what college taught me about food and my body

Last summer, as I was getting ready to start college, I had one huge unspoken fear. FOOD.

Most people are nervous about classes and friends. I was tied in a knot over food. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know how I would react. I didn’t know who would understand, if anyone. I wasn’t nervous about it, I was scared.

I was scared for months leading up to college. I would sit on my couch in my therapist’s office week after week and go over the same “what ifs.” What if this? What if that? All of my “what ifs” and my fears concerning food and my body were glaring me in the face. The only voices I could hear were telling me, “Just wait. You’ll be overwhelmed and out of control. You’ll eat too little and spiral downward again. You’ll never recover. Or you’ll eat too much. You won’t know what to do. You’ll gain the freshman fifty and no one will love you.” My ears were tuned to hear only fear and failure. My eyes trained to see only what could go wrong.

So I entered college, with these barely exposed fears. I had only just gotten used to my food routine at home and now it was turned upside down, inside out. I had no idea what territory I was embarking on.

I can’t say it was a perfect transition, because it wasn’t. I had a few meltdowns in the cafeteria. I had a few silent cries. I had some subconscious restrictions. A few calls and emails to my home base. Many frantic questions and fears and failures scribbled in my journal. It was not perfect, but I’m okay with that, because it taught me a few of the most important lessons I could’ve learned.

I was reading 1 Timothy 4 and it was as if the Holy Spirit lifted a veil from before my eyes and I could see a new picture of food. “Through the hypocrisy and pretensions of liars, who forbid people to marry and teach them to abstain from certain kinds of foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and have knowledge of the truth. For everything God has created is good, and nothing is to be thrown away or refused if it is received with thanksgiving. For it is hallowed and consecrated by the Word of God and by prayer” (1 Timothy 4: 2-5). In the prior verses Timothy says that these things will come from “seducing spirits and doctrines that demons teach.” These rules and regulations concerning food are not of God. They come from hypocrites and liars. Food rules and restrictions are not of the Lord. They are of Satan who seeks to use what God meant for good, to destroy us, to leave us unable to serve the Kingdom.

I read this passage over and over again, specifically verse four, because of the truth it spoke.

Food is good.

Food is good. It’s goodness itself. And it’s a central part of how we experience God’s goodness towards us. Food matters. Food is part of God’s new and good creation. He created food and He called it good. He didn’t call some foods good and others bad. It doesn’t say some foods or the “safe” food or even the healthy food. It says everything. (Read verse four again if you don’t believe me). He called them all good. He says everything, all foods, He created are good. Let that truth sink in.

Not only does God call food good for us, He shows it’s good for Himself as well. When Jesus came to earth He ate food. He ate the same food as everyone else. He didn’t have some sort of “perfect heavenly food.” The food here on earth was perfect and literally sent from Heaven. It was, is, created by God in Heaven to be good and perfect for our bodies. Nor did He restrict certain foods calling them “bad.” He ate and drank what everyone else did.  Our food was good enough for the Son of God. I think that speaks volumes.

The truth is God made food. He ate food. He calls food good and He desires us to call it good too.

Food is a gift. 

Yep, you read that right. Before college I laughed at the thought of food being good, much less a gift.Food has always been fuel to me, something I need to survive. Nothing more and nothing less. But the Word of God tells a different story. Food is a beautiful, priceless gift to be received with thanksgiving and joy. Food is fuel, but it is not just fuel. It is the sole sustenance of our physical bodies. We cannot live without food.

I always yelled at God for making food. How could He do that? Why did He make me dependent on food? Why couldn’t food be optional or at least plain, bland, unimportant? The answer is that God could have made food just fuel. He could have even made us to be self-sustaining. But He didn’t. And you know why? Because He loves to go over the top for us. He loves to lavish grace, mercy and love upon us. One way He does that is through food. He sees food as a gift, a way to show us how much He cares.

It’s also a tangible way to remind us of our dependence on God in all things. We are not self-sustaining on purpose. We cannot survive without God providing food for our bodies. God made us dependent on food for a reason. He wants food, which we have to eat in regular increments, to be a constant reminder of how much we need Him and how much He loves us.

God hasn’t made food to harm us, but to bless us. God didn’t make food to cause division, but to bring people together. God made food and gave it to us as a gift. Food can seem like a burden, but with a changed perspective, food can become a beautiful, even holy, gift from our Father.

My body is good.

This is also something that I could not have said or seen a year ago. Before college, I made do with my body. I didn’t necessarily hate it, but I certainly didn’t love it. I tried to avoid it as much as possible, although being a dancer made that pretty hard. My body could have been described as “fine” or “okay,” but never good.

Now I can look at myself and say “my body is good” and really believe it. My body hasn’t changed at all. My mind has. My perspective on my body has changed. Slowly, my eyes turned from what my body couldn’t do, to what it could do. From what I didn’t like, to what I did. From reasons to be self-conscious, to the God who gave me a spirit of power and love. The Holy Spirit changed my focus. He realigned my vision for my body, with the vision God has for my body. God’s vision for my body is vastly different than my vision was.

