shocked, honestly. I had totally let her down not once, but twice, and she still was willing to share her story with me, to be vulnerable with a stranger, and to let me publish her words for the world. Wow. That floored me. I had completely given her no reason to trust me...and she did anyway. I've seen so much grace and love come from her and it's been a beautiful thing. 

That's what I love about this whole Story Seeker thing-- people that I never would have crossed paths with before, people I never would have gotten close to, people I would have never reached back out to again...they become people that change me. They become people that grow me, that inspire me, that move me, that push me to be better, and that remind me with their gracious hearts and their powerful words that our stories matter and are so worth sharing.

I am so honored to share Samantha's story with you. This girl is one of the good ones.


Hey there, I’m Samantha. I love writing, be it on my blog, or with my husband when we write songs together. We live happily in a little yellow house in Raleigh, NC, tucked between our garden of veggies in the backyard and the chocolate shop across the street out front. It sounds really cute and fun, but sometimes I struggle knowing how to tell people who I am or where I belong. Occasionally, I let my identity get caught up in other things--whether it’s my job, my husband’s job at church, my weaknesses or my strengths. Thankfully, there’s one identity that matters most and that’s in Jesus Christ. 

Sometimes we think the story is already over when we’re barely halfway through it.

I have loved writing for as long as I can remember, although I haven’t always realized how important it was to me. My major was in journalism and mass communication, and my minor was in English. (I’m super well-rounded, huh?) The funny thing is, I didn’t actually know how much I loved writing until I wasn’t doing it.

By the end of graduation, I was newly engaged and offered a position in the public relations department of an ad agency. It wasn’t my dream job, but it was a job in my field that sounded glamorous to my peers and friends. I knew I would get good experience, and I needed some time to figure out what my dream job might be.

While I gained a variety of experience, it came at a cost. I worked crazy hours, was stressed out and spent the majority of my first year of marriage incredibly sick. I learned a lot at that job--that my marriage was a higher priority, that I had no interest in climbing a career ladder if it meant stepping on toes or pushing people aside in the process and that I believed I was meant for something more.

I found another job and found rest, but before long my husband and I felt it was time to move halfway across the country. That is another story for another time, but the short of it is this: we quit our jobs, said goodbye to our friends and picked up everything without jobs or guarantees waiting for us on the other side.

Having just moved on a whim, I found myself looking into a different career path and considering grad school. I began working in an administrative office at a major university and while I did well, I missed working creatively. I missed writing and challenging myself in the way that would best suit me. I couldn’t foresee a future in the field of higher education anymore, so I returned to what I knew by working in a web development agency.

I told myself this was the job I was going to stick with for awhile. It didn’t matter what happened, I needed a long-standing position on my resume. While I still missed writing, I figured I could make it work as a project manager. My determination was strong, but the business was not. Due to some financial instability, we all went weeks without our paychecks. Clients and employees were dropping, leaving me without much to do and no choice but to step away, too.

After all the struggle and effort, I felt like I came up short. A failure. Some days I wondered if my career was over forever, if I would never amount to anything. I questioned and doubted myself and my abilities. Was I weak? Incapable? Naive? Why had my career path looked like such a mess?

For nine months I scrambled and panicked--applying for jobs and desperately hoping for acceptance. Instead, I met rejection after rejection and was the “runner-up” job candidate on several occasions. In that time, I also managed to slowly open myself up to new opportunities. I finally shared my blog with more than just close friends and family. I planned the women’s event at my church, and I agreed to play in a band. My writing and creative work soared.

Then, in February, I was offered the job I had been looking for all along, a creative communications position with a small company. I felt triumphant as I accepted the position, grateful to have found my strengths and skills in the process. It was perfect, and I was ready to put those days of job struggles behind me.

It was then that I contacted Rachel about writing my story, thinking it was in the past. I was ready to look back at it with ease knowing that the hard part was behind me and the lessons were already learned.

I wanted this journey to be nicely wrapped and tied with a bow. Everything in me wanted to finish this story up and present it for all to see. I wanted to tell the story of success and accomplishment. Instead, here I am, vulnerable, exposed and recently unemployed. Just like that, my new job was gone, and my story started a new chapter.

That’s the thing with stories, they are never really over. Our life continues and it doesn’t all end in a bow. But the story still matters. It still carries impact, lessons learned and wisdom gained.

Your story matters, no matter what part of it you are on. I don’t know yet where my story will go, but I know I’ve grown so much in the process. My faith, my marriage, my friendships and my creativity are all stronger. Instead of panic for what is to come, I am so excited for the opportunities ahead of me. This story is not over yet, and I could not be more thrilled. 

Wild and Free

I swear, if it weren't for #fireworkpeople and the season of my life full of Twitter parties with creative, fired-up women all over the world, I don't know where I would be. SO many incredible online friendships came out of being part of that community, and I'm grateful for them every day.

Annie is one of those friends-- from the very first times I saw her name pop up online in my feeds, I knew I wanted to be friends with her. Then, I discovered that she's a gluten-free vegan like me, and I knew having something as crazy as that in common would pretty much guarantee we would  get along!

This girl is just the greatest. I've been a fan of her and followed her blog for a while now, and knew when I relaunched Story Seeker that I wanted her story in the mix. Selfishly, I just wanted to get to know her better and really get to be good friends with her. I knew she would have an incredible story to tell, and I was right. The story she's sharing today is beautiful and made me fall in love with the city she loves and writes about. The stories we continued to swap over long and honesty emails were incredible-- there are few things I love more than two people openly sharing the ways the Lord has been working in their lives and the connectedness and closeness that comes about as a result.

Annie is so full of joy and it's evident in everything she writes and says. She's someone who truly makes the most of every single day of this life, adventuring and exploring and trying new things and loving people and places so so well in the process. I'm pretty sure everyone that meets her instantly loves her-- she's so warm and inviting, always quick to encourage, support and let others know that they are beautiful and beloved. She's like a sunbeam that dances around life freely and confidently. I love that about her.

I'm so grateful that I've gotten to know Annie, and I'm so honored to share her story with you.

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I’m Annie. Newlywed twenty-something with a knack for sassy comebacks, sleeping in past my alarm and dancing awkwardly in public. A lover of exploring, encouraging and passionately pursuing dreams. A lover of Christ, animals and really, really good gluten-free bagels. Trying not to waste this one precious life.

I grew up in the land of the Chesapeake Bay, where black-eyed susans grow wild and free, and the spice factory downtown fills the humid, summer air with a delicious spicy scent. I grew up in the land of water, where you romp in the Bay with your rambunctious friends in the dog days of summer, you catch your own dinner of blue crabs and you ride bikes in the street after dark.

I grew up in the city of baseball, a stadium filled with orange and black, a triumphant cheer of “O” during the last line of the National Anthem rises from the crowd. The city of neighborhood upon neighborhood spilling together, hill after hill, to create a sprawling span of city pouring out upon the earth. Each neighborhood uniquely different and distinguishable, brightly colored row houses, cathedrals-gothic and mysterious, historic monuments left from the past for us to cherish. I was raised in a city where brightly colored dragon-shaped paddle-boats spotted the harbor each Saturday, your dad takes you to the busy, pulsing market for lunch and ornately-dressed horses pull carts with produce through the streets. I’m from a land of history, the birthplace of the Star Spangled Banner, the stories of Edgar Allan Poe, and the talent of Babe Ruth.

I grew up in Baltimore and this is the land I’ve always known.

When I was in high school, someone graciously did me the favor of removing my rose-colored glasses, and subsequently all wonder with the city, so I could join the masses and see the city for what it truly was- Dirty. Dangerous. Racist. Trash floating in the harbor. Six shootings in the city last night. Mugging in the park. Teenagers stole the city bikes again. Homeless on every corner. Lowest high school graduation rate in the country.

