From Beauty to Ashes

The beauty of pain and the purpose in our suffering is one reason why "Whimsy stories" for moms mean so much to us.

You see, we have lived life and have learned something this side of all that pain and suffering haven't we? We can now speak from a place of "I understand" AND the Lord can and will heal us from that suffering. HE WILL!

It's a beautiful thing, isn't it?  It's the beauty from ashes the Lord speaks of in Isaiah Chapter 61. Whimsy stories are just for you, mom. They are to encourage you when you are given the chance to speak from a place of "I understand" to your daughter or any young girl for that matter. You are speaking from a place of experience and history. Experience, history and scripture should tender our hearts to our girls when they hit the bumps in their life. Your words have depth and meaning and when coupled with the Word being alive and active, any scripture spoken from an "I understand" heart is powerful. Not one ounce of your life is wasted. NOTHING!

We want you to meet our dear friend Susan. Her story is painful, raw, mostly unedited (wink) and you will find yourself hanging on every word of her journey. Thank you, sweet one, for trusting us with your heart.

Buckle your seat belts, friends. You are about to have some real live hope again if you are in need of some. His name is Jesus.

How do you tell a story that you always thought no one wanted to hear?  No one wants to hear from me.  Who am I?  I am nobody. The voices in my head shout “you suck” over and over and over again and they don’t let up. 

I am an anorexic.  I guess I have been for a long time and really had no idea.  You would think an educated medical professional like myself would have known this.  Again, I suck.  I am worthless.  I don’t matter.  However, everyone else in this great big world matters—just not me.  That is the law according to ME. Therefore, I must keep everyone else happy at all costs.  Juggling people and situations consumed me at one point in my life.   Like I could possibly have the power to control ALL people, their emotions and how they react to me.  Oh, how I tried and actually thought I could succeed.  I was determined.  It was only a matter of time before my process of people-pleasing and controlling outcomes exploded.  

Please understand this is a difficult story to tell because I am not the only character in the story.  I do not want to tell anyone else’s story or hurt anyone in my life that may have impacted my thinking and/or my perception.   I will do my best—but at this moment, the “you suck” in my head is shouting at me.  Even though I am in recovery, it is a continual process with the noise in my head and the “you suck” set on repeat.  I am happy to report that I can at least control the volume now.  This journey has been bumpy, but it has been worth the ride. 

The beginning is unclear.   I remember my first diet when I was a sophomore in high school.  I remember taking weight loss pills and hiding them from family and friends. Unfortunately, the focus was always on my outer appearance and the struggle to acquire a status in multiple ways—grades, accomplishments, pleasing people.  It was a desperate search for someone to tell me that I was good.  An empty hole so big that trying to fill it eventually consumed my existence.  I remember sitting in church thinking there is NO WAY I will make it to Heaven because I screw up EVERY SINGLE DAY.  My legalistic upbringing only enforced my low self-esteem and my perception of who I was and who the people were around me. I did accept and believe In Jesus, but I didn’t have a personal relationship with him.  I didn’t get it, and it took me a long time to come around. All praise goes to Him for turning my mess into His perfect plan.

“In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” Proverbs 16:9. 

The more I planned and controlled, the more He kept redirecting my course.   Thank you God for loving me, and keeping me tethered to a thin, worn string. 

I remember feeling that I was not enough from a very early age.  Do this, not that, be this, not that, how could you—shame is something I have felt probably from adolescence. I have had distorted thinking for so long that it is hard to trust my memories.  So we will leave out the details that brought me pain and caused my derailment. 

During my early years I learned that I wanted to be perfect and perfect got me praise.  Perfect got me love and acceptance.  Telling someone what they wanted to hear brought me happiness and no anxiety.  If I slipped up and didn’t anticipate what I needed to do for someone, that brought rejection, fear and feelings of worthlessness. The anxiety ensued and I tormented myself.  So, I pulled up my boot straps and off I went on this journey to achieve perfection.  No more crying.  No more “this is how I feel.”  It always seemed clear that I didn’t really matter.  The only part of me that mattered was the face I presented to the world.  That was the one that everyone wanted, and that is the one I perfected.  Or at least that is what I had convinced myself, and no one was telling me any different.  Fear was all consuming for me. Fear of EVERYTHING. Analyzing everything you do is EXHAUSTING.  Fear lead the way, and I was no longer the one in charge of what was going to happen.

