Grace In My Eating Disorder

 

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This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. It is a week that sheds like on an illness that haunts millions. A little over a month ago I shared my story for Rooted Ministry. I would love if you would follow me there to read more of my story… http://rootedministry.com/articles/grace-my-eating-disorder

Why I Won’t Call You Skinny

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I remember the first time I heard the words that will stay with me forever. I remember the smile on the woman’s face as she looked at me with envy and I remember the pride that exuded from me that day thinking I had just won a gold metal.  No those words weren’t you are amazing. No they weren’t you are so smart or kind. They weren’t even you are beautiful. Those words which held me in a death trap for over a decade were, “You are so skinny!”

I was ten years old and standing in the school hallway before class. A former teacher looked at me and gushed as she told me how skinny I was, how much weight I had lost, and how incredible I looked. I learned on that day; skinny was to be praised, skinny was noteworthy, skinny made people stop and notice, and skinny was what I should strive to be. My heart breaks and I literally feel sick as I think of that young, innocent girl holding her princess backpack as her grasp of beauty begins to slip through her fingers.

I think if only the teacher had known I lost weight because of mental issues that were weighing me down, if she had only known each day at lunch I traded my home packed lunch for half of a subway sandwich (that a girl who’s mom was on the subway diet gave her each day). And if only she knew once I was given that six-inch sandwich I never managed to eat half of it. If only she knew, ironically the same year, I learned about how important skinny was, I also learned what eating disorders were. However, I never even dreamed I could have an eating disorder, because I wasn’t an emaciated Ballerina and I didn’t throw up my food. So how in the world could I have a problem? That same year I would stand outside my Reading Class with a headache so terrible I could barely focus because I had eaten nearly nothing that day. The only thought which crossed my mind as I stood there, was “If this is what it takes to be skinny, it is worth it”.

For over a decade I would believe the lie, “skinny was the best thing possible”. Skinny fueled my Ed. I would try to brush off every compliment related to my size. I would deny it when someone said I was smaller than them. Shrug my shoulders when size “x” didn’t fit me. I would laugh when someone asked me for my diet and exercise tips. Inside, I would be thrilled. I was ecstatic of the praise and attention. Proud that my size had earned me this “privilege”.

Secretly though, I was dying, physically, mentally and emotionally. I thought in order to be loved, in order to be valued, in order to be praise worthy I needed to stay this skinny. It was a losing game because no matter what the number on the scale said, no matter how small the size got, no matter how many people complimented, it wasn’t enough. And even more, the skinnier I got, the more I lost MK. I had no idea what true beauty was and that it had nothing to do with the size you were.

Looking back I don’t blame the woman who stopped me in the hallway, she didn’t cause my eating disorder. My Ed was about so much more than that. That woman merely played the part that society has taught us to play. We are taught from an extremely young age that beauty and (even more) size are important. We are taught to praise and take notice of size. We are taught that size defines our worth and who we are.

What if I told you it didn’t though? What if I told you striving for skinny and even more perfection won’t get you anywhere but heartache. If you know me today you know, no matter how much weight you may have lost or gained, I will never comment on your size. I will never tell you how skinny you are. I will never say you look like you’ve put on weight. Because I don’t believe commenting on people’s sizes is appropriate in any way, shape, or form. I don’t believe your view of beautiful should be determined by a size, by a comment, by a magazine, or by comparison.

When we take time out to comment on something we are stating what we feel is important to say. When we comment, worth is put in our words. I never want someone to think they are valued for their size. Because size doesn’t define worth. Size doesn’t define beauty.

May you know you are beautiful for millions of things but your size should never dictate your beauty. And may we work together to stop using words like skinny or fat or commenting on size in general.

And may you always remember how loved and worth it you are,

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She Told Me I Was Fat

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It happened nearly nineteen years ago and I still remember it like it was yesterday. I was on the playground, a young five-year-old. I was in a purple t-shirt dress, my long curly hair bouncing as I climbed up the to the top of the slide. Suddenly, she looked at me, a girl whose name I will never remember but whose words were imprinted on my heart. She looked right at me and said, “You’re fat!”. That is all she said and walked away. I honestly have no idea if we were friends, or if I even knew her name but even now nearly nineteen years later I remember my heart breaking. I remember it was all I could do to get home without crying. I remember telling my mom and grandmother. I remember my little heart and head couldn’t understand but even at five I knew that fat meant ugly and she had called me fat, which meant I was ugly.

