Finding myself.

I am a first-generation Indian American woman. A woman of color. A teacher. A nurse. A feminist. A daughter. A sister. A friend. But most importantly, I am a child of God who is attempting daily to venture into the depth of her own identity and purpose.


My story combines East meets West and all the trade winds that lie in between. For the greater portion of my life I felt a need to create the perfect balance of two worlds; to find an equilibrium between diverse cultures.

I grew up in a world where the media taught us that “America is a meltingpot.” A red white and blue intersection of the world where the flavors collide, people are equal, and “nobody sees color.” It wasn’t until I was uprooted from my diverse upbringing in Chicago to Scottsdale, Arizona during my “awkward middle school phase” that I began to see that melting pots aren’t truly all they’re hyped up to be.


In Arizona there was no one that looked like me, no one that spoke like me. I felt like I was a plus-sized dark-skinned free spirit in a sea of blonde Abercrombie models. I didn’t fit in. I felt alone. I desperately missed Chicago.

There was no one who valued my mother tongue as much as I did here. No friend who shared my love of concocting new curries and grinding my grandmothers secret spice blends like I did. I looked different, I spoke different, and boy did I feel different.


When I was younger, my differences became a target to others around me. My skin color, my weight, my name, my interests. I found myself quieting things that inherently made me ME. I so deeply wanted to belong that I found myself assimilating to what I like to call “the melting pot theory.”

In a melting pot, you dice up a rainbow of colors and textures and boil them down into one heaping serving of a singular flavor. Ingredients in melting pots are dissipated down until they lose their original integrity in an effort to contort into a mainstream palate.

I was a melting pot ingredient for years until I unknowingly walked into a relationship with God. A God who pulled me up, dried me off, and gave me a new outlook of the world.


Projects like this allow us to deepen our understanding of the people who live amongst us on this planet we call home. Shared stories are tools that break ignorance through understanding. We can learn to deepen our love for ourselves and others when we take time to share stories. I see this project as a vessel for ingredients of growth and healing, and I would love  to be a small aspect of the recipe.

I am a deeply spiritual individual. In my head, I see the world as art.


As a child, I would find myself looking at something as simple as my finger and thinking about it for hours. I would think about the number of cells that so perfectly work together to create my being and how God so perfectly crafted the symbiosis of my being. I was always a deep thinker. As I got older I began to yearn to understand the purpose of my life. Why was I here? What could I contribute with my time on earth? As I deepened my relationship with God, I began to understand that the only way to understand the purpose of your invention is to go to the inventor. I believe that everything, every one, and every experience in life occurs for a reason.

One of the barriers that separate others from knowing this side of me is honestly myself. Insecurities create road blocks to our own authenticity. We devalue our own stories and stifle them. We cover deep emotions with superficial humor. We laugh off our own transformational experiences. At times, I feel afraid to allow others into the deep intricacies of who I am in an effort to protect my heart. But I’ve begun to understand that our stories can be tools in the lives of others when we choose to use them. My depth is not only my own, but a creation of God’s hand and a piece of God’s plan. Remembering that allows me to be more free in who I authentically am.


We all walk around this planet with the weight of past experiences. Tiny shards of hurt and pain that ache us like a stone in our shoe while we attempt to walk forward in life. There are so many areas where I feel misunderstood, it’s difficult to encapsulate them into one piece of writing... but then again isn’t that all of our stories? We are so often our own worst critics.  Sometimes I feel like I’m too much of too little.

Too imperfect.

Too loud.

Too timid.

Too big.

Too diminutive.

I am forever my own conundrum.

It’s so hard to feel like we are enough in a world with an ever-evolving yet constantly unattainable mold of perfection. We strive so hard to attain beauty but we fail to realize we house it within the deepest hallways of ourselves. We try so hard to cover up imperfections that we forget that the cracks are where the light gets in. Sometimes you try to be a jack of all trades and realize you are a master of none.


I have stifled my own growth on various occasions because I let the white noise of others’ opinions pave a way for me that was not my own.

I’ve learned that when you feel your back against the wall, you have two options: stand still or kick that shit down. When I was younger I was meek, but I’ve grown enough in my relationship with myself and God to be able to see the value in who I am. I’ve learned that sometimes we need to offer ourselves the same bits of compassion and grace that we are taught to give to others.   

I choose to kick and fight and break molds until I am the truest representation of my authentic self, and I want to be an advocate for others to do the same.

I want to live freely and be truly unapologetic about the space I take up in this world. I want to truly love every inch of my skin and bones and the cells that hold me together. I want to understand my God given purpose, and embrace my identity in Him/for Him. My body and heart was created as God’s masterpiece and I want to live a life in remembrance of that.

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In today’s day and age we are constantly bombarded with comparison; the great thief of joy. We compare ourselves to others without fully taking time to hear their stories. We make hasty generalizations. We glorify others while concurrently tearing ourselves apart.

What if we didn’t? What if every time we had a negative thought about ourselves we counteracted it with two positives and a blessing we’ve experienced? What if we spread compassion to parts of ourselves that have only received slander? What if loving ourselves deeply allowed for an overflow of love to pour out onto the ones around us? God tells us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves... what if that’s what He meant.

What if grace and shalom was a daily marinade of our lives?

I choose to believe this life is possible in His footsteps, and through the tumultuous highs and lows of life I hope to strive towards it in all seasons.

I was created on purpose with purpose.

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From Mel: It’s been six months since I’ve blogged a story and I am read to share with you this lovely soul’s words and images. Gina is a delight—an empath, a grief specialist and one who has deconstructed, navigated a rebuilt a world view and story for herself. I always love my time with her and anyone who meets her is more vibrant for it.

From Gina: For me, the concept of telling my story, not the curated story I’ve told a thousand times in front of so many groups is a challenge. This is encouraging me to look at who I am NOW, not who I have been in the past. Because I have told the same stories over and over, it is time for me to really examine the woman I am today in light of those stories.


The most important thing to know is that I don’t shrink from my stories anymore. I tell them because people look at me and see a confident, strong, vocal woman. They don’t often see that this has been a process of becoming. And, that it is not over yet.

My life has been in the “in between” places, whether I wanted them to or not. In between communities divided by race, in between the nerds and the popular people, in between the lovers and the haters, and now in between the church and those the church has pushed away. It helps me understand a lot of different people and their struggles.


Being an empath means that I feel the weight of so many people in the gaps, the in between spaces. Because I do grief and trauma work, long days with clients can leave me exhausted – connected to other people’s feelings and not my own.

As an Enneagram type 3w2, The Achiever, I am a chameleon – able to fit in almost everywhere. I have a strong 2 wing, which means I often (always) put others needs before my own. It makes me sometimes look like a hero – something my 3 wants, and that gets me in trouble because I am often not connected to how I really feel.


These days I am feeling just right in my own skin. The blue and pink hair fits my “unicorn” nature. I am transforming my body into one that I like and feel comfortable in, and I am admitting my own needs and desires and working to fulfill them.

I’m going out on a limb here and being very vulnerable to say that I am finally ready for a partner in my life. I’m realizing that love and deep connection is important to me, and that it is fine for me to want a deep relationship with the right man.

I’m probably going to regret putting this last part out there, but there it is.