I was clearly living in the dark. They were right, how could I ever have found this place to be beautiful? My innocence and wonder grew dim and my heart became cold.

When I graduated, I knew college out of state was my only option. Maybe everyone else was complacent enough to stay here and just complain about the conditions, but I am a go-getter and I was getting out. So I moved to the First State, Maryland’s tiny neighbor to the east. The land of no shopping tax, main streets and small town festivals. Delaware.

After one month of living on campus, I quickly realized moving away to college was not exactly how it was portrayed in the movies. It actually was nothing like the movies. I felt small and stupid for being bullied by the people I lived with. Doesn’t bullying only happen to kids in the throes of puberty? I started to spend as much time as possible outside of my dorm. Coffee shops, a random nook in the student center, a bench on Main Street, the dining hall, the grass on the other side of campus, anywhere I could hide with my journal and pen.

As I ran away from the problems at my dorm, I poured out my heart to Jesus, a Friend I had found when I was 17 at Young Life camp while staring at the stars. His Love overwhelmed me and for the first time, it felt real. And he began to heal years and years of insecurity, hateful self-talk and pieces of my broken heart. If he could heal that, he could certainly heal the mess I was in now. I was alone, exhausted from running, and I could feel the seams starting to come loose, the seams that Jesus had so tenderly sewn to piece my heart back together a year earlier.

 As I poured out my heart and told God that this isn’t what I wanted, that I was miserable and I couldn’t take one more night sleeping on the sofa in the lounge, I felt a whisper from within. “Home” and I felt a sudden, sharp ache for something familiar. “Baltimore. Go home.” That was my answer? Leave? Quit? Become a transfer student? Not many excited college freshmen dream of the day they’ll give up all their hard work of college searching, essay writing, financial aid meetings and awkward new student orientations just to pack up, leave and head home.

After praying, and seeking advice, I made the call to transfer to Towson University, become a commuter student, and move home to Baltimore. When I finally made the decision, my heart leapt with a joyful dance and an ugly heavy pressure disappeared from my shoulders. I packed and sang and smiled as I told everyone the news that I was somehow thrilled about- I was going home to Baltimore. 

And I moved home. I started classes at my new school. Once a week, I headed downtown to get coffee alone and relish in my new excitement to live here. And guess what? I got my rose-colored glasses back. I started to see the beauty in the cobble streets, the hometown pride in every passerby wearing an Orioles jersey, the story of every homeless person, the murals on every street corner, the quirkiness of every small neighborhood. My heart beat in time with the pulsing of the city. I was where I was meant to be.

A few weeks into my first semester, an old acquaintance from my time at Delaware called me. He had just received a job at the National Aquarium downtown. Could I show him around? Of course! I intercepted him before someone could pull him aside and convince him to join the crowd in seeing the worst in the city. No. Let me show you the beauty. And I did. And he saw it. And he took my hand and told me he was with me in this. He would help me love this place.

I’ve been back in Baltimore for three years now. I’m now married to the boy from the Aquarium. He did what he said. He’s helping me love this place. We live 10 minutes from the city line. This is OUR place, now. My heart melted as he agreed to move from Delaware to Baltimore, as I watched him fall in love with this entire area, as I felt our hearts both begin to beat in time with the city.

In April, my heart was shattered into somewhere between a million and a billion pieces, as I watched my city burn on national television. I watched our people- angry, hurt, confused and outraged- destroy their own community. I watched our leaders, freeze, not knowing their job description came with handling riots and police brutality, while CNN reporters crowded our beautiful streets, like hungry animals, waiting to pounce on the first person to make a wrong move, and perpetuating a sense of unnecessary fear.

The rest of the nation may think we are still burned to the ground. They may pity the people who call this barbaric city home. They may criticize our leaders, and our people. They may cancel their plans to visit. They may wait in the shadows for the next soul to make a wrong move in the management of our city. They may think we have nothing to offer. That we are empty, ugly and poor.

I am not naïve. We have many issues in our city.

But while they were distracted with the negative, they were never moved to tears when they saw their community come together the next morning to sweep up the glass from broken windows, and broken hearts.  They never witnessed people sitting on their stoops, praying over the city in a time of darkness. They never saw the police officers playing basketball with kids in the worst part of the city, weeks after the national news lost interest in Baltimore because things stopped burning and people stopped looting, so there was nothing to report anymore.

They’ve never smelled the sweet, salty air of the bay and the spice factory mixing together in the air to form a cocktail that is meant to be sipped slowly through a deep breath, as you stroll the cobble streets of Fells Point at dusk. They don’t know the best coffee is on Pratt Street or that all you have to do to make a friend here is buy them a Natty Boh. They are unaware the most breath-taking view of the city is on Federal Hill and watching a sunset there might change your life forever.

Their hearts don’t thump with hope as they walk the city streets and know something better for this city is right around the corner. They don’t see the colorful dragon boats spotting the harbor again, the sound of laughter and street music in the air, wrapping around you like a warm hug. They don’t laugh with the neighborhoods of the city, as the hills run madly over the ground, packed with history and lives and stories and beauty. They don’t see the black-eyed susans growing, wild and free.

But I do. 

Learning His Heart

Last year, a group started online that brought the most incredible women into my life (so to speak). That group was full of the most fiery, passionate, talented, and brave people I've ever come across on the Internet, and quite a few of them quickly became good friends of mine.  

This girl is one of them. From the start, she went out of her way to not only encourage and pour out love, but to intentionally get to know these ladies (myself included) and connect with them in ways that were genuine and meaningful. In a sea of compliments and Twitter parties, her words held power that was unmistakeable. She stood out because of how she loved-- humbly, graciously, endlessly, beautifully.

She is hilarious (the stories she tells on Facebook about her life will make you crack up, I'm not kidding), she is selfless (she was a nanny like I was to two little ones who she poured heart and soul into day in and day out), and she is gold (she just is). Her words on her blog have floored me time and time again. 

Even though I've never met her or hugged her in real life (but let's be honest, we wouldn't hug because hugs are gross), I am so grateful to call this woman my friend. She has added so much goodness to my life.  

I'm so honored to share Jordan's story with you.  


Hello friends, I’m Jordan. I’m originally from Iowa but moved to Nashville, Tennessee on a God filled whim about three years ago and could not be more grateful for it. I’m almost 25, and absolutely love long talks around the kitchen table about things that really matter. I dream of being a writer and a speaker who isn’t afraid to dive into these hard places but brings armloads of laughter and encouragement in too. Some people might say I have an “unhealthy attachment” to comedic sitcoms, but I prefer to call it commitment. Let’s be real life friends and you can decide for yourself. 

My dad is a really awesome guy. Every ounce of compassion, every heart-beat of service that reverberates in my bones is an echo of the sounds in his. I love my dad so much and I spent a long time wanting to be just like him. His stories of the sweet people he took care of, people with special needs, captivated me as much as they broke my heart.  I never got to meet these people in the stories my dad would tell me. But I grew to love the sound of my dad’s voice when he talked about his people enough that the stories of their lives led me to pursue a degree that allowed me to follow in his footsteps.

But, I haven’t known where my dad was for most of my life. My parents divorced when I was in preschool, and after a few on and off years of my sister and I spending every other weekend with him at our old mobile home, they just stopped. I knew my dad had a drinking problem but I didn’t really understand how drinking something could take him away from me. I didn’t know how those many sips left him unable to keep a job, unable to keep a license, unable to see me and be my dad. I didn’t understand how he could spend all day taking care of these funny people he always talked about, but couldn’t come home and take care of me, too. I didn’t really know what all happened. 

