In the Wake of the Storm–Protecting Our Own

I write as one blooming in puddles the aftermath of a tempest. In the wake a horrific storm—the kind that turns the sky sallow, rips roots from the ground, lifts homes and drops them in strange places, I am watching it. I am watching the clouds recede but know they are merely bearing their cruel chaos forward to other homes and lives.

My readers here know my story. For more than a decade I was caught up in the storm of anorexia. Some could see it happening; those close enough could see the toll taken by, even feel the gusts of metaphorical winds. Others, a bit farther way saw the storm as one watching it on the horizon. It looked menacing enough that some took shelter, took precautions to guard their daughters and loved ones from this tsunami.

It finally dropped me. A bit ragged—worn, but whole. And in it’s wake, there are huge puddles, inches of water and the sun has come up and a rainbow welcomes me to life again. And so it’s from this place of awakening, this place of stretching wide in the clear blue of freedom that I now watch the receding clouds and wonder of the havoc they will wreak on someone else.

Storms have varying impacts. Growing up in Oklahoma, on more than one occasion we saw side-by-side homes—one left the other taken. Winds vary and shift; what struck from the north may swing wide and assault from the south next.

And so when I read this story, my heart shook. The memories of shame, fear, confusion, anxiety and loneliness are fresh enough that I empathize with a broken heart.

I was 14 when insecurity and shame overtook me. In response, I constricted my entire being hoping to control at least what remained of me. But this little girl, this little Fern, hasn’t yet taken first steps. She has not yet said, “Mama” or beheld her own face in a mirror. She hasn’t picked a favorite food or color or experimented with a hobby and already the vicious storm that is our world is assaulting her. Already, the cacophony of personal opinions, thoughtless remarks and ignorant stereotypes are pounding on her tiny doorstep. Already the mold has been cast into which she will never fit.

The storm against identity, individuality, sacred life and undefinable beauty was already raging when she arrived—has been raging for all time. From the day Satan persuaded Eve that she was not created with all that she needed for a full, God-intended life—since then we have been searching, sure that God’s design of and for us is deficient.

Let this not be our legacy. We cannot control the weather; no more can we control the ebb and flow of societal opinion and cultural paradigms. But, within our homes, beginning within our own hearts, we can practice, preach and promote the truth that God has done all things well, every one of us is exquisite in His Creator-eyes. Who is the world to say otherwise?

I love the words of Fern’s mother:
“She is not abnormal. She is not normal. She is individually her and as she grows into a girl, a teen, a woman, she needs to always know to her core that she is exquisite and indefinable by the words of people and by the standards of this world.”

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LASTing Peace, Week 30 Q and A!

 

We are going to open the floor for questions!

Every week, I will respond to one (or more if there’s time) question here on LASTing Peace.

Pamela Black is going to help me with this, answering any questions that you would like to put to her about motherhood or growing in grace and faith.

You can ask me anything–questions about eating disorders, treatment options, addictions, faith in Jesus Christ…anything!

We are starting a Twitter conversation using the #QandApredatorylies. Also, you can leave your questions on my blog http://www.predatory-lies.com, or you can contact Pamela or myself through our Facebook pages as well.

So many options–I hope so many questions. This will be fun!
Looking forward to hearing from you.

https://www.facebook.com/pjcmblack
https://www.facebook.com/benjity

(We will be accepting questions starting now through May 12.)

3 Things that Made My Recovery from Anorexia FINAL (1 of 3)

…I need some encouragement, maybe insight on how you made it fully through recovery…to the other side and were able, and now are able to say you are recovered.–She asked me

Funny, I just wrote a book about this, and when presented with the direct question, I had no idea what to say. So, I took the dog for a walk.

What would I do if God didn’t drop things into my head? For sure, I wouldn’t be blogging and I wouldn’t have a book.  Believe me, you wouldn’t care what I had to say.

