Sunday, August 21, 2016

Fight for It

Fight for it.
Those are the words on the t-shirt that I chose to put on after church today. It seemed incredibly appropriate as today is one year since I made the first step in my recovery journey. One year ago I was holed up in a hotel room in Birmingham calling every eating disorder treatment center that I could find a phone number for, desperate for someone to take me quickly before I changed my mind.
This week as the one year anniversary approached, I have shared several happy pictures and posts because this is a monumental time for me as I look at back at everything God has done in my life over the last year.
But the words on this shirt..."Fight for it." are so, so accurate. While this last year, and especially the 6 months of full time treatment, saw dramatic changes in my life, they didn't come easy.
I had so many days that I wanted to quit. I had days that I thought it would be easier to continue the poor coping skills I had utilized for so long than to continue working for recovery. The first few months especially, I constantly fought urges to just pack my bags and walk out of treatment. 
But at the end of the day, the fact that it was SO hard, was how I knew that something was finally working. It wasn't supposed to be easy.
Eating disorders are not glamorous or humorous. They kill more people than any other mental illness. They are ugly. They are deadly.
I battled anorexia for years and years. Bulimia entered a few of my teenage years. I had moments where physically I was healthier than others, but it was always there.
But lest you think that anorexia is or eating disorders in general is skipping a meal or counting calories or just over exercising, I'm going to be transparent. While those are or can be part of it, it's more than that.
Anorexia was how I coped with trauma. It was the only way that I felt like I had control over my body again.
Anorexia was constantly lying to friends and family about what I ate or how much I ate or when I ate. Anorexia was making up lies and putting on a show on a daily basis about how much I had eaten before I came. It was exercising obsessively until I reached outrageous goals every day. It was walking in place or running around my yard at odd hours to make sure I hit an outrageous number of steps on my FitBit every day. It was weighing myself more than ten times a day and crying if the number went up at all. It was having two scales in my bathroom that I could compare for accuracy. 
Anorexia was the moment I realized that I had to buy pants from the children's department where my then 6 year old daughter shopped. It was counting out the amount of Cheerios that I ate because just one too many would mean I had lost control again. It was passing up dinner dates with friends because I didn't want to have to lie about why it wasn't eating. It was never sitting down to eat with my family. 
Those years of bulimia were the desperation I reached when I felt like my eating disorder was going to be taken away from me if people didn't start seeing me eat. It was crying in the bathroom stall at school after throwing up my food because I was so ashamed but at the same time I couldn't stop. Bulimia was the moment when my mother caught me throwing up my food in our home and the only thing that crossed my mind was pure terror that my control was going to be taken away from me.
Eating Disorders were the moments I felt like I couldn't deal with it anymore. 
Eating Disorders were the lies that told me the only way to be safe after I was raped was to hold on to them and to keep secrets.
But an eating disorder lies. It isolates. It kills you slowly in every way possible; physically, mentally, emotionally.
But then redemption happened. 
One year ago today, as my world came crashing down and all the lies that my eating disorder had sent me into were exposed, and almost everything in me wanted to give up, Jesus whispered, "Fight for it.".
Those beautiful daughters you have. Your son whose memory you've worked so hard to keep alive. Your husband who has loved you unconditionally and doesn't know how to help you anymore. Your life. Your life, though you can't see it in this moment, is precious. Fight for it.

Jesus spoke courage into my soul as I packed a suitcase and drove to a city that I had previously only ventured to for shopping or a concert. Jesus spoke courage into my soul as I drove and then checked into a hotel room, not knowing what the next day would hold, much less my future.
And over the next few months, He spoke into my life over and over again, day by day, moment by moment. Strength, courage, peace. He spoke it over and over again.
He spoke it through the calm I felt after I felt sure a meltdown was coming but then it miraculously didn't. He spoke courage into my heart through friends when I called crying because I ate a hamburger and I didn't think I could deal with it. He spoke strength into my being as I lay in my bathroom floor crying and wondering how I ended up where I was.
And moment by moment, day by day, month by month, He spoke healing into every aspect of my life. But it was a fight. 
It was hard and some days, it was ugly. But here's the constant, beautiful thing: I never fought alone.
He was always with me. He stood by me in the fire and fought with me through every step of the climb. He has been with me as I am still learning to live in recovery.
Through all of this, He has instilled passion and purpose within my life. I advocate for sexual assault survivors and fight against victim blaming because I NEVER want anyone to feel like they have to keep it a secret like I did out of fear that people would blame them. That's why I suffered in silence and ultimately why I resorted to the eating disorder to cope. 
He has been working behind the scenes in ways that blow my mind and working things together that I never could have dreamed. 
Recovery isn't always sunshine and roses. There are plenty of hard days and moments because life isn't easy.
But there is always joy. Because Jesus is the foundation of my recovery, the pillar of my recovery, there is always joy.

