Saturday, December 14, 2013

to be vulnerable is to be courageous

"You can choose comfort or you can choose courage. You can't have both."
~ Brene Brown

 Finding yourself in a place where all pretences and facades have been stripped away - where compartmentalization is no longer an option - is quite possibly the most humbling experience a human being can have. To be raw, unguarded, and exposed is excruciatingly painful, yet I'm learning that maybe this is how we're meant to live.

At least I'm learning that maybe this is how I am meant to live.

Vulnerability is uncomfortable. It is awkward, wearisome, and at times, downright distressing.

As I write this, I'm in a very vulnerable state. I feel naked, laid bare, and exposed before so many people. Everything that I used to hide has now been brought into the light. I'm not just talking a single person's flashlight, either.

Part of embracing vulnerability has been a choice on my part. It started months ago when I began to let the walls down, little by little, experiencing emotions that I'd kept locked away for years - sitting with those feelings in the presence of another person. It started when I learned that leaning in to discomfort was the only way I was going to make any progress. In the past, I've come up against situations and circumstances similar to the ones I've been facing recently, and instead of opening up, I've shut down. Instead of leaning into and onto my supports, I've run away.

It has appeared, though, that throughout the course of these last few months, there have been a number of situations that have literally brought me to my knees. It's been a form of vulnerability that I have fought against, but in the end, I lost the fight. It felt compelled and involuntary - and yet I still had a choice. I always have a choice. Would I be honest - revealing the darkest parts of myself, the parts that terrify even me - or would I cling to the pretence that I had everything under control, even though there was plenty of evidence to the contrary?

I chose honesty. I chose to embrace vulnerability even though it hurt like hell.

I've reached the point of pure exhaustion. I am drained of both physical and emotional energy, and I am void of the ability to compartmentalize. I can no longer keep all the areas of my life wrapped up neat and tidy in their own little boxes - separate. I can no longer maintain composure when I'm being overwhelmed with emotion; it spills out whether I'd like it to or not. I'm afraid of this place because it feels chaotic and out of control. It feels like I'm spinning out, but the reality is, I'm right where I need to be.

In times of deep pain and hurt, vulnerability feels terrible while simultaneously bringing great relief. People see you. Some people know you. Those people love you.

When I show up by bringing my full self to the table (both figuratively and literally), I'm actively choosing to engage in real relationships. I'm choosing to allow people the honour of walking alongside of me, rather than at arm's length. I'm choosing to allow them to hold up my arms when I don't have any strength left. I'm choosing to allow them to fight on my behalf, because they know my battles. They are intimately acquainted with my enemies, even if they may not fully understand them.

In embracing vulnerability, I have seen more people really show up for me than ever before. I think that's because I'm showing up for them.

By embracing vulnerability, I have learned that I am not alone, no matter how alone I may feel.

It may be uncomfortable, awkward, messy, and distressing, but moreso, it's refreshing, satisfying, and invaluable.

To be vulnerable is to be courageous. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

21 Things on My 21st Birthday

I was born on Tuesday, September 22, 1992 at 2:14pm PST.

In other words, today is my 21st birthday.

It's hard to believe that I am blessed enough to say those words. For many years, I didn't think that I would get here, but by the grace of God, I am.

Every year around my birthday, I tend to get very pensive and I spend a great deal of time reflecting on my life. The fact that my Mercy grad anniversary is September 21 also serves to kick my reflection into high gear. This year marked three years since I graduated the program.

Typically, my reflection takes on an overtly critical tone. This year, I'm trying to shift that, and that's where this blog comes in. I have an extraordinarily difficult time viewing my life through a lens of grace, and as much as I write and say positive things, I'm often thinking the absolute opposite.

I've decided to write a list of 21 things that are worth celebrating about me, and my life thus far. I think it's important for me to acknowledge the incredible ways that I've grown and changed throughout the years today - and I want to be dwelling on these things as opposed to the fact that I think I should be further along in my life.

Without further adieu...

