Thursday, August 29, 2013

That's Totally Weak

Friends, family, and strangers, I must be honest with you.  The past two weeks have been a struggle.  I have been fighting my battle daily with self-esteem, attacks on body image, overall self-loathing, and fear.  And I realized I must face something: I have always had low self-image, it has always been easy for me to hate myself, and I've had irrational fears since my little blonde head was only knee-high.  So, of course, with this blog, I thought: how can I talk to these people and encourage them in their battles when I am faltering in my own?  But "to give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift," right? (Prefontaine quote because I am a running nerd!)  So here I am, still licking my wounds, typing away so that the gift of forthcoming freedom is ours to be had.

Weakness actually works in our favor.  Weakness takes us off of our pedestals.  Weakness creates empathy.  Weakness makes us stop and realize there are some things we can't do alone.  If you haven't realized that yet, perhaps it's time ...
If you've read any of my posts, you know the Reason for the hope I have in all things.  There are just some things you can't fake and you can't take away.  For example, I am a mother; you can't fake certain things when you are a mother.  You can't fake your love because a storehouse from heaven, full of love, fell upon you the second you learned that you were harboring an eternal soul.  You give out this love freely, without thinking, without second-guessing.  You tell others of this love, both directly and indirectly, every day.  The same happens when you have experienced God's grace, deliverance, and love.  I can't help but talk about it... :)

Let's look at the darkness for a minute, to see how the light chases it away (metaphorically, unless you want to turn your lights on and off - that's cool, too).

When I lived by myself in an apartment by Gundersen-Lutheran in La Crosse, I was very lonely.  I had my son Julien with me, and I enjoyed every second I had with him, but I lacked any healthy adult relationship.  I had such a set routine it was ridiculous: run in the morning, take Julien to daycare, go to class, go to work, go back to class, go back to work, get Julien home, get him to bed, do a 2nd workout, eat the tiniest bit possible, go to bed, repeat.  Sometimes when Julien visited his dad, the loneliness was so overwhelming that I found myself crying in his room.  When I left his room, I would fidget for awhile - people who close themselves in don't know how to appropriately contact others to hang out.  I felt like I'd be a burden.  Because of this, sometimes I would eat a lot of food that I would NEVER let myself eat normally, and then panic out of guilt, and make myself throw up.  (Don't read on if you have a woozy stomach.)  I would watch the toilet fill up with everything I just ate; I knew every bit of content and in what order I ate it.  I would puzzle at how my stomach had mixed it up so quickly.  Gag, gag, gag, splash.  I would feel a certain satisfaction when I felt my stomach emptying, my esophagus burning, my hand full of chunks of food, my body crying for water.  Again, again, again, until nothing was coming up but saliva, and abdominal muscles burned from the effort.

I was mutilating myself for having a weak moment and eating too much food.  I was mutilating myself for never being good enough at what I did.  I was mutilating myself out of self-created loneliness.  I was trying to find some satisfaction in taking control because I was WEAK.  I didn't want to be WEAK, I wanted to be STRONG.

Almost every single time I made myself throw up, from the time I was 14 to the time I was 23, I would look myself in the mirror when I was done.  I would get really, really close to the mirror and look at my own eyes.  I would stare and say to that stranger-girl: "This is not who you are.  You are better than this.   This isn't you.  You don't have to do this again."  And then I'd cry because I was ashamed.  No matter what I did, I was ashamed.

The year I lived at that aforementioned apartment in 2007-8, I had a recurring vision of myself.  At this point, I was so weak in my battle against eating disorders.  I wanted deliverance.  I wanted freedom.  I wanted to eat dinner with my son without counting calories and comparing if he or I ate more.  I wanted to not care what my body looked like.  And I kept getting this vision of myself in holy anger and terror, throwing a scale out of my bedroom window and watching it smash into smithereens. Then I would take a sledgehammer and smash my full-length mirror over and over and over.  At the end of these efforts, I would fall to my knees and cry out to God with tears pouring down my face.  That ended the vision.

