Tornado warning.

God has this funny way of testing and stretching me at camp. Back in January, I had to deal with puke which is one of my biggest fears. I currently sit in the basement of our dorm waiting out the second tornado warning of the night. I’ve had panic attacks over these in the past.

God knew this was going to happen. He wanted it to. I think it’s to show me and everyone here that God is in control even when it storms. No matter what we fave God will get us through it.

I have handled this all really well. I’m putting on a brave face and I am keeping calm with this. I haven’t let my fear show because if I panic as a leader my girls will too. Even if the tornado hit and sister strikes we are all going to be okay. I don’t need to worry.

“God sends storms to show that he is the only shelter.”

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Update before camp

Here we are, on our way to NTS Camp in Chicago! I’m nervous and excited and amazed that I’m even headed there. I nearly backed out of this opportunity more than once. Way back, it was Kim telling me I couldn’t go if I didn’t start eating and taking care of myself. Then I struggled with going again due to my own fear of change and attachment. And just this past week I was completely discouraged following some mean comments by another leader. Everything was against me going but here I am, headed out anyways. I truly believe God must have some awesome things planned this week for Satan to fight so hard against it. That’s my prayers and hopes, at least.

The past weeks has been nothing short of insane. I’ve been packing and dealing with a lot of things emotionally as well as working. I’ve had so many thoughts on things that it was hard to even put it down. This will be a quick update on life and then I probably won’t post again until after camp!

ED wise I am pretty powerless. I’ve eaten enough to not raise questions at meals. I’ve thrown away food. My behavior at work alerted a coworker and I know it won’t be long until she sits me down to talk about it. As far as camp goes, I have a food plan and I’m sticking to it best I can. I won’t allow myself to show any ED behaviors or restriction while I’m there. I’m not talking about it and I’m not drawing attention to my eating. This week is about me serving them, and if I’m having a hard time I will contact support. It’ll be good. At the very least I will be as healthy an example as I can be.

As far as recovery goes I really feel hopeful. This book I bought for Kim and myself is so good. I believe that I can change. I know it will be the hardest thing I ever do but I don’t think I’m a lost cause. Kim isn’t either and together we will grow stronger.

I’ve reconnected with God more each day. I feel full. I am going in the right direction and have spent lots of time in prayer and the word for camp already. I have this need that only He can fill and I know that by focusing on faith this next week it will give me less time for the ED. I want a spiritual renewal and I hope each of the girls will get that too.

Everything feels out of control right now and the only thing I want to turn to is the ED. I’m going to do my best not to though. I will get through camp and I will make an impact. It may be challenging but it’ll be worth it.

Blind Faith

Blind: unable to see.

Faith: confidence or trust in a person or thing.

Together, blind faith means complete trusting in God’s plan when I cannot see the end. I’ve struggled with this a ton lately, but I am wholeheartedly giving up control. I’ve tried and failed time and time again. I simply cannot control my future, or at least not in any way that will end well. God has been waiting for me, a glorious plan in His hand, and I’m finally ready to let Him take the lead.

What will this mean when it comes to my life? In one word: peace. My worry and anxiety has gone down so much. I’m not spending hours a day wondering what bad things may happen. I am learning to “not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself” (Matt 6:34). I realize that things will happen in the future and they may not all be pleasant, but also that worrying now does no good for me. Even if there’s pain and discomfort, I will get through and learn something from it. God has a higher purpose than I will ever be able to grasp.

This huge shift and revival of my faith in God has already led to some decisions/changes in thinking that I am incredibly happy with. Firstly, I am going to NTS camp as a leader. I promised them I would and they’ve been so excited about ME leading them. Regardless of what uncertainty the future holds about me helping with youth group next year or not, this experience won’t be pointless. I know God will grow and challenge our relationship with Him and each other during that week and after. I am ready to lead and learn.

Next fall has brought nothing but fear the last few months. I have had doubts about my major, whether I should even go to college, how I would ever make friends, and more. I got to a point where I couldn’t even trust God could make the situation good. I spent a lot of time in prayer and He’s come through with some pretty straightforward answers for me. He’s shown me again and again that Calvin is where I belong. Even more, nursing is the right choice. That alone didn’t completely cement my anxieties but God continued to change that this week. Katie at work has been a huge blessing when it comes to anything surrounding living at college and making friends. She had no problem there and is a lot like me (a  tad socially awkward and not a lot of friends in high school) so my anxieties there are at a normal level. In so many other ways I’ve gained complete peace with all of my decisions with Calvin. I will have support there and nearby, including getting connected to counseling staff before moving in. I can still minister to others as a nurse and the career truly fits my strengths well. I am going to love being challenged academically and being in a Christian environment, a combination Calvin uniquely provides me. Overall, God has proven and continues to show me that next fall will be okay.

