My Story

Forgive me; this might seem tangential. (You knew it was coming.)

I grew up in church, nestled between my two sisters – wavy blonde locks, shiny patent shoes. We played MASH on the back of our bulletin and passed notes to our cousins, hoping someone had the 411 on whether or not our mothers planned to stop at Rax after the sermon. Sundays meant roast beef sandwiches and chocolate chip milkshakes, verse memorization and dusty hymnals.

The pews were padded.

So was I.

For the record, I’m grateful for the innocence of my childhood. Divorce, drugs, abuse – these were not struggles we faced in our immediate circle. We were protected. Bubble-wrapped with a series of good fortune, high expectations, sheer luck.

God was a presence I felt occasionally, on select Sunday evenings in youth group or at the Christian summer camp I attended. I was a good kid; compliant. Respectful. I didn’t ask a lot of questions.

I don’t think I wanted to know the answers.

In college, I shed the bubble wrap and looked for friends like me, who – on paper – lived a similar lifestyle. The padded pews had grown more comfortable, soft enough to fall into easily with little thought. I joined bible studies and wore t-shirts and attended retreats, conferences. I learned a little. I questioned a lot.

I heard many testimonies of faith during my years in the church – testimonies of reformed drug dealers, bankrupt businessmen, recovering bulimics. People with a before and an after – a to and a from.

But I didn’t have a before. So I feared I wouldn’t have an after.

And I began to think God only worked in big, mysterious ways, and surely He wasn’t interested in my before. It wasn’t messy enough. It didn’t make for a good enough story, on paper. Where was my story? What was I doing wrong?

So I started to write my own story. I stayed in the padded pews, but I stopped looking at the stained glass cross and, instead, started looking at my seatmates. I searched for approval from supporting characters, determined to measure up to the people who I thought had written better stories than my own.

Of course, it didn’t work. (It never does.) Personal convictions can all too easily become agreed-upon standards when we base our definitions on the ideals of others.

And – in a way – I gave my story away. I compromised my gifts and talents and interests to listen to the voices of well-intentioned authors writing their own stories:

-You’re a designer? Don’t you feel that contributes to a materialistic culture?
-Christian mothers shouldn’t work outside the home.
-Adoption doesn’t solve anything.
-Beauty is an idol.

(For the record, I disagree with the above statements wholeheartedly, but I believe the senders of these messages were rooted in good, pure intentions.)

So today, I’m reclaiming my story – not as the author, but as the main character. I will no longer play a supporting role in my own life. I am handing the pen to something bigger than myself – a God I trust that created me to fill a purpose, or maybe a string of tiny little purposes. The God that made me precisely, exactly, delightfully the way that I am.

Right now, that means I spend my days researching trends and changing diapers and designing products and deleting emails and speaking at international events and saying another prayer and brewing another coffee and traveling the world and reading a chapter and kissing skinned knees and battling imperfections and curating art and frying bacon and changing my outfit and honoring my husband and writing essays and styling lookbooks and singing lullabies and searching for that ubiquitous missing sock yet again.

It’s the one that was written just for me, for this moment. And I want it to be dotted with words of truth, not numbers of scale.

Here’s to nailing our stories on a cross of grace, not a ruler of expectation.

Here’s to growth.

XO,
Erin Loechner

  • YES. To all of it!

    I find your view on “before and after” fascinating. I did not grow up in the church, and became a Christian in college. At 25 I spent a year traveling with a music ministry, and I was the only one on my team of 8 people with a “past”. And not a sordid, rockstar-type past, but a non-Christian “I did lots of things I wasn’t supposed to” past. And trust me, I felt like an outcast. Like I had no business being part of ministry. Like it was too late for me and there was no way that God could use me. I was jealous of those on my team who had grown up in Sunday school and youth groups. THEY had the authority to be telling others about Jesus. Not me. I was the one who had never read the bible all the way through and who didn’t know all the bible stories and who said “damn” a lot which unintentionally offended people (whoops) and had lived with a boyfriend and was just generally really, really inadequate in the eyes of the “real Christians” (or at least that’s how I felt).

    It’s funny that both of us coming from opposite ends of the spectrum have struggled with the same feelings. And it’s totally awesome how God uses ALL OF IT.

    Thank you for sharing. Also, have I told you before that I really, really want to be friends with you?

    xox

    • Oh Lesley – I am so sorry for your experiences of inadequacy, but I so love that we share such similarities regardless of our circumstance. You’re right – I do believe God uses it all. Thanks for listening to my story with grace and acceptance even though our paths were so different!