I sat down to write this sweet friend back and nearly tripped over #3thingstomakerecoveryfinal 

She gave me permission to share them with you:

1 of 3

1. I had to pitch all the women’s magazines. You’re right, it’s still all around you. You’ll still hear in the chiropractor’s office. Many of your friends will still talk about their weight management. But for me, eliminating the pictures made a HUGE difference. I can’t express how much. I deleted the workout sites I followed on YouTube. You and I know how to exercise. Watching those things only causes us to obsess over the “perfect” workout. Yep, trashed the Oxygen and Clean Eating Magazines too. Even the “healthy” ones. I even tossed some cookbooks. Everything that fed into the constant consideration and reconsideration of being the perfect eater or exerciser.

I fully understand the longing to still be one of the radicals. I still wanted people to look at me and think “She’s one of the fittest people I know”. Isn’t that okay?

Admittedly, I still struggle with this a bit. God has been so very, very good and even as I’ve cut my exercise to 1/10 of what it used to be–God and only God–the creator and sustainer of this body, has enabled me to stay at a healthy weight (he didn’t curse me for my rebellion by making me fat). So, the temptation is still there to want others to say, “Wow!”

You know what? I don’t remember the last time someone did. And good grief, you know what?? I don’t care 🙂

I came to better understand those emotions and the drive for perfection as I wrote my book. I had never before realized how much I WANTED everyone to think I was better–even better than they were. It’s an awful admission and kind of ironic since much of our eating disordered behaviors stem from feeling bad about ourselves and denying the things we want. But truthfully, I wanted people to envy and admire me. And when I was successful at running farther or eating less–I felt powerful and superior.

I have learned to overcome that desire. It didn’t come by abasing myself or convincing myself that I was an awful person for feeling that way. Really, it only came about as I have looked more at Jesus and less at me. Let me try to explain that one:

Instead of focusing on fighting my eating disorder. Instead of focusing on changing my thoughts or behaviors, in many ways, I quit looking at myself. You and I know that we can’t change ourselves, the Bible tells us that and we know by experience. But Christ can. So, instead of trying to fix me, I just began to stare more at Him. Read about HIS loveliness, play sermons and Christian music even when I wasn’t listening. And that leads me to another VERY important point.

Much of our church experience and even good pastors focus so much on changing ourselves and how we become more Christ-like and what we need to do to please God. A friend of mine introduced me to @PaulWMinistries. Oh Friend, the refreshing LIFE giving power of his teaching!!

You know what?? I can’t become more Christ-like. I can’t please God. Only Jesus can and Jesus DID. When He said “It is finished” He meant FINISHED!! All the God pleasing, doing good, etc was completed for me in Christ. That took even the guilt out of failing to recover so many times.

I BEG you to listen to some of his sermons. At first, it seemed so hard to swallow, too good to be true.

But isn’t that what Jesus is? Simply too good for our human minds to comprehend?

Here are a couple sermons that rocked my world. I began listening to him in 2010. And God’s word through his sermons timed perfectly to walk me through the last step of recovery.

http://pwmmedia.podbean.com/2012/11/11/who-told-you-that-you-were-naked/
http://pwmmedia.podbean.com/2012/07/19/righteousness-101/

Another killer teacher is @stevenfurtick. He’s doing a series right now on #CrashtheChatterbox. It is EVERYTHING we need to know as we combat, shut down and shut up the lies running rampant in our heads.

http://elevationchurch.org/sermons/crash-the-chatterbox

Point 2 is coming next week…I figure after 791 words, you might need a deep breath and a drink of water. 🙂
See you soon!

 

A Reason for Lost

This morning, I sat wordless before the Father. Don’t you hate it sunset-harbour-2-1016736-mwhen that happens? You’re supposed to be praying and all of sudden (or maybe not so suddenly, maybe it feels chronic) there’s just nothing to say? That was today.

But recently, I read @BlumLee on her fabulous site http://www.leewolfeblum.com and one little phrase lodged in my memory. She said something about writing from her subconscious. So, even though I was praying, I tried to let my mind go to what I was not thinking. I mean, after all, God knows all that anyway…right?

###

There’s a weakening in me.

Like a rope washed and weathered by sun and salt.