The eating disorder chose me.  I didn’t just wake up one morning and have this issue.  It crept in over time.  It is an emotional disorder with many factors that lead you to the behaviors.  Our society places a lot of emphasis on what good and normal is, but from my perspective, that is not what pushed me to the edge.  Sure it contributed, but it was at the bottom of the list.  It was not having people pour into me and redirect me and tell me that I was worthy no matter what.  It was quite the opposite—everyone wanted more of this “perfect” person.  I developed severe anxiety at an early age, but it kicked into high gear when I left for college.  People have different ways of dealing with stress and one of mine was not eating.  What I discovered was that not eating helped me with my anxiety, and helped me cope with all of my feelings.  Good and bad feelings.  It calmed me. It distracted me. Being consumed with my size and being able to achieve an unhealthy self control definitely eliminated anyfeelings of pain or fear that could possibly deter me from reaching my goals.   (Now, when I say discovered….that means I discovered after years of therapy.  I just thought I was normal, because I had nothing to compare it to! J). It is an addiction like any other because it masks the pain—but how do you kick the addiction when food is a basic necessity for life?  You can’t just remove it like alcohol or drugs. 

I am 46 years old, and I realized I had an eating disorder when I was 33 years old. I had a complete and total melt down after a major medical crisis in my life.  It was a terrible time.   Three precious children, a family, an amazing job, a big house, a big social life, and it all was falling apart.  I didn’t have the strength or the ability to manage that charade through a crisis where I thought I was going to die and leave my children.  I could not bear the thought. So, I storm trooped my way.  I squared off and managed through the crisis—kidney removed, back to work, back to charade, benign report (Praise God!).  I thought I was a bada**.   Then FACE PLANT.  I couldn’t sleep, eat, or function.  Everyone kept saying I had post- traumatic stress disorder.  What? Huh?  I kept thinking—“get out of my way, I don’t need anyone’s help, no one has ever stepped up and helped before, so leave me alone.” Da**it, I got this.  FACE PLANT.

I was not functioning anymore because my body wouldn’t let me.  I will never forget sitting in the therapists office (a good therapist, because there are some crazy therapists out there!) and she said you have an eating disorder.  OK.  Back up.  What did you just say? I can’t have an eating disorder. I am 33 years old for goodness sake.  What little I did know about eating disorders didn’t describe me—or at least in that moment I didn’t think it fit.  Her immediate suggestion was to enter a treatment facility before I ended up in the hospital medically unstable.  HMMM. What? I can’t hear what you are saying?  

Yep, 33 years old and going to treatment.  The “you suck” campaign was waging war in my head.  Idiot.  You are going to be a laughing stock.  “You are not sick enough to go to treatment and you will most definitely be the oldest.”  And what would everyone at home be saying.   I read “Carry on Warrior” by Glennon Doyle and she is so amazing.  I love how she just lays it all out there.  She said that life made sense to her in treatment.  I remember reading that on page 16 of her book and jumping up and down.  Yes! Yes!  That is where life started making sense to me.  The blinders that I had been wearing for so long started to rise. 

Being real was scary, but such a relief.  But the “you suck” campaign was still ringing because I left my 3 kids back home and my job and my family.  Who does that?” Get your sh** together and get your a** home” was screaming in my head.  Hmmm, that didn’t happen.  Food Camp lasted 4 months.  Yes, 4 long months.  And I remember asking before I went if I did everything ”perfect” could I come home in less than the typical 4 weeks.  Evidently, I wasn’t typical.  I couldn’t gain weight.  And I couldn’t get my anxiety under control.  And being diagnosed with severe clinical depression, severe anxiety disorder, and anorexia nervosa gave the voice in my head a whole lot to cheer me on about-----crazzzzzzy.  Certifiable crazy. Nut job. Who gets sent to food camp? Wow, you loser.  You have gone and done it now.  You are going to lose everything and everyone.  My worst FEAR had come true.  No one was pleased with me now.  And I did lose everything.  

EVERYTHING. The wall came crashing down.  Divorced--Financial Ruin-- Broken Friendships—job change—my whole world was fragmented.  I could barely breathe.  How did this happen and how did I get here?  Everyone was shocked.  No one saw it coming.  I guess I did a good job wearing my mask.   
 

These were the hardest moments of my life.  Coming home was not easy.  Transitioning back was worse than I could have imagined.  The pain was intense.  My world was spinning, and I couldn’t find my footing.  I WANTED THESE FEELINGS TO END.  My body felt like every nerve ending was exposed.  I had a moment when I thought that it would just be better if I was not in this world.  It was the scariest few days.  Those terrible feelings, and that “you suck” loop screaming in my head. So, I medicated.  And I medicated some more. And then a little more.  There are no words to describe the pain.  None.  I just needed the “you suck” to STOP.   My friends didn’t know what to do. I didn’t have many friends or family at that time surrounding me-- they were at their limit.  It was MY choice, MY decision, and they were tired.  One friend threw her hands up and told me to call my doctor or my dad or she would. I had put her in a terrible spot of not knowing what to do—walk away, sit on top of me,--I am a grown a** woman.  It was up to me to reach for help.  Thinking of those three precious faces God had blessed me with helped me focus.  So, I called my doctor and told him what I had done.  By the grace of God I am still here. 

