weak enough to lead?

This year at annual conference, as I was scanning the Cokesbury section, I came across a book titled, “Weak Enough To Lead” by James C. Howell. The title jumped out at me in such a way that I didn’t even need to read the summary on the cover before snatching it off the table and heading up to the register to purchase it. The book jumped out at me because its topic was one which I have wrestled with a lot in life, feeling as though weaknesses somehow deem me incapable of leading, especially, leading in ministry and as a pastor someday. At times, I have found myself plagued by this feeling of defeat, as though I was too weak or ‘not cut out’ for what God has called me to do. I have always been a perfectionist, always set high expectations for myself, and am hard on myself if I ‘fail’ or don’t reach my goals at the very time that I had planned. I don’t like to complain or dwell on bad things, and admitting struggle or weakness is something I am not great at. So, perhaps, after stating all of that, it’s not too hard to imagine this book being one that I just couldn’t pass by. As I have read it more and more, I have found that it addresses every single thing I have listed above, and more.

Many times, I have thought to ask myself, “am I too weak to lead?”

But never once have I thought to ask myself, “am I weak enough to lead?”

That is the very question this book examines:

Am I weak enough to lead?

My recovery is something that I am very open and honest about in my conversations with people and in my writing, which many of you know. I am almost 5 1/2 years in recovery from anorexia, and I’ll actually be on a mission trip in Cuba on the 5 1/2 year mark, but you better believe that I am still going to jump up and down a few times out of joy and celebrate the accomplishment it is to me. Something I am not so open about, however, is the fact that recovery is a journey more so than it is a one time decision, and like any journey, it has bumps, detours, obstacles, highs, lows, and everything in between, and for the sake of being honest and at the risk of being vulnerable, I do still struggle at times with my recovery, and it is for that very reason that, at times, it has made me feel as though I am somehow too weak or too incapable of leading. This isn’t because I see my recovery or the fact that I have struggled with an eating disorder as a weakness, rather, it is something about my life that is not perfect, and as a perfectionist, one can see how that could affect my confidence in my leadership abilities. It wasn’t until recently that I came to the realize and truly believe that being a pastor and being in recovery are not mutually exclusive. I thank God for helping me realize that, and I thank him for continuing to assist me in believing that.

My recovery and the ministry I am called to are two of the most important things in my life, and God knows that full well. He knows that I am in recovery – heck, he has been with me every single step that I have taken since day 1 of being diagnosed, to day 1 of beginning recovery, all the way up until now, and he’s still trekking along beside me, behind me, and before me.

God also has called me to be a pastor. He has called me to a life of ministry for him, in service to others. God knows I have weaknesses, and in fact, he knows those weaknesses inside and out, better than even I do. Even so, that doesn’t diminish his confidence in my ability, through him, to pursue his call upon my life to be a leader in the Church.

I don’t personally think for one second that God looks at us and thinks, “she is strong enough for this” or “he is strong enough for this.” God doesn’t call only people who have no weaknesses or no imperfections, because if we’re being honest, those people don’t exist. This book has made me think about the possibility that, rather than calling us based on our strengths or how equipped we are, God looks at us and says,

“She is weak enough – I will give her the strength she needs to lead and I will use her weaknesses for the benefit of my kingdom.”

“He is weak enough – I will give him the strength he needs to lead and I will use his weaknesses for the benefit of My Kingdom.”

Brothers and sisters, it is normal – innate, even – to have weaknesses. There are many differences between you and me and everyone else in this world, but something we all have in common is that we all have weaknesses. We all have brokenness. We all fall short. We all have pain. We all endure hardships. We all sin. We all mess up. We all fail. We are all imperfect. No leader is without any of those things.

I am thankful to have not only a hand full, but two hands full of mentors, pastors, and simply amazing leaders in my life, and one of the many things I respect most about those leaders is their willingness to acknowledge weakness, to be vulnerable, to show emotion, to admit when they don’t know something, to acknowledge their imperfections, to admit their faults, to talk about their fears and their challenges, and let people know that being a leader doesn’t negate the fact that you’re still human. I pray to embody that authenticity as an individual and as a pastor someday. I have more distrust than I do admiration for leaders who try to portray themselves as these perfect individuals who are never weak. Because that’s fake. We all have weaknesses so to portray yourself as though you have none is inauthentic and misleading for those who look up to you and those whom you are leading. Having weaknesses and being a leader are also not mutually exclusive. If anything, they make you a better leader.

I am preaching to myself just as much as I am preaching to you when I write this, but do not be ashamed of the things that you consider to be weaknesses in your life, especially when you have a God who is eager to use those weaknesses! Don’t cover them up, rather, embrace them. I know that is easier said than done, but God can actually use them and perfect his strength in those weaknesses. Our weaknesses do not deem us incapable of leading. We are weak, but God is strong. We have flaws, but God is flawless. We are imperfect, but Jesus was & is perfect. I encourage you to ask the question: Am I weak enough to lead? & What does that mean to and for you?

To close out this post, I wanted to leave you with a quote to contemplate from the book I just have mentioned above (I strongly recommend picking up a copy!!)

…Is it that God uses our strengths? Or is it even truer that God’s strength is perfected in our weakness? (Howell, 2017). 


 

Loving and gracious God,

Thank you for using our weaknesses, perhaps even more than you use our strengths. Thank you for being present in our lives as a stronghold and rock, so that we don’t ever have to rely on our own strength. We pray that when we feel incapable or weak that you would remind us that yes – we are incapable and we are weak but you are strong and you are capable. We pray that you would fill us with spirit and enable us to go out and lead, and serve, in your Son, Jesus’ name. We pray that we would be weak enough to lead. Take our pride, God, and take our desire to be perfect and replace it with humility and peace not only in who you’ve made us to be but in who you are. We pray all of this in your name –

Amen. 

