why I’m quiet about my messed up story

why I’m quiet about my messed up story

This past week, my close friend and mentor Kelli wrote an article for Today’s Christian Woman entitled “Your Messed Up Story.” When she originally asked a few us of to consider being interviewed for it, I was in a particularly busy season of life and at first denied the request. Not because I didn’t want to, but I just didn’t have time. But the more I thought about it, I couldn’t put her article out of my mind—mostly because of a promise I made in recovery years ago: I wasn’t going to be defined by my mess, but if there ever came an appropriate time to talk about it and give God glory through it, I would.

Bulimia nervosa is defined as an eating disorder characterized by binge eating and purging, or consuming a large amount of food in a short amount of time followed by an attempt to get rid of it. I started binging and purging when I was 17, during my senior year of high school. I had started gaining weight due to a back injury from cheerleading, and with a serious shift in metabolism, and I started feeling really out of control. There were a lot of other spiraling circumstances during that time of my life; my body was just one of them. But for whatever reason, I was hyper-focused on my body, and pretty soon I was in over my head. During my freshman year of college, I backed off a bit—making promises to myself that was “my last time.” But you can’t really talk yourself out of a disorder, so by the time summer came, I was back into the routine, and binging and purging had become a “normal” part of my life.

The irony of all of this (besides the obvious) was that I was a biblical studies & ministry major at college, and a ministry intern at a non-profit (and later a church). I feared if I told anyone I would be seen differently and “unfit for ministry,” although I know now that I could have been honest–back then, I was living in a state of anxiety and paranoia. Perhaps what’s most frightening about the whole thing was my ability to hide and pretend. When people asked about my rapid weight loss, I had answers ready. “I’ve been working out,” (total lie) “I’ve been watching what I eat” (kind of the opposite, actually), etc. Perhaps my ability to lie was the scariest part of it all—I was in a giant web and felt like anyone close to me would have walked away had I been honest. How could anyone trust me after I had been so deceptive? I was ministering to teenage girls while I was suffering from an eating disorder, and who would ever hire (or listen to) someone like that?

To sum it up: throughout the next year I was broken in a thousand ways—sharing my struggle with close friends and my then boyfriend (now husband), confessing to my parents, and going through a year of counseling. Oh, and did I mention? I was a resident assistant for our dorm on our Christian campus that year, too, so while I was counseling others and leading them in weekly Bible study, I was going through my own personal hell. Looking back, it would have been more honest to give myself a leadership break, but I didn’t because I felt a compulsion to not let everyone know what a real and serious mess I was.

It’s been seven years since then, and I’m fully recovered. One would think that after the hard work of recovery, I would have no problem sharing my story and giving God the credit for all the ways I’ve been healed—emotionally, physically, and spiritually. But when Kelli’s article released on Thursday, my first reaction was panic. I said to my husband, “Oh… crap.” When he asked what was wrong, I responded, “Oh, well—nothing. Kelli interviewed me for this article and I was really honest and now I kind of regret it.” After reading it, Kyle said, “Wait, why do you regret it? It’s the truth.” “I know,” I said, “But now people will actually know I’m kind of a hot mess.”

“But isn’t that the point?”

Husbands, I tell you.

I don’t talk much about my eating disorder and recovery because—here’s the embarrassing truth—I don’t like how it makes me sound. It makes me feel like a crazy person, or that I’ll be perceived as one, even though I never have perceived anyone else with an eating disorder as crazy. So I’m quiet about it because it’s not really a conversation starter, and I mostly just want to manage the way I’m perceived by telling you all the lovely things about me, first. Which is actually just gross. But I think that’s how all of us are when it comes to our sin, mess, and baggage. We don’t bring it out into the light not just because we’re ashamed of it, or because we don’t believe God can use it, but because—frankly—we’re worried about people’s perceptions. What will people think if they know __________? It sounds so elementary, right? How can we be adults and still be trying to manage people’s perceptions?

