Saturday, December 31, 2016

Embracing a New Year

It is crazy to me to think that tomorrow will be 2017. It seems the older I get, the more miraculous a new year seems. I've been blessed with the chance to see another year and to share another year with all of the amazing people in my life.

The common thing for this time is to set resolutions and often they are health related or something similar, but I am a fan of goals more than resolutions.

2016 had its downs and it definitely came with its many trials, but my family moved to Birmingham, I began to follow my passion of supporting sexual assault survivors, was blessed to visit Haiti, and so much more.

My goal for 2017 is to live. To really, truly live.

I don't want to just trudge through 2017...I want to embrace every moment of it.

I want to engage people around me and not just pass them by.

I want to be everything that God created me to be in 2017 as a Christ-follower, as a wife, as a mother, as an advocate, as a professional, as a student, as a person.

I want to believe in myself and others and to consistently choose to live in the belief of God's promises.

I want to grow daily and to strive daily to do better than the day before.

I want to do random acts of kindness every single day.

I want to let go of anything that holds me back or hinders me in any way.

I want to learn something new every single day and I want to continue to learn how to grow as a sexual assault advocate. 

I want to live for Christ every single moment of every day with every breath that I take.

I want to give love and kindness abundantly.

I want to grow as a follower of Christ, as a wife, as a mother, as a friend, and as a person.

And I want to pursue the dream that God has placed in my heart with every ounce of my being. Much of my year will be placed on laying the foundation for Because One Ministries and seeking God's direction in supporting SA survivors through this avenue. 

What are your goals for 2017?

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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

It Could Have Been Different

"I wish we had known. Things could have been different."

I heard these words recently and I have since thought about them a lot. They were in reference to the fact that I kept the fact that I was sexually assaulted in high school a secret. That secret turned into the raging storm of an eating disorder that plagued a huge part of my life.


And they were right...if I had told someone, things could have been different. Maybe I would have had the support I needed. Maybe I could have gone to counseling. Maybe the person would have been caught. Maybe I never would have started starving myself to cope.


But through my reflection on how things could have been different, God has shown me even more clearly the beauty of my journey.


Could it have been easier? It's possible.


But where I am now is worth every valley and mountain that has been along my path in life. The way my story played out has made me the mother I am, has made me the advocate that I am...the way my story played out is the root of my passion for sexual assault survivors, my motivation for open communication with my daughters...it is such a part of who I am.


I hate eating disorders and I hate everything that it took away from me...but I love the people that it brought into my life. I love the lessons that God taught me through it...about life, about myself, and about my place in this world. I HATE sexual assault and I hate everything that it took away from me, but I love the passion that God gave me through it and I love the people that God has brought into my life through it.

Things could have been different.
But if my road had been easier, I probably would not have Audrey. Maybe I would still be teaching elementary school instead of chasing my passion of working with sexual assault survivors. My love and passion for art might still be undiscovered. If I had not hit rock bottom with an eating disorder as a result, maybe I would still be back in that small town instead of living in this city that I love and traveling the world with a message of hope and love. If things had been different, there are some amazing people in my life that I never would have met.


It's easy to sit back and thank God for the good and easy times. But reflecting on these words has made me even more grateful for the hard times too. It's extremely difficult to see it at the time, but each one of them has made me who I am today and each one has played a part in bringing me to this exact moment. 


Our journeys are riddled with road blocks, dead ends, and rough terrain. The important thing is that we don't let those obstacles stop us. We cross them and we turn them into dreams.


Keep going. Keep fighting. Keep loving. Keep growing. Keep dreaming...

And then keep chasing those dreams.

It could have been different, but I'm glad it's not.
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Saturday, November 19, 2016

Sometimes You Surprise Me

Oh my sweet baby boy...it's been more than four years since we said "hello" and "goodbye" in the same moments. I've learned to channel my grief into good by giving back to others or channeling it into art. The moments where it catches me off guard are pretty rare these days. It's always there, but those moments where the tears leak out happen less and less often.

But sometimes you surprise me.

This week it came in the mail. We received an invitation from our incredible church for a Mother/Son and Father/Daughter dinner. I smiled thinking of my husband who is an amazing father spending the evening with our precious oldest daughter. But then, as my eyes looked back to the invitation, they locked on the "mother/son" part of the invitation. 

The reality that I would not be participating in this dinner hit me. But not because I don't have a son. But because I do, but you're not here to go with me.

For a moment I imagined walking into that dinner. The picture is blurry as I only have faint ideas of what you might look like now. But in my mind you look like your daddy. I see your precious tiny hand clenched in mine, dragging me behind you as you take in everything in the room, occasionally drawing closer to my leg when someone speaks to you and you feel shy.

I see your blonde, wavy hair curling a bit on top of your head as you are dressed in a tiny suit that your daddy always liked looking at in stores when you were still kicking away in my womb. You turn to look at me with a smile on your face and I see your daddy's blue eyes that you would share with your sisters glistening with excitement as you start to tell me about something you see.

Pregnant with Barrett - 2012
And then I'm back in my bedroom in our apartment and I feel the tears dripping down my face.

Baby boy, you've changed my life. You made me a better person, and I don't know how I could ever thank you for that. Your death is a constant reminder to me to never take a day that I have with your sisters for granted. And I know that you are watching over tiny Gabriel until mom gets to see you both again. What a blessing to be able to grieve with hope.

Not a day goes by that I don't think of you, with a smile passing over my face as I think of what a blessing you have been to our family and countless other lives. But sometimes, like this moment this week, you still surprise me. 

You're not here for us to go to the dinner, but you are always in my heart and I will always, always, always carry you with me.

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Sunday, November 13, 2016

Legacy

Motherhood is so rewarding, but it can be so draining. This is especially true in an age of social media when comparison is so easy to do before we even realize it. We forget that social media is but a glimpse.

My motherhood journey has been and will continue to be full of mistakes, but I now view each one as a learning opportunity because that is the best thing that we can do with those moments. 

But in the last year, my views on motherhood have changed even more and I hope that I leave a legacy for my grandchildren and beyond that is full of mothers investing time.

When my girls think back, I hope they remember a mom who worked three jobs while in graduate school but still always had time for them.

