Shame’s Sneaky Relatives

Shame: “The painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another:”

That’s what dictionary.com says shame is. And, being the lover of words that I am, I knew that. So, I really didn’t think I had a shame problem. But that was before I knew that Shame has a half-sister and two evil step-daughters.

I first met False Humility, Shame’s sneaky half-sister when I was a young teenager. I’ve always been average—not excellent or super smart. I’m not super athletic, super talented or super funny. I’m just plain-jane average. Cast beneath the spotlight of my brilliant younger sister, I quickly discounted anything positive about myself. She was everything I was and more; everything I did she could do better.

When we were kids, I quit playing softball and became the bat-girl for her team. I quit learning piano and quit the swim team because she did those things better, too. I played the martyr at home, always the one to give in, defer or tap-out.

It kind of looked like humility when I stepped aside and applauded her successes while mumbling something like, “I’m okay, just not awesome.”

Next, I was introduced to Shame’s step-daughter, Pride. She raised her ugly head in the middle of my battle with anorexia. For fourteen years I excelled at starving. No one wanted to compete with me, but I competed with everyone. In my malnourished mind, I “won” every time I was thinner than another girl, every time I turned down food that another person simply couldn’t resist, every time I went for a long run in the rain while others pulled the sheets over their heads and enjoyed the warmth of a cozy bed. I was an excellent anorexic. All the while, shameful thoughts about my body and personal value swam circles in my mind.

Fear arrived shortly after my recovery from anorexia as I began to share my testimony for the glory of God and the encouragement of others. Fear is Shame’s other step-daughter. When I wrote my book, got a publisher and saw it appear on Amazon, Fear started to mock me. No one is going to buy or read this book. You are going to let down your agent, publisher and family. Everyone has had such high expectations of you and believed you could do this—they are going to be so disappointed. 

I felt sluggish and demoralized for several days, muddling through the successive concussions of fear following the publication of my book. But fear forced to me look to the God who loves me, because “perfect love casts out fear.”

One morning, I opened my Bible to Psalm 25. This single chapter has a lot to say about shame in the life of a Christ-follower. As I read, hope and renewed energy flooded through me. Shame has no place in my life and no power over me.

“I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed…no one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame…O keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in thee.”

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A New Kind of Balance

balance-875412-mIn the 2012 Olympics, Gabby Douglas, a USA gymnast, slipped on the balance beam, her favorite event, and forfeited any medal in the competition. It was hard to believe, since just days before she had performed beautifully in qualifications.

In the competitive sport of gymnastics, there isn’t real balance. There is pass or fail. For Douglas, it wasn’t enough that she’d performed well previously; past scores did not balance out poor performance and eliminate her loses. She would either make it to the other side or fall, keep her feet on the straight and narrow or crash gracelessly to the ground. There’s not much freedom, no margin for error.

In the beginning stages of recovery, as I clawed my way out of the depths of an eating disorder, finding balance felt much like being on the balance beam.

To finish reading this post, please visit FINDINGbalance

LASTing Peace, “How Does God Want Me to Workout?”


Does God want you to exercise? Is all exercise a vain and idolatrous pursuit? Let’s talk about that today.
Here’s the link to Desiring God that I mentioned in the video:
http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/exercising-the-body-for-the-sake-of-the-soul?utm_source=Desiring+God&utm_campaign=f157fa03e9-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_6da5f8315b-f157fa03e9-99428477
Because He Lives!

My Book Reviewed by The Eating Disorder Referral and Information Center

Last month, I was greatly honored to have my book reviewed in the Eating Disorder Referral and Information Center’s monthly newsletter. I’m excited to share it here with you all. If you would like a copy of my book, it’s available on Amazon through the links on the left of this page or you can contact me for a signed copy.

