Stop Looking In the Mirror

Mirrror

I was a little over two when I realized that beauty mattered, way too young for a little girl to discover whether she was beautiful or not. I loved watching and participating in fashion shows at an early age and I loved watching beauty pageants. I was a little girl who loved anything to do with pretty dresses, high heels, and sparkles. This girly love wasn’t all together a bad thing, until I let it define and take over me. However, once my quest for beauty began is when I lost it all.

At two I looked in mirror before a family photo was taken and told my parents and grandmother, “My hair don’t look pretty.” What at the time was a funny comment from a precious little girl turned into my mantra. In the years that followed I would look in the mirror, and would always find something that “didn’t look pretty”.  Mirrors tortured and taunted me, no matter what anyone else said. Every time I heard the words, “You’re beautiful.” it was all I could do not to laugh, because there was no way I could have believed it.

The mirror is where I found my truth. If the mirror said I looked good (which it rarely did) than the day would go well and if the mirror showed that one hair was out of place than game over. For me, overcoming my issues had a whole heck of a lot to do with me not seeing myself as beautiful. They were all lies and I know that now but it can still be difficult. It didn’t just happen overnight and it certainly didn’t happen without a whole lot of work. As a woman, I think I can safely say that I believe all women struggle with the idea of beauty and feeling beautiful. We live in a society that is rampant with ideas of beauty, false, unattainable, unrealistic standards of beauty. It wasn’t until I finally realized and accepted that beauty wasn’t in a made up face, it wasn’t in high fashioned clothes, it wasn’t in a size zero, that it began to sink in. Beauty used to mean a specific size and specific numbers, but it doesn’t anymore.

And the reason it doesn’t matter anymore is because I realized some pretty incredible and important truths. Beauty is in the smiles that spread across faces when we experience joy, beauty is in the laughs that echo from our mouths as we enjoy our lives, beauty is in the eyes that sparkle as dreams come true, beauty is in the grace that we live our lives by.

My worth will never again be determined by my outside appearance, for I am worth far too much for that and so are you. Beauty is measured by the heart and the love and grace we show to others.

All of this sound like too much to swallow? It once did to me too, but now I know that it is completely true. I don’t ever want to live up to the world’s standards of beauty because it only causes, pain, heartache, and a life surrendered to these. I no longer have to have my life dictated by these unreachable standards and neither do you. Because whether you realize it or not, I know it’s true….YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL and my prayer is that you would see and realize this beauty and know that it is lasting. So this week don’t look into the mirror for your beauty look into your heart.

All my love,

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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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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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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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