I hope they remember a mom who may not have had a spotless home, but who always valued time with them more and had no problem immediately putting down the broom when they asked to be rocked or wanted to read a story.

I hope that they remember a mom who left the laundry for another day when bath time ran late because she got caught up in splashing and playing horses with them in the water after she washed their hair.

I hope they remember a mom who often said "those things can wait" and instead loaded them up and took them to the park to swing or play soccer.

I hope they remember a mom who knew when she was becoming frustrated and stepped away to let them wane before speaking to them so that the tone that came next was full of love.

I hope they remember a mom who disciplined by listening, explaining, and discussing; a mom who allowed them to have bad moods and bad days instead of holding them to a standard of perfection that it impossible to reach; a mom who taught them the importance of honoring emotions and not holding them in.

I hope they remember a mom who made sure she always had enough patience for them.

I hope they remember a mom who made sure they were at church with her even when everyone overslept and all arrived with ponytails and buns on our heads.

I hope they remember a mom who treasured curling up in the chair with them and reading to them or sitting in the floor playing in the dollhouse.

I hope they remember funny conversations at the dinner table and that their mom was never ashamed of being silly with them.

I hope they remember a mom who fought for what she believed in and instilled that passion in them.

I hope they remember a mom who taught them the importance of self-care so that you have a full bucket to pour into others.

I hope they remember a mom who cared about the world they would grow up in and fought to make it better.


I hope that they remember a mom who always reminded them the importance of kindness and loving other people.

I hope they remember a mom who told them that their voice was powerful and that they should use it for good.

I hope they remember that she made mistakes and she wasn't perfect, but that she asked for forgiveness and always worked to learn from those mistakes. I hope they remember a mom who fought for them and who loved them immensely.

I hope they remember...and then they smile.

And then, I hope they do better.

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Sunday, November 6, 2016

Love Anyway

My darling daughters, 


This world your father and I are raising you in has not looked very pretty the last year. This election has brought up a lot of words and behavior that thankfully I did not usually deal with on a regular basis. With voting being in two days and the world being saturated with so many messages from these candidates, I wanted to make sure you got a message from mom.


Here goes...


You. Are. Enough.


Do not ever let anyone tell you that because you are female, that you are less. You are not less. Being a woman is not easy, but it is something that I am proud of, and I hope you are too.


The world will saturate you with messages that your beauty is determined by your weight or your body shape, the clothes you wear, or the makeup on your face. Do not believe those lies. You are beautiful because you are you. That's not a cliche. It is absolute truth.


In this world you will have struggles. God does not hide that fact. But don't let those struggles make you forget who you are. Never let them become more powerful than your identity as a one of a kind, made in God's image, beautiful, strong, woman. When struggles come your way, do whatever you need to do to work through them and heal. Do not ignore them. Face them even when it's hard and deal with them physically, emotionally, and mentally. Ask for support when you need it and be willing to be honest with yourself about when you need it. And then, let those struggles motivate you rather than define you.


Let those struggles, and your testimony of God being with you in the midst of them, be your motivation to make a difference in this world. 


Never let anyone..ANYONE...tell you that one person cannot make a difference in this world. God has used plenty of individuals to enact incredible change...just look at David. LOOK AT ESTHER. The list could go on and on. If you seek Him as you seek to make this world a better place, nothing and no one can stand in your way.


My girls, when you hear messages from people around you that anyone is undeserving of love or assistance, call out those words for what they are:lies. We don't get to determine who gets our love and our kindness and our support; we freely give it and trust God to do the rest. 


When you feel like your love is met with hate, love anyway. When you feel like your kindness is taken advantage of, be kind anyway. When your assistance is rejected, let your offer continue to stand in case they change their mind. 


When the world tells you that you are wasting your time investing in someone, invest your time anyway. 


Time invested in another human being is never wasted my loves. Invest away.


When you start to wonder if you are wasting your time, take some time for yourself, and then get back up and keep fighting. Sometimes you go long periods without seeing any fruit, but then one day you will be amazed when that person you have been investing in smiles at you and suddenly it is all worth it. That person may never tell you, but it could be that their story always includes "Because that person cared...", and though you never hear it, you made a difference.


Give kindness freely. Smile at strangers. Lend a hand. Sit and listen. Hold their hand when they're struggling. Hug them if they need it. And be willing to be on the receiving end when you need a smile, a hand to help, and ear to listen, a hand to hold, or arms to hug.


Love without borders. 

Look in the mirror and see beauty. 

Look at other people, all of them, and see beauty.

Look in the mirror and see worth.

Look at those around you, and see worth.

Look in the mirror and see a unique child of God created in His image.

And then look at everyone around you and see beautiful souls, each uniquely designed and created in His image.

Look in the mirror and see a beloved daughter of the Most High King.

And then look around at the world and see His beloved sons and daughters.

And then here is the kicker:

Believe that about yourself. Believe that about everyone around you.

Treat yourself like you believe that. Treat everyone you encounter like you believe that. 

You will be a light; a radiating light.

In this world you will have trouble my incredible daughters. In this world you will see injustice. You will see bitterness and sometimes you will see people just being mean. You will be overwhelmed by the hatred you witness. Your heart will break and you will hurt. You will see things that make you wonder why you try.

Seek the justice you wish to see. When you see bitterness, be forgiving. When you see "mean", be kind. When you see hate, love. Allow your broken heart to heal and know that it's ok to hurt. And always, always, always, try anyway.

You are world changers. You are important. You are loved.

Love, your hard-headed Momma who refuses to believe she can't change the world with Jesus on her side.
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Friday, October 28, 2016

I Need You to Know

I don't know your name, but I know your face. I don't know where you are, but I know that for years, your image lived inside of my mind. You thought you hurt me for one night, but it lasted much longer. Mostly because I let you hurt me for that long.

I need you to know that you had no right to hurt me. I need you to know that everything that happened that night, was your fault. It took me almost ten years to realize and accept that fact. I had zero fault. For almost a decade, I found every reason I could to try to blame myself to make myself feel safer; like I could prevent it from happening again. But that wasn't true. You made the choice to assault me.

I need you to know that I almost died because of what you did that night. I spent years starving my body trying to cope and I came dangerously close. What you did affected not just me, but my husband, my children, and our families and friends. 