The voice that is loudest comes from my childhood where I was taught to be quiet and that I was not enough or too much, depending on the situation. I was taught not to stand out, not to be proud, and to not bring attention to myself. The loudest voice is my mother’s, but there are myriad voices that have expressed their criticism, and as a sensitive child, I used to take them to heart.

I was told I was too loud, too smart, too fat, too strange. As a very light-skinned African American woman, I was “not Black enough” in the Black community; accused of trying to pass for White.

I use my voice about issues of race, sexual assault and DV, gender equality, and as an ally for the LGBTQIA+ community. There are people in these communities who write or text to thank me for being their voice.


My name is Gina Pollard and I am continually growing into my authentic self and teaching others to do the same.


Permission to feel.

From Jami:

I desire to be known. I value authenticity. I desire real community and believe that begins with being honest. I also believe that the ability to be real/vulnerable is a gift and can often be abused or turned into something painful. To that end, I'm drawn to this space because I trust you (Mel) and the community you have created. The past few years have been very introspective ones and I'm slowly able to give words to the groaning that has been so near. I'm hopeful this process will further me along in my own journey, as well as be an encouragement to someone else.


I've always said I lived a full life by the time I was 24, and I still believe that to be true in some ways. I was born on a mission field, grew up in a small town, traveled and studied abroad, and was involved in as many things I could get my hands on (sports, music, serving, leadership, etc.). I've been an adventurer on good days and a wanderer at the heart of me. I've known deep loss and a persistent craving for fulfillment.


I'm a worker, a bit of a performer and a believer that I can always do better. Be better. That, among all else, has been the driving force in my life: Don't settle. Push harder. Sacrifice. Don't quit (“Fiedlers don't quit!”) And make sure to do all of this without taking up too much space. Be independent enough to hold your own and dependent enough to not be proud. And for goodness sake, figure it out already!


I'm exhausted. Have been for a long time. Striving is so draining. And the most tiring part about it is the facade:  The constant tweaking of reality to ensure that the real me isn't ever fully seen by the public… Even though I say I value authenticity. 

I guess what I long for the most is the freedom to truly be at peace with being me. Without agenda. Without the rush to be more, do more, succeed more. To finally live a life that reflects who I am now, not who I think I'm supposed to be. Honestly, I don't even know who that girl is sometimes. 


I miss her. The adventurer. Risk taker. Deep feeler. Free spirited lover of life. Beauty finder. Small town country girl with a heart for the world.

I miss me.


I've always been told that I'm serious. Deep. Emotional. And it's true, I'm not the life of the party or the one that's good at chit chat. I'd rather hear about your feelings and true thoughts on something other than the surface things that consume so much of our lives. It's that desire for authenticity and connection that is rooted so deep inside of me.

When I was younger, I remember feeling so frustrated when I would ask someone how they were doing and they would just give a short “I'm fine” answer... Especially if I knew they weren't fine. I wanted to connect, to let them know that they weren't alone and that I was there to listen and to just be with them. 

This was especially painful when it involved family or close friends. I felt rejected and like I was the weird one for wanting to talk about feelings or emotions. 


Eventually, I learned how to shove my feelings like a lot of other people do and to not let on too much that I cared so much. And as I did that, a big piece of me began to grow cold. I began to believe the lie that feeling deeply is foolish and that being strong and independent is best. As I did this, anger, resentment and bitterness began to push joy, compassion and gratefulness out.


It's only been in the past couple of years that I've begun to see that ability in me as a strength and something to offer a hurting world. I still wrestle with the bad habit of shoving my feelings instead of embracing them, but I'm noticing that tendency more quickly. I desire to be more like the 12 year old Jami that had a heart that was full of love and compassion for others and who was willing to deal with the pain that can come from feeling deeply. A life lived like that is far more joyful than one of bitterness and self protection.


I would offer myself more grace and give myself permission to feel.

 I am so hard on myself. Always. There is rarely a day that I think, “I did that well today.” Or “I was the best version of myself today”. I wish often that I would be comfortable in my skin and embrace ALL parts of me, instead of wishing many of them away (or working hard to rid myself of them). 

I would love with less fear, more courage and a whole lot more grace. 


My name is Jami Lynette and I feel deeply, value authenticity and seek to add beauty in the world and in the lives of those around me. 



From Mel: I have some wonderful stories in the cue to share. This one being as beautiful and transparent as what's graced this space already. When I had Candice arrive to the session I asked her to take a deep breath and to invite her whole self here, to remind all the different parts of herself that she is welcome. This following images and words are what resulted.

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From Candice:

I’ve come to the realization that everyone has a story to tell. For years, I’ve kept my own story hidden from most of the world. The only way I told my story was through the power of words. However, no one would see it. Literally tucked away in an old beaten up notebook or scrap piece of paper, I would hide my inner thoughts and dreams from the world, too ashamed to share. I thought, my story wasn’t good enough. Wasn’t worth telling or sharing with anyone. Throughout adulthood, I’ve put on a façade that my life is good and I’m okay. That my depression, self-doubt, anxiety and broken family relationships are minor struggles that no one needs to know about. After all, it’s been years since I’ve really felt (or acknowledged) the pain that is just below the surface.

What draws me to this project is the excitement of the unknown; the opportunity to finally share my own story and begin the pathway towards healing from within. I’ve felt this strong urge as of recently to really discover my authentic self. Not only have I had the urge to discover it, but I also want to embrace and live out that authentic side of me…

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Self-awareness is something that I’ve really embraced, the older I get. And, although it is a strength, it is also a weakness—because many times, I find myself comparing and doubting myself against the success of others. I see a successful female in my organization and think, “WOW, I’m not nearly as successful as that person.” Or, I see a photograph of a beautiful person on social media and immediately start comparing myself to what I see.

Just the other day, I was giving a presentation to a group of peers and felt inadequate (although I had all the same credentials and skills of my peers). The tendency I have is to create this dialogue of negative self-talk. “You aren’t as good.” “You aren’t as pretty. You aren’t as skinny. You aren’t what people want to see.” It’s a sad realization that I’ve never quite acknowledged until I really began reflecting.

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On the one hand, my being self-aware has helped me fine tune my strengths and really know where I excel and where to improve. However, my self-awareness often times leaves me feeling not good enough, and as a result-- not worthy enough for the good things in life. I’ve made it a point this year to really take time for myself, and dig a little deeper into my soul to find out who I really am. This consists of daily journaling, constant reflection, and putting my true feelings down in words through my blog A Musing Momma that I launched earlier this year.

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If I’m completely honest, I don’t think I’ve even given myself the opportunity to be misunderstood or silenced. As I mentioned, I’ve kept all of my innermost thoughts and ambitions to myself for the majority of my life. I think the loudest voice that I need to listen to and learn from is my own. Again, my self-doubt has gotten in the way of a lot of things that I dream to pursue.

For example, I’ve held myself back from applying for a job or asking for a promotion. Why is that? Why do I feel the need to apologize for asking for something I want? I’m beginning to know and really understand that the answer is this: Self-Doubt. Time and again, I’ve let my self-doubt and insecurities stand in the way of pursing my passions.