God doesn’t care what size and shape we are. He cares what we do with our bodies. Yes, we are to be good stewards of our physical bodies because they house the Holy Spirit and are a gift from the Lord. However, God cares far more about how we love and serve than how we work out and what size we wear. He would rather us sit in His presence than anything else in the world.

So, yes, my body is good and so is yours. Our bodies pump thousands of gallons of blood a day. They get a bite of food through a complex system of compartments and valves. They know which things are welcome in the body and which are to be fought off. Our bodies are incredible. Not only that, our bodies are vessels of hope and joy for everyone we come in contact with. They are how we communicate the love of Christ to the lost and hurting. Our bodies are incredible. Our bodies are good.

We have to choose to believe that God made our bodies and He doesn’t make mistakes. He cannot. It’s against His nature, contrary to His character. That thing about your body that you think must be a mistake, it’s not. It’s good.

God made my body fearfully and wonderfully. My body is good. So is yours.

God knows.

College taught me that God knows. He knows all about my heart and soul. He knows all about my body. Nothing gets past Him. He knows what foods I like and what foods work for me. He knows what my unique body needs to function best.

I thought I knew what my body needed. I thought it needed less of everything. I thought restricting types and quantities of foods would be best, but God has shown me otherwise. My body is the Lord’s. He is in control of it, not me. Any action that attempts otherwise is a proud attempt at playing god.

The Lord is in control of all things, including my body. I may have thoughts, but His purposes for it will stand (Proverbs 19:21). My body, along with everyone else’s, is in His capable hands (Job 12:10). Though I want to believe that I know best, I have seen the folly in that. When I played god over my body, I sent it into a deep, dark pit, but when God has control my feet are placed on solid rock. God is in control and He knows best.


What was bad became good. What was fuel became a symbol of God’s love and grace for me. What was a grudgingly accepted gift became an opportunity for fellowship with others. What I believed was a mistake ridden body became a way to love and serve those around me. What I thought would destroy me, actually remade me. What I thought would be a burden carried alone became something shared among many. What began as my greatest fear in college became my greatest freedom. 

 

If you’d like to learn more about foods role in lives, read “A Meal With Jesus” by Tim Chester. I read it my first semester of college and it changed my world. I have no doubt it’ll change yours too.

 

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A letter to my brothers…

To my brothers by blood and my brothers in Christ,

You might be wondering right about now, why on earth I’m writing to guys when my blog name is clearly brave GIRL living. But girls aren’t the only ones who need encouragement and truth. Nor are guys the only ones that need to read this article. The reality is we, girls and guys alike, live in the same world and have the same sin and the same Savior. Sin manifests itself differently in everyone, but there are fundamentals that we all need to hear. With that being said, I want to tell you a few things I believe are very important and I hope you listen.

You were made for more.

One little boy I know grows up as we speak wanting nothing more than to be a dad someday, because his five-year-old self sees that as the most honorable of tasks. And you too once had big dreams honor and glory. You grew up believing you would one day fight dragons and save lives. You watched battle scenes on TV and tried to recreate them, to be as fast and courageous as the cowboy and the pirate. You read stories of men who did brave things and saved countries. You heard about people who made discoveries that changed the course of history and you wanted to be like them. You read about great adventures and you dreamed up some of your own. You grew up wanting to be a policeman or firefighter or soldier or cowboy or even president. And you really believed you would be any or all of those things someday, because you believed the truth that you were made for more.

So what happened?

You were made for more than peer pressure and fickle friendships. You were made for more than nights in a bar and mornings with a hangover. You were made for more than cussing and crude jokes. More than your “coolness” factor and your friend group. You were made for more than sex and physical pleasure. More than parties and make out sessions and hookups. You were made for more than lusting for what you cannot or should not have. You were made for more than power and control. More than money and a title to fame. More than the sports you play or the weight you can lift.

You were made for more, because you are more. You are made in the image of the epitome of More. You are not just capable of more, but you were created, hand crafted and set aside for more. But not more money, pleasure and power. No, instead for more Jesus, more of the Holy Spirit, more of your Creator.

You were really made for more courage and kindness. More generosity and gentleness. More patience and perseverance. More respect and faithfulness. More determination to do hard things. You were made for more, but a different kind of more than the world advertises.

We live in a world, where casual sex looks like fun and lust looks like love, but you were made for real love. The all in, no matter the consequences, faithful through thick and thin, Jesus kind of love. The kind of love that fights for what is true, good and beautiful. The real kind of love that is forever and therefore is messy and hard. You were made for more than the typical definition of love, which says love is conditional and based on feeling.You were made for more than that kind of love. You were made for His love.

And yes, I know, His love is not the “cool” kind. It probably won’t win you any points by the world, but it’ll win you the most lasting reward you could dream of.

We live in a world where you are under constant pressure. Girls aren’t the only ones who are trying to be good enough. You feel it too. You feel the pressure to perform, the need to be good-looking and strong and popular and smart and successful and wealthy and accepted. So you drink and you cuss and you party and sleep around and in your vulnerability you take advantage of ours. You seek answers in all the wrong places and all the wrong people. You strive to be enough any way you can, because the world tells you, just like it tells us, that you are not enough as you are. And you eventually get stuck in a rut and feel hopeless and start believing that this is all you were made for.