21 Things to Celebrate About My Life Thus Far...

1. I am alive.
  • That in and of itself could be the list. I'm still here. I'm still fighting. I'm still living. My heart is beating, my lungs are breathing, and I have woken up every morning.
2. I'm in my junior year of college.
  • So what that the majority of friends my age are seniors and graduating this year? I'm in freaking college, and I'm doing relatively well here. From someone who never thought she'd graduate high school, that's pretty freaking successful.
3. I have made incredible friends who love me and desire to celebrate my life.
  • I'm finally learning to have healthy friendships!! That's incredible, and I'm so so so blessed by the friends that i have made throughout the years who have stuck by me, and for the new friends whom I have made since coming to Gordon. 
4. I have a family that loves me.
  • I may not be living in the same country as them, but I have no doubt in my mind that my family loves me. There has been so much growth in our relationships, and I'm so thankful for the fact that God is in the process of repairing and restoring our family as a whole.
5. I haven't hurt myself in over three years.
  • 'nuff said.
6. God loves me.
  • I'm finally beginning to grasp that...for real.
7. I have developed a strong support network that extends beyond my friend group.
  • I don't know what I would do if I didn't have people who were willing to mentor me, counsel me, and pour into my life. 
8. I have learned so many skills that are useful in maintaining my recovery.
  • I'm finally getting to a place where I am confident in the skills that I have gained, and I know how to implement them. (Whether I do it or not is an entirely different story...but we're getting there!)
9. I'm gaining experience in a field that makes me feel extremely fulfilled.
  • My internship with Amirah that I began over the summer has continued into the Fall, and I'm learning so much still. I feel like I am a valued member of the team, and it's actually so nice to feel like I'm contributing things of importance.
10. I've been given countless opportunities to walk with people through hard times.
  • It's always such a blessing to me when I'm given the opportunity to walk with a friend who's struggling, or when I encounter a person who just needs someone to be there and support them...and when I get to do that, I feel so filled up. It's splendid. 
11. I've learned not to take myself too seriously.
  • Sometimes we all just need to laugh at ourselves...
12. I have found my voice, and I'm no longer afraid to use it.
  • I have important things to say, and over the years, I've found myself speaking up more and more. I am allowed to take up space, and I am allowed to be heard. If that's not something to celebrate, I don't know what is.
13. I've had the opportunity to travel some.
  • The more I talk to people, the more I realize that even if I've only been out of the US and Canada twice, I've seen more of both of these countries than a LOT of other people. I've been blessed with the opportunity to visit friends and family across the continent, and to travel by myself and go on so many great adventures. There's going to be plenty more to come as well!
14. Not only has my biological family gotten closer, but I have been blessed with a chosen family that just keeps growing.
  • I love my family - biological and "adopted". I'm so thankful that I've been placed in families across the continent, and I know that I have big sisters who love me, and big brothers who'll protect me, and an extra set of parents who'd love me like I was their own if given the chance!
15. I'm learning to give myself grace and to trust in the process.
  • Life is a process, and I'm learning that making mistakes is perfectly acceptable, and actually normal. To slip up and to "fall forward" is something that is definitely manageable, and I'm learning to take something away from each time I fall to help me keep moving forward. It's slow going at times, but it's still forward motion. 
16. I haven't been in intensive ED treatment in over a year!
  • That's a pretty huge one for me. A year out of treatment is a big deal.
17. When people look at me, they see someone who is full of joy and hope, not despair.
  • I used to look completely different - even physically. My eyes were dull and lifeless. I looked exhausted and defeated. Now...I'm so full of life! If people didn't know, they'd never guess that I've been well-acquainted with hopelessness for many years. That's definitely the grace of God all over me. 
18. I can just be me.
  • I'm starting to embrace the fact that I don't have to change to meet other people's crazy expectations for myself. As I discover who I am as an individual, I'm able to embrace that. I don't have to pretend to be someone I'm not, and there's so much freedom in that!
19. I have unshakeable hope.
  • Professionals think my hope is awespiring, and it comes in handy when I'm having a rough time...even if sometimes I get frustrated by my inability to let go of that. Thankfully, my hope is in God and not in things of this world...definitely makes things a lot easier.
20. I have been able to identify my strengths and weaknesses, and look for ways to improve in the areas where I need to go, and look for ways to implement my strengths that make me feel useful!
  • It's been a process...even getting to the point that I can acknowledge that I have strengths....but it's great. Humbling, quite often, but so so good.
21. Finally, because this is like...the biggest thing...I'M STILL HERE.
  • It's the same as number one, but man...this is huge. I'm legitimately alive, and I'm still fighting, and I'm never ever giving up. 
Thus concludes my list of things to celebrate. If, by chance, you are able to come up with more things that you want to celebrate about my life, feel free to comment. I would really appreciate your thoughts!!

Friday, August 16, 2013

it's often easier to rebuild than to redeem

"It’s often easier to rebuild than to redeem."

I've always been apt to believe this statement, and for many years, I lived this way.

Imagine your house was completely gutted by a fire, but structurally, the building was mostly sound. You lost everything you owned - with the exception of a few things that managed to survive the fire, and even those last few things have severe water damage from the firefighting efforts. Of course, you still hold the memories in your heart, but every material possession that held any value to you - destroyed. 

How do you fix it? All costs aside, you have two options - demolition and rebuilding your house from the ground up, or hours and hours and hours of scraping through the ash and the rubble of your former life - cleaning it up enough to start massive renovations to make your home habitable once more. 

Rebuilding your house would be easier emotionally, and quite possibly practically. The demolition work wouldn't be that hard - your house was already essentially destroyed. And then the rebuilding starts. You get to design your own brand new home. You get to make absolutely certain that the wiring is up-to-code, the rooms are built exactly how you want them, and the decor is precisely your style. At the end of the process, you have a brand new home with brand new everything, and you can make brand new memories. 

To renovate your house and get rid of any evidence of fire, you have to be willing to get dirty. You have to face the mess, the damage, and the debris. You have to assess the situation, see what can be salvaged and what has to be replaced. You have to consult with numerous professionals and get multiple quotes to compare. Finally, you actually get to start the work of fixing the place up and restoring your home to it's original state, with the option of changing it up a bit if you would like. Maybe you were just waiting for an excuse to buy that new living room set, or that new TV. Maybe you wanted to change the colour scheme, but had never gotten around to it. (Life always seems to get in the way of those sorts of things, doesn't it?) By the time you're done, you have your home back. It has the same foundation, the same shell as your old house, but the insides are a heck of a lot nicer now then they were before the fire. 

