Why I’m Not Afraid to Air My Dirty Laundry On Sundays

be still and know that I am GodLast Sunday we returned from a family trip in the wee hours of the morning. After attending church and eating a good meal, we spent the majority of the afternoon relaxing, what we normally do on Sundays. A day of rest. A day set aside for worship. A day different from the rest.

With today’s technology, it’s easy to do laundry without effort. You put clothes in a machine, turn a dial, and press a button. Going to my child’s bedroom requires more work than that.  It’s a simple process.

Last Sunday, I did the unthinkable – I did some laundry and hung it on the clothes line.

Gasp.

I’ve come a long way in being okay with hanging up laundry on Sundays occasionally.  We live on a main highway in a small conservative town. Stores aren’t open here on Sundays. People don’t mow lawns on Sundays. And you don’t air your dirty laundry on Sundays or people will see.

Like other unwritten rules, I’ve learned to assess the root and value of them.

Are they for man or are they for God?

I’ve learned to check my motives for breaking silent codes that bring looks of “I can’t believe she’s doing that.”  Hanging clothes on the clothesline on Sundays is one I’m not bothered by because there’s a principle I value:

I should be the same person in public that I am in private. 

If I’m okay with occasionally doing a few loads of laundry on Sunday, then I should be okay with letting people know about it.  God sees it anyway. I can’t hide things from Him.  He sees my dirty laundry.

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Does He see yours? Or do you try to hide it?

For years I hid my dirty laundry from others. Not the stinky-teen-boy kind, but the unhealthy behaviors I struggled with. Having an eating disorder was a very private thing. No one knew my stuff except me and God and my parents on occasions. I was good at hiding things.

Are you good at hiding things?

For years I responded to conflict with anger. As my children grew older, I couldn’t hide it. It began overtaking my relationships with them and their dad. It was easy to hide, too. I could do a lot of good yelling before going to church and sit really calm in that church pew.

There’s an unwritten rule you aren’t supposed to struggle with things.

You definitely aren’t supposed to be angry in a pacifist faith.

I learned to hide things real well.

So people wouldn’t see.

But God saw.

And as He nudged me to address the anger, the hurt, and rage, I felt more comfortable letting Him wash my dirty stuff. He was gentle with  it and He removed the stains and stink and filth and exchanged it for clean, bright, and beautiful through the forgiveness and power of His grace.

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It’s been a journey with me and God. As He’s changed me inside and out, things have changed in how I relate to unwritten rules.  I’ve learned to answer to God first, then my husband and family above anyone else.

Paul says, “My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t make me innocent.” I Corinthians 4:4

What guides your choices?

Having a clear conscious in the eyes of others doesn’t make us innocent.

While it’s trivial, I’ve learned in my accountability with God, is okay to do laundry every once in a while on a Sunday. I’ve learned I answer to Him for my actions. I could have an empty clothesline every Sunday but be cheating on my husband Saturday night.

It’s all in how it looks, right?

Where do you need to get honest with God?

What I love most about God is that He sees everything and yet He pursues us because He wants a relationship with us.  He pursued me for years to change and heal from an eating disorder and to change and heal from anger, hurt, and rage that was inside of me. I’ve learned I can air my dirty laundry with Him and it’s okay.  He makes us clean and bright, to be on full display in His clothes of righteousness, not ours.

Will you let Him clothe you today? It’s safe  with Him. He won’t fail you.

Father, will you speak to each one reading these words and take the contents of their heart and make it what you desire? Will you equip those who struggle with unwritten rules and judgment from others to know you love them and are a God of grace, forgiveness, and freedom?  Will you continue to pursue those who are struggling with things inside their heart that only you know about?  

Thank you, Jesus, for washing dirty, smelling rags and making us beautiful in you. Amen.

How can I pray with you or encourage you as you learn to walk in freedom? I’d love to hear.

P.S. There will be a new look to Life Beyond the Picket Fence soon as I launch a new website for the blog.  You’ll be able to subscribe to a newsletter linking you to the other things happening here at the ministry and connect you with the other sites I’m writing for. If you are a current subscriber by email, I’m hoping the transition will be smooth. I’ll keep you posted when the site is launched so there won’t be interruptions in your connection here with us.  Thank you!

How To Be Strong When There’s A Weak Link

I’m 4% permanently partially paralyzed. A fancy way to say I have a torn ACL from a workman’s comp injury.

