Gospel of Guilt

The gospel message of guilt that I’ve been preaching to myself is not what I want to follow anymore.

In my therapy sessions earlier this year, my performance based relationship with God was the focus of quite a few conversations with my therapist. As a result, she recommended that I read the book “The Discipline of Grace” by Jerry Bridges.

I bought the book back in July and have been slow to get very far in reading it. For some reason I can only read a few pages at a time with books like these. I’m still only in Chapter 1 even though there have been some really insightful nuggets so far such as this from the very first page:

“We try to change ourselves. We take what we think are the tools of spirtual transformation into our own hands and try to sculpt ourselves into robust Christlike specimens.”

And this, a little farther into Chapter 1 that just about jumped off the page and knocked me to the floor when I read it:

“Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the REACH of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the NEED of God’s grace.”

This morning I picked up the book to read a couple of pages and this really stood out to me:

“The one word that describes what we must continue to hear is gospel. We need to continue to hear the gospel every day of our Christian lives. Only a continuous reminder of the gospel of God’s grace through Christ will keep us from falling into good-day-bad-day thinking, wherein we think our daily relationship with God is based on how good we’ve been. It is only the joy of hearing the gospel and being reminded that our sins are forgiven in Christ that will keep the demands of discipleship from becoming drudgery. It is only gratitude and love to God that comes from knowing that He no longer counts our sins against us (Romans 4:8) that provides the proper motive for responding to the claims of discipleship.”

My first thought after reading this was: “Did I get saved because of the gospel or out of guilt?”

I was only 8 when I accepted Jesus so the ability to grasp the depths of salvation was obviously limited but I don’t remember feeling joy.

I only remember guilt.

I felt desperate to be right with God because it was the right thing to do. And it’s what all the church kids were expected to do, right?

I’m sure that’s a pretty common experience for most kids growing up in the church. We were so saturated in the plan of salvation that it only made sense to team up with Jesus.

Somewhere along the way, I would’ve thought that the “gospel of guilt” message I picked up as an 8 year old might have been replaced with the joy of knowing Jesus but that has not been my experience.

I have had moments of joy sprinkled along the way but mostly I have been motivated by a perfectionist, performance driven mindset which only feeds the guilt. And in case you haven’t seen it in your own life, guilt has a way of infiltrating and infecting anything it touches.

Especially joy.

I’ve spent my whole life with guilt festering inside of me for all the ways I needed to be better or stronger, and all the things I needed to do more of that I kept doing not enough of, or the things I needed to do less of that I kept doing too much of. I started equating all of that to being not enough and too much all at the same time. And that must be how God views me since that’s how I see myself. So more guilt gets added in to keep the cycle spiraling out of control.

Is it just me who struggles with this vicious cycle or can anyone else relate?

How do I stop feeling guilty? How do I love Jesus without feeling like I have to earn His love in return? How do I spend time with God without feeling obligated to just check another thing off the daily To Do list?

Hopefully I’ll find an answer as I continue reading “The Discipline of Grace” because the gospel message of guilt that I’ve been preaching to myself is not what I want to follow anymore.

I need to hear the true gospel message full of grace and truth spoken in love every day. Not just that Jesus died on the cross for all the sins of the world but also the gospel that looks more like come to Me if you’re weary so I can give you rest. Instead of a gospel that says keep pushing yourself til you break under the weight of your own expectations.

I need the gospel that leads me back to the only One who can be my strong tower in the battle, protecting me and fighting for me.

The gospel that reminds me I can find shelter under the wings of a compassionate God who longs to carry me when the journey is hard. A gentle God who knows this isn’t a character flaw of weakness but an act of worship to trust and rest in His care.

This is the gospel message I need every day. A message of truth, protection and love. Filled with more joy and less guilt.


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Suspicious of God

Maybe my suspicion is more about my desire to hear God’s true voice and to have a genuine relationship with Him based on who He really is…

I read a post on Facebook earlier this week from Lysa TerKeurst that gave me something new to chew on:

I trust God. Until I don’t. That doesn’t feel like a very Christian thing to say. But if I don’t acknowledge this struggle, I can’t address it.

I don’t think I’m the only one.

So many of us raise our hands high as we proclaim that our God is a “good, good Father,” but then we find ourselves lying in our beds at night with tear-stained pillows, facing realities that don’t feel very good at all.

