Remembering: Two Years Later

Two years later. Two years older. Two years changed. Two years different. Two years stronger. Two years braver.

IMG_7263

It’s been two years since I first began treatment. Two years since I shuffled through the doors of Renfrew Center for Eating Disorders. Two years since that became my home away from home. I remember that first day, like it was yesterday. Walking in to unfamiliar faces. Having to sit down with these strangers and face the unthinkable. Then being forced to talk about how it went. Did you enjoy the food? No. What did you not like? All of it. Were you afraid? Uhhh…yes, out of my mind. Did you use any behaviors? Of course I did. I didn’t finish that disgusting cottage cheese that you evil people are trying to make me fat and ruin my life with. That was the gist of that first day. Curled up on a chair in an “illegal” position, journaling my fear and hate while avoiding having to speak.

Life for the first several weeks was rather ugly. Blind weigh-ins. Blood pressure monitoring. Constant meals. Never ending FOOD. Exhaustion. Insomnia. Coping skills torn away from my tightened grip. Trying to put on a strong front, while wanting to disappear every moment of every day. I got good at pretending and making people believe I was doing better than I really was. I think it’s part of the territory.

Needless to say, two years ago my life was a wreck. Not in school. Not living at home. Not on good (or even speaking) terms with my family. Anxiety and panic attacks sky-rocketing. Depression chronic. Anorexia raging. Pretending my way out of questions and consequences. Pushing everyone away, except my “chosen” few. My body eating itself until it shut down so many processes that living “normally” was getting hard. My brain on one track and one track only: restrict until you’re worthy, until you disappear, until you’re enough, until the anxiety & sadness go away.

I entered the anger phase of treatment. Anger coursed through my being. Why do I have to eat? Why is everyone forcing me to eat? Why does my body need it? I was angry that I had to succumb to such weakness (eating = weakness). I thought I should be stronger than food. I should be above it, above the physical need for it. I hated food itself and anyone who made me touch it. I even hated myself for needing it (for some reason I thought I should be the only human ever that didn’t need to eat…like what?). Every meal I battled for control. Less food means more control. More control means less fear and unworthiness.

Everyone around me that was trying to save me, were (in my eyes) trying to kill me, ruin my life, take away everything I loved/needed while giving me absolutely nothing in return except weight (i.e. fat, because to an ED patient all weight is fat even though most of it is bone mass, organ mass, heart/brain mass, water, etc).

Part of an eating disorder is suppression. Suppression of appetite, hunger/fullness cues, emotions, thoughts and feelings, even reality. Treatment is designed to trigger the release of that suppression, so at some point you become a ticking time-bomb. You become a walking volcano of everything you’ve been suppressing. If you’re like me, then you still suppressed things in public, but trust me, my journal and my therapist got spewed on daily, many times a day.

I remember the day that Taylor and I saved the day…or something like that. Bathroom buddies are totally a thing in treatment and so is asking a fellow patient “are you puking in there” and then going to get help because obviously that’s a no-no.

I remember the day we smashed scales in the parking lot with huge hammers and released balloons with notes inside about what we need to let go relating our disorders. Smashing the scale was smashing the lies, the standards, the expectations, the anger, the fear and everything else. Plus it was a great stress reliever and we got lots of weird looks which was funny.

I remember the day we made puppets and talked down our eating disorder voices. I watched light bulbs go off around me. I remember watching now friends and recovery partners throwing clay as hard as they could at the wall and yelling at their ED voices. I remember when we had hard days where abuse was spoken of and people wanted to jump out windows and tears were shed by all and families gathered. I remember family therapy and letting a little bit of my shield down. I remember the day I finally opened up to one of the therapists and she hugged me and thanked me. I remember the new faces as well as the old. I remember saying hello as well as goodbye. I remember the worry when people discharged against doctors recommendation without a trace. I remember arguing over who was going to go see the psychiatrist first and making faces at each other across the table at food we didn’t like. I remember the day we all cried over chef salad and didn’t leave a man behind. I remember the video we watched on wolves and everyone trying not to burst into laughter during the pointless session about that wolf video. And of course, I remember that Prince George was born while I was at Renfrew.