 

Advertisements

a post for 5 years || recovery

On the 13th of this month, I’ll be 5 years in recovery – a milestone that, in the moments leading up to that day, has me reflecting & so eager to write. I’m almost 5 years in recovery from an eating disorder that had me believing I wouldn’t even get to 1 year. The mere idea of being 5 years in recovery sends my emotions in all different directions, but mostly, it fills me with a kind of joy that I can’t quite articulate. Out of everything in life, I am most proud of this.

Everything that I am able to do today, I am able to do it because of recovery. That is what makes this such an important milestone in my life. That is why I can’t help but celebrate the 13 of every month, but especially, the 13th of February. The things I do today would not be possible without the health and strength that I have gained, both mentally and physically, in recovery, and that is something I know to never take for granted.

Nearing 5 years in recovery means that for 5 years now, I’ve been not only battling but overcoming a mental illness that had one goal, and that goal was basically to take control of my life until there was no life left to control. Its goal was to make me miserable, which, when I was in the very depths of the disorder, it did succeed at. It succeeded at destroying the joy that I am normally filled with. But it didn’t fully succeed. If that had been the case, I wouldn’t be here writing this post today. Praise & glory to God for that.

Every time I write or talk about this part of my life, my goal is to be as raw, honest, and vulnerable as I can be. Those are three things that I try to be each time I post on this blog or on my social media about recovery, because it’s important to me to show people who are still struggling, or people who are just beginning recovery, that recovery is not a perfect thing, by any means, but that it is possible. It’s important to me to let people know that you can recover and reach the goals and dreams that I know you all have. Is it still a little anxiety-provoking to share about something so personal on social media? Of course it is (I’m human!) But if we do not talk about it and normalize talking about it, the stigmas that exist surrounding mental illness will remain; people are less likely to seek help because of those stigmas, and they are more likely to feel alone. I for one do not want anybody who is struggling with an eating disorder, or any mental illness for that matter, to feel alone, because you most definitely are not.

I was diagnosed with my eating disorder back when I was a freshman in high school, and I remember it vividly, because I had had pneumonia prior to being diagnosed. I lost a good amount of weight because I was so sick from the pneumonia, and I didn’t end up gaining back thar weight the way that I should have after recovering from pneumonia. In addition to this, my eating didn’t go back to ‘normal’ after I no longer had the illness, so, those were the first indicators to my parents and doctor that something was not right with me. When I was in the depths of the disorder, I came close to being sent to North Carolina for inpatient treatment, but I ended up doing intensive outpatient treatment. The affects that the disorder had on my physical health, such as my blood pressure and heart rate, and having passed out in school, were all very clear indicators that inpatient or outpatient was needed, and it needed to be intense. I did this outpatient treatment for about 3 years – I had a dietitian who I saw every other week, my pediatrician (at the time) who I saw once a month, a psychologist I saw every week (after going through like, 5 of them before finding the right fit – don’t panic if the first once you see is not a good fit, it takes time). Along with my 3 doctors, I attended group therapy each week that I could. It was definitely an overwhelming amount of appointments for a high school student as I was, but all of it was essential, and I knew that, even on the days I wanted nothing more than to skip them. While I no longer see these doctors, they contributed so much to saving my health, and I am grateful, and will likely never stop expressing my gratitude to them. *Never, ever, ever feel ashamed for seeking professional help – they are amazing & can help save your life.

I was 15 years old when I was diagnosed. I’ll be 21 next weekend, and I am in a great place – a place I most definitely never in a million years pictured myself, but a place I’m so thankful to be in. I have so many people, including myself, to thank for that. I attend what is the most amazing university, have incredible friends, a loving & supportive family, a church I love to pieces (a lot of churches, actually – they all rock). I am so very happy.

I don’t struggle with anorexia anymore, but for the sake of this post being honest & vulnerable, some days, yes – I do have to work a little harder at recovery than other days, and I am learning that that is okay. This is a process; a journey. And no journey in life, whatever it may be, is perfect or smooth sailing all of the time. There will always be bumps and twists and turns, and we just have to keep trekking when we get knocked down or have setbacks.

A very important part of this post to me was to note, for those struggling, that even being years in recovery, it is still something you will find yourself thinking about and having to work at. While I do not suffer from the disorder itself anymore, some days, life happens and I have to actively remind myself of my recovery and be more intentional about staying healthy. Again, that is okay if you have to do that. It doesn’t make you weak or any less worthy of saying that you are in recovery. When you’re in recovery, you get to know yourself really well and you realize quickly what triggers there are out there for you, what you need to do when you find yourself in the face of them, and what outlets help you when you’re struggling. Those are skills & tools you’ll learn & take with you forever. I myself still work on this to this day. For example, stress still can be a really big trigger for me – it is easy for me to resort to not eating when I am stressed as a way to cope, but because stress is everywhere, I’ve had lots of practice using those tools I’ve gained in recovery as coping mechanisms – they are my outlets, and I highly recommend figuring out yours, because they help so, so much. With that, I’ve learned that the bad days, and sometimes, bad weeks, where you find yourself struggling and having to work a little harder at recovery, you are only made stronger by, because those days remind us that even when we struggle, we are still choosing health over the disease.

I like to say, it is one hell of a mental illness to fight. But I’ve found that I am one hell of gal for fighting it, and beating it. 😉

Recovery is a very beautiful & very difficult thing. But gosh am I thankful to be almost 5 years. I will most definitely be celebrating with a milkshake + my favorite meals (lol).

