Was, Is and Will Be

moving-forward-1445758-mIn March of last year, my parents threw a big party. It was a special event to show off their grandkids who live out of state and to celebrate the publication of my first book, The Predatory Lies of Anorexia: A Survivor’s Story. When they chose the date, no one realized that it would land neatly on top of the same weekend they began moving from the house they’ve lived in for seventeen years.

It was a bit maddening for my mother! Half of her life had already migrated to a new address, while she was expecting up to 80 guests at the old house! But, the dynamics created by the convoluted schedule were magical; it was in the chaos that I found redemption.

Part of moving is inevitably going through piles of old “stuff”—letters buried at the back of the desk and forgotten five years before, stuffed animals loved right out of their fur, photo albums lovingly created and abandoned on book shelves, paperbacks enjoyed once but not worth reading again, dusty silk flower arrangements, school year books, gymnastics trophies…but, among the mundane, we found precious things like blankets crocheted by Grandma and handmade baby dresses.

I plucked a photo album from the stack and flipped through the first several pages. My own face, barely recognizable stared back at me. There I was, sitting in this same room, ten Christmases past, a shell of myself, a skeleton of a woman. My eyes were haunted by dark gray shadows and ringed with fatigue. Though I must have been watching someone open a gift, there was no light in my eyes. I remember now, calculating how many calories were in that cinnamon roll my mother made me eat and wondering if anyone would notice if I left and went for a run.

God says He is the same yesterday, today and forever. Praise Him that I am not so! Because He is, my was, is not my is. And my will be is even better.

One reason for the party was to celebrate the publication of my book. As I wrote the book, I effectively closed my “was” chapter, and stepped bravely into “is”. That weekend, plowing through my parents’ closets brought the differences between was and is into distinct contrast. I can see clearly what God has done to redeem my past.

Some things that marked this final stay in my parents’ old home as the dawning of a glorious is:

Every morning, I sat and sipped coffee with my Dad instead of leaving the house to go for a 20 mile run.

I took cat naps with my mother instead of fearing how many pounds I would accumulate while resting.

I looked at my baby pictures and thought, “I was adorable!” instead of despising my appearance.

I walked my mom’s dog and stopped to smell her neighbor’s flowers instead of trying to turn it into a power walk.

I ate some of my grandmother’s chocolate chip cookies.

I didn’t fall asleep in church because my brain was starved for energy. Instead I relished the pastor’s sermon and lifted my hands in worship.

I didn’t overhear my parents discussing my illness in anxious, hushed tones.

All of these observances culminated on the Saturday afternoon of the party. Almost 80 of my parents’ friends poured through the house. These were people who had prayed for me and held my parents’ hands when I went to college, and when they received worried phone calls from my dorm supervisor. These people prayed for me even though they didn’t know me. These people knew my story, knew my family’s pain in the middle of my eating disorder and held us before the throne. These people are part of the reason I am here today.

Today is new. I am fuller, happier. I am free from fear of food and compulsory exercise. Today, I see the world as so much bigger than myself. Thank God that I am not the same as I was.

And even more glorious? I’m the not same as I will be. God has promised that I cannot conceive of the good things He has planned for me. He has promised that one day I will behold the face of my Savior and I will be like Him (2 Corinthians 3:18). He has promised me a future and hope.

Last year, I recognized redemption. One weekend was a microcosm of the span of my life and I can see clearly how God redeemed me. It is in that context that I am more excited than ever, more grateful than ever that God has redeemed my soul. I love is and new, I am joyful now, but I am ever so excited about what will be.

Questions:

What is one evidence that Christ has made your life new? How is your “is” different than your “was”? Can you use this to share the Gospel with others?
2. Are you still struggling with the guilt and fears of “was”? What do you think you need to truly feel new?
3. If you let your imagination run, what do you think “will be” will look like?

 

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A Beautiful Inheritance

(I wrote this short devotional a little while ago, but Tuesday, I started a wonderful Bible study on the book of Ephesians, and the whole concept seems fresh again. I wanted to share it with you.) 

Ephesians 1:13b-14 “When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—“.

My parents are moving across the street from the house they lived in for 17 years. No, it’s not a distant move, but all the same, it has given them an opportunity to get rid of old stuff that was long-since forgotten. It has also made them think about what things they want to save and pass on to their children and grandchildren.

Have you ever received an inheritance? What was it? Who was it from? Did you receive things that are precious to you, or did something you valued very much get given away?