I would often ask questions about the man my father was. I would beg for stories from my tiny years that included him. I tried so hard to learn more about who he was and who he wasn’t. On the days he promised he would call and I would sit beside a silent phone, my mom would hold me close and whisper stories about how loving he was to us when we were babies. How happy they were on their wedding day. How sad he was that he couldn’t stop this drinking, and how much he wished he could be different. We would get a card or two every few years for Christmas and our birthdays. Every once in a while he would break the silence and call or surprise us at our school as we waited for the bells to bring us inside and start our day. On those occasions he never once forgot to tell me exactly how much he loved me and missed me and prayed that things would change. I never left those surprises feeling unloved, but as the sunny glow of the brief reunion faded, the emptiness that constantly hid right below the surface would always come back. As I grew to know that emptiness more than I did his presence, I began to give into that heartbreak and see things through a darker lens.

A couple years went by after the divorce and we were a family of four again. We lived in a blue house on the main street of a little Iowa town, and I walked to first grade every morning with my best friend who lived across the road. I loved to be over at her house because I didn’t always like to be at mine. The man who swooped in with a superhero’s cape, said he loved my mom and had promised to take care of us had revealed his true colors and left us trapped in his home. He told us repeatedly that our dad didn’t want us and left so he could take care of other people instead. He hurt us deeply and tied our minds up in knots so tight, we’re still trying to untangle them all.

After almost ten years we were able to escape that blue house and I entered my teenage years in a brick townhouse. It was our first true home for my mom, sister, and I. A home that held our rebirth of joy, freedom, and laughter. But still, it didn’t hold my dad. As I continued to shake off the years of pain, my mom would lovingly point out all the good things about my personality that were just like my dad’s, and even though I still loved him, I began to fear that I would end up just like him.

For the majority of my life, so many prayers have been said to a God who I could never quite call Father. So many times I would reach out to him with a sinking feeling that I would be left hung out to dry, asking questions that I just knew would always be answered with that painful silence that had taken residence in me. I would read so many promises that the Bible said God had for me, but all I could see through broken pieces of my heart was the son he had sacrificed on the cross. A son who cried out for mercy, was met with silence, and left to die. I believed in this God, and loved him in a way that showed humbled respect, but I was wary of his heart.

When I was twenty my heart began to soften towards my creator. I began to allow myself to explore who he is but only from a safe distance. I started feeling him whisper into my ear and tell me words of love.  I allowed myself to slowly give more and more of my time to him, and begin to entertain the thoughts of him as a father. I started my blog, Trusting Adventure, as a way to write out and process how he’s working in my heart and to trust this adventure he has for me. I slowly moved away from the community I had grown up in and made my way to Nashville. About a year ago, as he continued proving his faithfulness to me over and over again, he brought me to a place to call home, free of cost, two weeks before my lease was up at my apartment and my bank account would hit zero. I moved into a domestic violence shelter and had a chance to speak the same words God had whispered into my ears to women and children with the same rips and tears on their hearts that I had on mine. I continued growing with him and fearing his abandonment less and less. He never stopped speaking into my heart.

He’s brought people into my life that challenge every aspect of him that I thought I knew. He brought me to The Belonging, Co. a church whose practice of their faith allows me to be adventurous and fall much deeper into my own. He brought friends in who love me and care for me like family and speak scriptures directly into my heart. He’s opened doors and walked with me through them and closed them after leading me out. He spoke through my people that twenty-four would be a major turning point in my life and he’s sealing a season of hurting, a season he never intended for me but used and flipped around completely for my good, on my twenty-fifth birthday.

I still struggle to really, truly call God my father. I’ve held a lot of disappointment towards him and have held so much of my heart back from him. Recently the Holy Spirit moved in me to forgive my dad. To release him from the blame of the years in that blue house. To honor the living God who is working in him and love him for everything he is instead of hold what he wasn’t in my hands. I’m so lucky to take after an earthly father who is a beautiful picture of selflessly loving compassion, I couldn’t be more thankful for the ways my heart mirrors his. But I’m even more blessed to have a father in heaven who so sweetly shows me the joy he carries for my dad and has never once abandoned me or left me alone.  Day in and day out, when I call out for him, he answers. When I choose to trust in who he says he is, he blows my mind with his love. When I need his guidance, he lavishes me with wisdom. And all those times when I remember how my father fell short and the pain I still hold from him, when I run away from the truth of who my creator is, he sends his son. The son that for so long I believed was abandoned on the cross. Jesus comes and helps chip away at the hardness surrounding my heart and reveals it’s true, tender nature, speaking life back into it. He reminds me of how his father wept with the agony of what he had to do, and how his very love brought life back to his son’s body, all so I could breathe that same life someday too. And then, even when I’m basking in the power of his love he does more. He fills me with his Holy Spirit so I’ll never again have to feel that empty, aching, pain of being fatherless again. 

Bringing Story Seeker Back to Life

Last summer, a bunch of conversations and questions and searching culminated in the launch of a new project. I was seeking a richer life in Richmond, craving community, and longing to be real with the people around me. I wanted to share my story and I wanted to hear the stories of others.

Story Seeker was born last June.

Exactly one year ago today, I wrote this post about it.

It won’t be long before you’ll get to meet the people I’ve been meeting and read their stories. I really think you’re going to love them. I’ve been blown away by each person I’ve met so far, amazed at their willingness to open up and share the hard, gritty stuff and the sweet, joyful stuff, too. I’ve left these coffee dates with an overflowing heart each time, in awe of the strength and courage I’ve seen in people who had been strangers just hours earlier.

From June of 2014 through April of this year, 18 people shared their stories. 18 people bared heart and soul and spilled it all onto the page. 18 people grew me in incredible ways, opened my eyes and my heart to pain and joy I had never considered, reminded me we're never alone, and became parts of my heart.

The truth is, I shouldn’t be alive today. There is no reason other than God saved my life that I am here to even be telling this story. So on days where I don’t think it’s worth it, or it just feels too hard, that’s what I think about. That’s what I know. And on the days I feel so alone, like the answer to my prayers is no, I know that God is saying yes to something else. He is saying yes to using this to somehow, someway help someone else. And that starts with sharing my story. It starts with you sharing yours.
— Taylor Schumann, in her story "Saved by Grace"

Story Seeker is an amazing thing. It's also a hard thing. I realized as I sat across the table or sat at my computer that these stories were going to wreck me and break my heart and feel heavy. They were also going to put my heart back together, to make me celebrate, to fill me with joy and hope for humanity.

Experiences and seasons of darkness often seem extremely foggy and distant from the Lord. However, what I truly needed to grasp was that even though we have veiled eyes in this pain, God does not. He sees everything as it really is, after all, he designed it to be that way. Through my story, I can honestly say that each one of our veils is never too thick for his mighty vision.
— Meredith, in her story "You're Not Alone"

Life got busy. We say that so much, and it's a poor excuse. What happened is I let it slide. I let the stories fall to the wayside and let other things take priority in my life and with my time.

But now? Now I'm in a season where all community has been put on pause, and I find myself craving connection and community and coffee dates all over again. So I'm committing to bringing Story Seeker to life again. 

My story is a hard one to tell. Mainly, because it’s what I would consider a constant work of God’s grace. When is one’s story ever finished? Maybe when we meet Jesus, himself. I can tell you the beginning of my story, though.
— Anonymous, from the story "Grace upon Grace"

If this is the first time you're reading about it, the whole scoop is here.

If you've never read the 18 stories, I promise you they are stunning and so worth reading.