I have a weak link. 

As my surgeon released me from treatment, he said my knee will only be as strong as the muscle above it.

You have to keep that muscle strong.

For a lifetime.

Physical Therapist Working with Patient

No pressure there. In addition to working, doing ministry, being a wife and mother, spending time in God’s Word, eating right and exercising regularly, I have to keep my quad muscles strong or my knee will give out.

I have to make strengthening this muscle a priority because it’s the key to compensating for the weak link.

Do you have muscles you need to keep strong?

Are there emotional, spiritual or mental muscles to you need to strengthen to compensate for weaknesses?

how to stay strong when there's a weak link

My physical journey has spiritual parallels in more ways than one.

Knowing I have a weak link in my knee makes me feel like Paul the apostle and Jacob, son of Isaac.  Paul had a weakness he asked God to take away, but God’s response was, “My power is made perfect in your weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV)). Jacob wrestled with God because he wanted God’s best for him, and was left with a lame hip (Genesis 32, NIV).

Both of them were marked by weakness which reminded them of their dependence upon God.

What weakness in your life causes you to be dependent upon God?

Strengthening my muscle teaches me to strengthen other spiritual, mental, and emotional muscles in my life. If I don’t, the weak ares of my spiritual, mental, and emotional world will collapse, like my knee.

As a woman who lives in the shadows of an eating disorder and other unhealthy behaviors, I know my weaknesses all too well.  I know if I don’t exercise self-control in all areas of my life (yes, all areas), the weak links buckle and I’m crippled emotionally, mentally, and physically.

I know the importance of strengthening what needs to be strengthened.

I live it, I breathe it.

I make choices every day to strengthen weak links so I remain strong.

Before I messed up my knee, I completed a half-marathon. I felt invincible.

Now reality awakens me. Just one foolish side-step and I come crumbling down.

I must strengthen the supporting muscle. I must rely on God to be strong in my weakness.

When life is going well, are you tempted to feel invincible, too?  Do you feel strong based on your own merit, apart from God?

how to stay strong when there's a weak linkEvery patriarch in scripture had a weakness that they needed God’s strength to overcome.

For Abraham, his honesty.

For Moses, his speaking ability.

For Joseph, his reputation.

For David, his love for women.

For Peter, his impulsivity and temper.

What is your weakness?  What do you need to strengthen so you are not defined by your weakness?

What choices to you need to make to keep your spiritual, emotional and mental muscles strong?

How can I pray for you or support you in this journey? I would love to do that.  Feel free to comment or to email me at yoderbl@gmail.com and I will pray with you and encourage you on that journey.

Your Father is with you always, His grace sufficient for you, His strength made perfect in your weakness.

For when you are weak, He is strong.

Sometimes the Best Answer is a Four-Letter-Word.

I spent three years in grad school learning multiple theories on personality, development, and how do conduct talk therapy. Thousands of hours from work experience has taught me sometimes the best answer for life’s problems is a four-letter word .

Bob Newhart puts it humorously in his Mad TV episode:

Stop. It.

In case you think I’m a heartless counselor, I should preface that my comments are personal lessons I’ve learned also as a teacher, parent, and recovered bulimic/anorexic.  There are some situations where the best answer in stop?changing behavior it to simply STOP.  The other word for it is one that’s missing from today’s vernacular: self-control.

Are there areas in your life that need self-control?  Are there areas where the first step in change lies in “stopping the behavior,” even just once?

I know of which I speak. There have been more areas than just eating that have been out of balance in my life. As God has worked through each one, from distorted thinking to anger and others, there comes a point where you have to ask yourself,

“If I want to get over this, what behavior do I need to stop?”

Then you need to take the first step and stop the behavior.

It’s as difficult and simple as that.

For years I binged and purged.

For years I responded in anger.

For years I believed the self-loathing lies that lived in my head.

For years I allowed other people’s approval to define me.

For each of these, I needed to stop {it}.

I needed to stop eating past the point I knew I was “too much.”

I needed to stop fighting, to have the last word, to hold onto my rights.

I needed to stop looking at my insecurities and weaknesses. 

I needed to stop living in fear of what others thought of me.

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There’s a rock on a shelf in our house that is from the walk I was on in when I decided I had to stop fighting with my husband in order for our marriage to be at peace.

