Saturday, January 25, 2014


As a writer, I am a firm believer in the power of words - both the written and the spoken word. From the written word comes knowledge and story, a means of gathering intelligence and of finding solace from the cold harshness that reality often presents to us. But spoken word bears even more strength. And that is what I write about today.

The Designer created light and love and breath and earth and time and space in a countable number of syllables. He fashioned the universe in which we dwell by speaking and he created us in His image. Just as there is power in His words, there is power in ours as well.

A study was conducted on the effects of words on the crystalline structure of water (which you can briefly read about here and find more information on here). The results were astounding. Water which was named negative or hurtful things took on a gnarled, unattractive structure, while water that was called beautiful names became symmetrical and nearly perfect. The words that were spoken on the different samples of water had a literal effect on the appearance and makeup of the water. Mind you, human beings are comprised of over 70% water.

If words can affect minuscule amounts of liquid like that, then how much more can they do so to us?

People vastly underestimate the power of their words. But what we say to each other and speak over each other - whether to each other's faces or behind each other's backs - can either build us up or absolutely ruin us. I know. I've lived it.

The reason I became depressed in my past and believed lies about myself and ultimately even hated myself was because of one interaction with a few kids who told me I was ugly and stupid. It was one time in a park when I was ten. I didn't even really believe what they said. But it didn't matter. They planted those seeds of destruction that absolutely wrecked me for eight years and still do even today. This is why words matter to me so much.

There aren't a lot of things in the world that I hate. I loath sex trafficking and any sort of racism, sexism, or demeaning of any class of society. But I hate when people talk crap about each other more than almost anything. On the list of things that are not okay with me, that one is tied with genocide. Call this an overreaction if you will. Surly genocide is worse, right? It destroys people.

But speaking negative things over people not only destroys them, it enables them to destroy themselves.

I've since forgiven those kids at the park and pray for them regularly. I wouldn't be able to heal and move on if I wasn't willing to do that. But I am now so much more sensitive to words and have been realizing recently how often I encounter negative ones.

-I walk into the kitchen to wash dishes at night where I find my little brother doing his homework. I don't even make it to the sink before he turns and declares, "You're ugly!" as though the statement is nothing.

-I hear from my parents on a regular basis how I am doing nothing with my life since I'm not going to college or pursuing my writing more. They, along with my sister (who calls me a nerd every time I make a semi-intelligent statement), consistently make jokes about how I will never move out of my parents' house and how I will die alone.

This is what I am around every single day. This is where I live. Naturally, I would seek out affirmation and encouragement from my friends but even they - jokingly or not - find it necessary to verbally cut me down.

"You talk too much. Seriously. It's like your mouth never closes. Just shut up already."

"You're so arrogant. How do you have friends?"

"Drink more water, Bitch."

This is considered "constructive criticism" and "playful banter." No one really means it when they call me a dumbass or a whore or a self-centered, soul-sucking leech. It's "just what friends do." Well if that's true, I'd be better off without any friends.

I'm not exaggerating. I wish I was. But these are legitimate phrases and scenarios that I have encountered just over the past few months. I have an impeccable memory. I could tell you who said these things and where we were when they did. But I didn't write this post to tear anyone down. I'm using my own life as an example. I'm trying to make a point.

I wake up every day and make the conscious decision to believe Papa when He says that I am smart and beautiful and more than good enough. But then I step into the world and this is what hits me. These are statements coming from my family and my friends - the people in my life who are supposed to encourage me and help me combat lies. It's a battle that I face all the time, one I face alone. I should not have to go to war to believe stuff about myself that is true. But I do, every day, and the war is mostly against those I've chosen to be my allies.

Well, I've had it. I spend so much time fighting for and protecting and encouraging other people that I leave myself on the back burner and forget that I need the same attention. But if I truly want to heal, to move forward on my journey toward building genuine self-confidence, then I need to do this. I need to fight for me for once.

I know what this means. It requires that I stick up for myself, don't take people"s crap, and walk away from relationships that are unhealthy. This may mean starting over and completely rebuilding my support system. But if it means that I'll finally begin to view myself as something good, then it is a sacrifice that I am willing to make.

