When The Inside Doesn’t Match The Outside

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I could feel her looking at me as I stared out the window. She asked the question again and I knew I had to respond. “So you don’t think you’re thin enough to have an eating disorder?” I stared at her defiantly as I replied,”No”. But even as I said those words my voice trembled. Because I knew. I knew I was sick but I just couldn’t admit it. Not to her not to anyone. And the truth was I didn’t see it. When I looked in the mirror I didn’t think I looked thin, I didn’t think I looked like someone with an Eating Disorder. I didn’t think my insides matched my outsides.

I remember the drive to her office, how at every light I wanted to turn my car around. I remember walking up the stairs barely able to breathe and I remember sitting the open lobby waiting for her to come out and signal me back. And as I sat down and we began to talk. I remember wanting to jump up and run out. But I didn’t, I couldn’t leave because even then, even when I didn’t believe it I knew I needed to hear those words.

Three years later I can remember that conversation like it just happened. Those words were such a pivotal point in my recovery and my dietician words that followed forever impacted me. As I sat in her office that day and we talked about how even if I didn’t think I looked the part or believe it, I was sick.

The stronger I become in my recovery the more it impacts me the way we literally look at people with eating disorders (and people in general). I know for myself and many others there was the misconception that if I didn’t look a certain way I didn’t have a problem. I was small. I was thin. I was little but I would have never deemed myself anorexic. Yet I was.

The fact is that eating disorders come all shapes and sizes, they do not discriminate. No matter how much someone doesn’t believe they fit into a certain category because of the way they look. Size is not the determining factor in an eating disorder. Frankly for many years I “looked” healthy. I wasn’t what someone would consider too thin or too large. I was just average. However, even in my average days I was so so very sick.

The more I work with women who have struggled with an eating disorder the more that constant fact rings in my head that we cannot judge someone by their outward appearance. We have no idea the thoughts going on in their head. The control or lack of control that dictates their life.

Because here is the thing my friend, eating disorders are so much more than what the public sees. There is hiding. There is deceiving. There are things that go on that you would never know about when you look at their smile, at their darling outfit, at their laughter.

I was the girl who had it all together, who had the world at her finger tips, who truly seemed to be on top of the world. But I was sick. I was struggling. I was so desperate for help. But had you seen me, you would have never known.

You may have seen me comment on food. You may have seen me be a “picky eater”. You may have even see me count calories or exercise to the point of exhaustion. But you thought nothing of it, because in today’s society, talking negatively about our body or food is acceptable. You may have thought nothing of it because you too have those behaviors.

As a woman in today’s world, we are taught to care so deeply about what our outsides look like. We are taught to be put together. We are taught to look presentable even “pretty”. We are told to act as if all is okay. Here is the thing though, often times it is not okay. We struggle, we hurt, we often need help and sometimes we need to show that on the outside but we feel like we can’t. Many times the insides don’t match the outsides.

So my hope is this, that the next time we look at someone’s outward appearance we wouldn’t assume they have it all together. We wouldn’t assume that they don’t need help. We wouldn’t assume that they aren’t sick. While this so very much applies to eating disorders I believe it applies to so many other aspects of our lives as well. May we not judge the book by it’s cover but may we learn to read the book and know the story by heart.

All my love,

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Take A Break

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I feel like I haven’t taken a breath lately. It seems as if my life is whizzing by and I barely have time to fall asleep at night before waking up and doing it all over again. One of my very best friends used to joke that I couldn’t even sit down and watch TV without multitasking. It seems as if these days if I take time to watch TV I am either trying to work on five different things or am thinking about all I need to do instead of watching TV. It is a constant battle for me to not just rust through my busyness and forget to live my life. Every moment of life is precious and in light of so much recently I am realizing just how precious it is…so I need to take a big deep breath sit back and enjoy the tiny moments, the everyday moments, the not so glamorous moments, and be grateful for them all. However, when I let busyness rule my life and don’t live it this is what happens.

