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Fear, Forgiveness, Identity, Redemption, Spiritual Life

Don’t Go There

July 20, 2016


“I want you to make a collage.”

After a couple months of counseling, I had my first assignment. I was given a big piece of paper and told to draw a circle. Inside the circle I would put pictures that represent things I know to be true of myself. On the outside, things I think other people believe to be true of me.

I thought the assignment was pretty easy. I went home and mindlessly cut words and images from magazines and organized them on the paper. I didn’t think too deeply about what each piece meant as I glued it down. I just described myself the best I could in a visual representation of the me I put on display and allow people to see, and the me I keep carefully hidden.

A week later I brought it back. I unrolled it. We talked about it. She asked questions. I answered. And the past month has mostly looked like that.

This week, however, she asked a question I wasn’t ready to answer.

“Is there anything on here that you want to talk about?”

And that’s where I shut down. I could handle direct questions. “Tell me about the quote inside the circle…What does the smiling girl outside the circle represent?…Why did you put the wedding picture inside the circle instead of outside?” I was ok with that. I’m a pretty open book when people show that they are curious about my life – asking deep, intentional questions because they’re genuinely interested in my struggles, my victories, my day-to-day and the condition of my heart. But I won’t volunteer insight into my life if I’m not absolutely certain it’s wanted or welcomed, if I don’t feel 100% safe.

Of course, there’s no reason I shouldn’t feel safe with my counselor. I trust her and actually love going to my appointments, talking to her for an hour and knowing that she’s listening. But I think that’s where the road block lies for me. “If I tell her about _____, will she be interested and truly care? Or will she just be listening to me because that’s her job?” To willingly invite her to the deepest parts of my heart, without being prompted, feels terrifyingly vulnerable…and I’m not sure I’m ready to go there yet with her.

Or, for that matter, to even go there at all.

You may have noticed by now that pursuing and fighting for vulnerability has become a theme for us at AGLM. It’s something we each have learned to value and truly crave. Personally, it has a lot to do with my choice to seek counseling in the first place. I want to dive in and dig deep. I want to visit every dark, dusty, neglected corner of my heart. I want to face my demons, attack my struggles head on, connect all of the dots and understand the things that have shaped me into who I am.

Or at least in theory, I do. Once I actually start to go there, to that really tender place where my deepest wounds and most personal secrets are kept, it becomes a different story.

And that’s exactly where that question went.

So I pumped the breaks. Hard. Harder than I expected, actually. I tried to find a nonchalant way to change the subject. I smiled too much and laughed nervously, because that’s what I do when talking about something that makes me feel incredibly vulnerable and uncomfortable. I’ve always been that way. It’s my automatic defense against breaking. When something strikes a chord and tears feel imminent (and in that moment, they did), I instantly fight them with a happy face. It’s like I somehow think that if I can outwardly appear to be fine, I can trick my emotions into thinking it’s true.

I will not cry. I will not fall apart.

Because if I do, if I let one tear fall, the whole dam will break. And to crumble in a mess of emotions because something about my life is hard or hurts…that, to me, is the most raw, vulnerable state I can be in, and I am not ready to go there. Not alone, and certainly not in front of someone else.

It seems verbal vulnerability is much easier for me than letting my guard all the way down and getting my feelings involved…to say “I feel hurt/sad/angry/disappointed/etc” is one thing, but to provide evidence of that is too much for me. That’s where my boundary lies. That’s where the resistance kicks in.
So as I sat there on that couch, knowing she was waiting for a response, I decided the only thing I could do was be honest. Not about the pictures glued on that paper. But about the conflict I was feeling. About the part of me that really wants to go there, to that place, to see what more there is to learn from a simple collage…but also the other part of me – the stronger part – that was suddenly struck by a fear that paralyzed me and said, “This is too much…you think you’re ready, but you’re not…vulnerability is just not safe today.”

And she said, “Ok.” She didn’t push. My walls and defenses fell. And I felt safe again.

But it scares me to know that I have to go back there. That moment revealed that there’s a level of hurt I didn’t fully know existed. I didn’t realize I’ve been ignoring it…avoiding it. But now that I do, it’s just another dark, dusty corner of my heart that I know I need to visit. Maybe not all at once. But a little bit at a time I will start to let myself feel whatever lives there.

Maybe I will cry tears that need to be cried. Maybe I will find forgiveness that has been begging to be found. Maybe I will heal in a way I didn’t know I needed to heal. And maybe – just maybe – I will find a way to feel ready to invite someone to go there with me.

Faith, Fear, God, Redemption, Spiritual Life

Decisions, Decisions

June 22, 2016


I hate decision making.

Seriously, ask me where I want to go for dinner and the answer will almost always be “I don’t care.” And once we get wherever we eventually decide on, I need 10 minutes to look at the menu, and I still change my mind a dozen times before I finally order.

Give me the task of choosing a movie to watch, an ice cream flavor, what shoes go best with your outfit or what to name your goldfish and I will agonize over it.

And multiple choice on tests…don’t get me started. Even Buzzfeed quizzes give me anxiety.

…Have I mentioned I HATE making decisions?

