Saturday, November 19, 2016

Sometimes You Surprise Me

Oh my sweet baby boy...it's been more than four years since we said "hello" and "goodbye" in the same moments. I've learned to channel my grief into good by giving back to others or channeling it into art. The moments where it catches me off guard are pretty rare these days. It's always there, but those moments where the tears leak out happen less and less often.

But sometimes you surprise me.

This week it came in the mail. We received an invitation from our incredible church for a Mother/Son and Father/Daughter dinner. I smiled thinking of my husband who is an amazing father spending the evening with our precious oldest daughter. But then, as my eyes looked back to the invitation, they locked on the "mother/son" part of the invitation. 

The reality that I would not be participating in this dinner hit me. But not because I don't have a son. But because I do, but you're not here to go with me.

For a moment I imagined walking into that dinner. The picture is blurry as I only have faint ideas of what you might look like now. But in my mind you look like your daddy. I see your precious tiny hand clenched in mine, dragging me behind you as you take in everything in the room, occasionally drawing closer to my leg when someone speaks to you and you feel shy.

I see your blonde, wavy hair curling a bit on top of your head as you are dressed in a tiny suit that your daddy always liked looking at in stores when you were still kicking away in my womb. You turn to look at me with a smile on your face and I see your daddy's blue eyes that you would share with your sisters glistening with excitement as you start to tell me about something you see.

Pregnant with Barrett - 2012
And then I'm back in my bedroom in our apartment and I feel the tears dripping down my face.

Baby boy, you've changed my life. You made me a better person, and I don't know how I could ever thank you for that. Your death is a constant reminder to me to never take a day that I have with your sisters for granted. And I know that you are watching over tiny Gabriel until mom gets to see you both again. What a blessing to be able to grieve with hope.

Not a day goes by that I don't think of you, with a smile passing over my face as I think of what a blessing you have been to our family and countless other lives. But sometimes, like this moment this week, you still surprise me. 

You're not here for us to go to the dinner, but you are always in my heart and I will always, always, always carry you with me.

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Sunday, November 13, 2016

Legacy

Motherhood is so rewarding, but it can be so draining. This is especially true in an age of social media when comparison is so easy to do before we even realize it. We forget that social media is but a glimpse.

My motherhood journey has been and will continue to be full of mistakes, but I now view each one as a learning opportunity because that is the best thing that we can do with those moments. 

But in the last year, my views on motherhood have changed even more and I hope that I leave a legacy for my grandchildren and beyond that is full of mothers investing time.

When my girls think back, I hope they remember a mom who worked three jobs while in graduate school but still always had time for them.

I hope they remember a mom who may not have had a spotless home, but who always valued time with them more and had no problem immediately putting down the broom when they asked to be rocked or wanted to read a story.

I hope that they remember a mom who left the laundry for another day when bath time ran late because she got caught up in splashing and playing horses with them in the water after she washed their hair.

I hope they remember a mom who often said "those things can wait" and instead loaded them up and took them to the park to swing or play soccer.

I hope they remember a mom who knew when she was becoming frustrated and stepped away to let them wane before speaking to them so that the tone that came next was full of love.

I hope they remember a mom who disciplined by listening, explaining, and discussing; a mom who allowed them to have bad moods and bad days instead of holding them to a standard of perfection that it impossible to reach; a mom who taught them the importance of honoring emotions and not holding them in.

I hope they remember a mom who made sure she always had enough patience for them.

I hope they remember a mom who made sure they were at church with her even when everyone overslept and all arrived with ponytails and buns on our heads.

I hope they remember a mom who treasured curling up in the chair with them and reading to them or sitting in the floor playing in the dollhouse.

I hope they remember funny conversations at the dinner table and that their mom was never ashamed of being silly with them.

I hope they remember a mom who fought for what she believed in and instilled that passion in them.

I hope they remember a mom who taught them the importance of self-care so that you have a full bucket to pour into others.

I hope they remember a mom who cared about the world they would grow up in and fought to make it better.


I hope that they remember a mom who always reminded them the importance of kindness and loving other people.

I hope they remember a mom who told them that their voice was powerful and that they should use it for good.

I hope they remember that she made mistakes and she wasn't perfect, but that she asked for forgiveness and always worked to learn from those mistakes. I hope they remember a mom who fought for them and who loved them immensely.

I hope they remember...and then they smile.

And then, I hope they do better.

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Sunday, November 6, 2016

Love Anyway

My darling daughters, 


This world your father and I are raising you in has not looked very pretty the last year. This election has brought up a lot of words and behavior that thankfully I did not usually deal with on a regular basis. With voting being in two days and the world being saturated with so many messages from these candidates, I wanted to make sure you got a message from mom.


Here goes...


You. Are. Enough.


Do not ever let anyone tell you that because you are female, that you are less. You are not less. Being a woman is not easy, but it is something that I am proud of, and I hope you are too.


The world will saturate you with messages that your beauty is determined by your weight or your body shape, the clothes you wear, or the makeup on your face. Do not believe those lies. You are beautiful because you are you. That's not a cliche. It is absolute truth.