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Saturday, July 30, 2016

Rescue

I need you Jesus,
To come to my rescue.
Where else can I go?
There's no other name
By which I am saved
Capture me with grace
~"Rescue" NewSong

I've spent a lot of time over the last couple of days reflecting on the last year. August will bring the anniversary of when I drove to Birmingham armed with only a suitcase and a cell phone, desperately trying to find an eating disorder treatment center that could take me in quickly.

My Facebook memories have been kind of hard to look at lately because some of the pictures show an image of myself that I barely recognize.

I'm not the same person I was one year ago. I no longer live in fear, and I no longer spend every moment of my existence haunted by memories. God has shattered those chains.

My story doesn't bring me fear and shame, but instead I am amazed as I watch God using it. I am grateful.

I no longer look at myself with shame and hatred. Instead I see a fearfully and wonderfully made, beloved daughter of a God who understands me and chose me.

Love and support from others is not something I push away because I feel unworthy, but something I embrace with gratitude, and am thereby able to more freely give it as well.

Food is something I enjoy and view as a great way to spend time with precious friends. 

Authenticity is something I value instead of something I fear.

All of these things, have been life altering. I'll never be the same. I can't go back. I've been changed, redeemed, and set free. 

Today, in reflecting on all of this, I was hit with another aspect of my recovery journey; the physical aspect.

That's not always easy. That ugly voice of the eating disorder still sometimes creeps up and tries to tell me that because I'm physically healthy, I have no control over my body anymore. That eating disorder tries to make me afraid.

What that eating disorder doesn't know is that fear doesn't own me any longer.

I'm no longer a slave to fear
For I am a child of God
~"No Longer Slaves", Bethel Music

While I have been told SO many times about how physically sick I was, today it finally, truly hit me. I knew, because I felt bad. And I know from pictures. But today was different.

Today I found a pair of pants that I wore when I came to Birmingham in August. I watched my husband's eyes fill with tears when I held them in disbelief and asked him if I was really that small. I stared at them in shock as I realized that if I laid my hand across the waist, it was more than half of the pants. My hand was more than half the width of my waist. 

I remember being proud that I could wear those pants. But today there was no pride or longing. There was sadness as I took in what I had done to myself and my family and friends, and gratitude for my health. 

I couldn't digest it. I've seen pictures and I know it was bad, but to physically hold those tiny pants in my hand, was shocking. Those pants symbolized just how far I've come, and they are a reminder of all of the lies that I believed while I was enslaved in the shame and fear of anorexia. 

I've gotten rid of all of my other clothes from that time, but those pants are going to stay. They won't stay as they are. I'm going to turn them into a piece of art of some sort. They will serve as a reminder of how far God has brought me. They will remind me of what my God can do.

When I think I need that false sense of control back, they will remind me that I've got too much to lose. They will remind me that I am a new person, and that I could never go back to that; that I never want to. 

They will remind me of how hard it was today to see my husband tear up when he saw them and told me that, yes I was that small, and that "I was almost dead".

They will remind me that numbers cannot measure your worth and they can never make you happy. 

Joy cannot be measured in numbers. 



He walked on water.

He caused the blind to see.

The lame walked.

The sick were healed.

The hungry were fed.

He is a God of miracles. He is a healer. Every single day when I look in the mirror, I see living, breathing proof of that. 





Sunday, May 29, 2016

Even When I Cannot See

This morning our pastor started a three week sermon series on the armor of God and spiritual warfare. As usual, it was exactly what I needed to hear this morning and over the course of the next two weeks.