If you want to share your story, I'm all ears. I would be honored to listen and share mine in return.

Story Seeker is back in action.

Part of It

It still amazes me every day how social media brings people together from all over the world in such meaningful and lasting ways. Through #fireworkpeople Twitter parties, I met an absolute gem of a PR pro/poet named Kayla Hollatz. Kayla began her own Twitter party called #createlounge, and through that chat, I met another gem named Rebecca DeLuca. We chatted all night as Kayla prompted us with questions about how we write online and our authenticity and vulnerability there.

I kept loving things Rebecca was tweeting, and she kept replying to my tweets with similar feelings, and I knew I had to follow her and stay connected to her beyond just that one hour on Twitter.

At some point during that hour, my Story Seeker project was brought up. Rebecca jumped on it instantly, saying she was glad someone brought it up because she saw it on my site and wanted to know more. What?! So cool! I'm constantly blown away by people who want to dive into my little project headfirst and boldly share their story with a total stranger. It's incredibly.

Rebecca and I began emailing about it, and I loved her enthusiasm for her story before I had even heard it. She's truly a communications genius in her work, but as I got to know her a little better, I realized she's full of that same kind of passion in her heart too. She's a girl that is full of courage and a "go get em" attitude that I know will be world-changing.

I'm honored to share Rebecca's story with you today. Here it is.

My name is Rebecca DeLuca, I’m a 24 year old Canadian who fell in love with Boston. I’m a communications pro, a chocolate lover, a die-hard Toronto Maple Leafs fan, a proud feminist, and am still waiting for my Hogwarts acceptance letter

When you first asked me if I had any idea what my story would be, he was the first thing that popped into my mind. Naturally, I fought it. As a proud feminist, no man will be my story. I wracked my mind for the many other things I’ve experienced in my life - graduating the top of my class, moving to a different country all alone, falling in love and earning my Master’s, but it all came back to him. I realized that he’s the reason I’m so passionate about women’s rights and ending violence against women. He’s the reason I was determined to move to Boston. He’s the reason I’m so clearly able to see the difference not only between a bad man and a good man, but a good man and a great man.

I met him when I was 17. I never yearned for a boyfriend. I was satisfied with “boys that were friends.” But, meeting him was so grown up, it was hard to resist. We met at a halloween party - me a hockey player, him an escaped convict. He added to his costume with my name on his arm minutes after we met - that should have been my first clue. Our best friends left the party together and he stayed behind to “watch me.” Red flag number two. He kissed me outside, and it began.

The first few months of our relationship were normal. He lived an hour away, and would drive to see me on weekends. He met my family and my friends. About three months into our relationship, he told me he was falling in love with me. It was exactly what I wanted to hear at the time. Little did I know what “falling in love” meant to him.

In his mind, it was us against the world. Any time we spent apart needed to be made up. If we watched a movie with my sister, we needed to spend extra time alone. If I went out with my friends, I had to stay home with him an extra day. Gradually this wasn’t enough. He’d take away my keys so I couldn’t go out, read my messages while I was asleep, show up at my work to make sure I was there, tell me who I could and couldn’t hang around with, and arrive at my house unannounced. When he found out I applied to a University two hours away, he threatened to finish a bottle of vodka and drive off a cliff.

One night in May he decided one of my closest male friends was gay. He mocked him, and questioned my motives for defending him. Realizing he wasn’t getting enough out of words, he moved on to destroying my things - and when I say “things” I mean possessions I’ve had since I was a child. I cried and begged him to stop. He stared right into my eyes while he finished. Finally something snapped, and he threw himself onto the floor crying, begging for my forgiveness. Scared for my life, I told him I forgave him and let him fall asleep.

My parents were right upstairs the entire time, not only that evening but for our entire relationship. They love me, and would have protected me from this entire situation. But I never called on them. I never called on my siblings, my friends, or anyone in my life. I was confused, ashamed, and I thought this was natural. It wasn’t until that evening, when I wondered if he would hurt me while we slept side by side in my twin bed, that I realized I needed to get help. I ended it the next morning. He still texted me after that, and I know I saw his car a few times outside of my work and home, but I was free.

I’ve had one boyfriend - my current boyfriend - since that moment. He knows about him, he knows about my fears and my triggers, and he’s the greatest man I know. I volunteer with women’s activist groups, organizations fighting to end violence against women, and sexual response centers. I’ve moved on, and I’m living a life I’m proud of. He isn’t my story, but he’s part of it. 

Resilience. Hope. Strength.

Last year, something exploded in my life (and in the online world) called #fireworkpeople. Every week, Twitter parties brought dozens and dozens of incredibly passionate and talented women together in a conversation like only the Internet can.

Through #fireworkpeople, I've "met" so many beautiful and remarkably gifted woman that I now call dear friends-- Caity is one of them. I remember seeing her little square picture pop up in those Twitter chats and thinking "that girl is so dang pretty!" Then, I read her words. And I remember thinking, "this girl can WRITE. Holy cow." And then I got to know her and read her story, and I remember thinking, "this girl is so beautiful and brave and has such a courageous heart."

She writes words that just about knock you over with their strength and power. She writes words that give you goosebumps and make your heart swell and linger with you long after you've closed the screen. Now that I've gotten to know Caitlyn a little better, I know her words come from such a true, real place. I know that she isn't just putting words out there for the heck of it-- her words come from the very core of who she is in the most stunning way.

Reading her story when it landed in my inbox was humbling. It reminded me how grateful I am to have a space where I can shine a spotlight on the people I want you to meet. It reminded me how powerful stories are. It reminded me how unique each of our journeys is, especially in faith. It reminded me of what an incredible thing it is to put our lives and our experiences into words, and then to share those words with other people. It's brave. It's courageous. It's meaningful. 

I'm honored to share Caity's story with you.

Caitlyn wants to live in a world where broken hearts are held close, the lattes never stop flowing, and she can sit with you in your hardest places. By day she works at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, but by night she’s crafting words as a creative writer. When she’s not slinging syllables to hold your heart at, you can find her studying in pursuit of her Masters in Social Work, sipping on delicious craft beers, and loving on her fluffy Pomapoo, Jasper. 

I told Rachel I would write down my story. A scary thing to agree to do – it’s something I’ve avoided honestly because my story isn’t beautiful, or cliché, or tie up with any kind of pretty little bow. Stories like those tend to make me mad these days anyways. Although, sometimes I wish it did tie up ever so neatly like everyone else’s seems to do. But let me start from the beginning. 

I grew up in a conservative evangelical household. One foot held in that world and the other waggled somewhere else where I was trying to figure things out for myself. Faith never came too easily for me – I’ve now realized this is often more to do with personality than much else. I never fully belonged in either world though and like most teenagers I didn’t really have the first clue of who I was, but what I did know? Who I should be. In essence, I should be perfect. Because clearly that is what gives you love in the one world I came from. There are hollow words of grace, but really what is wanted is a perfection no can actually muster up. And heaven help you if you don’t agree with the puritanical views pressed in these realms – especially if you’re a woman, which is not actually an okay thing to be here. (You are not lesser, just different.) But most pretend to be perfect and in agreeance with all the thinly veiled rules so they can scrape along behind their masks. I don’t blame them. 

I went to a large research university and joined a sorority. Most days I wish I had never left. These women let me feel more myself than almost anyone I’ve ever met. Sometimes I wonder what turns I would have taken had I stayed there. 

But then there was an accident. I got minor alcohol poisoning the night of my first formal and the embarrassment was enough to spiral me into a place where I was convinced I needed to uproot everything and change my whole life. I needed to become what I always should have been.

