The Old has Gone, The New has Come

A misconception about abusive relationships is that the person in the relationship is the only one who suffers. Sometimes, that’s where conventional therapy and intervention fail, addressing one person, searching for one cause, praying for one solution. For me, lasting peace did not come until I admitted the impact that my relationship with Ed had on my whole family. I had to listen to their hearts, absorb their pain and practice giving and receiving forgiveness.

To read more of this story, find me here: at Haven Journal. This is a series of three pieces, all of them have been published by Haven. I hope they encourage you.

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Blind to Beautiful

This morning, walking my dog down Sydenstriker, I watched a little girl learn to use a white-tipped cane. Nine-thirty in the morning, most of her friends were in the school building she practiced in front of. An older lady stood protectively between her and the street, holding her own white-tipped cane.

Like metronomes in perfect sync, their canes scanned the sidewalk 10 inches before out of sightthem. The little girl had wild brown hair. Her profile was slight, a little beanpole dressed in a hot pink t-shirt and blue jeans. With her left hand she clung to the older woman’s shirt sleeve.

I passed them in seconds and just as quickly they passed through my thoughts and into catalogued, insignificant memory. Until this afternoon.

My husband and I sped along Braddock Road, grumbling as the golden, spring sun gave way to April showers. I was thinking about my yoga practice this morning, how I feel different, more whole after yoga than after other workouts. I like that feeling of knowing I’m alive, feeling graceful, collected and yet free at the same time. But I wondered, did I work out hard enough? I don’t feel especially fatigued or sore like I do after other workouts. Did I do enough?

These fears harken back to 15 years of pushing all my physical limits: Too little food, too much exercise. I did it all in pursuit of a goal – to look beautiful, to look competent, to look powerful, to look in control.

Recently, I read an article by one of my favorite people, Amy Dardis, referencing another of my favorite people, Esse Johnson. She spoke of knowing her body. My thoughts skipped.  How do I know my body? I do know that it can hear and feel and taste and see and touch and smell and walk and sleep and love and care and hurt and bleed and write and cook and listen and…

So why am I so much more worried about what I see than all the other things that my body is and does? Would I dare tell that little girl that she is missing the essential gift of life because she cannot see whether she is thin or beautiful or young or old?

What would happen if I didn’t worry so much about what I look like and instead, learned to focus on what I sound like, feel like, smell like? Beauty can be expressed those ways too.

Do I speak gently and joyfully, encouraging others and laughing at the lighter things and praying for the harder things?
Do I smell fresh and delicious to my husband?
Do I feel strong and capable?
Do my hands feel comforting to mourners?
Does my voice sound like praise?
I never smell Amber Romance, or Santa Fe perfume without melting into sweet thoughts of my mother.
I can’t contain the joy in my heart when I hear my niece tell me that a duck says, “Kack, kack”.

So why is what I look like so much more significant to me that all the other aspect of who I am? I wonder.

Protection of Pain

Another tendril in the ever-reaching privilege of pain. It started with one sore and bloody spot on your heart.

A wound, untended, glaring, raw.

Your beauty marred, a fatal flaw.

What good can come, this spreading ailment

As blood seeps out and down to deeper strands,

Threads of life, woven tight,

Till pain has stained it all.

I bet you hadn’t ever considered all the benefits of bleeding. In the physical realm, medically, we know there is a benefit to the rush of blood through a wound. Cleaning, scabbing over, protection, eventual, slow healing.

What if pain had a way of protecting your heart? I read a story recently in my Bible study by Beth Moore. She mentioned a friend of her daughter who heard that another friend had committed adultery and decided to abandon her marriage in favor of her lover. When the friend heard this story, she broke into uncontrollable sobbing. Vicariously, she experienced the pain of that family, the loneliness of the children and the betrayal of the spouse. It rent her heart.

“‘She cried over the thought that all of us have the potential of doing something that destructive. It scared her half to death.’ If that fear became a liquid shield against a wave of temptation, could it be appropriate?”

In my own life, I have shared here on many occasions that I battled anorexia for about 15 years. Once and while to this day, there is a gleam of temptation to go back: an excuse to begin distance running again and the appeal of being the thinnest of my peers, the awe or mis-guided admiration of friends when I express amazing self-control in my diet, the power trip of denying my need of anything and anyone.

But, then there’s the memory of pain, a liquid shield. My journals bear the wrinkles of dried tears when I was in the hospital. I easily remember the loneliness of refusing invitations to go out with friends. I remember the strangled protests in my mother’s eyes. I remember the painful agony of unrelenting thoughts about calories, exercise, weight, work and laziness. It was hell.

And therein lies my protection. Pain often keeps us from making the same mistake twice or from making the same mistake our friends and family make. Think of the adult child of an alcoholic. Not always, but often, they are more determined than ever to never become what they observed and bring that kind of pain into their new family.