Now, I have never experienced a house fire, so I don't know which option I would choose in this circumstance. I don't think either one is wrong. One option is not better than the other here, they're just different. Maybe rebuilding your house from the ground up is the best choice for you, and maybe you are committed to restoring your old house to a standard that is pleasing. Either way, you've dealt with the issue - you had a house fire, and you needed to do something about it. 

I'm going to use the house fire as a metaphor for other things in our personal lives that seem to have just as devastating an effect on our wellbeing, but this time, it's our emotional self that's being impacted. I understand that these things are very different, but please bear with me.

As many of you who read this blog know, my mental health has been a struggle for me throughout the years. I've been diagnosed with a laundry list of mental illnesses, and I've had to walk through a lot of hard times as a result. Many times throughout the years, I felt as though my life was in shambles. I've pretty much always had hope that one day, things would normalize and I would be free of the torment I suffered through on a daily basis. 

As a result of my struggles, I burned a lot of bridges. I kept people at arms length, and when the rare few were able to slip past my protective front, I pushed them away. I gave up on my education for a few years. Whenever things would get too overwhelming, I'd move on. I'd recreate my life from the ground up. Sometimes that meant moving across the country. Sometimes it meant changing schools. It usually always involved a change in location of some sort. 

I can't even tell you how many times I up and changed my whole life because I had messed things up so badly and I felt like I needed a fresh start, a chance to do things right. I took the easy way and rebuilt my life from scratch repeatedly - in hopes that things would be better this time around. I made new friends, I took new classes, I learned a new way of life - and sometimes, it even worked for a short time...long enough to deceive myself into believing that - miracle of miracles, I was healed! I always picked up a new hobby to go along with my new life, and I obsessed over it. 

Evidently, that didn't work for me, because a few months later I just wanted to do the same thing again. Drop everything, and rebuild my life from scratch. The last time I moved, I was moving to yet another new school, with new friends, new classes. I was moving to a place where no one knew me. This time, I decided I'd try something new. I committed to viewing my first semester at Gordon as an experiment (like I'd heard plenty of times the previous summer..."You've lived your whole life one way, and it hasn't worked yet. Why not try something new? View it as an experiment. If you don't like it, you can always go back to your old way of life later...).

I decided to let down my guard. I allowed people to know me - the good, the bad, and the ugly. Healthy people who might run at any given moment. People who weren't being paid to stick by me through hell and high water. I opened up to people and learned to ask for support when I needed it, and I experienced mutually beneficial relationships with people who saw me as a human being for what felt like the first time in my life. 

Instead of running from my past, I started to face up to it. I began to ask God to redeem the brokenness that was my life, because only He could take something that rough around the edges and make it smooth again. I stood firm, began to address the...shit, and I began to mature into a person I never, ever thought I could be. 

For me, rebuilding or recreating my life was so much easier. It was more like running away and deceiving myself, but it was a new life nonetheless. For me, it was not the right option. A change of scenery, new people, new hobbies, a new school...that was never enough for me to change. A new life wasn't what I needed. I needed to be transformed.

My life is undergoing major renovation, even still. I struggle. I have lapses. I have issues that need to be addressed. I have to continually remind myself that walls are important for the structure of my 'house', but every room needs to have an entrance. Doors exist for a reason, and they can be opened and shut when they need to be. For me, the right decision was to choose to stand firm, and ask God to redeem my life. He's taking the brokenness and restoring it to what it is supposed to be. It's hard, and more often than not, it hurts like absolute hell, but I have a feeling that all this work that's going into my life right now is definitely going to be worth it. 

When you recreate your life from the ground up, all those bridges that you burned don't matter. You don't have to fix all the damaged buildings, or cracked windows. You don't have to fill in the potholes. You just replace them. You repave the roads, rebuild the bridges, build a whole new house. Essentially, you get to leave all that in the dust and move on. 

Perhaps, for some of you, that is the right option. Maybe there really is nothing left for you in your currently environment. Maybe you do need to create a whole new circle of friends. Maybe a location change is a must to get away from your old habits. That's entirely okay...heck, even I needed one last change in location to allow myself the freedom of hunkering down to do the real work that needs to be done. 

Maybe you were like me...always hoping that a change of scenery or new friends or a new school or a new life would be the solution. I promise you that it's not. You're always there...where ever you go. I urge you to consider taking an honest inventory of your life - your strengths, weaknesses, life experiences...and seeing what there is to work with. If you think there's not much there, well, maybe there's not...but there's always SOMETHING. It might be a tiny ring buried somewhere in the rubble of the charred remains of your house, but there's always something. Hold on to that something, and use that as the springboard into the major renovations that are going to take place in your life. 

But please, don't lose hope. Even the most broken, pitiful lives can be 'renovated', restored, and yes, even redeemed. 

There is hope for you yet, child. 

There is hope for you yet. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Creating a New Frame of Reference

You all know how I work. I read something or I hear something, and my mind starts spinning a mile a minute and I have to get it out. This morning is another one of those times, so bear with me.

