Dear Young Woman Planning Her Life…

Dear young woman in the coffee shop,

You’re sitting at the table next to me with your friend doing homework. I’m also doing homework. You’re so young. Younger than me. You don’t know me. You don’t know I’m even listening (I’m sorry for eavesdropping. I know it’s rude.) But I know you. I recognize your heart and mind because in many ways it mirrors my own at times.

You graduated early from high school with your associates degree. You think you know what you want. But for some reason, a reason that you can’t see, dreams are being delayed. You’re looking at taking a break for a year. The hard work making you run on empty. You’re scared of the unknown. You’ve always known what you want. And now you don’t. You don’t know if you’re cut out for what you’re hoping to study. You don’t know what comes next. I hear you tell your friend in a panicked voice, “I wanted to graduate University by 20. Work by 21. Married by 25. And have kids by 27. But if I delay it, all that gets thrown off. Then there was no point in me graduating early, I’ll be graduating at the same time as all my other classmates and it wasn’t worth the work.”

I was you. In fact, our drive to succeed is almost identical. I also graduated early. I thought I knew what I wanted, and I too tried to plan out my 20’s. I’m not much older than you, in fact, I’m not even mid-20’s yet. But I’ve learned a lot, and I intimately know the pressure to have an answer. I know that desire of some evidence that you’ve succeeded in something. That this hard work wasn’t (and isn’t) for nothing. To feel like you have a place in this world that’s yours. I also thought I’d be graduated by 20. That I’d travel the world and have my dream job. That I’d be in love and married by now. That I’d have my own home. I’ve thought a lot.

But, if I’ve learned anything in the few years post-high school, it’s this: things change, and not everything stays the same for long. Not even the hard things. While it is okay to grieve, remember that it’s worth it. All of the hard, is worth it, and no one expects you to stay perfectly within this timeline but you.

I’m learning that while there is much heartbreak, and tears, and hard in your 20’s…there is much growth. Growth in not knowing. Growth in waiting. Growth in hoping. Growth in being told no and rejected. Growth in success and hard work.

I don’t know if you know Jesus. But I do know that you feel overwhelmed, and scared. But my Jesus…He is not. He sees you, and knows your end. He knows you and everything He has for your life, and He is not rushed. Everything happens exactly as He determines. There’s rest in that only because He is good. Kind. Glorious. Gentle. Perfect. Even if it doesn’t line up with what we think is best.

So, Young Woman, it’s okay to be nervous. But jump. Keep jumping. Keep going. Trust Jesus. Because who you will become in the work, and the loss, and the joy and success…is a beautiful thing.

Thoughts Inspired by an Old Journal

I found an old journal today.

That’s not surprising, though. I have journals on every shelf of my book shelf, and in my closet. I’m a writer, after all. Most of my journals are still half-empty. I move on to new ones quickly, to document a new kind of journey. But, not this one. This one is filled. I know it well, it was my most favorite journal. It feels heavy, but not too heavy for a purse or backpack. It’s worn, but not ugly. Blue, my favorite color. The lines were the perfect distance apart. It’s the journal where I learned to be honest with myself about how I felt.

Growing pains of emotional maturity don’t ache softly. They tear through heart and mind like scissors cutting through paper. Even that is too elegant of an analogy, because it’s brutal.

This particular journal documents a feelings of loneliness. Isolation. I felt worthless and unlovable. I thought that life was not worth living. I couldn’t see hope for the future because I didn’t know what my future was supposed to look like. I’m sure many have felt similar. I find that I often feel as if I walk in a space of aimlessness while being filled with ambition that has nowhere to rest. Waiting is not an easy task for the doer. But even while I felt that way, the Lord was teaching me and growing me in that season.

I’ve learned a lot through journaling. Mostly that there is healing in honesty. I recently saw a quote that said, “No one warns you about the amount of mourning in growth.” I’ve mourned a lot. Not always recognizing that in the waiting I’m growing, or dare I say, that in my mourning and depression I’m being shown mercy and grace. I have many pages FILLED line by line with honest and ugly confession. It isn’t pretty, and I’d be reluctant to share it with anyone while I’m still living.

One of the beautiful part about this journal, is while there are pages filled with ugly confession, the next pages are often filled with Scripture and truth. On the left is a page filled with my hurt and mourning, and the right page is titled, “Colossians 3.” Perhaps this is why it’s my favorite chapter. It carried me and grounded me often. “Seek the things that are above,” and, “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ.” Or how about, “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator.”

The even more beautiful part is that this didn’t just happen once, it happened over and over again. It happened in later journals. It’s happening in my current journal. Over and over again He’s used the growing pains to push me to Himself. He’s been gracious and showed Himself to me, continuously, in new and intimate ways.

