"Inner-view" Q & A
Empowering Women to Stand Up, Stand Tall, Stand Strong.
Empowering Women to Stand Up, Stand Tall, Stand Strong.
1. Please catch us up to share where you’ve been, where you are now, and where you would like to go from here. (specific to your transformation)
OK where I have been. I have been, in my short time alive, the liver of at least a few lives. One of my friends once joked, after hearing me tell my story, that I should be at least 97 years old. I have had a lot of experiences, both good and very ugly, and count myself incredibly blessed with being a rather quick study. I learn and move on from mistakes and poor choices rather than linger in them for too long.
I grew up in a standard middle class home, and was raised by my father. My mother left when I was 5 years old, and I grew up the oldest of 2 children, with a younger brother. When I was 12, my dad remarried, to a woman that, had the stories not been written more than a century before, might have actually been the literary inspiration for the "wicked stepmother" of Grimm's fairytale lore. Ironically, my mother also chose for her second marriage, a man who did not care for children. In hindsight, most especially as a parent myself, their choices are hard to understand.
I excelled in school, and loved learning. I was an honors student at the top of my class and had been 7th semester early accepted to an amazing college. My 8th semester of high school, however, for the first time in my life, I had attracted the attention of a guy, and a much older guy at that. As a girl who had never been viewed as... a girl in the romantic sense, I jumped headfirst and blindly into a relationship I had no experience nor anywhere near enough emotional maturity enough to successfully navigate. I had never been taught what a healthy relationship encompassed and I didn't have the "proving ground" of puppy love and high school boyfriend drama that the bulk of my peers had gained in their years of school. I was the definition of book smart, street stupid.
By the time I graduated from high school, just 3 months later, I was an unwed, teenage pregnancy statistic. The poster child to prove to all the kids that "Yes, you can get pregnant the first time you have sex!" Had you asked anyone who had ever met me, to make a list of girls they thought might get pregnant in high school, I guarantee my name would have been on exactly zero of them. Instead of Yale, I started college as a single mother, a year later than all my friends, and stayed close to home at Arizona State.
After college, I went to work in a large hospital lab, and became an administrator. It was at that time that I met my husband. After we were married, I became very ill. I underwent a number of surgeries and numerous other treatments over the next 2 years that followed. It was a grueling experience that helped bring me closer to God. I got to see, being one of the youngest people in the hospital, chemotherapy infusion room, and radiology labs, a glimpse of the people who lived and died during that period. While sobering and sad, it was also uniquely prophetic and educational. I saw nutrition for the first time EVER in my life, as medicine. I saw healing occur in people. I saw laughter and humor and their power in the process of making a person whole. In all, the experiences I got out of all the years of health issues brought far more good into my life than bad. Of course, being upright after a prognosis that should have had me 6 feet under more than a decade ago will add a rose colored hue to any person's perspective.
Over the course of being sick and eventually returning to health, in addition to my mental and spiritual improvement, my body understandably underwent quite a transformation as well. All my life I had been overweight. I had hit an all time high after my first child was born of 285 lbs. On my 5'2" frame, I was morbidly obese by clinical standards. Well, after those years on that medical thrill ride, I had left behind most of that weight. I call it another perk. I am a fan of silver linings, I guess.
After recovering from yet another surgery, I found myself unexpectedly pregnant with our second child. The doctors told me that if I wanted to have more children, we would have to have them back to back. The risks of having time between pregnancies could allow some of my health issues to return, making problems for my unborn child and for me.
I had 4 very high risk pregnancies in 5 years. All told, I had spent the better part of a decade in and out of hospitals and surgical suites. My body was very run down.
I have also struggled since my teen years with depression, and felt it very heavily after each of my children were born. So the year after my youngest son was born, I needed to rebuild my strength, bodily, mentally, and spiritually. It was rough and I spent a lot of time in prayer. In hindsight it was only logical to have been going through that rocky patch, but in the middle of it, the weight was much harder to bear, the blessings that were abundant in my life and screamingly apparent to the world around me were hidden in the thick of that stifling mist that defines depression.
That was incredibly long winded, but that is who I was. It was instrumental in shaping who I am now, which is a blessed daughter of an infinitely merciful savior, the wife, gal Friday, and permanent Valentine to the cutest and most joyfully loving man I know, homeschooling mom to a houseful of rowdy and brilliant children, a small business owner, writer, lover of life, and drinker of coffee.
Where do I hope to go from here? I feel that I had this life, these experiences, this story for the express purpose of becoming a woman who can help other women. I realize I have been called to do so. My hope is to be able to speak the truth of hope into any heart who will hear it.
2. What is an example of you standing on your own two feet? And, if you would like, an example of when you didn’t.
When I found myself to be pregnant at 18, the "choice" of abortion came instantly into the conversation by my son's father and by my mother. I put the word into quotation marks because it never seemed like a choice. It was absolutely ludicrous to me and I wanted no part of that discussion at all. The thought of thinking about it as a clinical procedure without blinking an eye was actually physically repulsive to me, and if I am honest, it made me bitter toward anyone who would suggest such a thing with such a cavalier attitude. For me, that is the one moment in my life where I said NO. There was no middle ground, grey area or room for discussion. No child that God had entrusted me with was going to be talked about or viewed as an inconvenience or less than the miraculous human being he was then, and at 17 years old, is today. I thank The Lord for giving me the words and the strength to be that champion for my son
3. How did you learn to be a woman who can stand up, stand tall and stand strong?
3. How did you learn to be a woman who can stand up, stand tall and stand strong?
I am, and always will be, a learner. I seek always to have a teachable spirit and to learn the lessons God has for me in the moment I am in. I have learned that every person I encounter has something of value, and I need to hear the words they have to say.