It’s hard not to feel suspicious of God when our circumstances don’t seem to line up with His promises. And it’s difficult not to doubt the light of His truth when everything around us looks dark.

Lysa TerKeurst, 10/1/21

She ends the post by encouraging strugglers to ask God to bring good out of the difficult places and to keep praising Him through the darkness.

Most of this post seemed like pretty typical Christian struggle encouragement but one word stood out to me as I was reading this:

SUSPICIOUS

It literally jumped off the screen and stopped me in my tracks.

I don’t feel like suspicious is a common word we use in the Christian vocabulary when speaking of God.

We have a lot of ways to say we’re struggling that might fall under the definition of suspicious (having or showing a cautious distrust of someone or something). We say we’re having a hard time trusting Him or we don’t see God at work. We don’t understand His plan or we don’t understand why He’s allowing something to happen or not happen.

But to actually be suspicious of God? This was a new thought to me.

The word suspicious to me implies I think someone is up to no good or as the kids are saying these days that someone/something is “sus” – it’s shady, unreliable and you’re just not sure about it.

My next thought was:

Is this how I feel about God right now? Am I suspicious of Him? Is the indifference/disconnect I’ve been feeling just that or is it suspicion?

These questions make me feel uncomfortable because what if I am suspicious of God? What does that say about me?

The good girl Christian training that’s been ingrained in me makes me feel guilty that I can’t put all my questions/struggles to the side and just go back to the push it down, don’t think about it, blind faith I had before.

But I don’t want that kind of faith anymore. I don’t know for sure but I don’t think God wants that for me either.

I feel like I’ve always had a fairly strong relationship with God but as I’ve shared previously, if it was based on feeling like I Had to earn His love or if it was based on a perception of God that was all wrong, then maybe it’s not really God that I’m suspicious of. Maybe I’m just suspicious of God in all the ways I’ve always known Him and viewed Him incorrectly.

The God who is standing over me with a running list of my faults and failures.

The God who is keeping a record of all the Christian to do boxes I fail to check each day.

Or the God who is disappointed because I can’t figure out how to stop being depressed.

And what about the God who says, “I loved you enough to send my Son to die for all your sins so why can’t you just get with the program?”

I realized a couple months ago that as illogical as this is, I have been allowing the voice of shame to replace the voice of God and didn’t even know it. And the voice of shame is very good at pretending to be God in my head.

So maybe my suspicion is more about my desire to hear His true voice and to have a genuine relationship with God based on who He really is.

To be able to trust that the things I want to be true about God actually are.

That He IS a good, good Father that loves us no matter how many questions we ask or how we struggle and that He’s a big enough God to handle all the baggage that we bring Him filled with our misconceptions and doubts.

That’s the God I want to know and trust.


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Thoughts on Watershed Moments

Earlier this week I finished reading a book called “A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea” by Melissa Fleming. It’s about the life of a Syrian refugee who tries to escape from Egypt into Europe and how she survives being shipwrecked at sea for 4 days. It was a very moving story that was inspiring but also very informative about the lives and struggles of refugees.

Not only was I given a new perspective about refugees but I also learned a new term while reading this book:

Watershed moment

With as much reading as I do, I feel like I should have already known what this means but I had to look it up to be sure. This is the explanation I found online:

One definition of a “watershed” is “an event marking a unique or important historical change of course or one on which important developments depend.

But, the word was originally a geographical term describing an area from which water sources drain into a single river or a ridge, like that formed by a chain of mountains, which sends water to two different rivers on either side.

From that, watershed came to mean a turning point or dividing line in life.

Break From the Grind, 5/4/2020

Something about this visual of the geographical watershed felt significant to me so I went digging for more information and found this diagram from the USDA Forest Service of how a watershed works:

Watershed Diagram

This diagram shows how the watershed allows precipitation to collect in the valley between 2 mountain ridges. The run off from the mountain travels down and collects in the valley of the watershed combined with groundwater flow under the surface to make a river.

Originally I was thinking that a watershed was the actual water collected at the base of the mountain. In relation to the watershed moment, I was comparing this to the significant event in life that changes the course of history but the more research I did, I learned that the watershed is not just the big pool of collected water.

A watershed is the whole set-up of the mountain ridges, the precipitation, the groundwater flow with the end result being the collection of water in the valley of the mountain.