I find it interesting that my last blog post “Rock of Age, Cleft for Me” was written almost a year ago now. I had no idea what my family and I would endure that year. I lost people, relationships, plans, and dreams. I’ve grieved much. Grief changes people. Grief is someone walking into a pristine white home, with a big permanent marker and scissors. They draw on walls and cut holes into soft things. It touches everything. Not one area is left unchanged.

Change and growth requires pain and a certain form of death. I find myself now writing very similar journal entries to those I wrote years ago. Except now, Lamentations 3 has become my friend and comfort. I model many of my journal entries after it.

If you’re unfamiliar with what lament means or why the book of Lamentations is a thing, let me explain:

Lament is a deep expression of grief. I once heard that “lamenting” is when “life gets in your bones.” When the heaviness of life is so deep that it feels like your bones ache with the weight of the grief.

Though it’s poetry, Lamentations is written almost like a journal entry. The author, Jeremiah, is grieving over the destruction and loss of his people and country. The book itself is rather depressing, I won’t pretend that it’s pretty. It isn’t. It’s painful.

You have chapter one and two of him mourning, and declaring to be forgotten, and abandoned. But then…then we have this beautiful chapter three. It’s actually not even the whole of chapter three, because the beautiful part starts in verse 23, “But this I call to mind, therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in Him.” It goes on for a bit, and then the emotions and present troubles wash over the prophet’s mind once more, until finally, again, he declares that the Lord has heard his cries and has redeemed him. In the midst of the hurt, Jeremiah reminds himself of God’s faithfulness and clings to Him.

Life is filled with lamentations. Christian’s aren’t to pretend that grief and hardships aren’t a reality for us. The fact is that we live in a fallen world. It’s broken. We have much to lose in life: Spouses, homes, jobs, friends, relationships, stuff, etc. But over the last year, I’ve noticed that every time I’ve “lost” someone, or even something I thought was necessary, I’ve realized I’ve gained much too. Without seasons of lamentations, brokenness, and growing pains, I don’t know that I’d know Jesus like I know Him today. In seasons of lament, we cling to our hope: Jesus.

I hate loss, please don’t hear me say that I’m looking for suffering, or that I don’t cry often. I find that my cheeks are often wet with sorrowful tears. I face new growing pains today. They tear through my very bones one day, and seem almost nonexistent the next. I hate losing what I thought for sure was mine to keep. But nothing is mine. People aren’t mine. Things aren’t mine. Even my constant dreams and new plans aren’t mine to keep. All that is mine, is Christ.

“Hallelujah all I have is Christ!”

He is mine, I am His, and it’s enough. He reminds me that daily, though I’m prone to wander, and quick to forget. He alone is mine, and He satisfies my needs. He truly is the Living Water that quenches my thirst.
Therefore, if I lose much, if I endure many seasons in which I face growing pains of loneliness and isolation, if I fill 100 more journals with painful prayers, if I lose friends, family, and home, if I weep often, it will be worth it if I might know Christ all the more. Therefore, let my prayer truly be, “Only let me get to Jesus Christ.”

“Behold your little handmaiden, Acceptance-with-Joy.”


Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me.


I’m going to confess something to you all…since we’re friends here.

            I struggle with anxiety. Not the cute romanticized version of anxiety where sometimes I get scared. Oh no. The crying, heart racing, shaking, I-want-to-pass-out-and-I-feel-like-I’m-going-to-die-please-take-me-away-from-here anxiety.

A Christian who reads her bible, sings worship songs, and goes to church struggles with anxiety. I know the scriptures that remind us that, “Perfect love casts out all fear.” And God is Love. I know there is nothing to fear, because He has overcome the world. One of my favorite passages of scripture is Psalm 27, where the first verse speaks about not being fearful and trusting God. I can even logically explain away most of my fears.

But, sometimes, it hits me like a truck barreling through a red light at 90 miles per hour. And I don’t see it coming. I have no time to hit the brakes or get out of the way. Sometimes, there’s just no way to prepare for it.

I’ve spent many days staring at a building, wishing I could go in, but instead I stay frozen, paralyzed by a fear I can’t name. I’ve spent many days crying, begging myself to get over it because life can’t stop. But in those moments, I can’t seem to even open my car door.

Some people would tell me it’s a lack of faith. That I don’t believe God will do what He says He will. That I’m choosing not to trust in the God who has proved Himself faithful and strong in the past. Some days I agree with them. I end up criticizing myself so deeply, that I find myself questioning if I’m even a believer. I’ve told myself that if I truly believed God, I wouldn’t wrestle in this way.