I guess it all comes down to this fear that I’m going to make the wrong choice. I’m so afraid that whatever I choose, I’ll end up regretting it later. Yes, even the smallest, most seemingly-insignificant things. Somehow I still get hung up on which one is the “right” choice.

So as you can probably imagine, I reeeally don’t do well with big life decisions.

I think sometimes on the outside it looks easy.

Drop out of college to travel the country with a ministry? Sure! Move over 600 miles away from my family without a clue where I’m going to live or work? Psh, no big deal.

In reality, if anyone got ahold of my journals from around those times, you’d see that the journey leading up to those decisions was one big terrifying, complicated, confusing headache.

I recently had two job offers. At the same time. And I, of course, panicked.

Both were great places that I would be so happy to work for – great environments, great people, just all-around great opportunities! But that was not quite the answer to prayer I was looking for.

I need clear-cut direction. At least I think I do, anyway. I want to see one door open and the other one shut so that I know without a doubt which one I’m supposed to walk through. Better yet, I want big flashing arrows, neon signs, a yellow brick road and an “X” to mark the spot.

Two open doors with perfect little welcome mats doesn’t help my decision making.

I wrestled with it for a while. I prayed so hard about which was the right job, but I felt like God was giving me the silent treatment. I went back and forth all day with the pros and cons of each, but kept coming up with the same answer – I couldn’t go wrong with either option.

But that was just it. I was so focused on which one was right that I couldn’t see that neither one was wrong. God had given me a choice, not to test me and see if I’d choose the right path, but to show me that sometimes there’s more than one right answer…and His will will be done either way, no matter which I choose.

I think maybe the deeper root of my fear is that I’m worried I’ll mess up God’s master plan for my life. Part of me seems to believe that I somehow have the power to ruin everything with just one wrong move.

But the truth is, if we’re loving, following and serving Christ, and if the options before us allow us to live within that calling, I don’t really think there can be a wrong choice. We just have to pick a path. Because no matter what we choose, God is in control.

And if somehow we do make the wrong choices, we serve a God who chooses redemption and who decides daily to craft beauty from our mistakes…and His decisions are never wrong.

Faith, Fear, God, Suffering, Uncategorized

Scaredy Cat

June 8, 2016


I can’t speak Spanish and I can’t dance, so you’d never know I’m Colombian, but it’s true.


My grandma, “Lulu” who loves all things tropical, tells us stories of how the weather in Colombia was—balmy and breezy and plants live year-round. My grandpa was a neurosurgeon and helped people he knew could never pay him. My dad grew up playing soccer and sneaking into the neighbors cherry tree with his brothers to eat the ripe fruit.

So life there sounds beautiful except for the hard parts. Like the time when they came home and thieves had emptied their house of everything valuable. Or when the neighbor kids were kidnaped for ransom. Or when my dad was jumped on the street walking home from school. My dad learned to watch his back because he lived in a place where if you weren’t careful, you’d be taken advantage of or stolen from.

When Brendon, my husband, visited my family’s house before we started dating, my dad told him, “This place is like Alcatraz, man. I see everything.” Laugh all you want, but it wasn’t a joke. (Insert crying smiling emoji face here)

He probably wouldn’t be too happy with me if I disclosed his multiple security systems, but lets just say when a “Secret Admirer” left an anonymous note in our mailbox with a rose one afternoon when I was in high school, my dad and I watched the security camera footage to find out who it was. HAHAHA POOR GUY!


So I feel very safe in my parents house. I grew up being taken care of and my mom always nurtured my intuition of knowing if a person or place was unsafe. She would point out potential dangerous situations and she taught me to be alert and walk like a boss through dark parking lots at night (and maybe carrying pepper spray). 😉 Having parents that are aware is a GIFT. They taught me well and have always reminded me that God will surround me in whatever situation. He is a fierce guardian and He is my strength.


But that lie creeps in. You’re. Not. Safe.


When I’m home alone or by myself, the questions come… Are the doors locked? Is the alarm on? Are there people outside rustling around? What was that noise? Am I going to be okay? How will I defend myself if someone gets in? Am I safe at home alone? Can anyone tell I’m afraid? Should I sleep with a knife by my bed?

These are all questions I’ve asked myself and I know I’m not alone. Being “fearless” is kind of trendy (that’s a T Swift song, right?) but let’s be real. Fear is a bitch. (excuse my language) But seriously.

I’m afraid of losing control. I’m afraid of being taken away from the people I love. I’m afraid that I’ll be found out… that I’m not that strong.


I know that because I’m writing about fear it seems like I should have some insight or inspirational advice, but I don’t. I’ve been thinking about why I’m afraid sometimes for THREE DAYS. And turns out, I haven’t really settled it, but I do know one thing:


When I’m scared, I pray.


So maybe that’s it. I still don’t fully understand why some places and situations make me nervous, but I do know what to do to calm my racing heart down. Praying helps me acknowledge that God is all around me and I remember that He says that He will guard me. Fear doesn’t define me, but the little moments of asking Him to be close when I am afraid is lifechanging. I will keep wrestling with this until I see my heart more clearly because I know that God can grow me out of this fear little by little.