Most of all I remember the complete hopelessness, the desperation, the lack of purpose. I believed I was worthless & unlovable so I lived that way. I remember the anxiety and anger, the withdraw, the avoidance. I also, remember the subtle shifts, the changes. I remember the first day I felt hungry. I remember the first day I asked for help. I remember finding my voice and asking questions that we all were thinking. I remember being challenged in my faith. I remember the ups and the downs and all of the things I learned.

IMG_4657

I learned to sit with hard emotions instead of act upon them.

I learned to use my voice.

I learned that my body is an awful lot better at knowing what’s best for it than I am.

I learned to trust the professionals around me.

I learned that my family is for me, I just needed to let down my wall and allow them to come in.

I learned to say, “I have anorexia” instead of avoiding the question or making excuses.

I learned to say “this too shall pass” when uncomfortable emotions and anxieties threatened to send me into a panic.

I learned that I have so many people on my side, praying and battling on my behalf when I was too sick to do so.

I learned that I don’t have to be happy all the time.

I learned that self-hatred was killing me and I was letting it.

I learned to put myself in positive, healthy places with people that speak truth.

I learned about my core beliefs and how everything stems from them.

I learned that though nothing will ever feel as comfortable and safe as my eating disorder did, things willbegin to feel okay, even good.

I learned that change is scary as it ever was, but it’s also so so good.

IMG_4758

Moral of the story is, treatment is hard, recovery is just as hard, but God is good and He provides, sustains, empowers and encourages. He does incredible works through the most incredible pain. He never stops or disappears even in situations where He is (seemingly) nowhere to be found. He moved mountains for me and still is. He gave love where I gave hate. He gave grace where I needed it most. He gave courage when I was about to give up. He showed me what redemption looks like. He gave me reasons to live, to mend, to hope, to love.

Two years ago I was lost, hopeless, afraid. Two years later I am a different person. Made new, new life and hope. Given passions to pursue and relationships to foster.

Two years later. Two years braver. Thank you Lord, for these two years.

Advertisements

What if God isn’t Good?

Okay friends, prepare to have a little look-see into my heart. Bare with me as this post will be long, jumbled and jumpy, but hopefully I can get years of life sorted into a somewhat cohesive post that you can understand. Here goes!

I’ve had this post on my heart and mind for weeks now, pondering and sitting with it, writing about it. I want you to know that I only post real things. Things that have hurt, helped, lifted. Things that I’ve sat with. Things that I’ve wrestled with and cried over. Things that have been important in my growth as a young Christian and a brave girl. From the very beginning, I decided that I would only post when I felt the nudge from God towards a certain subject. I never want to post for the sake of posting and I pray that anything I write on this blog would be real and vulnerable, because I’ve learned (through trial) that vulnerability brings about depth, growth and connection. The act of being real with others immediately links hearts and tells stories (more on this in a later post). All of that being said, this post is going to be a very real (and probably chaotic & rambling) one.

If you’ve read my previous post, then you know I struggle with failure and fear. I have anxiety and the future usually looks like a whole lot of scariness that I can’t do anything about right now. I’ve heard over and over again, “God has a plan for you.” I’ve told myself that very thing to chase away the fears, but there was always more to it. I just didn’t know what.

After a really hard, vulnerable, eye-opening session with my therapist I was left with some baggage to sort through, some thoughts to decipher and bring before the Lord.

After talking about eating disorder stuff, changes and fears in college we stumbled across this very real, raw fear: What if God’s plan isn’t good?

I had no idea that thought was in my mind. It just came. I don’t know where it came from, but there it was.

What if His plan for college, for friendships & dating, for my body & weight & eating are not good plans?  What if I don’t like them?

At the root of the question lies this one overarching question: What if God himself is not good?

Buried, disguised somewhere deep down, this question comes unannounced and I wrestle with it. It’s living and I’m not prepared to handle its writhing alone. It seems wrong, unchristian to think such a thought. Of course God is good! That phrase is repeated every Sunday and I live in and by His goodness daily, yet the what if God is not good remains.

Thankfully, I was not left alone with this question, this fear. My therapist had an answer to my question. The moment the words settled in the room, her voice countered with this. “God is good. There is NO darkness in Him. None.”

God is light [he’s pure, holy & good] there is NO darkness [no evil, sin, failure, or mistakes] in Him (1 John 1:5).