But the world is the worst kind of wrong about you. 

You were made for more than all of that. When you were little thinking you would fight battles someday, you were right. You are fighting a battle right now. A battle for Christ and the Kingdom to take back what the enemy has stolen. A battle to reclaim your inheritance as a child of God. A battle to reclaim who you are and what you were made for. You’re fighting the real battle. The battle we all fight, men and women, young and old. The battle between the bad guys and the God guys. You were made to fight you just have to decide which team you’re fighting for.

I pray, dear God I pray, you choose the God guy. 

And once you choose the God guy, I pray you choose Him everyday for the rest of your life, because He’s chosen you everyday from the beginning of time. He chose you on the cross and at the resurrection. He declares you a chosen man set aside as His own possession, so that you may proclaim the glory of Him who called you out of darkness, out of the world, into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). The God guy chose you, adopted you as His very own son, and desires you to be holy and blameless before Him (Ephesians 1:4-5). He has created you like Himself and wants you to walk out of that identity.

Your identity is more.

Your identity is more humility and less pride. More grace and less judgement. More grit and less timidity. More hard Jesus things and less comfort. More friendship and less rivalry. More sacrifice and less self. More Jesus and less world. Your identity is in Jesus. Let that be enough.

Brothers, you were made for more than the world lets on. So get up and fight for the God guy.

Sincerely, your sister in Christ

 

 

 

 

thank you for not being perfect

Perfect daughter, sister, friend. Perfect student, dancer and artist. Perfect body, face, clothes. Perfect christian, perfect life. Altogether perfect. That’s what I thought I needed. Perfection, the unattainable goal, the unspoken expectation.

Perfect so people will like you. Perfect so you can live with yourself. Perfect so God will love you. Perfect. Just be perfect. 

The whispers turn into screams. The desire an expectation. Before you know it the striving has overtaken. Yet you fail at every turn.

Perfect so people will like you. Perfect so people will want to be your friend. Perfect so people will love and accept you. Perfect so guys will like you. Perfect so a team will want you. Perfect so you’ll be successful. Perfect. Just be perfect. 

I saw perfection in people around me. That’s all that was shown, all I had could see. Perfect lives and legs. Perfect scores and successes. But, like most people, I could only see imperfections in myself. I saw that people tend to like people similar to themselves. So I subconsciously decided from a young age that people would only like me if I was perfect like them.

Perfect so you will like yourself. Perfect so you can sleep at night. Perfect so you can stand tall and not cower in shame. Perfect to avoid having to beat yourself up for your many failures. Perfect. Just be perfect.

I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that one could love them self after and despite failure. I couldn’t possibly like myself if I wasn’t pretty and smart and talented and perfect in every way. My self-set expectations  meant to lead me to perfection loomed higher and higher with each passing day. But the more I looked up at them, the faster I fell, the further I failed. I could never live up to myself.

Perfect so God will like you. Perfect so He will choose you and use you. Perfect so He will love you. Perfect. Just be perfect. 

God is perfect. I’m supposed to be like Him. So shouldn’t I be perfect?  Perfectly kind, gracious, joyful and strong. Perfectly patient and loving and put together. That’s what God wants, right? Anything less is a disgrace, a disappointment to Him.

These are thoughts you may have. Lies you may believe. Actually, let’s be real, they’re lies you do believe. But I have some Truth for you. Truth for me. For all of us.

You were not made to be perfect. You were made to glorify God and love Him forever. If you were perfect you would have no need for a perfect Savior. You are not expected to be perfect. God knows that your flesh is strong and you will fail. He knows and that’s why He bestows grace upon you, upon us all. Perfection is not a prerequisite for His love or attention. Our Father loves us in our imperfections. He uses us in them.

Last week, when wrestling with my own perfectionism and my fear and discouragement at my inability to be perfect, my therapist spoke some freeing Truth.

“God doesn’t send perfect people, because perfect people aren’t helpful people. Perfect people are scary people because others can’t relate, can’t understand. Perfect people cause others to stumble, to feel like they’re doing it wrong, they’re not enough. Do you want people to feel that way? No. Of course not. Imperfect is better. Unqualified and imperfect, but empowered and sent is better than perfect.” 

Woah. Amen. Yes. Wow. All the praise hands to that TRUTH. Imperfect is better than perfect.

Look through the Bible. Does God ever use one perfect human? David. Adulterer and murderer. Jonah. Hid from God. Thought he was better than the Ninevites.  Moses. Didn’t believe God could use him. Paul. Persecuted Christians. Esther. Faced fear and doubt. Peter. Proud. Denied Jesus three times. And the list could go on and on. But name one person in the Bible saved by grace and living for the Lord, that was not used. Name one person that was perfect. You can’t, because they are all imperfect. But they were all perfectly used, perfectly loved.

You see God chooses the broken, the failures, the flawed and scarred because those are the people, we are the people, who are needed. We don’t need more synthetic perfection in the world. We need more authentic Jesus-lovers. We don’t need more people who are going to cause others to feel like they’re not good enough. We need more people who will look past each others failures and into eyes and say, “You are magnificent.” More people who will live unashamedly in their imperfections, knowing that Christ made them perfect on the cross. That is what the world needs.