For as long as I can remember I’ve had mental health issues. I have negative behaviors and thought patterns that started when I was a child. It’s so easy for me to fall into hopelessness. That’s exactly where I was the past few weeks. Because I’ve never experience complete freedom from all these things before, I believed God couldn’t do it. I thought that I would be miserable forever. I am just beginning to trust that what I’m going through isn’t making my life terrible. I will grow from this somehow. I have no idea what good can come from this pain, but that’s because only God knows. All I do know is that if I build my foundation of recovery on Him I will get better. It might not be the pace I want but healing is going to come for me. Even if I never live a day without disordered thoughts in my life I am willing to fight past them each day to let God work through me. Depression, anxiety, BPD, and anorexia have NOTHING on God.

I have a long way to go on all of this. I’m not a perfect Christian and I certainly don’t have it all together. I’m not focused on being perfect though, that’s God’s job. Instead, I am spending more time in prayer, worship, and His word. The more I give up to Him the better I feel. He will take care of me and has a future bigger than I could ever imagine. I am not worthless or hopeless, but excited to see God’s plan unfold in my life. I am ready to blindly let Him lead.

Chance encounter? I think not.

Before I get to what happened today, I have to add the back-story of what the past month has entailed. Trust me, it shows how much a little thing like today can mean a lot more to someone in a depressive/bad state. My thoughts have been terrible. I am not exaggerating when I say this but they are the worst I can remember (depression wise) ever. I honestly can’t remember ever feeling so bad about myself. Something as small as accidentally bumping into someone or having my mom get irritated at me causes crying spells and a flood of bad thoughts. I can’t find things I like about myself. I don’t have confidence in anything I do. I am paranoid about every friendship I have and feel like a burden constantly. I can’t begin to describe how much I hate my body, the things I do, who I am, and myself in general. I will spare the exact thoughts because to be honest I am too ashamed to share them. I’m sure even without them it’s apparent how I’ve been.

That brings us to today. I have had a really crappy day. I didn’t want to wake up or go to school. I skipped Christian Fellowship because I feel like I’m too broken/bad lately and I don’t deserve to have support or love from them. I had lunch Erin and restricted pretty heavily (while tricking her into thinking I am fine). I’ve missed Forest View so much. I wanted to come home and do more self-destructive things. I was going to until my mom and I happened to go into the grocery store.

A lady from our old old church (who I haven’t talked to in gosh like 5 years?) stopped us as we were passing by. I was kind of confused at first when she started thanking me for sharing my stuff on Facebook. Then she started asking about treatment and I realized she was actually talking about all of my posts for NEDA week. I think the rest of the conversation was spent with my jaw dropped because I couldn’t believe any of it. She told me she knew someone who wasn’t doing well and struggles with an eating disorder. I had nothing but praise to give her about Forest View. I have never talked so openly to basically a stranger about this stuff before. I offered to speak with the person she knew if needed. After thanking my mom and I for our help, we went our separate ways.

I have to admit the conversation didn’t suddenly convince me that I’m a good person or anything, but it brightened my day. I helped someone. Sure it’s in a really indirect way and I may never actually know the results of it, but i did it. I shared my story with hundreds of near strangers. I opened up the opportunity for others to come to me about similar issues. I mad a difference in a tiny way.

I’m still dealing with a ton of thoughts I’d rather not have right now. It’s still a hard day. BUT, I know I would be much worse off if I hadn’t had that short encounter today. God knew that I needed to hear something like that today. It wasn’t chance that we crossed paths. He wanted to show me love someway today because I needed it badly. I am so thankful for that.

What do you mean you’re not beautiful?

Most of my day was spent at the church (not complaining, those are the best days!). I spent the morning in church, headed home for a bite to eat, back to church for pinewood derby car making, home again to have a snack, and finally youth group. It wasn’t until the ride home from youth group that the words in the title of this post truly sunk in.

Before we started building the cars, I was chatting with two of my favorite 5th and 6th grade girls. I’ve let K help me take pictures before so I was giving it to her when she asked for my picture because “I’m beautiful” which I replied with my “heck no/Ed” face (Jenny and Kim know this way too well). K, bless her soul, then asked “What do you mean you’re not beautiful?” At the time I shrugged it off and life moved on. I had no idea how this small moment would affect me just a few hours later.

