Let me tell you a story about my heart. It's been hurt, it's been broken, it's been mended, it's been brought back to life.
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.
Today's Blog-tember prompt: Write a letter to sixteen-year-old you. Any advice or funny stories?
This is about to get real, so get ready.
Dear 16-year-old me,
Oh, sweet girl. I have so many things to tell you. High school is so hard, I know. You feel alone and your heart is broken. You moved all the way across the country last year and it totally rocked your whole world-- everything and everyone you knew and loved is so far away and it's really hard to be the new girl in a school full of cliques.
I know it's hard to be in hallways full of people and feel alone. I know it's hard to hear the hateful words they are whispering as they pass you and to remember those words aren't truth. I know it's hard to see the vicious threats come through to your inbox, to realize that even church girls can be bullies. I know it's hard to rise above it, to try to be the bigger person, to let the words roll off your back when they're cutting into you like daggers. I know it's hard to feel like there is any good in your world right now.
Sweet girl, if only I could dry your tears and whisper words of love to you. If only I could go back and make all the bad go away, take the hurt away, and wrap you up in a bubble so the bullies can't get to you. They are cruel. They are hurtful. They are in the wrong.
I'm so proud of you. I'm proud of how you keep falling back on your faith, even when it feels like the whole world was falling apart. I'm proud of how you keep opening your heart, even though it has been so badly broken. I'm proud of the words you spill onto pages and pages of journals, because they are honest and true and raw and you are brave enough to write them down.
The rest of high school will be hard, I can't lie to you about that. You will get through it. You will come home crying and collapse on the couch more times than I can count, but you will make it through.
You will make new friends that you will still talk to even six years later. You will fall in love with a boy for the first time and it will be life-changing to spend two years with him. You will find your passions and pursue them, through leading worship at your church, and through the school newspaper, and through your own writing.
Those years are the hardest ones. They're full of more heartache and heartbreak than any teenager should have to endure. But those years are the ones that set the stage for a glorious story of redemption that your Creator is writing through your life. Those years are the darkness, but the light is coming, and it's going to be radiant. People will see a change in you and they will know it's only Jesus. That's a good, good thing, love. That's what this life is all about.
I know you don't understand why anyone in the world likes high school, and why any adult ever says that it's the best time of your life. Even when you're 23, you won't understand that. That's okay. High school was hell for you, but the rest of your life? Girl, it gets GOOD. Really good.
Hold tight to your faith and your family. Know that your parents are always going to be your biggest fans, your rock-solid foundation, your best friends, and your most trusted confidantes. They love you. Let them. Be good to them, even though you're moody and hurting and you want to lash out. Know that it won't always feel like life is a battle of you against the world. There are good, trustworthy, honest, kind people, and you'll meet them soon. They'll love you relentlessly and you'll learn to trust friends and community again. It will be the best thing that ever happens to you.
Hear me when I say this, sixteen-year-old self: You are brave. You are beautiful. You are beloved. You are going through hard times, but they are not in vain. You are worthy of love. You have been created by a God who loves everything about you, even when the people around you don't. You are where you are for a purpose, because it's part of a bigger story that is better than you ever dared to hope. You are hurt, but you will heal. You are struggling, but you will rejoice soon.
It's always darkest before the dawn. Hold tight. Hold on to hope. I'm so proud of you.
All my love and more,
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!
"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
"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
"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.
Meet Emily. She's 21, studying psychology with a business administration minor at Christopher Newport University. She volunteers twice a week with an animal adoption center and also works in a psychological research lab with a former professor and mentor. She has been conducting her own individual research on social media's affects on depression and perceived loneliness/self worth. She says she's currently trying to get through her last year at CNU, spend time with friends, and meet new people. She also loves traveling and can't get enough of leaving and exploring new places.
I've known Emily since I was in high school, when I was editor-in-chief of my school's newspaper and she was on the staff. She always seemed so cool to me, with a group of friends in the newspaper class that seemed fun, untouchable and a little rebellious. She wrote well and wasn't afraid of covering hard or controversial topics, always fighting to write what needed to be said, no matter what. I admired her from afar, but never really knew much about her. She became editor-in-chief after I graduated and I always knew the publication I had worked so hard on during my years was in incredible hands with her and her team.
I've followed Emily on Twitter for a while since high school, and I've always loved how outspoken she is about things that matter to her. Just from the things she shares, I've always known she cares deeply about people, about equality, about fighting stigmas and bringing things to light that others would rather mock or ignore. She's confident and brave, and I love that. My favorite kinds of people are the ones who are unashamedly passionate, yet gracious and relatable, sweet and authentic all at once, and that so perfectly describes her.
When she emailed me in response to my first Story Seeker post, I was so excited. Her email said "I think this sounds like a fantastic idea. Breaking free from your comfort zone is how you grow." I loved that. Those words have stuck with me and I love how simple and true they are.
Emily and I met up at Joe's Inn recently, a little restaurant and bar nestled in the neighborhoods of downtown Richmond. I introduced her to my favorite cider (VA folks, Bold Rock is local and it's the very best and you should try it) and we spent a while chatting in a wood booth during happy hour. It was so great to finally get to know her more and get to hear about her story. Knowing the things she cares about, it was incredible for me to hear the background of her life and learn more about the things she experienced that are fueling her passions day by day.
I had no idea what her story was like, no idea so much of it was happening when I knew her from our newspaper staff. I think she would probably say the same about me, and I think that's really the beauty of this whole thing. There are so many people we skate by in life and never get to know, but all it takes is a few hours over drinks in a bar and before you know it, you have a new friend in this world.