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I grew up with a gap in between my two front teeth. It gave me “character” and made me “unique.” Of course, that’s what my mom, family and good friends would tell me. But, I never really believed it. Being teased throughout my entire life, my physical appearance has always been something I was self-conscious of. In fact, I spent my entire life striving to be as successful as I could be, in an attempt to redirect people’s attention from my physical trait. It’s like I had to be good in every area that I could—to make up for the lack of beauty that I thought I had. So, I spoke at my High School Graduation, I sought out leadership positions within my job, I excelled in college and even pursued my Master’s Degree. Feeling beautiful wasn’t something I ever felt worthy of. Think about that for a moment—I’ve never felt worthy of being beautiful. 


It saddens me to write those words out, but if I’m going to be my authentic self, then I must face my innermost insecurities. I compared myself to what society’s standard of beautiful was. To this day, I still struggle with this concept. But, I’m at a point where I am determined to challenge the status quo of what beauty and success looks like.

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I’ve got a four year old daughter who is constantly watching me, and learning from me. From a mother’s perspective, I’d be heartbroken if my daughter ever felt unworthy of beauty and happiness. Shame on me if the day comes where my daughter feels unworthy. This points even more to the importance of acknowledging and embracing my own inner beauty.

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So, if I were to change one thing about myself, it would be how I feel about myself in terms of beauty, success and achievements. This is a work in process, but it will come from things like being more intentional in my thoughts, actions and beliefs. I will work to readjust my mindset and stop comparing myself to others. I believe that when I stop comparing myself and being more intentional in my thoughts, I can start believing wholeheartedly that beauty comes from within. Only then, will I be able to say “I am beautiful” and truly mean it.

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 My name is Candice and I am strong, beautiful and worthy.

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What needs to be said.

From Mel: I've been itching to get Chidimma in front of my camera for awhile now. I've enjoyed her podcast a ton this year due to the focus on social justice issues that impact how we do life with each other and ultimately how we love our neighbors. When I heard she was headed through Arizona I jumped at the chance to meet her and love what we created together. She has a passion for the addiction community, essential oils and yoga and I value what she had to share here.

Here are her words: 

From Chidimma: {If I were to change one thing about living in this world what would it be?} This must be the right question because tears have sprung to my eyes. I would love to feel more connected to the Divine and kinder to myself about my foibles. I would let myself off the hook a little more and see good in myself as I attempt to see good in others. Some of the things I say to myself are very unkind and untrue. I would change that about myself. 


Another thing I would change would be my platform. At times I do wish I had a bigger platform, if only to be used by the Divine as a vessel to be able to serve and to be helpful to more people. About a week ago I began to question EVERYTHING. Wondering if I wasn't doing my life's purpose. The unkind thoughts that pursued me like the unrelenting dripping of a broken faucet...what you do does not matter? Why are you spending so much time on your podcast? Your existence on this planet has not made a difference in anyone's life. Why are you still here? You're wasting your time and everyone else's too. Just stop. Now friends, intellectually I know that this is not correct information. Yet in the throes of it, the psychological assault was incessant. I wept. I was broken. I considered giving into the unreasonable demands.


And then I came out on the other side, because what I've learned is that the only way through something this painful is through it.  I also realized that self-care is incredibly important and it looks like the following for me: I need to move my body daily. I need to meditate daily. And I need a daily essential oil regimen. As I've incorporated these three items, the sunlight has returned. My spirit has infused. I again feel connected to the Divine. 


What do I want people to know? That as an empath I am incredibly aware of the emotions of those around me. And although I may "play an extravert on TV", I am extremely introverted so navigating my identities as a Nigerian-American, a Nigerian, a Black woman, a woman of color (WOC), a spiritual person who happens to love Jesus and humanity, a non-christian who was raised in the church, a person who seeks to live in the solution, someone who has never quite fit in, and as someone who is recreating the rules of engagement there are times that I just do not have the bandwidth to teach you about your own privilege, why what you said was hurtful/racist/sexist/xenophobic/homophobic/transphobic/etc or to respond to your ignorant text or comment and that is ok. 


This is my life. I went to a 50 minute Kettlebell Spin Fusion class which is half kettlebells and half indoor cycling. The class was awesome and the instructor was a woman of color, very possibly biracial or multiracial, a solid instructor. And it was so nice to see a WOC teaching because friends, that. is. usually. me. Only me. Not many others. And then I'm confused for other WOC who LOOK NOTHING LIKE ME. Oh yes, that really happened. A white woman mistook me for another WOC yoga teacher in Las Vegas, NV where I lived for nearly 10 years. Mind you, my friend and I LOOK NOTHING ALIKE. Not even a little bit. Then she proceeded to argue with me about who I was, insisting that I was my friend when clearly I was not. That, friends, is privilege. The ability to be flat.out.wrong. and still insist that you are correct. And there were no apologies by the way.


Or receiving a text message from a yoga friend whom I've had coffee with once. And I get a random text message from her telling me that she wants to bring more diversity to yoga so they're having a yoga photo shoot and she hopes I can be there. Can someone please tell me what does that mean? I mean, I know what it means because English is my native language, but really what did she mean? So here's the decision tree of my mind. Do I go to be a POC face for public consumption? Do I scold her? Do I hold space for her folly with grace and love? I likely will go with option three because that's my way, yet I haven't formulated the words and I'm still shocked about not only the timing of the text but the content. The reason the timing is so interesting is that I am currently in the process of requesting my images be removed from a website for an organization with which I've not been affiliated since Jan 2017. People have gone to this organization's website and have seen my image thinking, through no fault of their own, that (a) I'm still affiliated with the organization and (b) there is diversity at this organization which is a falsehood, whether the deception is intentional or not, I want no part of it. 


The onset of #metoo which began 10 years ago with Black activist Tarana Burke opened many people's eyes. I didn't post #metoo on social media because I was having a hard time reconciling my own experience as a survivor of sexual abuse as a child (aka sexual assault). I was 7 years old. And it was a family "friend". And because my stomach was hurting thinking about the intersectionality of our identities and that how historically in this nation, Black women and WOC's sexual assaults and harrassment has not be taken as seriously as white women's experiences. Even the fact that Tarana Burke began #metoo A DECADE AGO and people thought it was started because of that Hollywood abuser who will not be named by me and a white female actress used the hashtag me too and that spread like wildfire all over social media. There are differences when a white woman speaks of sexual assault and when a WOC does. Similar to kidnapping. Look at the 20+ year story of a white beauty pageant girl who went missing and then look at all the children of color who go missing. There is a disparity in media coverage and general love, care and concern when children of color are kidnapped or killed. 


Today alone three white men have been fired from their jobs due to inappropriate sexual conduct at work. Those five words should NEVER be strung together and yet they are. All. the. time. Ok, so back to these men. They believed the women that were their colleagues were essentially there for their own consumption. But why? Because of entitlement. Similar to my sweet friend who thinks that bringing diversity to yoga is as easy as photographing me doing some yoga poses. Hard no. I am not here for your consumption. I am here because Divine Love, the Divine, Spirit, a Power greater than myself still has work for me to do. I give of myself willingly, as it makes sense and is safe for me to do, yet I am not here for you. 


