Pinterest A Grateful Life Lived: January 2015

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Freedom Filled 2015: Moving Forward




Ever since I started writing in this blog, I've had a yearly theme.  Each year, it has been a quick and easy decision.  First, it was a Grateful 2013, hence the name of this blog. (RELATED: AdiĆ³s 2013) Then, I focused on God's presence with a Presence Filled 2014.  Now, it seems fitting to have a Freedom Filled 2015.  I didn't even think twice when I wrote my first 2015 post, because that has been such a huge theme in my life lately.

This is the year that I leave the teens and step into adulthood.  But even more so, this is the first time I have commenced a year with such hope.  As I've recently shared, I have long battled with anorexia and was on a serious downhill slope since my senior year of high school.  For that reason, I was encourage to get into a partial hospitalization program (PHP) over Christmas break.  (RELATED: Don't Melt Under the Holiday Stress) Begrudgingly, I did, counting down the days until I could get out.  Yet, I found myself looking forward to PHP.  I began to realize that while it wasn't how I wanted it, it was exactly how God had planned it.

That is also when I realized the decision that loomed ahead of me, apparent in every e-mail I read about selling textbooks and prepping for the spring semester.  Everyone was excited to return.  They had Christmas gifts to show off, Greek rush to participate in and classes to kick-off.  Me?  I wasn't sure what the heck I was going to do.  My suitcase sat the corner as I ignored every e-mail about buying the resources for my upcoming classes.  I didn't tell anyone, but my rock-solid resolve to return was slowly melting the more I thought about it.

I would be leaving my strong support at home, decreasing my level of care from PHP to outpatient.  I would have to adjust to my new environment again, tackle my heavy class-load and commute to my outpatient program three days a week.  And when I finally let down my walls and wrote down every pro and con I could think of regarding the issue, I sat down in my room and cried.

I sought council and prayed about it for a few weeks and God made it very clear: I needed to stay home this semester and focus on my healthy and my recovery.  Instead of acting in my typical manner of taking on everything and pushing myself to the point of exhaustion, I needed to have a single-minded focus on recovering and reaching a healthy place.  I needed to let go and admit that I couldn't do it all.  (RELATED: Letting Go of Control)

It felt awful.

All I could think about was all I was going to miss: I would get behind, I would lose the friends I had just started making, I would ruin even more of my life and my college experience.  I thought it was pretty much the end of the world.

I never saw how sick I looked
this past summer, though
I felt it inside.
But there was a peace as I realized it was exactly what God wanted me to do.  And as I began to engage and form relationships with others who are struggling with eating disorders, I started to affirm the truth that there is no shame.  Trials struggles, sin: We all have them.  Mine may be different than yours, but it doesn't mean I'm a freak.  I've pushed the envelope for so long, wanting to do the least treatment I can.  A "normal" college student didn't do an intensive outpatient program, so neither did I.  A "normal" cross country runner didn't have to stop working out and moving, so neither did I.  And so began a decline in my own confidence and my health.
But thank God: I wasn't out of His reach.  In fact, I'd never even left His arms.  He spoke to me and used many other people to bless and encourage me.  And now, I'm doing better than I have been in a long time. (RELATED: Dream!)

I've started eating with my family again, I enjoy relaxing with a good book, I've developed a newfound love of music.  Heck: I even ate waffles and went out to dinner last week!  (Pretend like you know that is a big deal, because it is!)

God is using what the enemy meant for evil, for good.  One of my favorite songs is by Michael W. Smith and is called "Sovereign Over Us."  Take a look at these lyrics:

Your plans are still to prosper
You have not forgotten us
Your with us in the fire, and the flood
You're faithful forever
Perfect in love, You are sovereign over us

I am living, breathing proof that He is sovereign and able to overcome even the greatest heartbreak.  Next week, I'm stepping down from PHP to the less-intensive MAP program, and I am truly seeing hints of freedom for the first time since I was a little girl who found out her parents were going to divorce.

So don't check back in 2016 to see a story of freedom and hope in my life.  Look now.  It is already in progress.


Care to Dream?

Dreams-005


Ever wonder why we are so enamored my dreams?  If I have a fascinating or terrifying dream, there's no doubt I'll work it into multiple conversations the following day.  Whether it was a disco dance in Heaven or a hiking trip in Peru-- both of which I've dreamed-- I love replaying the dream in my conscious mind, wondering what unconscious me was thinking.  Better yet, I love it when I have a dream that I just know God was speaking through it, and it wasn't just some weird show I watched before bed. (RELATED: Dreaming of Doors)

So anyway, I got a funky new app on my phone this week called Dreamboard. (RELATED: My Favorite Apps)  It is a tangible way to track my dreams and see patterns over time.  Call me nerdy, but I think that is super cool!  It also got me thinking about why we focus so much on dreams.  Here is my conclusion: We believe dreams give us an insight as to who we are, where we are or where we will be.   (RELATED: 5 Awesome Apps for Your Phone)

When I dreamed about disco dancing in Heaven with my grandparents, it gave me hope about where I will be someday.  Dreams where we fly or run really fast often give us joy, encouraging us that we are capable and strong.  I also believe that God uses dreams to speak to us, as confirmed in Acts 2:17.  I have personally had amazing, complex dreams that I fully believe were from God, and they have revealed wisdom to me for current situations or given me a word of prophesy for my future.

