Stepping Into the Light

My Friends,

I have been completely overwhelmed (in a good way) by the outpouring of concern and support from my last post. Thank you for caring so deeply and reaching out to ensure things are okay.

First of all, I am okay.
Yes, I was very sick.
Yes, it was a tough time.
I will be recovering for the next 3-6 months (according to the Endodontist) Every day brings improvement.

I think people were most surprised that I had not posted updates on social media about what was happening. That’s not how I do things that are as personal as this was.IMG_7549 I was in frequent contact with family and close friends who I knew would pray on my behalf.

I have received emails and comments from readers asking why I wouldn’t send a social media request for prayer and to let people know what was going on. The best way for me to answer this question and ones like it, is this…

It would have raised more questions had I posted in the middle of all that was going on, which is why I waited until I was feeling better and knew things were improving.
I’ve chosen to say, “No” to unnecessary drama. I love my online community. I appreciate everyone who reads my writings, but I will not participate in the kind of posts that alarm everyone for the sake of attention. That said, I feel like that is exactly how my last post was received by many.

Please hear me, I would not have posted anything about this most recent illness if I didn’t feel compelled to do so in order to help someone experiencing a similar struggle. Everything in me, that makes me human, was fighting the willingness to put my vulnerability and weakness on display.

Tulips from HarperGod is working in and around me in ways I have never experienced and while it’s incredibly exciting, it’s difficult to explain and often defies all logic, which is why I resist posting anything relating to my current spiritual state. Honestly, not everyone can process things of this nature and so for some of us, we keep quiet as to avoid appearing crazy. 

I let a little of my most recent “crazy” show through by documenting it for anyone to read. There was a time when I would have found it intimidating and terrifying to speak of the things that I believe and yet do not fully understand. I would have held back and resisted at all cost to avoid losing readers or being viewed as “strange.”

However, I have discovered that by stifling what is ready to be told, I am doing a grave injustice to my spiritual development. By silencing the obvious voice inside begging me to stop giving in to fear, I am removing all hope of going beyond a surface level relationship with Christ and moving into a deeply personal relationship with my Savior.

When I consciously remove the filter of skepticism, I am able to engage and be of the most use to others. And I have never been more sure that the purpose of my life and time here on earth is to be of the utmost use to others by directing them to Christ.

For me, that means admitting defeat. Exposing loneliness. Verbalizing doubt. It means claiming and living sold out to Jesus while recognizing my own humanity and shortcomings and being okay allowing others to see them as well.

I believe that the only way to walk into the light is to come through the dark. If I am always in light, I begin to see it as the norm and not as the blessing that it is. I stop sharing it with others, because I assume they already have it. There is no introspection or assessment and before long I am comfortable and complacent.

For me, for the life I have chosen to live, complacency is spiritual suicide.

My Darling Readers, I appreciate each and every one of you. I am so grateful that you would come here and spend a few moments of your life with me. I made a commitment from the very beginning to avoid any “small talk” and speak directly from my heart, no matter how raw. I will continue to. When you have questions or concerns, I welcome your comments and emails.

For those of you who I have not responded to personally about my last post, I hope this message will suffice. I never could have predicted the response from that particular piece. I’m grateful, if for no other reason, that it started a conversation.

I look ahead with great expectancy, believing that 2015 is a year for positive change and growth in ways we’ve not seen in recent times. I look forward to continuing this journey with you.

All Blessings,
Signature

You were made to Shine

As I sat in my car this morning listening to Natalie Grant’s song, “Burn Bright” my eyes started stinging as the tears came. I’m not sad. I love Wednesdays!

I’ve had this song playing in the background many times, but for some reason this time, the words grabbed my attention enough to keep me sitting in my car in the driveway. Images of my beautiful friends who have walked through the darkness and come out on the other side, came flooding to mind.

People like Emily Wierenga who survived a vicious eating disorder that almost took her life. She now spends her life telling others her story through art, words and actions in hopes of shining light in the darkness.

Jennifer Riley who is by far the most creative person I know. She spends everyday creating beauty for other people. She doesn’t even know how incredible she really is.

Mollymorgan who chose life and has been recovering from anorexia for 3 years. Does she have any idea how proud I am of her?

Julie Taylor who has overcome a drug addiction thought only to be defeated in death.

This post is for you.
It’s for those still in the dark.
For the children who don’t have a choice.
It’s for the ones who are at the jumping off place. Numb and afraid that you will never feel anything again.
This is for all of you who want to scream, but don’t have a voice.

