Why I NEEDED My Anorexia

rural-decay-1429230-mI needed my eating disorder.

Shocked? Good.

Now stoke the flames of confusion for a minute because I’m not going to answer that question right away.

Remember game days in high school? On the day of a big basketball or football game, the halls buzzed with fervency. It was the only day in most public high schools that anyone wore a uniform. Football players wore ties and button-downs. Cheerleaders wore their skimpy skirts all day long.

The night before, Coach had informed them of the dress code. Following those rules gave each member of the team or squad a sense of identity and belonging.

That’s why I needed my eating disorder.

One of the most obvious ways that anorexia manifested itself in me, was a long list of self-imposed rules.

I must never run less than I did before.
I must never workout for less than 90 minutes.
I must never have more than X fat grams in a day.
I must eat only X calories.
I must never eat restaurant food.
I must never let people see me eat. 

That last one was a biggie and in effect was the king of rules. By rigidly keeping that rule, I set myself apart from everyone else. My private list of do’s and dont’s gave me shape in this world, carved out my unique niche and proclaimed to everyone that I was not just one of the crowd.

Growing up in a godly home, I was told “you’re special”. I’d made paper snowflakes in Vacation BibleSchool and memorized cute songs about how no two snowflakes or people are alike. “God so loved the world,” was part of my earliest vocabulary. But I needed so much more than John 3:16. For me, the critical turning point from self-starvation to life was coming to not only pay lip service to my individuality, but to internalize that truth.

It doesn’t always help me to believe that God loves the world, because I don’t want to be lost on the globe. I don’t want to be one of the crowd. I need a God who counts hairs (Luke 12:7), I need a God who calls one single Chaldean out of the masses (Genesis 12:1), I need a God who selected 12 uneducated men to be his best friends, I need a God who knows my name (Isaiah 43:1). I don’t only want to only be loved. I want to be seen!

I needed to believe that I am special, unique and exceptional outside of my tightly structured cage of rules, that I wouldn’t disappear when I relinquished the disorder I called my own.

I love the story of Hagar, a little, despised, slave mother who had been thrown out by her jealous mistress. And as she lay panting in the desert, watching her only son wither away, God found her. God did a miracle that day. He provided for Hagar and her son. But after, she didn’t rejoice so much in that He loved her, she rejoiced that God had seen her. (Genesis 16:13)

That’s the a God I needed. That’s the God who found me. That’s why I don’t need an eating disorder anymore. I am seen!

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What the Hatmaker Said When She Interrupted Me

God keeps interrupting me.

It started with this appetizer last week. On top of that, having just moved to a new place and flexing my “get acquainted” muscles, I’m looking for the places to plug into my community where I can have an impact for Christ. Then, I was chosen to be one of 250 bloggers to receive an advanced review copy of Jen Hatmaker’s updated book, Interrupted. I was primed for Jen’s book, pondering and praying about God’s next move in my life.

For the next few weeks here on Predatory Lies, I’m going to plow through Jen’s book with you. By the time we’re done, you’re going to have to read it just to see if you agree with my revelations from it. (But that’s okay because through July 31, you can get a 20% discount on the book here. Oh, and I’ll be giving away a copy on Predatory Lies, too!)

I’m only a few chapters in right now, but let me tell you, Jen Hatmaker kept me up last night. No, not reading. I’m pretty good about turning the lights out at a reasonable hour even when I’m reading a great book. But she got under my skin; she kept me awake pondering whether or not I’ve totally missed God, if all my attempts to follow Him, to work out my salvation, to hone my vocation and use my little life for His glory—whether I’d gotten it all wrong.

Here’s Jen’s first epiphany: “And from the heights of heaven, this is what I heard: ‘You do feed souls, but twenty-four thousand of my sheep will die to day because no one fed their bellies; eighteen thousand of them are my youngest lambs, starving today in a world with plenty of food to go around.’”

Gut punch.

Jen follows that excerpt from her conversation with Christ with dozens of statistics. It’s heart-rending. Honestly, the statistics have always been available, but most of us have learned to scan over them when we see them in print, or change the channel when the Compassion International commercial comes on, or squirm in our seats when they take a special collection for missionaries in Uganda.