I was reading a blog and someone had written a guest post sharing a precious story about her 6 year old daughter requesting that her mom play the song Daylight by Maroon 5 saying that it was her favourite song, and then shared her interpretation of that song. She didn't like the morning because that mean she had to go to school, but she loved nighttime when her mom would tuck her in and snuggle with her.

Children make sense of their world by using their experience as a frame of reference. The nightly tuck-in routine became this six year old girl's point of reference - her source of comfort, her go-to place.

Of course, with my introspective nature, my mind is spiralling thinking about what I've used as my point of reference, and what I would like my frame of reference to be from here on out.

The first thing that pops into my mind when I think "Point of Reference" is my eating disorder. It's what I've used as a source of comfort for years. It provided me with a sense of security, and a feeling that I could actually be good at something. When things would get rough and scary in the real world, I'd retreat back to the familiar comforts of restricting, overexercising, and binging and purging. Even in treatment, I refused to fully release my grip on the eating disorder, because I still wanted it to be there as my Plan B.

My life experience has essentially consisted of long periods of disorder and chaos with short periods of respite. I've lived my life waiting for the other shoe to drop, because it always does. Something always happens, and I crumble. This has been my frame of reference - my experience.

Now, it begs the question, what do I want my frame of reference to be?

I want to create a new frame of reference - a new set of experiences - that point me in the direction of life. I want to live based on a framework of love, security, and peace that comes from the Holy Spirit. Instead of allowing circumstances and situations to pull the rug out from under me, I want to be consistent - falling on my knees in worship. The Lord is my Deliverer. He is my Provider, my Shelter, my Strong Tower - and I want HIM to be my point of reference.

I want HIM to be what I measure my life experience against and base my actions around.

Practically, I've been thinking about what this looks like - and I think that it's just going to take practice, a lot of perspective shifts, and even more grace.

Firstly, I need to surrender my Plan B. This needs to happen, because as long as I'm holding on to the possibility of relapse, I'm preventing myself from experiencing the abundant life that comes when a life is fully committed to the things of God.

Second, I need to allow myself to try things that I've never done before because I've been afraid of the outcome. What is there to fear when God is on my side?

Third, I need to get my priorities straight. When I'm focused on myself and the things that I have to/can't do, I'm neglecting the big picture things. I need to prioritize early bedtimes so that I'm able to wake up early enough to start my day off right - dedicating my day to God. This month has been tremendously great in terms of quiet times. I'm going to sleep at 10pm and waking up at 7am, and I'm well-rested and alert and enjoying starting my day off with my Bible, my journal, and the Holy Spirit.

And finally, I need to continue to let other people speak life to me. I was not created to do life on my own, and I'm doing really good at seeking out accountability and being authentic with them. I'm actually really proud of how far I've come in this area.

So, all this to say, a paradigm shift is on it's way.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

What Does It Mean To Show Up?

So, I am THE master procrastinator. I know a lot of people try to claim that title, but I promise that it belongs to me. When I woke up this morning, I fully had the intention of getting to work right away on the few things I have to do for my internship today, and it's noon and I still haven't even opened up a document to start.

What has my method of procrastination been today? Well, allow me to tell you. I started on Facebook and read a daily reminder from Brave Girls Club, which made me think to go over to tumblr to search and see what the tag Brave Girls Club held, then I clicked on a blog which looked interesting and explored that for a few pages until I came across a TED talk video. I love TED Talks, so I decided, "What the heck!?" It was entitled "Lessons from the Mental Hospital" by Glennon Doyle Melton, and if you know me, you know why I find that title so fascinating. If you don't know me, it's because I'm a tad bit crazy myself.

It was honestly one of the most relatable TED Talks I've ever watched. So of course, what did I do next? I googled Glennon Doyle Melton and ended up on her website - She wrote a book called "Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts On Life Unarmed", and I listened to the portion of the audiobook that's offered for free on her website, and I loved it - which then sent me to Youtube to see what else she's spoken about and I watched a ton of videos of her speaking at various events and TV shows and whatnot. (Welcome to my life everyday. I find something interesting and it takes up half my day researching about it or watching videos or anything!)

One thing she talks about all the time is showing up. Part of her story is that she is a recovering bulimic, alcoholic, and addict and on Mother's Day 2002, she found out she was pregnant, and at that moment - she knew she had to stop running from life and just show up. She started showing up to life in whatever state she was in, and she realized how unbelievably "brutiful" life is. (That's a mix between brutal and beautiful, in case you were having trouble decoding that word...) Glennon is very into authenticity, and it was a breath of fresh air to hear her speak so candidly about so many of the questions I ask myself on a daily basis.

Now, she shows up at her computer to blog about all sorts of things. Her website has a following of 60 000 "monkees", she's written a book, and she speaks all over the place - sharing her story and what she's learned along the way about what it means to just show up as you are without all the "superhero capes" that people use to hide their true selves.

What she said really got me thinking about what it means for me to show up, personally, especially in the season of life that I'm in right now. Currently, I'm doing a summer internship at an organization called Amirah, living in NH and commuting to Mass three times a week, spending a lot of time with God, and fighting very hard to walk in victory over the issues I've been dealing with for years day after day. It's not an easy season.