Fast forward seventeen years later to two years ago, I am with a woman who loves me and knows my struggle, yet as we walk across the parking lot she grabs my arm looks at me and smiles. “I am so glad you dropped all that extra weight because you are just too pretty to not be tiny. I am so glad you are your tiny self again. You are just beautiful like that.” I starred at her not believing the words that just left her mouth and my heart and head took me right back to my five year old self who was broken-hearted because someone called her fat and therefore ugly. It didn’t matter that I knew I hadn’t changed sizes, it didn’t matter that I knew that this woman had an Ed and therefore couldn’t speak truth, it didn’t matter that I knew my beauty wasn’t defined in my size, it didn’t matter that I KNEW that fat and ugly are NOT synonymous, it stung. I have wrestled with what she said and  the sting that it cause and why it hurt so bad. Friends I think the truth I remembered in the midst of the sting is worth sharing.

When I was in the deepest darkest days of Ed, beauty meant one thing, it meant being thin. However, no matter how desperately thin I got it, was never enough. I could never see myself as beautiful, only ugly. My view of myself was defined in something temporary, in something that the world tells me is important. My beauty was defined in my physical appearance which is something that will never be perfect. The more I watch TV, flip through magazines, or browse pintrest the more disgusted I am. You see I am a true girly girl at heart. I love anything that sparkles and glitters. I love pretty dresses. I love nail polish. I love lipstick. I love getting all dressed up. And at the same time I love my sweatpants. I love my big shirts. I love throwing up my hair in a top bun and wearing no make up for days. But I have learned that none of those define me. And the more I look at the media and the more I hear young girls and older women talk the more my heart breaks, because the overarching message is this: You are beautiful when… you are size x, you have perfect hair, you have a clear face, your nails are manicured, you have beautiful clothes. And it all is just not truth. As women I believe we have an innate desire to want to feel beautiful but I have learned that beauty in no manner comes from my physical appearance. If you read my post, “Why I Won’t Call You Skinny” you know that I believe, beauty is not defined in a size!

I know you just read that last sentence and were tempted to stop reading because you don’t believe me. You don’t believe that beauty is not about your physical appearance but I promise your beauty does not depend on your physical appearance and I desperately need you to believe that. Because until you do, you can’t fight the lies of the world that tell you otherwise. The statement from my friend and the girl when I was five stung because it defined me solely by my physical appearance, it defined me as only good enough or beautiful enough if I met certain standards, and it hurt to be put in such a narrow, rigid box of lies. And any time someone tries to define us in one way I believe it hurts because we are soo much more than what are face and body looks like. However, I will be the first to say that it is hard to not believe the lies that the world tells us but it is absolutely so much more fulfilling and life giving to fight the lies.

I truly believe that I have the most beautiful friends and family in the world. However, their beauty has everything to do with their heart, their faith, their love for others, their ability to show grace and has nothing to do with their size, their clothes, their hair or makeup. The truth is my hair will one day turn gray. I will have wrinkles and saggy skin. I will probably shrink. My teeth my fall out. I may have age spots. I may gain or lose weight.  And yet I will still be beautiful and so will you. If I prescribed to the world’s idea of beauty, I am not sure how I could get out of bed in the morning. Many days I wear yoga pants, big t-shirts, and my hair in a messy bun. I get zits, my hair normally needs to be washed, more days than not I don’t wear makeup, so if I spent my time following the world’s idea of beauty, why would I get out of bed. Frankly, I would be terrified I wouldn’t match up. But each day I get up, I fight the temptation to give into the lies of the world and I remember that I am fearfully and wonderfully made and am absolutely beautiful, no matter what my physical body looks like.