Others, would like me to wrap myself in a blanket of victimization and say that this is hopeless and meaningless, and that I should make myself comfortable in my suffering because this is never going to get better. Sometimes, I join this chorus, and I’d like to curl up into my blankets to weep over my plight. “Eh, so you peaked at 18. Just stay in bed and suffer…nothing else good can happen anyways. Anxiety will always ruin it.”

On the in between days, when I’m simply living life, I question God honestly, “Lord, I read Your word. I believe Your word. I love to worship You. I love Your people. Why am I plagued with this? I’ve done what I know to do. Why do you allow this?”

In the midst of my questioning, my mother shared one of my most favorite quotes with me. It’s by Charles Spurgeon, and it says, “I have learned to kiss the waves, that throw me against the Rock of Ages.”  I’ve loved that quote, and thought of it many times in my struggle as I’ve prayed that the Lord would just use this battle for His glory. That maybe, just maybe, I could see more of Him because of it.

Last summer, on a family vacation to the Oregon Coast, I went to a small cove made up of cliffs and all things lovely. When the tide is out there are tide pools galore, but when it’s high tide the waves crash loud and hard against the cliffs of rock, barnacles, and mussels. We went during high tide and I climbed up onto the cliff that was absolutely covered in barnacles and sharp rocks. It was here that I chose to crouch down and watched the bluish-grey, and green water slam into the cliffs over and over again. I was mesmerized by them. Morbidly, I imagined what it would feel like to fall in. The feeling of freedom as you fall would be short-lived. One can only imagine the sheer agony of being slammed against the jagged rocks and barnacles. I watched as the waves didn’t just gently kiss the rocks like they did the sand on the shore. Oh, no. These waves were angry. They beat the rocks with cold fists of fury.

I felt the weight of this as the Lord reminded me of the quote, “I’ve learned to kiss the waves that throw me against the Rock of Ages.”

How could anyone kiss the waves after being thrown against these rocks? How could anyone learn to love something that has caused so much pain?

Frustrated by my own questions, I moved on from my place on the rock. I rounded the corner, and climbed down and into the cove where I was met with more massive cliffs. Only, these ones had caves that had been carved into them after years of the ocean beating into the rock. Some of the caves were huge, some of them were only big enough for one person. But each one provided warmth, shelter, and rest when the ocean was just too powerful. They provide a break from the heaviness of the ocean. They don’t take away the power of the ocean. They don’t make the ocean disappear. But they provide rest for when the wind and waves feel unbearable. I walked into a cave for shelter and gazed at the ocean before me. In the quiet, I let the quote wash over me again:

“I’ve learned to kiss the waves that throw me against the Rock of Ages.”

          Everyone wrestles with an “ocean,” at least once in their life. Maybe even more than once, and for years. Others, live on the ocean. It can feel like we’re drowning, like we can’t get our heads above the waves.

In some seasons, the waves immediately push us into the cleft where it’s safe, and that’s a beautiful thing.

But, maybe the sea is raging, and we begin to find ourselves pushed into the “Rock,” only this time, it doesn’t feel safe like the ones before. This Rock isn’t soft and gentle. It actually cuts and breaks parts of us. Maybe a rib, or an arm. A leg. It genuinely hurts us…and of course it does. Because suffering is painful. Being stripped of our flesh hurts deeply. But if we wait, and endure that which feels like death, we may find ourselves pushed into the safety of the cleft where we can find rest in the Rock of Ages. We may grow to find a deeper intimacy with Him that we’d not known before. We may see that the suffering wasn’t worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed. (Romans 8:18.)

The Rock of Ages is both just and loving. There will be seasons when we are pushed into the safety of His hand, and there will be seasons when he allows suffering to help shape and mold us.

So maybe now you’re asking, “Okay, Alyssa…but what does this have to do with your anxiety?”

Anxiety is my “ocean.” It is unpredictable. It is beyond my complete control. It is bigger and stronger than I am. I can manage it better. Keeping my eyes heavenward makes the ocean easier to survive. When my eyes are on Jesus, or the heavens where He sits enthroned above all, I can stay alive. Sometimes, my anxiety and I coexist.

Or, when I’m sure it’s going to drown me and kill me, instead, I find it pushing me into the safety of Jesus’ arms, or the clefts within the Rock.

And yet, even still, sometimes my anxiety pushes me into the jagged rocks. My anxiety throws me against it so that I have nowhere else to look but Him, and cry out. Here, my flesh is slowly stripped away to create a new person. Always for my good. Always for His glory.