I think sometimes when Christians talk about spiritual warfare, we think of being pulled into obvious temptations such as an addiction to drugs, or alcohol, or pornography. Maybe we think about being tempted to skip church or our personal Bible study. All of those are very real spiritual warfare battles, and Satan tends to use something seemingly small like skipping church just this once, or just one drink when you know it's never just one, to develop a foothold that gradually leads to more and more. 

For me currently, it's something completely different. The temptation has been to take the easier route; to step out of God's will and do what the world and myself knows will be easier.

I believe I'm probably in good company in that temptation. How many times do we take a step of faith to follow where He leads only to have another person or our own selves says "You do know this is going to be hard, right?" or "Are you sure you want to do this? Look at all of these obstacles"? Many times, it's fellow believers who are the first to offer a laundry list of excuses of why you shouldn't do something or all of the reasons it could be hard and every single thing that may go wrong. Sometimes your own words are twisted, or at times, God's words are twisted to provide proof of why you can't or shouldn't do something.

Bro. Danny touched on the consequences this morning of choosing any other path over God's will. When we think of stereotypical temptations I think that the reality of those devastating consequences is obvious and we can readily agree. But what if the temptation is to back down from something that God has clearly told you to stand your ground on? What if the temptation is to remain silent when God calls you to speak up? 

It would seem that there are no devastating consequences and that instead, things will go much easier for you. Short term, that's likely true. But here's what we have to remember as Christians: we only see a small portion of the story. We can barely see the next page of our book, much less three chapters ahead, and even the next page that we think we see is often subject to change in an instant. God sees your whole story. 

God never said that He would call you to an easy path. In fact, He tells us quite the opposite. He reminds us that in this world we will have trouble, but take heart because He has overcome the world (John 16:33). 

For me specifically, there have been moments since we started the adoption process where it's been tempting to walk away and throw in the towel knowing the struggles and obstacles that likely lie ahead for us in this process. My own inner critic as well as a few physical voices in our lives have reminded us of what we already know; it's a demanding journey physically and emotionally. It's a lot to take on. Are we sure?

Well, no. I'm not sure of my own abilities in this journey. But what I do know is that I am called by a God to this path who equips me. I'm not sure of myself, but I'm sure of Him. My God is a mountain mover, and of that, I am sure.

I know that when those thoughts have crossed my mind or I've had someone say those things to us, instead of taking them straight to heart, I took them straight to God and He tells me a different story.

You see, God tells me a story of redemption. God reminds me that He adopted me and that there is nothing I can do to make Him love me more or less. 

The world says: Look at all you've done to mess up! Are you sure you're able to do this?

God says: Oh my child, I've already forgiven that. Here are earthly opportunities to make it right. I'll never call you anywhere and then leave you to walk it alone.

The world says: Look at all of these obstacles! Why would you subject yourself to that?

God says: Look at all these obstacles; they pale in comparison to what I can do! I empowered David to slay a giant and Peter to walk on water. I protected Daniel in the lion's den and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace. I empowered Moses to leave the luxurious life with Pharaoh and lead many people to freedom. I empowered Abraham with the faith to take Isaac up as a sacrifice, an unimaginable trek as a parent, knowing that God saw the whole story. My child, Job lost everything, everything but His faith in me, and I restored Him.

God rarely calls us to an easy path. God tends to show His glory through our stories, and often times, they are stories that shouldn't have been able to happen. That's so that the glory goes to Him and not us. We are merely a reflection. It's so that people look at our stories and say: "Their God, He has to be real. There's no other way. They shouldn't have been able to do that. But God. But look what God did."

God uses the unlikely to accomplish the impossible so that we can say "Look what my God did!".

For my husband and me, the adoption process is something that we know won't be easy. We are prepared for our hearts to be broken and we know that these are just the first of many moments when we will silently or aloud wonder if we should take the easier road and walk away.

But God reminds us that He didn't call us to start this process and then walk away. He called us to walk this path until He says this chapter is closed. He has called us to be living examples of what his mercy and grace does for a person, and to extend it to others. He has called us to live out His picture of adoption, the picture of His ultimate love and mercy and grace, in our own living room.