I would say that you changed my life that night, but you don't have that much power. But what you did sent me into a spiral that changed my life.

When I got home that night, I took my "True Love Waits" ring and slammed it in a drawer, convinced that you had stolen that from me. But you didn't. I just didn't have anyone to tell me otherwise since I kept that night locked away in my mind. But don't worry, the story of that ring didn't end there.

I missed my senior year of high school taking care of my four month old baby while my classmates graduated. Because after that night, I didn't care about my values anymore and I threw caution to the wind.

I lost myself in work and college and graduated with my four year degree in just over two years. I got promoted to a manager at my first job after only one month. I thought I needed to prove myself. I needed to reassure myself that I could still go on; that my life didn't stop that night in June 2007.

I was putting on a pretty good show until my son was stillborn in 2012 and I could no longer keep up. I had been starving myself as a coping mechanism since that night, but that escalated things. I wouldn't eat and I would exercise until I couldn't move anymore. I couldn't control what you did to my body, but anorexia made me feel in control of what went in and out of my body every day after that.

I spent more than half a year away from my family in 2015 finally getting the help I needed. It was then, that I finally allowed myself to be angry with you. The sound of ceramic plates crashing against a brick wall were the embodiment of the anger that I finally realized was justified.

I need you to know that for a long time, I thought you ruined my life. Buy you don't have that kind of power. You hurt me, and I let that hurt control me for a long time, but that ended. 

I know that you probably won't ever read this. I know that there's a possibility that you haven't thought about me in years, or maybe even since that night. There's a possibility that, though I lived with the pain every day, your life went on completely normal as if nothing had happened. That wasn't an option for me.

In case you do read this, I need you to know that I forgive you. The pain you caused me was immeasurable, but I serve a God who is bigger.

I serve a God who took what you did to me that night and radically changed my life. He took that "True Love Waits" ring and placed it back on my finger until He presented me with the opportunity to pass it on to someone who needed to hear the truth that I didn't have anyone to tell me the night that I took it off. 

My God took that pain and turned it into my passion in life. He took those wounds and He healed them. There are scars, but they tell a beautiful story of redemption and grace. He took what you meant for harm, and He turned it into good. 

My God is a merciful Father who was waiting for me with outstretched, open arms when I finally went running to Him for the love and comfort I had been searching for since that night. 

I need you to know that you didn't defeat me. I need you to know that I am stronger because I serve a God who promise that I can do all things through Him when I draw my strength from Him.


My God is a loving God who writes amazing stories. I never imagined on that night that He would lead me to spend my life working with sexual assault victims. Being an advocate as a career was not on my radar. All of the amazing people that came into my life through every single path that came as a result of that night have made my life incredible. He writes breathtaking stories.

I forgive you.

He loves me, oh how He loves me. He loves me. And oh how He loves you.



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Saturday, September 24, 2016

I Am Sent

On September 3, I was blessed to spend my day traveling to Haiti where I would spend the week serving with an incredible team that was so obviously handpicked by God to work together that week serving the people of Haiti and sharing the Gospel with them.


It was a week of my life that I will always remember. I left a piece of my heart in Haiti and I cannot wait to return.


But anyone who has ever been on a mission trip will tell you that while you go to work, God works on you. It has happened every single time, and Haiti was no different.
The very first night with the whole team gathered on the roof, we heard music and decided on a whim to follow it and find out if it was worship music. Sure enough it was and we were privileged to sit in on a Haitian church service. Other than the little bit of English they sang for a moment for us and the little bit of English they used when they asked us to introduce ourselves and then told us that they would not be preaching in English, I didn't understand a word that they said other than "Jesus" and "hallelujah". 
Even though they worshipped and preached in a language that I couldn't understand, God spoke to my heart so strongly that I fought tears the entire time. It was amazing to hear how God spoke something different to each one of us that night during the service. It was like God took that first night to start working on any obstacle we may have that could hinder our ability to minister to others.
For me, it was an idol that needed to be plucked from my life. To sum it up, the idol was discontentment. It was that feeling when everything isn't going exactly how I planned it or there are things that I feel like if only I could do this  or if only this would happen then I would be content. God took those lies and destroyed them in my heart that night. He opened my eyes to all that I have and the beauty of how sovereign His plan is. He reminded me that He has every moment of my life planned out and that I need to be content in periods of waiting and not just when things are going exactly like I think they should be. 
While I'm waiting, I will serve You
While I'm waiting, I will worship
While I'm waiting, I will not faint
I'll be running the race even while I wait
~"While I'm Waiting", Josh Waller
That next morning, we went on a prayer walk. Actually, it was more like a prayer hike. Up a 70 degree angle. For about two miles. In direct sunlight.
I have never felt so out of shape in my life and physically it was hard. There were moments I was walking uphill bent halfway over with my hands on my knees willing my legs to keep taking one step after the other. But when I got to the top of that hill and stopped to wait on the last few people to make it there as we made our way down, my heart was overwhelmed. I looked down over the hills of the area we were in all the way down to the ocean and I clenched my jaw together as I fought back tears.
Those tears were full of so much gratitude. Exactly one year before that I was in the last day of my very first week of treatment at A Center for Eating Disorders. One year from finishing my first week of treatment, I was starting one of the most incredible experiences that God has allowed in my life. He had just given me the strength to do something that one year before my body would not have had the strength or stamina to even come close to finishing. 
It was the absolute perfect picture of grace and redemption. That view will always be engrained in my mind. That hilltop was so significant to me.
The mountain that my eating disorder has been in my life was symbolized by that hill in Haiti. The last year God carried me up the mountain when I didn't have the strength to take one step. In Haiti, He walked with me while I physically walked that hill. He stood with us as we stopped to pray over the people we passed. He was there to catch those tears that creeped out of the corner of my eyes overlooking Haiti when the magnitude of all that He has done for me just in the last year overwhelmed my heart.
He saved my soul in 2004. Then He physically gave me life again starting just over a year ago. He saves me over and over again and I am so unworthy. But He does it anyway. I can't put into words the magnitude of that type of love. But I can say thank you with my life. 
Wherever He calls me. However He calls me. I am content, but I am not settled. I am sent.
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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Fight for It

