I have always been passionate about sharing my favorite things: books, make-up, kitchen gadgets, etc. You can ask my mom (she is probably laughing just reading this). I am always telling her about some life changing book, tv show, gadget, etc and encouraging her to give it a try. Inevitably it will take quite some time until she will finally go try whatever it is I’ve been pitching and, lo and behold, she loves it. It’s become a running joke between us, because often (way more than once) she will finally try something when she has heard about it from a few other people. It’s a relief when she finally gives something a try.
It is like a small ember inside of me burns to share these things that make life better, easier, more fun, and I can’t put it out until I’ve shared it with someone. It may seem a little crazy, but I’ve always been built that way – if something is good, I am compelled to share the information. You can just imagine, if a curved shower rod came up in conversations with my mom for two YEARS until she finally got one, real life-changing information is all-consuming. (Let it be noted that said curved rod was purchased by my mother only after staying at a hotel that had one).
All that to say, even though I doubt I could have kept from sharing, I’m really proud that I’ve finally stepped out and done it. Proud like you are proud of your child when they try something you know they can do, but you also know they don’t really believe they can. It has caused all the feelings: exhilarating, frightening, embarrassing, encouraging, exciting, terrifying. I have been on fire with the idea of finding every person who may benefit from hearing about my journey through shame to hope. If I didn’t do this it would consume me.
My faith tradition calls on me to walk the same path in life as the ancient teacher, prophet, and mystical son of God, Jesus. My faith asks me to love myself, God, and others. It asks me to play my part in bringing the beautiful culture of God to earth by being loving, joyful, kind, patient, merciful, disciplined, good, faithful, gentle. It invites me to be an ambassador/reprepresentative of this culture. It graciously and with mercy, invites me to represent, and says that I’m justified in doing so because I decided to believe that the culture Jesus taught about was real, that He was real. And I believe that same invitation is available to everyone else, too. No matter what your past may include.
For so long I didn’t believe I could play a part. I believed the good things that I had been taught about Jesus, but I didn’t believe the good things He said about me. It was a dark place to live, and my joy in life was incomplete. I had fun. I laughed and enjoyed many things, but it was… I don’t know how to describe it exactly – perhaps… shallow. The fire that consumed me then was fear – fear that someone would see who I really was. I never experienced peace, because I felt like a fraud.
There are so many teachings in Christianity that are confusing. One of them is all the talk of the ‘upside down kingdom of God’, ‘masters should serve’, and ‘the first will be last’. It seems like a recurring theme, said in many different ways, the way that seems natural and normal to us, is the exact opposite in the culture of God. Our instincts will lead us away from those things that make up the culture we were created to live in. So when I started believing that I would be healed by doing the one thing I had always feared, I finally started to make sense of that message. I started to trust that I would be more than ok, I would finally be fully alive. I just had to step out on the faith of that promise.
However, no matter I believed, I knew it would not be easy. It’s one thing to know that your intrinsic value is secure, it’s another to let go of your false sense of identity and the value that a society places on you. I didn’t start sharing until I knew I was healthy and ready. Sharing is not a healing process, and I knew not to expect that from it. It is certainly educational. It is a growth experience, but it is a challenge to healing, not a source. Those challenges are where the growth happens. They are what strengthen your broken places.
I talked about some of those challenges last week, but I wanted to talk about another this week. One that’s a little more difficult because it requires me to be honest, vulnerable, and to ask for your help.
As soon as I became comfortable with the idea that I would share my story I had a sinking realization. You see, we can rally around an underdog – even one has done, or loves someone who has done, some regrettable things. When someone shares about their battle with abuse, drugs, or alcoholism – most people can relate. Just about everyone can say, ‘me too’, or they can point to a close friend or family member impacted by the same demons. For many of the challenges we face in life there is a level of acceptance and familiarity, even if they are the ugly side of our humanity. People are willing to come along beside someone who is sharing their journey to healing. People will do this for many challenges, almost all of them, but not every story evokes empathy. Not every dark place can be understood. I knew that my story would be difficult to understand.
My fear was almost immediately validated. The first post of my story included many of those relatable struggles – divorce, abuse, alcoholism. Although these things aren’t often openly discussed, there is a relief for many when they are to finally be able to say, me too. I had so many messages, so much support. You can just imagine, now, how that felt. On one hand, it was so comforting and beautiful to receive so much kindness, but on the other hand, I knew what the next post would include and I knew the silence that would come with it.
I understand it. I don’t feel like it is a malicious silence. It’s just not a topic that people are comfortable discussing. It’s not something people are used to having to react too. It is such a secretive thing. The only public discourse around abortion is: pro-life or pro-choice. People do not deal with this on a personal level. Even those of us who have been through it, we work very hard to avoid any discussion around it. We fear that engaging in a conversation will expose us. We will say something or a look will cross our face, and we will be found out. We don’t share articles or blog posts about it, because maybe someone will figure out our past.