Anxiety and mental health issues are complicated. It is frustrating to the one who struggles with it, and to those they love. There are people that I love deeply who struggle with deeper wounds, and bigger oceans. I often wish I could reach to them, and pull them out. But I cannot. And they cannot pull me out of mine. It feels unfair. It’s painful and confusing. I won’t try to convince you otherwise. I’m no fool. This pain is real. These struggles exist.

But I will say this: It isn’t meaningless. It’s producing beautiful fruit. My struggle with anxiety allows me to know Jesus in a deeply intimate way, that those who don’t struggle with anxiety won’t get to experience. My friends and family struggle in other areas that I do not, and they will know Jesus in an intimate way that I may never experience.

Maybe this is you too. Perhaps, you have an “ocean” and you’re questioning God. But I promise it is worth it. Every ounce of physical and spiritual pain, and exhaustion is worth it. Because I know, like Paul, that for those that are in Christ, “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us,” (Romans 8:18.)

Let the “ocean” do the job it has been allowed to do. Let it push you into Jesus…both His suffering and His rest. There you will find contentment, and dare I say, joy. Our peace isn’t found in our ability to withstand the ocean. It’s bigger than us. We cannot withstand it. If not for Jesus, it would consume us. We must find peace in the knowledge that it is Christ who works through it, so that we might know Him deeper.

So, I have learned, and am learning, to kiss the waves, that throw me against the Rock of Ages. I pray you join me.

“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down but not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus Christ, so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.”
2 Corinthians 4:8-10

Thank You Mays Family.

To the parents who became my closest friends,
            Thank you.
Val and Brian, you were only looking for a nanny when you hired me. I was an 18-year-old, fresh high school graduate, with a background in Children’s Ministry and love for kids. You took a chance on me. Val, you met me at Panera one night after I got off work. You bought me my dinner, you asked me questions, and you let me share my testimony, and life with you. You’ve always been so easy to talk to.
A week later, you invited me into your home. I pulled into your long driveway. It was December, it was cold, and I was concerned about how I would back out and down the hill without ruining your yard (I still find this challenging two years later.) Your bright blue door seemed to welcome me, and as I stepped inside your home for the first time, I felt safe. I took off my shoes, and within seconds I met Lucy Melissa. We bonded quickly. Then, you introduced me to your tiny babe, Leah Jay. She was so small.  She slept in my arms, and rested against me for several hours that day.
I spent the day with your family. I worked hard to prove that I wanted to be a part of your life. Val, you made me feel like I was your best friend. You have this unique skill of making people feel loved and welcomed without even trying. Little did I know, you would actually become one of my best friends. One with whom I’d cry, and laugh with. Who understood me, and loved me even when I was messy. Who made me coffee, set out my favorite water cup, and bought all my favorite snacks just because you loved me. I needed a friend like you. You were a gift from the Lord, and I’m so incredibly blessed that He allowed us to meet.
Then, I met you, Brian. You came home that first night, exhausted from work, but incredibly hospitable to the stranger in your home. You immediately treated me like a little sister. You made me laugh, and teased me. Conversations lasting well past my “quitting time,” and I never regretted staying. You loved people. You cared deeply, and I appreciate your thoughtfulness and advice to this day.
You two hired me that night. And thus, began the beautiful two-year process of becoming a family with a “Sissa.”  I will forever and ever be thankful and praise the Lord I was given this opportunity. You loved me as if I was your own sister, and I deeply treasure that relationship. Thank you for taking care of me, and cherishing me. For serving me.
I love you two.

To the two beautiful little girls who changed me in more ways than one,
            Thank you.