There’s a verse in the bible, I Corinthians 10:13, that I had to believe God meant when I needed to withstand temptation to purge every time I ate.

There’s a shelf in my basement full of books I used to teach with that I had to retire when I left a demanding profession because my child needed a stress-free mom to help them through their own struggles.

There’s a note in my cupboard from someone who believed in me and who saw things about myself I couldn’t see.

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There’s a moment for each of us where God draws the line in the sand and says, “What will you do? Continue in your behavior or change what only you can change?

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There’s a moment for each of us where we become aware of what is right and wrong in a situation. The line drawn is different for each of us. In each instance, it’s a moment where we realize how we’ve been functioning isn’t working for us {as Dr. Phil would say}.

We need to exert self-control in the situation and just. stop. it.

The only person we can ever change is our-self.  The only behavior we can ever change is ours. The footsteps 02only person we can ever stop is us.

Are there areas in your life where you need to stop behavior or thinking?  It’s never comfortable or easy.  Sometimes the first step to victorious and healthy living is to simply stop {one time, a second time, and a third and more} until the behavior diminishes.

Are you ready to do that?  You won’t be able to do it in five-minutes like Bob Newhart suggests.  But trying it just once may be worth a shot.

Will you join me?

{disclaimer: This is not a professional recommendation for all behaviors. These are personal comments not intended for therapeutic intervention.  This site is designed to provide information of general interest to the public and is not intended to offer counseling advice about specific situations or problems. Brenda L. Yoder does not intend to create a counselor-client relationship by offering this information, and anyone’s review of the information shall not be deemed to create such a relationship.  You are also advised that access and use of this website is at your own risk. Any information you post on this website shall not be deemed secure or confidential.}

Facing Insecurities: Why I Don’t Look In The Mirror

It’s summer time here on the Back Forty.

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With summertime comes natural beauty, fresh fruits and veggies from our garden.

The first strawberries of the season.
The first strawberries of the season.

With the changing of the seasons come the changing of life’s seasons, too. Years roll from one to another… and we’re the same person in all of them. I’m the same person I was many summers ago….ten, twenty, thirty years ago.

You are, too.

Every once in a while I hear the voice of the fifteen-year-old me though I’m well-aged past fifteen. 

She {or he} is inside of you.

Does she {or he} ever catch you by surprise?

????????She recently caught me by surprise when I realized how much I shied away from looking in the mirror. A full-length mirror showing body parts I’d rather keep covered by sweatshirts and layers of winter gear.

I realized how much I hate looking in the mirror. But it’s how I cope.

Cope with what?

 You’re probably rolling your eyes.  

Yes, I’m considered “small” if you compare me with others

But I can’t compare myself with others.

It’s as dangerous as looking in the mirror.

Because the fifteen year old me says how unworthy, disgusting, and repulsive I am when I do.

Do you have similar lies that whisper in your ear?

Your lies are different than mine.  Maybe yours say, “You’re stupid, ugly, not-good-enough,” or worse.

At fifteen, I was bound by an eating disorder that kept me in prison for all of adolescence and young adulthood.  I work hard at living addiction-free, but I can’t separate myself from the girl I was in childhood. I’m the same person even though I’ve dropped the chains of the past.

Do you have chains in your past?

Insecurities get the best of us.  My mirror-avoidance behavior reminds me that insecurities still whisper in my grown-up self.

I’m no different than you.  Do you have insecurities?

While avoiding the mirror may seem cowardly, it’s my way of honestly living with my weaknesses while not letting them cripple me.  It’s hard work to live healthy and balanced when you’ve had distorted thinking and addictive behavior in your past.

Can you relate?

Your struggle may be different, but if you battle insecurities, it’s a challenge.  Here are things I’ve learned in living with a life-long challenge.

Facing insecurities takes courage. It’s easier to hide behind our insecurities. It’s safe to hide behind self-MP900262788pity.  It’s comforting to enable our insecurities.  “I’m can’t do that, so I won’t try.”  “I was hurt in my past, so I need to self-medicate.” “That doesn’t feel comfortable, so I won’t…..” The list goes on.  Acknowledging our insecurities and saying, “What am I going to do about it?” requires courage to face what we don’t want exposed and courage to push ahead regardless of what our self-talk says.