As I've been thinking about dreams lately though, I've realized that they don't have to be limited to the midnight hours when our eyelids are closed and we are snuggled in bed.  Another definition of dream is: "A cherished aspiration, ambition or ideal." We can dream right now.

One verse that never ceases to amaze me is Zephaniah 3:17:

The Lord your God is in your midst;
The Mighty One, will save
He will rejoice of you with gladness
He will quiet you with His love
He will rejoice over you with singing


Can you even fathom that!?  The God of the universe rejoices over us.  He doesn't need us and yet He delights in us, because we give Him joy!  Wow! And then I ask myself: "How can you not dream and live in extravagant hope when God is so crazy about you and He is so powerful?"

dreams-300x225It has been a great reminder, especially as I've really gotten down to the core and been honest with God the past few weeks.  I've fessed up-- though He already knows-- that I've taken Him off the pedestal in my life for many years. (RELATED: My Will vs. God's Will)  My desire for protection and survival has driven me to try and control everything myself, replacing God-given dreams with earthly-substitutes.  And then the goal becomes trying to survive, trying to make it to the next meal, trying to run the extra mile.  That's no way to live.  It is, however, one surefire way to die.

I am just shy of 20 years of age, and I've been struggling with the knowledge that I have squandered a lot of those years.  I toy with the self-pity and self-hatred, wondering how many of God's plans I've spoiled throughout my decent into anorexia. (RELATED: My Testimony, always in progress)

And then I remember, God's plans are so much bigger than me.  Who am I to think that I can undermine He who spans time and space. (RELATED: Who Do You Think You Are?)  His dreams are still alive in me and I've got a lifetime to keep moving closer to Him and the woman He wants me to be, the woman that is most joyful and alive.  So we aren't limited to physical dreams when it comes to hope and insight.  My point in all this blabbering is that we have an active and living God who is among us and has great plans for us that are greater than our biggest "screw-ups."  Horatio Spafford had it right when he declared "it is well with my soul," because the Lord God is in our midst, rejoicing over us and quieting us with His love.

Dream about that tonight :)

Monday, January 19, 2015

It is Well With My Soul


If you've grown up in the church, you've most likely heard this old hymn.  If you haven't, you still might recognize the powerful lyrics from this Philip Bliss song, written in 1876.  What you may not know,  however,  is the story behind it.  I had heard a little about the story in church a while ago, but really wanted to know the full story.  Turns out: Is is gut-wrenching and beautiful.

Young Horatio Spafford
(Photo Credit: Findagrave.com)
The famed lyrics, "When sorrow like sea billows roll; it is well, it is well with my soul," were originally written by Horatio Spafford, a wealthy lawyer and dear friend of D.L Moody and many other well-known Christians.  First, his son tragically died.  Then, The Great Chicago Fire destroyed most of Horatio's investments.  Shortly after, he decided to take a boat trip with his wife and four daughters as a way to heal and recover from the sadness.  On the day of the trip, the women went ahead and Horatio p

lanned to follow after he'd finished some last minute business.  Before he could join them, however, he received notice that the ship had wrecked and all four of his daughters drowned.

(RELATED: Watchman Nee- a Man of Suffering)

My heart aches just writing that story.  I cannot imagine the deep sorrow Horatio endured as he hugged his wife and they returned to an empty home.  Walls that once echoed with children's laughter must have grown eerily quiet, only reverberating the deep sobs of a mother and father who had lost all their children.

I have never lost an immediate family member.  I certainly have never lost a child.  Yet, I did watch as my uncle fought cancer and said his goodbyes to this world (RELATED: My Uncle and the Seagull Lady).   And I have fought through the hopelessness of divorce, and I am fighting through the despair of an eating disorder (RELATED: Let's Talk about Eating Disorders).  I grieved with our nation after 9/11 and the Tragedy at the Boston Marathon.

We all have our storms.

Maybe you've lost a loved one recently or are going through a divorce.  Perhaps you have hit rock bottom and you're wondering how you could possibly still be falling.  We live in a broken world and as a result, we become broken.  We get battered and beat up and bruised as we make out way through the thickets.  But it doesn't end there.

What is so amazing about Horatio Spafford is that he was able to latch onto hope.  Oh how I wish I were that quick to see the face of God in the middle of the desert.  Horatio got it.  He seems to have understood the great message of the gospel: Because Jesus overcomes, so can we.

