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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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. What were those words? No they 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, 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 one, because I wasn’t an emaciated Ballerina and I didn’t throw up my food, so how 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. However, the only thought which crossed my mind 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 that it 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. Because I don’t believe your view of beautiful should be determined by a comment, or a magazine, or by comparison.

When we take time out to comment on something we are stating what we feel is important to say. 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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You Know Her

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Three years, and yet it seems like a lifetime ago. Three years, and yet it seems like I don’t even know who that girl was. But I do, because she was me and deep down inside I know what it was like to be that girl. I remember every detail of my sweet therapist Shelley’s office. I remember the paintings hung on the wall. I remember the chair I sat in. I remember the tears that began to stream down her face when she told me I needed more help than she could provide. I remember the sobs that came from me and the Kleenex she handed me as she held my hand. I remember standing up and giving her a brave smile. And I remember the hug she gave me as I left her office, knowing I had a decision to make.

If you had bumped into me in a coffee shop a little over three years ago, you would have thought I had it all together. I always had the right outfit with the right accessory. I had bow in my hair and the biggest smile you have ever seen on my face. If you were my friend a little over three years ago I would have sat across from you at coffee and told you that I was just fine. I might have admitted that I had a little issue with food but that I had it under control. Deep down inside I knew I had a problem but I was okay with the problem because I didn’t want to let go of the control. Ed was ruining and wrecking my life.

That day in counseling three years ago I made a decision. I decided that I would stop letting Ed take control and I would start fighting for freedom. And I haven’t stopped since that day. Because of His amazing grace, and an incredible support team professional and personal, I am where I am today, living a life of freedom.

While it seems like much more than three years ago that I sat there terrified of what may come, I remember who that girl was and even more I see her all around me. She is the one who looks like she has it all together. She is the one who is involved in everything. She is the one who always has a smile on her face. She is the one who is the first to help you with all your problems. She could be your best friend, your sister, your boss, your mom, your wife.

You may have no idea she has a problem because you think she has her life all together. You may see her comment on food. You may see her be a “picky eater”. You may even see her count calories or exercise. But you think nothing of it, because in today’s society, talking negatively about our body or food is acceptable. You may think nothing of it because you too have those behaviors.

Can I tell you a secret? She needs you. Whether she wants to admit it or not. She needs you to hold her hand. She needs your hugs. She needs your love. She needs your support. Even more she needs to know that you don’t love her any less because of this. She needs to know that you don’t think she’s crazy. She needs you to know she will mess up and it will be hard but you will stand by her. That smile on her face is hiding her pain and her put together outfit and life are facades in order to fool you into thinking she has her life together. She wants you to think she has it all under control when really her control is slipping through her fingertips.

So love her and show her grace. Help her when she needs it and listen when she asks. If it weren’t for those people in my life I would have never made it in recovery. Eating Disorders are horrendous for the people dealing with but they are also terrifying for the people surrounding them. Loved ones often want to help but they have no idea how. So for those of you who are struggling, let someone in today, I promise you won’t regret it. For those of you who love someone struggling with Ed, hold their hand and listen. You can’t fight the battle for them but you can love, support and show them grace while they do it, and I promise you it will make a bigger impact than you know. And to my lovely support team, friends, family, professionals, thank you will never be enough. Because of your support, love, and pointing me back to His grace, I am living three years of freedom. Oh happy day indeed!

Know today and everyday, you are loved and you are worth it!

xoxo,

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*Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or any kind of counselor or medical professional, just an Ed survivor and advocate.  I also in no way believe that only women suffer from Ed so know that this could easily be for men as well. Even more, I don’t want you reading to believe that if you or someone you know smiles a lot, wears put together outfits and is a driven person that means you or they have an Eating Disorder. I simply want others to take notice that often the people we least expect to have issues are the ones that do. If you or someone you know has an Eating Disorder these websites below are great resources:

http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/

http://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/

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What Is Love

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I think we would all being lying if we said we hated the idea of love, of falling in love, of being in love, of love stories. In reality, I think it’s hard to hate an idea that centers around us being cared for, cherished, adored and frankly loved. We all long for that. Our culture is filled with romantic sitcoms and movies, it seems it’s on every billboard and it’s around every corner. The wedding industry is booming and Valentine’s day is celebrated by millions. However, what if I told you love doesn’t just happen once a year on a special day. What If I told you it’s an all year, every minute kind of thing. And even more, what if I told you love is not a feeling but it’s a choice…

I would be lying if I said that somewhere deep down inside I don’t long to be a princess. In fact, I used to think love was this fairy tale princess story that ended with a Happily Ever After and a ride off into the sunset with my Prince Charming. If you had asked me what love was two years ago that is exactly what I would have told you. It was Happily Ever After, tied with a beautiful bow around it. Now I know better. My friends, that is not love, because love is a choice, love is an action.