I want you to know that whether your monster is addiction, an eating disorder, discrimination because of your sexual preference or the color of your skin, depression, anxiety, abuse…
I love you
. Your Creator, God, loves you. He knows your name.
And you were made to shine.
Baby Burn Brighthurricane_deluxe_edition_Press play to listen to “Burn Bright”

Feel free to download a pdf version of the picture and quote in this post.
Baby Burn Bright pdf

If you or someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder, please, please, get help. It is serious and it wants to take your life. You can start by visiting the National Eating Disorders Association.

If you are, like I was, broken & without hope, I beg you to reach out to someone at one of the resources listed below. Click on the name and it will take you directly to the website. As long as you are breathing, there is still hope.
People of the Second Chance
Central Christian Church: Las Vegas
To Write Love on Her Arms

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To my Beautiful Children

My Loves

It’s no secret that I have wrestled demons in the past. One of them being body image. As I read posts on social media raising awareness this week about eating disorders (ED), I cannot help but be grateful. It wasn’t too long ago that I was in the depths of my illness. In an effort to help others and avoid ever going back to that place, I cannot forget what that desperation and skewed sense of self felt like.

My body put up with 12 long years of abuse. Starvation, binging, purging, excessive use of diuretics, substances…many things that would cause bewilderment one day when looking back.

My relationship with food is still not one to be envied. It’s rather dysfunctional and requires much work on a daily basis. As with everything in my life, it’s about progress, not perfection. Someone once told me, “Even if everyday you take two steps forward and one step back, you’re still one step further than you would be.”

If you remember nothing else from these writings, please remember this, “Let go of perfection. It will ruin you.”

I bring you into this conversation to acknowledge the times when I will say silly things like,
“I wish my thighs still fit in those jeans.”
Or,
“I remember when my stomach was flat and toned…before babies”
Or,
“I don’t even tan the same after having children.”
And any number of other things that are disrespectful to this body that has housed me for over 30 years.

It’s true that I am a mere version of my former self. It’s true that my thighs are thicker, my belly softer, my arms looser, my backside…well, let’s just say, things don’t sit where they used to. It’s also true that pregnancy, nursing, lack of sleep, unnecessary worry, baby carriers, and bending over cribs as slowly as possibly in an effort not to wake you after finally rocking you to sleep, had something to do with it. Those are the beautiful reasons for my transformation. The not so beautiful and less mentioned reasons are the results of my lack of discipline in the areas of exercise, eating junk food, staying up too late, not enough water, and various other things.

My Darlings, when I look at you I know that you are my greatest investment.

When I stand naked and vulnerable in front of the mirror, surveying my body, familiarizing myself with the curves, lines and dimples that have claimed permanent residence on my frame, I run my finger along my cesarean scar reminding myself that just beneath the surface of this scar is a womb that cradled you until my arms would. Just below that layer is a vessel for life. How could I ever regret that?! When I turn sideways and see the pooch that has become a constant companion, I stand up a little straighter and remember how far my belly skin stretched as you grew into a living, breathing, human being. When shopping for the “perfect” fitting bra that eludes me, I am reminded that these breasts sustained three lives! How can I be upset by the inconvenience that I feel they sometimes cause me?

Depending on when you’re reading this, that last paragraph might make you cringe. I get it! I almost didn’t type it! But I’m not going to be a host for shame anymore. I’m not going to sit quietly while other women feel isolated in their thinking. I’m not going to allow anyone to tell me that I’m not okay the way I am.

The truth is my loves, I am more than okay. I’m fantastic. I’m better than I have ever been. This beautiful body has done more good than I ever would have given it credit for. After years of mistreatment by its tenant, it has been very forgiving.

If there was only one thing that I could tell you about body image it would be this, “When looking, thinking about and caring for your physique, remember to be grateful for its functions. There will always be something you wish you could change. Always. Why not focus on the miracle that is life? I think you will discover that you have everything you need to be an exceptional version of yourself.

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Finally, Pictures Of Gorgeous Women That Make You Feel Better About Yourself Instead Of Worse

Video

Grab your sister, daughter, mother, aunt, grandmother, BFF and watch this wonderful, refreshing message.

One big beautiful mess

Typically the words mess and beautiful are not associated. For me, they are. You are entering one of the most private places in my life. The inner room. My sanctuary. My retreat from the noisy world. My transport to creativity.

Here it is…MessDoesn’t look much like an inner sanctum, does it?

The chair that holds the mountain of laundry is my writing chair. It’s where I sit and let my mind breathe. It’s where I go for my decompression session of one. As you have already guessed it’s impossible to write in this space when it looks like this. It’s also completely overwhelming to think about where even to start.

I’ve been doing it for years. Washing clothes and piling them in a place that is out of visitor’s view, where I can return later to sort, fold and put away. With five people in the house it’s not that easy and the bigger the pile, the more the stress grows.