Its life work about to pitch mercilessly on high seas, the familiar dock and droppings, fragrant with fish and stagnant air–

All safety far behind.

I wonder, how long it will hold together at all?

I wonder at those boats I’ve seen loose from tether in the distance.
What do they do–Wild and loose?
Is it frightening everyday?
What currents and rough winds await?
Will I ever return?

I feel about and nearly.
I float on almost and possibly.

There can be no assurance, wild upon those waves!

What of all I’ve so long feared?
Lost, a drifter, no purpose or destination,
No identifying flag.
Or pirates and mercenaries to scavenge me for waste?

Primitive, small, sunk low.
But here I find at once I’m loose, and at loss, and quite lost.
But I’ve been drifting slowly now,
‘Neath rise and sunset for a time.
A bit more weathered, not worse for wear.

But maybe stronger.
Certainly braver.
No storm has torn assunder.
I’ve no sail to rip.

And out here, the droppings miss me, a scent of salt and singular freedom.
The air awash with wind and wild blue.
I’ve even begun to see the others,
I’m not alone out here.

So many must have lost their lines.
Wayward a few, crosswise against the tide.
Fighting for float.

I would have kept away,
Far safe from their troubled wakes,
Dodging waves in a cove.
But the cries became so loud!

Fear a wretched sound,
A boat near sinking, a life near death,
Facing the one thing that would make it all it’s not–
Not a boat, not afloat, not alive.

I found a coil.
Neglected since I left the dock.
Warily, I wafted toward the distressed, and threw the line.

Not much, this little rope.
And I feared it would break.

Who am I? And what are my good intentions?
Lost, fueled by an invisible tide.

When my line reached her,
The wind began to blow.
And ushered with solemnity and solidarity
Our two hearts toward harbor.

When I read this poem later, I saw my purpose in those lines, my passion. God is using my once-lostness, my once-fearful, my once-dying to rescue others.

I pray especially, that anyone who reads my book finds hope and  healing. #ThePredatoryLiesofAnorexia

Buy the book here…

Prove It, God

dried-flower-721462-mI wouldn’t have even seen her, she was so frail, but for the blood curdling scream that rent the air.

My dog and I had just arrived at the pediatrics floor of the local hospital for therapy visits. Ashana, (I don’t know her real name for confidentiality purposes) was just leaving and stood at the elevator with her mother around the corner from me. The doors yawned, they stepped inside and she was gone. I found out later from the nurses that four-year-old Ashana is terrified of dogs, butt as our conversation progressed I learned a little bit more.

Ashana has cancer. They found it when she was two. For the last two years, she has spent ten days a month in the hospital receiving treatments.

“That’s not the first time I’ve heard her cry like that,” one of the nurses said. “It happens almost every time she leaves. She loves it here. But if you think about it, this hospital will probably be most of what she remembers of her early years. It’s like a second home to her.”

I pictured that tiny little girl and her mother. Talk about a trial, a refiner’s fire.

When someone is in the middle of those flames, the worst thing you can say is something like, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” or, “God is working in you. You’ll come out of this much stronger on the other side.”

But that’s what we think isn’t it? We imagine that God crafts our personal struggles to test our faith. But maybe, it’s the other way around. Maybe, God allows struggles and pain in our lives to prove HIS faithfulness, not to test ours.

Remember the story of Elijah running for his life in 1 Kings 19? The wicked Queen Jezebel was massacring the Lord’s prophets and was gunning for Elijah. The prophet ran and hid in the wilderness of Mount Sinai. He was so miserable and lonely that he told God he would rather die.  But God sent birds to feed Elijah; He even came personally and allowed Elijah to glimpse His glory.

Elijah’s experience in the wilderness did not prove his faithfulness. In fact, it proved his weakness—He felt hopeless and wanted to die. The experience didn’t make him stronger, Elijah was not suddenly a mightier man of God than he had been before. Instead, those moments in the wilderness proved that God was faithful; in the middle of that trial, God proved that He was strong enough, able enough to care for Elijah when all else seemed lost.