Because He died on the cross and rose again, you can trust that somehow you will pay your rent.  You can get out of bed even though you feel helplessly alone and the empty seat at the table still taunts you.  You can- like I can- wake up and declare that today is a new day and you are free of any lies that have taken hold of your life.  Point blank: You can be at peace.

I don't know where your heart is today, or where you place your trust.  But I do know that if you are leaning in on Jesus, you will weather the storm.  The God who walks on water is right beside you and He has paved the way for your eternity with Him.  Better yet: That eternity starts right now.  Jesus offers a soul peace in this very moment.  "Though sorrows like sea billows roll," when you place your foundation on Christ, your soul- the essence of your being- is well.  Even if you can't see beyond the next five minutes, it is well with your soul.


(RELATED: Peace Like a River)

I don't know about you, but that knowledge gives me both hope and perspective today.  After a crappy weekend of good intentions and mistakes, I find it so easy to beat myself up and hop back on the train toward captivity to sin and despair.  But every day is a new day and at the core, I know that nothing in this world can shake me.  My foundation is secure.  My prayer is that you will place your foundation in Christ, if it is not, and praise the Lord in realizing that He is ever present in the raging whirlwinds of life.

RELATED: Rest in Christ

Monday, January 12, 2015

Small Tweaks for a Big Slap-in-the-Face to Eating Disorders

I am so amazed and thrilled at the response from my last post. It is by far my most viewed EVER! While I don't write this blog to see how many readers I can get, I do however get elated to see that God is using me to reach other people and offer hope.

I had someone tell me last year that it was hypocritical for me to speak about my journey while I was still struggling. The truth is: if I wait until I'm not struggling, I'm never going to. Whether ju is anorexia or something else, I'll always be faced with barriers. But here's the thing: the world doesn't want to hear my message of hope when I'm thriving and life seems ideal. To be honest, people pay attention when we are raw and honest. In that manner, we proclaim hope THROUGH trials. So yes: I'm in treatment for an eating disorder. And yes: I'm speaking up now.

So, in light of my last post, I want to offer more insight.  What do you do, for instance, to combat eating disorders in your own friend groups, your own families, your own homes?

Unrealistic Beauty Standards
Photo Credit: Feminspire.com

Promoting positive body image and confidence are key. Although you cannot ensure that you'll stop eating disorders from impacting your family, you can take preventative steps. Here are a few easy changes to make:

1. Stop commenting on weight and weight loss to others
Whether you are still bunking with mom and dad, or already have children of your own, you most likely can see the persistent pull to focus on outer beauty.  God has created us to value outer beauty and I don't want to diminish that.  But it's important we don't put too much focus on outer beauty alone.  We shouldn't associate beauty with weight or tie it to someone's value.  Comments like: "Wow, you look great. You've lost a lot of weight," may seem harmless but they aren't. If you deem it important toe to mention that to a friend, save it for a private conversation and couple it with a genuine compliment on his/her personality as well. Don't be throwing around comments about weight and size, especially around little ears that soak it all up like a sponge.

2. Start stretching the adjectives "beautiful" and "pretty"
Although we typically associate them with outward appearance, the words "beautiful" and "pretty" aren't limited to someone's outfit or makeup. Your friend can have a beautiful confidence or humility. You can have a joy that is pretty and spunky demeanor that is attractive. Let's stop using these words to only scratch the surface.  (RELATED: Say Goodbye to Barbie?)

3. Give it a rest!

Perfectionism is one of the chief character attributes observed in those struggling with anorexia (and eating disorders in general). So give it a rest! If you have children of your own, encourage healthy responses to failure. Don't let them quit just because they don't excel at something. And above all: don't send mixed messages. If you are saying its ok they aren't perfect, but you lavish praise and affection when they get top marks, it will reinforce that perfectionism in many children. If you're like me and you aren't thinking about doing your own taxes yet, let alone having your own family: this still applies to you. Most likely, you are a role model to at least one young person. Start utilizing this skill now. In the process, you may see that your own confidence and self-image are improving.

4. Talk about eating disorders!
As I addressed in my last post, I am very bothered by the stigma that surrounds eating disorders. They are seen as the shameful illness that's tucked away. Instead of pretending they aren't there, get the issue out into the open. Learn what the warning signs are for eating disorders, don't shy away from talking about them when it is appropriate and helpful to a situation. Removing the stigma is a vital step in helping those who are struggling with them. One of the easiest ways you can get educated is by subscribing to my blog, where I'm planning to start posting regularly on common misconceptions, education and ways you can spot possible eating disorders. 

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I truly hope you will take this into consideration. Most of these tips I've outlined are just small tweaks to your everyday behavior. Yet, they can make a big difference in the atmosphere you create and the legacy you leave. I, for one, want to be remembered as someone who truly connected with others on a deep level that surpassed their latest wardrobe update. I want them to walk away from their time with me, holding a higher opinion of themselves as a valuable man or woman who should be proud of who they are. (RELATED: Who Do you Think you Are?