Fight for it.
Those are the words on the t-shirt that I chose to put on after church today. It seemed incredibly appropriate as today is one year since I made the first step in my recovery journey. One year ago I was holed up in a hotel room in Birmingham calling every eating disorder treatment center that I could find a phone number for, desperate for someone to take me quickly before I changed my mind.
This week as the one year anniversary approached, I have shared several happy pictures and posts because this is a monumental time for me as I look at back at everything God has done in my life over the last year.
But the words on this shirt..."Fight for it." are so, so accurate. While this last year, and especially the 6 months of full time treatment, saw dramatic changes in my life, they didn't come easy.
I had so many days that I wanted to quit. I had days that I thought it would be easier to continue the poor coping skills I had utilized for so long than to continue working for recovery. The first few months especially, I constantly fought urges to just pack my bags and walk out of treatment. 
But at the end of the day, the fact that it was SO hard, was how I knew that something was finally working. It wasn't supposed to be easy.
Eating disorders are not glamorous or humorous. They kill more people than any other mental illness. They are ugly. They are deadly.
I battled anorexia for years and years. Bulimia entered a few of my teenage years. I had moments where physically I was healthier than others, but it was always there.
But lest you think that anorexia is or eating disorders in general is skipping a meal or counting calories or just over exercising, I'm going to be transparent. While those are or can be part of it, it's more than that.
Anorexia was how I coped with trauma. It was the only way that I felt like I had control over my body again.
Anorexia was constantly lying to friends and family about what I ate or how much I ate or when I ate. Anorexia was making up lies and putting on a show on a daily basis about how much I had eaten before I came. It was exercising obsessively until I reached outrageous goals every day. It was walking in place or running around my yard at odd hours to make sure I hit an outrageous number of steps on my FitBit every day. It was weighing myself more than ten times a day and crying if the number went up at all. It was having two scales in my bathroom that I could compare for accuracy. 
Anorexia was the moment I realized that I had to buy pants from the children's department where my then 6 year old daughter shopped. It was counting out the amount of Cheerios that I ate because just one too many would mean I had lost control again. It was passing up dinner dates with friends because I didn't want to have to lie about why it wasn't eating. It was never sitting down to eat with my family. 
Those years of bulimia were the desperation I reached when I felt like my eating disorder was going to be taken away from me if people didn't start seeing me eat. It was crying in the bathroom stall at school after throwing up my food because I was so ashamed but at the same time I couldn't stop. Bulimia was the moment when my mother caught me throwing up my food in our home and the only thing that crossed my mind was pure terror that my control was going to be taken away from me.
Eating Disorders were the moments I felt like I couldn't deal with it anymore. 
Eating Disorders were the lies that told me the only way to be safe after I was raped was to hold on to them and to keep secrets.
But an eating disorder lies. It isolates. It kills you slowly in every way possible; physically, mentally, emotionally.
But then redemption happened. 
One year ago today, as my world came crashing down and all the lies that my eating disorder had sent me into were exposed, and almost everything in me wanted to give up, Jesus whispered, "Fight for it.".
Those beautiful daughters you have. Your son whose memory you've worked so hard to keep alive. Your husband who has loved you unconditionally and doesn't know how to help you anymore. Your life. Your life, though you can't see it in this moment, is precious. Fight for it.

Jesus spoke courage into my soul as I packed a suitcase and drove to a city that I had previously only ventured to for shopping or a concert. Jesus spoke courage into my soul as I drove and then checked into a hotel room, not knowing what the next day would hold, much less my future.
And over the next few months, He spoke into my life over and over again, day by day, moment by moment. Strength, courage, peace. He spoke it over and over again.
He spoke it through the calm I felt after I felt sure a meltdown was coming but then it miraculously didn't. He spoke courage into my heart through friends when I called crying because I ate a hamburger and I didn't think I could deal with it. He spoke strength into my being as I lay in my bathroom floor crying and wondering how I ended up where I was.
And moment by moment, day by day, month by month, He spoke healing into every aspect of my life. But it was a fight. 
It was hard and some days, it was ugly. But here's the constant, beautiful thing: I never fought alone.
He was always with me. He stood by me in the fire and fought with me through every step of the climb. He has been with me as I am still learning to live in recovery.
Through all of this, He has instilled passion and purpose within my life. I advocate for sexual assault survivors and fight against victim blaming because I NEVER want anyone to feel like they have to keep it a secret like I did out of fear that people would blame them. That's why I suffered in silence and ultimately why I resorted to the eating disorder to cope. 
He has been working behind the scenes in ways that blow my mind and working things together that I never could have dreamed. 
Recovery isn't always sunshine and roses. There are plenty of hard days and moments because life isn't easy.
But there is always joy. Because Jesus is the foundation of my recovery, the pillar of my recovery, there is always joy.

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Saturday, July 30, 2016

Rescue

I need you Jesus,
To come to my rescue.
Where else can I go?
There's no other name
By which I am saved
Capture me with grace
~"Rescue" NewSong

I've spent a lot of time over the last couple of days reflecting on the last year. August will bring the anniversary of when I drove to Birmingham armed with only a suitcase and a cell phone, desperately trying to find an eating disorder treatment center that could take me in quickly.

My Facebook memories have been kind of hard to look at lately because some of the pictures show an image of myself that I barely recognize.

I'm not the same person I was one year ago. I no longer live in fear, and I no longer spend every moment of my existence haunted by memories. God has shattered those chains.

My story doesn't bring me fear and shame, but instead I am amazed as I watch God using it. I am grateful.

I no longer look at myself with shame and hatred. Instead I see a fearfully and wonderfully made, beloved daughter of a God who understands me and chose me.

Love and support from others is not something I push away because I feel unworthy, but something I embrace with gratitude, and am thereby able to more freely give it as well.

Food is something I enjoy and view as a great way to spend time with precious friends. 

Authenticity is something I value instead of something I fear.

All of these things, have been life altering. I'll never be the same. I can't go back. I've been changed, redeemed, and set free. 

Today, in reflecting on all of this, I was hit with another aspect of my recovery journey; the physical aspect.

That's not always easy. That ugly voice of the eating disorder still sometimes creeps up and tries to tell me that because I'm physically healthy, I have no control over my body anymore. That eating disorder tries to make me afraid.

What that eating disorder doesn't know is that fear doesn't own me any longer.