You and I think we want to be perfect. We think that perfection is best. But I’d rather be imperfect in the hands of a perfect God any day.

Loosen your grip on perfection. Lower your expectations. Let your mask fall. Let people in. You’ll find that they’re imperfect just like you.

So thank you for not being perfect. Thank  you for failing and falling down. Thank you for making mistakes and messing up. Thank you for sinning and repenting and asking for forgiveness. Thank you for not being awesome at everything. Thank you for sharing your imperfections and letting others love you despite them. Thank you for having bad days and letting people see those days. Thank you for being imperfect.

old shoes, new shoes

I’ve gone through the routine about a million times. You get your new pair of pointe shoes in the mail. You quickly sew them in study hall or between rehearsals. You don that new pair of perfectly satin pointe shoes and assess how they look on your feet. You then begin the journey to making them ‘just right.’ You might darn the platform or cut the shank and remove the nail or flatten the box or sew down the sides or adjust the drawstring or rough them up with scissors to add friction or hit them on the concrete to reduce noise or a multitude of other techniques to break them in.  Finally, after all of that work, you put them on and jump into class or rehearsal. You wear those new shoes proudly. It’s all fun and dance at first in new shoes. But inevitably the honeymoon phase will end and you’ll realize that those new shoes hurt a lot. They cause blisters and rub that bunion and make your weird fungus hole feel like someone hammered a nail through it. And you realize that you can’t run quietly in these shoes or roll through your box effortlessly or land gently and they aren’t molded perfectly to your feet. You realize all of these things and suddenly NEED to put back on your old, dead pointe shoes. You just really need to. So you pull the dead pointe shoes out of your bag and put back them on, loving how comfortable they are. They mold perfectly to your arch and make you feel much safer, more confidant and comfortable.

I realize that most people don’t have my particular pointe shoe experience, but the same can be said for street shoes. New shoes are clean and shiny, but the reality is they pinch and rub blisters and need to be broken in.

The same goes for eating disorder recovery.

Before you laugh and say “eating disorder recovery is nothing like breaking in a new pair of shoes” hear me out.

About a year and a half or so ago I was sitting in my therapists office relaying some story of how I failed at recovery. I was admitting to some kind of behaviors and bemoaning the fact that I just couldn’t get over this eating disorder completely and crying about how I felt like a failure at recovery. I’d never eat like a normal person. I would always have these little relapses. I was convinced I’d never be better.

That’s when my therapist interjected with her usual wisdom. She’s really good with analogies and in that moment she told me that recovering from an eating disorder is a lot like breaking in a new pair of shoes.

When you commit to recovering and regaining your health, you receive a new pair of shoes. These new pair of shoes are incredibly uncomfortable. You do NOT like the way they look or feel, but you put them on because you need to.  In recovery there are good days and bad days. On the good days, you kind of like the new shoes. After all, food does make one feel physically better even if it’s hard to make yourself eat it. They’re easier to walk confidently in. On the bad days, you really hate the new shoes. They’re rubbing in all the wrong places; you can hardly stand it. Some days you can deal with the rubbing. You reach out for support and admit you’re having a hard time. You remind yourself of truths and keep doing the next right thing. But some days are especially hard. You choose to restrict or use other behaviors. You just can’t deal with the new shoes, so you head to your closet where the old shoes (your eating disorder) are stashed and you make the switch. It feels good at first. It feels right and safe to have those shoes back on. You know exactly how you’ll feel in them, exactly what you can do in them. But the truth is after awhile of wearing the old shoes, you realize that while they’re known and comfortable and the new shoes are unknown and uncomfortable, they aren’t going to be able to get you where you want to go. Those old shoes are so worn out and now that you’ve had the new shoes on they feel less comfortable, more constricting and distressing. You can’t walk long distances in them or, if they’re pointe shoes, dance for hours in them. You can’t run after kids or go for a hike in the old shoes. You can’t go to a dinner party or the movies in them. Once you realize this (it may be hours, weeks or months), you make the switch back to the new shoes and see that although they’re difficult and uncomfortable at times it’s worth it to be able to live life. It’s worth the effort it takes to be able to truly live.

The wisdom I gained from my therapist through this analogy was this and it’s wisdom that applies to everyone, eating disorder or not. I will have hard days. I will have days where the last thing I want to do is choose recovery, choose life and freedom and truth. I will want to put on my old shoes that are cloaked in the lie that they will satisfy and make me feel good enough. I will want to choose temporary control instead of a life time in joyful communion with Christ. And some days, maybe a lot of days, I do choose the old shoes. I choose lies because I let the devil’s voice be louder than my God’s voice. But Jesus Christ saved me and when He did He gave me that brand new pair of shoes. I can never return those shoes. They were a gift without a gift receipt. So even if I choose to put on the old shoes (my old sinful flesh) for a time, my new shoes (my redeemed by the cross self) will still be there when I realize that the old shoes are not as comfortable as I thought.