What I found on the other side of confession was that no one—not a single person—was as hard on me as I was on myself. And I was met with grace. So much grace. As Kelli so eloquently wrote, “Sharing not just our ‘before and after’ stories but also our ‘in the middle of it’ realities points others not toward ourselves but instead toward the Cross—toward the redemption and grace that saved us and keeps on saving us.” Yes, it would be easier if God took a big magic wand and waved it over this part of my story. He hasn’t. But he continues to save me every day, in the bathroom, at a restaurant, in my kitchen, and in the mirror … directing me back towards someone so much bigger: Jesus. So I should be over perception management and striving for perfection because that’s kind of the entire point: Jesus is perfect and I can never be. So there you have it: I’m kind of a big hot mess and saved by the only One who has ever been perfect—and I continue to be rescued from the darkness that lives inside of all of us.

a day late: i want to be daring

This year, I want to be daring.

I probably won’t jump out of a plane, travel the world or hike Kilimanjaro. That’s just not the kind of daring that’s calling me right now.

(Maybe when Keegan starts using the toilet. Then we’ll consider it.)

I’m interested in a whole different kind of daring these days.

About a year ago, Kyle and I read a book together that has radically changed the way we live. Sometimes we read together, it’s true. And in almost every occasion, I make it through about two pages of what his book before I exclaim in a melodramatic voice, “I JUST DON’T GET IT!” He almost always puts my book down after three paragraphs … mostly because of indifference. I love non-fiction like I love tea; give him a novel or biography about someone who’s dead and he’s set for weeks. We’ve reconciled on this–we have different taste in books. But in this particular instance, we both wanted to read Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. (Sidenote: I briefly talked about her work last year and how it was changing my life and I was telling people in Target about it, and a year later I can say it has actually changed my life.)

Because see–I read her words about the power of vulnerability, being willing to fail, and letting myself be seen right before I did approximately all of those things. I applied for a new job when I was 41 weeks pregnant (people usually don’t recommend this) and I interviewed when I had slept for just one hour. Dare greatly? Willing to fail? Uh, yeah. We plopped ourselves into a new church community with a newborn and opened ourselves up, willing to be seen. Kyle started grad school and sat in a class where he admittedly felt like a kindergartener and dared so greatly by sitting in a room full of experience. I knew something wasn’t quite right in July when I was still feeling blue, so I said it right out loud and walked myself into a support group for women suffering from postpartum depression, and I’m a better mother for it. During 2013, we most certainly dared greatly.

And so this year as I look ahead, I feel ready to be daring all over again, in lots of other ways. I want to live a less scared life. I want to stop being so afraid of failure, judgment, vulnerability, being seen, and all kinds of other things that hold me back from living a wholehearted life and following Jesus fully. I want to be daring and invite people I know and trust to tell me the hard truth about myself. I want to go through the beautiful (albeit sometimes painful) process of growth and change, because I know there’s nothing sadder than someone who’s decided to stop growing. I’m going to pay attention when I’m tempted to shut down, and learn from my mistakes and failures instead of never take any risks at all.

During a class with the Influence Network a couple of weeks ago, Jessi Connelly said it this way, “There’s no such thing as a perfect mom. So if you can’t be a perfect mom, the other option is being a mom who is unwilling to admit she’s wrong.” I lost my breath for a moment thinking about all the ways I’ve seen relationships fall apart or parents shame their kids simply because of pride. Isn’t it true? Haven’t we all ruined a relationship, burned a bridge, or had to ask for forgiveness because we held on tight to pride and didn’t just say, “I’m sorry, I made a mistake?” I want to be daring and ask for forgiveness, say I’m sorry and mean it, and reconcile when I need to. I want to let other people get a word in and listen more and talk less.