While I am largely comfortable in my own skin (thank you to the Divine, essential oils and a decade plus of work!) I am very mindful of the types of conversations I can have with whom and where I am, in real life and on social media, to ensure I am safe both physically and emotionally. I wish people would understand that the laugh of a survivor as that person retells someone else of their horrifying experience with sexual assault or harassment, may be a legitimate laugh, or may be the laugh many of us have done to gloss over the pain and powerlessness we felt in the moment and often continue to feel. It is similar being a WOC. I hear things that make my heart stop all of the time and before I used to laugh and allow the feeling to pass, but not anymore. I want people to know that I don't always want to be strong, that I don't always want to speak up and speak out and that I'd like a day off once in awhile, but that is not reality. While I acknowledge I do have some privilege in some areas of my life, overwhelmingly, I don't exercise the privilege of checking out. And that is not an indictment of anyone else. I am not you. I simply am speaking authentically about my own life. Yes, I take breaks. A band works because while some players are breathing, others are playing. And that is how this #resistence is. I tap out and you join the fight of advocating for others and when you need to tap out, I rejoin the advocacy efforts. 


Most importantly, I want poeple to know that my love for humanity means, I speak truth to power in love. You may not like what I have to say, yet I would encourage you to pay attention and lean in.  #hoperising


From Mel: Gail and I became friends online eight or nine years ago...or ten. I can't remember. A mutual friend introduced us to each others blogs and our reading provided comments, encouragement and later turned into a few emails and phone calls. I have since released that project but have continued to feel grateful for the writing Gail offers us. She is an adventurer, nurturer, traveler, survivor, advocate and truly, a beautiful human. In September she journeyed out here, to my desert for a few days and I will forever treasure that time, her words and this session. 


From Gail:

What draws you to this project?
You draw me to this project, Mel, your soulfulness, your eye for beauty, your invitation to look at myself more deeply and more intentionally. Also I am drawn because it is far too easy to not look at myself - in a physical sense. I am an avid journaler and have been for decades, so I’m used to looking inside myself, but I don’t look at my outside as much, not with kind and loving eyes anyway. I can be pretty critical of my physical appearance sometimes. But photographs have often helped me look at myself with more kindness. This project is an opportunity for me to put my words, which tend to come relatively easily to me and for me, together with images of my face and body, which I tend to turn away from. This project is an opportunity for me to see and experience myself as a whole being, mind and body, word and flesh, soul and sinew. That’s what draws me to this project.


I remember growing up in churches that didn’t believe in the leadership skills and qualities of women. Women couldn’t be elders or deacons or preachers or pastors. They could “give their testimony” or talk about their experiences on the mission field, but they, we were mostly relegated to taking care of children and vacation Bible school, and the like. That led me to feel like I was being silenced in the church, that my voice and my stories were fine to share with other women, but men needed to learn from and be taught by other men. I was well into my adult years before I acknowledged fully how hurtful that was to me and then felt comfortable in challenging that hierarchy in conversation with other people I knew. To ask questions about why things were the way that they were was tantamount to questioning the authority of the Bible. I remember asking, “Does the Bible really say that we shouldn’t have sex outside of marriage? I was promptly shown a Scripture passage, and then asked, “Why? Do you have a problem with that?” End of conversation.


I am enormously grateful to be part of a faith community that welcomes questions, that encourages deeper questions, and doesn’t attempt to make all those present tow the same party line. We are free to study and think and explore and express our doubts all along the journey. Men and women serve and pray and work and wrestle with our questions together. We don’t always get it right, but we don’t expect that we will either. We don’t always know what the right answers are our many questions, but we don’t expect that we will. What a blessed relief after so many years of feeling silenced and dismissed and diminished - simply for being born female. Their welcoming spirit, their encouragement to me to grow more deeply and fully into my true and full self has spilled over into other areas of my life.


I am a more compassionate woman and friend because of their love. I am more tender toward myself, my broken places, my scarred places because of their love. I am more courageous in asking hard questions and wrestling with hard truths because of the love of this community.

I am being healed through the love of this community. I am grateful.


If I could change one thing about the way I see myself, I would see myself as beautiful. But even as I wrote those words, I asked myself, “Whose definition of beautiful? Whose approval do I seek? Why don’t I see myself as beautiful now? What would it take for me to see myself as beautiful?” And then another batch of questions floated up, “What happened to me that made me think I wasn’t beautiful, that I’m not beautiful? Whose standard or standards am I applying to myself?When will I stop caring what other people think of my appearance, of my life choices, of me? When will all the overlaid and inlaid messages of inadequacy be erased, deleted, discarded? What am I waiting for?”

I am enormously grateful for every step of the journey that has been my life. I have watched with dearly loved ones have suffered with mental illness, and with debilitating fear and loneliness. I was at my father’s side when he died of lung kanswer. I have I am scarred both inside and outside.
But I was also privileged to attend the births of three children, to bear witness to the miracle of new life. I have crossed oceans and continents, exploring towns and interacting with people that I never could have imagined. I have seen, lived, experienced grief, sorrow, love, passion, hope and despair. Despite all of that, after all of that, because of all of that the overarching attitude of my life is one of gratitude. I have survived 100% of what I have faced; I am grateful. I have wept and I have laughed, sometimes in the same moment; I am grateful. I have been held close and I have been rejected; I am grateful. I gave birth to two healthy, strong, plump and juicy babies; I am grateful.


Following a breast kanswer diagnosis, I endured chemotherapy, a double mastectomy without reconstruction and a hysterectomy; I am grateful. This November, I will celebrate five years since that kanswer diagnosis; I am grateful.

I am determined to live all the days that are mine to live with joy and hope and peace, in spite of all the odds this miraculous, busted, beautiful, aching world and nation have stacked against me. I hope and pray that my life journey will continue to lead me into deeper growth and transformation and joy - even in the midst of the messiness and difficulties of life, perhaps most especially in the hard times.


From Mel: This. Woman. You know when you meet someone and it's like discovering another part of yourself? That's how my time with Kimberly has been. Both fresh and familiar, kindred and awakening. Her story and journey are different than mine, and yet, there is an invitation to look at things and to deepen into awareness, advocacy and the current civil rights movement. I can't explain it but it feels like returning home. 

From Kimberly: I’ve felt an urging from God recently, to share my story. He hasn’t given me an exact idea as to how this should look, but I just know that it is something I need to do for my own healing and hopefully to give others hope and encouragement.


I have never felt confident in who I am…recently though, I’ve felt more empowered by God to speak up and feel comfortable in my own skin, what I believe, the ways in which He created me. I struggled for the longest in terms of my ethnic identity and feeling not good enough or pretty enough as a black female. I have a white mom and a black father and I was raised largely in the dominant white culture in a suburb of St Louis. 

As a child, I clung dearly to my identity as a biracial person, not wanting to deny a piece of who I am. When I was young, I did whatever I could to fit into the dominant culture and really to just blend in. I never felt as if I fit in or as if I would be fully accepted if I acted too “black.” Now, as I draw closer to the end of my 30s and as I more fully embrace who I am as a black woman, created in the image of God, I find myself feeling more confident than ever and I am slowly able to see myself differently and as worthy, despite my dark eyes, brown skin, and my so called “bad” hair. 