Just a few months ago, I was at Bible study.  My friend Dannielle had something for us all to do.  She had been taught an activity before, and she was going to lead it.  We each had to close our eyes and let the Holy Spirit just talk to us as she told us questions to ask Him.  I know this may sound pretty "out there" to those of you who aren't Christians, don't pray, etc., but trust me - it was beautiful.  OK - so she had us ask questions to the Lord.  One of the last questions was, "What is your favorite moment with me?"  So, in my head and heart, I asked the Holy Spirit, "What is your favorite moment with me?"  And that vision came back to me - the one where I was smashing scales and mirrors!  It fell upon me like a ton of bricks and I started bawling in front of this group as I retold the whole story.  Other people were reminded of times when they were kids, or a brief moment in the past that seemed happy, but I was given that painful, weak time!  I just kept asking, "Why is that Your favorite, God?"  But I knew the was then that I truly surrendered my whole life, recognizing that without Him, I wasn't strong enough to overcome eating disorders or any other area of weakness.

When we give up our weaknesses to God, we are provided with strength that far surpasses our own.  And sometimes that weakness stays because it is then that we turn our eyes to the One who is greatest.  I realized this before even reading the following verses, but I think it's so cool that the Bible affirms this:
"Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it [a spiritual tormenter] away from me.  But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong."  -2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Perhaps this makes sense to you, perhaps it doesn't.  But we can't give up on the things that torment us. We can't put power in the wrong hands.  We can't do it all on our own.  Heck, I've seen so many people vent personal, private information in their facebook statuses!  We're all crying out for help in some way!

Whatever your weakness, whatever your struggle, whatever your battle, don't ever believe that it is too much for you to overcome.  Say a prayer, I dare you.  Know that there is overwhelming love and grace - I can feel it for you as I type, like a gift waiting to be unwrapped.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Distorted Reality

The first counseling session of my treatment involved a few pieces of yarn.  I looked at the counselor like she was a twit.  I hated her because I hated being there.  I hated my mother for forcing me to this stupid place to take stupid counseling because it was stupid, stupid, STUPID to take away from me what was mine, my control (sorry, Mom - I don't feel this way anymore, just reliving the moment).  I picked up the string and looked at the counselor.  
"Now, I want you to take the string and make it the size that you think your waist is ... put it in a circle on the ground and adjust it until you think you've made it your size." 
"Great," I thought, "she's making me think more about how big I look.  I don't want to see that!"
I put the string on the ground in a circle that I thought represented my waist.  
"Next," directed the counselor, "put down a piece of string that represents a desirable waist size."
I did as I was told.
"Ok, good!" she said, too cheerily.  "Now, actually put another piece of string around your waist and cut it when the ends meet.  This will be your true measure of your waist.  Put that on the ground next to your first two strings."
I was so completely, irrationally nervous about this.  What if I thought I was much, much smaller than I was?  I would have to face the fact that I was, in reality, bigger than I thought!  
I put the third string down on the ground, in an oval representing my true waist size.  To my astonishment, that third measurement was smaller!  In reality, I was MUCH smaller than I thought I was.  We're talking almost six inches!  What?!  And even more strange, I was also a couple of inches smaller than what I considered to be an ideal waist.  Something was wrong here ... was this a trick exercise?

My counselor told me that this is what eating disorders do to people - and not just eating disorders, but unhealthy thinking about the self - it takes away our ability to see ourselves for what we really look like.  You want to talk about scary... THAT is scary!  I could look at myself and essentially see a different physical person.  It's called distorted body image, or body-image distortion.

Body-image distortion is different than body dissatisfaction.  Body dissatisfaction is just that - someone who is dissatisfied or unhappy with their body's appearance.  Body-image distortion is when you see your body falsely; you don't see it for how it actually appears, either all parts of your body or particular parts of your body.  According to Janet Leichty, a professor of social work and medicine at University of Illinois, 50-80% of women have body dissatisfaction.  SAD!  Based on my experience and conversations with many people over quite a few years, I bet it's more toward that 80%.  Even more shocking to me is that more than half of those women who are dissatisfied with their bodies are experiencing body-image distortion.  What is happening?!  Why can't we see ourselves?!

Last night, a friend said to me, "Cherie, it's difficult to know where you're coming from because the things you've experienced are so far from reality.  It's hard to see why you've thought these things about yourself, and why you have to continually fight off these thoughts, because it's so far from the truth."

While I appreciate and love comments like that now, because they affirm my victory over eating disorders and help to keep me in check, I used to loathe those conversations.  I would think, "You just have no idea.  It's not important to you.  You could never know what it's like to hate yourself the way that I do, to be dissatisfied with yourself the way that I am, to want to change everything..."  

