Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,And sorry I could not travel bothAnd be one traveler, long I stoodAnd looked down one as far as I couldTo where it bent in the undergrowth...
This year marks 12 years since I first ventured online to share my story.
In those early days, it was raw and bitter. I never wanted this to be my story, and I certainly never wanted to share it with the world. My struggle with pornography as a Christian woman was the last thing I wanted people to know about me. It is not what I wanted to be known for.
But those twelve years have taught me much about growth and grace and healing and change. I think perhaps some of the most important lessons I’ve learned are these:
– Change happens from the ground up. You want to change culture? You must first change conversations. When I first started doing this, there wasn’t room for stories like mine on platforms (literally and figuratively) in the church. So, instead of reaching for platforms, I reached for the pews. After all, that’s where the people are. Is it slow? Of course. But one story illustrates this so well and will always stick with me.
I was asked to speak in a church in Australia. There, I shared my story and talked about how we do a disservice to Christian women when we address pornography as solely a male issue. Months later, a friend of mine happened to be in that same city for a conference. The speaker got up and presented pornography as solely a male issue. And my friend started to get riled up over a meal with some of the conference attendees. He mentioned how it isn’t just a man’s issue and some of the other pastors joined his frustration. Together they talked about how women can also struggle and churches need to address that too. He found out later that the men he was talking to had attended my talk months earlier. He called me from Australia and simply said this, “You changed the conversation on the other side of the world. That’s pretty amazing.”
And it is. I haven’t gotten to speak in a hundred churches, but I hope I’ve changed hundreds of conversations.
– There’s room for all of our stories. I get called a pioneer sometimes. My bio says I’m a “leading voice.” But I’m not the only voice and when I can use my platform, however small it may be, to give another woman a chance to find her voice, that’s pretty great. That means other conversations are changing. Conversations I can never have in circles I can never reach. If you are one of those women, I cheer you on. I am in your corner.
– My story is ultimately His story. Nearly two years after I first started sharing my story, I stood outside a breakout room at a Catholic conference in Canada. I had been brought along to lead a females-only workshop on lust. The topic drew a standing-room only crowd, and I fought back tears as I watched women being set free, sharing their stories with each other and finding hope and healing. That was a defining moment for me, and I remember feeling like God gave me a choice in that moment: I could have the life I had always dreamed of and have nothing to do with any of this, or I could be part of what He was doing.
I chose to be part of what He was and is doing, whatever that looked like. And for years, it honestly didn’t look like much. But I believed, and still do, that He will get His message to whomever He wants to get it to. I won’t have to worry about platforms or clawing my way up a ladder or vying for interviews or whatever.
Which leads me to a challenge I’ve felt over the past few months:
Content over visibility.
In case you think this is some sort of goodbye post, let me set your mind at ease, I’m not going anywhere. I did have to pray about that though, because this is a challenging season right now. In the past three years I’ve met and married my husband, we’ve welcomed our first child, and are expecting our second in a few months. We’ve also moved and experienced a fair share of heartbreak and loss. There have been many nights I’ve shed tears wondering if this season of my life is incompatible with God’s calling on my life.
Then I realize, it can’t be.
If God calls you to do something there is a way to do it. It might not look how you thought it would, but it can be done.
I went into this last year convinced it would be the year I was able to get a traditionally-published book. It is something I had put off for two whole years while I got married and adjusted to life as a new mom. But 2020 was going to be the year it happened. I couldn’t wait for the Instagram photo of me signing a long-awaited book contract.
So, I knocked on every door. I emailed agents, had authors forward my book proposal to agents, submitted it to writing contests, contacted publishers I have a relationship with. I have had several published authors say this book needs to be published.
And yet, no doors opened. Even doors that looked remarkably promising, as if God’s fingerprints were all over them, remained inexplicably closed. My husband and I prayed and prayed, waited for word, and were met with silence.
With no explanation for why, all I could be left to assume was that I wasn’t good enough. If you’ve read my story, you know this is a lie I fight often.
So, I began to worship the god of social media strategy and platform building. I began to spend my hours scrolling through Instagram, trying to mimic the people who had “arrived.” Giveaways, collabs, cool graphics, catchy stories. I had to get my numbers up! I had to make this happen.
When I saw other authors signing book contracts, I would immediately check their numbers and could feel such a spirit of judgment, “Why did she get a book contract? She has fewer followers than I do! I’ve been doing this for years!!”
Content over visibility.
One night as I considered ending this blog and my writing endeavors for good, I felt a gentle conviction. I’ve felt it before when I’ve felt like giving up.
You’ve trusted Me with this. I’ll tell you when it’s time to move on.