If you’re afraid of losing someone or something, of being uncertain, of being alone at night, you’re definitely not alone, girlfriend. Even when it’s confusing,

What are you afraid of? What have you learned that has calmed your fears?

Faith, Fear, God, Relationships, Spiritual Life

God Is Understanding

March 16, 2016


If you were to ask me what is the one thing that I desire most in life, I would probably tell you about my dream job that would allow me to travel all over the world, drink tea and lattes all day long, and have deep conversations with people…and get paid for it.

Or I’d share with you the vacation I have planned to take my family on if one day I find that tree people say money grows on.

Or I would rattle off all of the things that make up the perfect life I’ve imagined on Pinterest.

And while each of those things certainly rank high on my list (however unlikely they may be 😉 ), there is still one desire that trumps them all…one I tend to keep hidden so deep in my heart because somehow I think if I tell anyone what I wish for, it won’t come true.

But really, if I’m completely honest, what my heart longs for more than anything is companionship.

Gosh, I just want to be married. I’m almost 23, I’m young and “I have my whole life ahead of me.” But when it seems like everyone around me is falling in love and getting married, it feels like this constant reminder that I’m alone.

Some days it’s like, if I see one more relationship status update on Facebook…
…if I hear one more sappy date story…
…if I see one more engagement ring on my Instagram feed…
…if I get one more “you plus one” wedding invitation (and if THAT one isn’t a double whammy…”not only am I getting married and you’re not, I’m inviting you to bring a date that you don’t have.”)…
Lord, help me…it might just drive me to Christian Mingle. I mean, obviously nothing else is working…

Friends, can I be candid? Sometimes singleness just sucks. I know there is so much good that comes out of this time, so much freedom in being able to focus on me, go anywhere, do anything. This season should be embraced. But that doesn’t change the fact that sometimes (most times) I just want someone to do life with. I want my own fairytale. I want to be in love.

I have prayed soooo much about this. Seriously, if you could see my journals…

But every week, Friday and Saturday night roll around and the closest I come to a hot date is lounging in my sweatpants with Heather, catching up on the Bachelor (sorry Heather, but sometimes I want to spend my weekends with someone a little more “tall, dark and handsome.” 😉 )

For one more week my prayers go unanswered. And you know what?

I’m mad at God.

There. I said it. I’m mad at Him because I feel like He’s holding out on me. I’m annoyed because He knows what I want, what I have been hoping and dreaming for, and He’s fully capable of giving it to me! But for some reason He’s holding back. I feel like He’s not listening. I feel like I’m being punished. All of which I know isn’t true, but it doesn’t make me feel any less lonely, like I’m missing out and He doesn’t care.

But He does. That’s just it. He understands what I’m feeling because He’s the one who gave me that desire to be married and walk through life in partnership with someone else. He knit this longing for love into my being when He made me.

He gets it. He understands my anger and my frustration. He understands my confusion and my impatience. And because He understands, He gives me so much grace for when I don’t understand Him.

So to you, single girl…don’t feel guilty if you can’t find joy in this season, if you’re tired, if you’re jealous…I get it. I’m right there with you, and I understand. But more importantly, so does He.

