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.

A letter to the girl who listened…

To the girl who listened. From the God who always listens.

You did the hard thing. You said no, when all you wanted was to say yes. You took the hard way, instead of the easy way. You took the road much less traveled, when the easy road was right there with your name written all over it. Chances are friends were telling you to pick the easy road. It was a good road. I would’ve been there. You would’ve seen me.

But instead you picked the hard road. There are only a few people on this road. It’s not quite a party. A few friends advised you to take it and a few friends might be travelling it with you. Your name wasn’t written anywhere on this road, but My name was. That’s why you picked it. It seemed like the wrong choice, but you saw My footprints and you knew.

You heard My Spirit’s promptings at the gate and you listened. You listened when it was much easier to tune Me out. You said “yes” to me when you could have easily said “no” without major consequences.

Do you know how happy you made Me? Yes, I’m the God of every living being and am forever being praised in Heaven and on earth, but do you know that YOU brought me joy when you said yes to Me? Hearing you choose Me over him made me smile. I chose you over My Son because I love you that much and I love that you chose Me over man, because you love Me that much.

I know you think you caused hurt beyond repair, but I’m a God who redeems and heals all brokenness. This is no exception.

I know you think you broke a heart, but actually you’re part of the building. Sometimes things, people, have to be broken down before they can be built back up. It hurts, but it’s worth it.

So the decision you made was a hard one, but you made it because you listened to my Spirit. I want you to know I see this. I see your obedience and I will honor it (Jeremiah 7:23).

So you chose not what was necessarily “right” but what was right for you. That is one of the hardest decisions to make. However, I promise I’m enough for you. In fact, I’m more than enough. I could never reveal to you all that I am, because it is simply too much (Exodus 33).

So you said no to something good in order to wait for something better. You may not see it now, but your hard decision will be worth it as you see the work that I am doing and will do in your heart. I will not leave you undone. I will finish the refining work in you (Genesis 28:15).

So you kind of regret your decision. You think maybe you heard the wrong voice and made the wrong choice. Maybe people are saying you were wrong, but if they are it’s because they don’t understand My thoughts and plans for you. They can’t. They don’t know that this is part of the making of My people. This is part of Me refining you into the most beautiful gold (Micah 4:11-12).

So you’re on the hard road now. Maybe you’re wondering why you  chose to listen. Maybe you’re looking over at the easy road and wishing you were there. The grass is always greener, right? But let me tell you something. That road over there was a good road. I would’ve been there. You would’ve seen me. But this road is a better road for you because on this road you won’t just see me, you’ll feel me.  You’ll know me more. You’ll depend on me. You’ll have no choice but to cling to me and let me carry you.

To the girl who listened…let me continue to speak to you. Let me satisfy your every need. Let me heal your heart. Let me love you. 

 

 

Let’s Lead A Rebellion

Ladies, enough is enough. It’s time to call it quits. It’s time to put your foot down. It’s time to say, “NO.” It’s time for a rebellion.

Rebellion: refusal to obey or accept normal standards; resisting convention

Now, if you know me, you know that I am one of the least rebellious beings on this earth. I am a people-pleaser. I will do everything in my power to not rock the boat or cause confrontation. I was the person that would cry if I thought someone was disappointed in me, the kid that was afraid to order food or go shopping in case what I picked wasn’t “right.” I was the person that would lay down and invite you to walk all over me for fear of causing a problem.

I am not rebellious. I am not someone to call for a rebellion, which is the very reason that a rebellion is desperately needed.

I know that I am not the only girl that has felt like she’s too much and not enough. I know I’m not the only one who has felt unworthy. Unworthy life, of being seen, known & loved. I know that my sins are not unique to me. I know that the lies I believe(d) do not stop with me. I know that feeling ugly or (dare I say) fat is not something that only I have faced. I know that I’m not the only one who said nothing when they wanted to scream or followed along when they wanted to lead. I know I’m not alone in this. You’ve probably experienced the same.

Friends, let’s lead a rebellion. Let’s start a revolution.

Revolution: a sudden, complete and radical change

It’s been a long time coming. But the time is now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. Not next month or year. NOW.

Let’s lead a rebellion against lies. Against shame. Against fear, anxiety and depression. Against evil. Ultimately, against Satan himself.

Let’s be defiant. Let’s resist and rebel against the standard of perfection that sucks the life out of us. Let’s revolt against the idea that we have to show everything to be worth anything. Let’s stop the comparing game and start saying, “good for her, not for me.” Let’s be people that stand strong underneath the pressure to gossip, be exclusive, and form cliques. Let’s fight the arrows (lies) that fly with our shield of faith and breastplate of righteousness (Ephesians 6:10-18). Let’s declare over our lives, and the lives of those around us, “I am enough.” Let’s declare worthiness over every soul and every story.