I was with you for three days a week (or more), nine hours a day, for two years, and you taught me so much.
You taught me to be patient.
You taught me to look for the little bugs on the ground, and the birds in the sky (despite my fears) and rejoice.
You taught me to compromise.
You taught me to stand firm in my beliefs…especially, in regards to whether or not you needed another cookie.
You taught me to sing nursery rhymes…900 times a days.
You taught me how to change blow-out diapers in a zoo restroom.
But mostly, you helped teach me how to love deeply, and authentically.
Lucy Melissa, I pray you never lose your sense of logic and empathy. I loved arguing with you, and having deep conversations about the weather, how to bake, and why people feel things the way they do. I love that you love so fiercely, and love talking to people. You talk to anyone and everyone, about everything that’s on your mind. I love your authenticity, and honesty. You’re one of the smartest little ones I know. I often catch you staring off into space, and when I ask you what you’re thinking about, you have a big idea ready to explain to me. I truly believe you’re going to do big things one day. I pray you do them for Jesus. That you’d fall in love with Him and use that big, beautiful, smart brain to know Him even more. I can’t wait to see all that He has for you.
Leah Jay, my sassy queen. You are every bit as smart as your sister, and every bit as sassy as she is logical. When you were a baby I used to play Christian Hip-Hop, and it was the only thing that could calm you down. It’s still your favorite to dance to. You feel so deeply. You are the introvert. Many days you feel like my extra limb, because you’re always at my feet, or in my arms, or sitting on me. You are already nurturing. You change a baby doll’s diaper better than any child I’ve ever met, and you’re always trying to wipe your sister’s face. I pray that you would fall deeply in love with Jesus, and that He would show you how to use all of those big emotions to win people to Him, because He will, and He’s going to show you how to take care of people. Please let Him show you. Because if you do, it’s going to be grand.
Ladies, I’m going to miss our morning dance parties. I loved dancing with you two. I’m going to miss getting your “tiny snacks,” for you…even if you’d only eat half of it before you decided you needed another one. I’m going to miss the cuddling and watching Daniel Tiger. I’m going to miss you falling asleep in my arms, and watching the little smile you get when I kiss your cheeks. The squeezes around my neck, and the blanket nests. The summer days when popsicle juice ran down your chins and I was given sticky kisses. Explaining flower blooms, and cottonwood. Listening for the thunder, and watching the rain. I loved teaching you about Jesus. Truly, not much gave me greater joy than to sing, “For God so Loves the World…” and reading your Storybook Bible with you two. I hope you always love to pray and remember that Jesus loves you.
I’m going to miss the hard too. I’m going to miss sick days and having to bring a change of clothes every day because something will be spilled on me. I’m going to miss talking through tantrums, and working through big emotions. The messes. The screams. Kissing owies. Girls, please remember to use big-girl-words, and always take at least one no-thank-you-bite for Mama and Papa.
I hope you two know how much I loved you…love you. It breaks my heart that my role in your family has to change, but I’m so thankful that I’ll still get to see you, though far less than I once did. I want you to understand how much I adored you, how grateful I was for you, and while I may take care of other babies now, you two will always be the little girls who changed me. I’ll never stop praising God for that sweet life blessing.


I love you to the moon and back.
Love, Sissa.



Look Up.

I am the first born in my family. I like to say I’m a “leader.” My siblings would say I “nag.” For my own dignity, let’s compromise and say I’m “bossy.” I’m also extremely driven. I love moving forward. I love working hard and seeing the fruit of my labors. I don’t give up quickly. A trait that my mom likes to illustrate by telling the story of how I learned to roller skate.

The house I grew up in had a big grassy hill in the backyard. One day, after getting new roller skates, I strapped them on and took to the hill to learn how to use them. My mom told me I couldn’t learn how to roller skate by going down a hill. I was determined to get it, and prove her wrong. Unsurprisingly, I fell. A lot. But, guess what? I learned how to roller skate going down a hill.

Now, when I’m presented with a challenge, my mom and I will laugh and say, “Alyssa. You can’t learn to roller skate going down a hill,” knowing that I will prove this obstacle wrong. Even if it hurts.

All my life, I’ve pushed for my goals, regardless of what people thought or said. Did words hurt me? Absolutely. But, I always set my eyes on what I’ve wanted, and got it. I started working as soon as I could to pay for a car and independence. I graduated with my first college degree at 18. I’ve taken college level math classes, and science classes. Neither of which I enjoyed. But, I couldn’t let them beat me, so I passed.

As a child, and as a college student this has proved beneficial. School and work has never been easy, but it’s always been conquered.

But, as a Child of God…this has proved most challenging.

It would seem that in regards to this area of my life, I’m a slow learner. The Lord has consistently put me in positions where I can fight, and kick, and work as hard as I’d like, but until He says yes, I stay put. He’s done this in the area of school, career, and relationships. It would seem that all of these things will only happen in His timing, no matter how badly I want them, or what I try to do to speed up the process.

Why? Because, my Heavenly Father does not concern Himself with what will make me most happy, but what will give Him the most glory. I’ve had to realize that I am spoiled. Horribly, and repulsively spoiled by my own ambition.

Waiting on the Lord isn’t easy. It often feels like a balancing act between being okay, and grasping desperately for some shred of hope. Some days, it is hard to even utter the words, “God is enough,” because in the wait, there is a lot of heart wrenching doubts about Him. I’ve doubted that He satisfies. That the Lord remembers me. That He cares about my wait. That He hears my cries. That He wants to bless me.

In the midst of this, at times, agonizing wait, the Lord speaks to me through His Word and in my prayers. Every time I start to dwell on, or whine about, things I’m waiting for, I hear the Lord gently whisper, “Look up, Child. Up. Up.”

