Mine is the Story

After six years of full-blown anorexia, six years of tremulous recovery, three years of painful relapse and three years of telling God that I didn’t want to write a book—I started writing my story.

It was difficult to argue with God when He brought me an agent. It was even more difficult to argue when He brought us a publisher. They believed in my story and believed it had the potential to help others affected by eating disorders. So, I started writing.

I wrote the true story of this girl who decided at age fourteen that she would define herself by being thin. She would establish her identity as the one with the most self-restraint, physical discipline and iron will, to the destruction of her body. Mine is the story of this girl who spent her sixteenth, then eighteenth birthdays and a total of six years at an inpatient treatment facility in Arizona. I married at age 22 and then discovered my husband’s addiction to pornography; suffered a relapse and nearly lost my marriage.

The best part of the story was the most difficult to write. How to explain the way God rescued this miserable, dying woman? How to explain the way He finally made the truth make sense? How to write about that day when I walked through an open air farmers’ market on Percival Point in Olympia, Washington—the day the world sprung back to life and I could suddenly see apples and glossy, red cherries and fresh caught salmon as glorious, delicious gifts from God?

It was hard to express the excitement and profundity of that day. For so many years I saw food as the enemy, my hunger as something to be fought against and my body as a foe to be buffeted. But on that sunny afternoon, God revealed food to me the same way that He did to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the way He intended us to view food.

“Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.” Genesis 9:3

The final steps toward the process of publishing have been difficult. On several occasions it felt like I was up against Satan himself. I wondered why? My story seems insignificant. My testimony is small and it doesn’t seem world-changing. But when I shared this discouragement with a friend, she validated my story.

She pointed out, “John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

Then she said, “If anorexia’s purpose isn’t to steal, kill and destroy God’s plan, then I don’t know what is! God WILL use your story to open blind eyes and set the captives free. That’s why Satan is trying to sabotage your, no His, story.”

And so, I share my story. It’s not different, no more profound or world-changing than yours. Our lives are uniquely part of God’s purpose and His plans for them are powerful.

If you’d like to read my ebook, or buy the paperback, visit these links on Amazon: Surviving the Predatory Lies of Anorexia (ebook) The Predatory Lies of Anorexia: A Survivor’s Story (paperback)

*Update: The Predatory Lies of Anorexia: A Survivor’s Story, was successfully published in March of 2014. To God the glory! Now, I have embarked on the next journey with Jesus, I’m writing a Bible study. I’ll keep you posted on the process and publication. I can’t wait to share it with you!

Change the Standard

The second my feet hit the floor, I felt overwhelmed.

“Lord, the house feels like such a mess!”

Now, I’m a confessed compulsive cleaner. But I justify that little character flaw by saying, “I have two cats and a dog! How could I possibly keep up with all the hair?”

Chalking it up to necessity, you’ll often find me on my hands and knees picking up individual pet hairs. I sweep the house two or three times a day. But more than anything, it’s in my head. It’s something I obsess over, think about and worry about. It’s an idol.

My eating disorder was the same way. I was a compulsive exerciser and calorie counter. But I justified it saying, “Exercise is a good thing. And I’m only being careful about what I eat.”

Chalking it up to healthy mindfulness, I checked out of countless conversations while counting calories in my head. I spent hours calculating and then executing the toughest workouts. It developed into full-blown anorexia, but the most agonizing part was the mind game. Never at rest, anxiety ran laps in my head. I obsessed over everything to do with food and weight. It was an idol.

But this morning, at the same second that overwhelming feelings swamped me, Jesus spoke, “Change the standard.” It took me a while to get it, but as I pulled out my journal and Bible for morning devotions, God worked in my heart.

Abby, you have struggled so hard with perfection when it comes to cleaning the house. You’ve tried lists and routines, professional cleaners, podcasts and new gadgets. Stop devising new ways to pick up every single hair. Learn to see 10 hairs on the floor—and leave them there.

He continued:

In the eating disorder, you tried every new way to meet an unrealistic standard: New workout routines, new gyms, new diets. Then, when you began to recover, in order to prove yourself, you created endless rules about “healthy” behaviors. 

I picked up the pen; poised it above an empty page in my journal. This was beginning to make sense.