Please don't get me wrong. I LOVE my internship, and I am SO very blessed by the family that I'm staying with for the summer. In that respect, this summer is probably the best summer I've had in a long while. I'm building relationships, crossing new things off my summer bucket list every day, and gaining experience doing something that I truly enjoy. The blessings that God has poured out on my life are incredible, and although my summer looks nothing like I originally thought it would, it is so much better than anything I ever could have planned for myself.

However, things have been far from easy when it comes to dealing with the eating disorder, depression, anxiety, etc. Close to the end of the school year, I had a mini-meltdown, and now I'm in the process of regaining my footing. When I went home and my living situation for the summer fell through and I thought I'd have to stay at home for the summer, I allowed myself to fall into the familiar pattern of ED behaviours that always follows shortly after things that I have planned go awry. It was only a short time this time, because I ended up finding a place to stay and coming back.

The thing is, that pattern of lapsing into old behaviours at home needs to change. A close sister-friend called me out when I was at home, and pointed out to me that the choices and actions that I make now are going to affect my future. It's not just a short term thing - I'm setting myself up to continue the pattern of slipping back into behaviours that fit like a glove whenever times get tough, and that doesn't just affect me. It affects my future spouse, my family, my friends, the people that I am going to be ministering to.

Sometimes, life just feels so hard. Yes, God is faithful. Yes, His Word is true. Yes, He is constant. But life is still hard, and I am of the opinion that life is supposed to be hard. Loneliness is meant to propel us towards people and teach us to invest in relationships. Fear teaches us to trust that God is able. I could go on and on.

So, now...what does it mean for me to show up in this season when things are good, but still incredibly difficult?

I think it means that I get out of bed every day and spend time in the Word and journaling. It means that I show up at each meal and be present. It means that I engage in meaningful discussions about life-giving topics. It means that when I'm feeling depressed and anxious, I talk about it. I ask for prayer. I don't allow my pride to silence me in the times where I need to be humble. It means that I follow through with adding the extra snack. To show up means that I acknowledge where I'm at and let that be okay - while still moving forward in a way that is going to be challenging in a supported environment.

It's high time that I start acknowledging my feelings instead of pushing them down and pretending they don't exist or that I'm okay all the time. That caught up to me and I felt like I was drowning in emotions that I didn't know how to express. So now, I start showing up to feel my emotions. I start showing up when the last thing I want to do is get out of bed and face the world.

Joyce Meyer says that feelings are fickle, and I do agree. Feelings ARE fickle. In the past, however, I have used that as an excuse to deny that my feelings are valid, to essentially say that feelings are bad and I should never allow myself to feel them. I'm learning that that's not the case though. Yeah, I probably shouldn't make decisions based on my emotions, nor should I allow my emotions to dictate my entire life. But to experience my emotions and acknowledge that my feelings are present? That is perfectly okay, and in reality, it's a VERY healthy thing to do.

So today, I'm choosing to show up. I'm choosing to show up and feel my emotions. I'm choosing to show up and eat that extra snack. I'm choosing to show up and do the next right thing. For now? That's a great starting place.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

As Iron Sharpens Iron...

Second blog in a day. Only happens once in a blue moon!

I'm sitting here on my friend's bed right now and she's fast asleep next to me. The sound of her breath - in, out, in, out - a familiar rhythm that quiets my racing thoughts. That's been a relatively common occurrence here on L3E over the past few months. I'm struck by just how thankful I am to have friends with whom I can just be.

Today, I went to the mall with two of my friends, and we had a good day just shopping for things that they both needed, and I went along as the driver because I wanted to get off campus. On Wednesday, I went for a walk around the pond with two other friends. Last week, we celebrated my friend's 21st birthday by taking a group of 10 of us to the beach at 6am to attempt to watch the sun rise and instead watched an early morning thunderstorm and ran around in the rain by the Atlantic Ocean and then ate pie and fruit for breakfast in a circle under a gazebo.

Tonight as I was talking with my friend and reflecting on the last decade of my life and reading old blogs, I realized just how far I have come over the years. When I was thirteen, I wrote about being desperate for someone to see me for me. When I was sixteen, I talked about longing for friends who would be willing to just hold me and not feel the need to speak to fill the silence. Last year, on this very blog, I wrote about how I want to experience authentic, Biblical community. Now? I'm beginning to live that out.

I feel more loved here at Gordon than I have anywhere else in my entire life aside from at Mercy. Here, I'm not only a student in the academic world, but I'm learning what it means to engage in real relationships in person. I'm learning what a mutually beneficial friendship looks like. I'm learning how to determine who the safe people are, and how to let them into my life without running away. I'm learning to let people love the broken parts of me. I'm learning how to be present and sit with my emotions while someone sits with me in that. I'm learning that reaching out in times of need is not a burden, it's a necessary part of being in relationship with people who care about my well-being.

For my entire life, I've felt lonely. I've felt like I've been living on the fringes of the social world. Tonight, I can honestly say that I'm not on the fringes anymore. I fit here. I belong here. I've found people who see past my brokenness. I've found people who love me simply for being me. These precious friends have been the hands and feet of Jesus to me over the last few months.