It’s cool – I actually love food. I love food, I love my body, & I altogether love my energetic little self. There was a point (many different points) in my life where I never thought I would ever be able to say those things and actually mean them. So that’s huge to be in that place I never thought I could be (anything’s possible, right?) If you know me, you know that I am obsessed with peanut butter m&ms and that you will never find me without a family size bag of them in my pantry. I also love chicken nuggets and eat them arguably more often than a 5 year old does. I love to see all of the things that my body is capable of doing. Every run & every hike – those hills I run and those mountains I climb. The sermons I write and preach. The blog posts I write, the exams I take, the homework I do, the food I eat, the drinks I drink, the friends I am able to go out & have fun with. All of those things sort of disappeared as I battled with anorexia.

But today, all of those things above are true in my life because of recovery. I am so proud & thankful, because I love doing all of those things. (Taking exams & doing homework, aside, of course).

To me, recovery is a lot of things. Recovery will be a lot of different things to different people. But one thing that is the same for every one is that recovery is worth it & YOU are worth recovery.

By writing about this journey of mine, my hope is that it lets people, even if it’s just one person, know that they are not alone; that they are not the only ones going through this, though they will most definitely feel as though they are at times. I want you, reading this today, to know that if you are struggling, I understand that feeling, as though you are alone. & I understand what you are going through right now. I want you to know that overcoming this disorder is possible, because I did it, and as cliche as it sounds, if I can, you can, too. If you, right now, are in the depths of an eating disorder, or if you are just now beginning recovery, it is possible to get to a place where you love your body and love food, and think about both of those things in healthy ways. It is possible to get to a place where you can look in the mirror and love the person staring back at you. It’s possible to get to a place where you’re not obsessed with your weight, the number of calories you eat, and to a place where you don’t have anxiety at the mere thought of eating. You, my friend, can do this. My prayer is that every man or woman reading this today who is struggling with a mental illness of any kind, will take that truth away from this post, if nothing else.

Finally, I couldn’t write this post without thanking the people in my life who may be reading this, and have played a role in supporting me these past 5 years, in recovery and in life. To those who have helped me get healthy, and have helped me remain healthy, you have no idea the impact that you have made. A huge to the moon & back thank you to my parents (because I know they’ll read this) for being by my side since day 1 of my life, but also since day 1 of my recovery. Thank you for putting up with me (lol), and loving me an annoyingly large (but sweet) amount, as parents should.

To my friends, whole family, my church(es), mentors, pastors, high school teachers, college professors,

Thank you for genuinely caring about me and my progress in recovery. Thank you for loving me even back when I could not have hated myself more. Thank you for always being there to listen to me, whether I was in need of someone to talk to or cry to. Thank you to the people who were there to hold me as I straight up ugly cried in their arms during the worst & darkest moments back towards the beginning of recovery; the moments where I thought that it was absolutely impossible to recover and be happy again. Thank you for sitting with me and being a calm presence, whether you understood what I was going through or not, whether you knew what to say to me or not. Your presence meant and continues to mean more to me than you know. Thank you for never once looking down on me for the disorder I was battling, and instead, loving me through it and remaining by my side through the pitfalls and triumphs, to this day. I could never do recovery, college, ministry, or life in general without you people who have constantly been behind & beside me. Also, quick shout out to the DCOM (even though the odds of them seeing this are slim). When I was in my certification interview for candidacy last month, my history with an eating disorder did come up as it was noted on my psych eval, so, we talked about that, and when I mentioned that I was going to be 5 years in recovery this month, every pastor & lay person in that room interviewing me said “wow, congratulations” and that meant everything to me. It was meaningful to me because pursuing ministry is one of the most important things in my heart, but also, because it reminded me of the fact that no church leader is perfect I am no exception; I don’t need to be perfect to be a church leader and neither does anybody else. It’s impossible. We all carry with us baggage and things to work on. That’s why we need God and his grace, amen? So, to end the post, of course a big thank you to God.

Thanks, God, for giving me every ounce of strength that I have needed to kick the crap out of anorexia. I love ya so much & promise to always dedicate my life to serving you with the little powerhouse of a body you’ve given me. This is part of my story and it’s not something I’ll ever choose to hide, rather, another tool I’m able to use to minister to my brothers & sisters in Christ.

a thanksgiving post for those in recovery.

I write a post like this one every year to publish on Thanksgiving, because I know how difficult Thanksgiving can be for those struggling with an eating disorder, and for those in recovery from an eating disorder. When I was in the very depths of my eating disorder, I absolutely hated Thanksgiving day – I dreaded it as it approached. I was someone who feared food and got easily overwhelmed by the thought of eating on any given day, so Thanksgiving was like that but on steroids. Because of this, I sought out tweets, articles, and posts by other people who I knew understood the anxiety that Thanksgiving brought to someone struggling and/or in recovery from an eating disorder. So I want to provide something like that for those who may need it today, just as I did not too long ago. Being over 4 1/2 years in recovery now, and someone who loves food, I am excited for Thanksgiving, because cheesy as it may be, I’ve got lots to be thankful for, including yummy food. I do still get some anxiety surrounding this holiday, so because I know the anxiety well, I’m hoping this post can maybe be of some help to you if you’re struggling. These are just some things that I’ve always found helpful that I wanted to write out for you if you find yourself plagued with any type of fear or anxiety about Thanksgiving because of your eating disorder.

First and foremost, please please know that you are not alone in the anxiety that you are finding yourself consumed by. While the people you are physically surrounded by on Thanksgiving may not understand how you’re feeling or why you’re feeling the way you’re feeling, rest assured that there are people, including myself, who do understand. The fear you have of this holiday is not a fear that only you have, and it’s not something you have to be ashamed of. It is also a fear that does not have to consume you and steal this day away from you. It does not have to have the satisfaction of stealing away your focus from the things that you are thankful for.