This week, I was on the phone with a dear friend. It took me several minutes in the middle of our conversation to realize she had asked me a question and if I am being honest, I have no idea what our conversation was about. Not only, was I talking on the phone but I was also filling out paperwork, looking up details needed on the computer and then I was still was trying to catch up with a dear friend. Sounds crazy-it was. The people in my life are so precious to me and I don’t want them to think I don’t care. Obviously I am imperfect and sometimes I don’t care for them well. However, I certainly don’t care for them well when my head is consumed with other details and I blatantly don’t focus on them.

The point is we all do it and I was reminded again this week how prone I am to seek glory from my busyness. The more busy I am,  the more important I feel and the more impact I feel I make. That couldn’t be further from the truth. When I my head is swarming with a million things, I don’t do any of them well or truly focus on those around me.  I have written before about the glorification of planning and it goes hand and hand with busyness. I think we all, myself included need a reminder to sit back and enjoy the moments of our life because they are passing all too quickly. And even more those of us who have struggled with Ed or other issues are so prone to the lies and the belief that we need those things when we are worn down. We have to be on guard not to step back into our old habits when life gets crazy. I am not immune to it and neither are you.

Even more, we need to take a moment, take a deep breath and enjoy the life we are living even in the mundane moments. There is nothing great about busyness. It will all get done and I have to remind myself that indeed I don’t need to solve the world’s or my own problems in a day. When I look back at my week, my best moments were those where I was really present and where I was focused on the here and now and was not consumed with where I was headed next or all I had to do. So my prayer this week is that I would sit back and enjoy more, little, not exciting, everyday moments, moments that show me that indeed I am really living and that my friend is my prayer for you too. May you enjoy all the little moments this week, take a break from the busyness and be grateful for this life.

So much love for you my friend!

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Taking A Snapshot

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I am pretty obsessed with pictures. To say I love them would be an understatement. When I was younger my room had huge amounts of photos plastered all around it. Even today our house has quite the amount of pictures displayed in it.  Part of my fascination with pictures is that you are capturing a specific moment in time, one that can be remembered for many years through a photo. Another of my favorite things about photos is seeing people smiling. I love seeing others genuinely happy in photos and seeing them smile. However, I also know that behind these photos and smiles there can be a lot of pain and suffering. Unfortunately, pictures do not always portray the most accurate representation.

Awhile back, I heard a quote that resonated with me, “We live life exposing ourselves through a series of snapshots…carefully edited snapshots that we let others see.” As I thought about that statement I thought back to my pictures or snapshots and how I used to live my life in a manner that only showed a nicely edited photo. And it was only this nicely edited photo that I let others take a quick glimpse at because I was too afraid they might see the real raw negative version of me if I let them see me for too long.

I talk quite a bit here, about my perfectionism and my relationship with Ed both of which were intertwined. Both fed off the desire to appear to others as a nicely portrayed unrealistic snapshot of myself. For years, I only allowed others to see the perfect snapshot and so it is no wonder that most had no idea the internal suffering and pain I endured daily. Even those who were closest to me didn’t know for a very long time how truly bad off I was.

You see, to go along with the perfect image I showed everyone, I carried around a set of rules in my head that I lived by. Never tell people that you aren’t doing okay, in fact tell them how great you are. Always look your best, never ever leave the house looking like a mess. Never show extreme emotion in public or in front of anyone unless it is a big smile. In fact, you should always wear a big smile. Try not to ever say anything about problems in your life, always minimize them. Don’t cry in front of anyone and the list went on and on. I didn’t want anyone to know the real me because I wasn’t nearly as glamorous as I seemed in fact I was really messy.

When I decided to be real, I learned that those rules were going to have go straight in the trash and the only snapshots that people were going to see were snapshots of the real me. Most days that isn’t bad at all. I actually like not having to worry about putting make up on and fixing my hair every morning. I really love yoga pants and could live in them and honestly constantly trying to create a perfect picture is exhausting. But sometimes showing the real me isn’t about how I look on the outside, it is about the way I look on the inside and that’s when things get hard.