Facing insecurities requires realistic thinking.  Don’t set yourself up for failure.  Realistic thinking means setting goals you can handle.  Looking in a full-length mirror is damaging to me. That’s why I avoid the darn thing.  It’s also why I don’t weigh myself or consider dieting.  These things will send me back to disordered-eating in a heart-beat.  Finding life-long, realistic goals you can be successful at is important in overcoming insecurities.

Facing insecurities means knowing your limits.   Going on diets and Facing Insecurities Why I don't look in the mirrorgetting on a scale plays mind games with me.  What things play mind-games with your insecurities?  How can you strengthen your resolve to work through your insecurities while balancing the weaknesses of your limits? This is crucial in not being bound by your weaknesses.

Facing insecurities means you give grace to yourself when needed.   Early spring is never the best time for me to look in the mirror.  I’m not as fit in the winter and I carry extra weight.  These are issues for me even though I don’t obsess over them.  When the fifteen-year-old me begins whispering lies about myself, I counter-act the lies with truth.  My image does not define me.  I’ve learned to give accurate grace to myself when self-loathing begins.  Where do you need to give yourself grace?

What insecurities lurk in your shadows?  What lies does your younger-self tell you?  I’d love to encourage and support you in your efforts to lay them at the feet of Jesus and start taking steps toward the the peaceful-you.  Feel free to share in a comment below or email me at yoderbl@gmail.com.  

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It would be my privilege to pray with you and cheer you on.

Why I Run and Why You Need Freedom, Too

The sun was in my face, good music was in my ears, and my feet hit the pavement. As my feet hit the ground with Why I runeach strike, I was careful to land just right.  After months of being injured, having knee surgery, and currently undertaking physical therapy, I was aware that one wrong side motion could wipe me out again.   But six weeks of PT was working and I was able to jog several yards before slowing down to a walking pace.  I did this over and over again as I reveled in the freedom I had.

Freedom to run.  

Freedom of spirit.

Freedom of mind.

Over the last several months, I’ve realized why I run. I began running ten years ago.  At the time, it was my source of stress management. As a mom of four kids and working-full with teenagers, running was the only 30 minutes where my mind was my own, where no one could touch me or ask anything of me.

portrait of a mid adult woman jogging in a parkAs time has become more limited with the demands of parenting and life, running is sporadic, but a priority.  During the winter months, I’m dormant because of daylight savings and weather.  But running periodically in the winter is a release for me when stress or seasonal depression gets the best of me.   It gives me a boost, clears my mind, and brings balance to my body and spirit.

What do you do that gives you a clear mind and brings balance to your body and spirit?

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Living without the option to run poses a problem for me.  

I’ve realized if I don’t have healthy options to release stress, I’m tempted to turn to unhealthy options.

Confessions of a woman trying to live addiction-free for a lifetime.

I wish I could say food is never an issue for me, but I can’t.

Do you have something you run to when you’re stressed? What do you self-medicate with?  Technology? Shopping? Sports? Sleep? Alcohol? Medication?  Sex? Or do you, too, run to food?

I come from a family where comfort food is normal.

I grew up pushing against it and developed anorexia.  Then I became bulimic.  My development and identity as a teen and young adult revolved around food, though it was hidden.  There are reasons why people turn to food or other substances for self-medication.  There are payoffs.  It comforts. It nurtures.  You’re in control of your body, your mind and emotions for a few minutes as you feed your senses with momentarily pleasures.  To overcome an addiction, the payoff of overcoming it with healthy behavior has to be more enticing than what the addiction does for you.

Woman Standing on ScaleI can’t diet. I have to have freedom to choose what I eat. If I don’t messes with my mind.

I’ve learned if I don’t have the option to run, it messes with my mind.

There’s something spiritual about both of them being in balance.

It deals with freedom.

The freedom of your body, soul and spirit to experience joy and peace….like adrenalin that runs through your body when you run.

A rush of contentment, happiness, and top-of-the-world feeling.

What does that for you?  What gives you that rush? Is it healthy?  Or do you run to things that dull your senses?  Do you seek things that bring balance and freedom or things that bind you and bring destruction?

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I’ve done both.

I’ve fought hard to remain healthy and have balance in my life physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

I’ve decided if I can only run one-hundred yards at a time, I’ll take it.

I need it. 

I don’t ever want to go back to being bound. 

So I fight to remain free.

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I don’t do this alone. 