I used to look in the mirror and see a different person than who another person might see.  The girl I saw had a rounder face, a chubby stomach, bigger thighs, round-shaped shoulders and untoned arms.   The girl someone else saw had bony elbows, sunken eyes, sharp cheekbones, ribs sticking out, veins.   Sometimes, I still see lots of negative, untrue things when I look in the mirror.  But I'm learning to shake my head and walk away.  If I don't like what I see, I walk away and consider who I am and Who made me.  I go hug my husband or my son.  I pray.  I tell myself that I am a role model for a classroom full of 7th graders, and an avid encourager to a team full of young cross country runners.  I ignore the reality that is distorted and focus on the reality of TRUTH.

But I've learned that now ... it took me 11 years to learn that.  Some of you, or your daughters, or your friends, or your family members aren't there yet.  They still see something that is a lie, believe the lie, live in the lie, and carry out drastic actions to fight what the lie has told them (that is, they try to lose weight, or they yell at themselves in their heads, they feel sad, they cry themselves to sleep).  What do you do if this is you?  What do you do if your family member or friend is going through this?  I have many suggestions and some insight... I'll name a few today.

1) If you are a parent, or ever want to be a parent, listen up!  What we say about ourselves and about our children MATTERS. Duh. It's earth-shattering importance here.  Moms, if we put yourselves down, our daughters will learn to put themselves down. Pinch the fat on our stomachs, so will our daughters.  Dads, tell your wife she's gained weight, needs to work out, etc., your daughter will think she is ugly to you, too.  If you look at media images with desire, your daughter will think that she needs to look like that in order for a man to love her.  Likewise, our sons will learn to love whatever images of "beauty"we deem as worthy of attention. Moms, if the most important part of ourselves is how we look on the outside, our sons will learn to value women mostly for how they look.  Dads, if you're looking lustfully at images and/or women who are not your wife, your sons will look to physical satisfaction as total satisfaction to fulfill his desires.  
Let me give you a real-life example of how this works.  My maternal grandfather used to limit my grandmother's serving sizes at the dinner table.  He wasn't subtle about it - my mom and my aunt knew he was telling her how much she could eat because he cared about her "getting fat."  My mom and my aunt have both told me about times when my grandmother would come dancing down the staircase in a beautiful outfit, happy with how she looked, and my grandfather would tell her to go back upstairs and change because she looked "fat" in what she was wearing.  
And what do you think my beautiful mom and beautiful aunt thought about their own images?  They thought that "fat" was bad, and started scrutinizing their own bodies.  The messages my grandfather sent to my mom and aunt have lasted them their whole lives.  And my grandmother, aunt, and mom are all extremely gorgeous Norwegian women - women that men get googly-eyed for, and yet they have all  doubted their own beauty at one time or another, or more.  :(

MOMS AND DADS, WE NEED A WAKE-UP CALL!  Our responsibility to prevent our daughters (or sons!) from experiencing body dissatisfaction is two-fold: love yourself/spouse for WHO you/they are, and love your daughter for who she is.  Both loving is to be done outside of any regard for the body's image.
On, I read this: 

Krcmar, Giles, and Helme (2008) noted that parental comments about children’s physical appearance convey body image norms that could lead to negative associations with body shape. It has been suggested that parental influence is a primary influence on body dissatisfaction.For example, Levine, Smolak, Moodey, Shuman, and Hessen (1994) observed that parents who place an importance on dieting and other weight control behaviors can have a negative impact on body satisfaction. If parental attitudes toward body shape and weight resonate with those of the media, they may also be linked to internalization of the thin ideal. [emphasis mine]

How do we want our daughters to think of themselves?  How do we want our sons to choose their future spouse?  Then we must examine what messages we're sending either implicitly or explicitly about what's beautiful.  And for God's sake, we should limit their media exposure!  Please...

2) Lies about ideal image and beauty are portrayed vastly in the media.  Did you know that only about 5% of women can actually achieve what media is portraying as the "ideal" body type?  5% !!!  But how much do we and our children view media images?   Ohhh, only about nearly every hour of our waking day.  If you combine all various media (computer, phone, tv, ads, etc.), it's found that the average child or teenager is getting 6-7 hours PER DAY of media exposure.  That's just gross in and of itself (we ought to turn off the TV/computer, if for no other reason than to be creative and active!).
And guess what?  Multiple studies have found that the biggest pressure exerted on them to be thin is from the media.  Soooo, more hours per day exposed to media, the more likely you or your kid is to be dissatisfied with what the Lord gave them.  And if you read my other blog posts, and those to come, you know just what kind of agony a person endures because of distorted body image, self-loathing, etc.