BOOK REVIEW: The Predatory Lies of Anorexia: A Survivor’s Story
By Abby Kelly (Bettie Youngs Books, 2014)

This past August, Robin Williams killed himself; his depression and past struggles with substance abuse defeated him. Phillip Seymour Hoffman also succumbed to a drug overdose this year. These sad losses highlight how possible it is to die from addiction, and how recovery is not simple or automatic just because you say you want it. Therefore, we need to pay careful attention to recovery stories of people like Abby Kelly to learn as fully as possible what the ingredients are that pulls someone out of the brink of despair and makes them choose recovery. In her memoir, The Predatory Lies of Anorexia: A Survivor’s Story, Ms. Kelly recounts her exhausting fifteen year ordeal with “my addiction to the disease of anorexia.” The author’s compulsive appetite for approval, appreciation, and acceptance fueled her anorexia which became her attempt to feel special, unique, and in control. Ms. Kelly recounts her three inpatient hospitalizations, extensive counseling, and thoughts of suicide. Gradually she chooses recovery through her growing belief in God. “God broke the chains of my disease,” she declares. “I am loved by God and my family. I’m beautiful just the way I am. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” There is no “one size fits all” for recovery from addiction. Every person’s recovery is as unique as a fingerprint. In her book, Abby Kelly, now free from anorexia for five years, tells her unique story of her commitment to prayer, Jesus, and religious transformation which led her eventually to embrace the beauty of her body and her soul and to turn her back on the false and “predatory lies” of anorexia.

Book review submitted by Mary Anne Cohen, Director of The New York Center for Eating Disorders, author of French Toast for Breakfast: Declaring Peace with Emotional Eating and Lasagna for Lunch: Declaring Peace with Emotional Eating. http://www.EmotionalEating.Org. Mary Anne Cohen’s book, Lasagna for Lunch: Declaring Peace with Emotional Eating, is now available as an e-book from Amazon.

Walking in Season

hdr-autumn-1252757-mIt used to be, when I was “well”.

Then it was, “When I’m am confident.”

Next came, “When I discover what God wants me to do.”

Then, “When I’m finally brave enough to  do what God wants me to do.”

Next came, “When God blesses what I am doing.”

And then He did.

Now, I’m feeling topsy-turvy in the chaos of all His goodness. Oh not that He wasn’t good before, but only in this season am I finally appreciating the cultivation of the earlier ones. Only when I am caught in the fear that this season provokes do I recognize the beauty of seasons past.

Not so many months ago, I spewed random words on a page, of interest to no one. I collected sheets of private musings, pedantic stories, journal entries and heart murmurs. I posted them in obscure places, submitted them to a few magazines, folded them up in Christmas cards, tucked them into “love you” letters and sent them out to everyone brave enough to be in my address book.

At that time I was between the seasons of, “When I discover what God wants me to do,” and, “When I’m brave enough to do what God wants me to do.” But that’s just the thing, I kept looking for, chasing after some nebulous goal that I believed God had hung in my foggy future. I imagined God standing just behind me, a fatherly hand on my shoulder wondering if I’d ever try hard enough, peer deep enough, have enough faith to strike out in that darkness and unveil my life’s purpose.

In the very first book of the Bible, in the very first chapter, God intentionally created seasons. Isn’t that staggering? It’s not as if He’s pacing upstairs waiting for me to reach the climax of my life. He’s not wondering when I’ll discover my purpose and get about the business of pleasing Him. That was, THIS IS my season.

I told you about not so many months ago, but if I’m honest, not so many hours ago, I was fretting my hands about this season. I’m feeling snowballed with all of the tiny things to do in the process of publishing and publicizing a book.

I prayed for this, right? I determined that God wants me to be an author and declared that I’d honed in on my calling, facetiously deprecated myself for taking more than 30 years to find out what God made me to do. And now?

I’m worried about not having enough creative juices or time to write for all the opportunities. I’m concerned about not having enough hours in the day to speak life to, and receive encouragement from, the relationships that God is giving me.

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about nature’s seasons? Is it the crunch of lifeless leaves when you walk down the park trail? Is it the beckoning, long shadows of summer when you walk to the mailbox late in the evening? Is it the deep impressions lingering in the snow when you walk your dog in the winter time? Is it the cacophony of indiscernible, sweet fragrances when you walk through the garden in springtime?

I always see myself walking when I think of seasons. Slowly meandering through their measured window of time, experiencing each one in all its splendor, beholding it from every angle, walking.