Wow. I sat with that for a minute. I love the imagery of light versus dark. I think it’s beautiful, especially when it makes things click in my head. God is light and light is good. If God is light (and He is) then He can not be darkness, because darkness can’t be where light is. It’s impossible. They’re opposites. They do not, can not coexist.

IMG_7300       IMG_7085

Side note: I’ve learned that everything can be traced back to something else. My anxiety can be traced back. My depression can be traced back. Anorexia can be traced back. All of the trails lead back to fear, to lies. This question is no different. I can trace what if God isn’t good back to fear and lies. Even the fear and lies can be traced back. Those trails lead to the father of lies himself.

Satan knows God is good. He has seen first hand how good God is and thus knows how bad he himself is. He knows he stands no chance against the God of all good. He knows that he is going to die. He knows that he is forever separated from all goodness, and is bound and determined to see that you and I face the same fate, an eternity spent separated from the goodness of God. He will stop at nothing. No temptation, no evil, no seedling of fear, and no lie are too despicable for him. Not even a lie about God is below Satan. In fact, I bet he likes planting lies about God the best. He must throw a party down in Hell when we willingly believe the lies he feeds us about God.

Back to the story, so this lie boils down to me being afraid that what God has for me isn’t good. I’m afraid that God wants me to fail again. I’m afraid that what everyone tells me about the “freshman 15” is true and that I’m doomed before I’ve even begun. I’m afraid that the friendships in place will wither when people actually meet me in person. I’m afraid that the future husband I’ve prayed for (and my parents & grandparents have prayed for) is just imaginary. I’m afraid that my weight will be unsteady in college and that my eating will have to change due to the cafeteria scene. I’m afraid of not dancing anymore and having to find my niche in another physical activity

All of these fears receive the same answer, “It’s in Gods hands. He has a plan.” Yes, I know He has a plan….but what if it isn’t good? What if I don’t like it? What if it looks different than my plan?

The truth is, it will look different than my plan. I may not like it at first, but it will still be good. It will always, every single time be good. In fact, it will be better. My plan may look good to my fallen eyes, but His plan is good, because He sees and does through untainted eyes. His eyes see more than my glory, my comfort, my desires.

For some reason, I have this idea that God wants to hurt me, is out to get me or something. It’s silly. I know that is the furthest thing from the truth, but for every “I’m afraid” listed above there is a real fear that God is going to give me those exact things that I’m afraid of. My therapist is slowly getting through to me that God’s plans were not designed to hurt me. He knows that friends are important to me and is not going to leave me without community. He knows that the food thing in college is going to be hard and He doesn’t have a secret master plan to make it even harder or to make my fears come true. Hurting me is never His plan.

God heals. He doesn’t hurt. The hurting happens when I, in a desperate attempt to control, foolishly make my own plans. The hurt happens when I choose darkness over light, choose to live outside of His plan.

As you all know, I like lists. So here is a list to speak over my life (& yours) when the goodness of God seems unbelievable.

  • Everything God is and does is good (Psalm 119:68)
  • God’s goodness lasts forever, it is unchanging (Psalm 107:1)
  • Everything God makes is good, He makes no mistakes (Genesis 1:31)
  • God has goodness saved up for us, not harm (Psalm 31:19)
  • Everything from God is good, even the hard is good so give thanks (1 Timothy 4:4)
  • Every good gift is from God (James 1:17)

“For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless” (Psalm 84:11).

Before I leave, here are a few final thoughts for you if you never feel good enough:

This right here, whatever you’re doing, wherever you are, is good. And good is good enough.

When you let good, not perfect but good, be good enough, you’re living brave.

Shedding layers, digging deeper, separating light from dark, countering lies with truth, asking real though ugly questions, that is good. All of those things are good and God has His hands in all of them. Because He is good. 

Because HE Never Fails

I’m going to be really honest here, college is coming (less than 2 months! Woohoo!) and I couldn’t be more excited, but I also can’t help but feel Mr. Fear sneaking up to ruin it all.

I’d been feeling the usual anxiety symptoms (racing heart, sleepless nights, cold sweat, unable to catch my breath all while doing nothing, I might add) and wondering “where are these coming from?” It’s summer! Life is good. My biggest worry, is what I’m going to do with the girls I’m nannying today. No need for these pesky anxieties to be around. But one thing I’ve learned is this: anxiety can come when you least expect it & it’s always trying to tell you something about your heart.