"..Exposure to unrealistic and often unhealthy body images can influence young people’s perceptions of their own body shape and size as well as their own sense of body satisfaction. The effect of the media may also extend to the development of specific, and possibly harmful, weight losing behaviors." (Pediatric Child Health 2003)

If we're honest with ourselves, we know that whatever consumes our thoughts controls our lives.  With so many media messages being sent to us and our children, how can we not see that whatever is in the media can at least partially control our lives?  As long as ads can communicate to us that there is "something" we are missing (mind you, that something is a thing they're trying to sell us!), we are slaves to a system in which we buy and/or attain our own satisfaction through things and through status.  
If we can limit our own and our children's access to media influences, we can limit our family's vulnerability to our culture's LIES about beauty and worth.  If you are alone in this, the first step to healing is cutting off lies from the enemy.  Fight the images and fight the voices.  Say a prayer, go for a walk, take a hike.  Seriously.  If you're a parent, turn off the TV, computer, phone, and talk to your child.  Just talk.  Just listen.  Let's promise ourselves that we and our sons and daughters will see attractive souls as more worthy than "attractive" bodies.  Lies should not win.

3. If you are struggling with this, pray about it and talk about it.  Pray and offer it up and let go of that life-threatening control.  If you seek someone to talk with, find someone who has been through this.  That is going to be the most difficult part about it - few people will understand on the same level.  They won't know why your mind and heart are obsessing over certain things; they won't understand that you can't see what they see; they may even lose patience.  That's why most people go to counselors, and one must hope that the counselor has been through what you're enduring.  If you feel comfortable, e-mail me, call me, whatever.  I know what it's like... I know.  I know what you're going through, and I will pray for God's strength to help me show you the truth about who you are and what you're worth.  Until you are open and honest with yourself about what's really going on behind your thinking, you can't fully heal.  You can only begin the healing process, but you can't finish it.  Be honest.  Be real.  Be raw.  Be redeemed.  

Girls, women, we are in this together.  We need reality to stop being distorted.  It starts now.  It starts with us.  Let's fight for what's ours - the revelation of true beauty.  

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Why Question

I was listening to a song on a Christian station, and the singer said something about how God gave him life even though he didn't deserve it. I said to my husband, "I remember feeling the opposite. I wonder how many people have felt like, 'If I had never existed, then this pain would not exist, and maybe that would have been better.'"
The very next song was "This is Your Life" by Switchfoot. I took that as an affirmation from the Lord about the subject of my writing today. Pain of any kind is real. Sometimes we can't help but wonder, "What if none of this had happened? What if I had never occurred?" Let's talk about that for a minute. You're worth the car sickness I am enduring to write this while God put it on my heart. He often doesn't care about our physical comfort as much as He cares about the position of our souls. ;)

I have had the absolutely stunning privilege to have open conversations with inspiring and beautiful women who have read this blog. The common thread through all of their experiences is pain. A few women told me their stories with tears in their eyes, reliving the anguish of a nightmare-come-true, of feeling insufficient, of sky-screaming, time-transcendent pain. I listened to them thinking of how glad I was that they are alive, a breathing soul inside a body, an influence of tremendous value in the world. I feel that way about all of you, and God is so infinitely greater, and I can only imagine His smile at you - His creation, His beauty manifested in your body and soul. Can you feel that? Try.

I remember times of kneeling by my bed, sitting in a car, writing in my diary, while asking God directly or indirectly why He even made me. Why did I have to exist? Why this trial? Why this pain? What is the purpose of all of this? Sometimes, in the midst of pain, we can't see past its casted shadows. All we know is that it hurts, and we don't know when it will just...please...STOP.

If this has happened to you, or if this is you currently, consider this your digital and spiritual hug from me. You aren't alone, and none of your circumstances are hopeless.  Whether you are hurting because you don't like what you see in the mirror, or because something happened that is out of your control, or you grew up without love and acceptance, or ANYthing ... You are here for a divine purpose. All of it will make sense in time. I'm not guaranteeing that any of it will make sense on this side of heaven, but someday when you ask why, the answer will unfold before you like butterfly wings, on which you will fly away into a breathing, living, sunset horizon.