Holding onto this pattern of behavior for so long was insane. After the medication scare, I slowly started to find my way.  I finally screamed MERCY.  And that is where I found my relationship with the Lord.  If you haven’t listened to “Strong Enough” by Matthew West, please do!  The line that says “well, maybe that’s the point, to reach the point of giving up, cause when I’m finally, finally at rock bottom, well, that’s when I start looking up and reaching out.” And that is what I did.  Day by day.  I just did the best I could with each moment I had and focused on being present.  It wasn’t easy.  When I look back on this time, it amazes me that I made it to the other side.  So many women don’t.

"If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence.”  Psalm 94:17


Organized religion has always been a part of my life and I have had my issues with it, especially around the time when I was falling apart. Legalistic views were not helpful to me.   But I never was angry at God, and I never stopped believing.   Food Camp was where my journey began to really seek Him.  It is where I found Him. I couldn’t pray those beautiful prayers that I thought I was supposed to pray.  I always fell asleep before I could finish those.  All I could pray was “help me,” “show me, “guide me,” and mostly I just wept and groaned.  The Holy Spirit interceded on my behalf because I was no longer trying to achieve perfection with my prayers. God was shaking his head thinking how stubborn I had been all these years.  I can hear Him saying “Finally, crazy child, FINALLY.”   So incredibly sad that it took that long for me to realize that I don’t have control, and I can’t control outcomes or people or reactions or emotions.  It was like I was trying to cross the finish line of a marathon on a treadmill.  

Unfortunately, I don’t recall some of the wonderful times I had growing up because I was consumed with this unattainable goal. God wanted my presence, not my perfection. 

Slowly, I learned new coping mechanisms and started taking baby steps to recovery.  The long journey back from such a dark place has been challenging.  God didn’t erase the pain or take away my issues, but on this roller coaster ride of life I have been able to find joy.  

I still have good days, and I still have bad days, and that is okay.  I wouldn’t want it any other way because this is the best version of me. It makes me who I am.  It gives me a unique perspective and understanding of other people and their pain. I am not defined by my mistakes, but I can use what I have learned and offer a piece of myself to serve others.  
 

Self deprivation all those years only thwarted what I could offer this big world.   My thought of self-denial as success was, in reality, laser beam focus on myself.   Loving yourself doesn’t have to be self absorption.

“He bought you for a price. So use your bodies for God’s glory.”  1 Corinthians 6:20.  

I am sure most of you have flown on an airplane and heard the flight attendant speech before takeoff.  The flight attendant tells you that in case of emergency to please place the oxygen mask on yourself FIRST before you place it on your child.  As moms our first thought is to take care of our children first.  But this makes so much sense—if you pass out because you didn’t secure your oxygen mask then who is going to take care of your children?  We must take care of ourselves.  I must take care of myself.  So that we can all take care of each other. 

Have you ever heard “In the Blink of an Eye” by Mercy Me?  It sums everything up for me. I am a broken mess of a human being, but I am here for a reason and I do matter.  

You put me here for a reason
You have a mission for me
You knew my name and You called it
Long before I learned to breathe

Sometimes I feel disappointed
By the way I spend my time
How can I further Your kingdom
When I’m so wrapped up in mine?

In a Blink of an eye that is when
I’ll be closer to You than I’ve ever been
Time will fly, but until then
I’ll embrace every moment I’m given
There’s a reason I’m alive for a blink of an eye

GOD HAS USED ME.  IN WAYS I WOULD HAVE NEVER IMAGINED.
 HE HAS BLESSED ME.  IN WAYS I WOULD HAVE NEVER IMAGINED.

If God can use a broken mess of a human being to accomplish His goals, then He most definitely can use you.  Come as you are.  Just the way you are.  There is not perfect person or a perfect time.    

Let’s pour into our young people, our friends, our co-workers—anyone who needs love and encouragement.  Let them know they are worthy and they are loved.  Let’s love people well no matter what.  And please, please let us love those that are so hard to love. 

Note to self:   God doesn’t make things that suck. I DON’T SUCK.

Thank you, Susan, for sharing your journey. Next we will let you tell us what you are doing for the Kingdom! God is SO good! He puts the broken back together and then allows us the privilege to partner with Him.  March on sister. MARCH ON!

Ephesians 3:16-19

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love surpasses knowledge that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  

If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence.  Psalm 94:17

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28(Remember struggle always leads to strength)

Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the lord you God goes with you; he will never leave nor forsake you.  Deuteronomy 31:6(remember God will never leave your side)

For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord; plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hop and a future.  Jeremiah 29:11 (remember God’s timing if perfect)