There's so much redemption here.

In the silence. Listening to her breathe - in, out, in, out.

Redefining Healthy



adjective, health·i·er, health·i·est.
possessing or enjoying good health or a sound and vigorous mentality: a healthy body; a healthy mind.
pertaining to or characteristic of good healthor a sound and vigorous mind: a healthy appearance;healthy attitudes.

As far as I can tell, the above definition is a very good thing. The majority of the world sees being 'healthy' as an ideal to strive towards. To me, however, the term healthy has taken on a distorted definition. As someone who has dealt with eating issues for more than half my life, I don't think I have ever been fully healthy, as the above definition describes it. 

To be honest, when I think of healthy, I don't think of the definition by To me, healthy is the equivalent of fat (but only for me!). Now, I know that's not logical or true, but that is one distorted belief that I am still in the process of overcoming. When someone tells me, "Wow, you look so healthy!", my first response is to assume that they mean that I look like I've gained weight. Realistically, that's generally when people tell me I look healthy, so it is understandable why I think the way that I do. However, when people tell me I look healthy, they don't usually mean it purely based on physical appearance. When people tell me I look healthy, they've also said that I look like I have the light back in my eyes, I look genuinely happy, my skin is glowing, my hair looks so much healthier. Those are all incredibly positive attributes.

So why, then, do I choose not to hear the positive things, and translate healthy into fat? Why is it that the majority of my friends who also have eating disorders do the same thing? Where along the lines did healthy become a negative thing, and how do I reconcile the true definition of healthy with what I believe it to mean?

I'm continually progressing towards the ever elusive "recovered" state, and I get closer with each step that I take. As a result, I have decided that it is time for me to redefine healthy in my life. Since I believe in the freedom principle, a.k.a. freedom in Christ, it is imperative to ensure that my definition of health includes a holistic view that does not neglect the importance of my spiritual health, as well as my physical, mental, and social health. 

I want to take some space to flesh out what I think that healthy ought to mean in each of those categories. 

Physical Health:
  • Maintaining a weight that is appropriate for my height
  • Getting adequate nutrition
  • Organs functioning properly
  • Functioning metabolism
  • Strong immune system
  • Normal circadian rhythm
  • Regular hunger and fullness cues
  • Correct levels of vitamins and minerals
  • Normal lab results
  • Building bone density and/or preventing further deterioration
  • Strong, shiny hair
  • Regular menstrual cycle
  • Physically active in ways that are enjoyable
  • Balanced brain chemistry
  • Vitals within the normal range
  • Strong, clean teeth
Mental Health
  • Able to cope with stressors appropriately
  • Good concentration levels
  • Stable mood - no extreme highs and lows
  • Can experience emotions without getting overwhelmed by them
  • Have a realistic view of self - can accept shortcomings without becoming distraught and can celebrate the positives without feeling guilty
  • Does not have a distorted view of physical self
  • Utilizes healthy coping strategies to manage urges
  • Does not experience panic attacks
  • Words and actions are in alignment
  • Aware of potential areas of struggle and works to put strategies in place to prevent slips
  • Flexible and able to accept change
  • Constantly pursuing personal growth in a way that enriches life
  • No suicidal ideation
  • Sets goals and creates a practical guide to accomplishing them
Social Health
  • Can function effectively as part of a group and as an individual without extreme feelings of dependence or isolation
  • Creates a solid support system who is available in times of need
  • Puts appropriate boundaries in place
  • Able to say no
  • Establishes healthy, mutual relationships and avoids unhealthy ones
  • Identifies needs within relationships and communicates them effectively
  • Does not run away when relationships start to get intimate - either platonically or romantically
  • Functions in many different roles in relationships, rather than just reverting back to caretaker every time
  • Able to be vulnerable with safe people
  • Identifies trustworthy people and invests in those relationships
Spiritual Health
  • Prioritizes the discipline of prayer and meditation
  • Maintain an attitude of servanthood (while still having boundaries and not being a doormat)
  • Engages in fellowship with other believers
  • Explores the concept of faith and constantly examining how it fits into life
  • Obeying God's commands
  • Engages in times of private and corporate worship
  • Takes thoughts captives and replaces lies with truth from God's Word
  • Reads the Bible regularly
  • Be plugged in to a local church 
  • Seeks accountability relating to spiritual matters
  • Participates in spiritually enriching conversations
  • Experiences a sense of wholeness through God
  • Operates out of an attitude of forgiveness rather than contempt and bitterness
  • Does not try to accomplish difficult things in human strength, but relies on the strength of God
  • Does not base decisions solely on emotions, but looks at what God says - feelings are fickle, but God is constant
  • Lives based on freedom in Christ

By no means is this a comprehensive list, but this is just the beginning of my thoughts about what health is and what it means to be healthy. I think that the definition of healthy is fluid depending on life stages and circumstances, so I want to be flexible in my approach to the notion of health and be willing to add or remove attributes as I learn and grow more. 

Based on this list, healthy no longer has a negative connotation, but it takes on the positive attributes that other people deem worthy of striving towards. I'm not saying that believe everything on this list right now, but this is what I want healthy to mean for me, and this is what I am going to strive to believe from now on. 