My point: Words matter. They really do. That sticks and stones nonsense is crap. People are valuable. It's time we started treating them as such.

Sunday, January 12, 2014


"Charity, one of these days you're going to realize that you're important. Important things need to be taken care of."

I can't get his words out of my head.

I am a creature of habit. I have this issue of falling back into the same repetitive, exhausting, unhealthy pattern. I load my schedule. I sleep less, eat less. I book coffee dates and work and write and book more coffee dates. I run at 95 miles-an-hour until something breaks or snaps and I come to a screeching halt. I get sick or my car has trouble or I get dizzy and can't see straight. Even then sometimes I barely slow down enough to change a tire or grab a power nap before I start running again. If I'm being honest, I don't know why I do this.

". . . one of these days you're going to realize that you're important. Important things need to be taken care of."

I sat on his kitchen floor when he said it to me. Right after work, right before a meeting, I barely had an hour to grab a glass of water before I had to start moving again. I'd been dizzy and blurry-eyed for at least twenty-four hours, hunched over the toilet in the bathroom the night before because I felt like I was on the verge of throwing up all the food I hadn't eaten that day. I was running on four hours of sleep and a vanilla latte and what I guessed was my third wind, but I'd been too stressed to count how many I'd hit by that point.

So there I was, stretched thinner than anyone ever should be, describing my schedule for the rest of the weekend, trying to figure out where I'd fit in sleep and contemplating how much I actually needed to scrape by when I looked up. He had that look on his face. That one look that says, "I'm not judging you. But I do have an opinion and I know you won't listen to it so I'll just keep my mouth shut." I asked for it anyway. He shook his head, that look still clinging to his face.

"What are you thinking?"

"Charity, one of these days you're going to realize that you're important. Important things need to be taken care of."

I don't remember what I said after that, if I even spoke at all. I do remember leaving and blazing through the rest of the weekend in spite of the sore throat I caught the next day. But his words never left my head.

". . . you're important. Important things need to be taken care of."

He's right. I know he's right. It's rare that he isn't. But for whatever reason, I find his statement - however true - to be difficult to swallow. If I'm being honest, I don't buy it.

It's completely counter to everything that I believed for the first seventeen years of my life. I'm important. Okay. Though I know it's true, I still don't necessarily believe it. Does that make sense?

People don't just say stuff like that. Not to me anyway. And when they do I find it to be remarkably shallow, as though they feel obligated to affirm my worth in some way. But there was such a depth of sincerity in his words, something that was real. Though I can't for the life of me figure out what it was.

". . . Important things need to be taken care of."

Maybe I'm stubborn. Maybe I'm still clinging to lies that I believed. Maybe all the negative things that were said to me and spoken over me over the course of my life were just too many to be debunked by a few letters and words of encouragement. But they were certainly enough to get me thinking.

I am important. I need to take care of myself.

I can start by getting a good night's sleep.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

My Story

So, I'm doing this whole Integrity Project thing and making this vow to be completely honest in 2014 . . . and something just occurred to me. I've been blogging since the summer before high school, for about 4-and-a-half years now, and I feel like you don't really know me at all. I've done all those little blogger challenges and posts so that you can get to know "a little more about the one you follow" but all of the information you've received has been remarkably surface-level; it's shallow. I talk a lot about the passionate, over-dramatic writer girl who loves the Lord and wants to run away, but do you even know how I got here? How I became who it is that I am? Of course not. Because I never even thought to tell you.

Readers, I cannot truly be honest with you about my life, about everything, until I tell you who I am. Who I really am, and how I became her, rather than telling you about who I want to be perceived as. So, for those of you with a bit of time on your hands and nothing better to do, this is it.

This is my story.

I was born in southern California in the middle of July, and I like to think that's where my ridiculously hot-blooded personality comes from. I was the first child born to parents who were both the youngest of six, raised Catholic in the 1970s, who found Jesus in their early adult lives. I've done a ton of study on birth order and how it affects personality type, and I certainly followed the pattern. The parents of a firstborn are stoked to have a child. They get them involved in all types of activities and pour all their energy out into making sure that this one kid is the greatest thing to ever walk the face of the planet.

