Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Exposed

I used to hide that I was in a near-fatal car accident—paranoid that anyone would find out. I thought that the exposure prevented people from knowing who I truly was. As time went on and I began to accept reality, it turned to seem like no one could really know me unless they knew about the crash. This split-second in time ten years ago that I do not even remember has been imprinted on my very being. The crash is certainly not the source of my identity—and you do not have to know about it to know me—but it does explain a lot about me.

I desire for you to know about what happened to me—because I desperately want you to know what God can do for you. Nothing you say could explain to me how and why I am still alive—but I am—and I pray that God will be glorified through my life—always.

If you have five minutes to spare, watch this video. I pray that it fills you with Hope, and I encourage you to share it with anyone you know who might be needing some as well. Nothing can prevent you from living your life to the fullest

God bless!

“But this is why I have let you live: to show you my power, and to make my name resound through all the earth.”

Exodus 9: 16


Friday, June 2, 2017

Compelled

“During the night Paul had a vision; there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.”
Acts 16: 9-10

I am so grateful for Saint Paul. He has been an incredible mentor for me in boldness, exhortation, and trust. He also makes me feel less crazy! I seem to have a reputation for impulsive journeys and life choices. Though I actively overthink everything, what I do often appears random and illogical—like the time I traveled to Rome “because Kansas City was stalking me”—or how I started writing song lyrics at a time when I did not even listen to music. When I feel convicted that I am called to do something, I may hesitate, but I strive to follow through and do it. I continue to trust the convictions of my heart, and they continue to be fruitful. When I went to Rome, I received a miraculous healing in my back. Writing songs led to the formation of a non-profit organization. So much good has come forth—both in the simple and the extraordinary.

Despite all this, there is still plenty room for my trust to grow. God is continuously calling me to stretch outside of my comfort zone. Currently, I believe that He is calling me to move to La Crosse, Wisconsin. Why? I think Saint Paul best describes how I feel here:



“But now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem. What will happen to me there I do not know…”
Acts 20: 22

(my homes over the years)
I have been trying to logically present why I am moving, but to be quite honest, I have no idea! On a practical note, it is halfway between here (Ypsilanti, Michigan) and home (Minot, North Dakota)—not that making the 2,400-mile-round-trip drive is an inconvenience. In regards to other convictions of what my heart needs, it is beautiful! And they have the Cathedral of Saint Joseph the Workman and the National Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe! Also, it is in Wisconsin, so beer and cheese and the Packers and stuff. (Bonus: I can go on walks to Minnesota again!)

No, I do not have a job lined up there—or a place to live. Yes, I will still be creating things and traveling for COR – Cats on Rockets. Expect to see more paintings, writings, rosaries, and adventures. My first grade desires to be an artist and an author are being actualized, and it is about as unstable as I had been warned. Since deciding to move, a few job opportunities have arisen here in Michigan. The prospect of stability and the avoidance of starting over in a new community is quite tempting. Though I know it would still be good, I also know that I am meant for something else. I do not know what it looks like, but fear cannot be what stops me. It is worth the risk. Even if it is largely unsuccessful, I have an incredible opportunity to grow in trust.



To truly trust, you must act upon it. You will never know if something would work out if you do not give it a chance. It might not go how you intended—it may not appear to be successful—but that does not mean you should not have tried. Think about something you were confident about that seemingly failed. How did you grow through this experience? And what about the convictions on your heart that you have been ignoring? Why have you not acted upon them? Do you fear failure? Are you afraid of what others will think? I encourage you to take a risk. Let go of who you think you should be—of who others expect you to be—and become who you are meant to be.

“I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me!”
2 Corinthians 11: 1

Friday, February 24, 2017

Exposing What Lies in Darkness

That last post was pretty vulnerable, and I thank you for receiving it—for receiving me. Not everyone thought my personal story should have been shared, which is understandable, so I want to bring clarity about my conviction to expose this layer of myself.

It would seem that I did not need to share such personal information, as the struggles in my life do not make the Glory of the Lord more Beautiful. He is enough, indeed. I could have shared the encouraging conclusion at the end, and it would have been powerful on its own.