      For the record, my husband says “Damn” (often!) and he’s the greatest man I know. :)

      Let’s be friends!

  • ERIN! We are cut from the same cloth, padded pew and all. Love this post. Thanks so much for sharing. It’s hard sometimes not to over-analyze what work I’m doing for the kingdom by being an interior designer, but everything has it’s place. Hope it’s a wonderful week!

    http://www.designsbykaty.com

  • since I sat in the same padded pew most of our childhood; I can say I know where you are coming from! I too struggle with if I should give up my “paid job” and do things that should be more “worthwhile”. I too have recently been handing that to the one who has already decided and following his lead!

  • Yes and Yay! I can’t relate to your upbringing, having no background in any organized religion (not that that matters in the least or most) but I can totally and utterly relate to your now. Let’s work on getting rid of the diaper part though, mmkay? xoxo

  • Once again Erin- love it. I can relate to your upbringing as well…..we aren’t meant to be put or to put each other in boxes are we? Or to say exactly how gifting should be used and even what they should be. I remember when my husband got back from his year deployment and the weight of what we had just gone through felt heavy and design felt fluffy and shallow……but that’s when I started y blog because I felt there needed to be something light, I needed to see the beauty in the world again. God made beauty, it should be celebrated:).

  • Though it might not seem like it, God’s timing is always perfect, right?!?! This post came at a perfect time for me to read. Thanks for writing your own story and sharing it with us :)

  • What a wonderful story you shared; inspiring. No matter how insignificant your “past” cross was that you had to bear, you bore one. Your testimony is just as relevant as the testimony of a past drug user turned clean, a past prostitute turned to God. Everyone has a story and if telling that story brings just one individual to God, it is meaningful.

  • “Here’s to nailing our stories on a cross of grace, not a ruler of expectation.”

    Oh, Erin. I sat in church yesterday thinking thoughts along these same lines–thank you so much for sharing. (it is a bit less lonely knowing others are working to become more than supporting characters in our own lives.)

  • erin, this is lovely and made me teary. thank you for sharing your beautiful story.

  • Just stumbled upon your blog and this is the first post I read. I relate so much to everything you said. My upbringing wasn’t completely perfect, but I had many of those same images, in church pews with my sisters. I’ve had the same feelings before about my “testimony” not being great enough because I hadn’t had some life altering moment where I quit my wicked ways and turned to God (but instead lived my whole life on the “good side”). I have many of those same feelings again lately about my life as an artist, graphic designer, and a DIY/home decorator. Am I being too materialistic by loving beautiful things? I stumbled upon a bible study blog post recently that said, “God is in the Beauty Making Business,” and it has really stuck with me. As the ultimate Creator, I don’t find it that unreasonable that as a child of God my love of creating beautiful things comes from him!

    • Ahhhhh, we’re cut from the same cloth, Caitlin. :) I hear you!!!!! And good gracious, I couldn’t agree more. I mean, the way I see it is that God is kind of the best abstract painter ever. Look at those sunsets!!! :)

  • I live in Northern Indiana too (Elkhart County). I don’t know if it’s the area or just generally relatable, but thank you for sharing…I definitely connect with this. I grew up similarly. No matter what your parents values are, someday there comes a point when you start to think harder, look closer. And maybe some lovely well intentioned people make you feel lousy about the passions and gifts God has given you. Sometimes I feel like people think I’m “materialistic” or from another planet because I love to make things beautiful…and I am ridiculously frugal. I have walked a long, hard, painful road this last year…ok three years….and now the last thing I care about is whether or not people think it’s frivolous that I like to wear 3 inch heels (I love my church but I get at LEAST three comments every Sunday I wear them to church. Seriously). Through the pain God has refined me into the person that HE wants. The person he has created me to be. I look forward to seeing the rest of the story the Author has written for me.

    • Ahhhhh, this is beautiful, Angela. And I’m pretty sure you look fantastic in those heels. :) Keep up the good heart work!!!

  • Erin!!!! For real. I’m weeping. Thank you for being brave enough to share. A blogging friend and I (both with design, craft blogs) have been discussing the prompting we’ve been feeling to share more of our faith with our audience. I love that God is working. Xo, Shannon

    • Oh Shannon – that’s so great to hear! When it hits you, it hits you, you know? Keep up the great work. :)

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