In Romans 8:14-17, the Bible explains that when we believe in Jesus Christ, God adopts us as His own children, making us heirs to all of His riches. A little further down in verse 32, it says, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

When it comes to our inheritance from God through Christ Jesus, we receive everything! Nothing is lost, nothing that we need or long for is withheld. He has given us absolutely everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).

The Bible is the full record of everything God has given us through Christ. It’s time to explore your inheritance!

“The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places, surely I have a beautiful inheritance.” Psalm 16

Welcome to Clarksville!

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Hello Lovlies!

Welcome to Clarksville! It’s my plan to be more spontaneous with our posts again here very soon, now that life is settling into its new, “normal”.

As I peeled my heart away from Columbus, GA and the friends I’ve made there and reacquainted with, the hobbies I’ve begun, my chair at church, the park that I frequented on sunny days and the one more conducive to rainy ones–as I gently wiggled my heart like a well-stuck sticker and tried to loosen it’s adhesive, I realized something. I mean no offense to friends, but I think I grieved the loss of routine more than anything. Does that make sense?

Of course, that routine included dear ones. I am sad for the end of weekly coffee visits with Johanna, for true-southern hospitality at Nanny and Katherine’s house. I am sad for Tuesday/Thursday visits on regular floors at TMC–for smiles with Mailey, Shanna, Nancy, Barbara, Megan, Penny, Daisy, Alex and Amy and others.

But here’s what I’m learning:

God has recently been speaking to me of exposure. My favorite therapist of all time (how many people can say that?) once told me that recovery would become easier with time, that walking in freedom would become my “new normal”. Stacy explained, “When water flows down one side of a hill over and over it creates a channel and nothing will divert it, unless the water is forced down the other side of the hill enough times. Then, it will create a deeper, more compelling channel on the other side. Over time, the water will naturally flow down that opposite side.”

Stacy was right about recovery. Today, healthy feels normal and right to me. But her lesson applies to so many other aspects of life, too.

The day after we arrived in Clarksville, Brave and I ventured to the Upland Trail, their version of a riverwalk. My heart sank. The trail is less than two miles long. Our home is lovely, but it’s situated in a neighborhood with no safe places to walk the dog. There’s more traffic than I expected, no Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods or farmer’s market.

When our furniture didn’t arrive as early as I hoped, I felt my mood slipping and along with it a half dozen tears down my grimy cheeks. (Did I mention that it’s every bit as humid as Georgia? That leads to grimy cheeks quickly!)

Quietly, my Father started speaking to me about exposure. 

Lord, what can that possibly have to do with me, here, now and this achy sense of loss. I have no routine here, no way to plan or expect what happens next. I have no friends to call for coffee or familiar parks to stroll. What does exposure have to do with it?

One week later, from Thursday, May 29 to Thursday, June 5, I understand. You see, in one week I’ve been exposed to spectacular Tennessee thunder storms, friendly neighbors, a new state park with a few miles of trails that emulate a rain forest. I’ve been exposed to new patterns of streets and today found my way home without the GPS. I’ve been exposed to “camping” with my husband for (too many) nights and the welcome hug of a comfy bed again. I’ve been exposed to
wide—–open—spaces that remind me of Oklahoma–ranches, farms and fields of wildflowers between every building, bridge or street. I’ve been exposed to new accents and a different version of southern hospitality. I’ve been exposed to a new side of the hill.

The course of my life has been redirected. In only seven days I’ve begun to wallow out a different bed for my stream. My life is bubbling over new stones, around mysterious curves and tumbling down unexpected bluffs.

Are you getting this?

Exposure is what makes normal. Exposure is what makes familiar and acceptable and good. How does a child know that the neighbor’s mom can’t make chocolate chip cookies? Because they don’t taste “right” like the ones that Grandma makes.

So, I’m discovering our new town, our new home and forming new habits. They will feel deliciously comfortable and right, until it’s time to move again. Then, with a gentle nudge, God will redirect the course of my life again, expose me to what only He foresees and I’ll fall in love all over again.

Given Everything

Romans 8:32
“He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”

I just returned from a two week trip to visit my parents and help them move. While I was there, Dad asked me to participate in a phone call with his investment advisor and estate consultant. He and my mom extracted seventeen years worth of memories and not-so-memorable things that my sisters and I had collected in their basement, and then abandoned when we married and moved away. I helped them haul literally hundreds of pounds of “stuff” to the donation center. It was an all-inclusive attempt to take inventory of what they had, who wanted it “someday” and what isn’t worth anything anymore.