Being a black woman has meant recognizing that cultural differences that many in society see as "bad" are actually beautiful and that I can embrace them. It means being proud of my brown skin, my curly hair, the unbelievable strength of my ancestors and what my people have endured, not just hundreds of years ago, but today. It's sparked an interest in gaining a better understanding of my history. Today I love having big dark brown eyes and I appreciate my curl pattern. I no longer long to have straight silky hair or to be deemed as beautiful by a society that largely does not value my blackness. I find joy and strength in identifying as a black woman.


I now feel empowered to speak up on behalf of my brothers and sisters of color. I fully recognize that I have benefitted greatly from privilege associated with having a white parent and being biracial. I try to use that privilege in a meaningful way that benefits others without voices that are heard as loudly. Some days, it’s exhausting though because while many people only notice racism when they see things such as #Charlottesville, people of color experience it every single day, overtly, systematically, and everywhere. For the most part, I strive to help people who seem at least somewhat teachable. I try to come from a place of love, because truthfully, it breaks my heart to think that fellow human beings could go through their entire life being blind to the oppression their brothers and sisters face. I have to proceed with caution though because sometimes the combo of  experiencing injustice, speaking up against it, and having my lived experiences denied or minimized is too much. Sometimes, it begins to take a physical toll on me and I have to recognize when this is happening and engage in self care. Sometimes I suck at forgiving and just feel exhausted by it all. These are the times I need a break. 


None of this is to say that I have arrived or that I don’t doubt myself daily. I still struggle with being overly critical of myself and avoiding looking at myself in the mirror. I am still working to embrace my blackness and understand this huge piece of who I am. I love looking back though and seeing the unexpected gift that God has given me in opening up my eyes to what being a black woman means for me. This has also informed the way in which I parent and how I will teach my daughter to embrace and love her identity as a woman of color.


As the mother of a brown child, I find that I have to be incredibly self-aware that I don't project my own experiences onto my daughter. It is immensely important to me that she is proud to be a woman of color from a young age and that as her mom, I give her the tools to be able to do this. I must be intentional in considering what her world look like? Does she have racial mirrors in her school, church, books, toys, etc? I recognize the beauty in the color of her skin, and hair, and eyes, but I have to be careful not to place too much of my own angst onto her. Because she is racially ambiguous, I also get random questions/statements from strangers: "What is she? Well it's good she blends in. How is her hair so straight?" 

Those can be hard to swallow and I'm not always as gracious as I'd hope to be. I worry for her that she will struggle with feeling as if she does not fit in, like I did, which again is where I come back to the importance of encouraging her to embrace all of who she is and making sure that she is surrounded by other strong women of color.


Some days, I still feel alone and misunderstood on this journey...but God. He has given me such a gift in allowing me to dive deep into figuring out who I am. He has put me in this desert city and placed some amazing queens in my life, who formally and informally have become my mentors and examples of what a strong and confident [black] woman looks like. They are beautiful, funny, smart, strong, and courageous, women, that have taught me so much. I laugh sometimes that God has given me this unexpected gift in Phoenix off all places (the most recent census bureau report shows Phoenix having an African American population of about 6.5%). 


I hope my words encourage someone to embrace who they are and to learn more about themselves. I hope that others who struggle with loving themselves just as they are and as God created them, can move closer to seeing themselves as God does. 

I celebrate my uniqueness and imperfection. My voice is worth hearing. I have a unique and important perspective to share. I am worthy.


Mended Tissue.

From Mel: I never know what I'm going to learn from someone's story, but I ALWAYS know that I am going to walk away more awake, more connected and with more compassion. Below is Angela's journey with body acceptance.

From Angela:  I grew up in northern Wisconsin in a rural town. Fashion was not at the top of the list; dressing warm and practical. Easter dresses rarely allowed for cute shoes; instead we wore our winter boots and jackets to church. I was the oldest of two girls. Many times as a child all bundled up in my winter gear, people would refer to me as a boy. Light colors were discouraged because they got dirty; instead black or navy blue were my winter clothing choices. My hair was chopped around age 5 because I didn’t take care of my hair. I still remember my mom taking a picture afterwards, my face streaked with tears, it was so short. My dad will tell us to get our “swimming trunks on”; I would correct him as say “we wear swimsuits.” As a child, I was aware of the shape and size of my body. It was reinforced by family, school age friends and then my own inner voice. I will never for the day that I was called “fat”. It was in 5 th grade and it was the annual school weights. I remember getting my number that I was a 100lbs. I was mortified!!

After I got back to the classroom, a note was on my desk. I opened it and it said, “Your fat.” It’s one thing to battle the inner voice in your head; it’s a completely different game when others notice and tell you. Oh and the grandmas that say what they feel. I remember my grandma wanted to make a little sign for my sister that said “you’re not fat, just short for your size.” Luckily my mother prevented it from being made. My mother taught us to love ourselves no matter our size. It was difficult to listen to her advice, when all I heard was my voice.

I held back on living my life thanks to hating my body. I danced as a little girl and continued until Jr. High. I stopped due to the costumes becoming more revealing. I didn’t have a nice flat stomach. In fact, I had a permanent line on the stomach that I referred to as the “continental divide”. Its why my pants were always worn so high. I finally got my love of dance back when through cheerleading (only one season) and the the Pom Pom squad. I hated the stupid gold suspenders because that were push to the side due to my boobs.

Speaking of my boobs….

My boobs came into bloom in third grade way before any other girls at my school. I remember being a B cup in six grade. I hated my boobs. They were not nice and round like we see on TV, rather they were cone shaped and not symmetrical. I guess we are genetically blessed with bosoms in my family. I tried to cover them up in baggy clothes; oh and I hated swimsuits!!! But I pushed through and joined the swim team in Jr. High. Once again, I was more developed than my fellow swimmers. I had this routine before each race: pulled my swim suit up toward my neck, pop my goggles on and grab the block. Well unfortunately, I was nervous and forgot to pull up my suit.

As I entered the water, I felt my swimsuit plunge down to my stomach. I pulled it up then swam my race. Sadly, after I touched the wall, I was disqualified due to taking one too many strokes to reach the surface. All because of my fucking boobs. Throughout life I had wardrobe malfunctions (boobs popping out of my prom dress, color bra shown on family photos due to buttons that were tight across my chest. As I grew up, I dread clothes shopping especially for bras. I couldn’t wear the cute stylish ones; in fact I referred to them as “over the shoulder boulder holders”. For years, I thought I was a 38 DDD; however, my dear friend stated “you’re not wearing the proper bra size.” I was pissed she would say it; but, I called her from the dressing room thanking her that I was a 38G. Let me tell you, when your “girls” are lift properly you look like you just lost 10lbs. Plus my back and shoulders didn’t kill me.

I came to peace with my boobs when I became a mother. I never planned on nursing my daughter. If I hated my boobs, how the hell would I accept touching them and pumping. I did it and it was the best decision, I ever made. First I lost all my baby weight quickly, but it created wonderful moments with my daughter. She still loves to nestle on them while watching TV.

I did feel misunderstood when I was a child and teenager. I chose to have short hair in high school and yet people still thought I was a boy. I remember working at the grocery store, a gentleman came up and said, “excuse me sir”. I pointed to my boobs and said, “you might want to rephrase that statement.” I do believe women are misunderstood when it comes to the shape of our bodies. We are reminded by magazines, radio ads, social media that we all have an extra 10-20 pounds to lose. We are pushed to lose that “muffin top” or eat salads for lunch. Luckily my mother didn’t reinforce these things in our home. I remember skipping meals or cutting back to lose weigh in high school. My friends were always shorter and smaller. My mom had a rule not to share clothes with friends. I had no problem because they would have been swimming in them.