The encouragement here for you is that whatever your two pair of shoes are, whether it be an eating disorder, body image issues, addiction, promiscuity, racism, anger, anxiety, etc., you can not lose your new shoes. You might choose to walk in the old shoes, your old fleshly habits, but Christ is always waiting with grace, forgiveness and those new shoes when you realize that the old shoes aren’t as great as you remember. 

That’s the truth. Our old sinful habits always seem fun and fulfilling, but they aren’t. They never were and never will be. We just can’t see this truth until we’ve experienced the grace and comfort of Christ our Lord. 

So if you’re wearing your old shoes, remember that those shoes will not be as comfortable because now, through your salvation, you’ve experienced new shoes and you can never go back. If you don’t have new shoes yet, ask. Jesus is the best shoemaker in all the universe and He really wants to give you a pair, but you have to ask for them. And lastly, if you’re wearing your new shoes, be brave and keep walking in them. I promise they’re the best shoes you’ll ever own and they have a lifetime warranty, free of charge! 

to the girl who looks in the mirror

For my harvest-story friend and anyone else who looks in the mirror

To the girl who looks in the mirror and tears up at the reflection.

To the girl who looks in the mirror and wants to hide from what she sees, embarrassed and self-conscious.

To the girl who looks in the mirror and hates what looks back at her, hates all of what she sees. Wishes she was made differently.

To the girl who stares at that reflection day after day hoping that one day it’ll look different. Hoping that one day she will feel something different.

To the girl who stands before the mirror and picks apart everything that’s wrong, everything that makes you unworthy.

To the girl who stands in a leotard and tights day after day comparing what she sees on her frame to the bodies around her. It’s all too big. You want to turn away, but there’s no way to avoid the mirror.

To the girl who looks in the mirror, what do you see?

You see mistakes. You see failure. You see defeat and disappointment. You see what’s too big and what’s too flabby. You see what jiggles and what’s not defined. You see imperfections and flaws. You see all that’s not good enough.

Here’s what I see.

When I see you, I see redemption. I see beauty. I see grace. I see love mixed with pain. I see hurt in those eyes, but also fight. I see joy and sorrow intertwined. I see you choosing bravery. I see you choosing Truth. I see you using your mind to speak kindly to others. I see you using your body to hug friends and read books and laugh late and be a dancing light. I see you being the hands and feet of Jesus. When I see you, I see worthiness and value. I see Jesus loving through you.

And here is what HE sees.

When God looks at you, He sees your beauty, the beauty you have because you were made in the perfect image of Christ. He sees the glory of the Father reflecting back. He sees His daughter, His bride, His beloved, the one He experienced Hell for and the one He still pursues with a fury. When He looks at your body, He sees all of the lives you have and will touch with your hands, your heart and your words. He sees the one He chose from the darkness and brought into the Light. He sees you as precious and powerful, pleasing to His sight. He looks at you and remembers the great price He paid as your ransom and He declares that He would do it all again just to have you as His very own. When He looks upon your body, He sees it as a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit, His temple.  What He sees when He looks at you is incomparable, entirely unexplainable, impossible to replicate. He sees you as brave and beloved.

Next time you stand before a mirror think about what God would say if He were there with you, because He is. Next time you look at your reflection, give thanks for the body you were blessed with and all of the things it allows you to do. And next time you’re tempted to believe the lie that your body is not good enough, remind yourself that your body is balanced and beautiful in Jesus name.

searching for a savior

Some days the world just really hits us in the gut. Every picture, every news title, every thing media related. It all screams of anger, greed, judgement and injustice. It’s all coated in depravity and sin. And it’s everywhere. You cannot escape it. You cannot hide from it. It’s everywhere. We live in a fallen world. We live in a world that is depraved, because it’s desperate. It’s desperate for a savior.

The world and everyone in it is on a perpetual search for something to save them. I see it everyday. I see it in myself, my friends and family and every human on this planet. We search and search for something to fulfill us. We turn to fame and power to make us feel loved, alive, in control. We turn to money as the answer to all of our problems. We look to drugs as the magic pill and alcohol as the only means to having fun. We sleep around in search of someone who will fulfill us intimately, someone who will save us. We look to food and exercise to numb, to cope, to fit in. We search for a savior in friends and partying, in more clothes, newer technology, a bigger house, nicer stuff, a better job, thinner legs, more likes. And when this search inevitably leads us nowhere we, the world, get more desperate.

The world is both desperate enough and lost enough in it’s search for a savior that it has turned to heartbreaking crimes against each other, against all things good and beautiful, against God Himself. The world is desperate enough to sell young girls for sex. Desperate enough to sell tiny babies as nothing more than “parts.” It’s desperate enough to kill people simply because they’re a different color. Desperate enough to bomb buildings and murder thousands. It’s desperate enough to defile sex into a perverted, demeaning, relationship-killing industry. Desperate enough in it’s search for a savior to worship all that is evil and the evil one himself. The world is desperate indeed. Desperate enough to participate in these kinds of things, yet not quite desperate enough, and far too stubborn, to turn to the Savior that already came.