Adoption, though the long process is just starting for us, is the Gospel in our living room; for ourselves, for our daughters, for the children who come into our home, and for anyone who sees and knows that only God could have written this story.

It's easy to fall into the temptation of taking the smoother pathway. But if God calls you to the bumpy road with potholes and detours, in faith you take one step at a time, trusting that He will never leave you nor forsake you at any point on that road. We have to trust that the One who has already written all of our days, who intimately and infinitely knows and loves us, knows better than us.

We will hear the world, but we must listen to God. 
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Friday, May 27, 2016

Send Me

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"
Isaiah 6:8

 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
Matthew 28:19-20

The Lord very clearly calls us to "go". Nowhere in the Bible does He tell us to become complacent, content to stay where we are, with attitudes of apathy. We should respond with a willingness to go where He sends us, no matter the cost.
The thing is, you don't respond to His call halfheartedly. Make sure you are truly ready to willingly go wherever He sends you.
It is not a call to take lightly. We are to be His hands and feet in all of the world. We are to love Him first and foremost. Then, we love His children; all of them. We have to be willing to humble ourselves and wash the feet of those around us. We have to be willing to sweat and get our hands dirty. Most of all, we have to be willing to let our hearts be broken in order to love the broken as Christ has called us to do.
Loving others wholeheartedly means, our hearts will most definitely get broken at times. But your heart will also be continually filled.
When you go, yes your heart will get broken and it will be hard more often than it is easy, but you will be rich in ways you never imagined. You will see that love and kindness can change the course of a person's life. You will learn to find joy in small moments and in the genuine smile of another person. You will feel the joy that comes from reaching out to another person and showing them love. You will forever carry the joy that comes from doing for those who can never repay you.
You may not ever be rich by the world's standards; in fact, you may be poor if measured in that capacity. But we have to abandon that standard of measurement and trade it in for the standard that says love and poverty cannot coexist.
When you buy a meal for the homeless person sitting on the bench, and then you take the time to sit down and eat with them, their smile and the connection with them will make you rich. When you take the time to bend down to a child's level and remind them of their worth, their embrace will make you rich. You become rich when the laughter of a hurting person fills your ears because you stopped to listen and then the two of you connected. 
When God calls you to go, be ready. Be ready to have your heart broken in order for it to grow. Be ready to live a life you could never envision. Be ready for the hardships, the naysayers, and the days when you think it's not worth it. But also, prepare to be blessed beyond measure.
Here's the truth friends: love changes lives. Jesus changes lives, and in His abundant mercy, He chooses to use us in that process. Kindness changes lives. When you answer the call to go, the call extended to all believers, He will change your life as well. 
Love is a funny thing. It's the only thing in this world that, the more you give, the more you gain.
We are called to live with abandon, embracing His will and following where He leads. Our comfort zones must be abandoned and traded in for the unknown that He calls us to. 
If you're comfortable, ask Him to make you uncomfortable; so uncomfortable with the condition of this world that you can no longer sit idly by and let it continue. Ask for His eyes to truly see those around you. Ask Him to break your heart for what breaks His. He will answer that prayer and you have to be willing to no longer turn your head and look the other way to continue in your life of comfort. 
We are called to serve. We are called to love. We are called to go.
Abandon apathy. Put on your walking shoes. Get your hands dirty. And go. 
Are you ready?
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Friday, April 1, 2016

Chosen

I found myself just feeling tired today. Physically tired.

It wasn't abnormal or debilitating, but I could feel my patience wearing thin and I remember taking a breath and saying, "Lord, I need a little rest to finish this day". I could feel His arms gather me up as He reassured me that He knew I was tired.

Like He always does, He provided that rest. I took an amazing nap during my break today and returned feeling refreshed. He provided some emotional rest and refreshment when a parent brought me donuts as a "thank you" happy and I had another stop to tell me how grateful they were that their son loved coming to see Mrs. Staci in the mornings. He provided rest and confirmation in the smiling and laughing faces of precious children late this afternoon as we danced to the Hokey Pokey and got all of our "sillies" out.