I naturally grew up thinking that this is what life was going to be like. I became a perfectionist, working so hard to be the smartest, most adorable, most talented child in the entirety of the universe. And I'm not kidding when I tell you that I was thoroughly convinced that I was exactly that. Honestly, I can't really remember many scenarios during my childhood in California when anyone told me that I was anything but good. Surely, I was disciplined and talked down to by a few kids that I knew, but for the most part I was praised and affirmed. I didn't receive any words that countered my view of myself. In my eyes, I was perfect.

I didn't know any better. I was home schooled. My sister was 20 months younger than me and my brother was born six years after she was. The small number of my friends who were girls were all younger than me by at least a year, so the only people who were better than me at anything were "grown-ups" and my friends who were boys - all older, taller, and stronger than me. I legitimately thought that I was the best at everything. I was involved in a ton of different activities. I wrote, I drew, I performed on stage, I danced. I was creative, smart, and always ahead of the game. No one could touch me, and I was going to rule the world.

When I was nine, my dad got a new job and we moved to Colorado. I started attending public school and for the first time, I encountered people my age and even younger than me who were better performers, stronger writers, smarter students. I was no longer the best. At first this didn't phase me. I figured I just needed to work harder. I already believed I was perfect. I just needed to prove it to myself.

Then when I was in fourth or fifth grade, I took my sister to a park near our house where we met three kids about my age, a girl and two boys who we'd never seen before. The three of them took it upon themselves to verbally abuse my sister and I, calling us ugly and stupid. I get it now - they were bullies. But that was the first time I can really remember someone telling me that I was anything other than good. I didn't care when they picked on me, what did they know anyway? But when they started picking on my sister I decided to bring her home.

That one interaction shattered my world. My little, naive world that I was the queen of fell to pieces when these kids who didn't even know me criticized me so relentlessly. If these strangers could see my flaws so easily, then obviously they must have been there. Were my imperfections really that obvious to those around me? Had everyone else just been lying to me about how good I was? I know that logic doesn't make much sense, but I was a kid - not even eleven years old. And so, if I wasn't perfect, I switched to the only other logical possibility for who I could be - not good enough.

This idea plagued me. It was such a change of viewpoint, I didn't know what to do with myself. But I figured my reputation was still salvageable. I knew I wasn't perfect, but nobody else really did yet. I could very easily try to convince everyone that I still was. And so, during my transition into middle school I began formulating a facade. I feigned self-confidence to the point of an overwhelming arrogance and challenged anyone and everyone who dared talk about me as though I was anything less than the best. I became over-competitive and even more of a perfectionist. I lied about how I saw myself.

And I lied about it so much that I bought those very lies.

The lying and the mask were really just coping mechanisms that I used as a means of dealing with my own raging insecurity, but by eighth grade, I wasn't even using them as that anymore. I was no longer a liar. I was the lie itself.

My dad lost the job that had uprooted us when I was twelve, and naturally there was unrest in my family. I took it upon myself to be the strong one, the one who was certain that God would pull through like He'd always promised, but inside, I was a mess. I often wondered if He could even hear me.

After junior high, I dropped a lot of the "fun" classes in things I was really interested in - guitar, dance, art. I claimed that I quit because I had so many talents and passions that I didn't have the time or money to pursue them all. The reality was that in all of those environments I had encountered people whose talent so surpassed mine and people who criticized me. I couldn't tolerate either. If I wasn't the best, I wasn't involved. End of story.

High school came (a part-time school program which would allow me to graduate with my diploma and my associate of arts), and with it, expectations. I had become so good at faking my way through life that everyone really believed that my life was a breeze. My academic intelligence came to me naturally and my talent was never rehearsed. I had a ten year plan for my life and backup plans through the letter E. I could be insanely busy and still play it off as though I was totally fine and willing to take on more. So everyone began to expect this of me. Family, friends, teachers, youth leaders, all of them thought that I was insanely confident and had it all together. I was naturally smart, so when I brought home a C first semester in Biology class, my parents got on my case about it.

So I tried harder. I so desperately wanted to make people happy, so greatly desired to please everyone that I pushed myself to every limit I had, mentally, emotionally, and physically.