Honestly,  I wish I could say that everyday, every hour, every minute, I believe this truth but I don’t and frankly some days are just harder than others. Some days I fight the lies of my past life with Ed and the lies of the world. But I remember that I am aiming for grace, not perfection and each time I remember the truth and live in the truth, that is beauty. Beauty surrounds me in the smiling faces of those who love me as my messy broken self, beauty is in the scars of battles won, beauty is living in freedom and not bondage. The world lies and tells us beauty is in the face but I am hear to tell you it is in the heart. Beauty is all around you and I dare you to see it and live in it this week. Whether you are wearing sweats, a prom dress, a swim suit, a wedding gown, or pajamas, you are beautiful.  My prayer is that you will discover how truly beautiful you are this week, because that is freedom, that is living in truth. And in case no one has told you today, you are absolutely beautiful inside and out just the way you are. Believe that truth this week friend and live in the freedom of discovering real true beauty.

All my love,

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When Perfection Destroys

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At barely two I looked into the mirror, about to take a photo with my family and new baby brother and I starred back at my reflection. In the video that records this scene, you can hear my mother telling me to come on. I refuse to come take the picture and there I sit in front of the mirror and announce to myself and my family around me, “My hair don’t look pretty”.

Now some may think that little two year old girl was precious for saying that but honestly I think even at two that statement was a huge indicator of my personality. For whatever reason, I “knew” that I couldn’t take a picture because my hair didn’t look, “pretty”…it had to be perfect. And that is how I lived the first twenty years of my life striving for perfection that was unattainable.

Growing up I was the epitome of the “Little Miss Perfect”. And while I claimed to hate the nickname, deep down I loved it, because it meant I was doing something right. It meant that I was achieving what others thought was perfection. Oh how wrong they were, because inside I was dying. Do you know how hard it is to try to do everything right and perfect all the time.  It was exhausting. And that is where my eating disorder helped me out, he told me exactly what I needed to do to achieve the ultimate perfection and that was be the thinnest possible.

ED had a solution for every failed test, bad situation, breakup, loss, and it was, control it, with food. And the more I let ED take control, the farther I moved away from all that made me happy. Of course he told me the thinner I got, the more I was reaching perfection. However, the thinner I became, the more I lost, grades, relationships, friendships, social events, energy, and ultimately happiness. Yet, ED promised just a few more pounds and I would be there. Well, it never happened. No matter how thin I got, it never worked. And then one day I realized, this whole perfection thing wasn’t any fun, and it sure wasn’t getting me anywhere but despair.

That’s where grace came in and that is where the healing began. However, I didn’t learn that grace overnight but it was the  pain and suffering that got me there. Without these circumstances I am not sure grace would be as real to me as it is now. It finally sunk in that the God that I loved, didn’t love me because I was perfect, He loved me in spite of the fact that I wasn’t. And nothing I could do would make Him love me any more or any less than He did right then. As my dear friend says, “It’s okay that we’re not okay because Jesus is better than being better.” It was that message that made the darkness bearable and reminded me that there was light at the end even when I couldn’t see it. And those people who thought I was so perfect, well they loved the not perfect MK even more, because she was real. Unlike, perfect MK they could identify with the real MK (funny how I was convinced they wouldn’t know how to handle not perfect me).

So what about today? Do I still strive for that perfection? Even those questions make me laugh out loud. Because, today I cannot live without grace, because I am one big mess! And the fact that I am not perfect is totally okay. “Perfect MK” lived a really miserable life that led to a really horrible relationship with ED and other destruction. MK today, she messes up about every other minute. However, she is learning to accept the fact that it is okay, because in her imperfect mess she is loved deeply.

Maybe perfection in any aspect is your goal. My guess is on some level it’s tearing you apart. Let me tell you no matter how hard you try it’s not going to get you anywhere but misery and heartache. And even more, I bet the people in your life would love the not so perfect you even more than you could ever imagine. So just remember it’s okay to not be perfect, in fact it is extremely freeing!

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Your Words Matter

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I remember standing on the scales getting my weight read to me and marked down in my file for my seventh grade dance class. I was traumatized, I knew the exact numbers and how it had changed since last semester. Years later, during the middle of my junior year I would miss a state mandated fitness test because I was terrified to step on the scale and to know my weight and BMI. Of course, I would fake sick to get out of it but internally I knew I could never know those numbers because they would haunt me. For years, each time I went in for a check-up no matter how sick I was I made sure to pay attention to my weight, how it had changed. I would prep for days going into my appointment so I “maintained a good weight”. I was so very sick and I had no idea.

