Please share your story:
In 2011 I was blessed to have the opportunity to lead 2 volunteer organizations at UIC. When it came around to planning our first collaborated fundraiser I asked myself, "What cause should we fight for?" The very first thought, without hesitation, instantly said "rape survivors". I didn't question it and it didn't take me back that it came to mind first, but that doesn't mean I understood why it did... but the team and I just began working.
I've learned from great, inspiring leaders that you live by the story you tell yourself. If you tell yourself you are a great dancer, you'll be the first on the floor at weddings. If you tell yourself you are a bad dancer, you stick along the side of the circle and hope not to get pushed in the middle. If you tell yourself, you're strong... You'll always find strength, always. This challenge of choosing a story is what I've uncovered for myself since 2011. As our organization, Good Knight, grew to help others in Chicago, a part of me started to realize I was helping myself more than I realized. Helping with what? Still today I can't remember clearly. But with each year, each show, each new team of advocates and survivors, as soon as someone starts to speak or share their story of resilience I could never help but break down. I'd shake, cry, shut my eyes, and find myself gasping for breath between my words of "thank you" for sharing their story. In a silly way, it's kind of become a joke how emotional I get at Good Knight events that our wonderful board brings tissues on stage for me. (That's just one reason why I love them (: ) Their stories and strength helped me uncover mine.
But as I type, I feel my hands pause. I think my thoughts and beliefs, the story I've told myself and the other story that's buried in my memory, are fighting to take charge. So though I may never truly, minutely uncover the details of that "story" I know there's something there. Something there that mattered to me so much as a little girl that it never left my heart and made an imprint, so much so, that I am passionate, almost eager and anxious, to be there for anyone who may have felt the same. Something is there that makes me want to comfort... to love anyone who has ever felt that something is missing, something is wrong, something is hurting...but still knowing through grace that something will make everything okay.
Being a child, we believe stories so easily. We hear someone else tell us how life is supposed to be and we go with it whether it was the student in my class that touched me when no one was looking or if someone had just "tickled" me too hard in the wrong places. Or if it was a boyfriend that hit me too hard because I was being dumb or another that kept lying to keep me believing I was supposed to give myself emotionally and physically so recklessly. I believed their stories and hid mine. Some of those times seemed so quick I didn't acknowledge them. My mind told me "You're strong, it's okay. Keep going." While my heart has been saying "You're strong, but you can find a better way. I'll be here." Those stories.. that others tell us. They're not true. They're not how you need to live your life.
There are still moments when I try to dive into my memory, because the fear in those times when I was alone with someone and trying to get out, that fear still creeps up and I feel it again. My mind throws up the red flag, I go way in over my head, and my body begs "Run!" But now... I come back down to the ground and I remember my real story... In 2011 I was given the blessing to love others and in turn fell in love with myself. In 2011, I found a friend who had been praying for me and helped me begin my walk in faith. In 2011, I found a family and we built a community that told others "It's going to be okay. You're never alone." Then in 2014, I found a man that when I saw, I actually sighed and instantly thought "everything is going to be okay now"... a man who helped me sleep through the night for the first time, and when I would wake up shaking could always say "I'm here." In 2016 Good Knight became a registered non-profit charity and my soul felt that these dreams are now my reality and my stories. And now in 2017, Morgan and I will have a baby girl and I will share stories of strength, beauty, grace, and love so that she can grow into the most wonderful person she will believe she can be. Those are the stories I will believe and I will live by. These are the stories that I will continue to grow with because I choose to. I am free of fear, for there is no person or story that can calm my love for the world and my story that is still unfolding.
To someone with a similar story...
I'd say you are loved in every moment. When you're at your absolute best and when you're completely lost, you are loved. God brings you closer to Him in each of those moments, sometimes we just forget. So even when your story is not going according to "your plan", remember that His grace has a bigger purpose for you and it's even better than we know. Your story is not over.