Wanting to keep my grades up, my schedule full, and my relationships strong, I started eating and sleeping less. I would stay up cramming to get my overload of homework done, and then I would skip breakfast so that I could get a few hours of rest in. Often, I would skip lunch at school so that I could work to finish whatever had been assigned so that I wouldn't have to skip out on extra-curricular activities. This caused my blood pressure to drop and I almost passed out in the middle of a math class, which should have been a wake up call for me. It wasn't.

I transferred to my high school's full-time program and switched campuses at the beginning of my sophomore year and I encountered even more people who were smarter and prettier and more talented than I was. My parents got frustrated when I got a B in English at the end of my first semester and so I pushed myself even harder with my grades. I ate and slept less, the dizziness and headaches persisted, I brushed them aside as though they were nothing. I became more involved in theatre and volunteer work. I developed an obsessive desire to run away from this life that was suffocating me. My arrogance grew.

It was also around this time that I decided not to get married. Living the lie that I was, I convinced myself (and everybody else) that I was making this decision so that I could devote my life to mission work and not have the distraction of a family. But deep inside, even then I knew that I didn't feel deserving of a man. I didn't think anyone could ever willingly choose to spend his life with me. I had lost so many friends at that point, and husbandry is so much greater of a commitment than friendship. I knew that thirty years down the road, when I got asked why I didn't get married, I wanted to say it was because I didn't want to, rather than have to explain that no one wanted me.

The summer after my sophomore year, I went on my first mission trip to Cambodia. This was probably the only really good thing about my high school experience. For once, I wasn't doing anything to benefit myself, though this ended up benefiting me more than anything else. I fell in love with missions.

Come junior year, my schedule was jam-packed. I was taking seven classes a day and working at Chick-fil-A part-time, all the while heading up my school's community service club and rehearsing as a major role in a play with a theatre company I had discovered. I also attended church and balanced a social life. I had spread myself thinner than I was capable of being spread.

I began having mental breakdowns, the first which came two weeks after school started. My occasional habit of skipping a meal for time's sake had developed into an eating disorder and I didn't even know it*. I became so sick and dizzy and weak that my parents started taking me to doctors to figure out what was wrong with me. A pediatrician, a chiropractor, a nutritionist, and finally a cardiologist who told me that I had Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (which, mind you, is not nearly as severe as it sounds. It was a fancy way of saying I was drastically dehydrated).

My heart was broken so many times by friends who just up and walked away and guys who didn't share my romantic feelings for them. I got two concussions. God told me that He didn't want me to go to college and I flipped about it. If I didn't go to college, how could I possibly ever make something of myself? I thought I was only good if I was smart, talented, beautiful, successful. My worth came from what I did, rather than who I was.

Then when I had just about reached the end of my rope, Papa dropped Ekklesia in my lap. Dallas had been encouraging me to attend for months and I figured I had nothing to lose. What I encountered there blew my mind. Here were people who really loved Jesus and really cared about me, people who were living church the way I'd always thought it should look like. Because of this group, I began to heal. I realized that my physical problems were tied to emotional trauma and I was able to start letting things go.

When my senior year began, I came to realize how my arrogance was a mask that I wore. Papa stripped that away and revealed to me all the lies I was believing about myself. But  had built my identity on the idea that I was arrogant. When He stripped off my facade, I realized that I had no idea who I was anymore. I had been living a lie.

Come February, I spiraled into depression. Exposure to all of my insecurity left me vulnerable to it. I had to deal with my problems now that I wasn't shoving them down and covering them up with the version of me that I thought I was. I'd been on the verge of depression for years, but it didn't fully take over until I realized that I hated myself.

The depression showed up out of nowhere, and with it, thoughts of suicide. I didn't want to talk about it because I didn't like acknowledging that I needed people to help me through my life. But Something (obviously the Spirit) prompted me to tell my best friends, Melissa and Dallas on a Monday night. They stayed up with me and encouraged me over social media that night and I went to bed feeling better. But the next morning it came back and wouldn't go away. Dallas was relentless, ridiculously insistent on talking to me, to the point where it almost annoyed me. Melissa continued to be her wise, encouraging self.