Today I still struggle when I hear women my age and older talk about diets and the way they should look. It breaks my heart. It may start as young boys and girls but it continues into adulthood. It is why for so long it was hard for me to eat lunch with women who didn’t know my story because five minutes into a lunch it was diet chat and scrutinizing the food on their plate and marveling that others could eat what they could. It mad me sick and sad. I can’t help but wonder what if something had changed sooner, when I was younger. And that gives me hope for the young people now that struggle, that a change can be made but first we have to change the conversation.

As I watch the kids I babysat grow up, as I watch my sweet flower girl go to kindergarten, it makes my heart leap for them because I know how MK was even at that young age. She was a mess and she had no idea what to do. More days than not she didn’t get the nutrition she needed as she missed meals and hid her double life. She strived to be the beautiful girl that all the boys wanted to date, and all the girls thought was gorgeous. And it got me to thinking about how early these issues start especially for young girls (young men are definitely not exempt). And even more it made me realize there are so many young people who deal with the same issues and we don’t address it because we assume they are too young to have those struggles. They aren’t.

So today I want to take a moment to talk to those young girls, the moms of young people, the teachers to these kids, and anyone who interacts with these young people on a daily basis. Take notice of these young people because they see the world in a manner that you can’t. They see the beauty and they see the pain. They are confused and trying to become the best individuals they can, so stop putting pressure on them to be the best. Encourage them, love them.

Today across the world, there are young girls skipping lunch, running to the bathroom, literally running for miles, pouring over magazines, crying in the mirror, trying to fit into a certain perfect size jeans, writing in their diary because some boy told them they weren’t pretty. And it matters…it is not just simple words. Your words, their words, they matter and they hold more weight than you could ever realize. We have to start changing this and it starts with changing the conversation.

Stop telling them they are beautiful for solely for their physical appearance. Tell them they are beautiful inside and out. Tell them they are important, their opinions matter, they are going to change the world. Their physical beauty is fleeting and could change in an instant but their beautiful hearts are forever. Tell them they are loved for the unique individual they are. Tell them there is no one like them in the world, because it is true.

Moms, Dads, teachers, friends, pastors, mentors, young people, you have a chance to change the conversation and it starts today. I hope today that you feel loved for who you are on the inside and not just on the outside because that is what matters. From a young lady who has fought harder than anyone should ever have to, to believe this truth, I promise changing the conversation, it is worth it.

May you truly know how loved you are today and always,

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When the Rainstorm Hits

As I sit here my eyes are heavy and my head is running a hundred miles an hour with a million things to do. Truth is I am a list girl and my lists are piling up. And when my lists pile up so do my perfectionist tendencies, so do my worries, so do the lies. For the past week I have been worn out emotionally, physically, spiritually, in all areas in my life and when I am worn down bad habits start to creep up. And instead of being honest and open with people, I shut down and I shut up. I don’t say how I am really doing and I put on the Miss Perfect Hat. I let little things get to me and I start to only see things as right and wrong in my life or as black and white. So what am I doing instead of listening to the overwhelming lies in my head? I am sitting down and talking to you dear friends. Because maybe you’ve had a week like mine. Maybe you need to hear this as much as I do.

When everything in my life seems uncertain, I do the one thing that make life feel more certain to me…I control. I control my relationships, I control my behavior, my decisions, even my wardrobe. Honestly, it’s not bad to plan to be well prepared but I take it to the max when I feel the need to control. In the past Ed, was the master at this he knew just how to control my life tugh negative food behaviors. Even being strong in recovery for three years, there are days in the midst of uncertainty that I have to sit back and take in the truth and not listen to the lies that start to creepin. Because the fact is, I don’t believe them anymore and I don’t live by them. However, when I am worn down and fragile they have a way of breaking through the steel trap door which I have locked them deep behind.