Because you see, the battle is not with each other. We are allies, not enemies. The battle is against Satan, the thief who came to steal, kill and destroy all joy, hope and godly relationships (John 10:10). So, let’s join together and fight for Truth.

Let’s be the people who stop the cycle, put an end to it all. Let’s not settle for bondage, but fight for freedom (Galatians 5:1). Let’s be a generation of women too overtaken by our Jesus to care about anything else. Let’s rise up and be bold enough to ask hard questions and have real conversations. Let’s look at each other and the world in light of God’s grace and glory.

It’s time for a rebellion and it starts with you and me.

*This posts theme courtesy of the ever lovely and insightful, Caroline Morris. Thank you for spurring this rebellion on*

 

 

To the Girl Without a Date

To the girl without a date,

You are seen. You may feel invisible. You may feel at times that you don’t exist. You may wonder if you have an invisibility cloak that hides you from the view of all guys. But, you are seen.  You may not have guys clamoring for your attention, but you are still seen. At parties, you may be the girl that stands alone. At dances, you may be the girl that is never asked to dance. In your friend group, you may be the only one without a “significant other.” All of this may be true, but the real truth, the truest truth, is you are seen. Jesus knows the desires of your heart and the perfect timing for each of your desires (Psalm 37:4, Ecc. 3:1). He sees all things and you are no exception.

You are known. You may look around you and feel as if there isn’t a soul in the room who really knows you. You may feel like no one, especially guys, would ever care to know you. You may be discouraged and feel alone. You may feel like you are simply too much to handle or not interesting enough to know, but you are known. You may not have guys lining up to talk with you or even a date in the foreseeable future, but you are still known. All of this may be true, but the truest truth is that you are fully known by God who made you cell by cell for an individual purpose that no one else can fulfill. Ya, that guy across the room may not care to know you right now, but the only Guy that matters wants nothing more than to know you right this very minute and to have you know Him.

You are beautiful. You are. You’re probably rolling your eyes or laughing under your breath right about now, but it’s true. You may not have guys fawning over your outward appearance or gushing about your beauty. You may not be “magazine material”  or have a guy that tells you you’re beautiful daily. You may feel unattractive or plain on your best day, but the truth is that you are beautiful. If you’re anything like me, then you still don’t believe me. So let me tell you a secret…no one on earth will ever be able to convince you of your beauty until you are convinced that you are worth being called beautiful.

You are loved. You may have been hurt in the past or simply overlooked. You may feel unlovable. You may believe that there is nothing about you for a guy (or anyone) to love, but you are wrong. You are so very wrong. Please hear this: You. Are. Loved. You may have moments, memories, that seem to prove the contrary, but the truest thing about you as a human being is this: you are loved. It’s that simple (John 3:16).

You are worthy. You are worthy of love and affection. You are worthy of respect and honesty. You are worthy of faithfulness and gentleness. You may not consider yourself worthy of anything, much less of these characteristics. You may have been told you are unworthy by someone or had a guy in your life that made you feel unworthy of good. You may have done, been, said, seen things that left you feeling completely unworthy of all good. You may simply believe, for whatever reason, that you are inherently unworthy regardless of anything you do. But that, my friend, is simply not true. You are worthy.

So, to the girl without a date, you are seen. Even if you are overlooked in the moment and feel invisible in a sea of pretty girls, you are seen by the Father. Even if no one asks you to dance or looks your way, you are still seen. You are seen by El Roi, the God who sees. No matter where you go, you will always be seen by Him. There is not a place you can run that will hide you from His gaze. He has His loving eyes on you forever and ever.

To the girl without a date, you are known. You may look around and see the couples, hear the stories and feel alone, unknown, unworthy of being known. But you are not alone and you are entirely known. In fact, you were known before the beginning of all time. God sees you and wants to know you intimately. He wants nothing more than to spend time with you. He wants to capture your attention and to have a relationship with you. You are known by your Father from the inside out.

To the girl without a date, you are beautiful. You probably look around and see the girls that have guys fighting for their attention and wonder what makes them more appealing, what they have that you don’t. I bet you come to this conclusion–they’re more beautiful, thinner, funnier, more outgoing and fun, more of everything that you are not. But I want to challenge that. They are beautiful, but so are you. You are altogether beautiful and there is no flaw in you because you were perfectly made in the image of a perfect Father.

