Pull up a chair & let me tell you a story ...
I’ve always been a curvy girl. My mum will tell you I was put on my first diet when I was just three months old and over the years I’ve tried all manner of different diets and eating plans.
We're told that any and all of them work, so long as you stick to them. It was that “stick to them” piece that I, like countless others before me, always had issues with because you and I weren't designed to live in a state of near-starvation. At some point it all gets too much and we throw in the towel, until the next time. Rinse and repeat. Talk about depressing!
What I find hilarious now though, as I share this story with you, is how God used that one constant theme, the one thing that had always been an issue, to show me a brand new picture of who He is and, as a result, launched me on a trajectory that, quite literally, saved me from myself.
Yes, this is the real behind the scenes story of Youier.
About a decade ago, through a series of “coincidences” (nope, I don’t believe there’s any such thing either. I like to call them “God-incidences”) I landed upon yet another weight loss course. This one was a little bit different because this time it was bible-based. (Bible-based but still a diet. I wasn't ready at that point to do battle with diet culture but that's another story for another time. Let's simply say at this point that God met me where I was at.)
I grew up in a Christian home, “prayed the prayer” when I was 12 or 13, but after a few years of being a total weirdo for God, I stopped talking to Him and just focussed on school and friends and figuring out what I wanted to do with my life.
From medicine to pharmacy to music (yet another story for another time) and, after playing in the pit for a few local productions, the dream of playing clarinet and saxophone for the West End musicals. I loved the camaraderie between the musicians and yes, the after-show parties were fun too!
I had an unconditional offer of a place to study music in Bath but then, after falling head over heels in love and deciding that I couldn’t possibly leave the love of my life to travel hundreds of miles away, I switched to a music teaching degree in my local town.
Fast forward just a few years and I found myself every Sunday in my local church. I still wasn’t really talking to God but with the boyfriend I couldn’t leave behind now my policeman husband working shifts, I started going to church with our young baby.
My parents and some of my siblings were attending the same church so it was a great opportunity to spend some time with them on an otherwise lonely Sunday morning.
Every Sunday I’d sit and promise God that this would be the week I’d read my bible more and pray more after listening to an earnest petition from the pastor or preacher. Week after week, month after month, the same pattern.
In-between Sundays I’d put my best face on, step up and try to be the mother and wife I felt I was supposed to be. Our young baby grew up and was joined by her two siblings, each some two years apart. It was like the perfect family unit. Falling in love, getting married and having children was all I’d aspired to as a young adult. I was living the dream!
Except that when I reflect back on that time in my life, all I can remember is the anger and frustration. Thankfully my children don’t remember angry, shouty Mum. They see photos of themselves as little tots of 5, 3 and 1 and just see the smiles but I remember the tears and the pent up anger like it was yesterday.
Apparently I did a fairly decent job of playing pretend because even my husband doesn’t recognise the angry El I remember. I am of course incredibly thankful for this but it does leave me thinking now, with the benefit of hindsight, about the mask I’d chosen to wear.
My life could quite easily have carried on along that same trajectory except for that one fateful day when I happened upon the bible-based weight loss course. I didn’t know then the course-correction God was setting me up for.
It was like stepping from black and white into technicolour as I was introduced to a God who was interested in every aspect of my life, including what I put into my mouth. Talk about a revelation!
Little by little God led me on a journey into His love, a love that met me exactly where I was, quirks and foibles and eccentricities and all.
And like a daisy opening her petals under the glow of the warm sunshine, I started to open up and accept who I was instead of trying to earn the love of the people around me by being who I thought I needed to be.
Because the reality is that I was trying to fit into a picture of what it meant to be “normal” and, quite frankly, I am anything but. I’m a total weirdo! As a kid I would be called weird and take it as a compliment but somewhere along the way I started to see being different as “wrong” or “not safe”.
Coupled with the messages heaped upon us about how to show up, the expectations we choose to allow society to put on us, and it’s no small wonder I was quietly cracking up!
But little by little things started to change as I embraced who I really was.
- Where others would easily remember who needed to be where, when and with what, I started to build systems of reminders and notes to myself in a bid to stop the important things from falling through the cracks.
- Where others would do a terrific job of ensuring their little ones wrote and sent thank you notes every birthday and Christmas, I got great at saying sending a less traditional “thank you” - and saying sorry for those times when I forgot!
Where others would have birthday presents for family members planned, bought and wrapped ahead of schedule, birthday presents wrapped in Christmas paper until at least March became the norm.
Life is messy and we’re all total weirdos in our own way!
It was only by getting comfy with the mess, coupled with a deep-seated knowing I was loved, no matter what, by a Creator who knew exactly what He was doing when he crafted me, that I was finally able to say goodbye to years of anger, frustration and borderline depression.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Except, this isn’t just my story.
I see my experience of “fitting in” and “playing normal” being repeated the world over. Folks just like you and me, exhausted and frustrated by the experience of playing pretend, needlessly buying into societal expectations of how we should show up and move through the world.
On edge and on the edge, just aching for the same radical encounter of God that I had all those years ago. A radical encounter with who God is and the identity He is calling you into.
Because when you embrace who God made you to be, Youier, it changes everything.
Your relationships with the people you love, your day to day happiness and joy, what you do for work and in work. Everything!
All it takes is a head shift because you can be Youier right now today. You simply need to be you, in relationship with your Creator and Greatest Encourager.
And that’s what Youier is really about - helping you have that radical encounter with the love of God, such that you’ll accept His invitation to step into His story for your life and claim your identity.