Before you squirm now and bail on me, take heart, I’m going to take a different spin on Jen’s message. Yes, she kept me awake, but it wasn’t God leaning into my heart saying, “You’re not doing enough.”

I wrestled all night, “God what do you want from me? Where am I supposed to go, what am I supposed to do? Is all my Christianity filthy to you because I’m not on my knees cleaning a leper’s sores in India?”

No.

(I know I’m kind of all over the board right now, but bear with me.)

Jen’s right and I’m not wrong. I’m not averting my gaze from her statistics and I’m not going to quit reading the book because it makes me uncomfortable. In fact, I’m going to change my prayer life, increase my financial giving and take brutal inventory of my excess. I’m making a commitment today not to buy anything else this year that is not consumable—no new clothes, dishes or decorations. I am committing before God not to live in blissful ignorance of the needs of God’s global, precious image-bearers.

But God hasn’t called everyone to take up Jen Hatmaker’s mission. God hasn’t called every Christian to march under her banner.

A couple years ago, God wouldn’t let me out from under James 1:27, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

About that time, He opened doors from Brave and I to become a certified pet therapy team and we’ve been visiting the sick, elderly and lonely. I am passionate about this. It’s not easy. Sometimes it’s boring or frustrating trying to carry on an encouraging conversation with someone on the brink of senility or trying to appear interested when a lonely child won’t stop talking, or pretending I don’t notice a disfigurement, an ugly wound or the dirty hand gripping mine. But I know that I know this is what God has given me to do—and He’s given me a passion for it as well.

Additionally, God has opened doors wider than I ever thought imaginable to speak hope and healing into the lives of several girls pinned down under the weighty lies of an eating disorder. This is brings me joy, challenges me and affects my heart. This too keeps me on my knees asking God for wisdom, words and grace.

Summation? Jen’s book is going to cost me some sleep. She’s awaking my heart to a deeper level of need that I’ve either been unaware of or not wanted to acknowledge. However, her clarion call will press me deeper into my own calling to serve the least of these, dig my hands deeper into the soil of my own mission field and follow the Servant-Savior wherever He leads.

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The Right Way to Want

There are two philosophies about success.

  1. Take what you want, look out for yourself. Be self motivated, self aware and self-driven. Look deep inside, learn to love and respect yourself and do what it takes to make yourself happy. 
  2. Be utterly self-effacing. This attitude is often touted from the pulpit as the Christian way to behave. Supposedly, by neglecting your own desires and elevating the aspirations of others, you will find supreme fulfillment.

Is either way true? From my experience, no. On Monday, I shared with you what I am learning about want in the foundations of my struggle with anorexia.

It was so sneaky that even I did not recognize my greed. An anorexic appears to be in need. The life of an anorexic is an exercise is asceticism, self denial, ultimate self control. But for me, it was ultimately a ploy to get everyone else to condescend to all my demands. That’s a pretty ugly naked.

Greed can wear two disguises, one flashy, the other demure.

I was reading a rather familiar story in Numbers 32. It is the story of Moses finally leading the Israelites into the Promised Land, or at least very close to it. This is one of those accounts that I have read and assumed it must have a deeper meaning than what I am able to scrape off the surface.

The Reubenites and Gadites, who had very large herds and flocks, saw that the lands of Jazer and Gilead were suitable for livestock. So they came to Moses and Eleazar the priest and to the leaders of the community, and said, ‘Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo and Beon— the land the Lord subdued before the people of Israel—are suitable for livestock, and your servants have livestock. If we have found favor in your eyes,’ they said, ‘let this land be given to your servants as our possession. Do not make us cross the Jordan.’

And then I got it! Do you see it?

I continued reading the chapter. Moses was pretty upset with the three tribes’ brazen request for what they thought was best for them. Instead of following the original plan and accepting what God had planned for them in Canaan; instead of marching into battle for conquest of the Promised Land, these guys were asking for they wanted!

But God said, “OK.” God heard the request of the Reubenites and Gadites, and honored it. I gleaned several things from this about my own needs and wants and how and when to ask for them, as well as how and when to surrender.