I ignored it, until it randomly overtook me in a familiar office and I was encouraged by a friendly face to dig deeper. Anxiety is never surface deep. So dig I did with my trusty guide.

The digging wasn’t pretty but, boy oh boy, was it needed! After years of trying to put this fear to rest, the fear that left me spiraling out of control, here it is again.

We dug up this: What if I fail?

Those words came slowly. As I realized they were behind the anxiety (again!) I didn’t want to admit them. But they won’t go away until I admit them, so I let them out softly.

“What if I fail? What if I fail at college? What if I fail at the things placed before me in Nashville? What if it’s all too much, just like before?”

Admitting those words hurt more than I can say because I’ve worked hard to put my past where it belongs, the past.  But I’m only human and for all of my trying, I fail even at putting my “failures” behind me.

That shadowy figure on my shoulder peers over into my present and future, speaking lies that I subconsciously believe until I’m jarred awake by this: The LORD is within me. I will NOT fail because HE does NOT fail.


(Photo: Pinterest)

The lady guide in the chair across the way spoke them over me and I felt them deep. She’s right.

I won’t do college perfectly. I won’t do this whole roommate/suite mate thing perfectly. I won’t do new city, new church, new surroundings perfectly but I will NOT fail. No matter what happens, from now until I’m old and grey, I will not fail when I rest in Him, because there is NO failure in God.

It’s that simple. It’s that complex and that deep. It’s that real. No failure in Jesus Christ.

•not even one of His promises has failed (Joshua 23:14)

•He will NOT fail me or forsake me (1 Chronicles 28:20)

•His covenant with me will never fail (Psalm 89:28)

•my plans will fail but His plans won’t (Proverbs 15:22)

•the worst may happen in life, but His salvation is forever & His righteousness will never fail (Isaiah 51:6)

•His compassions (His mercy, empathy & concern) never fail (Lamentations 3:22)

•God is LOVE & love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8)

Chapter 2: Fat

I’m going to attempt to shed some light on the “fear of fat” that people with eating disorders have. It’s a fear that comes with a lot of questions and stigma. I’d say most people dislike fat and want to avoid it. So when they hear that it’s a symptom of anorexia they think one of two things: “I don’t want to get fat, so I must be afraid of fat. Oh no! I must have an eating disorder” or “No one wants to be fat, but why would anyone actually be afraid of something so silly? Eating disorders are just made up because no one would be stupid enough to be afraid of fat.” Do either of those ring any bells?

The fear of fat that anorexics and bulimics have is so real and so raw and so deep that I’m not sure I can even describe it, but I’ll do my best to bring those who aren’t “in the know” into this very real fear that so many face day in and day out.

Let me begin by making something clear. To most people with anorexia, food equals weight gain, weight gain equals fat, and fat equals ______. That blank is filled in with something that may vary from person to person, but in my case, that blank was filled in with these words: failure, lack of (self) control, worthlessness.

Fat signifies failure, lack of control, and shame. Gaining weight means that one has failed and lost all control over themselves and the world around them. Gaining weight is the ultimate fear because it symbolizes the crashing down of all security, comfort, protection and control.

Let me try to help you understand this insane fear of fat. Imagine your worst fear with me. I mean your absolute worst fear (not a little fear like my fear of cockroaches). It may be swallowing all your teeth in the middle of the night, getting your limbs gnawed off by a shark, or falling off of a cliff into a lake of lava where you burn to smithereens. Do you get my point? It has to be your worst fear that will probably never ever happen. How do you feel when you imagine your worst fear happening to you right now? Terrible, right? How would you react? Now imagine that the threat of that fear happening to you exists every second of every day. The threat of a shark attacking you or your head being blown off exists every day and you can’t get away from it. How does that make you feel?

You’re probably thinking I’m exaggerating, but sadly, I’m not. The fear of becoming fat is the kind of fear that leaves you in tears, hyperventilating, panicking. It’s the full on adrenaline rushing, fight or flight, cold sweat, searching for any sort of escape kind of fear. It’s the kind of fear you feel when watching The Call times a million, except you can’t push pause or close your eyes to make it stop.  The fear it induces is the kind of fear that causes reactions such as lashing out or fleeing the scene.