Don’t think that you have to eat a ton of food, just because there is a ton of food present. This is something I struggled with a lot. I would feel such pressure to fill up my plate simply because that’s what everyone else was doing. And yes, you still need to eat, but you don’t have to stuff yourself. You eat what you are comfortable eating (but still eat, please, your body needs food whether its thanksgiving food or not!)

You also don’t even have to eat the Thanksgiving food if you don’t want to. Eat food that you are used to eating on a regular basis if that is less overwhelming to you. I’ve done that on Thanksgiving before! I think one Thanksgiving I had chicken fingers?

Step away if you need to. It’s okay to walk away from the dinner table and take a breather if you need. Go on a walk, write in your journal, take a nap, watch a funny show on Netflix, call or text a friend, pray, open up your Bible and read some scripture. You don’t have to remain in an environment that triggers anxiety for you. You’re allowed to step away.

It is okay to treat yourself!! Allow yourself to eat that slice of pumpkin pie. Have multiple helpings of turkey or stuffing if you want. Eat 2 servings of ice cream or cranberries if you’ve still got more room in your stomach. It is one day. It will piss the eating disorder off, for sure. But that’s really a huge part of recovery – pissing the eating disorder off and doing exactly the opposite of what your disorder wants you to.

Make this holiday more about the gratitude you have in your heart and make it about being present with the people around you. Make it less about the food. I know, so much easier said than done. But Thanksgiving is not about food. Clearly, we humans have made it about food – it’s an excuse to eat an excessive amount of food, right? That’s okay. But you have so much to be thankful for – bask in that!!

Stay away from the scale. Better yet, put the scale away. A scale is not helpful on Thanksgiving day or around this day. Even if you’re eating “normally” and not eating a ton,the scale becomes 10x more stressful around the holidays because of the emphasis on large amounts of food. You don’t need to stress yourself out about your weight, which is really a reminder for today and every day of recovery!

Know that this day doesn’t have to be different from any other day. It will come and it will pass just as any other day does. Try as best you can to enjoy this day with the people around you, difficult as it may be. Be present with the people you’re surrounded by and constantly be thinking about the things you’re thankful for, because this day should be more about that than it should be about food.

Lastly, you can do this!!!!! You’ve made it trough every Thanksgiving meal you’ve had so far in your lifetime, be confident in your ability to make it through this one as well. You are strong. You can do it.

a note for 4 1/2 years. a note for those struggling.

On the 13th of every month, I have a little party (of one) because the 13th marks another month since the day I decided to begin this crazy, messy, difficult, beautiful, rewarding journey called recovery. Today just so happened to mark 4 1/2 years since that day, and I couldn’t let it pass by without writing a short and sweet blurb about it.

Anorexia was a disease that took hold of me and flipped things right upside down for me halfway through my freshman year of high school. This disease was one that had every intention of taking this sweet life away from me, but God and I had other plans, praise Him, for that. The fact that I said nope that’s not how my story is going to end, is something that I celebrate every single day, but the 13th is important to me because it’s a reminder. It’s a reminder of how far I’ve come since the day I was first diagnosed, along with the day I decided to begin recovery. It is because of my recovery that I am able to do every single thing that I am doing today, and it humbles me to remember each month that none of it would be possible without recovery and the strength I found in God to get to where I am today. I can hike mountains, go on runs, preach God’s Word, spend time with all of the people whom I love, all because of recovery. I will never let a day go by without acknowledging that. Life is hard sometimes, we all know that, but I live a great life surrounded by people I’ll never deserve, I have opportunities I am eternally grateful for, and a future that I could not be more excited for.

I remember one day my parents said to me, “Ashley, you can’t be a pastor and do all of the things required of you if you’re not healthy.”

Those words have always stuck with me to this day, and I think the reason that those words spoken to me stuck with me is because being the best, healthiest version of yourself is a daily task, and it is lifelong. We have to constantly be in tune with our bodies and actively work to take care of ourselves. You can’t do anything you love to do or anything that requires a lot of you if you are not healthy. That goes for any job, and any person. I know the last thing I would ever want was for my eating disorder to ruin my future, and now more than ever I can’t imagine my health preventing me from pursuing God’s call upon my life. Back when my eating disorder began to affect my vitals, I knew I had to change and recover before the illness succeeded at its task to take my life. I still work every day at a healthy lifestyle, just as I’m sure you do, too.

As I reflected on this awesome day of being 4 1/2 years in recovery, I’ve been thinking a lot about how important it is for everyone to know that things aren’t going to be perfect once you choose to recover or even when you do recover. You will still have insecurities every now and then. You will have to work hard, even harder, at maintaining your health. Recovery doesn’t mean that you are supposed to be this perfectly confident person every second of every day – you’re not going to be a perfect person at all. You’re still human. Lord knows I still struggle with things! I don’t have disordered thoughts towards eating anymore, I don’t hate my body, but to this day I still have things regarding my health that I’m working at. Personally, I really struggle to remain at a healthy weight, not because of an eating disorder, but because I have a super speedy metabolism and I’m an active gal. I’m small and I’ve always been small (that’s my parents doing # genes) but its always been hard for me to gain weight. A lot of people think that recovery, especially recovery from anorexia, means you gain a ton of weight, but 4 1/2 years into recovery, I am here still actively working to gain weight healthily and keep that weight on, because that’s just what’s healthier for me. But that is a challenge for me not because I don’t want to but because I’m still figuring out what my body needs in order to gain weight. (There is always more to figure out and learn and become better at!)