I'm no longer a slave to fear
For I am a child of God
~"No Longer Slaves", Bethel Music

While I have been told SO many times about how physically sick I was, today it finally, truly hit me. I knew, because I felt bad. And I know from pictures. But today was different.

Today I found a pair of pants that I wore when I came to Birmingham in August. I watched my husband's eyes fill with tears when I held them in disbelief and asked him if I was really that small. I stared at them in shock as I realized that if I laid my hand across the waist, it was more than half of the pants. My hand was more than half the width of my waist. 

I remember being proud that I could wear those pants. But today there was no pride or longing. There was sadness as I took in what I had done to myself and my family and friends, and gratitude for my health. 

I couldn't digest it. I've seen pictures and I know it was bad, but to physically hold those tiny pants in my hand, was shocking. Those pants symbolized just how far I've come, and they are a reminder of all of the lies that I believed while I was enslaved in the shame and fear of anorexia. 

I've gotten rid of all of my other clothes from that time, but those pants are going to stay. They won't stay as they are. I'm going to turn them into a piece of art of some sort. They will serve as a reminder of how far God has brought me. They will remind me of what my God can do.

When I think I need that false sense of control back, they will remind me that I've got too much to lose. They will remind me that I am a new person, and that I could never go back to that; that I never want to. 

They will remind me of how hard it was today to see my husband tear up when he saw them and told me that, yes I was that small, and that "I was almost dead".

They will remind me that numbers cannot measure your worth and they can never make you happy. 

Joy cannot be measured in numbers. 



He walked on water.

He caused the blind to see.

The lame walked.

The sick were healed.

The hungry were fed.

He is a God of miracles. He is a healer. Every single day when I look in the mirror, I see living, breathing proof of that. 





Sunday, May 29, 2016

Even When I Cannot See

This morning our pastor started a three week sermon series on the armor of God and spiritual warfare. As usual, it was exactly what I needed to hear this morning and over the course of the next two weeks.

I think sometimes when Christians talk about spiritual warfare, we think of being pulled into obvious temptations such as an addiction to drugs, or alcohol, or pornography. Maybe we think about being tempted to skip church or our personal Bible study. All of those are very real spiritual warfare battles, and Satan tends to use something seemingly small like skipping church just this once, or just one drink when you know it's never just one, to develop a foothold that gradually leads to more and more. 

For me currently, it's something completely different. The temptation has been to take the easier route; to step out of God's will and do what the world and myself knows will be easier.

I believe I'm probably in good company in that temptation. How many times do we take a step of faith to follow where He leads only to have another person or our own selves says "You do know this is going to be hard, right?" or "Are you sure you want to do this? Look at all of these obstacles"? Many times, it's fellow believers who are the first to offer a laundry list of excuses of why you shouldn't do something or all of the reasons it could be hard and every single thing that may go wrong. Sometimes your own words are twisted, or at times, God's words are twisted to provide proof of why you can't or shouldn't do something.

Bro. Danny touched on the consequences this morning of choosing any other path over God's will. When we think of stereotypical temptations I think that the reality of those devastating consequences is obvious and we can readily agree. But what if the temptation is to back down from something that God has clearly told you to stand your ground on? What if the temptation is to remain silent when God calls you to speak up? 

It would seem that there are no devastating consequences and that instead, things will go much easier for you. Short term, that's likely true. But here's what we have to remember as Christians: we only see a small portion of the story. We can barely see the next page of our book, much less three chapters ahead, and even the next page that we think we see is often subject to change in an instant. God sees your whole story. 

God never said that He would call you to an easy path. In fact, He tells us quite the opposite. He reminds us that in this world we will have trouble, but take heart because He has overcome the world (John 16:33). 

For me specifically, there have been moments since we started the adoption process where it's been tempting to walk away and throw in the towel knowing the struggles and obstacles that likely lie ahead for us in this process. My own inner critic as well as a few physical voices in our lives have reminded us of what we already know; it's a demanding journey physically and emotionally. It's a lot to take on. Are we sure?

Well, no. I'm not sure of my own abilities in this journey. But what I do know is that I am called by a God to this path who equips me. I'm not sure of myself, but I'm sure of Him. My God is a mountain mover, and of that, I am sure.

I know that when those thoughts have crossed my mind or I've had someone say those things to us, instead of taking them straight to heart, I took them straight to God and He tells me a different story.

You see, God tells me a story of redemption. God reminds me that He adopted me and that there is nothing I can do to make Him love me more or less. 

The world says: Look at all you've done to mess up! Are you sure you're able to do this?

God says: Oh my child, I've already forgiven that. Here are earthly opportunities to make it right. I'll never call you anywhere and then leave you to walk it alone.

The world says: Look at all of these obstacles! Why would you subject yourself to that?

God says: Look at all these obstacles; they pale in comparison to what I can do! I empowered David to slay a giant and Peter to walk on water. I protected Daniel in the lion's den and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace. I empowered Moses to leave the luxurious life with Pharaoh and lead many people to freedom. I empowered Abraham with the faith to take Isaac up as a sacrifice, an unimaginable trek as a parent, knowing that God saw the whole story. My child, Job lost everything, everything but His faith in me, and I restored Him.

God rarely calls us to an easy path. God tends to show His glory through our stories, and often times, they are stories that shouldn't have been able to happen. That's so that the glory goes to Him and not us. We are merely a reflection. It's so that people look at our stories and say: "Their God, He has to be real. There's no other way. They shouldn't have been able to do that. But God. But look what God did."

God uses the unlikely to accomplish the impossible so that we can say "Look what my God did!".

For my husband and me, the adoption process is something that we know won't be easy. We are prepared for our hearts to be broken and we know that these are just the first of many moments when we will silently or aloud wonder if we should take the easier road and walk away.

But God reminds us that He didn't call us to start this process and then walk away. He called us to walk this path until He says this chapter is closed. He has called us to be living examples of what his mercy and grace does for a person, and to extend it to others. He has called us to live out His picture of adoption, the picture of His ultimate love and mercy and grace, in our own living room.

Adoption, though the long process is just starting for us, is the Gospel in our living room; for ourselves, for our daughters, for the children who come into our home, and for anyone who sees and knows that only God could have written this story.