There are always two ways to cope with pain: stuff it down like a quilt into a ziplock baggie, or face it head-on like a bird going against a freight train. Neither way is blissfully easy; in fact, both ways are more than we can handle on our own. So, there is a third way: lay it all at the feet of God in full-out, crazy-love surrender. Offer it up and admit: I CAN'T DO THIS ON MY OWN! Confess to Him that you are only human, and that He is God, and ask Him to heal your dripping wounds. Every time, in His way and in His perfect timing, He will pick you up and point you down the path toward healing. This doesn't mean it won't be painless; it will still hurt. But along the way glimmers of hope will dazzle like precious gems along the roadside. Your eyes will open and see in new ways. The Lord will even send friends with congruent pain to hold your hand as you walk.

I am not saying this from only my experiences, though of course those matter. I have known and met and listened to people tell stories of God's redeeming Love in their lives. He knows each of us intimately, whether we recognize it or not. He has an invitation that's been sitting in the mailbox of your heart since the moment you were conceived. Some of you have said yes and have experienced all of the hope I've been describing. Others have said yes, but have understandably struggled with full surrender (losing control is frightening!!! But so worth it, I promise!). Still some of you haven't RSVP'd to the invitation. If you say yes, and learn to worship Him while you're still in the depths of a valley, you will experience His fullness and will also get to experience why so many hit their knees on the mountaintops of life in awestruck, wonder-filled worship. You too will have your mountains blessed by God. You will stand with Him and "taste and see that the Lord is good."

Be bold and strong today. Say a prayer. Go outside and take a deep breath. You are a wondrous creation, and you will be delivered and victorious over all of your pain with God on your side. He promises.

"I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."
A promise from Jesus from Matthew 17.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Bombs and Blood

Yesterday was a frightening first step to opening up an avenue for people to read and talk about real issues that concern body image and self-worth.  I have to be honest with you -- I kept everything very mild in order to protect readers and myself from the real pain associated with eating disorders and distorted body image.  I left out details and even my real "voice" in writing, so that I could communicate something painful in a tolerable way.  It's time to get down and dirty with you for a brief time today.
You or someone you know may be experiencing this, and I don't want you to think for one second that what you or they are going through is so simple.  This is for the ones who don't speak about it yet, cannot articulate their own pain, cannot see through the fog and scream, "Help!"

It starts small.  It's only a voice.  It tells you for the first time how unworthy you are of anything.  You know how some kids have an imaginary friend?  I had an imaginary enemy.  I'm not kidding.  I had an enemy unseen by everyone else, and she continually told me my faults, everything I was doing wrong in my day.  I don't even know why I listened to that pipsqueak - she could fit in the palm of my hand and looked sort of like Strawberry Shortcake, with short bristly hair and big vindictive eyes and a round little child face.  I could have squashed her!  I could have put her in the dog dish of my parents' malamute - wolf dog named Tecumseh and watch her get gobbled up in half a second, and then imagined up a nice girl who could be my bosom friend (an old term, but one I like.  Look it up to avoid confusion ;) ).  But I didn't do those things.  I lent my ear to her, and I let her direct me because by age four, I'd already begun to think that what I had to contribute to my own well-being was not good enough.

And so it starts.  Everyone has their own story, their own first feelings of self-doubt.  We've all experienced it.  While some people get diagnosed as "depressed" and get a prescription to help with those symptoms, others simply wallow in the wicked voices in their heads and starve themselves to try to attain total satisfaction.  The symptoms are the same, beloved, but the treatment looks different.  It all comes down to a soul condition.

What do you imagine a soul looks like while it's being attacked?  I am currently reading Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, a true story about a man from World War II who survived some of the greatest trials one could ever fathom.  There is a scene from this book where a small island of American soldiers is being attacked by the Japanese.  It was an air strike, and everyone on that island was subject to the weapons of the enemy.  An excerpt:
Outside, it was hell on earth.  Men moaned and screamed, one calling for his mother.  A pilot thought the voices sounded like "animals crying." Men's eardrums burst.  A man died of a heart attack.  Another man's arm was severed.  Others sobbed, prayed, and lost control of their bowels ... As [Louie] had run through the coconut grove, he had moved only on instinct and roaring adrenaline, feeling no emotion.  Now, as explosions went off around him, fear seized him. (Hillenbrand 108)