In fact, nearly four months ago I did marry the man of my dreams and I did have a fairy tale day but my marriage to sweet Brett has even more confirmed that love is a choice we make everyday. Because for any of you that have been married, had kids, had close friends, you know, laundry piles up, work days are grueling, you don’t always agree and life is hard. Feelings get hurt and we say things we didn’t mean, and it is in those moments that we have a decision to make, to keep loving. Brett and I stood up on that altar four months ago and we made a decision to love each other even when days are hard and we don’t feel like it and for that I am forever grateful.

However, I am not just talking about love with your significant other, I am talking about love with your friends, with your community, with your parents, with your extended family, with your kids, with yourself. I no longer hold the belief that love is this mushy, gushy feeling. If that were true then love would last very briefly. In the last few years (and even more in the last four months) I feel like I have gotten a crash course in love and what it means to love others and have them love you back.
I once had a conversation with a friend who told me that loving someone should be easy, it shouldn’t take work, it shouldn’t be messy and we should just have that love feeling. I tried to explain that was the opposite of what I believed love to be, because, love was all of those things, messy, hard, complicated, work, and it was anything but a walk in the park. We are human, we mess up and we are in no way perfect so why should love with other people be anything but imperfect. I believe there is only one true perfect love, filled with grace and that is from a Savior much bigger than any of us. So when it comes to imperfect people love is difficult. We often give up easily because love requires grace. It requires looking at someone and seeing their imperfections and loving them all the same.
Every day we wake up and we have a choice to dig deep with people. We have a chance to roll up our sleeves and walk through the messiness of life hand in hand. We have a chance to forgive and keep forgiving. We have a chance to live out grace. We have a chance to not treat others in ways they have treated us. Sometimes it gets really messy, sometimes it requires us to do things we don’t want to do, awkward things. It may require kindness to a stranger, it may be asking to help with a task you absolutely cannot stand, it may be physically cleaning up a mess, it may be time consuming. Each time we dive in and show that kind of love we are giving people a chance to see that beautiful face of grace and love.

Earlier this month, I got to spend time with one of my favorite friends who is beautiful inside out. She has mentored and loved me unconditionally. She has held me when I cried. She has talked me through the toughest times, shared her family and seen past my flaws. Most of the time I had nothing to offer her back but my mess and she still chose to roll up her sleeves, pick me up and help me out of my mess. She made a choice to love me when I was unlovable. That my friends is love, when we have nothing to offer and someone comes in sacrifices for us and scoops us up in their arms and makes a choice to love us.

Sometimes we forget to extend this same courtesy to ourselves. It is easiest for us to love others and not ourselves. My friends I want to remind you to extend that same grace and love to yourself, even when you are a mess and feel at your worst. You too need love, even from yourself. Real love is hard even for ourselves because it requires sacrifice. It may mean that we don’t get to watch a marathon of our favorite TV shows, maybe it means putting part of your paycheck into something less fun than a rainy day fund, sometimes it means telling the honest truth in grace and risking a relationship. That is where we often get caught up in a predicament, we are all about love, until it affects our bank accounts, our home, our time. I want to challenge you friend, true love requires this sacrifice. It means loving when the person isn’t deserving. It means loving when you want to quit. It means loving despite the fact that the other person can do nothing for you. It means loving the mess of a person laying in bed, who hasn’t showered, has bad breath and greasy hair. That is love.

This week I hope you think about the ways you can love others…truly love others, ways you can sacrifice and love people when it isn’t fun. It might seem hard and weird but just remember it is not a feeling you’re going off, it is a choice, it is an action. And as you begin to love others this week I have a feeling you will really begin to live and I pray you get that love and grace you are dishing out, served right back to you.
And may you ALWAYS REMEMBER…

YOU are LOVED!

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Remembering Why

 

When I was a sophomore in college I wrote a book. I never published it, in fact I never wrote it down because truth be told it was all in my head. I worked at a doctor’s office and that summer as I typed up documents, filed patient’s charts, scanned paperwork and worked silently, I “wrote” my book. I thought about everything I would tell young women and men who struggled. I knew even then that your story mattered and was worth telling. Years went by, and I put the book on the shelf, never to be published or read. Because it is tough to tell your story and it is scary but even through the pain and tears it is what we have to do.

Nearly two years ago, I started this blog to tell my story and in doing that I did one of the bravest things I’ve have ever done, I told my story to the world. I thought it stopped there. I thought if I shared my story here I wouldn’t have to keep doing it. I wouldn’t have to continue to be real and vulnerable. I wouldn’t have to continue to open myself up to others but I was wrong. Because my story is about leaving perfection and learning grace. It is about a journey through recovery. It is about saying that some days are extremely hard and tear worthy and some days are filled with sunshine. But even more it is saying that my story in no way, in no manner is about me. It is about a grace so big that it wipes away all my shame and says you are made clean. You are not your eating disorder, you are not your depression, you are not your anxiety, you are not your past mistakes and shame because you were made clean by grace. You are dearly loved and always will be.