Our watershed moments are not just one free-standing moment in time. They are the collection of our mountain top experiences, our hard times, lessons learned and all of the things below the surface that we can’t even see combined together to give us a big, re-defining moment in life.

And it all happens in the valley.

Am I the only one who sees the hope in this?

And because my mind likes to keep coming up with more questions, once I started digging into all of this, I thought:

I wonder what happens to a watershed in a drought…

Based on one article I read, scientists are finding that not only can a drought significantly and permanently change a watershed, they’re also finding that a watershed can remain in a drought-like state years after the drought has ended and precipitation has returned to normal or even above normal levels.

They are still researching why this happens and what mechanism, if any, could make a watershed recover to it’s predrought stable state.

After reading this I thought, maybe the same is true for me too. Maybe I have remained in a drought-like state even though everything around me has returned to normal and it some cases better than normal.

Like the scientists, I want to know why this is and how I can recover to my predought stable state.

I don’t know how many times in my previous months of struggle I’ve said to myself or to others, “I just want to get back to normal.”

First of all, what is normal? I still don’t know. But I’m learning that this wanting to go back to normal is an unreal expectation for myself. Just like changes in nature, we are changed and shaped by the experiences we go through. The good and the bad.

Rain or shine. Drought or flood. Or just regular, every day life. All of it makes us who we are and there’s no going back to who we were before. And why would we want to?

The people we are today with all of our mountaintop highs and deep valley lows are right where we need to be for the makings of our next watershed moment.


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Thoughts on Being Fake

Overcoming church people expectations and trying to find a genuine relationship with God…

My daughter told us last night that she wants to go start going back to church on Sundays because our pastor is getting ready to start a really big series next week that she wants to hear. And also because we haven’t been in a long time. Which is true.

We haven’t been to church since last February which was easy enough to blame on Covid and we didn’t want to watch online. Then when church re-opened, we didn’t want to wear a mask to church and by the time it was ok to go without a mask we were so far out of the routine of going it was just easier not to.

But if I’m being honest, church and I have had a rough past. When I’m struggling with depression or (as I shared in my blog last week) struggling with my disconnect from God, it’s hard for me to go to church.

Going to church when I’m not in a good place mentally feels fake to me and I have a hard time faking anything. I know church people say you can come just as you are but that theory has proved false for me over the years.

Starting with the church I grew up in. I had too many questions and most of them were met with “just believe” or “just have faith” or my least favorite…”if your faith is strong enough, you won’t struggle as much” – NOT helpful.

Being told to pray myself out of depression or that I just need to be in the Word more to keep myself from getting depressed put pressure on me to do more to fix myself and when it didn’t work, I felt like a failure.

I’m not saying that prayer and God’s Word can’t help a depressed person. I know from experience they can but for me, when I’m depressed I’d much rather hear that God sees me and loves me and knows I’m struggling instead of being told all the things I need to do to pull myself up out of the pit.

It has caused a lot of internal confusion for me over the years and has reinforced my struggle with self-reliance instead of God-reliance.

And why does everyone feel like they have to offer solutions?

When I’m struggling, I want to know I’m not alone and if I shared my feelings with someone else, it’s probably taken a lot of courage to be vulnerable. So being given a list of things to do in response to that is discouraging and makes me not want to share where I’m at with other people.

I’m sure not everyone knows what it feels like to be depressed or struggle with mental health issues but I have learned over the years that one of the hardest sentences for church people to say is:

I don’t know.

It appears to me that coming across like you know everything is a badge of honor in the church. Like you’re one step closer to God because you have all the right answers to everything for everybody. I am also a person who wants to know everything and have an answer for everybody. It gives me a sense of importance and value but then I find myself needing to BE the answer for everything and everybody which is not only false but also not healthy.

From my perspective, church people struggle with this too. They need to BE the answer instead of pointing you to the only answer that could ever help: God.

I know now that my relationship with God is separate from my previous church experiences but since they’ve bled together for so many years, the old church training still lives right beneath the surface. My relationship with God has gotten so murky over time with all of the church people expectations, obligations, mixed messages and false teachings that it’s hard for me to know what a genuine relationship with God even looks like anymore.

So, that’s where I’m at this morning. Thinking about my daughter’s request to go back to church which I’m thankful for but also evaluating why I’ve stayed away and if I’m willing to return.