That Thursday morning, I got sick. I threw up six times, every hour on the hour until there was nothing left in my system and then I drank some water and threw up twice more. Dallas told me he was coming over that night after he got off work. I remember laying in my bed. I hadn't eaten or had anything to drink in over twenty-four hours. I was shaking, hurting, to exhausted even to cry. I wanted out so badly right then, I didn't care what it took to get that. I didn't even know if I would make it the few hours before Dallas arrived without just quitting.

And then I heard His voice, soft yet firm.


I had no such desire. I had no energy, no voice. "I don't want to."

"Charity. Sing."

He'd been trying to get through to me that whole week, I just didn't want to hear it. I was so darn tired of all those repetitive phrases He was using to comfort me. I was done listening to Him.

But for whatever reason, sick, tired, with nothing left to lose, I did. I sang, as much as I was able to anyway. I sang any random worship song that came to my head and before I knew it, Dallas was there.

He sat on the edge of my bed and let me cry and vent about what I was feeling. He prayed with me and helped me break off all those freaking lies that had clung to me for years. I rejected the idea that I wasn't good enough and when I did, I was healed. I was free.

I was able to eat that night. Papa had me quit my job at Chick-fil-A without a safety net and I did, completely certain that He would take care of me. I went on a youth retreat not long after that and Papa completely rebuilt my identity - my true identity. I realized my spiritual gifts and began to use them. I graduated high school. I got a new job as a housecleaner for a company owned by the mother of two of my friends. I replaced all the lies with the truth that I am beautiful, powerful, capable, talented, intelligent, ready to take on the world. But most importantly, I realized that though I may not be perfect in the traditional sense, I am perfect in His eyes.

He saved me. He really did. I realize now that if Dallas and Melissa hadn't been as persistent as they were in February, I would have ended my life then. Even when I wanted nothing to do with Him, He went out of His way to put the two of them into my life and give them His words of life to speak over me so that I could be rescued. I love Him.

Which brings us to where we are now. I still sometimes wrestle with self-confidence, but now I can combat it with the truth. I still forget to eat sometimes but I have been blessed with many friends who I can trust to always get on my case about it. And though I have absolutely no idea where my life is headed, I know it's in His hands. Goodbye, ten-year plan.

Hello, freedom.


*It wasn't like I stopped eating entirely because I thought I was fat. I literally forgot to eat or refused to when I became stressed. My default setting was stress at the time, so this happened to me often.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Integrity Project

I have been lied to a lot. Especially in the past few months. And what makes it worse is the fact that the ones lying to me are people who I feel incredibly close to, people whom I trust. This frustrates me to no end and has led me to making the most important of my resolutions for this coming year.

Ladies and gentlemen, let's talk integrity.

Dallas and I have come to the conclusion that there are three major problems with our world today (that's not to say that there are only three, but these ones seem to cause a lot of the others): Lying, selfishness, and lack of communication. We both are trying to remedy these in our own lives and encourage those around us to do the same. And so, The Integrity Project was born.

What is a lie? Well for one, it's a sin, one that God deemed a big enough deal to label it as one of the ten major no-nos for the Israelites. All this being lied to that I've been experiencing hurts. It hurts a lot actually. It makes me question my value. Why? Because lying to someone is making the claim that you do not deem them worthy of the truth.

This, however, is ludicrous. God placed an infinite value on humankind when He sacrificed His Son for our foolishness. No one is undeserving of the truth. If anything, it's one of those things people deserve most.

And why do we feel the incessant need to lie to each other? How does it benefit us at all? I have come to the conclusion that is is out of selfishness and fear. We so greatly desire to make ourselves appear good, to safeguard our own reputations as people of character that we will compromise our integrity to do so. Ironic, isn't it?

This is why so many people have trust issues. I'm willing to bet that everyone in the world has lied and been lied to at least a dozen times over the course of their lives. And let's be honest (*cough*), that's an incredibly conservative number. Lying shatters friendships, wrecks self-esteem, breaks hearts. It leads people to believe that they aren't good enough to be trusted with the truth and makes them hard and closed-off to the idea that other people can be trusted to tell it. When trust is broken, it is sometimes near impossible to regain.