Maybe you have struggled with Ed, maybe you haven’t but I think we can all understand the desire to control when everything seems out of control. Here is the bad thing though, when I lean into the control I lean into my perfectionist qualities. When I lean into my perfectionist self I don’t like who I become. That MK always has an answer for everything, she has to constantly have her hair and wardrobe perfect, she has to always say the right things, she is irritable, she can’t mess up, and she certainly cannot share her mess. She becomes more focused on the results and not the relationships and people in her life. That MK, cannot leave the house in yoga pants, she cannot relax when she is with friends, she cannot stand when one thing in the house is out of place, she can’t sit still, she can’t be really present, and she cannot deal with imperfection. Let’s be real, that MK is NO fun to be around!

There are times when my life is just more messy than usual. There are times where the pain and past wounds seem to still sting. There are times where I just cannot catch my breath and the last few weeks have been like that. Don’t get me wrong there has been a lot of joy and wonderful times in the past few weeks. I have always been a glass more than half full girl. I can tell you all about the sunshine and the roses but today I need to tell you about the rainstorm because that is just as real. We don’t talk about the rain and hail, especially in the midst of it, so I am going to take a big leap of faith and do just that. In the midst of the rain, when I cannot see the sun, life is hard and my desire is to control and when I control I become the worst version of myself. However, I don’t have to be that controlling person, but that takes major effort.

It is during the rainstorm that I have to take time to rest, to practice self-care, to be still, and to know that taking care of my self, especially when life is hard, is NOT selfish. If we don’t give our bodies time to rest, to feel all the emotions that come with uncertainty and to work through them, then we are doing ourselves a huge disservice. For me unwinding is reading a favorite book curled up with a cup of coffee, it is watching cheesy ABC family sitcoms, it is a glass of wine and a chat with my best friend, its a nap in the middle of the day, it is praying, it is singing at the top of my lungs to my favorite song. Those are all healing for me, however I will say this healing activity can soon turn into numbing. I know all about numbing from my years with Ed and I never want to go back there. So I build in me time but I also don’t let it take over. Because lets be real, I could sit and read for days, I could lay in bed and watch every episode of every TV show ABC family ever created, but that wouldn’t be helpful and it would certainly check me out to life and I don’t want that. So I rest and take time to heal but I don’t numb out.

This coming week I am striving to be the more balanced MK. The MK that doesn’t freak out when her plans go awry, the MK that can get ready in ten minutes, the MK who doesn’t focus on what she eats. And here is the secret, I will slip up this week and want to go back to the control and so will you, because we aren’t perfect. Each slip up though reminds me that instead of focusing on what I did wrong there, I have a chance to do it right the next time. And in allowing myself to mess up I give myself grace and with that grace comes rest, and when I rest I loosen my grip on the control and perfection because I don’t need them anymore. That is what I wish for you this week my friend, that you would show yourself grace and give yourself rest. Rest in whatever way you need to and loosen your grip on control because control destroys. Know not only can you do it this week but also I will be there with you doing it and cheering you along.

Sending you love,

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My Best Friend Ed

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For twelve years, I lived a secret life, a life that I promised to let no one in on. I lived a life of darkness, of fear, of shame. I was battling an illness that not even my closest friends and family knew I faced….Read the rest of the story on my sweet friend’s blog…

http://girlrepurposed.com/free-from-my-best-friend-ed-my-eating-disorder-im-broken-guest-post/

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Living In A Barbie World

I grew up with more of them than I could count. They were doctors, airline pilots, babysitters, teachers, ballerinas, scientists and more. They had beautiful dresses with matching shoes and accessories. They were my best friends and confidants. They led extraordinary lives with amazing houses and cars. Everyday was an adventure with them. They were my Barbie dolls. For the longest time I believed that if Barbie could do it I could too and since Barbies spanned many different careers and looks I thought I could too. Until one day, in my early adolescence it dawned on me. I wasn’t Barbie, I was a Teresa. For those of you who don’t know, Teresa is Barbie’s best friend. She has brown hair and green eyes and since I was a brunette not blonde and had green not blue eyes, I realized I could “never” be Barbie. I was doomed to be the less fabulous, less popular, less known, less loved Teresa.