In all these ways, I hope to be daring. So here’s to 2014 and another year of daring greatly.

daring

things to say (and things to not)

In my short 16 weeks of pregnancy, I have gained a little insight and perspective into the danger and beauty of spoken word. Words can encourage, brighten, make light, and speak truth. Words hold the power to make people laugh, pee their pants, and slap their knees.

But words can also be… not-so-good. Most are well-intentioned, just not thought through. Allow me to give you a short, compiled list of things that have either been said to me (or a woman I know) during pregnancy, and we’re all thinking, “Hmm. I could’ve gone without hearing that.” 

So here is my brief list of things to say, and things to not, to a pregnant woman. I don’t care what “kind” of pregnant woman she is–the “all belly” kind, or the one who gains it everywhere BUT her belly, here is my short list.

Things NOT to say . . .
“I knew you were pregnant because normally you’re pretty skinny, and I noticed you’re a little thick.”

“I know this friend who has this friend who (insert incredibly traumatic pregnancy/miscarriage story here).” (Sidenote on this one: pregnant women know about these stories. We’ve read about them, know friends with them, some experienced them personally, had nightmares about them, and pray against them. So please, unless we bring it up, or ask about it ourselves, spare us the awful story.)

“You just look swollen, not fat.”

“I can tell you’re pregnant because you look really, really tired.” (We know this, too.)

“You don’t even look pregnant! Are you sure you’re that far along?”

“Are you sure you aren’t having twins? You’re huge!”

(While passing butter at dinner), “Here’s the tub, you’re gonna be a tub in about five months!” YES, THIS HAPPENED.

Any use of the word F-A-T, no matter the context, or intention. Just avoid that word (and others like it) all together. It’s a four-letter-word.

Things TO say . . .
“You’re the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen in the history of this planet, to ever walk, drive, or run. In fact, I can’t recall a time I’ve ever seen someone so beautiful, glowing, and magnificent.” (Magnificent is the key word. Emphasize it greatly.)

“You look extremely alert and ready to take on the day. Do you even need caffeine? I mean seriously, I can’t get over how on top of life you are now!”

“WOW! You’re amazing! Incredible! Stupendous! Unbelievable! You are going to have the best labor anyone has ever heard of! I’m not going to tell you some insane story that will give you nightmares!”

But seriously . . . 

“How can I help you?” is always good.

“How can I pray for you?” also… good.

There you have it. If I hear any more absurdly awkward or offensively funny things, you will be the first to hear (and laugh) about it.

because i can’t count on my hands

I knew once we announced our pregnancy, the questions would come like raging rabbits in search of a garden.

“How long are you going to breastfeed?”

“Are you going to get an epidural?”

“Have you started shopping for maternity clothes yet?”

“Are you going to find out the gender of the baby?”

Contrary to what the tone may imply, I enjoy questions because questions urge dialogue. I get to hear people’s stories, what their personal experience has been, and what they wish they would’ve known or done differently. So in this way, questions are good for me, because they force and encourage me to think and listen.

On the other hand, the questions can also be intimidating and anxiety-ridden. And the one that has ignited the most anxiety has been:

“What are you going to do about work? And daycare?” 

This question implies, of course, that I am going to continue working full-time, and that my child will inevitably be in daycare. This is a fair question, as I have never really spoken about dreams of being a stay-at-home mother. I read an article recently about Yahoo!’s CEO who planned on going back to work within weeks of labor and delivery. Then I read another one about a woman dealing with similar questions and issues, taking a less-demanding job so she can be with her family more. It’s a discussion that isn’t short of opinion or experience, and for me, it’s one I don’t take lightly, and feel too conflicted about to jot off a simple, “a + b = c.”

But our short answer is: we really don’t know. 

In our short 14 weeks of pregnancy, we have talked about every option, envisioned (and budgeted) each scenario. We’ve asked people we respect and admire the decisions they made, why they made them, and what they would do differently if they could. All had different answers, but very similar theme: do what fits your family.