My battle to remain free from the hold of food, self-harm, and addiction has been a journey between me and God.

He walks with me every step.

He fills me with peace and joy.

But I have to stay vigilant to keep Him in that place.

How do you fight for God to stay the center of your life?

Being Free
Being Free

What do you do to fight things off that are more enticing than the presence of God?

Living healthy is hard work.

Living balanced is hard work.

Living in the fullness of God requires action.

Draw near to God and He will draw near you.” James 4:8 (NIV)

Like running brings freedom to me, so does having the fullness of God in your life.

I’ve learned it’s worth pursuing both of them with vigilance.

Freedom of mind, body, and spirit is a glimpse of eternity where there will be “no death, or mourning or crying or pain.” (Revelation 21:4.)

Addictions only relieve this temporarily.

Healthy balance and the presence of God relieves this for a lifetime.

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Where do you need to experience freedom in healthy ways?

Where do you need to place God as the center of you life?

Where do you need to be balanced?

Ask the Lord of all goodness to empower you to make the changes needed to bring balance.  If you need a prayer partner, email me  at yoderbl@gmail.com.  It would be my honor to pray with you as you work to bring balance, center, and freedom to your life.

Holy Father, draw each of us to the healthy life you desire for us.  Give us grace to admit the things that are out of balance in our lives, and give us a glimpse of the goodness you have for us that is greater than any pay off our out-of-balance choices give us.  Equip us to do the hard work to live healthy.  Prompt us to make the first step in drawing nearer to you.  Thank you that You never fail.  Amen.

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The Resurrection:Real Victory for Real Life

A similar article was first published in The Purpose Magazine in March, 2013

The life-giving power of God’s word became real to me at seventeen.  As a young girl with an eating disorder, I felt powerless in attempts at getting out of the cycle of starving myself, binging, and purging.

Until one morning I woke up in disbelief.  “He provided a way out!” I thought.  “God provided a way out, just like His Word said.”

For the first time in three years, I had fallen asleep with food in my stomach. Because of distorted thinking, I truly Real Victory for Real Lifebelieved if I allowed food to remain in my stomach overnight, I would wake up with significant weight gain and be rejected.  Like many teen girls, I despised the image I saw in the mirror.  Rejection was my greatest fear.  Feeling insecure, ugly, and not-quite-good-enough, my adolescent mind rationed that if I was thin, I could at least control one area of rejection.

From my early teens to young adulthood, I battled food, faulty self-talk, a poor sense of worth and acceptance as I lived with destructive physical and emotional behavior.  Food was my enemy, yet I ran to it for comfort.  Daily I purged, while desperately wanting a way out of the never-ending cycle.

During this time my Bible was a refuge for me.  One day, I came across a passage identifying a core struggle of my private world – temptation.  Daily I prayed to overcome the temptation to binge and purge, but each night I crawled into bed with failure.  In my shame, 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV 1984 version) gave hope and a promise:

No temptation has seized you expect what is common to man.  But God is faithful.  He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so you can stand up under it.

In this passage, God became incredibly personal because He recognized my battle with temptation.  When no one else seemed to understand the depths of my internal struggle, God did.  He even promised a way of escape.

One night I fell asleep and the compulsive, addictive cycle momentarily broke and the power of Jesus’ love, and Word was validated in my heart and mind.  God loved me so much He provided a way out from my daily temptation of purging through something as simple as sleep!  God reached down from heaven and made Himself real to me.  He didn’t reject me.  I had hope for change and a new way of life.

FaithOver the years, I’ve journeyed with many people struggling with a range of addictive behaviors. Common among them is the cyclical trap of temptation and failure to overcome it.  Compulsive, addictive activities encompass anything out of balance from what God intends for us.  We run to the imbalanced behavior instead of running to God and His control over our insecurities and pain.  Addictions can encompass food or exercise, shopping or thriftiness, anger or fear, self-righteous pride or deeds of darkness.  The list could go on.  All take root in self-protection instead of the power of resurrection. 

God’s gift of allowing me to overcome one night of temptation through sleep was a miracle to me. He provided a practical way out, just like His word promised.  When I woke up to new mercies that particular morning, and didn’t experience rejection from others, I had hope for healing.  God opened a doorway out of my self-destructive routine.  He provided an alternative to my fear of rejection that created distorted thinking.  God instilled hope that the unhealthy cycle could be broken through His power, not mine.