Romans 5:3-5, urges us to find joy even in the middle of our pain: “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

Did you notice that Paul doesn’t say, “suffering makes you stronger”? Suffering produces perseverance. Perseverance means, “determination for a course of action, purpose”. (dictionary.com)

In our pain and suffering God proves His faithfulness; He proves His strength in the midst of our weakness. It is there, we see His faithfulness and understand that He is able to care for us no matter the situation.

No More Trafficking

A sweet friend of mine, Esse Johnson, works valiantly and tirelessly to rescue women.

Here at Predatory Lies, we talk a lot about rescuing ourselves and our daughters from the lies of eating disorders and other cultural, relational and personal lies. This is one we haven’t talked about often, but Esse opened my eyes to the insidiousness of human trafficking. Friends, it’s not far from our doorsteps.

I encourage you to watch this video and pray fervently for Esse and others like her who are extending the love of Jesus to women mired in this terrifying world

“Trafficked No More”
Trailer
from Adrian Leon on Vimeo.

You Can See Jesus Better Because You’re Broken

Sandwiched between stories of resurrections, supernatural healings and a man who walked on water and turned water to wine is a little, not-so-miraculous story. But for those of us with deformities, handicaps, broken hearts, addictions and sundry shortcomings, the story of Zacchaeus has a more miraculous message than perhaps we give it credit for.Zacchaeus was a wee little man; you remember the Sunday school song. A man despised by his Hebrew community for his greedy allegiance to the Romans as a tax collector. One afternoon, Jesus came into his town. As always, Jesus was surrounded by a mob of the curious, suspicious and incredulous. Perhaps simply out of his own curiosity, Zacchaeus longed to see Jesus, too. But his measly stature afforded him only the view of other men’s backsides.So Zacchaeus lay aside his pride and climbed a sycamore tree that extended its branches over the path Jesus was traveling. There, he beheld Jesus from a distance. Zacchaeus’s disadvantage became the very thing that drove him up a tree to seek Jesus. His weakness compelled him to go to great lengths to see the man some had begun to call Messiah.But Zacchaeus could only see Jesus from a distance. Branches loomed and swayed through his vision and he had a hard time keeping track of Jesus for the crowd. Suddenly, Jesus looked up and caught sight of the tiny man in a tree and called out, “Zacchaeus, come down! For today I must stay at your house.”

Zacchaeus carefully descended the tree, the crowd parted and before he knew it, he found himself close enough to touch the miracle man.

Do you sometimes believe that your shortcomings, addictions, sins, failures, handicaps and deformities keep you from seeing, let alone being seen by God? Like Zacchaeus’s height, they have that potential. But also like Zacchaeus’s height, the awareness of your brokenness can drive you to seek Jesus. The beauty of the story is that God did not settle for giving Zacchaeus a glimpse of his Savior, but turned His sovereign eyes upon this little man and called him to Himself.

Lest you think that it was mere accident that Zacchaeus was short and that he took it upon himself to seek Jesus, remember that Jesus is also the Creator. He was the one who selected Zacchaeus’s exact measurements and planned to use them for His glory and Zacchaeus’s salvation.

Do not despise your weaknesses. Do not resign yourself to a distant view of your Savior. But let your brokenness be the catalyst that drives you to great lengths and tremendous heights to find Him. The Bible says that when we seek Him, we will find Him, and that He is not far from any of us. So gather all your infirmities and scramble up the nearest tree. He will call you to Himself and come in and stay with you.

References for additional study: John 14:23, Luke 19, Jeremiah 29:13

Thanks for Aching

nail-993864-mFriends, a couple days ago I shared with you some of the frustrations and discouragement I’ve been facing in the course of my walk with Abba. It seems that when we’re smack in the center of His will we’re still not immune to setbacks. But this is the promise:

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” 1 Thess. 5:16-24

There’s a process required if we would profit from pain,

From rejection and loss and more of the same.

When we’ve sought for God’s will and pleaded for answers,

When we’ve plumbed the depths and scaled the rafters.

