Who will write your story?
From Launch Out Atlanta, 2016
You are not good enough. You do not measure up. You need to change who you are. You do not fit in here. You are a failure. These were messages I received throughout my adolescent years.
I am the younger of two girls, the daughter of a football coach and an elementary school teacher. I was taught how to throw a spiral, a punch, and how to fall in love with books. I was often outside, with dirty hands and scraped up knees. If my sister was doing something, I wanted to do it too.
Having daughters, my parents were intentional in teaching us to think for ourselves, how to stand our ground. I knew when I was young, I have always known really, my gifts are to encourage and equip others.
As an adolescent, the messages I heard seemed to contradict everything I had known. Seemingly overnight, I became the girl who was too strong, too loud, too honest, to outspoken, too strong willed, not feminine enough, and unfortunately, not at all like her older sister. How I had been raised created a tension with what I was now being told. I felt like a failure. I had two different coaches, on two different occasions, express how they believed me to be a failure, how I was not good enough, in gyms full of people. Shame and embarrassment overwhelmed me. It was then I began to doubt what I thought to be true about myself.
Until then, I had been writing my own story, but it no longer made sense. I chose to hand the loudest voice in the room the pen and allowed them to write for me. I became a people chameleon, adopting the mannerisms and the speech like those who stood before me. I became what everybody else believed I should be.
In a moment of disgust, I stood looking at my own reflection. There in the mirror before me stood a young woman who had no idea who she was, where she should go, or what she should be doing. The image in the mirror was unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and miserable. And I remember shouting, “God, who am I? Who have you called me to be? I do not like who I am, I do not like who I have become. Does my life matter? Because if there is no point, if there is no purpose for me, then I am done.” It was a cry of desperation. It was a cry filled with hurts and lies from my past. In that moment He said, “You have been created on purpose and for a purpose. Gather your wits and some courage, take back the pen, and start writing the story I have for you!” Everything changed that day.
I had once bent and swayed with the crowd, but now I was standing my ground. The self-assuredness of my youth returned, and the same stubborn strong-will that had once been described as a negative trait, was the very thing that allowed me to stop listening to the opinions of others.
I no longer fit into the convenient box others had placed me in. I no longer allowed others to dictate the story of my life. The story changed, and it became more wonderful and magnificent. As I continued to write my story, I began to see the beauty of it.
My boldness in choosing to reclaim my story made others uncomfortable. Authenticity can make those living outside of who they truly are uneasy.
There will be people who are unsure of the big, broad strokes you choose to write with. There will be some who do not understand the twists and the turns you take. But friends, if you will take back the pen and begin to write your story, you will empower others to do the same.
Years have passed, I have been married for almost 13 years, and we have one amazing daughter. I still have moments where I wonder if my story is enough, if it measures up. But I have learned, even the messy, hard parts are better when the pen is in my hand.
As I have continued to write what I believe is my story, as I have stayed true to who I am and who I am called to be, I have seen opportunities arise. I have dreamed of writing for Proverbs 31 ministries. Last year, one of the Prov31 writers and speakers featured a post I had written. I have been a monthly contributor for online devotional sites, a few books, and more. I have been asked to speak at women’s Bible studies, leadership organizations, and women’s events. This is all a part of my story.
In 2015, I wrote a women’s Bible study and taught it to a group of women. There were people who questioned my abilities, my credentials. All I knew is I was doing what I was meant to do, I was writing my story. That study, the one some did not believe me qualified or able to write, was published the next year.
I know it can be scary, to firmly grip the pen and write your story. What I have discovered is those who dare to write their own story, who live their story, will come alongside of you. The help you need will arrive at just the right time. I promise you, you will not be alone in this adventure. You will also find, as I have, those living their own story encourage others without feeling threatened or burdened. In fact, it becomes a source of great joy.
I wonder, who of you are living a story someone else is writing? Who has dared to take back the pen and write their own?
What keeps me motivated to continue writing my story, even when it is hard, even when it is confusing and messy? I am raising this incredible, intelligent, wise beyond her years little girl. She has already begun to write her story, a story of art, music, and more kindness than I have ever known. I know there will be a day when someone will approach her and tell her: you are doing it all wrong. This is who you should be, this is what you should do, and this is the path you should take. And I want my sweet girl to turn to them, with boldness and compassion and say, “I appreciate your opinion, and I believe you have my best interest at heart. But you see, this is my story to write. I am aware you may not understand my choice, but you see, my mother told me that I should write my own story. She told me I was capable, that it is worth being written and it is worth being told. I choose to believe her because I watched her do it every day of my life.”
Friends, as much as I believe in her ability to write her own story, I believe in you. I believe you can be brave and write. Whether you are writing with broad, wild strokes, or small, timid ones, I want you to write the story you are called to, the one you have been created for. It will be a story worth living, worth sharing.
As our stories intersect, we will discover wild adventure, joy beyond measure, and we will begin living out the dreams we are often too scared to speak of. We will be our best as we take back control and write the story burning within us.
Take back the pen, and write your story.