It may not seem like much and these small little miracles can be easily overlooked and they daily go unnoticed. I'm so guilty of getting so caught up in a pity party that these beautiful little moments flow right on by and I lose out on the immense joy that they carry.

Reflecting back on the day and how God provided rest for me in every single way that I needed it, it was a bit overwhelming. The God of everything, who created heaven and earth; the God of all the universe, cares about me enough to orchestrate all of that to provide for me. 

God doesn't need me for anything. He chooses me.

How refreshing to know 
You don't need me
How amazing to find
that You want me
- "In Me" by Casting Crowns

He loves me; not because of who I am or anything I have done or ever could do, but because He chooses to. He calls me beloved. I have done nothing to earn that. I could never earn that.

In His gracious and merciful character, He chooses to call me His beloved daughter.

If He can hold the world,
He can hold this moment
Not a field or flower
Escapes His notice
Even the sparrow knows,
He holds tomorrow
-"Sparrows" by Jason Gray

Even the sparrow knows that He holds tomorrow.

He knows your hurt, your pain, your happiness, and your joy; He knows your stress and your exhaustion. He knows your cares and your worries.

He's with you. But He doesn't want to just be beside you in life; He wants to be involved in every detail of your life. He wants to be caught up in every aspect and living in the midst of your life. Let Him. When we involve Him in all of those small details every day, we are often surprised how He sends and provides for us, and when we are aware and notice these moments because we are tuned into Him and ready to listen, we experience the joy that comes from walking in His presence.

He loves you. He chooses to call you His beloved child. 


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Sunday, March 20, 2016

A Dining Room Chair and other Thoughts

God's been pressing on my heart for a few weeks now to pull out my computer and write, but I've put it off because I just haven't known where to start or exactly what He wanted me to write.
I've had lots of thoughts that jolted me awake at night or raced through my head as I fell asleep, but they've felt distanced and disorganized and I just could not figure out how they all connected. I've felt like I had bits and pieces of about four different novels circulating through my mind and somehow the tie that binds them had been severed.
My husband and I went "thrifting" yesterday. In other words, we perused a few thrift stores trying to find some chairs for our new dining room table. We had fun stopping to play some pianos that were way out of tune and rifling through old records stashed in plastic tubs.
At thrift store number three, we found tons of chairs, but none that were in a set of four, which is what we needed for our family. We weren't even being picky. I wanted to find some old chairs that I could paint so I didn't care about the color, only that they were sturdy.
Finally, we found two pairs of chairs that we liked at thrift store number three. They looked nothing alike, but something about each pair appealed to my husband and I so we decided to mismatch and call it a day.
We ventured to Hobby Lobby (which my husband secretly loves; don't let him tell you otherwise) and  through the process of elimination, settled on a neutral coloring pairing that would contrast our dark table.
 
This afternoon, after church and that mandatory Sunday afternoon nap, I sat down in my art corner to put the first coat of paint on two of the chairs before I had to leave for choir practice. 
As I was painting the first chair, I started chipping away at the layers of paint on it. Currently, it was a navy blue and before that it had been a farmhouse red. Below that was white, which was as far as I got. I found myself wondering how old the chairs were and how many families had sat down in them for a meal. I pictured them sitting around a small table in their original days while a family proudly enjoyed a new meal in them. I pictured them being loaded up to go to a new family when the one that they had sat with for so long had grown old or moved away. I imagined many different things that they might have seen on their journey to my apartment where they are undergoing a makeover.
I wondered if the first family that owned them ever thought that these chairs would one day have such a big job to do. You see, for me, painting these chairs for our new table in our new home is a really big deal. Family meals were never a concern of mine because I struggled with anorexia since my teen years. My goal was always to avoid meals, not create them and celebrate the fellowship. The new home, the new city, new jobs, new table, new (to us) chairs, are all symbolic of this new chapter. The makeover of the chairs is, in a way, symbolic as well. 
As I painted the chairs and had some praise and worship music going on my Pandora station and my husband was sitting at the table working on his current project, I couldn't help but smile. These chairs and this table and this home, are ready for new memories. They are ready for the task of housing a family and serving as the gathering spot for fellowship of our family and friends. They are ready to be used by a family that has been broken, but restored by Calvary. They are ready to absorb conversations between a husband a wife, a mother and father, mother and daughter, father and daughter, sisters; conversations between a family and the Jesus that they were saved to serve.
Like the chair I was painting, people don't always know where we've been. Sometimes, we aren't even quite sure of where we have been. Maybe when the place you are serving is no longer where God wants you and you're unsure where your next "home" will be, you're afraid and hesitant. You get cracked and your paint chips along the way, but every home you land in is the right fit for that time. Sometimes, God will allow you to be broken down so that He can build you back up. He allows you to be broken, so that your need for Him and only Him becomes so strong that you can't help but chase after Him with a desire that only He can quench; until our only desire is to be used by Him to glorify Him and to further His kingdom. Until our only desire is to know Jesus and to make Him known.