It's easy to fall into the temptation of taking the smoother pathway. But if God calls you to the bumpy road with potholes and detours, in faith you take one step at a time, trusting that He will never leave you nor forsake you at any point on that road. We have to trust that the One who has already written all of our days, who intimately and infinitely knows and loves us, knows better than us.

We will hear the world, but we must listen to God. 
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Friday, May 27, 2016

Send Me

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"
Isaiah 6:8

 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
Matthew 28:19-20

The Lord very clearly calls us to "go". Nowhere in the Bible does He tell us to become complacent, content to stay where we are, with attitudes of apathy. We should respond with a willingness to go where He sends us, no matter the cost.
The thing is, you don't respond to His call halfheartedly. Make sure you are truly ready to willingly go wherever He sends you.
It is not a call to take lightly. We are to be His hands and feet in all of the world. We are to love Him first and foremost. Then, we love His children; all of them. We have to be willing to humble ourselves and wash the feet of those around us. We have to be willing to sweat and get our hands dirty. Most of all, we have to be willing to let our hearts be broken in order to love the broken as Christ has called us to do.
Loving others wholeheartedly means, our hearts will most definitely get broken at times. But your heart will also be continually filled.
When you go, yes your heart will get broken and it will be hard more often than it is easy, but you will be rich in ways you never imagined. You will see that love and kindness can change the course of a person's life. You will learn to find joy in small moments and in the genuine smile of another person. You will feel the joy that comes from reaching out to another person and showing them love. You will forever carry the joy that comes from doing for those who can never repay you.
You may not ever be rich by the world's standards; in fact, you may be poor if measured in that capacity. But we have to abandon that standard of measurement and trade it in for the standard that says love and poverty cannot coexist.
When you buy a meal for the homeless person sitting on the bench, and then you take the time to sit down and eat with them, their smile and the connection with them will make you rich. When you take the time to bend down to a child's level and remind them of their worth, their embrace will make you rich. You become rich when the laughter of a hurting person fills your ears because you stopped to listen and then the two of you connected. 
When God calls you to go, be ready. Be ready to have your heart broken in order for it to grow. Be ready to live a life you could never envision. Be ready for the hardships, the naysayers, and the days when you think it's not worth it. But also, prepare to be blessed beyond measure.
Here's the truth friends: love changes lives. Jesus changes lives, and in His abundant mercy, He chooses to use us in that process. Kindness changes lives. When you answer the call to go, the call extended to all believers, He will change your life as well. 
Love is a funny thing. It's the only thing in this world that, the more you give, the more you gain.
We are called to live with abandon, embracing His will and following where He leads. Our comfort zones must be abandoned and traded in for the unknown that He calls us to. 
If you're comfortable, ask Him to make you uncomfortable; so uncomfortable with the condition of this world that you can no longer sit idly by and let it continue. Ask for His eyes to truly see those around you. Ask Him to break your heart for what breaks His. He will answer that prayer and you have to be willing to no longer turn your head and look the other way to continue in your life of comfort. 
We are called to serve. We are called to love. We are called to go.
Abandon apathy. Put on your walking shoes. Get your hands dirty. And go. 
Are you ready?
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Friday, April 1, 2016

Chosen

I found myself just feeling tired today. Physically tired.

It wasn't abnormal or debilitating, but I could feel my patience wearing thin and I remember taking a breath and saying, "Lord, I need a little rest to finish this day". I could feel His arms gather me up as He reassured me that He knew I was tired.

Like He always does, He provided that rest. I took an amazing nap during my break today and returned feeling refreshed. He provided some emotional rest and refreshment when a parent brought me donuts as a "thank you" happy and I had another stop to tell me how grateful they were that their son loved coming to see Mrs. Staci in the mornings. He provided rest and confirmation in the smiling and laughing faces of precious children late this afternoon as we danced to the Hokey Pokey and got all of our "sillies" out.

It may not seem like much and these small little miracles can be easily overlooked and they daily go unnoticed. I'm so guilty of getting so caught up in a pity party that these beautiful little moments flow right on by and I lose out on the immense joy that they carry.

Reflecting back on the day and how God provided rest for me in every single way that I needed it, it was a bit overwhelming. The God of everything, who created heaven and earth; the God of all the universe, cares about me enough to orchestrate all of that to provide for me. 

God doesn't need me for anything. He chooses me.

How refreshing to know 
You don't need me
How amazing to find
that You want me
- "In Me" by Casting Crowns

He loves me; not because of who I am or anything I have done or ever could do, but because He chooses to. He calls me beloved. I have done nothing to earn that. I could never earn that.

In His gracious and merciful character, He chooses to call me His beloved daughter.

If He can hold the world,
He can hold this moment
Not a field or flower
Escapes His notice
Even the sparrow knows,
He holds tomorrow
-"Sparrows" by Jason Gray

Even the sparrow knows that He holds tomorrow.

He knows your hurt, your pain, your happiness, and your joy; He knows your stress and your exhaustion. He knows your cares and your worries.

He's with you. But He doesn't want to just be beside you in life; He wants to be involved in every detail of your life. He wants to be caught up in every aspect and living in the midst of your life. Let Him. When we involve Him in all of those small details every day, we are often surprised how He sends and provides for us, and when we are aware and notice these moments because we are tuned into Him and ready to listen, we experience the joy that comes from walking in His presence.

He loves you. He chooses to call you His beloved child. 


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Sunday, March 20, 2016

A Dining Room Chair and other Thoughts

God's been pressing on my heart for a few weeks now to pull out my computer and write, but I've put it off because I just haven't known where to start or exactly what He wanted me to write.
I've had lots of thoughts that jolted me awake at night or raced through my head as I fell asleep, but they've felt distanced and disorganized and I just could not figure out how they all connected. I've felt like I had bits and pieces of about four different novels circulating through my mind and somehow the tie that binds them had been severed.
My husband and I went "thrifting" yesterday. In other words, we perused a few thrift stores trying to find some chairs for our new dining room table. We had fun stopping to play some pianos that were way out of tune and rifling through old records stashed in plastic tubs.
At thrift store number three, we found tons of chairs, but none that were in a set of four, which is what we needed for our family. We weren't even being picky. I wanted to find some old chairs that I could paint so I didn't care about the color, only that they were sturdy.
Finally, we found two pairs of chairs that we liked at thrift store number three. They looked nothing alike, but something about each pair appealed to my husband and I so we decided to mismatch and call it a day.
We ventured to Hobby Lobby (which my husband secretly loves; don't let him tell you otherwise) and  through the process of elimination, settled on a neutral coloring pairing that would contrast our dark table.
 