Soon after God designated seasons, He placed man in the Garden of Eden. And do you know what He did? Every single evening, He invited Adam and Eve to come walk with Him.

There’s no rushing seasons. Sure, sometimes the lines seem blurred and winter keeps a firm grasp on the thermometer a little longer than we prefer, but it gives way. And then, when we’re tired of resting in the folds of spring, like buds held closed by an invisible hand, there’s still nothing to hasten summer. It’s a steady walk through these seasons.

And there’s bounty in every season, bounty and cultivation. When my options seemed few and my creativity abounded, God was cultivating excitement in me—ideas for the words He would share through my fingers. The bounty then was rest and time and freedom. Now, the bounty is opportunity to bless others, wide doors to use the gift and treasure of writing that He has given me. Now, I am cultivating trust, recalling rest and realizing confidence as I see the beauty behind each door He opens.

Simply, I worry when I need to be walking—steadily, following Christ. He’s the one who opened once invisible doors and He will show me which ones to enter and which ones to pass by.

Sinful or Sick?

waiting-1428907-mThere has always been tension between two questions: Do I suffer because I sin–or do, and why do, good people suffer? If it’s not punishment, why do some get cancer and innocent children get raped or kidnapped?

As I wrestled with my eating disorder, these questions tore at me. Was I sinning or was I suffering? Was anorexia some clinical disease that even good people “contract”? Or was this a penalty for my rebellious will, pridefulness or an idolatrous heart—or even some more blatant, ignored sin in my life, like lying or slander, some time-eclipsed behavior?

Jesus answered this for us is one critical encounter with a sufferer. The blind man of John 9 becomes a proof case for us. From a snapshot of his life, we understand Christ’s position, the ultimate answer, to sin and suffering.

“As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth.  His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’

‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’

After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. ‘Go,’ he told him, ‘wash in the Pool of Siloam,’ (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.” John 9:1-7

We are not told this blind beggar was penitent of any sin. He was not pleading at the roadside for healing. Rather it was Jesus’ disciples who longed to find fault or cause somewhere. The surrounding crowd clamored for an explanation for this man’s blindness.

Jesus wasn’t indulging; He offered up no satisfactory culprit. Instead, Jesus spit, made clay and anointed the man’s eyes…then, even once the healing began, it wasn’t instantaneous. The Healer instructed the man to go wash.

Meanwhile, an argument continued to rage about the situation, but now, it was not only, “Whose sin made this man blind?” but, “Who made him well?”

The first answer is found in verse three, “‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.’”

If the New Testament had been written then, our indignant question would have been stolen by the disciples, “But, you said that death and pain came into the world because of man’s sin!”

Romans 5:12 does tell us that sin entered the world through man and sin bears consequences. Our pain does have a purpose, though not always a unique cause. It is not always due to personal sin. Suffering and death entered the world through corporate sin. But the redemptive reason for pain is that Christ’s power shows through us.

There is no one to blame.

Perhaps it was just plain suffering, but even that evokes questions. First Corinthians 13:10 says, “God will not allow more than we can handle,” right? I’m sure blindness felt like an excessive burden. Anorexia did.

No, the Bible promises not too much temptation, we are still wide and vulnerable to be swamped by suffering.

In the course of my slow recovery from anorexia, I fought to choose one of these persuasions: Sin or sickness. Well intending people supported both theories. It seemed that each belief warranted a new approach to healing. But finally, supernatural healing seemed to overtake me and a blending of these philosophies emerged. Today, I still say, “I suffered from anorexia”, but equally I struggled with it as an addiction or false god.

What do I mean by ”supernatural” healing or recovery? I mean that I never consciously broke. I cannot point to a moment, a turning point when I began to do all things differently—as in turning from an old sinful behavior or leaving a hospital cured. There were breakthrough moments when  Christ’s presence became more real, His support more affirming, His patience more felt but none when I immediately threw away the crutches of restriction, calorie counting and exercise. Those behaviors slowly sloughed off; the healthy, life-giving pounds came on gradually while I became mysteriously preoccupied with Jesus and surprisingly lost interest in the scale.

Aren’t we always that way? We want to know if the suffering, the eating disorder or other addiction was caused by past trauma, abuse, the culture or bullying. Especially those of us watching want to scream, “God we need a reason!”