This conversation is loaded with theory, identity, family, sacrifice, etc. No decision comes without significant loss and gain. So I ask, in the midst of our wandering, that you be gracious to us. We are trying to figure it out. We don’t know. We are full of lots of questions and very few answers. And we are settling in being okay with that for the next six (or so) months. I find myself saying more times than I can count on my hands, much like Jehosophat in 2 Chronicles 20, “God, I don’t know what to do. But my eyes are on You.” And something tells me that’s kind of the theme in parenting.

we are not enough.

My husband is not enough.

My friends, nope, they are not enough.

My mother, she is not enough.

My father, he is not enough.

My brother, he is not enough.

My coworkers are not enough.

My students, daggonit, they are not enough.

None of us are enough.

We want people to be enough. We wear them out, force them into roles they were not meant to play, beg them to be playdough in our hands–shaping them into the exact people, leaders, spouses, friends we hope and dream them to become.

But, I am not enough. And I so desperately wish I was. I frantically run through life, hoping that everyone I meet will be amazed, “Wow, isn’t she marvelous?” And yet I continue to disappoint the people in my midst. I used to think the solution to this was to just be better, achieve more, impress higher, be stronger.

I am finding that real courage comes from saying, “You know what? I guess I am not enough. I have so much to learn. I suppose, no, I know I need other people. I cannot do this on my own. I am flawed. Deeply, deeply flawed. I know it; I embrace it, and know admitting it will be the only thing that frees me.”

This morning I have peace in knowing I am not enough. And neither are you. We’re not supposed to be.

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:
2 “Who is this who darkens counsels
with words without knowledge?
3 Get ready for a difficult task like a man;
I will question you
and you will inform me!
4 “Where were you
when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you possess understanding!
5 Who set its measurements – if you know –
or who stretched a measuring line across it?
6 On what were its bases set,
or who laid its cornerstone –
7 when the morning stars sang in chorus,
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
8 “Who shut up the sea with doors
when it burst forth, coming out of the womb,
9 when I made the storm clouds its garment,
and thick darkness its swaddling band,
10 when I prescribed its limits,
and set in place its bolts and doors,
11 when I said, ‘To here you may comet
and no farther,
here your proud waves will be confined’?
12 Have you ever in your life commanded the morning,
or made the dawn know its place,
13 that it might seize the corners of the earth,
and shake the wicked out of it?
14 The earth takes shape like clay under a seal;
its features are dyed like a garment.
15 Then from the wicked the light is withheld,
and the arm raised in violence is broken.
16 Have you gone to the springs that fill the sea,
or walked about in the recesses of the deep?
17 Have the gates of death been revealed to you?
Have you seen the gates of deepest darkness?
18 Have you considered the vast expanses of the earth?
Tell me, if you know it all!
19 “In what direction does light reside,
and darkness, where is its place,
20 that you may take them to their borders
and perceive the pathways to their homes?
21 You know, for you were born before them;
and the number of your days is great!
22 Have you entered the storehouses of the snow,
or seen the armory of the hail,
23 which I reserve for the time of trouble,
for the day of war and battle?
24 In what direction is lightning dispersed,
or the east winds scattered over the earth?
25 Who carves out a channel for the heavy rains,
and a path for the rumble of thunder,
26 to cause it to rain on an uninhabited land,
a desert where there are no human beings,
27 to satisfy a devastated and desolate land,
and to cause it to sprout with vegetation?
28 Does the rain have a father,
or who has fathered the drops of the dew?
29 From whose womb does the ice emerge,
and the frost from the sky, who gives birth to it,
30 when the waters become hard like stone,
when the surface of the deep is frozen solid?
31 Can you tie the bands of the Pleiades,
or release the cords of Orion?
32 Can you lead out
the constellations in their seasons,
or guide the Bear with its cubs
33 Do you know the laws of the heavens,
or can you set up their rule over the earth?
34 Can you raise your voice to the clouds
so that a flood of water covers you
35 Can you send out lightning bolts, and they go?
Will they say to you, ‘Here we are’?
36 Who has put wisdom in the heart,
or has imparted understanding to the mind?
37 Who by wisdom can count the clouds,
and who can tip over the water jars of heaven,
38 when the dust hardens into a mass,
and the clumps of earth stick together?
39 “Do you hunt prey for the lioness,
and satisfy the appetite of the lions,
40 when they crouch in their dens,
when they wait in ambush in the thicket?
41 Who prepares prey for the raven,
when its young cry out to God
and wander about for lack of food?
(Job 38:1-41 NET)