I have always been a believer in finding people who have what you want. Not materially, but in their person: the way they talk, carry themselves, interact with others, people whose spirits speak to yours. Associate with those people. We become like those we keep company with. Make the company you keep reflect the person you are becoming. Peers and mentors should lift you higher.
4. How do you allow others to see you as your authentic self?
I am only close to a very select few people. Even among my closest friends, only my husband truly knows and has seen my whole heart. I once heard a speaker give an illustration of a sniper surrounded on all sides by a very high wall. He shoots everyone who tries to come over that wall. But the ones who make it over are friends for life. I thought that was a very accurate depiction of how friendship works for me.
My authentic self is only ever truly represented in the words that I write. I find myself always bungling and second guessing myself when I talk out loud. My thoughts seem to flow more rationally in my head when I am able to write them down, and I don't have to do battle with the panic and doubt that is always nagging at the edge of my thoughts, as I do when I speak.
5. How do you know when it isn’t safe for you to share your authentic self?
It's really kind of a default view for me. I am guarded, by my nature. I have to be very comfortable to share anything, let alone parts of myself.
6. How does standing in your own strength relate to the healthy relationships you have with yourself, your family, friends and others?
Knowing who I am and whose I am is what defines how I interact with people now. It is easiest to illustrate with relationships that have historically been more strained and difficult for me in my life. My relationship with some of my family members come to mind. I had, in my past, been more submissive or passive in some of my relationships, which is to say I was a doormat to dominant and aggressive behavior. I would let things that upset me fester internally. My emotions went straight to my stomach when I was a child and teenager. I would let worry, anger, and stress eat me up from the inside. It's then not surprising to learn that my stomach is the area of my body that illnesses most often spring up in. Even when things did not effect me directly, I would hold onto negative emotions.
Now, I can see a little more clearly. I am very intentional about my life and my family (meaning my husband and children) being my own. I no longer cast myself back into the role of passive child. This was really huge for me because it took me a very long time. I was almost 30 years old and the mother of 7 children before I took ownership of my own world, and no longer granted former authority figures to a controlling influence over me. It made an enormous difference in my family's dynamic, to say the least.
Standing in your own strength gives you the power to say NO without apology. It makes your priorities valid to the people around you. It demands respect from those who recognize it. Most importantly, it casts you in the role of leading lady in your own life. This is imperative, given it is the role you were created to play.
7. How do you pull yourself back up after making a mistake? What do you tell yourself?
We all make mistakes. I have made more than my fair share in my life. There are those who love and will always love to hold over our heads, the sins of our past. I used to allow that and really marinate in it, beating myself up over and over. I have found that people who are particularly unhappy in their own life are only too thrilled to serve you up a big steaming plate of your past disappointments and bad choices, with a smile and a shrug.
In a word, the way I get through this is Jesus. He granted me grace and died for my shame. One of my favorite verses in the bible is one that I hold to tightly. The Lord's love never ends; his mercies never stop. They are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23) This is His comforting word to me, especially now, in the season of life I am in, as a mother of many, I constantly struggle with the question "Am I good enough to be their mother?" His word tells me that even if I'm not (and I'm NOT), He is. I am confident that I am going to screw up. A lot. I'm a flesh and blood human. I am more confident that He is standing in the gap of my shortcomings, and that He is more than enough.
8. What is your greatest risk you’ve taken and how did that help you build courage to take other risks?
I guess the biggest risk I have taken is to become self employed, with the security net of an amazing level-headed husband/partner by my side. Business ownership is always a gamble with a pretty significant statistical possibility of failure. But being a small business owner in a small town has been hugely impactful in seeing risks as the opportunities they are. I have found out very quickly the value of networking with quality people. The importance of interdependence and loyalty is evident in ways I had never realized. I now understand the term, and appreciate the appeal of "serial entrepreneurship." It is a bug that I am glad to have caught. It is a total immersion education that can truthfully be described as "failing your way forward"
9. Have you ever been bullied? And if so, how did you handle it?
I mean, there were mean girls in my life, but no, I can't say I was ever bullied. I could always perceive when someone didn't care for me, but I never had anyone be malicious or ugly towards me.
10. What would you like other women to know about you, your transformation, your life, or?
I would like to be as transparent as possible. The most inspiring women I have ever met have been truly genuine and honest about their stories. They are real. They aren't untouchable perfect princesses on pedestals. If they were, I wouldn't have learned anything from them. They all overcame huge obstacles and took the time to tell me all about it. None of them were victims in their stories, they were victors, and something in each of their stories resonated within me, some piece of their life paralleled my life, which helped me to see that I could be a victor too. I want women to know they are endowed with the ability to be victorious in their life, regardless of their past, or present circumstances. I know, because I am.