A new life from addictive behavior didn’t happen overnight for me.  Overcoming it was a long, slow process.  But that glorious morning at seventeen was the day Jesus personally rolled the stone away from my dark and fearful tomb.  He provided a door of freedom for me to walk through.  Since then, I’ve learned stepping out of fear and into His power is a daily choice.  God provides a door of escape every day from various temptations lurking in the shadows. And every time I walk out of the tomb in victory is testimony to His resurrected healing power.

What shadows lurk in your life, calling you into temptation instead of victory?  As we approach the Easter season where we celebrate Christ’s resurrection, the celebration is also in applying Christ’s power to our personal lives.  Easter is not about the past, but the future.  Where have you overcome the “grave” of addictive or destructive behaviors?  We would love to hear your story.

In His love,

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Steps in Overcoming Obstacles: Keep Walking

Man Wearing Knee BandageI have a messed up knee. A torn ACL, torn meniscus, possible compression fracture.  Today I’ll be seeing an orthopedic doctor to find out the course of treatment.  Since the injury two months ago, I haven’t been active.  That’s been hard for me.  Being active is a part of a life-long strategy of healthy living as a recovered bulimic.  It’s not something I take for granted.

This week, I put my running shoes on and decided to walk.  We’ve had several inches of snow with temperatures in the teens, so walking outside is not an option.  Using our elliptical is too strenuous on the injured knee.   Obstacles to exercise have kept me sedentary.  I finally decided to overcome the obstacles.

As I walked a circle for forty-five minutes in my basement, the mundane act was life-giving.  I realized how tempting it was to tell myself that if I couldn’t run, I might was well not try.  I knew the longer I stayed away from healthy behavior, the easier it was not to engage in it again.  I realized how easily lies creep in when you need to overcome obstacles.

Sometimes, you just need to walk.

Man Walking Along Line in Road

So, how do you overcome life’s obstacles?

  • Walk in the direction of the obstacle.  Obstacles have power over us when we feel helpless in overcoming them.  Walking towards them makes them more manageable.
  • Doing what you can is better than doing nothing at all.  I’ve felt helpless in the area of physical activity lately.  But when I began walking, I gained energy and was encouraged in what I could do.
  • Don’t aim for perfection.  A lie of the enemy is “If I can’t do it the way I’d like, it’s not worth trying,” or “If I don’t think I’ll succeed, I won’t try.”  Perfection shouldn’t be a life goal.  Doing your best regardless of circumstances should be.
  • Think outside the box. My elliptical has been a vital tool in being active during snowy Midwest winters.  Part of me wanted to believe I couldn’t do anything with a bum knee.  I resolved to do what I could to get myself moving again.  My tennis shoes and a basement free of furniture were options for me.  Not ideal, but it worked.
  • Don’t lie to yourself. No matter how much time transpires between the present and the eating disorder days, old, familiar lies quickly can creep in.  Cognitive distortions and unhealthy thinking patterns are obstacles to most of us.  Recognizing triggers for faulty thinking is essential in overcoming obstacles.
  • Keep moving.  When I speak on addictions and overcoming obstacles, this principle is an essential truth.  As long as you are moving forward, you’re overcoming something,  you’re not being defeated, and you’re taking steps toward healthy behavior. Living addiction-free is a lifelong process.  Walking forward towards the goal is the action plan.

What obstacles face you?  What fear is holding you back from stepping toward healthy behavior, healthy relationships, or achieving hopes and dreams?  What steps to you need to take today?

Whatever you do, keep walking.

What is Your Drug of Choice?

Vodka and Vicodin.  What’s your drug of choice?Pill Bottles Containing Medication

This weekend I’ll be sharing the powerful story of a young mom who found herself unexpectedly turning to Vicodin and Vodka and ended up in rehab.  This was not the life she ever imagined herself living.  She was a parent like you, like me, who learned certain things can numb pain and fill holes in your life.

Where are your holes? What are the gaping wounds in your soul that you self-medicate?

If this doesn’t apply to you, don’t disregard this post.  You may not self-medicate with prescription drugs or alcohol, but what do you fill your emotional holes with?  What do you turn to that numbs the holes in your heart?

A beautiful caucasian girl carrying shopping bagsFood?  Shopping? Relationships? Busyness? Appearance? Success? Children? Enabling?