I felt silenced by stores in the mall that didn’t have various sizes. My boobs were too big and I had no hips…well hip bones but I was thick through the middle and long legs. My mother religiously bought my clothes through JC Penney’s catalog because they had Plus Sizes. I remember girls being excited about prom and the variety of dresses. I was like, the first one that fits me I’m buying. I was a fat, chubby, big boned girl. My internal voice was the loudest. Telling “this is why you don’t have a boyfriend or why you are not popular.”

Today it sickens me that women’s clothing gets smaller and smaller. I even noticed with my daughter that her sizes cut so far in. Hello clothing industry, we are not all shaped like hourglasses. As a mother it’s my mission to educate my daughter that beauty is more than her stomach, legs and thighs. Sadly, she has already dealt with a girl calling her fat. It was one time but she will never forget it, just like I will never forget my note.

My transformation of how I view myself began when I worked at Remuda Ranch Eating Disorder Treatment center. I met Mel as a body image therapist along with other amazing eating disorder specialist. While working in this environment, it tends to alter your perception of yourself. Along with my growth, my faith was a tremendous solace. God makes beautiful things perfect in His Own Image. I witnessed pain, suffering, that women experienced. I cried when I got the letters that some “didn’t make it” and took their own lives over hating themselves.

After I left Remuda Ranch, I made it my personal mission to advocate for healthy body image. It started with no scale in our house. Ava’s father and I taught her all foods are good in moderation and proportion. When we go to the doctor, I have Ava turn around backwards and ask the nurse not to announce her weight. We encourage her to be physical active to keep our muscles strong. Horseback riding created some rock solid muscles in her legs. Despite my effort to protect my daughter from the diet industry, fat shamming comments or social media; it still penetrated her heart and thoughts. I felt that I failed as a parent. I was supposed to know how to fix her thoughts and teach her to appreciate herself.

I continued my passion through advocacy work with NEDA. I had to stop once I began working. I attended a documentary, EMBRACE, with Ava and a fellow colleague. Taryn Brumfitt is this amazing Aussie lady on mission to allow us to embrace our bodies. She is phenomenal. I hope to meet her someday.

Here are my two cents about life: Stop the crazy diets; they don’t work. Stop forcing yourself to fit into a swimsuit or wedding dress that will look much better if you lose 20lbs. It’s not worth it. I wouldn’t change myself in any way. I have accepted my saggy non symmetrical boobs; they nourished my daughter. I have accepted my flabby stretched marked stomach; it was the home to my unborn child and my daughter.

I’m imperfectly perfect. My body shape is not a tragedy. I’m imperfectly perfect.

Phenomenal woman that’s me.

My name is Angela and I’m phenomenal.


From Mel: This women and her journey give me goosebumps because she's owning her space, her body and her story in a season where it's actively being rewritten. I have only recently learned about breast implant illness and have found to my surprise that three people I know have suffered from it. This post is not intended as an opinion about breast implants, it is shared here with all the respect, suffering and beauty that Kelly's personal experience deserves. 

From Kelly:

I got breast implants in 2014 beacuse it was the right choice for me at the time. I felt I needed it to feel more confident. To feel womanly. To feel more like I was expected to feel. I would be lying if I said I didn't second guess it, but at the time I was a different person and the choice was right for me. I struggled for a year with changes happening to my body, ignoring my gut instinct, beliving doctors who didn't listen to MY story. Because I pushed my inner voice down, my physical body suffered. In 2015 I was diagnoised with a thyroid auto immune disease, hashimotos. I plunged into a new life of researching and trying new things. I went from a healthy person, to one that couldn't stay awake, my hair was falling out and I couldn't gain weight. I went on medicatons tried different diet restrictions and things moved in a better direction but I still hadn't found my trigger. August of 2016, I finally listened to my body. After multiple appointments and multiple crazy looks, I electively scheduled to have my implants removed. Come to find out, one of the implants ruptured shortly after my implant surgery. Having them removed was the best choice for my physical body, but that is when the journey started!

The damage physically was done. I have 3 auto-immune diseases, hashimotos, celiacs and scleroderma. I can no longer live my life the way I want. I have to eat differently. I have to stay active differently. I have to learn to handle my emotions and stress differently. I have shame when it comese to my body, I feel guilty for doing this to my body, even though I logically know I had no way of knowing. I have guilt that I am not living up to expecations. The biggest obstacle that separates me and others knowing this part of me is my abilty to be vunerable. I keep everything in, which I am learning isn't healthy. I have guilt and shame that keeps me from connecting with others. I isolate and retreat.

My biggest obstable is trusting that I am enough. I am enough to spend time healing, to ask for time to myself, to share and to grow on my identity through this journey.

My experiences have changed me. I would want you to see how it has been a driving force in putting myself first. The experiences have pushed me closer to finding and defining my identity and self worth. I am learning who I am. I am me. I am not an activity that I do, I am not a meal that I eat. I am me, ever changing I feel sometimes.

I strive to be an advocate for others to trust themselves, to forgive themselves, and to move forward in to a vulnerable space of healing. The experieces have taught me to search for answers outside of the cultural norm in my life. The experiences have brought me closer to my Faith. The obstacles I face are ever changing it seems. The biggest obstacle is explaining the consequences, both negative and postive, of my experience's aftermath. That obstacle applies to telling others as well as coming to grips with it myself. I will never be who I once was and that's ok. My experiemces are forcing me out of my comfort zone and it is a blessing that I get to learn so much about myself and interact in the world more genuinely and wholly.

I feel misunderstood in my quest to be healthy and educated in the aspects of food and alternative medicine. In my environment/family life it is very out of the norm to seek different answers that a Doctor would give me. Some of my familyand friends and trust the doctors and their practice with medicine, and I challenge it. I feel like I have to be quiet about my choices to seek different treatments. I feel like I silence myself, so I don't have to try and explain my position on my health and treatments. I feel like others don't value their health and it truly makes me sad for them.

I feel silenced by a twisted connotation of submitting. I feel like I should be more of one thing or another because of what society values currently. I feel like the twisted connotation of submitting puts me in the middle of how I want to act and how I am expected to act.

I don't want to change the way I see myself, I want to change how I feel about myself first. I wouldn't want to make changes until I felt comfortable and confident with myself and my choices. I want to see myself embrace the hard. Then, then I could see myself through clear eyes, full of acceptance of myself internally, not just phsyically.

I heard a quote and I agree, she said "she wished she could slap the society out of people." I couldn't have said it better. If I could change the one thing about the way I see myself, it would be they way I think others see me. I wish I didn't care, I wish the weight of others judgement didn't weigh me down. I would live in this world full of confidence if I could, when i can.

I want to change the gap in which I see myself and the worry of how others see me.

My name is Kelly and I am a tenacious woman.

A new narrative.

From Mel: Friends, Megan is a gifted writer and a generous friend. Her words, thoughtfulness and intentionality add richly to my life. I cried hearing her story because of the beautiful gift she is, I hate that she's ever doubted it. 