I read Genesis 15 this week, and my eyes focused on a couple of phrases. While God is addressing Abram, about His promise for Abram, I couldn’t help but think the Lord was telling me something similar. “Look up, and count the stars…”

“Look to the heavens…”

It is incredibly challenging to see His faithfulness when my eyes are focused on this World’s shortcomings. God didn’t ask Abram, “Well, how old are you and your wife, again?” He didn’t ask to be told all of the problems that seem to stand in the way of the blessing. Instead, He told Abram to look up, and reiterated His promise. And Abram believed the Lord, and He counted him righteous.

“The promises of blessings from God take patient, and steadfast faith as we wait on God.” –Phil Spagnolo.

In Colossians, Paul tells the church, “Set your minds upon the things that are above, not on the things that are on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (3:2-3)

This means, that God has already proved Himself faithful to bless me. He saved me. So, even if I never get what I’m (sometimes not) so patiently waiting for here on earth, He has already done more abundantly than I could think to ask.

It is better to wait on the Lord than to go through the agony of pushing for our own way. Those of us who wait, may wait for forever, and it will mean all glory to God. He is better than anything we may be waiting on, and hoping for, here on Earth. So, we must look up.

“My soul, wait in silence for God only,

For my hope is from Him.”

Psalm 62:5

Plain Jayne

My middle name is Jayne. I have brown hair that isn’t curly, but it definitely isn’t straight, and it’s not even always wavy. Most days it does what it wants because I’m no match for its stubbornness, and I’ve learned not to fight a battle I can’t win. I have light blue, narrow eyes. I’m five feet, six inches tall.  I wear the same three cardigans at least five days out of the week, and the same two pairs of jeans. I have a favorite pair of boots and I’ve worn them every single day since I opened them on Christmas morning.

I am literally a “plain Jayne.”

When I was five-years-old I learned what the word “fat” meant. I stood outside my family’s tiny duplex, barefoot in the bright green grass my dad had taken such good care of, and listened to my friend’s cousin talk about how he would never date this girl he knew because, “she’s fat.” I remember being thoroughly confused by this statement because as far as I was concerned every person was beautiful (except for the bad guys I saw on that Cop show my dad watched,) and their size had nothing to do with it.  When I asked them what being fat meant, they said, “Fat people are ugly! No one likes fat girls.”

Before that day, I genuinely did not understand that being bigger equated to being less beautiful. After that conversation, my eyes were opened and I started seeing that way the world defined beauty was completely different than I previously thought. Society taught me that anything outside of their norms was not beautiful, and all of a sudden, I was terrified of being “fat.”

I would think, “What if people don’t love me?”

That question haunts me to this day.

By ten-years-old, I was convinced I was the fattest ten-year-old alive. Every single one of my friends were thin, athletic, and while I was not their size, I was far from fat. I couldn’t wear the same clothes as them because I was bigger. By ten-years-old I was five feet tall and they were still barely the size of 4th graders. I remember thinking every day that they were beautiful and I just existed. In addition to this, the boys all liked them more than me.

“Who wants to be with a girl that’s taller than them?”

In sixth grade, I gained a tremendous amount of weight. My life was turned upside down as my parents struggled in their marriage, my mom found out she was pregnant with my sister, and we moved out of my childhood home to live with my grandmother.

By the end of sixth grade, I was round, awkward, and I made the poor decision to chop my hair off into the worst bob in the history of haircuts. It framed my chunky face and accentuated the extra weight I carried. Every morning I would look in the mirror and tell myself, “You are not loveable. You are not beautiful. You are fat.”

Even more haunting is that a young man in my class, screamed at me one day calling me a, “fat ass,” confirming every one of my worst fears. I was fat. I was not beautiful and I was unlovable according to the world.

Little did I know I would grow an extra three inches to be the height I am now, and my body would use the extra weight I carried. I grew my hair out long. I could run a mile in eight minutes; I was strong. I gained friends. I was excelling in school. Guys took notice of me for the first time in my life. I had people’s attention, and they loved me.

At sixteen, I stepped on the scale every day for validation. Every day it told me what I wanted…until, one day it didn’t. The light switch in my brain turned off. The thought of starting my day left me weepy and anxious because I resented getting dressed. I covered my face with makeup, not because I wanted to, but because I had to. When I stood in front of a mirror, I couldn’t walk away until I pointed out every single flaw. My eyes, like a microscope on my body, zeroed in on each imperfection. On some days, I was nicer to myself and would only pick one thing to hate, but still I heard the voice of my classmate, even two years later.

“Fat ass”.

Other days I would fall into a ball on the floor of my bedroom and cry so hard I’d choke on my own sobs. Digging my hands into the threads on the carpet, and wonder why. Why couldn’t I be beautiful? Why couldn’t I be loved?