  1. The Reubenites and Gadites acknowledged that God had blessed them with abundant cattle and they believed that this portion of land would allow them to practice good stewardship of His blessings.
  2. They were attentive to God’s provision and they asked for God to generously give them this portion of land.
  3. They asked humbly, heard Moses’s response and listened to his criticism.
  4. They did not cower in guilt at Moses’s rebuke, but stood up for what they thought was good.
  5. They continued into battle with their fellow Israelites in order to secure God’s blessing for the other tribes as well.

“Love yourself and make yourself happy,” is a mantra in our society. Adding confusion, is the Christianese admonition to overlook one’s self. The TRUTH is, God wants us to look to Him for blessings. He wants us to expect Him to be good. And He longs for us to be grateful for His generosity. Finally, God wants us to extend that same favor to others.

The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. The Lord is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. Ps. 145:15-19

I’ll Tell You What I Want

Here is a naked truth that I did not even know about myself. As I sort old journals, cull memories and query friends and family, I am realizing how little I actually knew about my own battle with an eating disorder. It’s kind of like taking a shower, an effort to cleanse away the day’s dust, and discovering a birthmark you had never seen before. images

Obviously, it’s been a part of me forever. Since opening the womb, my “me-ness” has been as God sketched it. My soul has born the same imprint. Surely, culture and family and circumstances ebb and flow across each life and erode some things faster than others while sifting silt and revealing precious stones. But I had hardly seen it.

I was told that in writing my book, I must “bleed on the page and be saved in the process.”

Well, sometimes bleeding hurts. And when you’re naked, even the smallest prick can make you bleed.

I WANT.
You see, I grew up the oldest of four girls. One of the anthems that I remember echoing through the halls of our home was, “Abby, you’re the oldest, can you please just give in this time?”  – – or – –
“Be the mature one.” – – or – –
“I expect more out of you.”

And I did, and I was. But denying want does not erase it. In fact, denying want on the surface dug a deep, subversive pit in my heart where I stuffed want and greedily demanded all my desires while on the surface, others observed a starving little girl denying even her need to eat.

Now, I can clearly hear the melody of my heart all those years, the percussion to which I kept time:
I want you to want me. I want you to think I am the smartest, the thinnest, the most beautiful. I want you to want to be me. I want to be enviable. I want to be impervious. I want to need nothing. I want you to know that I am strong. I want to think I am better than everyone else. I want others to think I am self-disicplined. I want, I want, I want. I want all of my parents’ attention. I want to be your favorite. I want you to notice me. I want you to think I am spiritual. I want your sympathy. I want your touch. I want to be able to have everything I want. I want you to tell me I can eat anything I want. I want to be safe. I want to be independent. I want, I want, I want. 

It was so sneaky that even I did not recognize my greed. An anorexic appears to be in need. The life of an anorexic is an exercise is asceticism, self denial, ultimate self control. But for me, it was ultimately a ploy to get everyone else to condescend to all my demands.
That’s a pretty ugly naked. 

Now, lest you think I am unnecessarily berating myself, or attempting to beg pardon, let me tell you the TRUTH.
I was needy. I do want things.
There are a couple differences now, this is not selfishness. I have learned to ask for things – both my  needs and wants. Secondly, I am learning to be attentive to the needs and desires of those around me. And lastly, I have stopped looking for others to notice and fulfill my emptiness.

I have found the bottomless source of gifts. I have found the unquenchable fulfillment of all my desires. I have found the solitary source for the satisfaction of all my needs. And He loves for me to come to Him HUNGRY. 

The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. The Lord is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. Ps. 145:15-19

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

 

Ready, Set, 333

I’m almost ready. All my extraneous items are packed snuggly away in the guest bedroom. My husband threatened to post here last night. I walked into the guest room to add one more item to my non-necessities pile and he accused me of pulling out a 34th item. No such thing! I should do it, just to see if he actually notices and if he would actually tell on me!

This morning, I got a phone call from my mom asking if I could fly to Texas to spend some time with one of my sisters. She just had emergency surgery and is feeling blue. My mom has been staying with her, but has to go home at some point. Would I be willing to come keep Kelsey company? Not such a terrible request as I would get to spend time with all three of my sisters and my niece Kylie.