Currently, Rick is teaching/using videos with Francis Chan’s amazing book “Crazy Love.” I absolutely recommend it to anyone who’s a Christian, wow it’s good. Tonight’s lesson was on what does it mean to have God love us with this “crazy love.” At one point he poses a question about a point in our lives when we truly got what God’s love means. Immediately, I thought of my breakdown at camp a month and a half ago. In that moment I saw how much God must be hurting to see me so sick and at times fighting against Him. Thinking about it now almost brings me to tears, in a good way. I still don’t understand how God could love ME, with my brokenness and scars and faults and baggage. How could I possibly be good enough to be considered His child?

After thinking of the night at camp, I realized how much what K said relates to it. These past few weeks I’ve sunk into a depression. I’ve questioned everything: my value, abilities as a youth leader, academics, and other things I don’t feel comfortable speaking (or blogging) of. Thinking about how God sees me is so much like K’s (and the other kids/girls) view. She loves me. She thinks I’m beautiful. She treats me like I am the best person in the world. Not that she knows anything about my eating disorder or depression and whatnot, but I feel like she would see past those things even if she did. She isn’t the only one though. So many kids at Awana look up to me. I get more hugs than I can count every day. My girls have assured me they love me too. Rick praises me on what I’m doing during youth group Wednesday nights almost every time I see him. Kim no doubt loves me and values our friendship. Mama Joyce always always hugs me. Mrs. Hall always talks about how great of an AP student I was and how I continue to be good to her kids and help her out. The list doesn’t stop at church and this isn’t even everyone at church, but for space and the point of this post, let’s pretend it does 😛

Each of these people mentioned are all showing God’s love to me, I just didn’t realize it before. They don’t care what I’ve done. They aren’t forced to love me or even like me, but they genuinely do. This love is pure and true. I didn’t see that all before. If all of these people, and the creator of the universe love me, how could I be as terrible as these bad thoughts say? Not one of them have ever said anything remotely close to what my thoughts constantly echo: you’re fat, you deserve to die, you’re too broken, no one could ever love you, you will never be enough, you aren’t worth anyone’s praise, perfection or you’re a failure, on and on. Why is it that I still believe these thoughts over everything else that I’ve ever heard? I honestly don’t know the answer to that question but I am going to try and combat it just the same.

Starting today, I am keeping a “Love Journal.” I am going to put all of the nice things people say/text/whatever about me. The first entry will be what K said today. I want this to look back on. Even if I can’t believe them yet, they are much closer to the truth than any self-talk I’ve ever had.

What being a youth leader has taught me

Well it has been nearly 6 (!!!) months since I decided to become a youth leader and it’s absolutely on of the best decisions of my life. I am very different than the person I was back then, and I’m proud of who I’m becoming. I wanted to make this post on some of the things I’ve learned since August.

I am trustworthy. The girls have said it. Kim has said it. My friends have said it. This is one of those things that I never believed about myself. I’ve always tried hard to be a good friend and listen, but I never considered me particularly trustworthy. I know I am now, though. All of the things the girls have shared with me wouldn’t have happened if they didn’t have trust in me. I’m so thankful because I wanted that so badly when I first started and i finally feel confident that I can.

I am worthy of love. The girls don’t have to love me and they certainly don’t have to love me. The thing is, they do. My heart swells every single time they say or do something that proves it. If these girls who had no force whatsoever to even like me feel this way, I can’t be as terrible as the negative thoughts say.

I can help others with my story. I was TERRIFIED to share my story with the girls. I remember all of the anxiety leading up to that day and how receptive they were, to my surprise. The small piece I told them about then is nothing compared to all of the other talks we’ve had since. Each time I share more about things I’ve gone through, we grow closer. They’ve even come out and told me that I inspire them because of my strength and that is purely amazing. It may be painful to think about but through my struggles I can help them overcome similar things.

I don’t have to be perfect. I remember my first few small groups. I wrote out everything I was supposed to say and practiced before. I always felt I had to look the part and spent way too long debating over what to wear. I never felt I could share my struggles because I had to be the perfect person to be a good leader. Boy was I wrong about all of it! Our best conversations have been ones where I either use only a few notes or just speak from the heart. I’ve babbled on and messed up words but they couldn’t care less. I don’t have to worry about what I look like anymore because they just want me to be myself, even if that means leading small group after bawling my eyes out at a session at camp. I have no shame in sharing my struggles now. The girls ask about how I’m doing and they want to know the truth, not sugar coated crap. They ask how I got through things in the past that are really messy and hard. They’ve told me that I seem so much more genuine and approachable since they know I’m not a perfect person. Instead of focusing on being perfect I my only goal now is to be the best youth leader I can.