Whether you knew who Teresa was or you never played with a Barbie in your life or you loved Barbies like I did, I think we can all relate to feeling like we don’t fit the mold. For whatever reason, Teresa was how I identified with being the sidekick and not being the popular Barbie, for not fitting the ideal which I thought I had to. When I got to early adolescence I left my Barbies and it became magazines, models, and TV stars that “told” me who I should be and whether I fit the mold. I remember many times being alone in the dressing room frustrated and near tears because I didn’t look like “all” the other girls in the latest fashions. I remember picking my prom dress not based on what I loved but on which dress made me look the thinnest. I judged whether I was accepted by which cute boy passed me a note in class or called me pretty. I judged my beauty on whether my makeup looked just right.

I would like to tell you that this was just a short phase in early girlhood and that it didn’t last long but sadly it did, for over a decade. And the saddest part is I am not alone in this story of self torture, many of you understand it all too well. Ed used my thoughts of self worth to control what I thought about beauty. He told me that as long as I didn’t look a certain manner that I would never be beautiful and I would never be loved. He told me what I could and couldn’t wear because of how horrible it made me look. He told me what others really thought of me based on how they reacted to my appearance. He told me I would never fit the mold for perfection and that I was doomed to be a “Teresa”.

I spent years in the trap of not feeling worthy and it wasn’t until I nearly hit rock bottom that I began to redefine what my worth was really in. For years, my worth was placed in how I looked. I sought more than anything to hear I was beautiful but it was never enough. No matter how many friends, boyfriends, strangers told me I was beautiful, I never believed it. I nearly killed myself looking for a perfection and beauty that was skin deep. I wanted to be that girl that everyone stopped and starred at when they walked by but no matter if it happened or not it was never enough and I was never happy.

Those last few paragraphs are torture to write because my heart breaks for that girl who once thought all those horrific things about herself. I am not that girl anymore but my heart certainly still breaks for her. Once I began recovery for Ed my thoughts slowly, slowly, began to change to an attitude of loving myself rather than hating myself. I began to believe that I was fearfully and wonderfully made. I began to believe that I was loved and given grace unconditionally. It was hard, it took work, it still does and I am not perfect at it but I am grateful for all the horrible times because it got me to this place of freedom.

I want you to know how much this freedom is a part of my everyday life. Freedom for me is about eating anything I want and that no food in my eyes is bad or good. Freedom is about wearing any clothes I want because I like them not because someone or something dictates my wardrobe. Freedom is about wearing no makeup for days. Freedom is about my hair being a mess and going out in public with it looking a mess. Freedom is about wearing sweats because I want to, not to hide my body size. Freedom is about not crying when I look in the mirror. Freedom is about playing to exercise and not torturing myself through exercise. Freedom is about seeing the beauty that radiates through me. Freedom is about knowing that beauty is NOT skin deep! Freedom is about realizing maybe I resemble Teresa more than Barbie and that is not only okay but also beautiful. Freedom even more is about not comparing myself to Barbie dolls or anyone. Freedom is about realizing that I am fearfully, wonderfully, and uniquely made. Freedom is about seeing beauty in others inside and out not because of their face or body but because of their heart. Real freedom is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

We are a culture that values the way that a person looks on the outside more than what is on the inside and it is so easy to get caught up in this idea. Whether you have struggled with an Ed or not you at some point have probably felt not worthy, not beautiful, not good enough. For me my worth was tied to the way I looked. Maybe it is for you too. Maybe it is about something else for you. I share my story here not because I have figured it all out but because I believe that in sharing our struggles we are able to help bear each others burdens and comfort each other in our trials. My story isn’t finished. I am always a work in progress as are you but I have found hope, real freedom and that is not something I want to keep to myself. I hope this week you come to realize that the beauty that you struggle with is not defined by what you do or do not see in the mirror it is defined by your heart. I hope you know how deeply you are loved and cherished for your heart. I spent over a decade figuring out this truth. I don’t want that to happen to you too. My friend may you find freedom amidst your search for beauty this week.

Much love,

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Breaking Up With Ed

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photo credit: Les Newsom

I lived with him for twelve years. He lied, cheated, nearly killed me and still I stayed. He made me lie to my friends, my family, and literally to everyone I knew. I was in elementary school when he moved in, so young, so innocent, yet so very broken. I lived by his rules and let them control my life. He was my best friend, my enemy, my dictator, all rolled into one…  To keep reading, follow along at…

https://houseofhatton.wordpress.com/2015/02/23/breaking-up-with-ed-2/
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It’s Okay That You’re Not Okay

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“I believe that God is making all things new. I believe that Christ overcame death and that pattern is apparent all through life and history: life from death, water from a stone, redemption from failure, connection from alienation. I believe that suffering is part of the narrative, and that nothing really good gets built when everything’s easy.”