Sometimes, God has you go through that journey so that you can see that you need Him and that you need the support He graciously gives us through our friends and family and fellow believers. In that journey, we discover who we are, not as a personality or a career or title, but as a fearfully and wonderfully made, exponentially loved, child of God. 
Sometimes, He uses a beat up wooden chair with chipped paint from a thrift store to speak to you and organize the thoughts He has given you. Sometimes, there is a miracle to be found in a dining room chair.
Praise God that get a new coat of paint. We get a makeover. 
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Sunday, January 17, 2016

Whatever it Takes

Tonight, I did like every night (when I'm not recovering from abdominal surgery and living on the couch) and went to my room, snuggled under some warm blankets, got my Jesus music on lightly in the background, put the phone away, and pulled out my Bible and all of its current friends.

But tonight was a little different. God broke up my routine a bit (which is always a marvelously good thing, even--scratch that--especially when it's hard). I was reading a little book by Max Lucado called Everyday Blessings and playing a little catch up from being completely out of commission the last two weeks. The verse is Psalm 136:1 and the small little tidbit below it was like, well I said "smack in the face" but really it was more of a Father's loving, guiding touch; and I heard "I'm waiting for you to fully let me be your Father". 

It said:

If I know that one of the privileges of fatherhood is to comfort a child, then why am I so reluctant to let my Heavenly Father comfort me? Why do I think He is too busy for me?

And I had to set the book and my Bible to the side and fall facedown before a Father who loves me beyond my comprehension, and has been longing to extend that comfort to a receptive daughter. And I cried a gushing waterfall on the floor that no dam could contain, but they weren't filled with sadness or defeat. They were filled with understanding, and gratitude, and regret, and peace.

Understanding that He's been extending comfort to me from Himself as my Father and also through godly people He has surrounded me with. Understanding that being afraid of being hurt, I've shoved it away, as I cowered waiting for it to be snatched away like some past experiences. Understanding that God is showing me another area of my life that I need to surrender control and go to Him for comfort and be receptive of that comfort in every avenue that He sends it my way. Understanding that it's time to start calling out the lies that I'm not good enough or that I'm not worthy of it and putting everyone else in my life, whether relationally or in passing, on a higher level that I think I will never be good enough reach to stand beside anyone. 

Gratitude, that He never leaves me. Gratitude that He is opening my eyes a little bit at the time to areas of my life where that total surrender isn't quite total. Gratitude that He gives me everything that I need even though I don't deserve it. Opening my eyes that being undeserving of His grace, and compassion, and love, makes me human, but not worthless and not less.

Regret, for pushing away what He has sent my way; for retreating in fear and still carrying that stone of the wall that is my life that He is currently dismantling to rebuild on a foundation in which, He is Lord of ALL and the total surrender is daily and in every aspect of my life.

Peace that only He can give. Peace that He is always there and I can always go to Him. Peace because He is a Good, good, Father and a faithful Father who openly extends forgiveness, mercy, grace, love, and much more beyond the comprehension of man. Peace that He's walking beside me, carrying me as needed, providing Fatherly discipline and redirecting as needed, and a peace in knowing that that truth will never change.

No matter where I go. No matter what I do. No matter what the world throws at me, He is constant; a sure and sturdy foundation. No matter if I stray, I have peace knowing that my Father, my Jesus, will do whatever it takes to bring His wayward sheep home.