I transferred to a hyper conservative fundamentalist esque Christian college. I already knew the language and could blend as well as I wanted to for the most part. I bended and folded myself into every box they handed me. Submissive. Quiet. Conservative. Modest. Pure. Godly. I attempted every model and five step plan for prayer and the Bible they flashed across the screen in the daily required chapel. I learned all of the right doctrinal answers and I honestly wanted it all to work so damn bad. But it didn’t. 

I could feel myself losing pieces of me as I tried to shed my own skin to put on what was demanded. The invisible rules wrapped around my throat until my lungs were dry. There was no life here only death to hide the hypocrisy. 

And then one day in the middle of a clear July, I panicked. The walls felt too thin and air wasn’t reaching my lungs at all anymore. I knew I wasn’t like them and that even after coming this far I never could truly be like them. My mind stretched taut with the shame and fear, which had fueled my existence and became my undoing. 

The next six months, maybe longer, I’m not sure because I threw out all the journals, passed in a dark storm of racing thoughts, living on the razor sharp edge of hyper anxiety, and then eventually the slow dive into the abyss, which is depression. Because if you aren’t one of them then what are you? Damned. 

I slept to avoid my own mind. To avoid the thing they call Christianity. And it’s crazy, but I found people just like me telling this same story over this journey. The dark doubt that you can’t be it. The knowledge that you are not like the rest. The denied thought maybe you don’t want to be because after all… you know what they can inflict on those who aren’t like them. The shame and fear stitching all together. 

And then I graduated. And my boyfriend of however long dumped me. I moved home anxious, depressed, exhausted. I wasn’t sure how long I could keep living like this. 

I couldn’t read what they call the Word anymore without hearing all those men and Calvinistic, patriarchal, graceless voices impart their monstrous theologies. The words would make my heart thrum and thoughts race. God had been made into a monster and its awfully hard to love a monster, but you know you’re supposed to so you try anyways, and it leaves you emptier than before. 

So I gave up. The reading. The going to church. All of it. And I’m glad. In the three, four years since I haven’t picked up those words or stepped into a service other than the occasional holiday to make my mom feel better. Now you’re probably thinking you never were a Christian, you clearly just got it all wrong, you’re a bitter hater of the church who just obviously did not hear the real gospel.  Well, you’re wrong. 

I am intrigued by and am always drawn to the radical structure flipping man who pushed us all past our comfort edges into a place where we have no idea what to do. I tell myself god is like this too. But that’s hard to remember. I’ve read more theology in the past few years than I ever did while getting a minor in it. I have moved into the progressive realm and hope to fight fiercely for the margins. The ones the church said to love, but always slammed their doors on before they could even toe the doorway. The people I have watched repeatedly get pushed to the edges by those who should be fighting the hardest for them. And I wish I could walk into a church without feeling my heart race and breathing drop shallowly. Yet still, I’ve had my eye on an Episcopalian church with the most beautiful red doors. I love that they honor all people, value the sacred, and allow rhythms to carry them through. 

Three, four years. And I finally feel good, normal, like myself. I feel free more than I ever have. I know what it’s like to know the voice of my own intuition and to trust that my desires are good. I’m not done healing, but I am damn proud of how far I’ve come. How I’ve pushed and pulled until I could stand again even though I’ve fallen down over and over along the way.

I know my story is one of countless. And I’m grateful to the writers who over and over have bled on a page so that I may know I’m not alone in this battleground of deconstruction and healing.  If anyone has read these words and nodded along then I hope and pray you have the strength to keep moving because it can get better friend, it really can. 

You can read more of Caitlyn's words here (you won't regret it). You can also find more Story Seeker posts (and learn more about how to be part of it!) here.

You’re Not Alone

If you asked me to tell you who my dearest, closest friends were, Meredith would be near the top of the list. I've known her for less than a year, but her sweet spirit, radiant joy and pure heart drew me to her and we have since become so close.

This girl is without a doubt one of the sweetest, most compassionate people I have ever met. Every time I see her, she asks me how I'm doing within seconds, with a look in her that shows me she truly cares about how my heart is and wants to hear all about my life and how the Lord is at work. Her eyes and whole face just light up when she's happy (which is pretty much always) and when she's worshipping and when she's talking about her Savior-- she emanates His light and love in a way that makes you just want to be close to her.

Back in the fall, Meredith and I spent hours talking on a picnic table outside of Lamplighter (one of my favorite Richmond coffeeshops), and I remember just loving getting to hear her story and see more of her heart. The way she talks about things makes it so evident that her faith and trust is wholeheartedly in the Lord, and even though it isn't always easy, it's so clear that she loves and adores her Creator and has put her life in His hands.

We watched (and talked for hours about) Parenthood together (RIP...), have adventured through the woods around RVA together, been part of the women's weekly gathering at church together, spent crazy amounts of time talking about our lives and Jesus and boys and art and creativity together, gone to art/poetry shows and brunch and sushi together, and so much more. This girl is just a gem. She loves SO well and is full of endless encouragement.

If you remember Anna from the very first Story Seeker, Meredith is her roommate. What a combo, right?! They're the best. They both have been the biggest encouragers of my heart and this crazy story-swapping idea I came up with last summer, and Meredith has reminded me how special this whole thing is through her excitement about it all.

I'm so excited to share Meredith's story with you.


I am Meredith. 23. Living in Richmond, VA.  Went to William and Mary, which will always have a piece of my heart. Working as an Assistant Teacher at the Richmond Montessori School.  I like to listen to music outside, craft, watch Gilmore Girls, and journal.

My story is simply to truly convey the fact that you are not alone. As I was sitting with what to write about after Rachel asked me, it was so difficult for me to narrow it down to one story, one theme. How should I approach it? And then, something awesome happened. God directed me to the exact verse to inspire this post. I think the reason behind Rachel reaching out when she did is so God could so poignantly instruct me that it was finally time to write out the story of how he helped me out of the darkness in my life. He was calling me to share with someone, anyone, the miracle he has given me. Of course I have shared this story with my friends and family, but I believe sometimes it’s those little moments with strangers, those random words you come across that move you to the core and make all the difference. So if I am a stranger to you, my only hope is that I could make one, just one person, feel not alone in their struggle (whatever that may be). And to share with you the ultimate healing that Jesus Christ has given my life. I made it out because of him.

The verse I so randomly yet perfectly turned the page to reads, “…God’s very own- all this so that you may show to others how God called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were less than nothing; now you are God’s very own. Once you knew very little of God’s kindness; now your very lives have been changed by it” (1 Peter: 2:9-10). So here is my effort to do just that…

“Trust in him alone.” For me, it got to the point where there was literally nothing left to do but to surrender to him as king and say ok there is no way I can figure this out alone. It hurt too much. My story is one of trust. One of slowing down, being comfortable with uncertainty, and surrendering every single thing to the Lord.  

The summer after college was dark for me. I felt isolated without my community and just flat out confused about what to do next.  Nothing really felt full or right. Also, I found out I had diagnosed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  Pretty soon I couldn’t distinguish from irrational horrifying fear and reality, which made day to day life so difficult. I was living and breathing fear in everything I did. I became so crippled by this disorder that I couldn’t see where the Lord was at all in my struggling.  I was depressed and a shriveled-up version of myself that I couldn’t recognize. That’s when God stepped in.  

Experiences and seasons of darkness often seem extremely foggy and distant from the Lord. However, what I truly needed to grasp was that even though we have veiled eyes in this pain, God does not. He sees everything as it really is, after all, he designed it to be that way. Through my story, I can honestly say that each one of our veils is never too thick for his mighty vision.