I sat at the table staring out the window, I didn’t want to make eye contact, because I was afraid she already knew what my answer would be. Still, I could see her looking at me through love filled eyes. “Martha, some day you are going to have to choose. You are going to have to pick your Eating Disorder or Jesus. You are going to have to jump. Are you ready?” I smiled at her, my painted on ,”you are very sweet, but you just don’t get it smile.” I looked her in the eye and with a level of defiance stated,  “Thanks but I am just not ready yet.”

A month later, I sat in the office of my beloved counselor as tears streamed down her face first and then mine. “Martha, you need serious help. You need a professional treatment team. Your Eating Disorder is serious and it is killing you.” She let the words sink in and through my tear soaked cheeks, I nodded. ” I will help you, she said, but I am scared that if we don’t start really fighting this…well I am scared of what will happen to you.” I sobbed, for the first time ever about my Eating Disorder.

I spent the next few days crying. Talking to dear friends and to my family. I spent the time thinking and praying and wondering what I would do. All along though I knew the choice I had to make. Finally, it was real and I knew what I had to do. Shakily, I picked up the phone and called my sweet friend who told me I had to choose. I called and told her I needed help. I wanted to fight. I never said the exact words, but she knew and looking back I knew too. I was ready to jump. I was choosing Jesus.

It has been three years since those conversations and since I chose Jesus and ran into the arms of grace. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about those conversations or the days leading up to my choice. I was sick. I was addicted. And I was a mess. Today only one of those is true. I am still a mess but I am no longer sick or addicted to food or the constant thoughts of food or body image. Sometimes I get scared to talk about my story of grace in it’s fullness because in all reality Jesus and Grace are trigger words. They make people take a second look at what you are writing. They make people fidget and look away. People either love you or hate you for writing about Jesus and your Faith. However, the truth is grace is scandalous and unimaginable and nothing about it is safe and comfortable. Even more so this story that I am living out is NOT about me. It is about a grace and love from a Father that I could never imagine. My story is about the gospel.

When I decided to fight and choose Jesus I had no idea the ride I was in for and am still on. It is only by the grace of His spirit that I have and had the strength to stand up to Ed and my ways of control. It was through Him and the people He placed in my life that I constantly was given the choice to embrace the beauty of grace. If it was left up to me, I couldn’t have done it and the road at times can still be rocky because I am always a work in progress, as is my story of recovery and grace.

This past fall I celebrated three years of recovery. I celebrated the decision to jump off the cliff into the arms of grace and say, “It is okay that I am not okay because Jesus is better than being better.” The most beautiful part is, embracing grace doesn’t mean that I am not still a mess. However, it envelops me in all my messiness and it allows me to be my messy broken self. Because Grace is bigger than my flaws. Grace is bigger than my mistakes. Grace is bigger than my guilt. And Grace is so much bigger than my shame. In fact, it washes it all away and says: You are loved, You are fearfully and wonderfully made and Your worth is not in Your outward appearance.

I never used to understand when people said that Jesus wrecked their lives but now I get it. He definitely wrecked mine and turned it upside down in the best way. He took everything I thought I knew about control and addiction and swept me into His arms. He told me I was loved when I felt unlovable and that I was beautiful in His image. He gave me scandalous, beautiful, amazing, grace. Today, I have the joy of working with college students and because of that. I have an opportunity to show others, specifically these students, that kind of love and grace that is scandalous and unheard of and it is because of my story of grace and the work of the gospel in my life, that I am able to do just that.

I am not sure if you read this and want to scream or if you read this and are in tears. Either way, I would love to hear your story of brokenness and redemptive grace. Because when we share about the mess and the beauty of grace in our lives, that is when the gospel becomes real. My friend I pray you know there is hope in whatever situation you face. Buckle up, because if you are willing to jump, you are in for the ride of your life.

May you always know how loved you are,

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