To the girl without a date, you are loved. There doesn’t have to be a so called “prince charming” in your life for you to be loved. Look around you at all the ways that God is loving you in this moment through His people and his creation. You are SO loved. So loved that someone died for you. And better yet, He died to save your life. Is there a better, more novel worthy love than that?

Lastly, to the girl without a date (or the girl with the wrong date), hear this: you are worthy. Just because there isn’t a guy pursuing you right now, doesn’t mean that you aren’t worthy of one. You are worthy of a man that will respect and cherish you. You are worthy of a guy that treats you with patience and gentleness. You are worthy of a gentleman and of being treated like a lady. So, be that lady and wait for a gentlemen. Because you are worth waiting for.

I will leave you with this: You do not need to be thinner or taller or funnier or smarter or more talented and flirtatious or anything else under the sun. You are seen, known, beautiful, loved and worthy just as you are, date or no date.

I Shall Not Want

Six years old. Lying in bed staring at my wall. Too afraid to fall asleep. What if I have a seizure? What if I lose all control? Can’t breathe or stop my limbs from flailing? What if no one knows and I’m alone in this as I sleep? The “what ifs” start young.

My mom comes in nightly. Novels read. Curly Bear tucked close. Prayers whispered. Lastly, we read Psalm 23 together. Gazing at the framed verse beside my bed we read the old words together…The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His names sake. Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever…that was the routine. That was my comfort when I was too afraid to fall asleep.

Ten years later and the Psalm 23 poster and the nightly routine are gone. I’m living in my own little self-imposed hell, not allowing any hope or grace into my hardened heart. The only comfort being certain death and thus lasting reprieve. You’d find me dead before you’d find me whispering Psalm 23. No hope-filled words crossed my lips in those days.

Countless therapy sessions that ending in tears and no visible progress (and I’m sure my therapist questioning why she still saw me) later. Countless prayers cried out on my behalf by more people than I can thank and days lived that simply left me wondering why God kept me alive. I still wanted, wanted for everything, yet didn’t take hold of anything before me.

Twelve years since I first memorized Psalm 23 and I still, I still, don’t have it down.  God is still bringing it up and washing the words over me. The seed He planted, the little lesson of the Psalm 23 seed, is still being grown.

This past summer my therapist brought up Psalm 23, that ever-recurring verse of mine. We recited it aloud together in her office, my safe place. Since then, it’s been my unconscious heartbeat. That one line, the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. Day-in and day-out. Coursing through me, washing over me, reminders all around. I can’t move past that first line, the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. The truth is, if God wants me here, sitting, meditating on this verse, then here I will sit though I know not why. 

One week prior to today. The only instruction, rest. Eno beneath, friend (hey Bess!) across, trees above, the familiar heartbeat all around. God, what would you have me rest on today? One of my old favorite songs came to mind and hasn’t left since.

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“I Shall Not Want” by Audrey Assad

Just as the words and music wash over me, so does my Shepherd’s voice whispering “I’m your good good Shepherd, you shall not want for anything.” 

I don’t know about any of you, but I have lived and still live out of want, out of a place of lack. My go to is, “I can’t. I don’t have what it takes. I’m not good enough.” I know I am not alone in this. I know I am not the only one who is living out of want and throwing “I’m not good enough” around like candy.

In this first month of college I have slowly been nudged and convicted of my posture. It’s a posture of defeat, of failure, of distrust, discontentment and jealousy. It’s not where God would have me. It’s not where He would have you, either.

College has brought up a slew of things that I thought had been laid to rest. This college month has had it’s fair share of, she has more friends, more invites, more attention, more opportunities, more control, more laughs, thinner or prettier such-and-such.

In this new life I’m living, where I feel so small and unknown, God still whispers and sings over me, “When you taste my goodness, you shall not want. No, you shall not want.” We need not, no it’s a command, we shall not want.

I shall not want for friends, for community, for comfort. I shall not want for attention, for my God’s eyes are always upon me and His ears are always attuned to my voice. I shall not want for opportunities or growth or real conversation. And neither shall you for just as the Father’s eyes are always upon me so are they always upon you.

I spent so much of life, still do, living out the posture of “I must do enough to be (good) enough.” I must work hard enough, workout enough, dance enough, rehearse enough, study enough. Anorexia drove me to “I must weigh little enough to be good enough, to be loved and accepted.” Depression drove me towards, “I must do everything I can to disappear, because my presence is not good enough.” Anxiety drove me to a place of “I must be perfect to be enough.”