Faith, Family, Fear, Relationships, Your Story

Trust Me

February 10, 2016
Ashton’s Story:
Let’s be honest, following Christ can be messy, scary, chaotic, and sometimes seem to not make sense to the world, but that’s also the beauty in TRUSTING someone. we don’t have to dwell on the “what if’s” – instead we can embrace where God has us and confidently move forward trusting in HIS plans.
For college, I decided to go to the University of San Diego when I was recruited to play volleyball. I loved it and God provided such a great ministry among my unbelieving friends and teammates. It was a crazy ironic tradition, but the volleyball team was superstitious about having to “pray” before every game. I may have been the only person who took those moments seriously, but I still loved seeing how God provided a way for them to hear truth. He was pursuing them in ways they didn’t even realize. I learned in my time at USD that if you just put yourself out there and ask to be used by God, He will always open doors. Step out fearlessly, confidently stand up for what you believe in, and genuinely love those around you…and you WILL be a light to this world.
Apart from these sweet moments with teammates, it took one year to make me realize that I was completely consumed with something that I wasn’t deeply passionate about. God was convicting me of it. I would wake up early for 7:00am classes, get to the training room by noon to get taped up, practice for 3 hours and then head to the weight lifting room for another 1 hour workout, go back to the training room for ice baths and stretching, then head back to my dorm to muster up any energy I had left to get my homework done. Then repeat the next day. On top of that, every other week we would travel out of town for games, missing A LOT of classes. I found my days to be very full of something that I knew would end in just a matter of time. I missed church every other week, I had no possible way of being apart of a small group, and no time to build a community outside of volleyball. I loved playing the game, but at the end of the day I deeply yearned to somehow be a part of global missions. I knew my days weren’t wasted there at all, but I felt God calling me away. I felt Him asking me to trust Him, again. Giving up volleyball was like asking me to give up my comfortability; my self-built identity that I found a lot of worth in; my “thing” that I could hide in when life just wasn’t great. We all have had something like that, right? It was scary. Because despite knowing how all of my friends and family would think of me, it was clear that God was asking me to trust Him with HIS plans, even though I didn’t know what they were yet.
Trying to whole-heartedly follow the Lord, I decided to leave USD, leave a full-ride scholarship, and transfer to Biola University (the Bible Institute of Los Angeles). My decision was not a popular one. My coaches were caught off guard, my friends didn’t understand my spiritual reasoning, and my family was mostly supportive but just hard to read. I knew as soon as I left that this sport I consumed my life with for so many years had truly become an idol. A big idol. I found too much worth in it, and God knew.
Biola has one of the best Intercultural Studies programs and I was ecstatic to be a part of it. I learned A LOT in my time there yet still didn’t feel at home. Ironically enough, even going to a Bible teaching, mission’s focused school for a year seemed to not feel right for the calling I felt upon my life. I thought it would take away my itch to live overseas but it only made it stronger! I know that many have different opinions about this, but I was right back to the same question of, “Is going to school what God is telling me to do, or just what our culture says is the right way to do things?” I was deeply challenged by this, and through countless different conversations I had with my parents and mentors, I again decided to leave school. This time though, not to transfer to another school. I felt called to live overseas and experience first hand what it’s like to be a missionary. Not everyone was for this, but I knew God had a plan bigger than what we could see at the time. TRUST was the biggest lesson I learned.
This brought me an amazing opportunity to work at a church for two years and be sent all over the world. I learned so much in that time and would never take back my decision to stop school. I ended my term being sent to the Middle East to start a church plant and my goodness did I fall in love. I fell in love with the culture, and it lit a fire in me to see the unreached Muslim world come to know Christ. I am forever changed because of how I saw God work in the lives of people in such harsh conditions overseas. I feel like I continually saw His glory in new and unexpected ways and it only made me fall more in love with Him. My college years may not have been “normal” to the world’s standards, but I would never take back my decisions. I genuinely trusted and followed the Lord the best I knew how, and will never regret doing so. It has been quite the adventure!
I thought I could be a single woman missionary for the rest of my life, but little did I know I would be pursued by my now husband right when I returned to the states:)
You know how they say, “When you know, you know”? Well, that really is what happened with Hank and I. We met way back in 2010 at a camp in CA, and quite frankly my cabin of 6th grade girls were far more in love with him than I was haha. But God just has a sense of humor like that huh:) He was living as far across the country as he could in North Carolina, and I was back living in California. I’ll never forget Skyping for the first time and we just knew that we would be together forever. There was a LONG road ahead of us of dating, meeting families, and somehow eventually living in the same state, but we trusted that if it was right, God would provide a way.
Fast-forward 4 years and here I am today, writing this blog in NC, married to that wonderful man. One thing I can say about my life is that God has proved over and over again that His ways are FAR greater than anything I could have planned for myself. Following Christ may not look like the life we expect or let alone how our families and friends expect…but it sure is a beautiful adventure when you surrender everything to Him and trust in the Holy Spirit leading you. I sure have made some decisions that didn’t seem “wise” or “normal” to the world, but I don’t regret fearlessly putting my faith in Christ and just going for it. He is the One who wants to use us in incredible ways if we just offer ourselves up to Him. It may look like chaos to some, but with God it’s always organized for our good and for His glory.
Body Image, Fear, Identity, Redemption, Self-harm, Your Story

Between the Mirror and Me

January 27, 2016


Chelsea’s Story

“I have an eating disorder.”

It took me so long to be able to say these five simple words, and it’s still hard for me to say.

Three years ago, as a freshman in college, I led a secret life of unhealthy eating patterns. I would essentially starve myself for a week, eating no more than a granola bar or a handful of pretzels a day. Then I’d feel guilty and stupid, so I’d end up binge eating the next week, pigging out on whatever I could find. But then I’d feel gross, the guilt would return, and I’d spend the next week trying to make up for it by cutting back my diet to one small snack a day again.

It started a vicious cycle. But it was all perfectly justifiable in my head. I never went a full day without eating something (no matter how small it was), nor was I forcing anything back up. That’s what defines an eating disorder, right? So what I was doing was obviously no big deal. A big enough deal that I felt the need to hide it, but only because “no one would understand.”

For about six months, I let my insecurities get the best of me. The girl in the mirror wasn’t good enough – her body was flawed, her clothes didn’t fit like they used to, she wasn’t desired, and she wasn’t perfect. I felt like I was falling apart. With my emotions all over the map, I was desperate for something I could control…and I found it.

I wish I could tell you how it ended. But quite honestly, so much of that time in my life is really blurry. I just remember getting to a point where eating only three bites of food made me so full that the thought of taking another bite actually made me feel physically sick. I remember that jolting me back into the binge cycle, and for some reason I didn’t look back. I started eating consistently and stopped skipping meals. I don’t know how. I know it doesn’t make sense.

I should’ve been found out.

I should’ve been pulled kicking and screaming out of my mess.

I should’ve been forced to get help.

But I wasn’t. I walked away the same way I walked in – alone.

And from that very moment forward, I somehow shut out and repressed all memories of what went on. In my mind, those six months never happened that way. I truly believed that and completely forgot my own biggest secret.