I should have more confidence. C is constantly getting on me for this. Especially in the beginning I was second-guessing myself nearly every time I would do a lesson or share something personal with the girls. I was also focused on being perfect and that coupled with my lack of confidence made me anxious all the time. I would always ask them a thousand times whether they liked an activity or what I said. Each time they said yes, of course, but I wouldn’t buy it. After a lot of convincing from C in particular and Kim, I’ve gotten over this fear for the most part. I do have days when I have to sit and remind myself of all the ways they’ve shown I am doing a good job but it’s less frequent. I am a good youth leader and I can believe it (mostly).

I have a reason to live. Okay, technically four reasons ;). I wasn’t in a good place last summer when I took this on. I was in an even worse place before that. I still spent the first few weeks of being a youth leader wishing I was dead at times. Once I really started making an impact and loving doing it, everything changed. Those girls are the reason I fought and stayed out of FV. I know I would have ended up there again but always knowing I had to be there for the girls made me so much stronger. I couldn’t be there if I was really sick again. The drive to be their leader continues to push me to fight even on the worst days.

Sometimes the best thing is just listening. I’ve had every girl tell me so many different things. At times I have felt before that saying nothing doesn’t help, but listening is just what they need. I think by really honing in on what the girls are saying rather than continually adding comments I am able to better assess the situation and then give advice. The other thing I found is that getting it out rather than getting advice was what they were looking for.

I would do anything or those girls. ANYTHING. Any one of these girls could call me at 4 AM, while I’m struggling to finish a paper and exhausted beyond measure and I would STILL drop everything and find out what’s wrong. I love them something fierce. I hope they all see that and realize that there isn’t a thing they could say or do that would ever stop that.

God is using me in ways I never imagined. If someone would have come up to me this time last year and tell me I would be a youth leader, I would have laughed at them. I never thought I was a good enough person to have such an important role in girls’ lives. I was too broken and not a good enough Christian. I was too shy. I would never be liked by them. I couldn’t do it. All of these roadblocks I could make for myself have been proven false these past six months. God is amazing. He knew I was the right person for the girls and that I needed them too. I am beyond thankful and blessed that I am leading them in their faith and lives. I can’t wait to see what these next few years hold with them.

“I have never been married, but I am happily divorced.”

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Woohoo it is yet again the 2nd day of the month which means today is two whole months since I filed for divorce from from Ed (and one month for Kim, woot woot!) In the words of the fabulous Jenni Schaefer, “I have never been married, but I am happily divorced.”

Signing that paper didn’t magically make everything better, that would have been way too easy. Though it wasn’t sudden perfection in recovery (which can’t happen anyways), I do consider that decree to have done amazing things in my life. I jumped off a huge cliff that Tuesday two months ago into true recovery. I am learning to fly. It hasn’t all been easy or good, but this is okay. I am learning more each day and when I do fall I get back up. I have changed so much and I am incredibly proud of that.

I am leaving Ed behind and transforming into the Emily God called me to be. The benefits of real recovery are overflowing. I am closer than ever to my Savior. I have so much energy. I am able to give my all as a youth leader. I can actually focus in class. I don’t have to constantly count calories. My body is beginning to trust me again. I have amazing opportunities with school next year. Social gatherings aren’t as scary as they used to be. My moods and emotions are vastly different and happier. Depression and anxiety have lifted some. I am starting to accept myself just as I am.

I still have bad days and use behaviors and feel miserable. I see now that although I have these times in recovery it’s still worth it. I also have hope that they will only get fewer as I continue on this journey.Psalm 118_13, NIV

One thing I’ve loved about this month in particular is how much I have studied scripture in relation to the divorce and recovery. I loved our camp theme verse (Psalm 118:13) because it completely explains how I felt prior to and after signing the decree and committing to recovery. I also found the quote by Charles Spurgeon to really confirm that I needed to get away from Ed so my relationship with God can thrive again.

Blessed.

I am blessed with so many things in my life. My family. My health despite the ED. The fact that I am still alive. My girls and the opportunity to be their leader. All of the people who love and support me. My church family. Being able to attend the #3 school in our state (#2 in academics!) next year. My Savior’s love, acceptance, forgiveness, and Grace. The invitation to be an Honors Fellow and acceptance into Honors College (even if I’m unsure about it).

The thing is, I don’t deserve any of it. Not even close.

I know God’s love for me is unconditional and never-ending, but I have never understood WHY. Why would He give me, a broken, imperfect sinner, so many blessings? How could He ever have a plan to use me in some way? If I can’t even begin to see any good in myself how does He?