This afternoon, after church and that mandatory Sunday afternoon nap, I sat down in my art corner to put the first coat of paint on two of the chairs before I had to leave for choir practice. 
As I was painting the first chair, I started chipping away at the layers of paint on it. Currently, it was a navy blue and before that it had been a farmhouse red. Below that was white, which was as far as I got. I found myself wondering how old the chairs were and how many families had sat down in them for a meal. I pictured them sitting around a small table in their original days while a family proudly enjoyed a new meal in them. I pictured them being loaded up to go to a new family when the one that they had sat with for so long had grown old or moved away. I imagined many different things that they might have seen on their journey to my apartment where they are undergoing a makeover.
I wondered if the first family that owned them ever thought that these chairs would one day have such a big job to do. You see, for me, painting these chairs for our new table in our new home is a really big deal. Family meals were never a concern of mine because I struggled with anorexia since my teen years. My goal was always to avoid meals, not create them and celebrate the fellowship. The new home, the new city, new jobs, new table, new (to us) chairs, are all symbolic of this new chapter. The makeover of the chairs is, in a way, symbolic as well. 
As I painted the chairs and had some praise and worship music going on my Pandora station and my husband was sitting at the table working on his current project, I couldn't help but smile. These chairs and this table and this home, are ready for new memories. They are ready for the task of housing a family and serving as the gathering spot for fellowship of our family and friends. They are ready to be used by a family that has been broken, but restored by Calvary. They are ready to absorb conversations between a husband a wife, a mother and father, mother and daughter, father and daughter, sisters; conversations between a family and the Jesus that they were saved to serve.
Like the chair I was painting, people don't always know where we've been. Sometimes, we aren't even quite sure of where we have been. Maybe when the place you are serving is no longer where God wants you and you're unsure where your next "home" will be, you're afraid and hesitant. You get cracked and your paint chips along the way, but every home you land in is the right fit for that time. Sometimes, God will allow you to be broken down so that He can build you back up. He allows you to be broken, so that your need for Him and only Him becomes so strong that you can't help but chase after Him with a desire that only He can quench; until our only desire is to be used by Him to glorify Him and to further His kingdom. Until our only desire is to know Jesus and to make Him known.


Sometimes, God has you go through that journey so that you can see that you need Him and that you need the support He graciously gives us through our friends and family and fellow believers. In that journey, we discover who we are, not as a personality or a career or title, but as a fearfully and wonderfully made, exponentially loved, child of God. 
Sometimes, He uses a beat up wooden chair with chipped paint from a thrift store to speak to you and organize the thoughts He has given you. Sometimes, there is a miracle to be found in a dining room chair.
Praise God that get a new coat of paint. We get a makeover. 
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Sunday, January 17, 2016

Whatever it Takes

Tonight, I did like every night (when I'm not recovering from abdominal surgery and living on the couch) and went to my room, snuggled under some warm blankets, got my Jesus music on lightly in the background, put the phone away, and pulled out my Bible and all of its current friends.

But tonight was a little different. God broke up my routine a bit (which is always a marvelously good thing, even--scratch that--especially when it's hard). I was reading a little book by Max Lucado called Everyday Blessings and playing a little catch up from being completely out of commission the last two weeks. The verse is Psalm 136:1 and the small little tidbit below it was like, well I said "smack in the face" but really it was more of a Father's loving, guiding touch; and I heard "I'm waiting for you to fully let me be your Father". 

It said:

If I know that one of the privileges of fatherhood is to comfort a child, then why am I so reluctant to let my Heavenly Father comfort me? Why do I think He is too busy for me?

And I had to set the book and my Bible to the side and fall facedown before a Father who loves me beyond my comprehension, and has been longing to extend that comfort to a receptive daughter. And I cried a gushing waterfall on the floor that no dam could contain, but they weren't filled with sadness or defeat. They were filled with understanding, and gratitude, and regret, and peace.

Understanding that He's been extending comfort to me from Himself as my Father and also through godly people He has surrounded me with. Understanding that being afraid of being hurt, I've shoved it away, as I cowered waiting for it to be snatched away like some past experiences. Understanding that God is showing me another area of my life that I need to surrender control and go to Him for comfort and be receptive of that comfort in every avenue that He sends it my way. Understanding that it's time to start calling out the lies that I'm not good enough or that I'm not worthy of it and putting everyone else in my life, whether relationally or in passing, on a higher level that I think I will never be good enough reach to stand beside anyone. 

Gratitude, that He never leaves me. Gratitude that He is opening my eyes a little bit at the time to areas of my life where that total surrender isn't quite total. Gratitude that He gives me everything that I need even though I don't deserve it. Opening my eyes that being undeserving of His grace, and compassion, and love, makes me human, but not worthless and not less.

Regret, for pushing away what He has sent my way; for retreating in fear and still carrying that stone of the wall that is my life that He is currently dismantling to rebuild on a foundation in which, He is Lord of ALL and the total surrender is daily and in every aspect of my life.

Peace that only He can give. Peace that He is always there and I can always go to Him. Peace because He is a Good, good, Father and a faithful Father who openly extends forgiveness, mercy, grace, love, and much more beyond the comprehension of man. Peace that He's walking beside me, carrying me as needed, providing Fatherly discipline and redirecting as needed, and a peace in knowing that that truth will never change.

No matter where I go. No matter what I do. No matter what the world throws at me, He is constant; a sure and sturdy foundation. No matter if I stray, I have peace knowing that my Father, my Jesus, will do whatever it takes to bring His wayward sheep home. 

Friday, January 1, 2016

Hello 2016

Another year is here (I actually stayed up to ring it in this year) and I couldn't be more excited to see what it holds, but at the same time, I am grateful for all of the gifts that 2015 had to offer.

Honestly, it would be so easy for me to talk about how awful 2015 was. Very easy. But yesterday I was challenged to only look back at 2015 in a positive way and I realized that the things I could easily complain about from 2015 also gave me some incredible gifts.