But with all of that being said, the main reason I wanted to write this was for those who are still struggling today with an eating disorder. If you are struggling, first and foremost I want you to know that I feel for you and I understand what you are going through. I understand how much you feel like giving up, and how much you think that you cannot recover and therefore its hopeless to even try. But I cannot express to you enough how much hope there is for you. I would never say that if I did not mean it, or if I hadn’t felt what it’s like to get out of the depths of one of these illnesses. Now that I am here, and I am able to enjoy this life that I have been given to live to the fullest, I can say with such confidence that it is worth every single difficult moment. It is worth all of the tears, the doctors appointments, the bad days, the breakdowns – Recovery is worth it. And believe it or not, there is so much pure beauty to be found in the process. It’s a long process, it’s a tough one, but it’s a possible one. You can do it.

Even knowing the hell that my eating disorder put me through, I still would never wish to not have gone through it. I’m sure I did wish that when I first jumped into recovery, or when I relapsed, but now that my head is risen above the waters following being in the depths of the disorder, I would never choose to go back and not go through it. To say the most cliche thing in the world, this whole entire journey has made me stronger, and I’m grateful. It’s a part of my testimony, and while the disorder itself is not part of who I am, the story that God has written through the struggle most certainly is. And in addition to that, I get to be here, writing this, to you all. I talk and write about this openly and honestly for this very reason – I have people of all ages message me all the time on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and this blog asking me questions, wanting suggestions or advice, or just saying my being open helped them know they’re not alone. That’s amazing to me, it leaves me in awe, and every ounce of glory goes to God for that because it is only by his strength that I made it through this, and furthermore, it’s only by his strength and courage I’m able to open about it and write to the world about something so personal. But I’m here for you all. The reason I chose to be open about this in the first place was with the hope and prayer that it could help other people struggling with similar things. You deserve to know that you’re not alone. So please, never feel as though you are in this alone. whether we’ve talked in person before or not, you can always reach out to me. I’m here for you because I know how helpful it is to talk to someone who gets it. I’m here for you because you’re my brother or my sister in Christ and I want you to know you can experience the joy of living a life free from your eating disorder.

Your life matters. Recovery is worth it. You can live a life that is not consumed by your eating disorder. Know that. Believe that. And know it’s going to be hard. It will never not be hard, but it will never not be worth it. You’re going to have days you feel awesome and motivated to recover, and you’ll have days you want to give up.

Don’t.

 

thanksgiving / for those with an eating disorder

I wanted to write this and post it for Thanksgiving to serve as a crutch for anyone who may need it today, because I know that when I was in the depths of my eating disorder, I dreaded thanksgiving. 

I dreaded having a holiday that seemed to be centered around food and food alone. It gave me anxiety that was close to unbearable and it made me absolutely miserable instead of thankful. 

So, if that is how you are feeling right now, I want you to know that I am here for you, and you are most certainly not alone. 

I realize that most of what I am going to write in this post is a lot easier said than done. I realize this because back when I was battling harder than ever with anorexia, I resorted to reading articles and talking to people who understood what I was going through when Thanksgiving rolled around. 

Please know that I am someone who understands what you are going through. I know that no two people are alike and that therefore, no two journeys are alike, but I know enough about eating disorders to know why Thanksgiving can be a very difficult holiday for those who struggle with them. I understand why you may be dreading this day. I understand why you are having anxiety about this day and I understand why you are overwhelmed by the great amount of food and the focus on that food. I know full well the hell that your mind puts you through as the holidays approach. I know you think that you are going to gain weight if you do eat that slice of pie or plate of turkey. I know that your mind is overwhelmed and racing rapidly thinking about how many calories you will or will not eat today. I know you are dreading a day centered around having a large meal with a bunch of people. I get it. I’ve been there. You are without a doubt, not alone. 

First things first – you are going to be okay. 

You are going to be okay.
You are going to get through this day, so keep telling yourself that, over and over and over again. 

Know that you don’t have to eat a lot, but also know that you do need to eat. Try telling yourself that this day is no different than any other day. You still need food to be your fuel so that you can function properly and have energy. 

Take your focus off of the food and put your focus on being thankful. That’s what Thanksgiving should be about. Focus on the fact that you are surroudned by people who you love and who love you. Focus on the fact that you are breathing, because sometimes, that is enough. Think of all of the people you are thankful for. Think of all that you have in life and be thankful. If it all becomes too much and you find yourself overwhelme  and unsure of what to do, find yoursef an outlet; Journal. Pray. Text or call a friend. Engage in conversation with the friends and / or family whom you are present with. Go on a walk. Do whatever you need to do, but take care of yourself in the process. 

Your eating disorder does not have to prevent you from enjoying this day. Feel what you feel but don’t believe everything you think. The eating disorder will try to tell you lies about yourself and about the food put out in front of you but you don’t have to believe those lies. It will be a mental battle, as it is with an eating disorder on any other day. But you can do this. I cannot say that enough. You can do this. 

Friends, I remember the misery that came with Thanksgivng when my eating disorder was completely in control in my life. I remember learning to hate the holiday solely because of how much food came along with it. But Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate what and who you are thankful for. It’s not at all about the food. Remember that, okay? 

I am almost four years into recovery from anorexia and I never thought I’d go from hating Thanksgiving to loving all things pumpkin flavored, but here I am, writing this to you because I know that if I could do it, you can too. 
It is possible. You can do this. I believe in you. 

Take today one meal at a time, one bite at a time, one conversation at a time. 

You can do it.

Know I will be praying for you today, and I 100% believe you can make it through this day. 

you can recover

I believe we go through the struggles that we do for a reason. I realize not everyone believes this to be true, but I firmly believe God has a reason as to why he allows things to happen the way they do.