Now, when somebody says, "You look so healthy!", I'm going to smile and say thank you, because I know they are paying me a genuine compliment. 

All that being said, I'm definitely interested in what you all think that healthy means. Please leave a comment with your thoughts about the meaning of health!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Body of Christ at Gordon College

I've been here at Gordon College for 5 weeks and 2 days - no, I promise I'm not counting intentionally. I've just got a running calendar in my brain. I'm adjusting very well, and I truly know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God has placed me here at Gordon for such a time as this. 

A big thing on this campus is community, but I've discovered that no matter how much superficial community there may be, everyone is sort of isolated within themselves. My goal over the next few years is to begin to find a way to develop intimacy within the context of healthy, biblical community. 

On this campus, people pretend that they have it all together and the real issues are almost taboo to talk about, but I don't really care about that. I came into Gordon with the mentality of developing authentic relationships, and that requires being real and honest with people about where you're at…while still maintaining appropriate boundaries. I've found that as I've shared bits and pieces of my heart with people, they're able to open up and it breaks down the walls that are so common on this campus. I've seen that as I've been intentional about authenticity, it's beginning to spread at least throughout my dorm and with the transfers that I came in with. 

I've talked a lot about community in previous blogs, and I've been exploring the concept for quite some time, but it's taking on a new depth to me in this season. Living together with a roommate, 14 other girls on my floor, 96 [ish] people in my dorm, and 1500 students on campus really brings the issue of community to the forefront. How do we live cohesively as a unit in a way that is glorifying to God?

In 1 Corinthians 12:12-26, Paul is talking about how we, as believers in Christ, all belong to one body. It gives the picture of a physical body saying that each part has a function and a purpose. One part of the body cannot perform the same tasks as another part. It simply was not created that way. As a result of this, if we lose the use of one part of the body, we do suffer a great loss. The other parts of the body eventually adapt to pick up some of the duties of the other part of the body, but it doesn't make the situation better. 

Verses 25-26 (MSG) say this:
The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.
If I take this and apply it to life at Gordon (which is applicable because we could be considered the Church with a capital C), I interpret it as saying that each student, each faculty member, each staff has something crucial to contribute to the community at Gordon. To live in intimate, biblical, Christ-centered community, it is evident that we have to recognize the fact that we are all individuals with unique things that we are able to bring to the table, yet find a way to appreciate that and not say that since we're all so different, we should just stay within our little cliques or friend groups. 

One of my desires for Gordon College as a whole is that we open our eyes and our arms to the people who surround us on a daily basis and welcome them into our lives. I've talked to countless people in the past 5 weeks who feel so isolated and lonely because no one has taken the time to step back and invite them in. These people who live on the fringes of the Gordon bubble have much to contribute - their voice matters just as much as the rest of us - and we should live in a way that amplifies each other's voices and encourages the strengths of others. 

Practically, I think that the first step to achieving a goal as broad as this would be to step out of your comfort zone and talk to someone who seems to be completely different than someone you would normally associate yourself with. There are so many different types of people here, and we learn valuable lessons by interacting with those who are not the same as us. Have a conversation. Sit with a different group of people at dinner. 

If the people reading this take only one thing away, let it be this:

Live intentionally. Seek out new relationships. Embrace the uncomfortable, for that is where the transformation takes place. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

I Will Climb This Mountain With My Hands Wide Open

I've been here at Gordon College for exactly four weeks today, and I can't even explain how great it feels to be here.

The first two weeks of being here were extremely challenging - physically, academically, spiritually, and emotionally. I missed my brother more than anything, and although I never really wanted to go home, I found myself missing the comfort and predictability of home more than I would care to admit.

All the fears and anxieties I had coming in have been assuaged though, and I really am thriving. God has been so faithful in the transition here, and I'm very proud of the progress and the steps I've taken to ensure that this transition has been a success.

I realized early on that I could not do this alone - so within the first week of being here, I had set up a system of accountability for myself that has greatly assisted me with staying on track. I have weekly meetings with a mentor who checks in with me and who I feel safe enough to be honest with, and I also meet with a woman in the Academic Support Center to help me with time management. There's also another Mercy grad on campus who I've gotten the opportunity to connect with and she's definitely been a great help in feeling connected. I love her.

When it comes to meals, I try to plan to eat as many as I can with other people. If I plan my meals, I have no excuse not to go. Also, that is a wonderful opportunity for me to get to know people and hear their stories and their heart for the Lord.

My roommate has been incredible, and the people in my dorm are super friendly. I consider myself extremely blessed to be living in a dorm that is known all across campus for it's community. It's the smallest, and oldest dorm on campus, but I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Also, God has opened some doors for me to walk alongside of a couple girls around campus as they go through some similar things that I have come out of. It's really encouraging to me to be able to share the tools that I've learned and encourage them that freedom is real and that they can get here too. I've very excited to see how God continues to move in their lives, and I fully intend on sticking with them through this process.

Another thing that I'm in the process of doing right now is applying to be a resident advisor for next semester. Essentially, that means that I would have a leadership position on the floor, and I would be responsible for facilitating community and building relationships with the girls on my floor. If you've been following my blog for the past couple years, you'd know that that is an issue that I've really been thinking about and praying through and I really feel as though this would be a great opportunity for me to put my learning into practice.