That's where we come in. Due to a conversation I once had with my mentor, Bekah, I have chosen to abide by the philosophy that I am not allowed to complain about something unless I intend to fix it. This is my means of beginning to do so.

I know how much it hurts to be lied to, and I am all too familiar with the confidence blow that comes with it. Never do I want to inflict such pain and cause such self-doubting as I have felt. Never again will I tell another lie.

Now, surely I know, that a vow this great will not be easy to uphold. Taking this step requires that I re-vamp my entire way of thinking, that I train my mind and my mouth so that honesty is my first response. I began doing this a few months ago, and even now, the idea of lying to someone feels so unnatural. I am certain that this will continue.

Unfortunately, I know that the costs of this expedition may be great, as not only am I refraining from telling lies, I am also being completely forward and confrontational with people. Never in a cruel or harsh way, of course. But if someone is making a foolish mistake, or hurting me, or hurting someone who I love, I'm taking it upon myself to bring it up with him or her, free from the fear that I may offend someone. I'm not withholding any information. This surely means that many will be offended and decide they no longer want me around. But people who shy away from being honest and bettering themselves and helping me better myself aren't the kind of people I need in my life anyway.

Really, integrity is its own reward.

Man, that was cheesy.

My question for you now is this: Are you with me? I know that so many of you seek to pursue a lifestyle that is in step with that of our Designer. What better way to do it than this?

One year.

No lies.

Complete confrontation.

I think that through this, we will begin to change our world. Who's in?


Side-note-that-is-really-not-that-important-and-a-lot-more-light-hearted-and-humerous: This summer, some friends and I produced a short film about what I think is the secret life of my senior year Civics teacher - the one who got me to start thinking about the importance of integrity in the first place. It is called Captain Integrity, and it is below.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Here's To Starting Over

I'll be honest, 2013 was hard. I became depressed and suicidal, I was lied to, I lost more friends than anyone should ever have to, I was emotionally pushed far beyond my limits. But I would be lying if I said the year was all bad and no beautiful.

In 2013 . . . I became so much closer to my Father's heart. He taught me so much about Himself and drew me closer to Him when I was breaking. He taught me about myself as well and carried me through all of my hardships. He kept every promise and never left my side and showed me that I really am never alone.

In 2013 . . . I figured out who I am. Papa rebuilt my entire identity. I stripped away all the lies I've been believing about myself for so long and replaced them with the truth - that I am beautiful, powerful, capable, ready. I discovered my spiritual gifts and learned how to use them for the glory of the Designer. I became who He has always intended for me to be.

In 2013 . . . I grew in my relationships with some beautiful people. Acquaintances became friends. Friends became sisters. Many broken relationships were repaired and I found life partners in places that I never would have expected to. I realized that I have a killer support system, and while there are a lot of people who don't stick around, there are also those who I can trust that aren't going anywhere.

In 2013 . . . I grew up. I grew wings. And I'm not entirely sure how, but I taught myself how to fly. I've always been able to. I just didn't know how yet.

This coming year is going to be better. I intend to step foot on a new continent. I plan on making new friends in even stranger places. I am going to write a lot more and finish the second draft of Uritus and the Sword of Fire. And now that I know who I am, I can step into the world as that very woman, one who carries herself with fearlessness and poise.

My best friend and I are embarking on a journey of integrity in 2014. One full year, not a single lie, completely confrontational with everyone and withholding no information from anyone. So I'll be blogging a lot more, journaling my thoughts and experiences, free of any watering down. He's doing the same, and you can find his blog here.

In 2014, there will be dance parties. There will be fireworks. There will be roadtrips and nights spent traversing the streets of cities unfamiliar to us. There will be works of art created and music made and food tasted. And there will be memories so sweet and hilarious that we will be unable to tell the stories without laughing hysterically.

So here's to new beginnings. Here's to fresh starts. Here's to building a life that I won't feel the need to escape from in the presence of the ones with whom I have always truly belonged. Here's to greater adventure, louder symphony, stronger love. And here's to a year that is already gearing up to be not only better than the last, but the best one we've had so far.

Welcome, 2014.

I'm ready for you.

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