What about you? What lesson have you learned while bent over the knees of pain? When you stood again, wobbly and tearful, were you resolute to never do anything that would put you in that position again?

Body

Swirling around Body, are passions.

Tangled, unrelated, cruel, indulgent.

I swing at her with fury intent

To finally destroy, she who causes so much angst.

But failing that to destroy and remove her

I work to decorate what insists on remaining.

Add color, trim hair, paint nails, whittle her curves, diminish her shape.

Manipulate and stuff this awkward piece into a somewhat acceptable mold.

Passion, anger, hostility, frustration, discouraged.

On a warpath to find what will force her submission.

What has she done to me? What pain has she caused? What is her crime?

Like an abused child, she shies from the deviance and plots of my mind.

I see her crawl to a corner and hide.

Jesus, save me from myself!

I wrote this poem recently, drawing from old emotions and new. I wonder, other women, do you feel at odds with your own body sometimes? What do you do?

Thank you to Promising Poets for this award!

Prayer for Crushing Idols

Last weekend, I was disappointed because Patrick had to work. I look forward to our Saturday morning coffee times. We roll out of bed about 7 a.m.  and sit our butts right back down in cozy living room chairs with steaming cups of banana nut-flavored coffee and the computer. Sounds romantic right? Well, we don’t get cable and we don’t pay for newspaper delivery, so Yahoo News, and FOX online do the trick. After browsing a few depressing stories, our search deteriorates to the funniest pictures of animals, or YouTube bloopers.

But this last weekend, one of his soldiers got a DUI, so Patrick called the whole company in for a corporal punishment of 8 hours of safety classes. But my greatest Lover, my Heavenly Father, met me right there. This week, I promised to share Scripture prayers with you. The Bible is laced with perfect narratives, supernatural dialogue and personal scripts for prayer. I am without excuse for prayer-less-ness. Saturday morning, God got personal.

I am doing a wonderful Bible study called In His Image, by Setting Captives Free. I had been doing it infrequently, a day every couple weeks, but I’ve been missing out! God has used my study mentor and the probing questions to dig deeply into the lingering worship that I ascribe to food and exercise. The Bible talks several times about the Israelites “following God,” and yet at the same time refusing to tear down their high places of idol worship. I often find myself in that exact position: daily serving and following God, all the while with my idolatrous alters standing in the background. Why? Is it a safety net? The idea that I can always go back?

So, Father brought me again to a place of surrender. I want to share with you the verses that He strung together and draped as a garland around my neck. When I am inhaling, exhaling, gazing at and living in God’s word, then I am beautiful.

“My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment,
do not let them out of your sight;
they will be life for you,
an ornament to grace your neck.” Proverbs 3:22

Father, today (Saturday, April 28, 2012) I lay my body and my appetites before you in reasonable and rightful worship. [Romans 12:1] I choose to renew my mind in your word and conform it to your perfect, personal will. I am setting my mind purposefully on your Holy Spirit, grateful for and convinced of your promise of life and peace. Just as you raised Jesus from the dead, you can and will fill my body with life. [Romans 12, 8] I confess to you that I am unable to do this at all – but you promised to help me in weakness. Intercede for me and personally meet my needs and bless me. I am opening my very mouth before you – fill it. [Ps. 81:10] I will feast on your sufficient word, it is my delight. [Jer. 15:16] I hear you call my name. Speak Lord, your servant is listening.

P.S. Check out this WONDERFUL WEBSITE!(picture above courtesy of… 365 Promises

Mirror, Mirror… Am I Ugly?

I admit, it’s sickening and addicting at the same time. “Am I Ugly?”

There’s a new trend in self-loathing: Ask the world, via the internet if you are ugly or fat. 

When I began my battle with anorexia, the conversation resembled Snow White, “Mirror, mirror on the wall…” Believe me, the mirror alone was convincing enough. My own reflection defeated me. It was painful enough to compare myself to my own sisters whom I believed were prettier, smarter, more likable. Imagining the stares of strangers on the street critiquing my body – too thin, too fat, plain, boring, stupid – lies I concocted in my own head replayed like broken records in my mind. It didn’t take a world-wide community to persuade me that I was unlovable and evoke behaviors that nearly killed me.

I did covert jumping jacks in the bathroom after midnight. I counted, tallied, re-counted, calculated, re-counted, looked up and recounted every calorie consumed or burned. The image of my own face seemed burned into my retina every moment I was in public. I imagined what others saw when they looked at me. My emotions swung from suicidal over my failures as a person, to jubilant and haughty that I was thinner or more self-disciplined than those around me.

Enter YouTube. What if you gave nearly everyone on planet earth the opportunity to confirm your private fears? What if 1,200 people thought it was their business to shape your self image. Apparently, a new community has evolved, one where youth, especially those 11-13, invite the world to either affirm them or destroy them.