“Unlovable. Unworthy. Not wanted.”

Soon, those thoughts became comfortable. Self-hatred became a normal part of who I was and I retracted from people.

“Who’d love a shy fat girl who doesn’t even like herself?”

Hating what made me intrinsically me, was easy after a short time. The voice of hatred rang loud and sharp in my ears constantly, and eventually I accepted what I heard as truth. I walked around for a year just accepting those harsh comments as truth before a friend called me out.

I told her, that I didn’t think this guy I liked would ever like me because I wasn’t pretty or thin enough.

She questioned me boldly, “Do you really think that’s true or do you just think that?”

To me, it was all the same.

The simple question rocked my world. Not once did I consider that my own thoughts may be traitorous. This caused me to ask myself, “Why would I lie to myself?”  Or better yet, “Why would I be so hostile toward myself?”

During this time, I was getting over a heart-wrenching break up with a boy I truly believed I was going to marry. While we were together, I allowed him to give me my identity and purpose. I was happy when he was happy, and when he wasn’t, I fell apart. My life became maintaining his emotions. So, when it ended, I was left to pick of the pieces of my identity and I had no idea what I was supposed to do. I was lost.

I became a shell of a human. I would wake up, cry, and pull myself together long enough to talk to my family. Talking to people outside of my immediate family proved too challenging, and I stopped responding to texts, invites or calls. Every day, I would pull my brown hair, that isn’t curly or straight, into a bun. I tried to change the color of my hair four times, but nothing made me happy. I took no pride in the clothes I wore because I hated my body. When I’d brush my teeth, I tried desperately not to make eye contact with myself, because if I did, I’d have to listen to that familiar cruel voice that was louder than ever.

It took me two years to look myself in the eyes again, and see that my life had purpose. I spent my time choosing to believe that my identity wasn’t something as miniscule as my physical traits. But, instead that my identity consists of a multitude of pieces that make up who I am as a whole. I repeated scripture to myself daily, I clung to prayer. It was a fragile practice, but it was working.

I lived like this for several months, and I’d just started to get used to it when my ex confronted me again and asked me to coffee. I told him yes, but only to explain why I could not simply be a placeholder for a position in his life. We’d decided to go after church.

That morning, my mom left for the early service and I decided I would ride with my dad. I stood in the bathroom and did my eyeliner for thirty minutes straight. Just trying to get it to be even. Removing it, and starting over. Removing it, and starting over. The longer I stood there, the louder the voice would get.

“He’s using you. He doesn’t need you. He left because you weren’t pretty enough. You will never be enough.”

It made no sense. I didn’t want him back, but I wanted him to want me.

I began slamming drawers in search for another cotton swab, which attracted my dad like a moth to a flame. He walked in frustrated because I was slamming drawers in his house, but after watching me for a moment, he asked, “What’s going on?”

I shook my head furiously. This had nothing to do with him. But I desperately wanted him to understand. Instead of a verbal answer, I threw my eyeliner directly at the mirror, which rattled angrily.

It was then he knew. My father stepped forward and wrapped me in his arms. The comfort of him allowed me to release the emotions I’d locked away.

“He doesn’t get to have this power over you. People don’t define you, you hear me?” My dad whispered to me, “You’re better than this. You’re beautiful, and smart, and worth love.”

I could only nod, and fight for control.

Those words comforted a deep wound in my heart, and began to disciple me. I started to realize that my entire life I allowed others to tell me who I was. From the time, I was five-years-old there’s been a fear of not measuring up to an invisible standard of perfection.

So, I met my ex for coffee that day, and I managed to say what I needed to say, armed with the knowledge that I was worthy whether he thought so, or not.

Four years later, I know who I am. I’m still learning, and studying what it means to be fearfully and wonderfully designed in complete uniqueness. I trust that no one can take that away from me. Not a man, not a woman, not even I can take that away.

But, sometimes, I still sit on the floor of my bedroom and cry. I still have days where I feel unlovable or ugly. Where I wake up, and can’t find one thing to rejoice in. Those days still come, and they still pierce my heart with daggers. But, even on days where I weep over my insecurities, I have a deep-rooted joy, because I know the truth. I believe that I bear the image of my Heavenly Father, and that makes me worthier than any person, standard, or jean size could ever make me.