Because of this, I do believe I was diagnosed with an eating disorder 5 years ago, for a reason, and I believe one reason for this, was so when I finally surrendered and told myself and told God that I didn’t want to live or die that way, I would be able to help people who are also struggling the way I did.

While this post is primarily for anybody who is struggling or has struggled with an eating disorder, it is also for those who have not or are not struggling, to enlighten you of the dangers of these disorders. My main goal from day one of this personal journey of mine, has been to spread awareness, and I believe that is best done, by educating as many people as possible.

So to you – whoever you may be, in whatever walk of life you may be in,

I want you to know that I know how firmly you believe you can’t do this. I know you think you can’t recover. I know you’ve thought to yourself at least once, “recovery is just not for me.”  Maybe you’ve reached your breaking point. Maybe you’re just having a bad bad. Maybe you haven’t eaten today and the disorder is trying to tell you that that should make you proud. Maybe you’ve been lying in bed all day because you’re trying to avoid having to eat, or you’re just too depressed to get out of bed. Maybe you want to recover, and rid yourself of the eating disorder, but don’t know how or where to begin. Maybe you haven’t even thought about trying to recover because you think it’s impossible.

Maybe you do not yet know that it is possible, and you deserve recovery.

I understand why you do not yet know that it is possible, and I understand why you believe you don’t deserve to recover, and live a life free from your illness.

Your eating disorder has probably done a good job of making you feel completely worthless – as though you are nothing without it. The illness has probably become your best friend, you may have isolated yourself from your real friends, and maybe even from your family. You don’t get excited anymore about the things you were once passionate about. You applaud yourself when you skip a meal and you bask in hunger pains because you are convinced it will help you become ‘thinner’ and more beautiful/handsome. You probably don’t think much of the eating disorder as a sickness, because it has become so ‘normal‘ to you. You think about all of the calories in your food more than you think about enjoying what used to be your favorite meals and deserts. You care about how to avoid your next meal more than you care about hanging out with your friends or doing your homework. You know deep down inside that you are miserable and you hate living a life controlled by a mental illness. You know deep down inside that you are merely surviving, and not living the precious life you have, as you should be. Maybe you’re tired and fed up with being controlled by the disease.

You may or may not know this, but an eating disorder is a disease, and a very deadly one at that. These illnesses consume millions of lives, and they take hundreds upon thousands of lives each year. That is not a scare tactic. I’m not trying to scare you into getting better. Those are facts. I want you to know the facts and seriousness of this disorder you care so much about.

Hearing the statistics and reality of eating disorders didn’t scare me at all. Hearing from my parents and my doctors about how dangerous these illnesses were did not scare me one bit 5 years ago.

Passing out on the bathroom floor of my high school and getting a concussion scared me. Being told by my doctor that my BMI was dangerously low and that my heart rate and blood pressure had been affected because I wasn’t taking care of my body, scared me.

I decided to recover because I realized my eating disorder was not worthy of the life that has been given to me by God. I finally realized there was so much more that I could be doing with my life, instead of being tortured by that disease every day. I decided to recover because I realized I have so many people in my life who love me and want me to be happy and healthy. I decided to recover because while I wasn’t convinced that it was possible, I was willing to try – I decided it was worth trying because I had the smallest amount of hope, that is was possible.

I am here today to tell you that it is possible to leave behind your life that has been consumed by your eating disorder – that kind of life which does not have a happy ending. I’m here to tell you that recovery is possible, and I know that’s probably the most cliche and hard to believe statement out there, but I’m here telling you it’s possible because I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I’ve experienced how possible it really is. I remember back when I thought it wasn’t possible, I remember thinking that my parents and my doctors were crazy for telling me it was possible, so believe me when I say I know how you feel, and I know the thoughts that are racing through your head right now.

Because I’m telling you it’s possible, I’m also going to tell you, recovery is also very hard. I’m not going to sugarcoat it and say it’s possible and not say it’s hard. It is hard, but it is not as hard as unknowingly and slowly killing yourself by allowing your disorder to abuse your body.

I’m here to tell you that I was in the very shoes that you are walking in today. My life was consumed by anorexia. My life revolved around my weight, how many calories I ate and drank, how much I exercised, and how I could avoid eating. I was miserable and I was so unhealthy. I was slowly killing myself and I couldn’t even see that because my life was so consumed by one of these terrible diseases.

I was there – but now I’m here.

Now I’m over 3 years in recovery.

I am much, much happier, I am much healthier, and I am stronger, both mentally and physically.

Now I am able to put my energy towards the things I love – the passions I have, the goals I want to reach, the dreams I plan to pursue. Now I have this story of hope for those who are in the very place I was before I chose recovery. Now where I am is something I can’t possibly take for granted, knowing how blessed I am to now see the other side of a hardship I thought only had one.

I want that to encourage you. Wherever you are right now in your journey, I want to encourage you. Be encouraged by the fact that you are strong enough. Be encouraged by the fact that you don’t have to live a life consumed by your eating disorder. Be encouraged by the fact that it’s okay to admit that you are struggling. That is always the first step, and it’s probably the hardest as well. I was in denial that I had a problem too, for a very long time – I kept telling myself I wasn’t ‘sick enough.’ However, admitting that I actually was sick and that there was a problem, allowed freedom to enter my life, and that’s a very beautiful thing.

I strongly urge you to find the people and things that give you hope and that keep you going in life.

My faith in God moved mountains for me. My faith moved the mountain that was my eating disorder. My church, my friends, my family, and my doctors were all a constant support system, and I drew strength from their love and kindness.