It wasn’t until almost a year later that I hit a wall. I felt this darkness inside of me, like a cancer that had been dormant for so long and was finally showing signs. I didn’t know how to explain what I was feeling. All I knew was that I was bitter, angry, sad and confused…I wanted to scream and cry…but I didn’t know why.

I called Heather, hoping for some simple, uplifting words to “cure” me so I could move on. But instead she challenged me to go face-to-face with a friend, be vulnerable with someone in person instead of over the phone, and get to the real root of the problem. That was much deeper than I wanted to go, so I told her she was being ridiculous, and I decided I’d just handle it and get over it by myself.

But Heather could see through my stubbornness to a deeper issue that I didn’t understand, but clearly didn’t want to address. After a lot of pushing, arguing, challenging, and even threatening (tough love is often her greatest tactic with me), she forced me out of hiding. I reluctantly broke down with my friend Mackenzie (making it very clear, however, that I was only doing it because Heather was making me. To say I was difficult is an understatement).

It turned out to be exactly what I needed. She sat with me and patiently sorted through my mess of emotions. I don’t remember much about that conversation or how we got to this point, but somehow all of her digging brought long-suppressed memories to the surface. I just remember a wave of shock washing over me as the truth set in, and for the very first time I spoke the words, “I think I had an eating disorder.”

I dreaded admitting it to Heather. It wasn’t that I expected her to be angry or disappointed in me. But I definitely wasn’t expecting my guilt and shame to be met with more grace and love than I could have possibly imagined. She didn’t sugar-coat anything, of course, and told me the road ahead would be long, hard and painful. But she promised to walk every single step with me, and to this day she has remained by my side through it all. I can’t tell you how many fights I’ve had with her over me wanting to give up when things get hard and her refusing to let me. But her push is what I’ve needed.

Coming to terms with all of this has been hands down the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. And even then I’ve still tried to hold on to some semblance of perfection by saying that I had a “borderline eating disorder” – because it wasn’t typical and I felt like I had never gone “all in,” so I still didn’t want to believe I had a real problem. I just almost had a problem.

Even now I struggle to say the words “eating disorder.” I have yet to even call it what it is – “anorexia.” Typing it out is hard enough, but that word has not yet made it past my lips. I’ve only just recently started to work on that and take another step towards healing.

As much as I want to believe that that time in my life was a phase that is completely over and I will never struggle with it again, it’s not something that just disappears. I’ve had to learn that I still have an eating disorder. Anorexia is a disease that is just as much mental as it is physical. While I may not act on the thoughts and feelings that triggered that problem three years ago, that doesn’t mean those thoughts and feelings don’t still attack me. Frequently. The lies still come. I just choose each and every day how I respond. And that is a choice I will always have to make.

Posting this for the world to see feels like I’m completely shattering the reputation I meticulously built for myself and starting all over. I’m admitting to being a liar. A fake. A fraud.

I’m admitting I’m not perfect.

But by stepping into the light and exposing this truth, I am vowing to try harder.

To choose authenticity when deception is easier to default to.

To fight for healing.

To accept that this is a part of me, but it doesn’t define me.

And to believe that my story is still being written…

…and in that, I find hope.

Body Image, Fear, Identity, Relationships, Your Story

Perfectly Imperfect

January 20, 2016


Chelsea’s Story

“So what’s your story?”

I get this question a lot these days, being the “new girl in town” and constantly meeting new people.

My response usually consists of my life’s highlight reel: I was raised in the church…super involved in youth groups and Bible studies…went on three mission trips to Russia…went to a Christian college for a year…left to travel the country with a ministry for two years…then me and my big, bold faith packed up and moved to Nashville to take on the great unknown…and now here I am.

This is the me I tend to share. The me that has life all figured out. I humbly list off all of my perfect little bullet points knowing (from experience) that this is the list that will impress the socks off of most people I meet.

But that’s only because they don’t know about the me in between those events or behind the scenes. The me that I choose not to expose because, well, you just don’t show people the ugly in your life when you’re trying to make a good impression. You show them the perfect.

What I don’t tell people is that I shouldn’t be a virgin. After the situations that I put myself in with my first real boyfriend, parking and spending hours alone “watching movies,” it’s a miracle that I will one day be able to look my husband in the eye and tell him that he will be my first and my only.

I don’t tell people that I have never felt “good enough.” For anyone. Or anything. I so often feel inadequate and like I’m always failing or disappointing the people closest to me. When conflict arises in my family, I feel like I’m the problem…if I’m not there to stir the pot, everyone goes on living much more comfortably without me. With friends, it seems like I’m always the one making the effort, leaving me to wonder, if I didn’t do the work, would they actually reach out and want to keep up with our friendship?

I don’t tell people that one of my deepest desires is to fall in love and get married and have a family…and one of my greatest fears is that I will never have that because I will never be desirable in the eyes of any man (piggy-backing on the fact that I don’t feel like I’m good enough). I’ve never been the girl the guys chase after. I have had one boyfriend, and I did all the pursuing there. I have been pursued only once, and while it was a great change of pace and I learned so much, it just became clear that we weren’t right together before the relationship was ever defined. And now I’ve been single (if I don’t count that undefined “thing” from 2 years ago) for almost 6 years…and some days (most days) it just plain sucks.