It’s been an all-out war with my desires, but I’ve begun to accept that I may never be traditionally beautiful. It’s simply not in the hand I’ve been dealt. Instead, I recognize that I am meant to be a woman of beautiful character—one who loves others well, who seeks righteousness, and strives to fulfill her purpose. I don’t have to look like a magazine model to be that. I don’t have to be perfect. That’s so freeing, because I’m not perfect. I still have brown hair that isn’t curly or straight, and most days it’s still in a bun. I still have narrow blue eyes. I still wear the same three cardigans and two pairs of jeans. I’m still five feet, six inches tall. I still wear the same pair of boots and my middle name is still Jayne. But, now, I trust that I am so much more than all of that. I am so much more than a, “plain Jayne.”


A few weeks ago, I wrote a paper called, “Plain Jayne.” The title was a play on my middle name, Jayne, and my struggle as I’ve fought to see the value in my identity. In the paper, I disclose my battle with my appearance and a deep-rooted fear that I’d never be loved because I didn’t “measure up” to an invisible standard.

I believe decent art is vulnerable. Raw. Real. So, what would be better to write about than my fifteen-year battle against believing that I was genuinely ugly, and my fear that I’d never be enough for anyone?

I knew I wasn’t the only woman, or human, to ever struggle with this. But I didn’t want to vomit up words and depression on to a piece of a paper. It had to have meaning. It had to have truth.

But as I neared the end, I started to panic realizing that I didn’t have a happy ending. Oh, I had answers. But, my role in the story had little closure. The shred it did have, was blind faith, clinging to the knowledge that God’s word was truth. Regardless of my feelings.

I texted a friend, “I don’t have a pretty bow to put on it. I hate that.”

My friend texted me back simply, “Then put an ugly bow on it. Or don’t wrap it up. Leave it strewn about.”

I hated that response, because it meant I had to come face to face with the truth about where I was at.

I’m sorry to say, but even as a believer, I’ve struggled to accept that I was made in God’s image. I could tell you differently. I could quote scripture to you. I could probably even convince you that I had peace. But, I know my sin. I know my flaws. My shortcomings are ever before my eyes, and yes, sometimes they’re temporarily blocked by pride, but when pride is removed I’m left a shattered woman. The enemy is quick to remind me that I will never be enough, and that I am unworthy of love leaving me on the floor of my bedroom in front of a mirror, with clothes all over, sobbing, as I mourn my plight.

I couldn’t tell my professor and fellow classmates how to live without fear that they’d never be enough. Because, truth be told, I live with it every day. My head knew truth, but my heart just wasn’t there yet.

So, I rehearsed truth over again, like I’d done so many times before. I shared with them that I knew in my head that I was made in the image of God, and that He alone gives me worth. But I stayed honest, and told them that I was still battling. I was still learning what my role and value was not only as a woman, but also as a Child of God.

I put an ugly bow on it.

For the first time in six years, I genuinely looked at where I was in this area and let it be. I was honest with not only my class and with the reader, but with myself. There is freedom in being messy with the Lord.

We had a lot of work to do.

Yesterday, I had a break through. I listened to a sermon where the speaker shared about art and the value of words (which made my little writer’s heart happy.) In the midst of the sermon the speaker says something that was supposed to be a quick fact, but it caused me to freeze.

In Genesis, the author writes about everything God creates, and after He creates something it is said, “and it was good.”

The original definition of “good” is beautiful, precious, best, better, fair, graciously, joyful, kindly, pleasant. The list goes on, and on.

I paused, and chewed on that for hours. Something about that caught me, and then it hit me.

Since I was five years old, almost all of my life, I have always tried to define beauty. I have always tried to be beautiful, and enough. But, if the true meaning of “beauty” is goodness, then it isn’t a stretch to consider that the question I was truly asking was, “What is good?”

The answer? God’s creation redeemed by Jesus.

Therefore, this battle I’ve fought has never been about being beautiful. Since the beginning, it has always been Christ drawing me and pushing me to seek out what is “good.” Although, I wouldn’t know Him personally for another nine years, and then not even realizing His faithfulness in this area for another six.

How beautifully painful it is that the Lord did not allow me to see beauty in myself, but instead, used my struggle to allow me to see beauty in Him alone. The only One that is truly beautiful.

I see this in the world around me now! Of course, beauty cultures, and the trends change so frequently. People are striving to see what is, “good” but they have no standard. Unfortunately, they will never see it until they fall before the throne and gaze upon His face. “Those who look on the LORD are radiant.” (Psalm 34: 5)

All people are made in God’s image, I’m not going to sit here and declare that only Christian’s are beautiful. Creation is beautiful. But a creation redeemed by Christ’s death and resurrection is good.

I have a long way to go. I’m not completely healed of this battle. I may never get to a place where I am completely satisfied in what I look like. I may always have days where I wonder if I’m “enough.” But that’s okay. I don’t need to be good enough, because He is.


“Those who look on Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.

            This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him from all his fears.”

Psalm 34: 5-6