So reach out to those in your life who you know care about you and love you. I know how alone you may feel, but turning to anybody but your eating disorder will help you, I promise. There are so many resources out there – so many doctors, so many professionals, so many people who dedicate their lives to helping people recover from these disorders, and there are so many people out there who love you and want to see you happy and healthy. Believe that.

Please know, you are not alone. Myself and millions of other people have fought through the same disgusting disease that you are fighting today, and while it’s sad to know a lot of people struggle from these illnesses, it also serves as hope to those who do feel alone.

I am still in recovery and I will be for a long time. It’s a process. A very long process, but the length of the recovery process does not make it any less worth it.

You deserve every single week, day, hour, and minute of support, love, care, and encouragement that is out there for you.

And to those reading this who are simply here to learn, I do have advice for you, too.

If you ever come to know someone who has an eating disorder, I ask that you are gentle. I ask that you don’t try to understand, simply because you won’t. Instead of trying to understand, simply be an ear to them. Don’t try to ‘fix’ the person. You can’t do that either –  the only person who can choose recovery is them. You can’t do it for them. Never underestimate the power and help of simply being there, as a shoulder to cry on, or as someone who just lets them know that they are loved, and that you will support them every step of the way. Remember eating disorder’s don’t discriminate – whether you’re a male, female, white, black, Hispanic, tall, short, heavy, thin, young, old – anyone can suffer from an eating disorder. I want to encourage you to listen more than you talk, show your love, comfort, and compassion, and do anything in your power to help him or her believe they deserve to recover.

 

15 things I would tell 15 year old me.

The other night I was reading through an old journal of mine that I had kept during my freshman year of high school. I was 15 years old at the time, and I was struggling. That was the year my eating disorder was just beginning to get its grip of control over my life, however, now that I am in recovery and well on my way to seeing a life free from this disorder for good, I am, by the grace of God, able to read that journal I kept during that dark period of my life and use it for good. Here are 15 things I would like to tell my 15 year old self, or any other 15 year olds out there, who may need to hear the things I know I could have benefited from, when I was where they are now.

1.) Stop comparing yourself to other people.

You were fearfully and wonderfully made, and you are God’s masterpiece. That needs to be good enough for you. You are going to look at other girls and you’re going to wish you had their hair, their legs, their body, their social life, but you need to stop that. You need to stop because you will never be them and that is a good thing! God created you to be unique and beautiful and wonderful just as you are. Do you know how much it probably hurts God when you wish you were somebody you’re not? Somebody he did not intend for you to be? Accept the person you are and be proud of that person. You’re incredible, and so is everyone else. Nobody is above you and nobody is below you.

2.) Jesus thinks you are to die for.

You’re not perfect, and you know that. But Jesus? Jesus is perfect. That perfect, perfect man who died on that cross for you, thinks you are beautiful. He thought you were to die for. You met him intimately the night you got saved, and although you have strayed away from him before, and you will stray from him again, he will never your side. Pay no mind to those you encounter who try to tear you down or attempt  to convince you that you are ugly or worthless. Jesus loves you. He loves you so much. His love for you is unending, and that love is of great magnitude. Do not listen to those who tell you otherwise. Jesus Christ, your Savior, clearly thought you were to die for.

3.) Your weight is JUST A NUMBER.

I cared so much about my weight during my freshman year of high school. I thought the lower the number, the prettier and better I was. I controlled that number. I obsessed over that number. Not even realizing, that’s all it ever was and all it ever will be- a number. A number on a scale that will not tell you anything about my personality, my character, my heart, my passions, or the gifts and talents God has given me. You are so much more than a number. Do not let that thing define you.

4.) Family is everything.

Nobody cherishes family as much as they should, but family truly is everything. You know what it is like to lose a family member, and you know how terrible and heart wrenching it is. Unfortunately, there is a lot of loss in this world, and losing your grandmother in the 5th grade was not the last time you will have to experience that loss. Cherish every single moment you have with your family. With your parents, your sister, your cousins, your grandparents, your aunts and uncles. You’ll be glad you did. Your family will always, always be there for you. They will always love you and they will always support you. Never pass up an opportunity to go see your family members. Embrace the annual Christmas vacations you always go on together. Hug each and every one of them. Write them letters. Show them how much you love them and just how thankful you are for them and their love.

5.) Stay in love with God.

Stay madly in love with Him. Read your devotions. Open that Bible you have sitting on your bookshelf. Pray. Vent to God. Cry out to God. Go to youth group. Go to church and listen to the sermon. Really listen, and take notes. Know that you are loved by God, and know that your faith is going to save your life. Remain in love with Him. Constantly bring your mind back to Him through out the day. Aim to please Him more than you aim to please your peers. Put effort into having a relationship with Him, because he wants so badly to have an intimate relationship with you.

6.) Crying does not make you weak.

CRYING IS NOT WEAK. It simply means you have been strong for way too long. Let it out. Swallow your pride and bawl your eyes out. If you bottle up all your problems, odds are, they’re going to come out in the form of tears. So cry. It does not make you weak. We all need a good cry every once in a while. Whether it’s alone at night before you go to sleep, or crying to a friend or someone you trust, you don’t need to justify it. You can’t be strong all of the time, and the good thing is you don’t have to be. After you’ve cried, pick yourself back up, and carry on. You’ve got this.

7.) Keep going to church.

You may not realize it quite yet, but your church is your everything. It will prepare you for your future. God is going to call you to do amazing things, especially in ministry, and you’re going to need the support of your incredible church family. Keep going to church, every single Sunday you can. Go to youth group, talk with your pastor and your youth leaders. That church family of yours is going to be your rock, your team, and your motivation to pursue ministry. Along with having an incredible church to call home, you will build a strong, long-term relationship with Jesus Christ, which is better than anything you will ever experience in this life.