It sincerely blows my mind what lengths God will go to just to get even the tiniest amount of our attention. Isn’t it crazy that it takes such a grand gesture for him to get our attention when he has been calling us from the beginning? Looking back through everything, I can see that he never once let go of my hand and that he CHOSE me to go through this struggle with him. He loves me enough to give me the circumstance in which there was nothing left to do but simply surrender. He showed me a crossroad: either continue to coast through life in this empty fear, or choose to say I trust you and that be IT. The funny thing is I really did think I had been trusting the Lord this whole time; but he knew the truth. I think for me, he had to move me to my breaking point in order to be ready to receive and notice his work without blurred vision.   

The fact that he wants to know us SO deeply and desperately wants to seek us out is something I will always stand in awe of. This is exactly what he did for me. He scooped me up, gave me a break, and forced me to restart everything, to rebuild all the pieces together in a new way.  The beautiful thing about this is that the new way was all the more life-giving.  I took a pause, a break, a career change. I woke up slow each morning and enjoyed the exquisite peace of uncertainty. I thought everything exploding would leave me feeling directionless, a failure, self conscious, and alone. Not at all. This uncertainty about the next step just gave me so, so much clarity on my life and what is important and not. He truly transformed me from the inside out, gave me a new perspective on life, grounded my identity in who he had created me to be, and filled my days with light instead of darkness. Then he planted my feet gently on the ground and told me to rest, trust, and let him plan the rest.  I felt so at peace for the first time in so long, knowing that this confusion was in fact my path and right where I was meant to be in order to surrender. When you literally have no idea what your next step will be…sounds like a pretty good time to surrender your heart and your burdens to Jesus. I was finally free. Knowing that no detail of my day was a threat because he had already planned my day before I woke up.

I didn’t want to think that this season of darkness was put there for a reason, especially when I was in the depths of it. However, when I dug deeper behind that reason, I realized that this season was a gift in disguise.

He placed that season in my life so I could be witness to his miraculous ways and catch just a tiny glimpse of how much he truly loves us and fights for us when we cannot. The whole time, he never stops fighting. Even when it seems he has given up. I truly believe he has taught me all this to share with everyone, anyone, the healing that can come through Christ.

What have I learned from my story?

The peace that comes from uncertainty is so beautiful because it truly requires you to be yourself and start fresh. So please don’t ever think you are inadequate in an uncertain, tumultuous season.

He has taught me that nothing, nothing, nothing can separate us from his love because he lives within us and knows everything before it even happens. So as someone who is constantly living in fear of what might happen in 20 different scenarios, you can see the gravity of what this means to me.

It won’t be easy every day, but the foundation of trust makes it so much less scary.

If I can muster up JUST enough life in me to believe this, then I set myself up to fully tune my inner compass towards the one who will remove me from all my pain.

Each one of us is SO incredibly special to him, and he wants to bring each of us closer to him through our life experiences. No matter how the strife dresses itself: confusion, loss, depression, emptiness, it is there for us to overcome, not to hold us back from life. For me, this story was a necessary curveball in order to really face my need and lack of accepting his work in my life. He uses every single life situation to communicate his intentions. I know my life will be constantly turning, changing, evolving, growing, and I believe he resides in those moments most of all. However, I can now say with total confidence, when a turn or a shift in my life happens, I am excited for the work and growing Jesus will be doing within me.

He has amazing plans for how you will leave your mark on this world and how you will change lives, even when you’re feeling helpless.

So if you are out there in similar season of life, let me be your friend, your supporter. He has shown me such friendship through Christ in my struggle. He has shown me that there are people who WANT to care for you…who are waiting just to be there to care for you. Let yourself be. Let yourself take a break and SEE what promises can come from that, all the while knowing that he even had this break in mind for you.  You are never truly alone.

Every age has its turn
Every branch of the tree has to learn
Learn to grow, find its way,
Make the best of this short-lived stay

Take this seed, take this spade
Take this dream of a better day
Take your time, build a home
Build a place where we all can belong

Some things change, some remain
Some will pass us unnoticed by
What to focus on, to improve upon
In the face of our ancient tribes
— Jose Gonzalez

You can find all past Story Seeker posts here. Interested in sharing your story? Let's talk!

until The End

An incredible thing was born in 2014. It was called #fireworkpeople and it has been changing the world (and my own life) every day since. It's a community of the most creative, alive, on fire women I have ever known, and out of that group have come some of my favorite new friendships.

One of those new friends is Amber. From the very first time I saw her tweets pop into my feed during the weekly #fireworkpeople Twitter chats, I knew I was going to just love this girl. She is an absolute powerhouse-- her words are stunning, eloquent, bold and real all at once and they shoot straight to your heart. I can't get enough.

She makes every single woman she comes in contact with feel seen, heard and loved all within a single second. I've never even met her in real life and I feel like she's one of my dearest friends. She is the kind of friend you want in your corner because she just makes you feel invincible and unstoppable. 

She's a phenomenal writer, and her blog is one of the few I religiously read every single day. She is the most gracious and welcoming of hostesses, in her own life and even online with the link-ups she organizes and runs so wonderfully. She's a beautiful wife who so evidently adores the man she married, and a faithful follower of her Savior. Her heart for building community even amongst people who have never met in real life is so encouraging and inspiring-- she is someone who will pour out everything she is and has to bring people together, and I've seen it make such an unforgettable and lasting impact on so many lives already.

Everything Amber touches seems to turn to gold. She radiates such joy and light everywhere she goes, like she's made of glitter that's just spilling from her bones. I cannot wait for the day I get to breathe the same air as her, hug her so tight, and just talk for hours over huge mugs of coffee somewhere.

This girl is grace and grit all wrapped up in love with a beaming smile, gorgeous tattoos, a heart of gold and a selfless servant's spirit. She's a gem and I cannot wait for you to read her story.

I’m Amber. Born and raised and now settled for life in a small town laying happily under the Californian sun. I'm an adventurer and homebody, a misfit and His beloved, trouble and grace; I'm more contradiction than constant. For years I worked hard to keep my God and my blog separate. Then life fell apart and God brought my many pieces together for one cause: to write for His glory instead of mine. Though my story is flawed and messy and mostly imperfect, His love is redeeming and graceful which affords me the amazing opportunity to share what is great in life: Him.   

I grew up between rose bushes, flowers turned to the sky, thorns prepared to protect and pierce. I grew up snipping thick stems at a diagonal so my mom could display the scarlet, salmon, saffron buds atop her white wooden table. There are chapters, spiny and fragrant, wrapped around those stems, full of those blooms and their soft like velvet petals.

On Sunday mornings, I'd wander the yard from blooming bush to blooming bush, coordinating the colors of the buds until my bouquet's composition felt just right. Rubbing the petals between my fingers, smelling their scent, I fell in love with the yellow roses, my namesake: Amber Queen. I loved their lemony scent, their smiling faces, their small thorns.

I grew up in soccer uniforms, grass stained and numbered, more devoted to the team than to my singular self. I grew up chasing balls covered in black and white octagons, sweating profusely in summer sun and shivering in my sweats come the winter chill. There are chapters, victorious and exhausted, laying on those fields, among the greenest of grasses and sloppiest of mud puddles.

Every weekend spent geared up and laced into leather cleats, tromping wildly like a herd, back and forth, to and fro in the name of victory. Sweaty and exhilarated, I learned there was no I in team, that the individual isn't much without support -for me, ten girls in matching uniforms. Muscles sore from the effort, voice scratchy from the game-time communication, I thanked Him for community in church, life, and teams.