I, like the blind man, was in many ways past believing that healing would come, past seriously doing any moral inventory of my failures and past consulting expensive doctors. Was I sick or sinful? It didn’t seem to matter.

But here’s the beauty of Jesus: When I quit asking, He healed me. When the blind man wasn’t asking, Jesus healed him.

Jesus stood quietly for a moment, while the disciples searched for somewhere to cast blame. The blind man couldn’t see Him. Maybe Jesus snuck up behind him and said over his shoulder, “Hang on, in a short time, this will all be over.”

I have often felt like this blind man when people ask me, “What happened? How did you get well?” And I ached with the painfully plain response, “I don’t know.”

But again, here’s the beauty of Jesus.

Even as we suffer, drowning in our too-much, pressed down and weighted under the curse of a fallen world, Jesus steps in to prove God’s rich mercy and the great love with which He loves us and His awesome power. In His perfect time, He makes all people and circumstances beautiful and works things for the good of those who love Him. In the blind man’s case and my own, He chose give sight and to restore my body.

There is also an answer to the “more than we can bear” and it is the power of a Savior who sneaks up, touches our shoulder and says, “It will all be over soon.”

 

 

An Article to Explain (and warn) your ‘tweens about eating disorders

How many magazines do you have on your bedside table? How many in your backpack? Okay, once you’ve done that homework, I need you to do a bit more investigation. Look at the covers. How many headlines promise to make you more beautiful? How about more popular? I bet at least two of them mention a “get-fit” plan or promise to tell you a little secret about which foods are good and bad for you.

One the surface, there’s nothing wrong with these magazines. The quizzes can be fun to take with a friend. And I’m the first to admit I’ve discovered some cute ways to style my hair. But underneath the glitter and glossy pages, did you know that your magazines are telling you little white lies?

Studies say that more than half of 13-year-old girls in the United States don’t like their bodies. And most admit that they get their ideas about health, fashion and what they should look like from magazines. The pictures of celebrities tell them what they should wear, what will make boys like them and how their bodies should look. But it’s scary what can happen to a girl when she chooses to believe these little lies about her appearance and her value.

When I was fourteen-years-old I began a long battle with anorexia. Never heard of it?

Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder. Someone with anorexia stops eating or severely limits what they eat. They might start to exercise too much and to other things to lose weight. And even when they lose too much weight and are dangerously skinny, they still believe they are too fat.

My battle with anorexia lasted more than 14 years. During that time, I lost a lot of friends who worried about me and didn’t know how to help me. My little sisters were scared that I was going to die. My parents cried and worried all the time because actually being too thin is even more dangerous than being a little too heavy.

My hair started to fall out. I grew lots of little-bitty, soft hairs all over my body. Because I didn’t have any body fat, my body was trying to stay warm. I cried a lot. When your mind doesn’t get enough nutrition, it doesn’t think clearly and many girls with anorexia get depressed, too. I fell asleep in school because my body didn’t have enough energy from food to stay awake. I even passed out a couple times, but I don’t remember it.

My family took really good care of me. When they understood how sick I was, they sent me to a hospital for eating disorders in Arizona. I spent three months there, away from my family and friends. I missed school and church; I even spent my 16th birthday at the hospital. Sometimes, I was so tired and scared and sad that I even wanted to die.

Getting well from anorexia often takes a really long time. It was hard for me to try to gain weight. I was scared that I might get too fat. In fact, even after I got well, I started to worry so much about being fat that I got sick again and had to return to the hospital when I was eighteen.

Jesus is the one who saved my life. Knowing how much He loves me is what gave me the courage to keep trying to get well and helped me make it through the loneliness when I was in the hospital. I read the Bible, not magazines, and learned what Jesus says about my beautiful body that He created.

In Genesis, God tells us that He made us in His own image. How can we not be perfectly wonderful if God made us to look like Him?

In Psalm 139, David writes that our bodies are marvelously made. And, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 reminds us that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. We belong to Him! We need to take care of out bodies the way God wants us to and not worry about the world’s ideas of perfect.

 

This article was first published in ‘Tween Girls and God.