And if I do go back, how can I go as me? The real Emily with all of her questions and doubts and struggles and not fake Emily who’s “just fine” and armed with my plastic smile and my church people armor on.


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Thoughts on Surrender

Surrendering to the idea that I may have gotten the whole idea of surrender wrong all along…

I was in a conversation with a friend this week, catching up on life and we started discussing my return to writing blogs which led to talking about where I’m at mentally right now. I started to share with her an analogy I had back in July and felt the nudge to write a blog about it.

The analogy was prompted by hearing the song “Jump” by NONAH on the radio for the first time as I was driving to a therapy session one morning in July.

JUMP
Why do I ever doubt you?
You always do what you say You’re gonna do
Why do I ever doubt you?

You’ve caught me every time before
So why does fear try to glue me to the floor?
You’ve caught me every time before

Looking down from up so high
There’s a battle inside my mind
You keep telling me I’m made to fly

I’m gonna jump into your arms, into your arms
I’m gonna give you everything, all of me
I’m never ever looking back
Fixing my eyes on you
I’m gonna jump into your arms, into your arms

Safe when I’m in Your shadow
I’m holding on and You’re never letting go
Safe when I’m in Your shadow

I’m gonna jump into your arms, into your arms
I’m gonna give you everything, all of me
I’m never ever looking back
Fixing my eyes on you
I’m gonna jump into your arms, into your arms

Meet me in the free fall
I know you’re faithful
You come and rescue me
Every time

Hearing these lyrics as I was driving that day made me question why I have a hard time surrendering to God. Why can’t I just jump into His arms? What’s wrong with me that keeps holding me back?

As I listened to this song and cycled through these thoughts, the analogy started to form in my mind. The image came to me of a little girl standing on the edge of a pool staring out at her Dad in the water as he patiently stands there, arms open, waiting for her to jump.

When I got to my therapy session that day, I brought this up almost immediately at the beginning of my session because this idea of surrender has always been a struggle for me and the cause of major disconnect in my relationship with God.

In spite of every dark pit of despair that I’ve been rescued from and all of the ways God has proven Himself faithful to me, I still find myself reverting back to self-reliance instead of God reliance. Especially in times of struggle and depression when I need Him the most, I cut Him off and isolate myself completely.

So after sharing these thoughts with my therapist and the analogy, I realized that the little girl standing at the edge of the pool is looking out at God, silently asking:

“Can I trust You?

Logically I know God is trustworthy but the little girl inside of me is still convinced no one around her can be trusted to catch her if she jumps. Little Emily from my childhood and teenage years learned to rely on herself because the adults in her life weren’t able to give her what she needed then.

Self-reliance became a coping mechanism and a tool for survival.

And the little girl standing by the side of the pool desperately wants to let go and just jump in.

At this point in the therapy session back in July, my therapist asked me:

“If you want to get in the water and don’t want to jump, is there a choice that feels safer to you?”

An answer had come to my mind but I hesitated to say it. I stared at her trying to figure out how to answer and she gently prompted me:

“Are you willing to say whatever you’re thinking right now and then we can process it together?”

I said to her:

“The first thought that came to mind was ‘use the stairs’ but I didn’t want to say that out loud because even though using the stairs would feel safer, it also feels like giving up. If I trusted God, I would be able to jump. I could make myself jump. I should be able to jump.”

Her response:

“Who’s asking you to jump? You or God?”

That question gave me pause. I finally replied:

“I assumed God was asking me to jump because He’s standing in the water waiting for me to jump.”

Another pause. Her response:

“Maybe He’s just standing in the water waiting for you to come in and He doesn’t care how you get there?”

Another pause and another question from her:

“If the goal is just getting in the water, does it matter how you get in? As long as you get in? Do you think God would force you into a connection with Him in a way that feels unsafe to you?”

Another long pause and my response:

“No. Maybe I can get in the water in a way that feels safe and is true to who I am, not who I think God wants me to be.”

“Who do you think God wants you to be?”

“A person who doesn’t hesitate so much and doesn’t overthink everything. Someone who can just trust Him.”

“Is it possible that God made you this way to be able to handle the things you faced growing up? Maybe feeling like you had to figure out life on your own as you grew up has made you more hesitant and more thoughtful of outcomes? But would you be willing to consider that this is not a bad thing but to view it as wisdom instead?”