It’s easy to be depressed by the state of the world, the state of man, the state of ourselves, but as Christians we cannot afford to live paralyzed by sin. We cannot afford to cease hoping, cease living like Jesus. We cannot afford to stop praying for His Kingdom to come. We cannot afford to forget that He has already won, He has already crushed the head of the serpent with His heel. He has already overcome the world and all of the desperate actions it has taken and will take.

So we don’t lose hope. Instead we choose to pray that man would continue to search. That he would search to the ends of the earth if he has to until he discovers that the Savior has been here all along. We pray that he would search the world until he realizes that there is nothing of this world that can save him, for Christ is not of this world. We do not pray that the world’s desperation would cease, but instead that it would become more desperate. We need to pray that the world would become desperate enough to stop the violence and choose to love. Desperate enough to quit pornography and pre-marital sex and commit to God honoring marriage. Desperate enough to choose love over hate and mercy over judgement. Desperate enough to make the hard choices that go against the grain. Desperate enough to turn from evil and cling to the One who is good.

I pray that our desperation would lead us to Christ, instead of away. I pray that our search for a savior would reveal the truth that only Jesus Christ, the Savior of all the world, can save us. He is the Savior that the world is searching for.


I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.  John 16:33

a harvest story

Most of life is spent planting seeds. Planting seeds of faith, hope, joy and love. Planting seeds and praying they grow. Praying that someone waters them. Praying that the seeds fall on soft soil hearts. Beyond the initial planting and occasional watering and prayer we are removed from the growth process. But sometimes you get to experience the harvest and let me tell you harvest time is my favorite time!

After a long ten days being a camp counselor, I was tired. I loved each of my campers and was learning so much from them, but I was definitely doubting my influence. I was praying to be content with simply seed planting in my campers, trusting that God would do the watering. But then God decided to show off and let me be a part of another one of His incredible harvest stories.

“Let us not grow weary or lose heart in doing good, for in due time and at the appointed season we will reap a harvest if we do not grow weary.” Galatians 6:9

A friend sat us down and said we needed to share, so share we did. I told my story. She told hers. Our mutual brokenness quickly bonded us. She was vulnerable and real and the raw hurt of it all ran deep. But Jesus ran deeper. I could feel her pain, because her pain had been my pain a couple years ago. But that reminded me that my pain, our pain, is always His pain too. My heart broke for her, but His heart had been broken for us both because He loves His daughters that deeply. Just as I wished I could give this girl a glimpse of the complete freedom to come in surrendering everything to Christ, so the Lord desires to show us all that we have in Him. For everything I felt, He has felt it a million times over again for all of eternity.

In the simple act of sharing our stories with each other, His mighty healing power brought redemption beyond my imaginings. I, and then we, prayed freedom & hope over her in Jesus name and He delivered wildly. He lavished freedom upon her, because that’s just who He is. In His great love for this dear girl, He rained hope & grace & redemption on her. He set her feet upon the path to freedom and ignited the Spirit within her. The joy she suddenly had in the Lord was written across her face and it was beautiful. I was content. I was in awe.

As if that wasn’t enough, a few days ago I got a text from this sweet new God-friend, that reminded me again just how powerful our God is. I’m writing about it here, because I can’t help but brag on God. Only He can do things like this.

“I don’t even know what to say. I am so thankful that the Lord saved YOU and I hope you know how greatly you have changed my life with your story, encouragement, and truth. I will forever treasure the words you have spoken over me and that you have written. You have shown me for the first time what freedom and bravery look like and I am overflowing with hope and joy that I haven’t felt in SO long. After reading your letter I threw away my hidden self-harm blades which I NEVER thought I would be able to do. The Lord is working through you in mighty ways, Arden, and I hope you never doubt your influence because it is more powerful than you know. “

Yes, praise the LORD, you read that correctly. She threw them away. Those blades she kept hidden for times when she needed to inflict the depth of pain she felt inside. Those blades that had cut deeply into flesh with the hope of inflicting some kind of pain that might possibly mimic the intense self-hate she felt. The blades that were used when the voices got too loud and the hopelessness and worthlessness overwhelmed. She threw them away. She did what I couldn’t fully do for years and I’m in tears. I happy danced and happy-cried and gave thanks in my room, because GOD IS SO GOOD. He is mighty to save.

But she didn’t just throw away the blades she used to hurt herself. She threw away her old self that was coated in fear, shame and hopelessness from years of bondage to anxiety, depression and anorexia. She threw away the old and embraced the new that God offered. He had been patiently waiting for her to take the complete newness she received at her salvation. She took hold of hope and joy. She’s clinging to Truth in the face of lies. She’s throwing all kinds of chains off and dancing out in freedom.

She wrote “bravery is a choice” on her hand everyday for two weeks. But she did more than that. She actually made the choice to be brave. In throwing away what she had used to cope with pain & hopelessness & the devils lies, she chose brave. The enormity of that action still leaves me speechless. I don’t know if anyone who hasn’t experienced this kind of bondage can understand just how brave you have to be to make such a choice. She chose to believe the Truth when the lies where much easier to believe. She chose hope when most would choose hopelessness. She is BRAVE because she is choosing Jesus and He is always the bravest choice we can make. 