8.) Do not underestimate your passions.

The things you’re passionate about are God’s way of telling you THAT is what you are supposed to be doing with your life. He is placing these *incredible* heavy burdens on your heart and making your gifts visible to those around you because what you are doing is what He has called you to do. Keep writing, keep being active in the Church, keep giving messages on youth Sunday, keep submitting your articles and devotions for publication, keep being open about your recovery, because it will end up helping other people. Do not underestimate the things you spend your precious time doing. God has given you these gifts and talents to share with this world, in order to make Him more visible, and be a light that will guide others to Him.

9.) You will lose friends but you will gain them too.

The friends you have right now? Some of them will still be by your side in a year or two, or three. Some of them, however, will not be, and that’s okay. Focus on the two or three best friends you have right now. You will need them. Go out and have fun, be completely ridiculous teenagers and do things you may or may not regret (legal things, of course). You will make mistakes together and you will learn from them, together. You will fight, you will be immature 15 year olds and ignore each other, and yell, but at the end of the day, the friends who are supposed to remain in your life, will. Don’t waste your time on people who clearly do not care about you. You’re a people pleaser and you want to be everyone’s friend, but sometimes you just can’t. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Hang on tight to the incredible friends you have, and know you are too good for people who do not give a crap about you or your well being.

10.) You need support.

Whether you’re struggling and at an all time low, or doing the very best you have ever done, you need to be supported. You need people by your side who are going to encourage you and lift you up when you are down. You are not undeserving of support. You are not unworthy of it. You need it. It is vital. You cannot live this life alone and expect it to be easy. Seek out the people in your life who provide the comfort, support, wisdom, and guidance you need to get through life’s trials. Your friends, family, church, your teachers, and especially God- your # 1 Healer, Redeemer, and Stronghold. You need someone there to tell you “you can do it” when you feel like giving up. You need someone to push you and let you know the fight you’re facing is worth it, even when you feel hopeless. Do not let yourself believe you are too good for support, or ‘not bad enough’ when it comes to your health. If you’re sick, you’re sick, and you need support in order to recover. Most of recovery is you, but a lot of it is all about the encouragement, support, and the strong, wise people you have along side you, to tell you how worth it you are.

11.) Live in the moment.

This is something you and many others have a lot of trouble with. You’re always worrying about tomorrow, yesterday, or next month. You’re always overthinking something you said that you regretted, or worrying about what the far future may hold. I’m telling you right now how important it is to just live in the moment. Be with your friends and leave your phone at home. Do not worry about what you are eating or drinking, where you’re going, or what you’re going to do. Just be present. Being present, in the moment, is the best way to make memories and simply be happy. Don’t worry about what tomorrow may hold, what yesterday held, or what will happen a year from now.

12.) Take care of your body.

This seems simple, but this is one of the hardest tasks you will be need to perform. You have anorexia. An eating disorder with the highest mortality rate of any other mental illness. You need to eat. You need rest. You need to take care of yourself and take your health seriously. You know you have always been afraid of hospitals. The last thing you want to do is end up in one. You cannot choose to starve yourself and expect to live a happy life. You cannot starve yourself and expect to live at all. If you don’t care about that, everyone else in your life who loves you, does. You need to eat for you, but on the days when you can’t do it for yourself, do it for them. Do it for the God who created you in his perfect image. The God who tells you not to worry about what you will eat. You need to eat, fuel your body, and be healthy, in order to do the amazing things you have been called to do.

13.) Let the judgment role off you like rain.

You’ve probably figured this out by now, but people can be mean. Especially in high school, people can be very hurtful, judgmental, and hateful. So you need to be waterproof. Let the judgment and cruel comments role off of you like rain. While people can be mean, people can also be really incredible. Keep your close friends close by and never underestimate the importance and meaning of a couple great friends. You will be judged, and it won’t always be because they’re jealous of you. Often times, people just judge what they don’t understand. The judgment won’t always be easy to handle or listen to, but you are strong and know you have the power to not let it affect you. Let it role right off. You will never see the people you go to high school with ever again after you graduate if you don’t want to. Just be you and let people say what they will.

14.) Stand up for yourself.

Yes. Do this. Stand up for yourself, but learn how to do so in a calm and loving manner. You literally have a t-shirt that says “what would Jesus do?” Remember to ask yourself that. If you haven’t figured this out already, you will: not everyone is always going to agree with you. You have to learn how to agree to disagree. You have to learn how to sit in front of someone bashing something you love, and keep a calm heart and not lash out in anger. You have to remember that you have your beliefs, and other people have theirs. It is possible to have a discussion that does not end in yelling or name calling. You have to know how to stand up for yourself, because you will be faced with adversity. You will encounter situations in life where you will need to defend yourself. When that occurs, remember to keep a calm heart, defend yourself in a way that gets your point across, but also leaves the opposing person thinking, and not simply hating you. Sometimes, standing up for yourself even means remaining silent and letting the other person, or persons, know that you are confident with yourself and with your beliefs, and therefore do not feel the need to defend. Remember this “remaining silent” tip for when you get to college. You’ll need it.

15.) These are not the only hard times you will have.

You are struggling, and I know that. You have struggled before this, and you will struggle after this. Hang in there. Know that this life is not always going to be perfect or beautiful. It can get messy and hard and confusing, but know that you are here for a reason. You do have a purpose in this world and these struggles are strengthening you to live out that purpose. These hard times will make you stronger, and wiser, and more confident. These challenges are preparing you for trials that have yet to come, and God is using these challenges to write your story.