I was challenged to think of 12 gifts from 2015 and 12 words to take with me into 2016. These were the 12 gifts from 2015 that came to mind:

1). Reconciliation: Broken relationships mended and reliefs that come with that.

2). Family Memories: All of the memories with my husband and daughters this year are more than I can name. Every moment of every day of every year is an incredible blessing because of the gift from God of their existence and presence in my life.

3). Brokenness: People tend to associate this word with such negativity, and rightfully so as being truly broken is hard and uncomfortable. But most people also tend to forget the beauty that emerges from being broken. 2015 found me shattered into a million tiny pieces that seemed impossible to find, like a porcelain doll that had been smashed by a hammer over the ocean shore as the tide moved in and out. It was panic inducing and I was afraid as I realized that no matter how hard I tried, all of the pieces wouldn't be found. Some of them were washed out to sea for eternity, never to be found again. I was afraid and angry and resistant because I didn't know what to do without those pieces.

Finally, I resigned myself to gather what I could. I didn't find many pieces; only the ones that made up the basic components of myself. All of the details were gone. Hopelessness and desperation suddenly consumed me. I fought the situation until I had no more energy to fight and I was just...still. I gave the pieces I had to God and prayed for direction on how to move forward.

Gradually, God began to place new pieces in my path. Some of them were scarred pieces of shell that had been worn down by the ocean tides. I was hesitant to pick them up, but God showed me that the scars were healed physically. I picked them up with the doubt still strong and began to add them to the pieces I had. Some of the pieces were beautiful shells and incredibly strong ones. Some looked like they belonged to an artist of the sea with patterns of blues and purples and oranges among the familiar white and gray. 

At the end of 2015, I find myself looking at the pile of pieces I've gathered and noticing that some of them have been glued together by strength, faith, courage, relationships, love, grace, and so much more. I can't see the whole piece yet, but I can tell that it's beautiful. Beauty from the broken. I had to completely fall apart in order for healing to take place.

4). 2nd Chances: More than I can count. Second chances at life. Second chances at health. Second chances at happiness and true joy. The grace God grants every time I falter. I have more gratitude than I can express.

5). Good Football Season: Okay, I had to throw in a shout out to my Bama boys! Ha! 

6). New friendships: This is a huge one. My months in Birmingham have consisted of so many new connections and friendships that God has placed in my path. They are each such a blessing and bring so much joy to my life.

7). Broken Boundaries for Self: The chains that bound me into the small little world inside my head are no longer holding strong around me. The main link has broken and the others are falling apart in time. The world is a big place in which God has so many opportunities for each of us. My eyes are opening to all that is out there.

8). Renewal: In every way that the word applies.

9). Vulnerability: One of my biggest fears; letting others see my fears. Letting others see my pain and my scars and the baggage I've carried for so long. The walls that I had spent so much time building to hide all of it had to come down. It was one of the most hard and terrifying things I've ever done; to allow people to truly see every part of me. But, without this vulnerability, none of the amazing things that have grown within my life would have had the room to grow. 

10). Freedom From Fears: They're not gone. They're still here. But they no longer control everything I do.

11). Broken Chains: One by one. They're coming undone.

12). A New Reflection: I no longer cringe every single time I look in the mirror. My eating disorder still tries to pick me apart, but I'm learning to call out its lies and cover them with truths, even if I don't quite believe all of them wholeheartedly yet. I don't see the same person anymore. I'm not the same person. 

The next challenge was to come up with the 12 words to carry into 2016:

1). Connections: Continuing to foster current healthy connections with others and openness to new ones. 

2). Peace: Peace that can only come from Jesus. Peace with life. Peace that comes with trusting Him with whatever comes. 

3). Freedom: Seeking complete freedom from fears and this eating disorder so that nothing in my life is controlled by them.

4). Empowerment: Finding inner strength in myself and Christ within me.

5). Joy: Continuing to carry this joy with me that comes only from Him. Seeking joyful moments in every day and every situation.

6). Acceptance: Of myself as I am now, and of my past, and wherever I am in life.

7). Undone: Being comfortable in being completely undone so that God can put it all back together again.

8). Hope: Hope for full recovery, hope for what is to come, hope for a life no longer bound by chains.

9). Courage: Courage to recover and give up unhealthy coping skills that have been my normal for so long. Courage to break out of the comfort zone that my eating disorder has become. Courage to seek Christ first in everything. Courage to trust myself and others. Courage to trust the recovery process. Courage to seek acceptance.

10). Strength: Inner strength in Christ within me. Grabbing hold of it. Believing in it. Holding on to it. Applying it.

11). Faith: In God, myself, and others.

12). Passion: Constant pursuit of the passions that God has placed within me. Boldly seeking the things that set my soul on fire.

I've seen so many posts about being so glad 2015 is over and how awful it was. I get it. I've done that so many times, especially in 2012. I could easily say that about 2015. I've worked harder the last few months than I ever have. It's been an insane roller coaster ride. But, being challenged to only look at the positive completely changed my perspective and increased the joy within me.

My challenge to you is to look at 2016 in a different way. Find only positive things about 2015. That doesn't mean you don't honor the bad things; it just means that you aren't letting them pack the good things in a box. Take 2016 as an opportunity to love yourself; physically, emotionally, spiritually. 

Picture yourself as a well. Every time you give to others, whether it be time or love or support, you empty a bucket of water from the well. Eventually, the well will run dry and you have nothing left to put in your bucket. You're just empty.

Be open to receiving love and time and support from others. Be open to receiving what God has for you. Let Him refill your well. When the world tells you aren't worthy of receiving, call out those lies and cover them in truth. When the world tells you that you aren't good enough or that your body isn't good enough or thin enough or that nothing you have to offer is good enough, tell those lies to shut up. Tell them the truth, even if you don't wholeheartedly believe it yourself. 

Take time to get to know yourself and fall in love with the unique person that God created you to be. Allow yourself to receive the abundant life that He has always intended for you to live. Find what sets your soul on fire and passionately pursue it. Find what helps you to feel connected to God, yourself, and others and make time to engage in it and practice self care. Be you(tiful). Seek joy. And by seeking joy, and finding joy, you will spread joy all over 2016.