An excerpt from the mentioned post: “It truly does not matter what you have done, or what has been done to you—He Loves you—infinitely.” You could read this line on its own, relate it to your life, and accept its Truth—and that is Beautiful. But some of us are skeptical. We look at our own experiences, and it does not seem to match up. We doubt the credibility of the witness, and we are suspicious of the motive behind the message. Vague fluffiness is not convincing. Our agreement typically comes only when we had already been led to agree through our own experiences—but even then may come with a hint of annoyance. There is nothing wrong with the message, but we are guarded in our reception.

In any research paper you have written, I am sure you had to provide more than a conclusion. The Resurrection of Jesus makes no sense without His Passion and Death. We are forever plagued by the question: ”what came first—the chicken or the egg?” Runners in a race are watched from the start, not just at the finish line. We need proof. We need reasons. We need clarity. We need the struggle of the journey. If I am sharing a conviction with you, I want you to know how it has been formed. I want you to find me worthy of your trust.

I do not share about Jesus to promote some obscure personal cause. I have no motive but to share Love—to share Truth. If Truth is Light, then it is meant to uncover what is hidden in darkness—and to this I made my testament. If I truly believe in the source of my dignity, then I have nothing to hide—nothing to be ashamed of—nothing to fear. Because He protects me, nothing can destroy me.

The journey through life is not easy—regardless of your religious beliefs. There is suffering, death, violence, injustice, poverty, etc. Belief in God does not make these realities go away, just as these realities do not mean God does not exist. I believe in Him, not because He stops bad things from happening, but because He is real. We have free will. We live in an environment that allows us to grow in virtue. Until we are fully united with God in Heaven, we will experience suffering. We need to be aware of evil—our opposition—or we will not know how to respond when we encounter it for ourselves. If we think following God will make everything sparkles and rainbows, we give up when we are confronted with arrows and the cross. To encourage others to persevere, I want to be honest about the struggles.

And though there is suffering, we are not meant to suffer alone. God is with us, and He is Good. In His Mercy, we are to encounter Him, as did the woman of Samaria who met Jesus at the well (John 4: 1-42). She went to draw water at a particular time of day to avoid seeing the other women—hiding in her shame—avoiding the ridicule of others. When she encountered Jesus, she was not ridiculed. He knew all of her brokenness, but He accepted her. Furthermore, He offered her Hope and Freedom—fulfillment in Him. No longer hiding herself, she went to the village to share Christ. Through her witness, others are led to Christ, encounter Him, and believe in Him. This story gives me hope—conviction that I have no need to be embarrassed.


He receives me in my brokenness, and He Loves me. He desires for you to go to Him in your brokenness—to be Loved by Him. If you are waiting for Him, open your eyes. He waits for you. Allow Him to walk with you through your hardships. He offers us Peace and Joy as we endure the sufferings before us.

Life is a Pilgrimage. (Photo taken by Danielle Bauer, El Camino de Santiago, Spain)

Monday, February 13, 2017

An Object of Pleasure

At a young age, I perceived that my looks were not good enough, my intelligence was not desired, and my quiet personality left me invisible. It did not seem like anyone would ever want me—that any boy would ever like me. I was left wondering what it was I could offer that would make me accepted.

At nine-years-old, I became addicted to pornography and internet chat rooms. It seemed that I had found my answer—as a woman, I was meant to please men sexually. I was able to break the addiction after a couple years, but my mindset had already been altered. I fought against it with good intentions, but the enemy fought back more forcefully.

Within a year of striving for goodness, an innocent prank went wrong—photos taken of me in my underwear were passed around some boys at a party. I was 12. Not too much longer after that, I was receiving requests for “favors” from boys I hardly knew. I am so grateful that I did not consent, but I wish it had been for the right reasons. I refused to take my shirt off because I was self-conscious, not because I respected my body. I denied a request for fellatio, not because it seemed degrading or is against the true nature of sex, but because I was embarrassed to admit I did not know what “head” meant. Any attention I received seemed to expand my emptiness, leaving me feeling inadequate rather than desired.

A lot of it was just talk, but harassments started to become more physical going into high school—even from complete strangers. Whether it was stroking my face during class while feeding me a line about doing something vulgar to me, or pressing up behind me at a dance, it seemed to be confirmed—I was an object for man’s pleasure. After breaking my spine and pelvis in a near-fatal car accident at 16, instead of concerns for my well-being, I received comments regarding how capable I was of sexual behavior. I did not even question my skewed mindset—it seemed so obviously true.