“I would be willing to consider that. I can see how that shift in perspective is much more loving and compassionate. I can also see how the unrealistic expectations and pressure I put on myself is coming from the voice of shame which I mistakenly took for the voice of God.”

“What would the voice of God be saying to little Emily standing on the edge of the pool?”

“He would say…. ‘You’re ok. I love you just as you are. Right where you are. Not everyone is made to jump. Some people walk in. Some people have to be lowered in. Some have to be carried in or guided in. All are welcome in the water of mercy and grace surrounding Me.’

I continued on with:

And knowing what I know now as an adult, I would be willing to come alongside little Emily and give her the reassurance she needed as a little girl. I would put my arm around her shoulders and gently lead her away from the side of the pool over to the stairs where she happily steps into the water.”


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Thoughts on People Pleasing

I’ve been thinking a lot about people pleasing lately. I never knew I was a people pleaser until I started my journey to better emotional/mental health in 2018.

I made so many discoveries about who I was, who I was trying to be and how I was turning myself inside out to please other people. (Read my blog: Turned Inside Out 3/2/19)

It was eye opening and life changing. It gave me the opportunity to stop putting everyone else’s needs ahead of my own. It gave me the courage to disagree, speak up for myself, ask for what I need, say no and be my own person – all without feeling guilt or regret. Or anxiety over how my choices might make someone else upset.

That’s not something you can turn off very easily after years of training yourself to be a chameleon in every situation you enter or taking on everyone else’s thoughts and opinions as your own in order to avoid being different.

It’s a coping mechanism I honed over time. Born out of a lack of self-worth and the belief that what I have to say or offer is not valuable, valid or important.

If I can get your approval or your acceptance, then I will feel valued, valid and important. So I will say whatever I need to say and do whatever I need to do to get your approval.

As I wrote in last week’s blog, I’ve been struggling mentally a lot over the last year and a half. I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on the ways I’ve changed since 2018 to see if I can find something definitive that has derailed all of the progress I was making.

I’m sure there were a variety of things at work but I can clearly see where my deep rooted need to be a people pleaser played a big part. While I had real life changing transformations in therapy and in Overeaters Anonymous, I also can see how the approval and acceptance I received became another thing I used to feel valued, valid and important.

In therapy, I subconsciously filtered everything I said and wrote through the lens of “how will this make me look” and while I was still being honest about my thoughts, the filtering process allowed me to hold back. While also using positive feedback on what I offered as another way of feeling accepted or approved.

In OA, I applied my ability to quickly figure out the rules and followed them as perfectly as I could which led to losing a lot of weight very fast. That felt like a good thing but also became an accomplishment that everyone could praise me for.

With anything that requires discipline and a daily firm commitment, such as OA, if your dedication is more firmly tied to the feelings of acceptance and approval you can get instead of your own need/desire to do what’s required for your own self, it’s very easy to let go of the commitment.

So, what now?

While I have not made my way back into the OA circle yet and have basically reverted back to my pre-OA eating habits, there are still so many lessons I learned from my time in OA that I use every day.

I’ve discovered that even though I previously shed the ill-fitting coat of people pleasing, I still keep that coat hanging in my closet and I still reach for it from time to time.

But many times as I start to pull that old coat out of the closet or sometimes even go so far as to put it back on, I remember a very important thing I heard often in OA:

“What other people think of you is none of your business.”

That was a completely foreign concept to me when I first heard it. How could it be none of my business when it’s about ME?

More importantly… how could it be none of my business when I’ve spent YEARS basing all of my self-worth off of what everyone else thinks of me?

Today, from where I’m standing on this journey, it makes complete sense to me and I use that reminder quite a bit now to let go of the need for acceptance and approval for what I say and do.

I hang the old coat back up in the closet, shut the door and go on about my own business.

The business of moving forward and becoming the best version of myself that I can be.

The business of knowing I have value, my thoughts are valid and I am important.

The business of being me.


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Thoughts on Turning 40

If age is just a number, why does it feel like so much more?

It’s been almost a year since I’ve felt the inner nudge to write a blog but with my 40th birthday just 2 weeks away, my thoughts surrounding this “milestone” age won’t let me go. That’s usually a good indication to me that maybe there’s something here worth sharing.