So because I know that grace, because I know that love I share my story and I will continue to share no matter what. And my friend I hope you share your story too and know that grace is bigger. And may you always remember…

You matter and you are loved,
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Present Over Perfect

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I’ve reorganized my desk. I’ve straightened my new short hair. I’ve done laundry. I’ve hung curtains. The list goes on, and I have done all of those things to avoid writing about what is on my heart… because what I have to say I am not good at. In fact, I am pretty bad at it most days. However, that’s why I started writing here because I believe that grace is bigger and perfection kills dreams and breaks heart. I spent too many years in the down spiral of perfection. So today. as a new wife, as a new neighbor as a new employee I remind myself of the truth I know that grace is bigger and that I have to continually choose it in order to live a life of present over perfect.

In the last two weeks, I became a wife and to say my dreams came true would be an understatement. I love being a wife to my handsome husband. I love serving him. I even love being able to spend time setting up our house. Even in the midst of hard marriage talks and fights, life is filled with joy… until I listen to the voices in my head, telling my decorations aren’t good enough. my dinners are gourmet enough, and heck I am not even good enough for my sweet husband. And when I sit down and listen to these voices, I realize what soul sucking lies they are. So this week I made a decision that I would choose present over perfect. I would choose to be in the moment, good and bad because I only have this life to live. As I sat down I realized that the more I chose the present over “being perfect” the more I was able to see the grace at work in my own life.

I’ve always been the biggest people pleaser. I want everyone to be okay with my choices and okay with who I am. If I am being honest it used to kill me when someone didn’t like me. But when I live my life dictated by the standard of perfection that I and other people set for me, I am even more of a mess. I am a stress case. I control, anything and everything in my life. I miss out on life. And I am the worst version of me. And the worst part is that I believe the lie that life is a story about me.

In my heart, I truly believe in grace. A grace so scandalous that it not only saved my soul but it truly took a wretch like me and used my story to bring glory to the One who wrote it. I believe that grace saved my life and saved me from destroying myself. When I lean towards perfection I don’t recognize grace and even more I don’t exercise. I believe that I can do it all on my own and frankly I don’t need any help. I am more selfish than ever. And I end up on the kitchen floor in tears because the room doesn’t look perfect, and I am exhausted and I haven’t eaten because I’ve been too focused on my selfishness. That is what perfection does, it wrecks me but grace it saves me.

So today, tomorrow, this week, and here after…I’m deciding to live in the present. I am choosing present over perfect. This is where I get to see grace at work.  My friend, life is hard but it is a million times harder when we let perfection rule it. So how about you choose present over perfect? How about you take some time to live in the present and see grace at work? It is worth it I promise

You are loved and you are worth it!

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I Am Not a Writer

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I never meant to be a blogger. I never sat down and thought I could write something that would resonate with others. I never thought of myself as a writer. I was always the reader. I love books like some people love the sunshine, I cannot get enough. I have always had a book under my arm, not a pen in my hand. I majored in English because I love literature not writing. I crave stories and the words in them.

All that time I never thought I was a writer. In fact, for nearly all of my education years I hated writing. I hated essays. I hated papers. Ask me to read a book and I would do it in a night. Ask me to write anything and I would sit on it for as long as possible. However, the older I’ve become the more I have recognized we all have a story, a story unique from anyone else’s and if we are brave enough to tell our story than others might share theirs too. And when we share our stories we might realize we have a friend who understands us and can help share in our burdens.

Recently I have struggled with the idea of myself as a blogger. It is no secret that I love social media. I can recognize that there are definite downsides to the use of social media. However, for many reasons I will always love it. I love the inspiration that can be found, the relationships that can be built, the companionship that can be shared and the storytelling that can be told. I have benefitted from each and every one of these aspects.

I follow some of the most creative bloggers, photographers, and activists on social media and while I love seeing their posts, on my bad days I cannot help but compare. Now my friends, I have learned that the comparison is the thief of joy. So when the lies tell me that I am simply MK, I don’t have a fancy company, I am too young, I am a nobody…the truth tells me that I am MK, there is no one like me, I have a story and I am the only one who can tell my story, and I was put on earth to tell my story so that it might point to the gospel…that is my truth.

So on the days I struggle with whether I am a true blogger or even more whether I am a true writer. I tell myself that YES I am! Because to me, a writer tells a story and that is exactly what I am doing, I am telling my story. I am a writer. I never imagined I could be or I would be but I am.

Pretty soon this special piece of web space is going to get a fabulous make over by my fabulous friend and designer KM (and yes our name is totally the same flip flopped. Hers is Kate Martha!! We were meant to be besties!!) So as that change takes place, it is important for me to remind myself and my readers why I write. I write simply to tell my story, in hopes that it may help one person realize that they are not alone and that freedom is REAL and it is the BEST! When we tell our story we allow the gospel to become real to people and that is my hope for this blog, that you would see the grace of the gospel in the midst of my mess. Whether you are a blogger or a writer, you are a storyteller because only you can tell your story, so tell it.

So if you are reading for the first time or for the millionth time…Welcome Friend! I know that you have a story to tell and one day I hope I get to hear it. And may you always remember…

You are loved and you are worth it,

MK