I could go on and on about this girl, this story, this God. But there are a few things I want you to take away from this story. First, and most importantly, GOD IS AWESOME. He deserves all honor and glory in everything, but especially in these moments. These moments where our lives are used by Him are beautiful. They are another opportunity to point back to Him who did all the work. We are just His instruments. I am simply an instrument in His complex orchestra. And I will praise Him forever for the opportunity to have a front row seat to see the way He works. Second, the Holy Spirit is real. He is alive and working within us and around us. I never want to forget how the Holy Spirit moved in this situation, how thickly he saturated every aspect of it. I pray I never forget that He’s working right this very moment. I pray I never cease being blown away by the power of the Spirit. Lastly, I want you to see the power of shared stories in the hands of the Author of life. God wrote your story and it needs to be read. You need to share it, because other people need to hear it. Others need to see living, breathing testimonies of God’s redemption. Sometimes it seems pointless, but as a wise Audrey once said “never doubt your influence.” Never doubt the impact your story can have on another’s story.

Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.  2 Corinthians 9:6-9

This girl blessed me more than she knows, because just as she was given hope through me, so was I given hope through her. It’s not everyday that I get to see this kind of fruit. Most days are seed planting days. But God throws in these joyful harvest days to remind us that we do not labor in vain and that He is constantly at work. Every smile, every word, every action are seeds planted, parts of the stories being written around you.

So I thought camp was seed planting season, but apparently God had other plans. Keep planting seeds in Jesus name. I promise God will blow you away when you get to experience the harvest moments and be a part of a joyful harvest story such as this one.

what brave looks like…

A young girl, barely a teen, yet carrying enough fears to last her a lifetime. Sitting in a lamp lit office clutching a pillow. The one way she hid. Time and time again. Week after week. Month after month. Sitting in her safe place. The one place where she could let her walls down and let herself be seen. The one place where she did not fear being vulnerable, being real, being honest. The one place where anxiety held no ground. She was not brave. She was tired and afraid. 

A couple years had passed since that initial visit. So much change and redemption had occurred. But her office remained my safe place.

Because years had passed and she had watched and guided me through them from her chair and her prayer, she knew the words I needed to hear.

Amidst my seemingly endless fear, she knew that I needed to be encouraged. I felt hopeless still, despite so much healing. I was discouraged and disheartened at my own anxiety, my own inability and weakness. I wanted to be strong. I wanted anorexia and its co-occurring “friends” to be in the past, but I couldn’t seem to shake them. Not entirely.
It was at the end of a session, amidst this season of wrestling for freedom, that she spoke Hope & Truth over me. She leaned in from her grey arm chair, looked me right in the eyes and said the words that are printed in leather on my wrist & in my heart: “Arden, this is what brave* looks like. This, this right here, this pain & struggle, is what brave looks like. You’re brave not because you don’t fear or fail, but because you are afraid and you have failed but you keep fighting.”

That struck me to the core and has stuck with me since. It’s truth, those words she spoke over me. And they’re the same words being spoken over all of us.

Because my brave isn’t that different than yours. My brave is giving thanks in every circumstance. My brave is smiling through disappointment and rejection. My brave is trying again when I fail. My brave is fighting for freedom when bondage and sin and fear and bitterness and despair and doubt are easier. My brave is giving up control and trusting God with my body, my future, my dreams, fears. My brave is doing what’s best for me even if other people don’t understand. My brave is being vulnerable and sharing the story that God has written with my life. My brave is standing secure in who Christ made me to be and claiming my inheritance in Him. My brave is choosing life. So you see, my brave really isn’t that different from yours.

Listen to me, YOU are brave too. That struggle you’re dealing with. That disappointment you feel. That grief that threatens to overwhelm. That fear that is debilitating. That sadness that numbs you to the world. It’s all part of what makes you brave, not what makes you afraid.

This is what brave looks like. I know that the moments we need to hear those words the most are the very moments where those words are the hardest for us to hear. In the midst of fear and failure the last thing we would ever call ourselves is brave, but let me tell you that is when you are most brave.

When you are at your lowest but choose to look up, that’s brave. When you examine who you are as a human and hate everything you see, but choose to give yourself grace, that’s brave. When you are afraid, but choose to step out in faith regardless, that’s brave. When you think God made a mistake with you, but choose to believe what He says about you, that’s brave.

The list could go on and on, but notice something about every statement above. It’s a choice. Bravery is a choice. You have to choose to be brave. It doesn’t just happen. It’s hard, messy work, but it’s worthy work.

So you who feels like you are the furthest thing from brave, hear me out. If you are choosing to keep fighting when surrender would be easier or choosing to endure danger** and pain when there is a safer option then, by definition, you are choosing brave. If you are choosing grace, love, and forgiveness when the world is telling you anger, and bitterness are more rewarding options, then you are choosing brave. I really believe that if you are wholeheartedly choosing JESUS and the life we have in Him through the cross then you are choosing BRAVE.

And that choice, that brave Jesus choice, leaves you a force to be reckoned with.

 

*brave: ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage

**danger: the possibility of something unwelcome or unpleasant

 

 

 

when you ask me “how’s college?”…

…I’ll probably answer any or all of the statements below…

It’s great. It’s awesome. It’s been the best year yet. It’s been bursting at the seams with opportunity and growth. It’s a been a tiring, exciting whirlwind that I’d do all over again and it’s just beginning.