During senior year, my high school chaplain introduced our class to Saint John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body,” and my heart was pierced. Discovering the true, good, and beautiful nature of human sexuality led to an incredible strengthening of my faith. I learned that, as God’s children, we have inherent dignity in Him, and we are created as gifts. The concept of objectification, viewing or treating another as merely an object, was unmistakably against our dignity, and it sickened me. I felt a lot of shame for my history of pornography, but somehow failed to connect how I was personally objectified by men so frequently.

The summer following high school graduation, I traveled on a pilgrimage to Italy. As I walked through a piazza in Rome, a man bluntly asked me for sex. I declined and shrugged it off, but the girls around me were appalled. Our priest (high school chaplain) overheard their reactions and became outraged, asking which man had done it. He turned back around to reproach the man for his unacceptable behavior, and I have never felt more valued. That was the first time I can recall anyone standing up for my dignity—it was the first time I considered that I might have even had one—that maybe what we had learned about in class applied to me, too.

It did not take long for that wonder to be dissolved. Just a few days later, we found ourselves on a crowded bus. A man began rubbing against me from behind, and I tried to move away, but he kept following me closer. I could have easily tapped on the priest’s shoulder to get his attention, or asked the guy in front of me to switch places, but I did not think I was worth it, so I just stood there enduring the discomfort.

A couple years later, I overheard a conversation about modesty. A young man was expressing his appreciation for women who are pure in their behavior and clothing choices. I realized that he had a really great point—we are in this together—and I did not want to tempt another to sin. I made some adjustments to my lifestyle and wardrobe, striving to honor the men around me, as well as my own supposed dignity. Even though the changes required were not that drastic, I thought it would solve everything. Wrong again. Though it might have helped, wearing cardigans and avoiding 10 pm walks across campus to get cereal did not prevent me from being objectified.

I soon discovered drawings from different male classmates of me without clothes or in suggestive positions. Even though I was striving to be a model of the virtue of chastity, I felt like I was seen by others as walking pornography. It did not seem to matter what I did. A young man kissed me, and I told him no. He responded that I was not supposed to talk—that my breath was cold—and then he kissed me again. If one did something to me that he should not have, even if I tried to get him to stop, he told me it was my fault it happened. Eventually, I gave up. When I would express that I did not enjoy what was done to me, I was told there was something wrong with me for not experiencing pleasure.

Perhaps not surprising, I developed a fear of men. By the time I encountered men who respected me, it was confusing. A man choosing the good—a true act of love—felt like rejection. I found myself desiring what I did not really want, still persuaded by the lie of being an object for man’s pleasure. This led me to distrust myself as well, not knowing if I was capable of being loved and honored, convinced that I was undeserving.

Through the course of my healing process, the Lord has asked me to pass on a message to all women: Your beauty is outside of yourself. It is not dependent on your physical appearance—it is not measured by how you are treated—it is not based on your perception of yourself—it is not diminished by your actions—it is solely in Christ. He is your Beauty. It truly does not matter what you have done, or what has been done to you—He Loves you—infinitely. You are His daughter, and you are Beautiful. You are worthy of honor and respect, because your dignity lies in Him—and He sees you as worthy. Allow Him to be your Father. Allow Him to protect you, and to show you your worth when others do not recognize it. Be pure, as He calls you to be pure, for you are worth far more than any stain of deceit.

And to the men, I thank those of you who tirelessly defend our honor and fight for the sake of our dignity. Your worth also lies only in the Father. Pursue Him, and you will discover when and where you are called to go. Please, do not give up—persevere until the end. We need you to be the men you have been created to be, and we will also strive to be the women God has created us to be.


I believe that there is always more room for healing and growth, but I have come to a place of confidence in Our Father. This did not happen in an instant, but took years of persevering through lies, tears, wounds, and attacks. He has given me a promise, and I will settle for nothing less. I encourage you, also, to go to Him to find your beauty, dignity, and worth. I cannot give you peace, but He can show you the way. You will never be satisfied in the desires of the flesh, but only in His Spirit.