In the basement, I sat cross-legged with my mother emptying trunks of baby clothes, hand-made blankets and old Yahtzee games. Carefully, I selected the one dress I remember her sewing for me when I was about two. I chose two baby blankets and a stack of old letters that had been sent to me when I was sick for an extended period of time. Across the room, one of my sisters struggled to contain her tears; her sentimentality offended at the loss of anything sacred—even if that be an old church bulletin with doodles done during a boring sermon.

My parents are almost 60, and a move like this necessarily conjures the conversation of who will inherit what when they pass away. I know I want my mother’s ring with all her children’s birthstones. They have two paintings that I’d like to have. Other things my sisters want for their homes.

Romans 8 explains the full beauty of our relationship to God as Father, and our position as His heirs by virtue of our adoption through Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 1:13-14 says, “When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”

Though our point of reference as an heir is our familial relationships, there is an important difference between what we experience on earth and the kind of inheritance we receive from our Heavenly Father.

My sisters and I are making choices, planning to divide my parents’ estate. We will have to take somethings and relinquish others. But the Bible says that in Christ, God gives us all things, and that every good and perfect gift is from above. And in the the Old Testament we are told that “no good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” [emphasis added]

As if it were not enough to receive salvation and forgiveness of our sins, God has adopted us—made us His children—and given each one of us full share in His inheritance.

Jesus, I pray that you will open the eyes of our hearts, enlighten us in order that we may know the hope to which you have called us and the riches of our glorious inheritance through Christ.

 First posted on http://www.servantsisters.org.

Lonelier to Leave

It started in the hair salon.

Tears pricked my eyelids so I tilted my nose the ceiling, hoping they’d go back where they came from. Instead they leaked out and down my hair line. A few deep breaths and I felt better.

But the feeling swamped me again the next day as I sat in church. The associate pastor announced an upcoming marriage retreat in November. Couples were going to take a short cruise together while studying Scripture and listening to good speakers.

At first I thought, I’d love to do that. Then it hit me—I won’t be here anymore.

My husband is in the Army. We have packed up and moved away from every church I’ve begun to love, left every set of couple friends we’ve made and terminated every job I’ve ever held—usually just as I begin to sink in.

What’s worse—to be the leaver or the left? Which is more lonely?

That’s been a topic of frequent consideration when my husband deployed in years past. Did I have the greater challenge still sleeping the bed he had suddenly abandoned? Was it harder to face the daily routine of “together” things by myself? Or, was it more painful for him to walk away from home, from routine, from comfort, familiar and family?

For the rest of that Sunday afternoon, I allowed the pending loneliness to marinate my heart. Perhaps I should just pull up stakes now, abandon my volunteer projects, stop going to church, begin to shut off my heart so that it hurts a little less when I walk away.

We often say that Jesus knows our weaknesses. He knows how we feel. He experienced our pain and has compassion for our wounded hearts. But I had never before considered how it must have broken Jesus’ heart to leave earth.

The disciples stood around Him as he ascended into Heaven. I’m sure He was excited to stand again at the Father’s right hand surrounded by the glory and splendor that was His before the foundation of the world.

But I wonder…

Was it hard for Him to say goodbye to his disciples? He had walked with them, eaten with them, debated with them. He knew their families, their occupations, their hangups and their habits. And when He left earth, He told them that He didn’t know when He would return. Only the Father knew. It was an indefinite goodbye.

Not only was Jesus leaving these men, but the very creation—would He miss this earth in someway? He was the God who sculpted trees and rivers and mountains with His words. Before Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, it was His great delight to walk with them daily in the beauty of nature. Then, for a brief 33 years, He had touched that soil again. He had left His footprints next to man’s.

None of this contemplation is deny or bring into questions Christ’s complete deity. However, in the mysteriousness of prayer, and the difficult act of abiding in Him, I think we often lose sight of our Savior’s complete humanity.

Jesus tried to prepare the disciples for the day He would leave. Even as He did, He promised them, “I will come back for you!” I wonder if He took comfort in those words too, reminding His flesh and blood heart that this sacrifice He was about to make for the redemption of man would reinstate garden walks and side-by-side foot prints, shared meals and laughter.

There’s something about sinking my heart into the truth of Christ’s brief vulnerability, the truth that His human heart comprehends my loss and loneliness and the ache of leaving. Yes, He does go with me. He never leaves me and I cannot leave Him, as I am held in the palm of His hand. But He does not deny or try to dismiss my earth-hurt.

Oh for the day when I can bury my face in His chest, look up into His eyes, hold His hand and walk in the garden.