It’s not that people with eating disorders are dangerous or crazy (although some people like to argue that they are), but if you were being forced to jump off a cliff, wouldn’t you fight against it, lash out, try to flee? YES! That’s exactly how it is for someone who is terrified of gaining weight. Someone making them eat, is equivalent to someone making you jump off a cliff or walk into a den of hungry lions. You’d be insane to do either of those things willingly.

Fat becomes a curse word. Its utterance is not allowed in treatment. The avoidance of it becomes an idol, a reason to live. The gain of it becomes a reason to die, to disappear.

The thought of it, is enough to bring one to tears. I remember being in treatment and seeing the buttered bagel on my plate (the bagel that I HAD to eat) and crying because I simply could not, could not, put it in my mouth. I could not let it touch my lips. I could not let in to my body, for I knew that it would ruin me. I knew that it would leave be worthless and unlovable.

Before you start thinking, “Wow, people with eating disorders are psycho” let’s look at why this fear exists.

The fear of fat or of weight gain has so many factors, many of which are highly biological and linked to ones genetics and psychological makeup, but I don’t want to focus on those today. Instead, I’m going to focus on the fear itself.

The fear of fat is deeply rooted in lies. It’s rooted in lies about ones identity and worth. The intense fear of gaining weight can only take over if your identity and worth are tied up in lies. An identity that is rooted in what the world says will be vulnerable to the fear of gaining weight. If ones worth is found only in earthly things then only earthly things will grow.

Fear is just a lie

Fear is just a lie. The fear of gaining weight stems from the lie that you are unlovable if you gain weight. The fear of fat stems from the lie that you are unworthy of good things if you are fat. The fear of fat stems from the lie that you are a failure if you gain weight. Don’t you see? Fear is just a lie. The fear of fat, the fear of gaining weight and becoming healthy is just a lie. A big old lie that Satan is trying to make you believe. Because, the second you and I believe that lie we are left powerless, which is exactly where Satan wants us.

The very first thing Satan did in the Garden of Eden was deceive Eve. He told her a lie, she believed it and that lie left her powerless, so she ran and hid from God (Genesis 3:3-13).

Jesus says this about Satan in John, “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). Satan is a liar. He just is, but you, you are not of Satan, you are of Jesus Christ and therefore can have victory over his lies.

We have now covered what the fear of fat looks like for someone with an eating disorder and what this fear really is, a lie. Now we have to ask, what is there to be done about this fear? About this lie?

I wish I had a three-step, fail proof solution, but I don’t. In fact, nobody does. No doctor, no therapist, no dietitian, no psychologist, no one has an easy solution to overcoming the fear of fat that is an ever present lie. That statement should not leave you feeling hopeless. While no MAN has an answer, GOD most certainly does. He has all of the answers and he longs for you and I to tuck in close, breathe deeply and to trust Him with our fears.

Because when we seek the Lord, he answers and delivers us from all of our fears (paraphrased Psalm 34:4).

Even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we do not have to fear evil (food, fat, weight gain, failure, loss of control, anything) because He is with us (Psalm 23:4, emphasis added).

When we are overcome by these fears, we need only put our trust in Him. In God whose word we praise — In God we trust and therefore are not afraid. What can mere mortals (what can fat, food or weight) do to us when we have GOD on our side? (Psalm 56:3-4, paraphrased, emphasis added).

This topic is an extensive one. Each sentence could be expanded upon and books could be written, but I hope that you, my reader, have learned a few things from this post.

I hope you’ve learned that:

1. The fear anorexics (and bulimics) have of food, fat, weight gain is so incredibly real.

2. These fears are lies placed deceitfully by the devil to leave Gods children powerless.

3. No fear, no lie is too small or too big for God. He can and will overcome them all as we seek and trust Him…run to Him.

Chapter 1: Food

025A

Imagine with me that you are in one of my favorite places, a book store. You see shelves upon shelves of books in all directions. Books on health, beauty, art, science, dance, food, you name it they have it! But two special books stand out. One of these books is The World’s Book. The store has thousands of them, yet cannot keep up with the demand for more. Another book the store sells is God’s book. Although this book has fabulous reviews, few people buy it and the store only has a few in stock.