Almost as soon as 2020 became 2021, I started having this inner dialogue with myself:

“You’re turning 40 and what do you have to show for it? Why do I have to have something to show for it? And what accomplishments merit being on the ‘I’m turning 40 show-and-tell’ poster? This is such a stupid, waste of mental energy. But what about all the weight you were going to have lost by now and the book you were going to self-publish and the Psalms devotional you wanted to write and making videos or starting a Podcast from all of the blogs you’ve written? You haven’t accomplished anything you wanted to. So, what now?”

To be fair, some variation of this inner dialogue has been running through my mind for most of my adult life because I’m a performance-based perfectionist who has wasted too much thinking I’m only defined by the roles I can fill and the jobs that I do. I guess approaching 40 has given my inner dialogue a much more urgent tone in my head.

Yesterday morning as I was trying to float away my most recent physical/mental exhaustion at the float spa, this thought randomly popped into my head:

“Why does it matter that you’re turning 40?”

As I floated and pondered this question, I started asking myself:

“Why is this so significant to you? How is turning 40 any more or any less meaningful than turning 39 or 41? Why do you feel that your life has to be defined by this number? This is no different than letting go of the number on the scale.”

For someone who has struggled (and is still struggling) with their weight, letting go of the numbers on the scale will possibly be a lifelong challenge. Maybe the same will be true with letting go of what I think I should have accomplished based on my age.

To make matters worse, I know I’m not alone in how the pandemic has impacted me since March 2020 but for me, the last year and a half has been filled with the darkest fog I’ve had to navigate in quite some time. Not only from COVID related struggles but also due to spending the last half of 2020 from July -December battling chronic (sometimes debilitating) dizziness. I found myself feeling frustrated, overwhelmed, depressed and unable to move forward mentally.

The dark fog of depression only made the voice of my inner dialogue sound even more critical of what I have to show for my life and that came with a huge helping of shame on the side.

After finally making myself return to therapy in April of this year, the fog started to lift.

My therapist reminded me that even if I’m not where I want to be, I’m still not where I was when I started this journey to a more healthier me in 2018 and that’s something to be proud of. And also that I’m actually further along on this journey than I give myself credit for.

She showed me that just because I face struggles on the journey doesn’t mean the path I’ve been walking hasn’t been filled with life changing transformation and lessons that are still shaping who I am today.

But transformation comes in layers. The things I learned about myself 2-3 years ago were what I needed to learn at that time and in that season. And the things I’m learning now are for this time and this season. The roots of transformation just keep going deeper as time goes on.

With all that being said, I keep coming back to the question I was pondering yesterday morning:

“Why does it matter that you’re turning 40?”

Something that I’m learning in this time and this season is that we all want tangible things we can point to that remind us that we have significance. That we’re here on purpose, for a purpose. It’s easy to lose ourselves in the pursuit of goals and accomplishments just to prove to ourselves (and others) that we matter. We cling desperately to things we can use to constantly judge how we’re measuring up and all the ways we’re lacking. I’m finding that there is rarely any room for celebrating all the amazing things about ourselves or all of the awesome ways we’re growing and changing.

At every age and in every season.

In light of all that, I’ve started writing down a list of accomplishments that I’m choosing to celebrate:

  • an almost 20 year marriage that has grown and evolved into an ever deepening relationship as we grow and evolve individually
  • learning to parent with open hands, an open heart and an open mind instead of with closed fists, a hard heart and the need to always be in control
  • giving myself more grace when it’s easier to let shame have the last word
  • accepting that making time for myself is not selfish
  • implementing boundaries to protect my sanity and learning to respect the boundaries of others
  • no longer being willing to make myself smaller or less-than in order to make space for someone else’s toxic behaviors/insecurities
  • FINALLY learning that I have a voice, opinions, emotions of my own and they actually do matter despite years of believing otherwise
  • accepting I am made the way God intended me to be and no longer feel the need to apologize for who I am or what I need
  • no longer looking at my personality for it’s flaws – such as, being an overthinker and overanalyzer has always felt negative but it makes me more thoughtful of outcomes and gives me time to process details instead of being impulsive – this is wisdom, not a defect
  • learning that the voice of shame is not the voice of God
  • knowing that I am loved for who I am, wanted for who I am, and I am enough just as I am

These things are worth celebrating every single day. At any age and in any season.