I don’t tell people that I am SUPER insecure about my image. I hate summer because I’m not comfortable bearing my jiggle and my dimples in shorts. My flat chest and my big booty make me feel completely disproportionate and awkward. I cut my hair last year for the first time in eight years and I had to really prepare my heart for such a drastic change in my appearance (seriously, I shed some tears and had some intense conversations with the big guy leading up to that appointment).

These are the things I typically hide. Because I’ve become a master of disguise. I’m an actress. And I’ve learned to play confident, secure, and in control really well. I’m not the girl who struggles. I’m the girl who struggling people look to for advice. Because there’s nothing wrong with me.

So I have spent most of my life fighting to maintain this facade of perfection, because if anyone were to see the real me, I would lose all credibility.

Even now, trying to tell you girls this, the simplest thing about me – my story…even that is harder than you know. Because my perfectionism is constantly fighting for control of every move I make and word I say.

Girls, I have revised and scrapped and rewritten this post a dozen times just for my rough draft. I feel like I have to justify my story to you. I have to word it in the most eloquent, perfect way. Because perfectionism is my greatest downfall.

I’m realizing as I write this that I’ve used the words “perfect,” “perfection,” and “perfectionism” so much I probably sound like a broken record. But I guess that’s because that’s been the theme of my story. I am a perfectionist. It affects every area of my life and has been so damaging to me.

I’ve only just begun to be able to admit that I am not, nor will I ever be, perfect. And THAT’S OK. I am human. I will fail. I will struggle. I will fight daily battles, and I’ll have good days and bad. I want to say that I have healed and this is my turning point, but the truth is, this is only the beginning. I have started being honest with myself. I have started being honest with others. And it’s not over. I am still working on weeding out lies, and I’m still finding a way to believe, in the deepest part of my heart, the things I know to be true.

Very few people know any of this about me. It’s only been within the past year that I’ve started telling this story, all my junk and flaws included, instead of the one that sends the message that I have it all together. The one that’s safe. The one that allows me to hide comfortably from the judgement and ridicule I expect and the guilt and shame I feel like I’m drowning in.

I’m only just starting to learn that I will not sink. My head will stay above water, and in fact, I will rise. Because this is not what defines me. This is only a part of my story.

Community, Faith, Fear, Identity, Relationships, Suffering, Your Story

When life isn’t as we planned

January 15, 2016


By one of our readers:

I went into 2015 with hopes and dreams just like everyone else. I was finally in a relationship, I was graduating in May, and I had the rest of my life completely planned out. The first week of February I got extremely sick, and two weeks later I got diagnosed with Mononucleosis (Mono) and a bacterial infection. I couldn’t breathe, sleep, or eat. One morning I sat there crying in pain when I prayed “God take control of my life, it’s all yours. I can’t hold on anymore”. That night Proverbs 16:9, “In her heart a woman plans her course, but the Lord determines her steps”, became real in my life.

That night my boyfriend broke up with me (great timing, right?) and I was finally able to eat something other than soup, it was an emotional rollercoaster already. No one fully understands why God determines our steps the way He does or why we have to go through pain. From that night, my heartbreak only got more painful. We went to a small church together and every Sunday was salt on an open wound. I felt empty in a place where I should feel full. Then, our pastor preached on Romans 8:28 which says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose”. That verse confused every part of me. How was any of this good? All things? Are you sure, God? How can you show Your glory through this?

I missed two months of school and my weak body could barely keep up with my dropping grades. The college acceptance process was in full swing and our bank account was dry. Every scholarship I applied for was given to someone else, and the rejection hurt. My dream to go to a small private college was destroyed, while my pride was diminishing as the reality of community college drew near. So I prayed. I prayed for clear direction of my steps. I prayed to find a community of believers that loved me, supported me, and prayed for me. I prayed wondering if everything will really be for my good and for His glory.

The feeling of loneliness became real when I sat wearing my cap and gown at graduation surrounded by 352 classmates, completely without plans. My best friend was the valedictorian and my heart stopped when she read Jeremiah 29:11 in her speech. I could barely hold back the tears trying to escape. I could feel the arms of the God who I thought abandoned me, wrap around my body. I felt like David in his psalms; one minute full of anguish and the next full of joy.

The transition into college was challenging, even to the local community college. My campus is in the middle of a very religiously and culturally diverse city. I was sitting in class when I started to realize just how broken this world is. I am a social work major so seeing brokenness is my thing, but all I could see was how much Christ was being taken away. I was told I could not mention my faith or my beliefs whatsoever in any of the class discussions. I would leave class questioning the Bible and if God was real because everyone was so assured that I was wrong.

My college only has one Bible-preaching organization in five campuses. When I saw a booth at the activity fair with a huge flag saying “H2o Church”, my heart was stirred. I attended the first small group with hopes of Christ-centered friendships. It became painfully obvious that God had His hand in it the whole time. My leader just so happens to also be a social work major at the partnering 4-year college, crazy huh? God handed me someone who understood what I was going through the moment I needed it the most.