I don’t know what to make of this. It is disturbing no matter how you look at it. Kids come home at night to hide in their bedrooms with their cellphone cameras, critically slicing and dicing themselves and then splicing the images into videos for world-wide publication. How narcissistic. Why do we believe that everyone cares what we look like?

Or, from the other angle, why do these kids believe they need everyone’s approval? And who are the self-appointed evaluators who believe their looks are superior enough to warrant criticism of another person?

As  much as I would like to sweeten this story by promising all little girls that they are indeed beautiful, I can’t. Obviously all our talk about “beauty being on the inside,” doesn’t really have much impact.

Maybe we need to be reminded that the Bible didn’t tell us anything about Jesus appearance. The only verse that borders on description says, “He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.” Isaiah 53:2

To this day, I’m not convinced that I am beautiful. There was no turning point in my recovery from anorexia when I suddenly saw my internal beauty, or began to admire my eyes, appreciate my hair or be content with my figure. But I can suddenly, almost surprisingly tell you that I FEEL beautiful. Even in the morning, when I am praying and tears streak down my unwashed face and bed-head tresses drape around my ears – I feel beautiful. Somehow, someway – heavier than I have been in 15 years, I FEEL BEAUTIFUL. Oh to share that. Oh that Jesus would present himself to these little ones and express His beauty from their hearts, through their eyes and expressions and ultimately through their words and key strokes. That God would be glorified by the beauty He created in each of them.

Sunny Sea Gold’s Story

Most of you know my story by now. If you don’t, please read these 2 posts and it will help to fill in the gaps. God Is Going to Give Up On Me and Guest Post on Carole’s Blog. 

Then, enjoy this story. It is a compelling story published in Redbook magazine. Sunny tells how even loving family members can introduce us to terrible fears and longterm bad habits and contagious pain. Sunny’s story has a bright ending, though. She has chose to ignore cultural norms and to raise her daughters with a fearless view toward their bodies.

Sunny Sea Gold: I Was Fat In A Thin Family

 

 

A new, but familiar place in recovery

Body Image, body image, BoDyImAgE, BODYIMAGE, bodyimage

Oooo… what a scary topic, hot button issue.  Normal, skewed, strange, fat thin.  Normal.

We even have special names for our arbitrary definitions.  Funny, no matter how you spin it, they are all bodies, ultimately doing the same thing – letting you live there!

Recently, I wrote a post telling how my body image is improving.  The biggest improvement, really, is that I don’t think about my body as much.  In the past, my sickest years, every touch of skin to skin, every time my thigh splayed flat on the seat of my car, every time I fastened my watch, buttoned my shorts, slipped into a sleeveless shirt or lay down beside my husband, I was painfully aware of my appearance.

However, I’d be lying (which is NOT what I’m trying to do here on Predatory Lies!) if I implied that my body and I peacefully coexist now.  Let me share my prayer from this morning with you.

O Elohim, Creator,

My delightful hiding place.  I come to huddle in the safety of your shadow this morning.

I am in a half-hearted battle with my body, again.  I have a new appreciation for it that I haven’t experienced in so long!  It is strong and my thighs are shapely.  I can see muscle definintion in my arms and calves.  My hair grows quickly, my nails are strong and pretty.  I actually have abs and correographed muscles in my back.  I am very strong.  I can still run 5 miles, do tough drill workouts, swim and do the splits. I love being able to sit still when necessary and quietly listen to you.

Intimacy in my marriage is easier and more comfortable that it ever has been.  I feel sexy and sexual.  I am no longer afraid that I am uglier than every other girl my husband sees.

All that said, Abba Creator, I see food and realize that it is the goodness  you are usuing to affect these changes and somehow, I am still afraid.  I am becoming familiar with feeling full and hungry and sometimes that still scares me.  And sometimes I eat what I like when I am not hungry.

Sometimes, I still feel guilty for betraying my eating disorder identity.  Then I feel guilty for not believing You.  And then I am caught here in the middle of hating myself for two opposing reasons.  help

“Abby, there is no sin here.  You do not need to plan differently for tomorrow and apologize for today’s behavior.  Even if it were a sin, Darling, all your plans against it would be fruitless.  This eating you are doing is learning to trust and obey me – the Author and constructor of your body.

And Abby, my love is extravagant.  I share with you the secrets of my heart.  I have called you my friend and I direct your steps.” taken from Ps. 25

[Dear reader, this is a recalling of some of the painful feelings I had in my sickest days.  Then, it is their echo that still resounds in my life sometimes today.  If you have dealt with anorexia, bulimia or an eating disorder not otherwise specified, then you probably will identify easily with the polarized thoughts that I describe here.  If so, I encourage you to look intently at the things you do like about your body (no matter how few).  I realize that this may be impossible if you have not begun recovery from your eating disorder.  Journal it, write it down and tell the Heavenly Father exactly where you are.  Listen to Him as He will gently rebuke your guilt and lovingly affirm your beauty and purpose.]

Healing Words From a Dialogue With God