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Return to Recovery

My journey to recovery feels messy and disjointed but when I look at it from a bigger perspective it seems pretty simple:

I am a compulsive overeater on the road to recovery.
Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow is yet to be. Today is all I have.

Another long break between blog posts. I haven’t wanted to examine anything too closely here lately. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been waiting for some big epiphany or a bright shining light to come blind me into submission, to wake me up and get me moving again. It still hasn’t come. All the while I could sense the still, small voice along with the foundation of recovery I had laid in my first year of abstinence in Overeaters Anonymous.

The voice kept whispering: Surrender. Let go. Trust Me.

The foundation of recovery reverberated: You don’t have to do all the things. Just choose to do one thing. Make a decision and do it. Just for today.

Yesterday morning as I stood looking at a closet full of clothes that are steadily getting too tight, I felt the trap of self-pity closing in. Immediately I asked myself, “What is one thing you can do today?”

My first thought was: 3 meals, no snacks but as I continued getting ready for work, I pretty quickly started moving that thought towards the back burner of my mind. And then the daily discussion question from the For Today reading came through in my OA group text:

With God’s help, what actions can I take today to ensure a day of abstinence and recovery?

I hadn’t made time to read the For Today reading that morning but I felt that holy nudge towards making a commitment. Instead of ignoring it like I’ve been doing lately, I chose to act on it. I texted my group and shared my commitment to only eat 3 meals with no snacking.

As I was writing about this in my journal this morning, I went back and read yesterday’s For Today reading and I’m glad I did. So timely.


Reading Quote: “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” – Lao-tzu

Reading: “An OA member who has maintained a weight loss of more than 200 pounds for nearly 10 years is the same person who was barely able to walk in the door of her first meeting. There are a few people around who remember her as she was then – grotesquely obese, wearing a size 52 dress that was bursting at the seams, and unable to sit on any of the chairs in the meeting room. But she took that first step. She came to the meeting, got help in dragging a bench to the table where she sat with the others. She kept right on coming back, parlaying that single step into a size 3 dress, a 110-pound body and a brand new life.”

For Today: Now is the time to begin; tomorrow is too late.


I stuck to my commitment yesterday. I almost gave in twice last night but as I was reaching my hand out to grab a bag of popcorn for myself, I thought, “You don’t want to do that.” And again, instead of ignoring the nudge, I heeded it. I pulled my hand back and felt another brick fall into place on the foundation of my recovery.

Sometimes it’s hard for me to wrap my head around this journey I’ve been on. In May 2019, I celebrated one year of complete abstinence from sugar and all of my compulsive overeating behaviors. Unfortunately, after my first year of abstinence, things started to unravel. I can say today that I am still abstinent from all of my sugary substances that I used to binge on. It’s been 2.5 years since I’ve had a dessert, a piece of candy, a cookie or ice cream. However, the last year and a half I’ve bounced in and out of relapse with anything else I could get my hands on. I’ve re-started my abstinence three times now. I’ve been discouraged and frustrated. I’ve found hope and lost it too many times to count.

My journey to recovery feels messy and disjointed but when I look at it from a bigger perspective it seems pretty simple:

I am a compulsive overeater on the road to recovery.

Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow is yet to be. Today is all I have.

Today I choose to surrender, to let go and to trust. Today I choose to commit to abstinence. Today I have decided to get back in the Life Boat.

This is what I can today. This is how I return to recovery.


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Strings of Strength

“You are disappointed that your expectation wasn’t met but your expectation wasn’t what I had in mind. You are looking for relief and I am working to restore.”

August 16:

As some of you know, for the past 4 years I have struggled with 2 – 3 months of dizziness every time I’ve been on a road trip or traveled in the car for more than about an hour or so. This has been an exhausting and frustrating situation filled with doctor’s appointments, prescriptions, suggestions, advice, prayers and so many tears.

If you’ve ever been dizzy you know how disorienting and debilitating it can be. To navigate life for months at a time while feeling constantly imbalanced and unstable has been hard. There has been depression, anger, confusion, self pity and hopelessness as I have tried to find relief for the dizziness but also answers as to why this keeps happening.

The “answers” have ranged from fluid in the ears, sinusitis, chronic eustachian dysfunction and extreme motion sickness. The treatment: pills and prayers that this would finally be the thing that helps. But none of that ever felt like it was getting down to the actual issue.