Or do you turn to substances?  A recent study (“Mother’s Little Helper, LA Times, Jan. 13, 2012) reported there is an increase in mother’s seeking ADHD medication for their children for their own self-medication.  As a behavioral professional working with families and children, my colleagues and I observe an increase in parents self-medicating in some form.   Parents are hurting, therefore children hurt.

What’s filling your holes?

I don’t know if emotional depravity is increasing in our culture or if self-medication is becoming more mainstream.  My work with people tells me it’s both.  Psychological and emotional wounds seem to be increasing and are present in every walk of life.

the dreamTen years ago, I left being home full-time to working in public schools.  A student who lived in my rural neighborhood very poignantly said, “You live in a fairy-tale.” The picket-fence image, the Bubble.

I knew what they said was true, though we had our own struggles as a family.  What the student was conveying was at that time I lived in a small, Christian-everything-is-right-with-the-world-bubble. Over time, experiencing my own personal struggles and becoming more hands-on as a community member and an educational/counseling professional, I know the fairy-tale life is the minority these days.  My own family was on the verge of going over several cliffs to destruction, and I’ve had self-medicating periods in my own life.  I now walk where life is messy, beyond the picket fence-image.

What about you? Do you live in a bubble?  Are you aware of those with gaping holes around you?

As you read Candi’s story this weekend, I challenge you to listen to the holes in her heart that she filled with substances. They are wounds and holes common to most of us.  Cognitive distortions, self-doubt, bitterness.

Do you struggle with these?

Candi’s story is our story.  It’s the story each of us has who tries to fill the voids in our life with unhealthy things.  Though the “substance” may be different, the quest for fulfillment and happiness it similar. While some are more destructive, none satisfy.MP900396129

The root of satisfaction she has found is the same I’ve found. It’s the same found in each of us changed by the grace of Great Healer, Christ Himself, the Son of the Living God.

As you anticipate reading Candi’s story this weekend, I challenge each of  you to examine the holes and voids in your own heart and life and what you attempt to fill them with that’s unhealthy.  Facing our wounds is never easy, but giving them healthy means by which to heal diminishes scaring.

My prayer for you this week  from Philippians 4:6-7, The Message:

 “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”

May we live not in a bubble, not in denial, not in pain, but in the wholeness of Jesus Christ, letting His grace and peace fill every wounded hole in your being.

How have you found healing and wholeness from your holes?  We’d love to hear.  And tune in this weekend for Candi’s inspiring story.

In His love,

my signature

Why I Hate Resolutions

I also posted on hating Christmas, and it earned me a phone call from the Ricki Lake Show.  I must not have hated Christmas enough, though, because I didn’t win the golden ticket to be a guest on their show.

I’m crushed.

During the New Year social media buzzed about resolutions, goals, and one word descriptions for 2013.  This stresses me out.  I can’t think of a word for 2013 because I’m exhausted from 2012.  Vacation would be my word for 2013, but my principal and husband probably wouldn’t like that.MP900309664

Resolutions and goals are good.  As a counselor in a school, in private practice, and as a service provider to the community, I assist people in achieving goals all the time.  But I’ll share a secret with you:

{there’s nothing magical about January 1}

Sometimes, I just have to be blunt.  Call me the Geico therapist.

Changes are hard.  And yet they’re not.  We can psych ourselves into thinking we have to achieve epiphany moments for change to happen.  This isn’t so.  Significant change happens over time.  Slow and steady wins the race.  You may plan for change on January 1, but if you don’t start until July 23, you’ll still get the same results.

Just Do It.  

What changes do you need to make?  Resolutions sound epic.  Change really is mundane and simple. Just don’t eat that carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.  Don’t drive by that bar on the way home from work.  Don’t type that URL into your computer.  Walk away from that challenging preschooler and lock the door behind you until you calm down.

Just Do It.

MP900289488In your plan for change, know you’ll mess up.  Sorry to burst your bubble, but setting realistic expectations is important.  Change is a process.  Small moments are crucial.  You take one step forward.  Your next step might be forward, standing still, or taking a step backwards.  The goal is to MOVE FORWARD.