When it came to the eating disorder, I learned to stop looking for every new tool to create washboard abs. Now, I’m learning to let go of what I imagine a “perfectly recovered” person looks like. Change the standard.

I still exercise. I practice moderation with food. But the standard is no longer physical perfection, thinness or control. Instead, it is a long healthy life and a body able to enjoy—yes, even taste—the Lord’s goodness.

When it comes to a clean house, I need to let go of my ideal standard of hairless floors, but, I will still need to vacuum and scrub the toilets. Change the standard.

As I finished my quiet time with prayer, I realized this concept also applies to salvation. Since Jesus came, we are no longer held to the impossible standard of the Mosaic law in order to be saved. God’s law, the things that please Him, have not changed, but now the standard is to reflect the one who has already saved me.

 

Active Rest, Walking out the “Stuck”

I’m really good at giving advice. And I’m pretty good at taking it from others. I start to struggle a bit when I know that I need to take my own advice. More accurately, when I need to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit as He tells me something I don’t want to hear.

There are a lot of things going on in my life that I don’t have much control over. Yet, I’m wearing myself out, tangling myself up in my mind trying to get a grip on them, force the proper outcome, demand the delayed response, see the future. But I’m hearing God say “rest”.

How does one rest? What does one do in the meantime? I mean, the world keeps spinning, expectations keep mounting, time marches on and: I still don’t have an answer God! I don’t know what to do about this circumstance, that situation or another relationship.

The One Word God gave me as a lens through which to view this year is walk. I sat with my Bible on my lap, staring out the window at a gloomy, spring morning and waited, as best I could, for God to give me something more. I didn’t know how to get up, or what to do next if He didn’t answer me. Finally, He spoke:

Abby, I want you to see the correlation between walking and rest. Do not charge ahead as if you’re in some race toward a marked finish line. There are no lanes, no finish lines, just a person-goal, Myself.

When I was deeply entrenched in my eating disorder, compulsive exercise was one of my greatest challenges and resting was very hard for me. In “workout vernacular” there’s a term active rest. It is those seconds between sets or days between workouts that capitalize on all your hard work. During those rest periods, the muscles and tissues grow and rebuild. Without them, the body’s ability to perform diminishes.

When those rest periods are used wisely, the body is able to lift more, run farther and perform more efficiently over time. In those periods, it is beneficial to drink water, consume nutrients, stretch—and walk. Stagnant rest is detrimental to muscles, but slow, constructive, mindful movement accelerates healing and increases longevity.

Walk, Abby. This is how you wait. One foot in front of the other; the next right thing.

The exercise analogy can be related to the importance of rest in my daily life and walk with God. So often throughout Scripture, God calls us to wait on Him. Usually, I spin my wheels in those spaces, wondering when He is going to act, or maybe I can just step in and do whatever it is for Him. But God calls me to wait, tells me to rest for my own good.

He knows that when I slow my movement, consume the nourishment of His word and walk mindfully through each day I’ll eventually come upon His answer. And after those seasons of slow movement, rest and recovery, I will be able to serve Him longer, in more difficult circumstances and with a stronger faith.

This was first published at http://www.FINDINGbalance.com

Poem secret place

arnsberg-617991-mTake me into the secret place, Father.

A hidden place of muted song and raging melody,

Of solace and passion.

That same place, with You,

I find that pours and presses peace into oft unwilling mind.

But that pulls me to my feet and sweeps me in ecstatic circles.

That place,

Only You know the way.

It’s never the same path twice,

To trace my steps or share a code:

“Two steps, a prayer, a toughened knee, three songs, a verse by heart.”

So I come, as far as I can go, the threshold of Your throne room.

So close.

I can taste Your goodness

Swoon with the sweet fragrance of a thousand prayers,

Peer at Your beautiful strength,

But freeze in awe of contained majesty.

In flesh!

A hand pierced, extended.

Please, please take me to the secret place,

Where no one else can see my tears today.

I need the sound of Your breath,

Even in the absence of Your words.

I need the thunder of Your heart,

Even when You do not lead me forward.

Oh, that secret place.

Where tears, shy of human comment,

Flow freely from waves of pent fears and awe.