No grace. No grace at all. No recognition of Christ’s covering. No acknowledgement of the blood shed for me. Nothing but “must” and “should’ and “have to.” Pressure. Performance. Lies. Comparison. Want. Lack. That was my posture. This is still my posture many days, my posture towards God. But for every “I must” and every thought that makes me feel inadequate and not good enough I can counter with the Truth. the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want

But, you know what? Just as Jesus sings “You shall not want” over me, He sings it over you too. Just as Jesus covers me, He covers you. the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want

Challenge for this week:

What are your “I musts” and the thoughts that make you take on a defeated posture? What makes you live out of a posture of want?

What would you insert into this statement? The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want for ________. Now repeat that statement as many times as needed this week, until you believe it.

Breathing Room

Lord, I need breathing room.

That has been my prayer the last couple weeks. When my therapist breathed those words out and I breathed them in– breathing room– a weight I didn’t even know I carried, lifted.

Breathing room. Space. Leeway. Margin. However you say it, I need it.

I’ve never had breathing room. I’ve lived the last 8 (at least) years in a confined space, a box, a little square drawn in the sand. I’ve lived stuck. Stuck in a tight spot. Claustrophobic but afraid.

Eating disorders, many mental illnesses and compulsive behaviors leave no breathing room. They are the tightest-of-tight boxes and the smallest-of-small spaces. There is no room for anything but the rules, the expectations (of self or others), the behaviors. There is no bending from anorexia to go to a birthday party. There is no pausing over-exercising, self-harm or purging just because there is an opportunity to travel. No. No, because there is no breathing room in any of those situations. There is no room for error, no room for a change in plans. You do not stray from the black line. You do not change plans. You do not change your mind. You simply do not, because there is no room for that.

There is no room, because room, margin, leeway. They all mean mistakes, errors, mess-ups, mishaps — failure. Room to breathe means room to fail. And I have never allowed room to fail. Perfection, yes. Failure, absolutely not I’d rather die.

Perfection leaves no breathing room. Anything outside of the realm of perfection, of the expectations placed upon us, is utter catastrophe, sending the world into a dizzy.

I grew up sticking myself in that little box out of fear, desire to please, perfectionism. No one had to put me there. I didn’t need anyone to draw those black lines of my “allowed square inch.” I did that myself.

Strangely enough, I have always hated tight things, anything that confines me physically. I am seriously claustrophobic, yet I am drawn towards this tight confining life. The life that says when and what you can eat, who you can see, what you can do and say, unwritten rules galore.  Rigid, unrelenting, changeless, unforgiving.

So when I heard those words — breathing room, give yourself breathing room– I thought “Can I? Can I really?” All the confining I had done on purpose. All of the restricting I had inflicted upon myself. All of the rigid rules. I did those things. I inflicted it, enforced it. I gave myself a life of confinement, a life without air, without any room to breathe, to fail.

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I gave myself that kind of life, but now I’m choosing to give myself a life that breathes. I need  to give myself room to have hard or bad days. I need room to get overwhelmed and cry. I need room to be imperfect. Because life is not perfect. My family and friends are not perfect. College will not be perfect. There will be overwhelming, hard, straight up bad days where I just want to throw my hands up in defeat. Without breathing room those days are too much, unrecoverable. Those days are failure and make me want to quit. But, insert some breathing room, stretch that square inch a bit, and that same day can be called good. I can laugh at that day. I can pause, breathe deep and say, “this too is good.”

That extra room means that what would have been failure in my teeny-tiny perfect box can instead be called grace, growth, good. That extra room means release of the pressure to be good enough, an end to the proving and the living up. That extra room means God has room to move. Room to change me, bend and break me, mold and challenge me, love and grow me. In my confining life there was no room for anything “else,” not even God.

As I have thought and prayed over this need for breathing room, God gave me this — You don’t need more breathing room. You already have all the room you need. I gave you all the room you could possibly need on the Cross. Just take it. Use it. 

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(image via Pinterest)

Talk about dumb-struck. Of course I have all the room I need. Jesus gave me all the room in the world to fail and fumble and fall on the cross. He gave me so much room, grace (unmerited, undeserved favor), to mess up that I will never be able to use even half of it. It’s immeasurable the grace He has bestowed upon me. James 4:6 says, “But he gave us more grace.” He didn’t just give grace, He gave more grace and even more on top of that. His grace has no constraints. It is freely given to all. Titus 2:11 says, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.” Not just the good or the perfect or the tall or the thin or the pretty or the smart or the talented, but to all. Yet this grace was not given because of something I did. No, this grace is a gift. It’s a gift that God gave in His Son. It’s a gift that cost more than we will ever be able to comprehend. And it’s a gift that we choose to breathe in and live out of daily.

I will leave you with this question — do you need to use more of your gifted breathing room?

Remembering: Two Years Later

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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. 

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.