Monday, February 9, 2015

Through the Broken Pieces I Shine

Can I just say it's tricky and confusing sometimes to have both a hurt ankle in a cast/boot AND a purplish facial birthmark??

Let me explain.

Currently I'm in a walking boot and have been on and off crutches for a few months.  Last month I was leading a seminar at a youth camp and at some point during camp a junior high student asked me, "What happened to you??"  I told him, "Oh, I just hurt my ankle.  I kind of broke it a little."  The kid looked SO confused...And then I realized he was asking about my face.

For a few moments I totally forgot about my birthmark.

I find the story to be funny, but truthfully: it was a good feeling to realize I had forgotten about it.

A couple of weeks before this took place, someone else asked me the same question.  That time I automatically assumed they were talking about my face, I told them, "Oh, it's just a birthmark."  The person looked at me with, yet another, scrunched up forehead and responded, "No...I mean, what happened to your ankle??"

In the past I often forgot about my birthmark until someone reminded me with their stares or comments, or unless I looked into the mirror and saw it.  I rarely put much thought into my difference until I am put into situations that give me no choice but to think about it.  Even then I'd laugh through many situations, tell the story a few times, possibly blog about it, and then forget.  However, since my picture went viral unintentionally with the text "1 like = beautiful", I have constantly remembered my birthmark.  It has been impossible to forget it during the last 6 months or so.

I don't know why my picture going viral has affected me the way it has, affecting me more than the almost-daily experiences I have in my real life, versus my digital one.  I'm still trying to figure that out.  Maybe it's because for once, I actually and literally saw myself through someone else's eyes through a form of a meme - or, at least, my interpretation of how I thought the meme creator saw me...Not to mention the 20,000+ comments from strangers that I read from around the world.  I'm guessing that seeing myself through 20,000+ eyes in one go added up and impacted me more than I anticipated, even if I pretended that it didn't.  Until this had happened I never realized how different I must truly look to the outside world.

You see, I've always known I was different - but for the first time I felt different...and it didn't feel very good.  For the first time I felt truly uncomfortable in my own skin, catching myself looking down towards the ground more than I care to admit in response to my temporarily depleted source of confidence.

Forgetting about my facial difference was like a fresh breath of air.  It was nice to forget about my birthmark because that made me realize that I'm finally healing from the whole ordeal and from the painful emotions I've gone through since.  Although 6 months have passed, I can't deny that I'm still affected.

I still hurt, but the pain isn't as sharp as it once was.  I still have things I need to work through, but I've been making progress.  Through this experience, I've questioned many things I've never questioned before - some things that are good to question, others are questions I've never wanted to ask and never thought I would...yet, slowly but surely, I'm finding and discovering much needed answers.  I've been broken, but with the help of friends, family, and God, I'm being put back together again.

Last week I read a quote on Pinterest that is currently on my top 10 of my favorite quotes:

"It's okay to be a glow stick.  Sometimes we need to break before we shine." - Author Unknown

In the midst of this breaking experience I received many encouraging emails and comments.  One that has really stuck with me.  I can't remember who said it to me, but paraphrasing what they said, they basically  told me that it's okay to be broken.  When we're broken, God's light often shows through the cracks even brighter than before, and that's a beautiful thing.

I've been broken.  Let's face it - I was shattered, crying the "ugly cry" more times in 6 months than I had cried in all my life...But you know what??  God is good.  God is a healer.  He has given and shown me a source of strength I never knew I had.  God has even provided more encouragement support than I could have ever anticipated from family, friends, and strangers around the world (seriously, I've been in awe).

God has continuously reminded me of my worth, even when my human perception of that hasn't been clear on what my worth is in those darkest of moments.  He even gave my friend a song for me, helping me see myself through my Father's eyes again when my vision went blurry and I struggled to only see myself through the eyes of thousands of strangers who don't even know me.  (I'm sure that's one of my most played iTune tracks as of yet!)

But on top of all that??  God has also provided opportunities to tell my story and it's evident that He has even more up His sleeve - that this is just the beginning!!  I've had chances to speak at a youth camp (which was one of my God-sized dreams!), write for magazines, and I'm even headed to Chicago in April in hopes of using my story for His glory. He's been able to use my story of brokenness to shine through to others to remind them of their true worth, their true value.

I realize I wrote my initial entry about the incident months ago, and that was basically all I've published here on my blog since late August.  Some of you may be thinking, "It's about time you wrote an update on this situation here on your blog!" During the last several months I tried to write something, but I couldn't.  I can't even tell you how many drafts I started but didn't get past a paragraph, let along a sentence or two.

Truthfully, I actually had many moments where I came extremely close to deleting my blog and all forms of social media I had ever signed up for, but didn't thanks to the encouragement of some mentors.  I also realized that if I were to do that, my main platform in which I could tell my story would be gone.  Not only that, but if I deleted my blog, Facebook, and Twitter, the situation and what happened wouldn't disappear.  I would only be ignoring and hiding from it, and nothing good would ever come from that.

Looking back, I think I just needed some distance from the situation before I publicly tackled it more in-depth, beyond the first entry and other entries that touched on my thankfulness for the support people have offered and given.  I needed distance because I needed to have a better glimpse at the puzzle God was putting together, to see a small glimpse of the beauty He had in store...To see how He would shine through the brokenness.  At this point I know I've only seen a glimpse of the picture He's putting together with the puzzle pieces,  I just have no idea how He plans to put it together or what the full timeline looks like.  And that's okay.

Being broken usually isn't the most desired experience.  It's hard.  It's messy.  It typically involves a lot of pain and tears.  Sometimes, though, when you gain some distance from a situation and when you stay willing to be used (even in the moments when you feel too broken to be used), being broken can be one of the most beautiful experiences with the most beautiful, unexpected, results.

And you know what?  Now that I've gained some distance and have looked down the road, I realize that although I've had many opportunities, in the midst of all the chaos and doubt, I never desired to be in anyone else.  I never thought, "If only I had a 'normal' face, life would be better!!"  I never regretted God's allowance of my unique feature.  I may have gone through some great times of darkness and questioning, but God never let me go there.  I never doubted the way that I was born, I never doubted that this is who I am suppose to be...and that's pretty cool.

The exciting part of it all??  I know I have only seen a glimpse of what God has in store.  Deep down, I know there are more beautiful things to come, but all I really want to do is shine for Him.

Even through the pain, I'm thankful that he has picked me to play a part in this story. I'm thankful for the Light that helps me shine.

The Broken, Yet Brightly Shining, Travelin' Chick,

PS: Just to keep you, my readers, on your toes...There are some behind the scenes type of things that have been playing out.  I mean, majorly unexpected things.  I'm hoping this will/can be something that I can write about soon, but I'm going to wait until things are more confirmed.  Please be in prayer for the story that continues to unfold.  Recently I was talking to someone about what may be in development and they told me, "Wow.  Here I was thinking that you were at the end of this story in your life, but really, it sounds like you're possibly in the middle!"  And if it turns out that I am in the middle??  It will be an incredibly beautiful plot twist I can't wait to share with you all.