In this world you will have struggles. God does not hide that fact. But don't let those struggles make you forget who you are. Never let them become more powerful than your identity as a one of a kind, made in God's image, beautiful, strong, woman. When struggles come your way, do whatever you need to do to work through them and heal. Do not ignore them. Face them even when it's hard and deal with them physically, emotionally, and mentally. Ask for support when you need it and be willing to be honest with yourself about when you need it. And then, let those struggles motivate you rather than define you.


Let those struggles, and your testimony of God being with you in the midst of them, be your motivation to make a difference in this world. 


Never let anyone..ANYONE...tell you that one person cannot make a difference in this world. God has used plenty of individuals to enact incredible change...just look at David. LOOK AT ESTHER. The list could go on and on. If you seek Him as you seek to make this world a better place, nothing and no one can stand in your way.


My girls, when you hear messages from people around you that anyone is undeserving of love or assistance, call out those words for what they are:lies. We don't get to determine who gets our love and our kindness and our support; we freely give it and trust God to do the rest. 


When you feel like your love is met with hate, love anyway. When you feel like your kindness is taken advantage of, be kind anyway. When your assistance is rejected, let your offer continue to stand in case they change their mind. 


When the world tells you that you are wasting your time investing in someone, invest your time anyway. 


Time invested in another human being is never wasted my loves. Invest away.


When you start to wonder if you are wasting your time, take some time for yourself, and then get back up and keep fighting. Sometimes you go long periods without seeing any fruit, but then one day you will be amazed when that person you have been investing in smiles at you and suddenly it is all worth it. That person may never tell you, but it could be that their story always includes "Because that person cared...", and though you never hear it, you made a difference.


Give kindness freely. Smile at strangers. Lend a hand. Sit and listen. Hold their hand when they're struggling. Hug them if they need it. And be willing to be on the receiving end when you need a smile, a hand to help, and ear to listen, a hand to hold, or arms to hug.


Love without borders. 

Look in the mirror and see beauty. 

Look at other people, all of them, and see beauty.

Look in the mirror and see worth.

Look at those around you, and see worth.

Look in the mirror and see a unique child of God created in His image.

And then look at everyone around you and see beautiful souls, each uniquely designed and created in His image.

Look in the mirror and see a beloved daughter of the Most High King.

And then look around at the world and see His beloved sons and daughters.

And then here is the kicker:

Believe that about yourself. Believe that about everyone around you.

Treat yourself like you believe that. Treat everyone you encounter like you believe that. 

You will be a light; a radiating light.

In this world you will have trouble my incredible daughters. In this world you will see injustice. You will see bitterness and sometimes you will see people just being mean. You will be overwhelmed by the hatred you witness. Your heart will break and you will hurt. You will see things that make you wonder why you try.

Seek the justice you wish to see. When you see bitterness, be forgiving. When you see "mean", be kind. When you see hate, love. Allow your broken heart to heal and know that it's ok to hurt. And always, always, always, try anyway.

You are world changers. You are important. You are loved.

Love, your hard-headed Momma who refuses to believe she can't change the world with Jesus on her side.
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Friday, October 28, 2016

I Need You to Know

I don't know your name, but I know your face. I don't know where you are, but I know that for years, your image lived inside of my mind. You thought you hurt me for one night, but it lasted much longer. Mostly because I let you hurt me for that long.

I need you to know that you had no right to hurt me. I need you to know that everything that happened that night, was your fault. It took me almost ten years to realize and accept that fact. I had zero fault. For almost a decade, I found every reason I could to try to blame myself to make myself feel safer; like I could prevent it from happening again. But that wasn't true. You made the choice to assault me.

I need you to know that I almost died because of what you did that night. I spent years starving my body trying to cope and I came dangerously close. What you did affected not just me, but my husband, my children, and our families and friends. 

I would say that you changed my life that night, but you don't have that much power. But what you did sent me into a spiral that changed my life.

When I got home that night, I took my "True Love Waits" ring and slammed it in a drawer, convinced that you had stolen that from me. But you didn't. I just didn't have anyone to tell me otherwise since I kept that night locked away in my mind. But don't worry, the story of that ring didn't end there.

I missed my senior year of high school taking care of my four month old baby while my classmates graduated. Because after that night, I didn't care about my values anymore and I threw caution to the wind.

I lost myself in work and college and graduated with my four year degree in just over two years. I got promoted to a manager at my first job after only one month. I thought I needed to prove myself. I needed to reassure myself that I could still go on; that my life didn't stop that night in June 2007.

I was putting on a pretty good show until my son was stillborn in 2012 and I could no longer keep up. I had been starving myself as a coping mechanism since that night, but that escalated things. I wouldn't eat and I would exercise until I couldn't move anymore. I couldn't control what you did to my body, but anorexia made me feel in control of what went in and out of my body every day after that.

I spent more than half a year away from my family in 2015 finally getting the help I needed. It was then, that I finally allowed myself to be angry with you. The sound of ceramic plates crashing against a brick wall were the embodiment of the anger that I finally realized was justified.