I went to this book store and bought the only obvious choice, The World’s Book. I read this book from cover to cover. I memorized it. I spouted it off to people. I turned a deaf ear to anyone who disagreed with MY book. What did they know, anyway?  I believed every word I read. This bestselling book ruled my life.

What is The World’s Book about? It’s about lots of things. Its many chapters, range from worth and purpose to love and beauty. The author loves to write about success and popularity. One of my personal favorite chapters was chapter one. The chapter on food. Here’s what this well worn book says about food.

The World’s Book

  • Food is bad and the less of it the better.
  • Eating food = getting fat which = failure.
  • Food is for pleasure alone.
  • What you eat or don’t eat determines your worth.
  • Extremes (gluttony and restriction) are the only options.
  • There is no such thing as a balanced diet.
  • Food should be an idol, a god in our lives.
  • What you eat should consume all of your time thoughts, and energy.
  • You must control your diet or YOU are out of control.
  • If you eat _____ or _____ you are fat.
  • If you’re not worried about food all the time then you’re doing something wrong.
  • You should always be on a diet of some sort.
  • There is NO peace in a relationship with food.
  • Your life and identity hinges on your food choices.

I don’t know about you, but I believed a lot of what this book told me about food. I believed my identity was linked to what and how much I ate. I believed that my worth could be changed by controlling my food intake. I believed that my physical need for food (without it we die) made me a failure. I believed that food was a bad and hateful substance that wanted to make me fat and ruin my life (sounds crazy, right? That’s an ED brain for ya, folks!). I believed all sorts of crazy things about food.

I distinctly remember a few weeks into treatment and normal eating that my dietitian said “Arden, eating food doesn’t mean you will get fat.” You should have seen the look I gave her! It was a combination of “you’re insane” and “I want to jump out of that window look,” if that helps you visualize it. Needless to say, I told my dear dietitian just how wrong and misinformed she was. Silly dietitian Brandi, just didn’t understand that food immediately turns into fat and is then glued to various parts of my body once it goes into my mouth. I mean, duh! Everyone knows that! Not to worry, I educated her on this fact.

I slowly realized that my dietitian was (gasp!) right! She actually told me after a month of treatment that she could not get me to gain anymore weight despite me being on the highest food plan level. It was then that things started to click. My brain started turning. I began to think maybe, just maybe, Brandi and Kelly and Lorena and Dr. Lee and my parents and countless others were actually right. Maybe I can eat and not get fat…or at least not too fat. Maybe food isn’t the devil. Maybe food isn’t trying to kill me (what a novel thought, right!). The biggest shocker came when I thought this, Maybe this book I’ve been memorizing is WRONG. Maybe The World’s Book is all wrong. 

The change was painfully slow and included many reverse trips, but it started with these “maybe’s” and continues through constant reflections on my relationship with food.

Now that I know and am coming to terms with the fact that The World’s Book is all wrong, I have to figure out what is right. I’ve struggled with this change for awhile. I mean, how do I know what is true about food after believing lies for so long, lies that are ingrained in my mind and subconsciously thought?

My most recent assignment and step towards figuring this whole healthy, normal food relationship thing was to write down what God’s Book says about food.

God’s Book

  • Food is His provision for me (Psalm 104:14) (Psalm 145:15-16)
  • Food is a blessing from the Lord
  • Food is GOOD (Ecclesiastes 9:7)
  • Food is not what makes me good or bad (Matthew 15:11)
  • Food is a source of LIFE, along with the Word of God (Matthew 4:4)
  • Food doesn’t have the power to make me a failure
  • Self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and should be cultivated and practiced (Galatians 5: 23-25)
  • Worth comes from Him alone
  • Balance is possible
  • Jesus understands food
  • The Son of Man himself came eating and drinking (Matthew 11:19)
  • “You shall have no other gods (including food) before Me.”
  • Food is not all or nothing (Proverbs 23:21)
  • Food shouldn’t be a cause of anxiety (Matthew 6:25-27)
  • Identity is linked to Him not food/diet
  • There is freedom and peace from bondage to food

Which book do you want to buy, read, memorize and live by?   I’ll take God’s Book. He is a much better author.