It reminds me of my inner turmoil. I can hide it from the outside world for a while. I can close the door to that room so you can’t see inside. But eventually it spills over into other areas and it’s not as easy to hide anymore.

This mess begins to affect my morning routine when I’m getting ready for work. My evening when I come home from a long day. Intimacy with my man as it is an eyesore in our bedroom. I can only step over it, dig through it and make excuses for so long until I’m forced to look directly at it, admit the toll it is taking on my mental, spiritual and emotional health and commit to cleaning it up. It’s the wreckage of my present and it’s ugly.

I have discovered a system for seeing it through from start to finish. It’s called the “circle of serenity.”
circleI have to get right in the middle of it, hunker down and start sorting. If I stick to it, soon I have neat piles, assigned by owner. Before attempting to put anything away, everything must be sorted and folded. Sounds simple right?

It really isn’t very different from my mind. I have to do the same thing with thoughts and emotions. They pile up as well. Often times requiring sitting down and committing to sorting things out.

There are many other things I would rather be doing, but when I reach the end result I am always grateful for the process.
CleanAh, that’s the chair I know and love. The one that envelopes me and summons the artist within. My little corner of the world where I can process, meditate and be restored to a healthy place.

What about you? Can you relate to my sabotaging one of the few places I find peace?

The Skinny on the Book ~ by E. Wierenga

It is my honor to feature Emily Wierenga and a glimpse of her incredible story of experience, strength and hope. Her journey is one that everyone should read, especially females, counselors, ministry leaders, teachers, coaches, those who have daughters, a sister, wife, mother…I think that covers everyone. I am blessed to know this incredible woman and pray that God will bless her, her family, her ministry and all those who come in contact with her.

The nurses murmured to each other under fluorescent lighting as I lay shivering on the metal hospital bed, cold. Later, I would learn that they had marveled at my hypothermic, sixty-pound sack of bones, reasoning, “She should be dead.” I was a breach of science; a modern-day miracle. Yet in that profound moment, all I
could think was: “Why can’t I lose any more weight?”

After four years of slow and steady starvation, I had finally quit eating altogether.

It started when I began to squint my eyes for the camera. I wanted to create laughter lines in a laughter-less face. Then, I began sucking in my cheeks. I liked how it made me look thinner. Model-like. I was nine years old.

The next four years were a blur. Anorexia starved my mind, but I’ll always remember the darkness. Days smudged with counting calories and streaming tears. Days filled with frowns, fierce yells and fists pounding against my father’s chest…

Dad loved us by doing his job so well he put ministry before family. He’d kiss us on the cheeks early in the morning and lead Bible devotions and sigh when we asked him questions on Sermon-Writing day. I hated Sermon-Writing day.

I got baptized at age eight because Dad said I should and I wanted to please him the same way I wanted to please God. I associated God with my father—a distant, unemotional man who said he loved me yet was too busy to show it.

One year later, I realized that even though I’d gotten baptized, Dad still didn’t ask me how I was doing, not really, and so God still didn’t care. Not really.

Food was dished onto our plates at every meal; again, I had no choice but to finish it. This inability to make my own decisions killed my independent spirit. Mum meant well; as a nutritionist, she served healthy but plentiful portions. As a result, we became healthy but plentiful children.

Meanwhile, a woman I’d become very close to, ‘Grandma Ermenie,’ passed away. And life became even more uncontrollable, and disappointment, more certain…It’s a scary place to be in, this place where you have no one, so you have to become bigger than life itself, in order to carry yourself through the pain. A nine-year-old isn’t very big. And all I wanted was to be small. Because the world told me that thin was beauty. And maybe if I was beautiful, Dad would want to spend time with me.

I didn’t know about anorexia nervosa. We weren’t allowed to play with Barbie dolls or take dance lessons or look at fashion magazines or talk about our bodies in any way other than holy, so I didn’t know anything except that Mum changed in the closet when Dad was in the room, and made us cover our skin head to foot.

A kind of shame came with this not talking about bodies and beauty became something forbidden. And I wanted it more than anything. So I stopped eating.

It was a slow-stop, one that began with saying “No,” and the “No” felt good. I refused dessert. I refused the meals Mum dished up for me. I refused the jam on my bread and then the margarine and then the bread itself…

At night, I dreamt of food. Mum would find me, hunting for imaginary chocolates in my bed. I wanted her to hug me and make the fear go away, but was worried that if I did, my guard would be let down and I’d eat real chocolates, so I stopped hugging her for two years.

My legs were getting thin, and that was what mattered, but I dreamt about her arms, and woke up hugging myself.