I need you to know that for a long time, I thought you ruined my life. Buy you don't have that kind of power. You hurt me, and I let that hurt control me for a long time, but that ended. 

I know that you probably won't ever read this. I know that there's a possibility that you haven't thought about me in years, or maybe even since that night. There's a possibility that, though I lived with the pain every day, your life went on completely normal as if nothing had happened. That wasn't an option for me.

In case you do read this, I need you to know that I forgive you. The pain you caused me was immeasurable, but I serve a God who is bigger.

I serve a God who took what you did to me that night and radically changed my life. He took that "True Love Waits" ring and placed it back on my finger until He presented me with the opportunity to pass it on to someone who needed to hear the truth that I didn't have anyone to tell me the night that I took it off. 

My God took that pain and turned it into my passion in life. He took those wounds and He healed them. There are scars, but they tell a beautiful story of redemption and grace. He took what you meant for harm, and He turned it into good. 

My God is a merciful Father who was waiting for me with outstretched, open arms when I finally went running to Him for the love and comfort I had been searching for since that night. 

I need you to know that you didn't defeat me. I need you to know that I am stronger because I serve a God who promise that I can do all things through Him when I draw my strength from Him.


My God is a loving God who writes amazing stories. I never imagined on that night that He would lead me to spend my life working with sexual assault victims. Being an advocate as a career was not on my radar. All of the amazing people that came into my life through every single path that came as a result of that night have made my life incredible. He writes breathtaking stories.

I forgive you.

He loves me, oh how He loves me. He loves me. And oh how He loves you.



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Saturday, September 24, 2016

I Am Sent

On September 3, I was blessed to spend my day traveling to Haiti where I would spend the week serving with an incredible team that was so obviously handpicked by God to work together that week serving the people of Haiti and sharing the Gospel with them.


It was a week of my life that I will always remember. I left a piece of my heart in Haiti and I cannot wait to return.


But anyone who has ever been on a mission trip will tell you that while you go to work, God works on you. It has happened every single time, and Haiti was no different.
The very first night with the whole team gathered on the roof, we heard music and decided on a whim to follow it and find out if it was worship music. Sure enough it was and we were privileged to sit in on a Haitian church service. Other than the little bit of English they sang for a moment for us and the little bit of English they used when they asked us to introduce ourselves and then told us that they would not be preaching in English, I didn't understand a word that they said other than "Jesus" and "hallelujah". 
Even though they worshipped and preached in a language that I couldn't understand, God spoke to my heart so strongly that I fought tears the entire time. It was amazing to hear how God spoke something different to each one of us that night during the service. It was like God took that first night to start working on any obstacle we may have that could hinder our ability to minister to others.
For me, it was an idol that needed to be plucked from my life. To sum it up, the idol was discontentment. It was that feeling when everything isn't going exactly how I planned it or there are things that I feel like if only I could do this  or if only this would happen then I would be content. God took those lies and destroyed them in my heart that night. He opened my eyes to all that I have and the beauty of how sovereign His plan is. He reminded me that He has every moment of my life planned out and that I need to be content in periods of waiting and not just when things are going exactly like I think they should be. 
While I'm waiting, I will serve You
While I'm waiting, I will worship
While I'm waiting, I will not faint
I'll be running the race even while I wait
~"While I'm Waiting", Josh Waller
That next morning, we went on a prayer walk. Actually, it was more like a prayer hike. Up a 70 degree angle. For about two miles. In direct sunlight.
I have never felt so out of shape in my life and physically it was hard. There were moments I was walking uphill bent halfway over with my hands on my knees willing my legs to keep taking one step after the other. But when I got to the top of that hill and stopped to wait on the last few people to make it there as we made our way down, my heart was overwhelmed. I looked down over the hills of the area we were in all the way down to the ocean and I clenched my jaw together as I fought back tears.
Those tears were full of so much gratitude. Exactly one year before that I was in the last day of my very first week of treatment at A Center for Eating Disorders. One year from finishing my first week of treatment, I was starting one of the most incredible experiences that God has allowed in my life. He had just given me the strength to do something that one year before my body would not have had the strength or stamina to even come close to finishing. 
It was the absolute perfect picture of grace and redemption. That view will always be engrained in my mind. That hilltop was so significant to me.
The mountain that my eating disorder has been in my life was symbolized by that hill in Haiti. The last year God carried me up the mountain when I didn't have the strength to take one step. In Haiti, He walked with me while I physically walked that hill. He stood with us as we stopped to pray over the people we passed. He was there to catch those tears that creeped out of the corner of my eyes overlooking Haiti when the magnitude of all that He has done for me just in the last year overwhelmed my heart.
He saved my soul in 2004. Then He physically gave me life again starting just over a year ago. He saves me over and over again and I am so unworthy. But He does it anyway. I can't put into words the magnitude of that type of love. But I can say thank you with my life. 
Wherever He calls me. However He calls me. I am content, but I am not settled. I am sent.
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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.