On July 1st, my husband and I drove to Pigeon Forge, TN for a 5 day kid-free getaway. I was grateful for the time together, the experiences we shared, the memories we made but I was absolutely miserable for most of it. Dizzy, nauseous, unstable and still trying to make the most of the time we had together.

When we returned home I started my litany of google searches, requests for prayers and made an appointment with an ENT who wrote me 3 prescriptions and sent me on my way. No hard feelings because it’s just what they do. But I no longer felt willing to accept this as the answer. Not to mention the medication he put me on made the dizziness worse but I digress…

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon an office that specializes in assessing, diagnosing and treating dizziness and balance disorders. Their testing and treatment is so specialized it’s only done by a handful of doctors across the country. I was grateful that this office was only 20 minutes away from me. I scheduled an assessment and then prayed hard that this would finally be the thing that helps.

After my assessment, I was diagnosed with Otolith Dysfunction in my right ear and Vestibular Migraines. I was set up on a home program 5 days a week, twice a day combined with treatment sessions 2 times a week in the office. I’m told I should see some improvement after the first week and significant improvement after 3 weeks.

I’m 4 days in as I’m writing this and the only changes so far are that the treatments are making the dizziness worse. Being extremely dizzy while trying to be a fully functioning adult with a full time job, 2 kids, and a husband while constantly feeling off balance and unstable is exhausting to say the least but I finally have hope that I have found the relief and answers I’ve been looking for.

With all of the changes I’ve made over the last 2 years in my journey to finding a healthier me (emotionally, mentally, spiritually, physically) I couldn’t help but connect this physical imbalance to imbalances of the heart, mind and spirit.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in recovery (and am still learning) is about balance. All or nothing thinking no longer serves me very well and God is constantly having to reach out His hand to steady me as I find myself tipping or falling too far in one direction or another.

September 9:

Still doing treatment appointments and my home exercise program. Still having times of increased dizziness. I feel like I’ve been tired, worn out and running on empty for so long that I might not remember what normal feels like if I ever get back around to it.

I keep thinking about balance with this current bout of dizziness. Everything feels thin in this season: my patience, my effort, my recovery.

And yet, I’m still surviving. Still standing.

I’m picturing myself with strings attached to my back that extend up into the sky as far as the eye can see.

Strings of strength.

Strength that’s not my own. Holding me up. Steadying me. Carrying me. Moving me forward. It makes me grateful to know I don’t have to carry myself or get myself through this on my own. I don’t know where I’d be without God and His unending ability to see me through.

September 13:

Treatments, home exercise, dizziness. All the same. Still working the weakened area and still triggering the dizziness every day with the work I’m doing. I was expecting to be feeling better by now. Still waiting for that to happen.

What is it they say about expectation? That it’s the #1 cause of disappointment. Or something like that but that’s been so true for my struggle with the dizziness. I expected to start this treatment plan and to start feeling better. I didn’t realize the treatment would cause the dizziness to get worse. My doctor says that I’m working an area that is weak and it’s just like going to the gym – your muscles are sore and tired after you work out. Then you start working a different area and that becomes sore and tired too. The same is true of this except dizzy, not sore and tired.

But the expectation I had was one of finding relief when I found this specialist. Like stumbling upon a cool stream after wandering in the dry, hot sun.

You step into the waters looking for respite but as soon as you start wading out into the deep, the current knocks you off your feet and whisks you downstream. And you’re thinking, “All I wanted was some rest and now I’m fighting to keep my head above water.”

Expectation and disappointment.

I know the work I’m doing with these appointments and exercises should benefit me in the long run to hopefully eliminate or lessen the dizziness on future car trips but I was hoping to have already found the relief I was looking for.

So here I am flailing downstream when what I asked for was a refreshing dip in the cool water.

And I hear God saying, “A refreshing dip in the cool stream is a temporary respite. You are disappointed that your expectation wasn’t met but your expectation wasn’t what I had in mind. You are looking for relief and I am working to restore. Restoration and transformation requires trust in the process and trust in the One who restores. That is Me, not you. I brought you to this cool stream, not for rest and relief but for repair and reconstruction. The strings of strength have not been snipped. You are not alone and you are ok. Just float. I will get you where you need to be.


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