The similarity between that and how I've felt in the past is uncanny.  Each individual "man" from this passage represents a piece of me, being attacked by a force I cannot control.  In dizzy confusion, I felt like I was running and ducking and diving to the ground constantly.  My hands were bloody, my face in desperation, my soul-legs sore from all the running away!  I was at risk of dying inside, and I didn't even know if I was worth saving.  But I would try to save myself, nonetheless.  My soul would crouch in shame, hiding even from myself.  The haze settled over me, and very few things had the power to clear that haze, even for a minute.  On the inside, I was crouching and waiting for the next attack, shaken and bloody and bruised and forlorn.  Since I could never see the enemy approaching my spirit, I was in constant fear.  I felt incredibly alone because no one wanted to understand, they either wanted to fix me or ignore me.  The source of my pain was usually of no interest to anyone.  I was simply vain, simply dramatic, simply...fixable.

Instead of bombs being dropped, there are words.  Words that kill or injure a part of who I am.  Sometimes these words come from other people - anything about my physical appearance, whether it was good or bad.  Other times they come from our unseen enemy, an attack on the mind and spirit.  Often, when dealing with body image, it's as simple as driving by a billboard, turning on the TV, a magazine cover, a store at the mall ... anytime I looked at an image displayed by the media and felt inadequate, there was a bomb falling.  Every time I lost a friend or gained an enemy because I wouldn't eat, it only fueled my desire to hide.  I had nicknames in high school - things like "Annie the Anorexic."  I would have people harass me at lunch and ask me where my salad was.  I would go into the bathroom and cry until the bell rang.  (Just so you know, I have long since forgiven these people as I've unraveled the complexities of eating disorders and realized from the outside-looking-in, there's almost no way to understand.)

In college, I did gain friends, but I kept many of them at a convenient distance.  By that time, I was a single mom with eating disorders.  I hated food, I loved food, I hated exercise, I loved exercise.  I worked three jobs, was a full-time student, and I was creating my own loneliness.  I thought no one could love me like that.  I didn't want anyone to find out how messed up I was.  I kept to myself more than a free, undamaged Cherie-spirit would have in her natural, God-given form.

For a time, a piece of me was covered in black, lonely darkness.  All of my shortcomings in life might take time, but my body was to be something I could control.  If I couldn't, then what good am I?  Soon it became the only thing I could control, and I did it well.  On many given days, I could give you my correct weight within a couple of ounces.  I knew my body that well.  But I had forsaken my soul.  And that's the most devastating part of it all.  I didn't even know that I had done that - but satan is crafty in his ways, and will give you all sorts of temporary satisfaction in order to distract you from the eternal part of yourself.

PLEASE LISTEN:  This is NOT about me.  There are many girls and women out there suffering this way and worse at the hands of the enemy.  They don't know they're beautiful.  If that's you, or if that is someone you know, THIS IS IMPORTANT!!!  So PAY ATTENTION!  Tell that girl (even if it's you), every single time you see her, that she is lovely, worthwhile, wonderful, interesting, and she is ETERNAL.  Don't mention her weight, the look of her body, AT ALL.  I had many people nag at me that I was "too skinny" and when I would gain a few healthy pounds, that I look "better" (to me, that meant I'd start starving again).  Don't tell her anything about her body.  Spend time with her, love on her, remind her of WHO she is, NOT what she looks like.  No matter what you tell her, she won't see reality in the mirror until she is delivered from her sickness.  That part is not up to you - your job is to tell her how valuable she is, too skinny or not.  And maybe someone is dealing with these feelings, even if they're not "too skinny" - the way that you talk to them is the same.  The way you talk to yourself is the same.

What is true beauty anyway, if it's not from within?  It is temporal.  It. Will. Go. Away!  Proverbs 31:30 says this, "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised."  When you call upon the name of the Lord, you will begin to know yourself and your true beauty in ways you never thought possible.  And many people will notice your soul-transformation.  You will then realize your eternal worth; if the maker of the universe loves you and calls you beautiful, then my, my...what else is there?

Finally, ladies (and gentlemen), there is armor against this.  I urge you to look up Ephesians 6:10-18 in the New Testament, either in your Bible or search it online.  The Armor of God will equip you with everything you need during your personal trials, be they body image or not.  You have armor and weapons, and the help of the heavenly Father.  You aren't alone, and you aren't defenseless.  You even get a SWORD (my personal favorite, as I spent much of my life feeling weaponless against all of this) !!!