When I asked her why she was attracted to this project this is what she shared:

The idea of being known. the idea that telling my story can help free me, but it can help free others as well. when I'm free, I give others permission to be free. there's this idea out there that we are meant to know and be known - and not just known for our likes and dislikes -but for what we have experienced and how that has shaped us into who we are. what makes us tick. we're meant to go deep - 18 feet if you will [it's a construction thing that doesn't totally matter here] - that's how deep we're meant to dig, and how deep we're meant to be known. we all come from wildly different places, and I don't think it's on accident. life isn't happening to us...well, it is if we let it. but we are ridiculously in charge of our lives, and it's our responsibility to build something out of what we've been handed. it may seem like we've been dropped in a pile of shit, but we get to choose where we go from there. the possibilities are endless and we're the only ones that keep ourselves there. I speak to myself when I say that, too. I'm really good at staying stuck if I want to. I'd be killing the game if that was a major in college.


Most of my life I have felt like I must have been a fatal error - that I wasn’t meant to be here. that I didn’t matter. that I was God’s mistake. I felt like I was born trying to prove I could be someone. my parents divorced when I was pretty young. I never felt like a priority after that. I never really felt loved. that I probably wasn’t good enough if the two people who were supposed to care and love me the most were really just interested in what was going to make them feel good. I was never invited to be part of the family that was my father’s when I had to spend two days of the week there. the home I grew up in became very chaotic for a long time. I was all alone. you can’t understand why you’re neglected or why an adults anger or pain is being taken out on you. all you can do is survive. and it’s a really interesting thing as an adult to figure out how to walk out of that and into something new. how do you break the bondage of shame and fear and heartbreak when it’s all you’ve known? it takes time. often longer than I’d like. it takes vulnerability and letting people into your darkness. I made up my mind a long time ago to love others really well, but it’s been most difficult to learn how to allow others to love me in return.

I have felt misunderstood and silenced my whole life. but a couple years ago I read a book by Jamie Tworkowski called “if you feel too much” and it helped me realize that it’s ok to not be ok and that it’s ok to talk about those things. it helped me find my voice. it helped me realize that I have a voice and that it matters and it makes a difference. the lies i’ve believed are currently being replaced by what God says about me. lies are real. they are real and painful. you've got to fight them to the ground or they will spring up when you aren't looking. the work of fighting lies can be exhausting but so fruitful. fight to come out of the dark. fight to come out into the light. I may be in process of replacing lies with truth, but I can honestly say that what God says about me is loudest more often than not these days.

I hate that people make assumptions of others based on what they see on the outside. I've had that happen to me. I think that’s what keeps others from knowing who I am at my core. that any assumptions you could make about me based on how I look are almost all false. I’m a person worth knowing. I’m awesome. I don’t say that in a prideful or boastful kind of way. we are all unique and complex and have so much to offer each other and the world. there’s abuse in my past. there are huge mistakes I’ve made. I struggle with major depression and anxiety makes an appearance when I’m at my lowest. but I’m also a great friend. I have a heart for those who are hurting. I’m way more interested in people than I am in things. I’m a deep thinker. I love to travel. I’d rather live in the third world. I love a good hands on project. if I ever saw you hurt a kid, I would end you. that’s extreme maybe, but kids are so so important. they deserve to be heard. I want to build up and encourage people. I want to be the kind of person that people follow off the screen - that people see and think, “yeah, megan’s doing it right.” choosing to make assumptions of others keeps them at an arm’s distance. and thinking we know a person based on those assumptions is total bullshit. get to know people. invest your time and your heart into them.

it’s worth it.

this is it. this is my life. the up and downs and back-arounds. this is what being human really is. the joy of it. the thrill of it. the muck of it. i’m not above it. in fact, i’m in it. which is exactly where i’m meant to be. in it. all along.

Life has been so kind to humble me. I think humble people are happier people. they are more connected people. they have been knocked off their pedestals with, like, one of those giant American Gladiator mallet things, so now they are back on the ground, where they belong. but now, I can look people in the eyes. it’s better down here.

So, that doesn’t mean I live here. like, you and I keep getting up and working through things and moving forward. despite the mess, I've had some really amazing opportunities. and even so, I get to believe that things will still be really amazing. that, as my friend Mike says, my setbacks can be used as my superpowers. I have a unique voice, and I have the opportunity to really do something great with what i’ve been handed. and there will be times that i will forget these things, and I’ll need you to help me remember. I want to remember this for the rest of my life. I want to live out of this place.

My name is Megan and even though I’ve felt justified in feeling afraid and alone and forgotten many times, I’ve been asking God to replace my absolute fear with total peace. am I there yet?nope. but I’m heading in that direction.

Outstretched voice.

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice --
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do --
determined to save
the only life you could save.” 
― Mary Oliver




This project launched off of a photography workshop I attended and found myself healed in an area that I didn't know was broken...I came home excited to share it with my mama, as it related mostly to our connection and history. I asked her to step in front of my camera the day after I shared my story and tears, and the sun decided to hide from us. These images are what she offered me however and I will forever be grateful for them and the woman my mama is. 

I read this Richard Rohr quote recently and it immediately made me think of my mama: 

"I have committed myself to joy. I have come to realize that those who make space for joy, those who prefer nothing to joy, those who desire the utter reality, will most assuredly have it. We must not be afraid to announce it to refugees, slum dwellers, saddened prisoners, angry prophets. Now and then we must even announce it to ourselves. In this prison of now, in this cynical and sophisticated age, someone must believe in joy." 

Life hasn't been easy and it's likely not going to be easy. She's learned to stand firm and find joy anyways. 

When I asked her to remember me as a little girl... 

Tenderhearted, compassionate and forgiving. My mom and dad don't have much yet they drive around their town with McDonalds coffees and homemade chicken noodle soup looking for "treasure" to give those small items away too. Serving the homeless is an extension of how she values others. If I could serve like anyone it would be her, she is truly the most generous person I know. 

My arm around her. Wearing a bracelet that reads mama. Remembering what it means to lay my head on her chest, to trust the space, to lean into the connection. 


From Mel: I related to Julie's story. I am a former pastors kid and recovering evangelical and much of why I left organized religion is because I haven't experienced it to be safe for the struggling. That being said, I am a feminist because of Jesus, not in spite of him. 

During my time with Julie the thing that kept hitting me in the chest was her deep compassion FOR the Christian church...the very ground that has caused her deep suffering is the ground she most wants to see alive and transformed. Her pursuit to see femininity valued in Christian churches is a testament of deep faith and character. 

From Julie:

I am open to telling my story. I believe keeping our secrets makes all of us feel more alone. 

I tell the rest of this story understanding that in the grand scheme of the world and even the United States, I live a greatly privileged life. 

But my seven year old self didn't know that. I grew up in a conservative Christian school, and in conservative Christian church. I had to wear a dress every day. It was made very clear to me that I was not as good as the boys. It was also made clear that God did not want my female voice in his church. 

When I was 7, Jesse Owens was my hero. I loved his story of proving Hitler wrong in front of the watching world. I read the story of Jesse's Olympic success, over and over and over again. I was so inspired. I wanted to be him. I wanted to show my teachers they were wrong. I wanted to show my teachers that girls were just as good as boys. In elementary school I was fascinated by injustice and read books about slavery and was shocked at the evil and blindness of humanity. 