At our fall retreat quiet time, I sat alone by the lake reading the passage H2o is based off of, John 4. Jesus tells the Samaritan woman about how the water He can give will no longer make her thirst, because it comes from the spring of eternal life that only come through him. But then this happens,

“He told her, ‘Go, call your husband and come back.’ ‘I have no husband,’ she replied. Jesus said to her, ‘You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.’” (v. 16-18)

Jesus just showed how he knows EVERYTHING! He’s never met this woman before, but he knows her and her sin. Then,

“The woman said, ‘I know that Messiah’ (called Christ) ‘is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.’ Then Jesus declared, ‘I, the one speaking to you—I am he.’” (v.25-26)

This is one of the few times Jesus referred to Himself as the Messiah and Son of God. The fact that it is told to a sinful woman is astounding. He revealed Himself to her despite her sin, her doubts, or who she is.

In that moment, I realized what God was doing. He was revealing Himself to me in every step of that craziness. Despite my disbelief, heartbreak, and frustration, God used His Truth to show me who He is. He never left me. He wasn’t taking everything away from me. He wasn’t pushing me away.

He was showing His glory through my life.

This was all for my good and His glory.



This is Tiffany Noble’s story. She is 19 years old. She is from Columbus, Ohio and attends Columbus State Community College.


Faith, Family, Fear, Forgiveness, God, Identity, Redemption, Self-harm, Your Story

I am a messenger

January 8, 2016
By one of our readers:
My story started when I was 9 years old. I got baptized. Not because I got saved, but so I wouldn’t have to do it when I was older. I did it to “get it over with”. Somehow I didn’t understand that you had to make a personal commitment to Jesus and I didn’t understand how to do it. I repeated a prayer after my mom but didn’t understand what I was doing at all. Just that it made me uncomfortable.

I found out in middle school what being a Christian really meant. I thought I was okay. I had thought because I had been baptized me and Jesus were cool. Boy, was I wrong. I struggled with trying to find who I was in Christ. I always had a fear that my (many) prayers to God didn’t count. I had “lost my salvation” by not being good enough for God. I went back and forth, gaining Hid favor and then losing it. I was a selfish, selfish person. I wasn’t a “bad” kid but I was bad in the worst way. Now I realize how disrespectful, angry, and hurtful I had been to other people. I knew I wasn’t good. But I was too self-centered and self-righteous to realize I needed a change.

But I digress.

2011 was the worst year. I entered the year and was bombarded with more bad stuff in a few months than in my entire life. I found myself alone. I fell silent and shut myself off from everyone. I continued to put a happy face on when I was around others. I refused to let them see me cry. I was surrounded by the sickness and death of my family. I struggled with what I believed about myself, other people, and God. I wanted to die.

For 3 years I dealt with these horrible feelings of loneliness, misery, hatred, fear in its deepest form, and the realization of who I truly was. I was a horrible, selfish person. But I couldn’t change. I wouldn’t change. I just wanted to give up and die. That’s what my mind was telling me to do. I couldn’t keep going. No one wanted me to keep going. I wasn’t needed. I was a failure and a screw up who just made people sad so why go on?

In the midst of all that I clung to the pieces of my shattered faith in the form of music. I discovered what I was feeling in the words of Flyleaf, Disciple, RED, Skillet, Evanescence, Tenth Avenue North, and many other bands. God was using those bands to keep me going. My unhealthy fear of God, my family, and those lyrics kept me going. The words of Disciple’s “Invisible” kept playing in my head. “You’re not invisible to Me.”

One year things changed. I joined a Christian theatre group. There I found friends. And not just friends to go to when I wanted to have a good time. These were people who cared. They were living out the faith that I thought I believed. Something began to melt inside of me.

One night I had gotten a “gig” playing drums for the theatre group’s production of “The Wizard of Oz”. Completely last minute. The night of the second performance I was hurt by someone close to me. They basically said what I had been telling myself for 3 years. No one needed me. I sat backstage listening to the kids worship God before the show (a usual ritual for them) feeling all those things I had been dealing with…Then the worship leader said something. She said “You know, we never think about how miserable we are before we accept Christ.” A light went on. “God, I’m miserable now,” I thought. “and I’m sick of it.

Take me or leave me. I’m done.”
He took me.

My castmates saw the change. I felt the change.
I never had a suicidal thought from that day on.

That same year me and my family moved to Charlotte. I was healing. Even though that first year or two in Charlotte hurt and I was lonely and scared. I was healing. God began to speak to me. He put evangelism on my heart. Fear began to creep in and taint my relationship with Him.

April 8, 2015 I went to a Disciple concert. I was finally going to see this band that had influenced me so much when I was lost and suicidal. They played a bit of “Invisible” and then told the story behind it. I wept. The story was the lead singer was out of song ideas for their next album. He prayed for a song that God would use as a message to the generation he would be singing to.

“Wish you were someone else. Every night you fall to pieces. Wishing you could save yourself. I can see you, I can hear you…YOU’RE NOT INVISIBLE. YOU’RE NOT INVISIBLE TO ME.”
God had sent that song to me.
To keep me alive.
Why? Because He loves me. That’s the reason.
How could I hold back anything from Him? How could I let fear creep in and steal my joy? I could tell you so many more stories of God’s hand in my life but that would take more than 1000 words. I believe God wants me to be a messenger through the music industry. When I was saved He took my selfishness and melted my heart of stone. He placed the salvation of His beloved creation on my heart. He wants to use me to reach them.