When no answer comes and day waxes cold,

When we’re waiting, still waiting, our dreams growing old.

There’s a process required if we would profit from pain,

Against all our nature, against human grain.

To bow the knee and thank the King,

The Providence who could,

Revive our dreams, rebirth the old.

To bow the knee, sing thankful refrain

Grateful in the shadow and rain.

This the process to profit from pain.

This is His will, this precedes peace.

He is faithful, He will do it.

~Abby Kelly

Unidentified Calling

How many times have I told you God? I’m not cut out for  this! It almost feels like you’re that parent with pie-in-the-sky dreams for his kid, ambitions for Jonny to be a star baseball player when all Jonny wants to do is learn the guitar. 

I am a self-aware people pleaser. I’m not an entrepreneur or a risk taker in any capacity. I don’t like failure or rejection and I can’t handle large uninsured investments of my time, money or emotional energy. Yet, here I am, holding the second rejection of my manuscript in as many days. What makes you think I’m supposed to be a writer? 

If I didn’t know myself so well, I’d assume that I’m just fool hardy, a glutton for punishment, cocky and pretentious to think I have a story to tell and a ministry to fulfill through the written word. But I know I heard you. I know you put me up to this. 

Just the other day, I was thanking you for finally revealing “my calling”. But now, as I evaluate the outcome of my obedience, I think you’ve got me all wrong. It’s so hard, Lord! I really don’t want to sit in this uncomfortable space of waiting for and listening to you, of pressing on and stepping out in faith again and again. Can’t I just do something cut and dry, trudge along in a rut carved by some previous, daring saint? Is there just a “good Christian” to-do list I can follow?

I prayed this prayer under my breath, not too sure that I want God to hear me. I mean, I don’t want Him to give up on me, to relinquish His great plans for me, but I’m so tired of living in limbo. It feels like none of my projects find any closure. I’m still waiting for feedback from publishers, waiting for the answer to prayers about our family’s future, waiting for that phone call to be returned, waiting for the support group I lead to grow, waiting for the magazine editor’s response, waiting for some affirmation that my life is bearing any fruit for my Father, that I’m on the right path, that I’m doing something right!

God?

Except for this uncanny pressure, like His thumb between my shoulder blades gently propping me up and pressing me forward, I wonder if God really doesn’t hear my whispered prayer. He’s been mysteriously quiet today. But He didn’t chide me for my fears or mock my frustration. He only lay upon my heart one thing: “[Do not] get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time [you] will reap a harvest of blessing if [you] don’t give up.”*

I’m pressing on.

I am blessed to work with, write for and count as friends, dozens of other authors. So, I take great comfort in their humble stories of rejection letters and their gutsy determination to press on.

Here are a few links that have bolstered my spirit:

Chad Allen, by means of Mary Demuth and her humble honesty about failure even after you’ve “made it”. Here’s a priceless one, a cup of tea for the weary creative’s soul. I shared it once before and I’ve Pinned it so I can find it over and over, but just so you don’t miss it: In the Ditch.  And here’s board where I keep scraps of possibilities. Hopefully you’ll find brain stimulation there too. And one more, By Anne R. Allen, with enough wit to put some saucy back in your key strokes and determination to defy discouragement.

In the next several posts I’m going to be “going deeper”. That’s something the Holy Spirit  has been etching on my heart lately. I’m not completely sure what it means, but the more that I explore it, I’m finding it applies to nearly every aspect of my life.

I have a tendency to cast a wide net. I reach farther, do more and often give up quickly on the things that seem to have the least potential. Then it’s off to the next interest, praying this ambition is more promising (honestly, praying that maybe I found God’s sweet spot for me). Anxiety wells the longer it takes for an effort to blossom. Pure fear takes over when God seems to tie my hands behind my back. Wait He says, kneel here until your knees wear a deep indentation in the carpet.

What are the things that make you question whether you’ve heard God? What were you completely sure of yesterday, that you’re less than convinced of today? How do you know if you’re on the right track? What if you’re not?

*Galatians 6:9