When I made the decision to tackle a seven-year-old eating disorder, it didn’t happen over night.  I made a resolution not to take the messed-up addiction into my marriage.  Unfortunately, it didn’t go away once I walked down the aisle.  I had to work at it.  Every day.  Every hour of every day for several years.  But the more I said “No” to the  learned patterns, the easier it became to change the behavior.  The more victorious steps I took, the healthier and stronger I became.

There were steps backward.  In those moments, it was easy to think, “Why try?  I failed, again.”  But that’s when I had to look at the victories I already achieved.  Even when I took a backward steps, I was at a different place than when I started.

The same is true for you, this day in January that’s not January 1.  If you have not yet started towards your goals for the year, then get out of your rut and start moving.  Take one step today.  That’s all.  And celebrate it.  Make a big deal about it, at least between you and God.  No one may ever see the progress you make in your goals but Him.  And He’s cheering for you.

But you have to make the steps, first.  We have a gracious God, full of power for any insurmountable feat, but He requires that we do our part of the work.

Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”   James 4:8

Notice this promise comes with initial action on our part.  We have to move towards Him, and He will move towards us.  It’s the same with reaching goals.  We have to move towards the goal.  We have to invite God into our journey for His power to be manifest.  For years I prayed that God would take away the vicious cycle I was in as a teenager with an eating disorder.  It was only until I resolved within myself to surrender the struggle and walk towards victory that God’s power was made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Change is hard because it requires us to give up the payoff, even when it’s not healthy.  Once you have tasted newness, it’s easier to give up the garbage of the past.

If I could offer you one word for 2013, it would be Forward.  No matter where you are, and whatever goals you’ve set for yourself,  Just. Walk. Forward.

Don’t get stuck with your behind in your past. (Pumbaa, Lion King).

Forward 2013. 

Food, Hunger, and God

Satisfy: to gratify the expectations, needs or desires of. To fulfill a need or desire. To free from doubt or question.

As a recovered anorexic and bulimic, I pay attention to my body in order to live a healthy lifestyle without struggle or relapse. I take care of my emotional and spiritual health so I don’t use unhealthy behaviors to satisfy longings in my spirit when things are out of whack. Hunger, food, and physical activity need to be kept in delicate balance in my life.  Therefore, I listen to my body.

Macro of bamboo fountainOne side affect of being bulimic for many years is excessive thirst. When I’m not hydrated properly with water and other life-giving fluids, thirst distracts me from tasks at hand. I crave water and am not satisfied until I receive the replenishment it gives me.

That thirst is satisfied only with good things.

It’s the same with food. I eat minimal fried or processed foods and my body receives that well. Over the holidays, it’s harder to eat pristinely when eating out more and attending gatherings with a plethora of fat-induced foods. The other night I felt sick to my stomach from eating foods I normally stay away from. I was full but not satisfied.

Unwholesome foods did not satisfy, though they looked and tasted fabulous.

I’ve thought about our spiritual condition recently in instances of being thirsty and full with food, but not satisfied. How often are we hungry and thirsty for God but replace it with other things that aren’t good for us? We get our fill of them, but they don’t satisfy.

What do you satisfy your emotional and spiritual hungers with? For a period in my life it was food. Is it relationships? Success? Your partner? Control? Your kids? Material things? Technology? Beauty? Sports? A good reputation? Jobs well done? Enabling others? Food? Alcohol? Sex? Self-harm? Medication?

In my quest to live a healthy life physically, spiritually and emotionally, I’ve learned only an imitate relationship with the God who knows everything about me satisfies. Psalm 103 says He satisfies our desires with good things. I know this. He has taken the inner parts of my life and has filled them with himself in ways that draws me back to Him, His word, and His presence.

Nothing compares to Him and the way He satisfies.

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This hasn’t happened overnight. It took years of slowly releasing things to Him. But as I’ve traded insecurity, selfishness, fear and hurt with trust and obedience, old patterns have become like a Diet Coke to a parched mouth.

As much as it momentarily satisfies, it doesn’t quench, doesn’t replenish, doesn’t satisfy.

As you take time to reflect this holiday season, and approach a new year, will you reflect on your present hunger for God? Are there things in your life that satisfy more than Him? What do you run to when you are needy? What do you fill your mind, body, and spirit with that pulls you away from the goodness God wants to satisfy you with?

Receive this element of God’s character today as His gift to you. He wants to satisfy your soul with good things.

Try it. You’ll like it.

Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Psalm 103:1-5 NIV