,                                                                   FullSizeRender

(Shout out to Pastor Dave for the current sermon series “The Son of Man Came Eating & Drinking.” It’s obviously impacted me a lot. Thanks!)

The Shorts

These cute striped Loft shorts. I’ve only worn them once but they tell a story. Granted, it’s a story only I know. To everyone else they look like any other shorts. But not to me. Would you like to hear the story?

IMG_6208

A couple years ago, my mom bought me these shorts as a gift because none of my clothes fit. I thought they were adorable, but I didn’t wear them for months because I was hiding. Hiding from what, you might ask? I was hiding from life. I was hiding from myself. I was hiding from the world. So these shorts hung empty in my closet, until I packed them in my suitcase. They made the plane ride and got hung in a new closet. They hung empty in this new closet for a month. I wanted to wear them, but I was still afraid. I was still hiding. I was still holding on. Finally, I got a challenge from a special lady. “Wear something that’s pretty and be proud in it.” Some of you might think, “That’s not a challenge. I do that everyday.” But it was a challenge for me. I woke up the next day and took out the shorts and a white shirt. I put the outfit on. I stood barefoot in front of a floor length mirror and turned side to side. Did I like what I saw? Could I do it? Could I be that brave? Regardless of if i liked the reflection, I did it. I wore the shorts. I got so many compliments that I think a part of me thought, “Hey, maybe being seen isn’t so bad?”

Flash forward, almost two years and those shorts still hang in my closet, unworn since that challenge day.

It’s the time of year where I clean out my closet. I try everything on and get rid of what I don’t like. So out came the striped shorts. I was scared. I’ve changed since the first time I wore those shorts, yet part of me felt like that scared little girl in hiding again as I held those shorts up. Deep breath as I pulled them on. They zipped and buttoned. Exhale. But they were tight. Sigh. When I say tight I mean tight. Tight as in spandex tight. I don’t like tight clothing. Never have. Probably never will. Which is usually fine with me, but this is different.

I take them off and hold them up again. Were they really tight? Yes, yes they were. Sigh. I folded them before sitting down to think. Not going to lie, a few tears fell as I faced an inner battle. What would I do with this? 

You are probably wondering why I care so much about these shorts. For Heaven’s sake, why would anyone cry over shorts! I didn’t cry because of the shorts. I can buy new shorts. I cried because of what the shorts stand for. You see, the last time I wore those shorts I was 10 (ish) pounds less than I am now. I had been in treatment for anorexia and had already gained a painful 20 pounds when I first put those shorts on, but I still had another 10 (ish) pounds to gain. That’s why I was scared. I was scared to be seen even though that was what I desperately wanted. I was scared to look pretty. I was scared to be looked at.

The shorts fit loosely when I first wore them. I tucked my white button down in, lifted my chin and whispered “Be brave, Arden” to the girl in the mirror. The second time I put those shorts on, I found myself whispering the same thing. Be brave, Arden.  

Now I sit with the shorts wondering what to do. Do I get angry and beat myself up about having gained 10 pounds? Do I go work out until my legs give out? Do I skip dinner and pray that the shorts will fit tomorrow? No. No I don’t do any of those things. A few years ago I would have, but not today. Today I simply sit with the shorts and give thanks.

I give thanks to God for those 10 pounds and the 20 pounds before the shorts. I give thanks not because I like the fact that I had to gain back the 30 pounds I had lost or because the shorts don’t fit. Instead, I give thanks because of the life I live post-the shorts. Because those shorts no longer fit I can dance for hours on end. I can hold my weight in pointe shoes. I can jump and turn without fear of breaking bones or passing out. Because the shorts don’t fit, I can run after my dogs in the rain. I can play tag with the kids I babysit and hold them for hours. I can work out with my brother until I’m sweaty and panting. Because the shorts don’t fit, I can stand and worship at church without having to sit down and shut my eyes in order to stop the world from spinning. I can have cupcake dates with my best friends and spontaneously drink hot chocolate while watching a cheesy Hallmark movie with my parents. Because those shorts are too tight, I have new friends and a church community that I love. I have relationships and opportunities that would have been impossible 10, 20 or 30 pounds ago. Because those super cute shorts don’t fit, I have a life and a good life at that.

So I give thanks and keep living brave even though the shorts don’t fit.