I slipped from a state of not being hungry to a state of choosing to be hungry. I liked how my pants sagged, how my shirt became loose, my face slim, and my eyes, big. And at some point, I became a different person, intent on being skinny no matter the cost.
***
this is how it starts.

Emily’s book, Chasing Silhouettes: How to Help a Loved One Battling an Eating Disorder.
View Endorsements here
Read Sample Chapters here
Follow Emily on Twitter and Facebook

“I know many of you have not struggled with eating disorders, but there are 8 million Americans that do… and many of them are young girls, in families that are desperate for solutions… there is only one solution, and that is Christ, and this book points to Him. Would you help me get the word out about this? 

Will you order a copy for your church library? Your school library? For the family down the street? Thank you.”

What will tomorrow’s yesterday reveal about me?

After saying, “Happy Birthday!” A friend asked me, “Do you feel another year younger?”

“No.” I replied. “After the stress of the past few weeks I actually feel older.”

His question got me thinking. “Is one incredibly challenging week capable of aging me a year?!” Am I going to look at this birthday as another year gone or as 365 days of endless possibilities before me?

The happenings within 48 hours were powerful enough to change my warped perception of my circumstances and future. This year I found answers in the gifts. Maybe not how you would think? Allow me to explain.

The night before my actual birthday, we had dinner in with two of our close friends.

That is an actual lippy beside it on the left for scale.

Jill‘s gift is one that I will forever keep in a place where I can look at it frequently as it makes me laugh out loud while reminding me that it’s okay to need a little sparkle in your life. It’s okay that I’m known for my love of lippy.

And since I know you’re wondering, the answer is “Yes.” It lights up!

This will forever serve as affirmation that no matter who comes down on me for who I am, my job is to be a light in the world…with a splash of color.

I woke up on the morning of the 18th with no plans for the day. I went to check voice mail and there was my beautiful Bella’s voice at 12:01 a.m. leaving a message to say that she wanted to be the first one to wish me happy birthday. She was! The thing that struck me most about this is
1.) She is 14 yrs. old and stereotyped as completely self-absorbed.
2.) She was intentional about letting me know she cared.
3.) It is a great reminder to me that kindness does not have to cost money.
I will be saving that message until my phone kicks it out.

Early afternoon the doorbell rang. When I opened the door there was an enormous arrangement. I tried to pick it up but it was too heavy. After Chris carried it inside and placed it at eye level, I stared, enamored with its beauty. It is absolutely breathtaking, releasing sweet aromas better than fine perfume. Sent from my sisters, mom and niece, it is a reminder that there is so much beauty around me on a daily basis. At times, it is too heavy for me to hold.  If only I could freeze it just as it is so that when the world issues its criticisms I am reminded that beauty outweighs malice every time.

Late afternoon one of my favorite people in the world came over. Tara knows me well. I asked if I could open the bag in her hand as soon as she walked in. “Of course!” she said. It was stuffed with tissue, just the way I love and as I began throwing the tissue and reaching into the bag, I was reminded of the things that were stifled only days before. Creativity, Learning and Growing. The bag held in it, a photography book for the student I have become, a journal for the writer that I am, a set of 4 different colored pens of glitter gel for the absolute delight that I find when the glitter falls from the page ending up on my hands, face and clothes. A water bottle, representing sustained energy, dark chocolate for the happy endorphins that are sure to follow shortly after consumption and a beautifully colored scarf complete with sparkles, of course.

By the end of the day I had seen 3 sky crosses. They are Elliot’s favorite and I search the sky continually in hopes of seeing one. I don’t think this was a coincidence. The sky was literally filled with them. I had to smile when looking up and thinking of my friend and her love of these acknowledgements from the Creator. It was a beautiful birthday wish.

Those who sent cards, gift cards and…well…cash (thanks dad!) know me just as well. They know that for me having the freedom to buy something with money that someone else has given me has a thrill all its own.

And how could I not mention my Christopher? Without whom I would have gone off the deep-end long ago. He swoops in at a moments notice and turns my catastrophe into a manageable task. He has saved me from myself time and time again, but most recently from the words of defeat that I am so quick to tell myself. The spiritual, emotional and mental gifts that he lavishes on me are far greater and worth so much more than any possession he purchases. (Though I do love my camera gear.) A man who will fight for your mental, spiritual and emotional well-being as well as physical, is one you cannot put a price on. His value is far greater than any measurable standard.

There is something about being known. I don’t mean when someone with a great deal of influence remembers my name and acknowledges my existence. I’m talking about lamps shaped like lipstick and bags filled with the things that would tell much of my story without me ever saying a word.

So, here’s to the next 365 days of endless possibilities before me. No matter what they bring may I see them as blessings. Some blatant while others disguised, blessings nonetheless.