I grew up wishing to be a wife, dedicated and honest, just as I'd seen exemplified by my own mom. I grew up praying with my parents and brother in the mornings before catching the bus and listening to their muffled conversations from my bed in the evenings, There are chapters, tender and care-filled, in those treasured moments, smelling like morning coffee and evening glasses of wine.

Always, from my earliest of memories, I'd notice the small moments within our every day routines, watching them love one another unapologetically. I'd offer silent prayers asking for that kind of love to Him, knowing full well He understood. Following them through life, always aware of their tightly-linked hands, I would wonder what it felt like inside their hearts -warm and happy, like drinking hot cocoa covered in whipped cream in the chill of snow.

I grew up on California beaches, blond hair always bleached white by the sun, skin kissed deep shades of tan. I grew up cleaning sand from my nail beds and sore from time among the waves. There are chapters, beautiful and salty, on those beaches, covered in sand and filled with the entitled caw of seagulls.

If even for just a moments time, I'd still on the shore and watch the tides. In, in, in they'd come, closer and closer to kissing the beach wall. Then out, a retreat, as though shy or scared. The water seemed so in control, so dominant as it tossed those surfers -small and black in their wet suits- to and fro on the waves. I'd stand there and think about what gave the water strength: gravity, a moon's orbit, magnetic forces at play.

I grew up unaware of the chapters, the characters, the differing settings. The way they'd transition in and out of my life, changing my heart, rubbing against my story like two rocks in the waves -slowly softening one another's edges. I grew up sure I was in control, I was making the way, I wrote my tale.

Here I am standing on the shore where six years ago I was on a first date with the man who would be my husband. Reflectively, I roll the strong stem of a yellow rose between my fingers and stare out at the sea. The waves roll in, the white foam reminding me of frothed milk on my morning coffee. The seagulls yell to one another, only rivaled by young girls chasing a soccer ball in the sand. He stands beside me, silent, and I smell his scent, pheromones, on the salty air. And here, the chapters are a cocktail, mixed together intoxicating me in gloriously emotional ways.

The chapters, seemingly separate, blend together as a novel, not yet ending, instead unfolding around me, within me. The characters are alive, the setting transforming bit by bit, the forces of plot ever-moving. And, I decide, this is a tale to be cherished, beloved, shared, until I see The End.

Story Seeker Will Resume in 2015

On June 10, I wrote a blog post about a theme I had seen occurring consistently in my life, about a thread that was weaving through every dream, every conversation, every prayer, every book I was reading. 

This summer, I’m seeking stories. I’m sharing mine. I’m taking my New June challenge of a coffee date a week seriously, and I’m stepping out in boldness to ask people to join me. I’m going to be a story seeker.
— a June 10 blog post

On July 23, after praying and planning and ironing out all the details, the first story went live, and the response to it was overwhelming and exhilarating. I saw how incredible it was to put the words of someone else in the spotlight, to give their voice and their heart a space that was safe to share, to use my own words to encourage and affirm and love on them. I knew from that first story that this was going to change my heart and my life.

Since then, 14 stories have spilled out in this space. 14 people have stepped out in bold bravery to open up their hearts and welcome you in to their lives through their words. 14 people have left lasting impacts on my own heart as I've grown to see their truest, most real selves and fallen in love with their courage and vulnerability and strength.

The stories have shown me so much.

It's been beautiful. It's been intense. It's been heart-wrenching. It's been a celebration.

I can't wait to continue swapping and sharing stories. I have a handful of stories in the works with some wonderful people, but for the next few weeks, I'll be taking a break from posting them. With next Wednesday being Christmas Eve and the week after being New Year's Eve, it makes sense to step back from this and really be present with my family and the events of the next few weeks.

Don't worry-- Story Seeker isn't going anywhere. And if you're reading this and you want to learn more about what this looks like and how you can be a part of it, I would absolutely love to hear from you. If you've been hesitating and are unsure, just drop me an email and let's chat. You have a story whether you believe that or see that or not, and I would love to just open up my heart to you and get a glimpse into yours. It won't be scary, I promise. Even if we never publish it, just speaking life into your story with your words is freeing and healing and empowering and I would love to be part of that with you.

Just fill this out and let's start the conversation! I'll be back here with a whole new bunch of stories in 2015. See you then.

name *
want to swap stories? let me know. want to spill it out right here? i'm all ears. want to meet up for coffee? i'm down.

Redemption. Forgiveness. Compassion.

A few months ago, a movement began. A community was born and it transformed like wildfire into a massive force to be reckoned with in what seemed like just a few days. That group is called #fireworkpeople and every day, I'm both blown away by it and blessed to be a part of it. The best part? Connecting with ladies all around the world and becoming friends with them.

The girl sharing her story today is one of those ladies. I've never met her, never hugged her, never sat down over coffee to talk with her for hours, but I feel like we've been friends forever.

Her heart is huge and bursting with love and encouragement that she spreads to everyone she meets. She's the first to reach out with a sweet compliment or let you know she's praying for you. She never fails to light up your day with her joy, and she's so supportive of the women in #fireworkpeople and each of their dreams and passions. I love that about her.

When I reached out asking if anyone would be interested in sharing their stories, Britt jumped on it. Within minutes, I had an email with almost everything I needed-- it blew me away. I loved her enthusiasm and her willingness to just dive right in and get real.

As someone who has personally fallen in love with stories and with sharing them, I love seeing when other people own their story and boldly declare it to the world. Right away, I saw Britt doing that, and it made my heart so happy.

Even though I would always always always prefer real life coffee dates and conversations face to face, there's still something so special about filling up a screen or an email with the words that are pressing on your heart. Swapping stories in emails back and forth with Britt was wonderful and I could feel our friendship growing and deepening as we shared more with each other than we ever could just on social media.

This girl has a heart of gold and I'm so blessed to call her friend. I can't wait until the day we finally meet and I can give Britt the biggest bear hug ever!

Here's Britt's story.

Brittani Rae Shank, or Britt for short, is a jumble of coffee, kind words, and compassion.  She’s a follower of Jesus, photographer, adventurer, and firmly believes in the power of people’s dreams.  She’s a small town Kansas native and currently resides in Manhattan, KS, where she’s seeking truth where she’s being called.  She’s passionate about joy and community, and desires to know the Lord and make Him known.  Above almost anything, she believes that hope is real.

If we want to get technical, my story began about 23 years and a half years ago, in the same college town that I now call home again.  I was born to an amazing set of parents who will celebrate 30 years of marriage in May, and I have a younger sister who, though she is the complete opposite of me, has taught me more about life and acceptance than anyone ever has. 

I’m from a small town in Kansas, where both of my parents are also from and were raised, and that’s where we landed after my dad got a job offer, which was ideal for us because both sides of my parent’s families are mainly in Kansas.  My mom’s mom and stepdad live 6 miles from my parents, and 5 of my mom’s 6 siblings live within a 20 minute drive from their house.  I’m the second oldest cousin on my mom’s side, but the second youngest on my dad’s.  My older cousin on my mom’s side was my first best friend, and though we have different views on a lot of things in life, that title will never be taken away from her, and she’s one of the most sincere humans I know.  My grandparents, aunts, and uncles have always been my number one supporters when it comes to my dreams in life.  Long story short, family has been something I’ve always known and relied on when things got difficult. 

Despite all of this, my childhood was scattered with difficult memories that still sometimes cause an ache in my heart when I remember the pain I endured.  When I was younger, I wasn’t the kid who had everything and fit in.  My parents weren’t rich, which wasn’t something I ever resented, but luxury wasn’t something I grew up knowing.  I was the smart kid.  I got good grades, I followed the rules, and I chose to be the better person in the situations when I had a choice.  More often than not, though, that led to ridicule, hateful words, and actions that tore me down. 