*This piece was first published in the print issue of “WHOA Women“.

A Place Called Home, For Now…

“Father, I’ve found a church I like here. They have a women’s group that meets at the perfect time on Wednesday nights. Other doors to get involved are opening right and left. I get so excited, God, and then I panic. What about when we move?”

As a nomadic, military spouse, I hate one question: “What church do you belong to?”

I can handle, “What church do you go to?”, but the concept of belonging…somehow that doesn’t seem possible for me anymore. 

In our nearly eleven year military career, my husband and I haven’t moved as much as some. I’ve lived in four states; my husband has lived in four states and three countries. At our first two duty stations, I dug in quickly. I grew up like a good, church girl, having a church membership with my family at the same building for years at a time. My parents taught Sunday school classes, I went on trips with the youth group, sang in the choir, attended and then helped to lead vacation Bible school. 

It felt like the right thing to do as a married adult, to carry on those traditions in a new church home. But that’s just it, it didn’t feel like home. As if uprooting my irises, un-hanging all our pictures and garage selling the least sentimental gifts from last Christmas isn’t enough; as if bidding farewell to my biological mother and father and sisters isn’t enough, now ever few years I am supposed to say farewell to brothers and sisters in Christ that I have sat with, served with, eaten with, laughed with, confided in and studied with. 

No, I’m not sure I want to belong anywhere. But then, not belonging feels terribly lonely. 

I lifted my pen from the journal page, flipped the notebook closed and stood. My petition and fears now lay at the foot of Abba’s throne. It was up to Him to show me what to do about this inviting church. 

Later that day, I listened to a sermon by Paul White as I cleaned the bathrooms. 

“We have a lot of transience here, and it’s tempting to wonder why our church numbers aren’t constantly growing. To many, that would signal that we’re doing something wrong. Why are people leaving?”

It was almost an aside to the message, but he believed the words were for someone. That someone was me. 

“But I believe Christians are sent out. People are supposed to leave. The point is not to build a big church, but to equip and encourage people in the love and grace of Christ and send them out to share that with others, even within other churches.”*

I love how God often hammers a point home by repeating it through many sources. The next sermon on my iPod was by Ed Young, so I let it continue to play in the background. 

Ed spoke on evangelism, the urgent need for believers to be all consumed with sharing the love and rescue of Jesus Christ. He quoted from Matt 28:19, “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,”.

In the original language, Jesus said to the disciples, “As you are going…”. This going out to the nations (and states) is an ongoing thing. I am not called to establish a home in one location, but to be a tent-dweller (2 Corinthians 5:1), uprooting my tent pegs every time the Spirit leads, just like Moses and the Israelites followed the cloud by day and fire by night. (Num. 9:21)

The Holy Spirit tapped my shoulder one more time, to reinforce His point. That evening, as I poured over this new church’s website, reading their mission statement and distinctives, my eyes snagged on this phrase:

“We don’t want you to ‘join the church’ so your name can be on a list or in a database somewhere. We want you to experience the awesome adventure of finding real life in Christ and helping others find it too. Our end goal is not for you to become a member; we want you to partner with us by choosing to Live Big, Love Big and Give Big.”

That was it. I can hammer in a tent peg here and get busy serving with a diligent, nomadic, enthusiastic, committed body of Christ. I may not be here long. Within a year or two, I’ll likely be pulling up stake, uprooting my irises and giving the remaining contents of the fridge to my neighbor. But for now, until it’s time to get going again, I belong.

Crazy has an Itchy Trigger Finger

You’ve already gotten the true Naked confession that returning to Columbus, GA, the scene of my relapse into anorexia 6 years ago, has huge potential to be triggering for me.

Now the second Naked truth: I was kinda hoping that walking in recovery meant I wouldn’t have anymore triggers. An excerpt from my journal this morning:

My heart is bowed low in humility or embarrassment, pain or fear, I’m really not sure which of these it is or might be. In spite of all my words and plans for preparedness, Crazy is trying to kick in. Almost quite literally, Crazy (the compulsions I obeyed and my behavior while under the influence of an eating disorder) is trying to kick down the door and all of my defenses, the things I propped against the door are shaking, quaking, threatening to collapse around me, crush me and all my valiant efforts to “stay well”.

I admit (Naked truth here) that I have wondered if it might require less energy to drop my resistance. To just slip back into the habits, routines and culture of my “former Columbus”. Just let it take me under. But what of the next move, what then? Would I ever, ever be able to resurface again? I fear that if I let anorexia take me under one more time, I’d never breathe again.