I was once dead. Now I’m alive. I am a messenger for Him. He wants me to use my story to help other people. I am a messenger.

My playlist: “Invisible” by Disciple

“The Reason” by Lacey Sturm

“Not Alone” by RED

“Beloved” by Tenth Avenue North

“SOS (hope won’t let go)” by About a Mile

“Breaking Down” by Disciple
“Walk on Water” by Britt Nicole
“Isle of Flightless Birds” by twenty one pilots
“Messenger” by Lecrae
 This is Rachel Capps story. She is 19 years old from Charlotte, NC.
Faith, Family, Fear, God, Spiritual Life

Trail to Lake Louise

August 12, 2015

IMG_0951Lake Louise is a dream.

It’s a collection of glacial runoff in British Colombia that seems to glow a blue light. When I stood on the shore to take it in for the first time, my little eyeballs couldn’t quite process the beauty. It looked like an enhanced, 2D postcard.

About a year ago, my parents decided to spend part of last summer in Canada exploring as a family. My brother and I knew my mom had been set on seeing Lake Louise in her lifetime ever since she saw it in a magazine YEARS ago. So we packed hiking boots and Clif bars galore. Our days were filled with early morning walks around the lake, hikes through the woods, rock climbing, and trying to find local pubs for dinner to escape the other tourists.

And then came the Alpine Hut. Along the ridge of the Canadian Rockies, there are a series of huts and only the most serious mountaineers make the ascent to the huts to stay overnight. No electricity, plumbing, or food access because they’re on ancient glaciers. So naturally, my mom signed us up.

Kyle was our guide.

He lived in a cabin in the forest and didn’t have a cell phone.

He wore the same clothes for three days and smelled like the earth.

His main occupation was repelling out of helicopters to rescue hikers that were stranded in the mountains.

We felt taken care of.

We met in a parking lot one morning, stuffed warm clothes, sausage, and water bottles into our packs, and started walking. There was a general direction that everyone took to get to the hut, but no obvious trail. Hours and miles and hours and miles later, we see the sandy colored shell of a shelter stand out against the white ice surrounding it. That night we collected water from the glacier to drink, pooped in a bucket for a helicopter to eventually pick up, slid around on the ice as the sun went down, and sat around the wood stove after dark. We wore all the clothes we brought and huddled together on the plywood shelf that was our bed to stay warm at night.

There was something about the silence that made the cold night feel like home.

There was something about how the starlight came through the window of the shelter that taught me about the ever-presence of God.

Also, Kyle snored like a beast from somewhere across the room.


When the morning came, I was intimidated.

From how freezing my body was.

From how the others staying in the hut were gathering ice picks to continue their journey.

From how my muscles were sore from the day before.

From how this trip with my family was the last before I became a wife.

I wished for a shortcut to the parking lot where the car was parked and was dreading the trail down the mountain. The sky felt only feet away because the haze was thick and the snow was coming down. We sat looking out the window waiting for a break in the weather. It never came so we started anyway. Kyle went first.

Where the rocks were slippery from the snow, he gave each of us a hand to where conditions were safe. Where we had to cross the river that had risen overnight, he built up a few stones so we could cross.

Where there were gaps between the boulders that were too wide to jump, he went before us and would grab each of our arms when we stumbled across. Even my strong Colombian dad had to rely on someone else’s strength at different times.

It was so much easier to cross the risen river and take a step a bit too far for comfort from rock to rock knowing that someone was going to make sure I didn’t fall.

As we descended from the high altitudes and our bodies warmed up, God informed my heart that in the same way Kyle helped me, He was there. After that trip, I was about to step into a year of transition and was asking God for sure-footedness for the trail ahead. I didn’t know if I was “ready” to be married, or “qualified” enough to graduate college, or “sure” about where He was calling me to work.

He told me to step intentionally with Him, but keep stepping, to know that He was there and His glory was in the present and future. In life with Jesus, the confidence that He always goes before us is enough to take a step. He knows the trail ahead. He has been there day and night and says it’s okay to continue when we are unsure.

…if God is for us, who can be against us?

[romans 8:31]

So many of my interactions online and in person with girlfriends, obviously including AGLM ladies, are about how you’re not sure what’s ahead. What is God going to do with your life? Where does he want you to go to school? What job should you work? Who should you marry? I’ve asked Him EVERY single one of those questions and a million more. This is what the Bible says:

rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you

[1 thessolonians 5:16-18]

But wait?! That’s so simple! God knows that when we stop rejoicing, forget to communicate with Him, and quit being thankful, our eyes wander and our hearts grow weary. May we be courageous women to take a step and know that He is there.

There is nowhere that God hasn’t already been.

To the most extreme, He willing took the cross to defeat death.

And offer us life with Him.

In the striving. In the pressure. In the steps that feel too far, He is there holding out a hand.

I’ll take any risk when I know God is the firm foundation on which I stand.