This girl's story is powerful and it will open your eyes to things you've probably never even thought about before. Aren't the best stories like that? Emily is so smart, down to earth, funny, generous, caring, talented and real. She's going to change the world around her in ways that make a beautiful impact. I've been so honored to hear her story, and I'm even more honored to share it with you.
Here's Emily's story.
It is often stressed that one should let go of that which they cannot change. And while the idea is seemingly plausible and rational, I have learned that carrying my past with me has only brightened my future. I have led anything but a commonplace life; on some days, when it’s raining out and my friends have other plans and I am staring at the wall immersed in utter boredom, I wish I had led a more typical life in my childhood and early adulthood. I sometimes wish I could have woken up to a freshly cooked breakfast, both my mom and dad sitting at the table reading the paper and awaiting my appearance. I wish I could have lived in one home my whole life, made ever-lasting friendships, and never had to learn what survival and healing truly meant.
But then I realize I was graced with my specific life and my specific experiences for a purpose. My 8th grade World History teacher recited to me the renowned quote “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” While I could have written it off as a standard line told to all soon-to-be highschoolers, and while I could have let my past justify self-deprecation, I have learned that my past is what needs to drive my present life.
My mother and father got divorced when I was 3 weeks old, so I have never been part of what society would call a “functional” family. While many children these days experience the hardships of divorce, my turmoil came from my mother alone. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and depression long before I was born, so every other weekend on my Thursday-Sunday visit, I experienced her weeping,I heard constant fabricated stories of abusive loved ones of mine, and I was consistently left alone while she begged for God to kill her. I grew up in a constant state of anger, fear, and loathing, never fully understanding why she couldn’t just love me enough to give me a normal childhood. I grew up with a mother who loved me so deeply and who tried to give me material goods to make me happy, but could not reach a state of mental health to truly give me the guidance I needed. I never really understood the implications of her illness until my freshman year of high school. She faced severe depression when I was 14 years old, and my emotionally abusive stepfather barricaded her from any and everybody in her life. Her depression was so detrimental, my stepfather decided it was the best course of action to have the doctor administer electroconvulsive therapy. That is when a patient is mildly sedated and then electrocuted. I could easily google a technical definition that paints it in a scientific and positive light, but there is no positive aspect I could ever see in a procedure so barbaric. ECT side effects include memory loss, motor loss, and all around brain injury. The normal amount a patient should receive is anywhere from 6-11, and my impressionable and helpless mother received 32. I cried malpractice, I cried spousal abuse, but at 15, 16, and 17 years old nobody would really listen.
I lost my mother when I was 14. She is alive and breathing, living every day as much as she can, but I lost my true mother when I was 14. She was not there for my sweet 16, nor my 17th, nor my 18th or 19th or 21st birthday. She was not there when my heart got broken for the first time and she was not there when I lost myself to fear, rejection, and low self-esteem. She was not there to help me pick what college to go to and she was not there to greet me with a warm hug on Christmas mornings. I lost her to an illness, I lost her to a corrupt doctor, and I lost her to an evil hearted man who claimed to love her. It was surreal to have to visit my own mother in a mental hospital. To see her frail and pale and blank. It hurt to know I could not save her – but that was such an important lesson to learn. You can’t save everybody, and sometimes the person that needs the most saving is yourself. I miss her, I love her, and I wish so desperately her life could have brought her more peace. But I can no longer have my heart break over the past which I cannot change.
While I could drown in my own self-pity and curse the universe for dealing me a raw hand, I just could never bring myself to give up so easily. High school was hard, holidays are hard, and I still find myself with a huge wall up in relationships. I faced my own depression throughout the whole ordeal, and still occasionally struggle with it today. It used to bring a sense of shame to me, admitting I had to take medicine just to get out of bed. But now I am so passionate about fighting to end the stigma on mental health, because I have been blessed enough to finally be enlightened by my experiences throughout my life. Yes, I was depressed. Yes, I still experiences symptoms on occasion. And I am damn proud of it. I have been off medication for a year now, and I have never felt stronger or more alive. I am finally determined to be the change I want to see in the world around me. In 2015 I plan on pursuing my PhD in clinical psychology in graduate school so I can make progress in the field. The stigma on mental health needs to end if society ever wants to truly progress. My mother is a prime example of what needs to change – in 20 years, I guarantee society will view ECT as they now view lobotomies.
Plenty of things have affected who I am today and have impacted my life greatly, but none of them have shaped me as much as the experiences with my mom and stepdad did. Yes, I had more than one relationship that blew up in my face. I had plenty of drama with friends. I had my days where I questioned my worth completely. But those factors don’t really make my story. I have had my heart broken into a thousand little pieces on numerous occasions, by friends, family, and boys alike. But each time it pulls itself back together and I carry on.
There are days when I wish I could call my mom to tell her about the asshole that broke my heart, or the guy that stood me up, or the friend that just lost touch. There are days when I see red with anger when I remember my stepfather uttering the words “You are the reason your mom is depressed.” There are days when I wish my dad would pay a little bit more attention to me, or my friends would pick up the phone and call me, or my ex would just admit how badly he messed up. But those days are becoming less and less as I continue to grow. I have a mission in my life, and that mission is to make a positive change in any and every way I can. I am so grateful I finally see my purpose in life and the reasons for all of my struggles. My past no longer brings me down and keeps me in bed, wondering what I could have done better. My past now drives me, inspires me, and continuously enlightens me.
My strength has come from my struggle. I am wise, I am smart, I am intuitive, and I am ready to fully embrace life for all of its beauty as opposed to despise it for its darkness. I am a fighter - I always have been.
Please feel free to comment or send me a message if you want to hear more, ask questions, give feedback, or are interested in connecting with Emily. You can also read more about the Story Seeker project here.