…but not for the typical reasons…the best party I went to was a welcome home party thrown at the  campus ministry retreat and the best drink I had this year was some kombucha tea from Frothy Monkey and the best (only?) “date” I had was to my social club’s formal where we awkwardly danced to rap songs I’d never heard before…

…these, these people and more, are the reasons why I loved my freshman year…

I’ve seen God orchestrate in ways that still leave me in awe. From the very beginning God’s hand was in my decision to go to Lipscomb and as my aunt says, “there couldn’t have been a more perfect place for you!” When I walked into my dorm on move in day I was a little afraid. Definitely nervous excitement. Here I am 1,000 miles away from home moving in with 7 other girls that I’ve only texted. But that suite, suite 212, became home and those girls I didn’t know became like family. They became the people I laughed with and teased. The girls I was the most silly and stupid with (like when I laughed hysterically on Laurel’s bed for at least 5 solid minutes at NOTHING  or stepped on a prized 5 Daughter’s doughnut or talked about my nutrition stuff while they, with permission, pretended to listen), but never got any judgement (okay maybe some, haha). They thoroughly supported my obsession with nut butters and didn’t laugh at my dorky pajamas. We talked about some WEIRD things, but man did I learn a lot from these girls hearts, minds and humors.

I met Jess at a prayer breakfast and we immediately bonded over our passion for food & people & Jesus (what’s a better combination, right?). She taught me about Christ-centered community and gratitude with her faithful presence and prayer, her inclusivity to a girl three years younger (this includes Claire and Jenn too for their welcome in 306 rain or shine – much love), her constant quest for more of HIM by giving thanks in all things. She’s inspired me to go after the things I’m passionate about and showed me what it means to truly have a heart for ALL of God’s people.

Audrey was my mentor and is now also a dear dear friend. She can’t really be summed up, but God sure has shown me intentional friendship through her. He showed me more of Himself through her sacrifice of time to get to know a random girl that campus ministry paired her with. He showed me through Audrey what stepping out in faith looks like, the beauty of praying together and the power that is a young woman who says YES to the Holy Spirit’s leading even when it scares you to death (BOLDNESS!).

God did some fancy footwork to make Olivia and I spill our guts in the student center, but once we did, well, I guess you could say it was instant sisterhood. Our stories parallel each others and have given us a bond that is a serious blessing. God has taught me the power of vulnerability through her. I’ve seen how important openness and honesty are. She has been a constant source of compassion, gentleness and encouragement this past semester.

Allie and Alleah are two that show me how important it is to just be with people and how God can work in the coolest ways when we say yes to people. They both have a knack at finding adventure and humor in all of life. I’d like to be more like them.

Brooke, Brookie-cookie as Instagram knows her, is one strong young woman and my friend. She fights harder than most and teaches me what serious perseverance through the Refiner’s fire looks like. She dances through her mourning to the beat of Jesus’ drum and it’s a truly beautiful sight to behold.

One can’t leave out the one who is both friend, sister, chaplain and mom-away-from-mom. Few people can mother me because I’m the designated “mom figure” in most of my friend groups, but Heather is a different story. She listens and calms me down and doesn’t judge me (pledge week, sorry !) and gives awesome hugs. She loves so expressively you can’t miss it (you can’t really miss someone who’s sitting on your lap hehe). You can’t feel unloved in her presence, because she oozes love. Actually, I think that’s the best description of her, she oozes love and joy and presence and exuberance and that’s all because Jesus has set her free and she lives bravely in that. Don’t ever graduate, okay!

To my pledge class, you guys are the best. I don’t really have any words. I love how much fun we had together and how much fun we will have in the next few years. Lipscomb is a better place for having each of you on its campus.

And Charlotte, she’s a friend I didn’t know I needed. God has shown me what it means to be inclusive and welcoming to people (an area I’m not strong in). She’s showed me what it looks like to take the verse “love your neighbor as yourself” and run with it into all different camps of people. She loves well. She listens well. She sees the people that might be on the sidelines and brings them into the game. She thinks hard and laughs often and she sure is teaching me a lot even if she doesn’t know it.

God worked in my spur of the moment decision to awkwardly introduce myself in the Campus Ministry office, where I met some great people (hey Caroline & Cyrus!) that have encouraged and befriended me. I didn’t know then, but that introduction led to relationships with new friends, opportunities to serve my peers on campus and lead a focus chapel that both greatly challenged and encouraged me.

Everyone who smiled at me, hugged me, laughed with (at?) me, pledged with me, danced with me, ate Jeni’s ice cream with me, partied in the library & played in the snow with me, listened to me & basically was a part of my life, made this year a great start.

So when you ask me “how’s college?” I’ll probably respond with a quick statement, but that’s only because the answer simply can’t be explained  without meeting and knowing the amazingly beautiful, passionate people I was blessed enough to do freshman year with.

p.s. you’re welcome for saving you from having to sit through me talk about every. single. AWESOME person/part of freshman year 😉