And remember, you don't have to thirst and long for anything.  Drink from those eternal waters.  After all, you are an eternal soul more than you are anything.

I am praying for all who read this post.  May your day and your life be filled with TRUTH about who you are because of Who created you.

Love and hugs,

Again, feel free to comment below or e-mail me with personal stories, suggestions, etc.  This is for US.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Never Thirst

Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
       John 4:13-15

I was about four or five years old the first time I looked at myself and thought the word "fat" as a proper adjective.  At that time, it didn't bother me enough to affect my life.  But the seed was planted, a seed that grew with me, growing into an uncontrollable weed that was continually watered by the world's images and messages about beauty.  

By the time I reached 7th grade, my distorted body image had deep roots.  Afraid to move up from a size 1 jean size during the summer before my 8th grade year, I resorted to eating mostly Jell-O during the daytime - it was advertised as "fat free" - which to me meant it wouldn't make me fat (my education about empty calories would come during recovery - for now, I was a victim to society's view of "health").  Everything I did revolved around perfection, and if I couldn't keep my weight down, it meant I was lacking in other areas, as well.  Nope, straight A's at school didn't matter.  Neither did the fact that I had a Savior and Lord who loved me.  I wasn't deserving of any praise or love, even from Jesus, if I faltered in even one area.  

Pictures of me in a bathing suit from my 13th birthday party made me cry and feel sick to my stomach.  I was a size 1, but an unfamiliar voice, who I now know is satan, told me that I was a "fat" size 1.  My stomach was horrible to look at, and I eventually ripped up that photo out of shame.

Despite my efforts, during 8th grade, I moved up to a size 3.  I cried while walking through the mall, realizing I was breaking a vow I'd made to a friend that we would both remain size 1 and share clothes.  I had failed, and not even the loving words of my mom could save me from the depths of that particular despair.  I was ugly, fat, worthless.  I didn't want anyone to look at me.  I didn't want to look at myself.  Suddenly, every soft spot on my body was now very obvious in the mirror.  I soon started grabbing and pulling on the "fat" on my stomach as a habit, almost any time I had to go to the bathroom.  I would imagine tearing off the fat and putting it in a shoebox (thanks to the lovely image I had read in a teen magazine - that about five or ten pounds of fat could fit in a shoe box).  I would wish so bad that it was that easy.

I spent the summer before ninth grade trying to maintain a healthy image and lifestyle.  I would eat, but I would write it all down - count every calorie, even in gum, and make sure to exercise much of it away on my stepmother's treadmill.  I was going to Mexico that summer, and I NEEDED to look good in a bathing suit.  I made sure to take every measure I knew, but was still overwhelmingly dissatisfied by how I looked in pictures.  I had remained a size 3 ... but it didn't matter.  I was a "gross" size 3.  Note: anyone with sanity knows that all of this is absurd.  I will soon tell you more about the enemy's ways, how satan will try to steal your attention in any way possible, in order to attempt to diminish God's eternal kingdom of beauty and glory.

By ninth grade, I was told by a teammate that throwing up provided a way to eat and then not feel guilty about it later.  Binging and purging was introduced to my life.  I started trying it.  I would come home from sports practices VERY hungry.  I would eat, and then sneak away to my room in the basement.  I would turn on the shower, and stick my fingers down my throat to puke before hopping in.  At first it was difficult to make myself throw up.  But by the end of ninth grade, I was a professional at it.  No one knew.  I didn't lose weight, but I didn't gain any.  Again, my successes as a student, in my jobs, as an athlete all depended on my success in all my endeavors.  That is, if I had faltered in any aspect of my life, including my body, I considered myself to be a failure in all areas.  If one spinning plate fell, they would all fall.  I was a vulnerable, almost-broken mess of girl.  And satan knew it because he had done it.

Tenth grade was the year that satan got his claws deep into me.  The weed had grown so big that it was overtaking my true spirit.  By now, the world had watered me with MILLIONS of messages and images.  Despite what I knew about my loving God, my shame was so enormous, and the voices in my head were so loud, that I couldn't hear His voice anymore.  By January of my tenth grade year, I was in full starvation.  I had finally developed the "will" to not eat.  This meant I didn't have to purge, but it also meant faking my way through meals.  My mom noticed right away and tried in desperation to keep me from the lifestyle she saw springing up before her.  But it was too late - the enemy had my ears and my mind.  Every jean size lost was another victory.  Every shirt that was suddenly too big was deep satisfaction.  I kept good grades in school, I was a valuable employee, I went to youth group at church, I was very involved with sports, and my body was somewhat satisfactory...