So, as I am leaning into my One Word 2013, Naked, and bearing my soul to you here, I wonder:

How does Crazy kick in?

Few people actually think they’re Crazy, how does it sneak into my life and habits?

How do I slam the door since I already know what Crazy looks like?

How do I get away?

I’m in a position right now to be staring Crazy in the face, let me tell you how he got here, what he looks like and how I will banish him.

Crazy always walks in with a trigger. From a place of recovery, that looks like something you did or someone you knew before when you were still acting Crazy. And while you are chatting with this person, or considering this behavior, a flood of optimism comes over you. Crazy tells you, “We had good times. You don’t want to lose this relationship. You can keep it under control this time. You can find balance even while flirting with this behavior.

On a personal level, my trigger is all the familiar streets in Columbus, the sweet friends who are still running and competing in triathlons. The friends who somehow are able to contain Crazy without letting him take them over. I’d like to think I could do that, too. But I recognize this trigger, if I start extreme exercising again, I’ll flip the switch for Crazy.

But perhaps what Crazy looks like and even how he got here aren’t all that important relative to how to get away from him. Praise the Lord, who through Jesus, has finished all the work for me.

“LORD, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us.” Is. 26:12

As I prayed and continued writing in my journal, the Lord spoke to me.

Beloved, all your defenses, the plans you stacked against the door of possible relapse, are pointless without me. No good intention will ever succeed without me. It is not only someday in Heaven that you are safe from fears, secure and protected from your enemies. Darling, you have me, The One True God, now, and forever. And it is not only eternity or only your spirit that I love and care for. I am intimately invested in you. Trust me with your recovery.

“Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure…You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Ps. 16:9, 11

All on the page

In the interest of transparency, full vulnerability and honoring the One Word Naked, here is an exert from my journal last week. It’s short, but I sat in my prayer chair in tears last week:

It feels like there is so much on my plate with trips home to visit family, uprooting my home in VA, setting up house in GA, saying goodbye over and over and over, while still trying to keep up with writing my book, my blog and for other Christian publications like Haven Journal and She Loves, and Finding Balance. I feel swamped. I’m overwhelmed and tired beyond the point of sleep.

This conversation with Abba actually began the night before as I lay corpse-like in my bed, trying to fall into a dead sleep and resulting only in a more lively mind than before, like fireflies dancing behind my eyelids, lightbulb thoughts popping above my head.

Father, I’m tempted to ask for more time. I need more hours to get ready for an overwhelming move, and more time here in this chair and more time with family and more time to write and and mostly more time to know you, the Etcher of time, the Hand of time, the closer of day and shutter of sun. To know you is to know the container of time, the perfect seed of moments and tender shoots of future.

Abby, I know. Do you remember what I spoke to you last night? Daughter, I love you so much. Remember, when you asked about each thing that worried you? I told you, ‘That’s not yours, this is.’ And I lifted your concerns, placing my Father-hand in yours.

Here Comes Crazy

He’s here. Well, almost here. I’ve been saying that for weeks now. It feels like the boogieman sneaking up from behind. Or maybe it’s a three-headed purple monster, the really scary kind. Let’s call him Change.

He’s here.

I’m not so stressed out about this move as some in the past. I’m going through the motions and most of them make sense. The to-do list is crumbling in an orderly fashion, like the elaborate domino mazes I used to build with Granddad. With a tiny catalyst, like the shift of the minute hand, my final days in VA, are collapsing on top of each other… in this case, perfectly.

Patrick is home today. He’s been working with me, pulling stuff together, consolidating, eliminating, planning. It hasn’t always been this way, but I’m so thrilled to notice the buoyancy in my heart – knowing that he’s going with me, that we do this together, that when I wake up after being tackled, and drag myself out from under the heaviness of Change, he’ll still be there.

There is no one else in the world that I really need. He is my partner, he is the piece (and peace) of me that I need and can’t supply. He is the man that God has given me to cling to in the midst of Change’s attack.

My solar powers are weak today. Even in the brilliance of a temperate, delicious May sunshine, I’m feeling weary. A little sad. A lot of hope. A little of wait. A lot of NOW. Today is peace in waiting. Change is on my heels.

One more note of gratitude. They don’t live near. I can’t see them everyday. But I am so blessed, sustained by the truth that my family loves me. Their lives are revolving under the same Creator’s sunshine, on the same planet, serving the same Savior. And He is so good. Thank you, Abba