Being an RA is something that would get me out of my comfort zone, and I know that it would be a huge challenge for me. I'm really excited about that though, because since coming to Gordon, my whole thing has been getting out of my comfort zone and being uncomfortable but moving forward anyways. I've learned that it's in those times where I'm living outside of my comfort zone that growth occurs. I long to live a life of constant growth and learning.

Moving forward in my personal, spiritual, and academic life is something that I place so much value in right now. I want my years at Gordon to be transformative. I want to graduate from here as someone who's life has been enriched and who's worldview has been expanded. I'm taking every opportunity I'm given very seriously (but not too seriously because I still like to have fun!).

Another thing that I love about being here is all the opportunities we have to worship. We have chapel twice a week and convocation on Fridays, Chasement on Thursday nights, and Catacombs on Sunday nights. It's such a blessing to gather with other students and worship.

Tonight, I went to Catacombs and it was so refreshing. God really challenged me with a single line from one of the songs - "There's nothing I hold onto." I realized that even though I've been doing really well here at Gordon and it's been incredible, I've still been holding onto some things that I need to surrender to the Lord. It's a constant struggle for me when it comes to certain things, because I'll surrender them, but then I'll pick them back up again. I feel like a hamster running on a wheel...but now, I'm getting off that wheel and surrendering them once and for all, and it's going to be a long process, but I'm excited for what it's going to look like to walk it out.

Overall, my first four weeks at Gordon have been nothing short of unforgettable. I've met so many new people, learned so many new things, experienced freedom in ways that I never thought possible for myself, and seen God move in real, tangible ways. If this is any indication of what the next two and a half years here are going to look like, then I have no doubt that these years will be some of the best years of my life.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

I'm Going to Gordon!

So now that I'm officially going to college, I suppose I should update this blog. It's not like anyone reads it regularly, but since I used it back in 2011 to talk about my decision between Gordon and Trevecca, I feel it is only appropriate.

I'm going to Gordon College.

 I move into the dorms on January 13. This is so beyond surreal. 

I'm SO excited! It's finally happening! I'm finally going to school to study something that I'm genuinely interested in. I'm finally moving out and becoming independent. I'm finally figuring out who I am and what I want to do. The campus is absolutely stunning and it has a great reputation in the realm of Christian higher education.

So why, then, am I so terrified?

Since I found out that I got the money for the deposit, I haven't been able to sleep and when I do sleep, i'm having nightmares of everything that could possibly go wrong. From being denied at the border, to having a terrible roommate, to relapsing so hard while I'm there, to not making any friends.

I've always been very uncomfortable with the unknown, hence why I research EVERYTHING obsessively. 

I can tell you exactly how many students go to Gordon, the exact distance from the front door of my house to the campus at Gordon, the names of all the different dorms, the times that every single course is being offered this semester and who is teaching them, and more. 

I've found a few people who are currently students and I've been bombarding them with questions - everything from what kind of storage options do they have for clothes in the dorms, which profs are the best for the core courses, what food is good and what to avoid. 

I can tell you about the surrounding area - which churches offer which ministries, what support looks like in terms of maintaining my recovery, what the hottest spots for students are, exactly how many miles to the nearest Chick-fil-a and Chipotle, etc.

But...when it comes to my own personal experience, I won't know until I'm there. I'm supposed to be assigned my roommate before I go, but I have yet to find out who she is. I have yet to find out which residence hall I'm in. I can't register for classes because I've still got a medical hold on my file until I can see my doctor the day before I leave. I have no idea who my friends are going to be, have yet to decide which church I'm going to, haven't figured out my cell phone situation yet. 

Heck, I don't even know what it's really like to live on my own. The only time, other than vacations and missions trips, that I've been away for an extended period of time was for treatment. I didn't have any independence when I went to Mercy. How am I going to be when I'm completely my own responsibility? family. I'm finally just starting to build solid relationships with my parents, and my little brother has just entered his teenage years. I'm going to miss them so much. I'm going to miss staying up until the wee hours of the morning talking to my mother about life. I'm going to miss getting hugs from my brother whenever I want. I'm going to miss knowing that if I needed someone, I had a built-in support network. 

Through all this, I hold on to the assurance that it was God who opened this door. It really is a miracle that everything has fallen into place the way it has, and I'm very excited about this new season. I like to say that I'm filled with anxious anticipation for the future. I don't know what it's going to hold entirely, and I've prepared as much as I can, but now it's time to let go and trust that God has lined up the people He wants me to meet and He's already found the perfect (imperfect) church for me to attend.

I was talking to a friend of mine who just started at an American school this August. She was telling me that while her heart is up here in Canada, she's made a home in the States. She's made a home at her school. That's my hope too. I've explored the concept of home in previous blogs, and I've come to determine that it's not the physical location - it's the people, it's the experiences, and above all else, it's God. I firmly believe that I'll be able to make Gordon my home if I keep my perspective in the right place. 

So yes, there are plenty of things that I don't know and that terrifies me, but I'll be okay. Life is full of unknowns and I can't hide from them forever. 
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