I would imagine for those who have not had direct experience with this, they may fear that to share someone’s story, is some kind of implicit acceptance. There is no middle ground that says: Abortion is a horrible thing that hurts many, but we want to rally around someone who has experienced it and help them heal. In fact, the pro-life position make it pretty clear that anyone who does this must be evil. To empathize is not a practice many have had to wrestle with because it is a secretive thing. Even though you may sit next to a man or woman who desperately needs that empathy, you will never know. They are isolated. A path for honesty? A plea for help? It is not expected, encouraged, or, if we are honest, wanted.
And so here I am, hearing in secret from women who are finding hope in my story. Here I am doing what I feel I have been called on to do, but wondering how I’ll ever find all the women and men I hold in my heart. That fire I wrote of in the beginning? It is all consuming. I cannot stop. I cannot go back. Every message I receive saying, ‘Thank you. I have hope… for the first time’, is fuel that only makes the fire burn hotter. I have received an immense gift of freedom and peace, and the only thing asked of me is to share it with others. And so, here I am. Doing what I thought would kill me, and finding life.
We live in a fascinating time when the technology available allows us a platform to make our stories available to almost everyone in the world, but it doesn’t happen without other people. The hope for me to find the women and men who struggle with the hopelessness I once struggled with? It is you. You are the only way for me to fulfill this calling.
This is my mission field:
- I need to tell every single person who needs to hear it, that they are loved and accepted as they are. There is nothing they have to do to step into the life they were meant to live – except to take the step.
- I need to provide a safe space for women and men to be authentic and honest with their stories.
- I need to help people discover the tools to own their lives – mistakes and all – and ways to use their stories to help other people.
- I need to help people see that nothing is as black and white as the current culture portrays it to be. I need to start a listening and understanding revolution.
- I need to change the dialogue on hot button issues. I need everyone to remember there are people behind the issues. I need to encourage people to think about things in a more nuanced and sensitive way.
- I need to create a space where people can really talk about their lives, their fears, their concerns. I need to create a space where we can have hard discussions with the goal of understanding each other, not winning or converting someone to our view.
I am devoting my life to this. I feel in my very core that this is the work I was made for. I’ve never felt so much peace as I have the past few months. I have found my mission, vocation, drive, passion – I have found what I was created to do. I know how my pain can be redeemed to make the world more beautiful and kind.
I need your help. It’s hard to ask for help, because it can feel selfish, too bold. I’m going to do it anyway. It is the greatest irony that I am now driven to ask people to help me get more people to read the very story that I thought I would take to my grave. It truly is an upside down world I am now living in each day.
Here is how you can help my mission:
Share my author page on Facebook and ask your friends to like it and share it. If you can include why you think it is important that will make a big difference. If it makes you uncomfortable – you can say that, too. You can say that you aren’t sure how you feel, but you do think it can help someone. You can say, ‘This isn’t something I’ve dealt with, but it seems like maybe more people than I realized have…so this may help’. For the men and women who are in the position I was for so long, and can’t imagine sharing because someone may realize what they have done, or remember what they hope is long forgotten? It’s ok. I understand. I would love it if you could, but I understand. I do think it is healthy and perfectly fine for you to also say, ‘This isn’t something I’ve dealt with, but maybe it can help someone…’. After all, there is still some truth in that statement, there would have been for me.
Please like, comment, and share on my posts to my page. Facebook will only promote pages that are active and where people are engaged. If there is little activity or engagement then the posts won’t show up on anyone’s newsfeed. This is an ongoing request. On pages I follow and want to succeed, I automatically like anything that shows up in my feed, knowing that helps their efforts.
Please subscribe to the blog. You do this on the actual blog page by entering your email in the space next to, “Never miss a post!” This will insure you get every post even if facebook’s algorithms don’t send each new post out. From there you can share the posts directly from the blog that you otherwise might not have known were even available.
If you know avenues that I should be using to spread the message, please let me know.
If you know a blogger I could write a guest post for, please help me make the connection. Or ask them to read my blog and see if they are willing to promote, or perhaps know of a better fit within their circles.
I would love to speak to young people, women, men, anyone who will listen, so if you have opportunities for speaking, please contact me.
Ask me questions. If you send me private messages with questions or stories, I will never share who asked unless you explicitly tell me you want me to. I will address your questions in new posts, but without any identifying information. If you feel like your questions is something that might hurt my feelings, ask it anyway. You can always start with, “I don’t want to hurt you but…” and then end with, “I hope that didn’t hurt you.” This is a hard topic but if we don’t start trying to understand each other, then we won’t be able to make a difference.
I am so thankful for all the supportive messages I have received. Every text, email, conversation, share, and comment, have been fuel. You have comforted me and encouraged me in ways I find hard to explain. This is my mission and my heart.