It was an immediate gut reaction to groan, “I hate to pack!” But, I think one of the most beautiful things about this Project 333 endeavor is that I could toss all 33 items in a modest suitcase, zip it up and fly away without a thought! No wondering if I packed matching outfits, no wondering if I will look cute. The only consideration would be to remember my underwear, socks and toothbrush! I may never go back! However, I would have to control myself once I got there. It seems to be a habit to go shopping with my sisters. I’m on a clothing diet, no buying anything new!

So here are two closet-purging, Avon purchases. They promptly expelled four skirts that I haven’t worn in years and a dozen brightly colored sweatshirts with screen printing. I’m still waiting on a pair of black pants to be delivered, one white, collared poplin blouse and a pair of navy leggings. 

Here’s what I am wearing for the next month:

3 pair of jeans

4  nice, solid long-sleeved t-shirts

3 sweaters

3 cardigans

4 nicer collared shirts

1 denim jacket

2 pair leggings, one pair yoga pants

1 skirt

2 very casual t-shirts

3 sweatshirts

4 layering tanks

2 scarves

2 belts

So, how did I do? Am I missing any essentials that you can think of? I have ordered a Versalette, but it won’t arrive until April.

{r}evolution apparel Introduces the Versalette from {r}evolution apparel on Vimeo.

So what do you think?

Can you go there with me?

Past the land of not enough,

Past the glut of way too much.

Brutally ignore the whining ego,

Willing notice what can forego.

Indulge in the simple,

Revel in less.

Notice the clarity,

Wonder at scarcity.

Change my heart?

Turn your mind?

What revelation might I find?

At the end of a month,

Still abundantly blessed,

But peace. Contented now,

With less.

 

 

If One is Good, Two is Better, or is it?

“God doesn’t want what we have. He doesn’t want what we have to have us.”

Craig Groschel

Once again I am amazed at the repetitiveness of our great God. Once again, I worry that He is only repetitive with me, because I’m hard headed. Over a month ago, I decided to tackle this Project 333 . Since then, I picked up a book that my mom has been after me to read for a long time. A dear friend of her’s recommended it from the depths of despair in her own life. She said that second to the Bible, this book had done more for her spiritually than any other resource. Then my mom said the author wrote much like I do, so I had to check it out. I highly recommend it, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. 

“…if I’m fearlessly blunt – what I have, who I am, where I am, how I am, what I’ve got – this simply isn’t enough. Does [God] not want me to be happy?” page 14

Then, a couple night ago, I needed some holy background noise, so I pulled up a LifeChurch.tv  sermon on my IPhone. Pastor Groschel is doing a series on “better” – letting go of the good in order to exchange it for God’s better – actually  God’s best.

All of these sources have been chasing me. Like curiosity being hounded by a frightening idea – I want to escape and to experience this notion: less of what I think I want, less of what I believe will make me happy in order to embrace the promised happiness of my heavenly Father. It is antithetical to my world. I’m bombarded by desire. Not a moment passes that I don’t admire someone else’s …, hanker for more …, envy another’s perfect …, dream of a better …, crave the extra or lust after the extreme.

“Our fall was, has always been, and always will be, that we aren’t satisfied in God and what He gives. We hunger for something more, something other.” pg. 15

I wonder, do I cause much of my own anxiety because I am convinced that my life should be better? Because I am always lusting after a forbidden tree even while I have the whole garden in front of me? I wonder, would I have enjoyed yesterday more if I hadn’t been planning today?

I have spent much of this week culling through my closet. I know that I can live with less. I know, in my head and heart, that I don’t need this many options. But you have no idea how hard it is to select which options I want to keep. Just saying that makes me realize how spoiled I am – I even get to chose my options!

In the same sermon that I mentioned above, Groschel told of family “give away” parties. They set a goal of 200 items each. There are 8 people in their family – that means they gave away 1600 things! Imagine the reduction of chaos? the exponential space? the freedom of movement? the high of austerity (relative austerity).

I began by going through my closet. I also confessed that led to the accumulation of a couple new things (:

In tandem with that sentiment, I’m setting a goal of giving away one item a day for a year. I live near a Goodwill drop off location, so it shouldn’t be too hard to walk to the bin and relieve myself of one excess item everyday.  Will you join me?

Yesterday, I asked what is the first thing you think of when asked what you can’t live without. Now, I want to know, what can you give away? How will you do that?