Thank you, Yahweh; You are enough.
I am sorry for expecting everyone else to be what is reserved for You alone.

why i love Brené Brown.

I’m writing this because I’m always asked how I became so strong and immune to the criticism. The answer is that I am strong, but I’m not immune. It hurts. Even though I know that “it’s not about me” or “some people are projecting” – it still hurts. I’m human.

This morning, CNN ran a special on Brené Brown’s research of authenticity, shame, and risk-taking. And out came the anonymous, angry commenters. I know it’s a part of the internet, but the lack of accountability that goes with harsh words through the computer is so disturbing. Chances are, if any of these people ran into her in Starbucks, they would thank her for her work (or be star-struck) and move on with their lives. Disagree with her or not, I highly doubt many would have the gumption to say so.

Brené Brown followed up with a blog post called Walking The Tightrope. I’ve been reading through her book, I Thought It Was Just Me: The Truth About Perfectionism, Inadequacy, and Power the past couple of days in replacement of reading the ongoing comment-thread. In fact, I have now just handed it over to my husband (speaking of mental boundaries), and he tells me when someone says something constructive and/or positive. People may have disagreed with me, and that is okay. Open dialogue, in which both parties are open to growth and change, promotes great conversation. And, if on Thursday afternoon people walked away from their computer considering how they can respect and love their spouse deeper than they did the day before, that is success.

If you’ve ever felt humiliated by a person, or personally attacked, she speaks so eloquently to the human heart’s inability to remain both authentic and made of stone. So do your soul a favor, and read her blog. And while you’re at it, go to YouTube and watch everything she’s ever said.

I still choose authenticity.

Thanks, Brené. You rock!

on criticism, trust, and context

So, I don’t think I was mentally prepared for the amount of readers (and anger?) that would come along with yesterday’s post about Boundaries & Love. A few people were really, really mad. One person even emailed me saying I was locked inside a cage of religious-fear and I needed released. What? Clearly they do not know me.

A few things in response to this:

1. I have lots of guy friends. Our friendships just look different from my friendship with women. We hang in groups. Read: we don’t lie around in our pajamas watching re-runs of New Girl together.

2. I am in full-time ministry, and have heard story (after story, after story) of men (and women) leaving their jobs because of an inappropriate relationship(s). So, boundaries are just a bonus to the consistent heart-checks that free me from that. I don’t want to be part of those stories.

3. I trust my husband more than anyone, outside of Jesus. Our boundaries are not created out of fear, but rather mutual love and respect for one another. In fact, they allow us to have great friendships with members of the opposite sex.

4. Criticism–especially that which does not come from a place of love–actually really hurts. I have usually been in the camp of “if you haven’t been through the grueling process of creating something, step back and don’t be critical just to be critical.” Yesterday I got a little personal taste of that. I am all for dialogue, conversation, growth, and different opinions, but not when they’re in the form of internet-rant-screams.

5. Before you critique something, read the entire thing. Context matters. I read a lot of comments yesterday wondering if they even read my post. I did not think our boundaries were a list for everyone to adopt. Rather, they were the overflow of principles we try to live within our own marriage. The encouragement was not to adopt my boundaries, but to think through your own heart/mind/desires and figure out what’s necessary for you and/or your spouse.

Thanks for reading and supporting! It’s been a fun couple of days.