Puberty was traumatic for me, because it was a time of losing power and strength and the start of my period. I was incredulous at the injustice of bleeding every month while the boys got to grow strong muscles and (I assumed) feel better about themselves. I was devastated and defeated and angry at God. Before puberty, I could prove sexism wrong by running faster, by doing more pull ups, by doing more push ups. But when testosterone kicked in for them, and estrogen kicked in for me, I began to hate myself. I was absolutely devastated. I judged myself by the world's standards. My body was female and inferior. Depression kicked in. 

I spent my high school years on my parents' couch reading books and feeling absolutely worthless. I had few friends. My teachers had been right all along. I was worthless and weak. I was second-class and less-than. My theology classes and my theology teachers confirmed that even God believed this to be true.

But even then a spark of rebellion was there. During my senior year of high school, when Bill Gothard's rules for marriage were taught as a Bible study, I raised my hand and challenged them and asked where these rules could be found in the Bible. When my respected theology teacher told me women couldn't be pastors or elders, I wrote a snarky response and attached an article by Alvera Mickelson on the order of creation. My fight with the conservative church has continued to this day. Part of me is just unwilling to accept their rejection of women. 

I have come to understand that femininity is beautiful and strong. And that masculinity and physical strength are not the standards of value and worth. But it took a while for me to get there. I believed the lie I was told, even while rejecting it.

I would say that my fear of rejection, highly sensitive personality,  and shyness have been the biggest obstacles in my life. I have always wondered why God gave me such a passion for women in leadership and then made me such a shy, quiet introvert. I have no desire to be a pastor or elder, or to speak in front of crowds, but I will fight for every woman's right to be one. I despise talking to people I don't know, but I have found myself in the offices of multiple pastors arguing against sexism in the church.

I think and pray about injustice in the church every day, almost all day. I don't know what to do to help create change, but my mind is constantly plagued with incredulity. How can good, kind, Christian men believe it is okay to exclude women and prevent them from using their God-given gifts? I am absolutely flabbergasted by this issue.

I feel misunderstood in my own silence. I am a quiet person and I need a lot of alone time. But this does not mean I do not care deeply for others. I am easily stimulated so I need to keep my distance in order to cope with this overwhelming life. 

(If I wasn't afraid) I would care less about what other people think of me. I would care less about what men in the church think of me. I would care less about perfection and rejection. I would just be me. I have greatly improved in this area, but I know I still care, and I still want to prove those freaking sexist men wrong. I still want to show them up. How dare they underestimate me? How dare they look at me and see "female" and want nothing more from me? It disgusts me. I struggle to get over that insult. 

My name is Julie and I want to be used by God to make create change for women in the church. I am a writer and I want to write in ways which make others feel less alone in their insecurities. I want to love and bless my friends AND enemies, and I pray every day for the strength to do so. 



Backstory, Part I.

From Mel: For years I've longed to integrate my passions for art, storytelling, social justice and community. For years I was stumped as to how. I have a thriving newborn and photography business that I love, however, it isn't the platform for this work. After a recent Wildflower Photo workshop experience, this project crystalized and it is now it's own separate healing space...I recognize that the honesty in this space is not going to sit with everyone, however my desire is for it to be a safe practice of receiving story and loving others. 

The majority of the words in this space will be written by my neighbors, my sisters, my friends. 

My images. Your stories. This is a collaborative project. These are not models, these are participants, healers, truth tellers.

Nayyirah Waheed, poem from Salt.  

"if i write 

what you may feel

but cannot say.

it does not 


me a poet. 

it makes me a bridge.


i am humbled


i am grateful to assist your heart in speaking." 

Photo by Joy Prouty, Wildflower photo 2017

Photo by Joy Prouty, Wildflower photo 2017

Tell me.

“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.” --Mary Oliver 



From Mel: Beautiful Nadia was interested in this project because she wants others to know that they're not alone. During our session, I asked her what she wants others to most know about her experience, and without missing a beat she said "it's not my fault."

It's not her fault. It's not your fault.

I am so grateful for her willingness to share, her story below may be triggering for others...It may be healing. We're not alone.  

From Nadia:  

In 2005 at 19, I went to a party with a guy that I had been around a few times as his date. Due to the fact that I lived pretty far, we drove separately and I met him at the apartment where the party was being held. I was so excited to be there, with HIM, this guy was my dream type, killer rockstar voice, tall, dark hair, a beard, tattoos, and an amazing kisser. 

There were a few people there that I had met before, but mostly new ones. I remember standing out on the balcony and him wrapping his arms around me from behind and giving me a kiss on the top of my head. Like I said, he was tall. We went inside and he started drinking. He asked me if I wanted a drink and I said sure but just one since I had to drive home. He and his friend went to the kitchen to make their drinks along with my rum and Coke. I remember drinking it and thinking it tasted so good so it couldn't have had much rum. Little did I know, it wasn't just rum and Coke. 

My mom had told me the "never put your drink down at a party" but I was never told don't let anyone else make your drink. 

Next thing I remember was lying down because I was feeling really drunk. After one drink. Then, it went black. I woke up, naked, sore, and surrounded by people I didn't know and so very dizzy. I gathered what I could find of my clothes and stumbled out the door, down the long hallways of the complex, and into my car. I knew I shouldn't be driving but I knew something was wrong and I didn't feel safe staying. So I drove to my ex boyfriends apartment and knocked on his window until he woke up and let me in. 

I remember him being so mad at me because "I smelled like sex and alcohol" but I kept telling him I was just so tired and needed to sleep. So I slept. 22 straight hours. I woke up a couple of times to him bringing me water and checking on me but other than that, I slept. 

I woke up and he and his roommate were both very persistent that I wake up and try to eat. I finally had the energy to make it to the bathroom and that's when it hit me, I was so sore that it hurt when I went, and still so dizzy. I called my ex into the bathroom while sobbing and he checked and said I was so swollen and scratched up. It took everything I had to convince him not to go find the guy and "kill him" because I felt like it was as my fault for going to the party, my fault for letting them make my drink, and my fault for drinking even. I thought I would get in trouble. 

It wasn't until years later after I had been married that I had gone to bed after a long few days of dealing with a sick baby and working nights, that I woke up sick to my stomach and felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. I flashed back to that night... all of a sudden I remembered it all. All of it. I remembered their faces, how rough they were, how weak I was... I remembered them laughing. 

I remembered the night I was raped by three guys. 

The biggest obstacle that I've had is losing trust in men other than my father and brother. Despite how kind, honest, great looking... I don't trust them.  My husband knows it happened but not the details. Part of me wants him to know but I know he'll never ask. It's worse now because since I was raped, I've been abused by men, lied to, cheated on, and divorced. 

I definitely feel like my constant guard is always up and people think I'm doing it out of spite but really it's my only way I protect myself mentally and emotionally. Even now with a new husband and three daughters, I have such a hard time letting people in. The slightest action that leads me to think someone (especially a man) is being dishonest my walls go up immediately and are pretty hard to break back down. 

Honestly I feel like my childrens' and my mom's voice are the loudest. My mom constantly tells me how great of a mom I am and how proud of me she is. Then the amount of love my children pour out to me makes me feel like I've managed to somewhat overcome my past fears of not being enough.