And I realized it’s probably not the writing that I’m supposed to let go of. It’s probably the endless chasing of the “followers.” I’m called to write; I’m not called to be popular. None of us are.
In this season of life when my energies are mostly focused on family and free time is the fringe time, I simply can’t do it all. The days of being able to spend an entire day writing are gone. I can’t be all things to all people. I can’t be cool, or popular, or catchy, or trendy. Some days, I wonder if I can even be relevant. Then I remember that’s not the point.
The point has always been changing stories- that’s what grace does. It doesn’t need numbers and a following or even a book contract (though we’re going to keep knocking on Heaven’s door for that one).
What does that mean for this year?
That means I don’t care about being popular.
For at least the first two months, I’m going to completely sign off social media. If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook and see me even breathe in those spheres before March 1, 2021, you have my permission to call me out on it. (Please know that blog posts are set to auto post to Facebook, so that doesn’t count).
It’s not a fast. It’s more of a detox. If you read my last post here you know that the first “step” I share in walking in freedom this year is to Eliminate Triggers. The second is to Repurpose Your Time. Basically, I need to practice what I preach.
Social media is a trigger for me- not to pornography, but to feelings of discontentment and even envy. It’s a trap door for lies in my life and is such a waste of time. I can spend hours on the “Explore” feature doing absolutely nothing. It’s a high place and I want it gone.
Instead of putzing around on social media, I’m going to spend more of my time writing. Writing content that is actually helpful. That will include using this blog to answer some more practical questions you have asked, like “How do I talk to my church about my story?” or, from the pastors, “How do I start up a small group?”
Here’s what’s lined up on the blog for the beginning of 2021:
“Does God…” Series
Challenging your view of God and your view of how God views sex, sin, grace, and you! I’m going to answer questions like, “Does God really want me to save sex for marriage?” “Does God think I’m disgusting for struggling with pornography?” “Does God really have a plan for me?”
“Porn and Marriage” Series
This is obviously a new perspective for me to be able to speak to. I spent plenty of years talking about singleness and dealing with pornography’s effects while single, but what about in marriage? I’ve addressed bits and pieces before, but in this series I want to tackle topics like if you should marry an addict/get married if you’re addicted, does porn have a place in marriage, and how you can share your story with your husband. I also hope to write to husbands of addicts/recovering addicts about how they can support their wives.
“Porn in Church” Series
This one is probably the one I’m most looking forward to. I feel like this is the next “phase” for the mission of Beggar’s Daughter- how do we equip churches to carry on this conversation themselves? This series is going to address how to create a safe space for grace, how to find small group leaders in your own congregation, dealing with the “no wayers” and so on. Can it be March already!?
“Porn and Today’s Girl” Series
It may come as a surprise to you but the struggle for today’s teen girl looks completely different from the struggle I faced as a teenager. This series will “update” the conversation because as I said in a conference recently, “My story is an old story.” I struggled 20 years ago. So much has changed since then, and as a parent with one daughter and another on the way, this is something I am very interested in.
“Porn and Parenting” Series
This is one I’m writing for me too! I’m hoping to bring in some great guest writers, experts on how to keep kids safe online or how to talk to your kids about porn and sex. If you’re a parent or know a parent, I want you to share this one with them. It’ll go live next summer.
This year is about ramping up the “resourcefulness” of this blog.
It’s about equipping people to change the smaller conversations and letting go of the need to grow a huge platform. It’s about being practical more than being popular.
It will include creating resources for you to use in your personal study or in setting up things like small groups. Printables, free e-books, downloads, etc.
It will include a streamlined resource page to connect you with what you need as well as a new F.A.Q. page to answer some of the questions I get asked often.
It may include a new self-published book, like a five year anniversary continuation to Beggar’s Daughter.
It may also include a resource specifically for pastors on how to change the conversation in their own churches.
And, we’re still praying for God to open doors for a traditionally-published book on the topic of God’s grace for women who struggle sexually. Considering it “breaking the glass ceiling” in a way. If we can get one out on the mainstream market, I truly believe it will open doors for more women to find healing and be able to share their own stories. But, right now, most of the stuff written by women for women is self-published or published my ministries themselves. I’m very passionate about getting this message out on a broader platform. Would you join me in praying for that?
I’m excited for this new direction and focus. The sense of relief in letting go of the need to “get bigger” is already overwhelming. My hope and prayer is that at the end of this year you, the reader, feel more equipped to facilitate conversations of growth, grace, change, and healing in your own circles. I’d rather be part of one hundred changed conversations than stand in front of a crowd of thousands.
…I shall be telling this with a sighSomewhere ages and ages hence:Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by,And that has made all the difference. (Robert Frost)