I had a fog over me for many years, even beyond high school.  It was full of pain and shame, sorrow and feelings of inadequacy.  I didn't feel good about myself in any way.  I felt lost.  Sometimes I felt suicidal.  I didn't want people looking at me.  I wanted to hide.  But I felt like if I just kept trying... I might be satisfied.  Maybe if I looked like those models, I would be desirable on the outside, and then what's inside might matter...

But you know what the enemy does?  He takes it all from you.  He keeps telling you you're NOT GOOD ENOUGH.  You aren't LOVABLE.  You aren't ATTRACTIVE.  You don't look like those MODELS IN MAGAZINES.  You are a DISGRACE.  You don't DESERVE anything.  Does this sound familiar?  You feel that you might as well keep trying ... keep trying ... keep trying ... and soon you're drowning, and that weed that started as a seed is strangling you, keeping you from reaching the surface of the lies.  And you have NO CHOICE but to believe those lies...unless...UNLESS...unless there's True Love.

It obviously didn't take me long in life to figure out that when I look to the world to satisfy me, I will never be satisfied.  In fact, not only will I be dissatisfied, but I will be utterly disgusted with myself.  When we look for approval from the outside, there will almost always be at least one person (or one force) opposing us.  You see, because the battle is of the spiritual kind, we will always have a void of emptiness within the deepest part of who we are ... unless ... True Love rescues us with Truth.

You who are reading this... yes, YOU ... did you know that True Love exists?  His name is Jesus.  He is Truth, and He is Life.  He provides THE WAY for us to escape the lies of satan.  He untangles us from the suffocation and sets us on shore and shows us true beauty.  And He can do this because He shed his blood so that you will NEVER have to live in the shame and lies of the enemy.  He died for you while you were still an enemy of His; before you knew Him, He sacrificed Himself for you.  You were bought at a price -- and that price was so high that it bought your FREEDOM from the lies of satan and of the world.  Therefore, He has the right to take you from your own devastation.  If you will let Him...


I know this because He told me.  He told me over and over again.  I finally looked for Him, begged Him to help me.  He dusted me off, dressed my spiritual wounds, spoke truth.  Countless times.  Relentlessly.  The Lord is near to those who call on His name.  I would NOT BE HERE without Him.  If I had not surrendered my life to Him, I wouldn't hear my son's voice in the other room, and he wouldn't have a mommy.  I wouldn't feel the breeze on my face as I run.  I wouldn't be married to the man God prepared for me, a man that tells me every day, "You are beautiful."  I wouldn't be able to touch and impact a classroom full of 7th grade kids, all searching for truth and belonging.  And because of the Lord, I can work for His wonderful purposes until I am called into His Kingdom.

I have only just begun my testimony (above) about my battle with eating disorders and distorted body image.  I will certainly post again about those experiences, and how God called back to Himself what is His (me!).

I am writing this and starting this blog because there isn't enough of an outlet for women and girls to share their pains and victories over distorted body image.  The media is trying to STEAL God's truth about beauty.  In fact, it's so out of control, that usually the only means to attain worldly "beauty" is to be completely unhealthy, ruining the temple of the Spirit, which is your body.  

Please, add to this blog your stories and thoughts, your joys and pains, sorrows and victories.  I will support you and love you, just as the Lord does already.  Other people will be encouraged to know that there IS a VOICE out there.  We should all feel comfortable to talk about this - even to vent!  You can leave comments OR ...
If you feel so moved to share more, please e-mail me your testimony, frustrations, stories, victories, thoughts, ANYTHING at  I will post them on this blog (let me know if you'd like to remain anonymous on the blog).

Eventually, if enough interest, I want to make this an open community blog.  

Don't let anything take away from you the fact that you are a gorgeous creation.  When you drink from the water that is the spring of life, you will never thirst.  Your spirit will be quenched, and your mind and body will be satisfied, as well.  

Like the Samaritan woman at the well, I say, "Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
Lord, let me never thirst.  I trust in You.