Most of this began in 6th grade, which wasn’t yet considered middle school when I was that age.  ­When I was about 3 or 4, my parents noticed the way I walked wasn’t right.  They took me to my pediatrician who said that I would most likely grow out of it.  I ended up being the one who “most likely” didn’t apply to that time.  Though not life-threatening, someone who has pes planus, or more commonly known as flat feet, can face difficulties in walking and other strenuous activities when their bones continue to develop as they get older.  I was one of the unlucky ones when it came to this.  In addition to having almost constant pain my knees and hips due to this condition, my feet also turned at an angle when I walked, kind of like a duck.  When I got into middle school, and appearance started to matter more, kids noticed.  I had surgery in December of my 7th grade year to fix my left ankle, and I finally walked normal for once, but that’s when the cruel words were the worst.  Kids would write things on my locker, they’d laugh at me as I ran by them in gym, and I’d go home crying almost daily because of how much it all hurt.  My parents tried to get the school to take action, but they never did.  I worked my hardest just to fit in, but often it wasn’t enough. 

Fast forward to freshman year of high school.  The summer before, my uncle’s girlfriend had had a sweet baby boy named Kaden.  He was the first one that I was actually trusted to watch on my own since I was old enough, so I spent as much time with him as I could.  His mom wasn’t in the picture due to poor life choices, so he lived with another aunt of mine.  He was born a month premature, and though he spent a few days in the hospital, they expected him to be fine in the long run.  Turns out, he wasn’t going to get that lucky.  He ended up getting sick when he was about a month and a half old, and passed away on my first day of high school.  Needless to say, I was wrecked. 

My parents had been taking my sister and I to church from a young age, but for me, it was more of just going through the motions.  My mom was raised Catholic, so we went to the only Catholic church in my town.  When Kaden died, I decided the only thing I could do was be angry at God.  I didn’t know why it had happened, what I had done to deserve it, or how I would ever recover. 

High school continued, and I kept doing what I could to fit in.  I decided to try out for the cheerleading squad, made it, and cheered all 4 years of high school (along with one year in middle school).  Being from a small school though, you could pretty much be involved in anything you wanted and not have to worry about things overlapping.  I immersed myself in music, also.  I learned 3 new instruments in addition to the one I started out on as a 5th grader, and was adored and admired by my band and choir teachers.  This was something I wasn’t used to, but I enjoyed being noticed so I worked my hardest to make them proud. 

I wasn’t ever the kid in high school who wanted to rebel.  I was the first child, the good one, and I did my best to hold that impression in our community.  When it came time in my senior year to start looking at my options when it came to colleges I was interested in, I was overwhelmed, but wanting to make the right decision when it came to what would make my parents proud.  At one point it was a tie between Kansas Wesleyan University and Kansas State University.  KWU would give me almost a full-ride scholarship for music, which Kansas State offered a large college experience, with not as many scholarships.  I was set on KWU up until about February of my senior year, when something switched my mindset and I announced my decision to instead attend Kansas State.  My parents were still thrilled, as this was where I was born, and they’ve been fans of the school and their athletics for much of their adult life. 

When I left for college in August of 2009 after graduating number 3 in my class, I was ecstatic to be on my own, making my own decisions, and living the life I finally had a say in.  I had chosen to be a part of the Kansas State University Marching Band, which is one of the largest in the country with just under 450 members as of this past marching season.  Leaving behind my hometown, religion wasn’t something I was interested in, and I quickly became immersed in the life of a band geek, I joined an honorary music sorority, and I found the people I wanted to call my friends. 

My life quickly turned during the spring semester of my freshman year of college.  Band was over, I was lonely, and things weren’t how I expected them to be.  I hated my major, and often had no motivation to go to class.  My freshman year was the year when I got the worst grades, and is one I never mention when I talk about my college academics.  But early on in that spring semester, I was pursued by two girls who lived on the same floor as me in my residence halls, and we became friends.  They invited me to this thing called a “life group”, in which I had no idea what I was getting myself into. 

This was my first glimpse of true community.  The women that partnered and stood with me are still friends of mine today.  They were vulnerable, they loved the Lord, and they showed me what a relationship with Christ looked like.  I was forced to reach outside my comfort zone of Catholicism, and chose to pursue Christianity.  It felt like I finally owned my faith, and I was able to learn more about who I was in the Lord’s eyes, not just who I was in the Church’s eyes. 

Around this same time, my best friend, Taylor, and my sister, Rachel, had come out as being gay.  Not ever having to confront this in the past, I was torn.  I knew what my faith believed, but I also knew what I was called to do.  Loving someone has never been so hard and so easy at the same time.  It took a long time for me to actually tell my friends that I had a sister and a best friend who were gay, and it affected a lot of how I grew in my faith during that year.  I learned how to better love them, but how to also point them to Christ in my actions. 

My freshman year was full of changes.  Sophomore year seemed to fly by.  I decided to quit my sorority, and I had switched from music education to early childhood education to pre-nursing and had finally settled on family studies and human services, where I had some amazing professors who helped me pursue an education in a field I knew I would be able to make a difference.  It was in the college of human ecology at Kansas State that I discovered my passion for people and community – much of which stemmed from the difference my life group had made on my heart during my freshman year. 

I chose to study abroad my junior year of college.  When researching my options, it was between Ireland and Botswana, which is a small country in southern Africa.  Most people would’ve chosen Ireland in a heartbeat, but there was something about Botswana that drew me to it, and that’s where I ultimately chose.  I applied, was accepted, and left the very beginning of January during my junior year.  There’s a moment during one of the trips I went on during that semester that will forever stick out in my mind.  We were at the Cullinan Diamond Mines, just outside of Pretoria, South Africa, and were walking down a festive street with artwork and statues.  There was a bench that had this quote on it, which is still one of my favorites, and one I aim to live my life by: “The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”  This sentence went on to impact the rest of my time in Botswana, and still drives my heart today.  One of my best friends now is someone I met while studying abroad, and she is one of the most sincere, intelligent, and compassionate women I know.  My experience in Botswana wouldn’t have been the same without her, and she often pushed me to live out this saying and to be a light for the world by showing them Christ in me, and His work in my life. 

Much of my senior year of college was a blur, but a good one.  I was busy with school, very involved in my campus ministry, and spent as much time building relationships with those I loved and held near to my heart.  I decided to take an extra semester to finish school, which also led me to apply to be a life group leader with another one of my best friends.  Had it not been for that very first life group I was a part of, I would not have found my way to knowing Christ, and I most certainly would not have been led to leading other women.  I graduated from Kansas State University in December of 2013 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Family Studies and Human Services, as well as a minor in Conflict Analysis and Trauma Studies, and my parents would probably tell you that the day I walked across that stage in Bramlage Coliseum was one of their proudest moments. 

Speed up time to present day Manhattan, KS – aka “The Little Apple”.  I like to think I was born “for such a time as this”, that my story has a purpose, and my name holds weight behind it.  Though it’s hard to believe on days when my life seems nothing more than an 8-5 job and a post-graduate status who still isn’t sure what exactly being an adult looks like, I know God has plans for me that are bigger than my biggest dreams, and wilder than the wildest things my imagination can come up on a lazy Saturday afternoon.  I am loved, cherished, and pursued by the King who knows me by name, who calls be Beloved, and who desires to use my life for His purpose in His Kingdom. 

And that, my friends, is enough to make any day the best day of your life. 

I spend most of my days now trying to love others the way that Jesus would, and I’ve since forgiven the ones who have hurt me.  My life is not my own, and I know that I am worthy.  He is enough for now and for always.