It is so easy to skate through life letting others see the glamorized, photo-shopped versions of ourselves. It may be easier but it is not worth it. For me it meant accepting that people loved me as I was, the real me and that my Savior would never love me any less no matter how messy I was. And here’s the deal, the same is true for you too. No matter how messy how awful, how desperate, you think you are right now there are so many people who love you for who you are and will love that person so much more than the glamorized snapshot you show them. And I can guarantee that there is one girl who loves you for the messy, real, version of you that you are when no one is looking.

Much love,

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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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Falling in Love

photo courtesy of my sweet friend Caroline's Wedding: All rights belong to Caroline Liegel and Kate Bentley photo

photo courtesy of my sweet friend Caroline’s Wedding: All rights belong to Caroline Liegel and Kate Bentley photo

I have never considered myself a writer, in fact as a young girl I often mysteriously contracted a headache or stomachache when it was time to have in class writing. However, I have always loved words and the power they hold. In fact, that is why I believe that as soon as I could read I fell in love with books. The words that told such beautiful stories, touched my heart and had me reaching for more each time. I truly believe in the power of the written word to help connect us to each others stories. Yet, when it came to put pen to paper I always felt queasy. After all those sick writing days, here I sit, typing away because despite my aversion to writing I know that words hold meaning and if we use the right words much healing and hope can flow from them. I write because I have have fallen in love with sharing the story of grace.

For years I sang on Sunday mornings with the praise team. We would practice on Saturday afternoons and then when Sunday morning came we would “perform” our rehearsed set. I say perform because that is what it was to me, my regular Sunday performance. I would get nervous each time that I wouldn’t do the harmony perfect or hit the right notes. All those years I didn’t get the joy I could have by leading worship because it was more about the performance than anything.

I find that scenario so applicable to my daily life. So many times I find the need to perform, to say the right things, to write the perfect words, to take the prettiest picture. And each time I find my soul aches. I want to be the perfect version of me and if I am real that is never going to happen.

There have been so many times I have missed out on opportunities, because of this fear. I didn’t think I would have the right words to say to someone new. I didn’t think I would have the experience that they thought was worthy. Or, I didn’t even have the cutest outfit to impress. So much time has been spent living life as if I was on stage and each scene needed to be more outstanding and applaud worthy than the last.

Let me tell you friends blogging just brings a whole new dimension to that. It would be so easy to sit down and write a post that I thought would get the most views. I would be lying if I said that it hadn’t motivated me before. It would be easy to sit down and write about my favorite outfit or how I decorate my home or my favorite recipes (and let me just say that many people do write about those things and I LOVE those blogs, but that is just not me) That is not my heart and that is not what I feel called to write about. I write because of the words of others that changed my heart. I write to tell my story. I write to share grace.

My life is far from perfect and in fact most days I cringe inside when I hit the publish button because I know a little bit more of my heart will be exposed for the world to see. But when I don’t share my real true self and pretend I live a perfect put together life or when I seek to gain approval or show off my life, than I am missing the message of grace entirely. My life isn’t about pleasing others or gaining applause, even though that is often hard and painful to realize. it is about leaving perfection learning grace.

When I think about the world I can’t help but imagine people who don’t perform but instead live out their passions. I imagine the world filled with writers who write because they can’t imagine not sharing life through words, artists who paint because they believe that art has meaning, singers who sing because they can’t help but fall in love with the sound of music and people who pursue their passions because they have fallen in love with them not because they want a standing ovation and a job well done. That my friends I believe is life well lived.

So if you read my previous blog post than you know I am not about New Year’s Resolutions. However, this is my for my life this year and my prayer for your life as well. May you leave behind the critics and fall deeply and madly in love with your life, your passions and a grace that will change your world.

And may you never forget how loved you are,

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