I’m not going to pretend I know the answer to any of those questions because I certainly don’t. Although no amount of prayer and scripture reading will ever give me full knowledge of these “why’s,” I am trying my best to learn as much as I can about it. After all, I can see God’s work in others and how much they deserve His love. It’s the focusing on me that is harder.

Ephesians 2:10 says this: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” I have this verse highlighted, underlined, and sticky-noted in my bible. It’s one of my favorites, even if I don’t believe it much yet. I am hopeful that one day I will. One day I’ll be able to thank God for everything in my life and actually believe I deserve His love and grace and blessings.

Amazing, wonderful, spiritual weekend at camp

Camp was amazing. I am in awe of how great this weekend was and saddened by how fast it went. We spent so much time laughing, had good conversations, worships, dove deeper into God and faith, played games, and just had fun. Other than one girl getting sick and Ed popping up at times, I’m certain it couldn’t have gone any better.

I finally feel like I am a youth leader. Obviously I have been since September, but our time at camp cemented it and showed me thi is what I need to do. We had some really deep and serious conversations on Saturday. I am so glad I was able to help them through some of these things and really connect. I also shared more of my story (including the ED for the two who didn’t know). The girls told me they appreciated that because they don’t feel so alone in their struggles. I love that and I am thankful to be there for them. After our talk, a few of the girls told me how much they love me, that they want me to be their leader the rest of the time they’re in youth group, that they really trust me to share what they did, and that they love what I am doing for them. My heart swells so much every time I think about all of those things. I love them and I love how closer we grew this weekend. I can’t wait until NTS camp this summer so I get to be a camp leader again. I know God is going to use me and is using me in their lives. Even if they don’t fully realize it, they’re changing mine as well.

God was so present the entire time we were there. He was there in our worship time and sessions and everything we did. I didn’t expect it, but there was one moment in particular where I was moved to tears by what was said. The band lead singer was talking about how we have the option of following Jesus or going down the enemy’s path and so often we choose sin. It hit me that what I’m doing everyday (especially the past week or two) is following Satan/Ed as my Father is looking down at me and reaching out His hand. It overwhelmed me the amount of hurt He feels for me when i do this. In that moment I decided i have to do better. I am going to work harder to be resilient and fight the Ed thoughts. Ed was present this weekend but my goal for NTS is to not follow him one bit. I want to give these troubles to God. I need to trust in Him more and that he will catch me, as our theme verse for camp says: “I was pushed back and about to fall, but the Lord helped me.” Psalm 118:13. This was exactly the kind of inspiration and spiritual renewal I need. I hope and pray the others who were there feel the same way.

Overall this was the best way I could have spent the past few days. I never would have seen myself as a youth leader and I never thought I would be the one who impacts other’s live, but it’s happening and I couldn’t be more blessed and thankful. God has so much in store.

Here’s some pictures for you to enjoy! 🙂

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John 10:10

I was flipping through my bible and noticed a verse I marked last summer: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10. I wrote in next to it “Ed= the thief/satan.” I didn’t fully get it back then, not a chance. Now I think I do.

Ed has had one and only one positive impact on my life: weight loss. I thought for so long, and still believe to some extent, that because I was losing weight I could ignore any bad things that came from it. I was wrong.

There are some things this eating disorder stole from me that I will never get back. I have pushed so many friends away, and those relationships are irreparable. All of these things I put my body through have serious consequences, some of which I am still too scared to admit are happening. I put my family through hell. I don’t think it will ever be the same. I have completely ruined more meals in the past few years than I can count. I can’t take that back. I’ve said nasty, horrible things to people who love me that I’m not sure can be forgiven. I don’t think I will ever be able to see my body realistically no matter how hard I try.I have turned down so many different events and fun things because of my fear that food could be involved. My trip to Disney that should ave been the highlight of my year was ruined by Ed. My relationship with God has suffered. I have become a shell of the girl I once was.

Ed/Satan has taken these things and I let him. I still do. I don’t fight like I am supposed to. I am trying, some days at least, to repair what has been broken and replace what is lost. It’s not easy. Not everything will ever be “normal” again. Despite all of the bad thoughts and the fear that I won’t ever be okay again, I still have hope that God can heal me. I will always have to carry these scars and pain around with me but I believe that it can be lightened. I have to, because being here wouldn’t be worth it otherwise. I want to follow Him fully into recovery. That’s the only way it’ll ever get better.

It’s hard looking back on all of this, but also a little empowering. I can’t do this on my own. I’ve tried and it just gets me back on this same path. What this verse is teaching me now is that I need God, more than ever. I am going to embrace Him, not my eating disorder and not anything Enemy tells me. I can’t let any more of my life or future be stolen from me.