Toxic Friends

Have you ever had a toxic friend or relationship? I have experienced a toxic relationship with a friend I’ve had my whole life.

We’ve hung out together for innumerable hours and celebrated many milestones together. When I was sad or bored or angry or frustrated or overwhelmed, my friend was always there with promises to comfort me, pick me up, make me happy and take away my pain.

Those promises never came true. My friend didn’t have the ability to meet those needs in my life but I still kept coming back hoping my cup would be filled up at this dry, empty well of a friendship. The expectation and hope that I put in my friend always led to disappointment and then anger and sometimes the anger turned to an out of control rage inside of me. Unrealistic expectations and unmet needs can do that.

I could see we had an unhealthy attachment because all of my emotions were wrapped up in this friend but I couldn’t see a way out. Even though I hated the way I felt, I couldn’t imagine life without this friendship because we had been together for so long. What could life possibly look like without it?

We have been the best of friends and the absolute worst enemies my whole life. Up until recently that is. Do you have a toxic friend like this in your life? The friend I have been describing is not a person but a thing and this friend’s name is Food.

I have spent so many years looking to Food to fill me up emotionally while filling me up physically. Comfort me, calm me, numb me, excite me, reward me…Food has been my closest friend for a lifetime.

A friend and a traitorous foe. An unfulfilling backstabber that only led me deeper into disappointment, anger and rage layered with shame, anxiety and depression. Even at my lowest rock bottom knowing I needed to end this relationship I felt paralyzed and overwhelmed with fear.

The possibility of turning my back and walking away from this mainstay of my existence felt scary and impossible at the beginning of my recovery journey. How could I possibly make it through each day without my faithful friend to lean on? The mind is a tricky battlefield. Quick to forget how unfaithful our toxic friends actually are.

My journey started with one step of faith: simply admitting that what I have been doing for 30+ years has only gotten me deeper into a pit of despair. Then a second step of faith: asking God to help me trust Him to find a better way.

As God started removing my attachment to that toxic friendship, I could see more clearly how I had been allowing myself to be poisoned day in and day out. I could see that Food was never going to give me all of the things I so desperately needed and it was obvious now that it had been foolish to ever think anything different from something so empty. The farther I walk from that pit the clearer I can see how much more life there is to be lived outside of that toxic dependency on Food.

Detaching from Food and setting a boundary around myself has opened up more space in my mind and heart for God to fill me with more of Him. I’m finding the more filled up I am with all of the life giving things from God the less I need Food.

I can finally answer the question, “What is life without Food?”

It’s true life.

It’s life how God intended it to be lived.

It’s a life that makes me thankful for how my eyes have been opened to what has kept me chained and bound for so long to a very limited existence.

It’s a life lived more abundantly with abundant grace, abundant love, abundant forgiveness. For others and finally, after all these years, for me, too.

Life without the toxic Food friendship is a life filled with experiences and people that pour God’s richest blessings into my empty cup.

It’s a life completely dependent on God to comfort me, calm me, bring me joy and bless me beyond all I could ever ask or imagine.

It’s a life lived learning to love and trust and grow the ultimate friendship with my Savior, my Jesus.

There is nothing more filling than that.

What or who are you looking to today to fill you up? What is the toxic friend in your life that you need to break up with? What dry, empty well do you need to walk away from?

This has been the scariest and hardest journey I have ever taken but I am learning that it’s ok to take it one step at a time. One day at a time. One choice at a time. One step combined with the next step and the next eventually makes a mile. One day combined with the next day and the next eventually leads you to a week, a month, a year. One choice combined with the next choice and the next eventually leads you to a freedom you never thought possible.

If you’re facing a similar struggle whether it’s food, alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, gambling, anything…you are not alone.

There is no shame in asking for help or admitting you’ve reached rock bottom. You don’t have to live this way anymore.

There is hope. There is help. One step, one day, one choice at a time.

What step are you willing to take today?

If you found this post encouraging, please feel free to share and I would love to hear what you think!

You can also read all of my other posts by clicking here.

If you are struggling with any type of addiction and would like more information on a 12 step recovery program near you. Please click here for more information.

We can all help prevent suicide. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones. Click here for more information.


A Work That Counts

Are there other moms out there who struggle with questioning if what they’re doing counts for anything or really matters all that much? I can relate…

On Wednesday we dropped our oldest daughter, Acacia, off at her very first overnight camp with the youth group at our church. 4 nights away from home and she made the decision to go this year even though she knows no one her age yet at youth group. (Insert all the anxious Mom feelings here.)

Over the last few weeks she has mostly been excited with a few nerves mixed in. There’s been a few questions from her like:

What do you think the bathrooms are going to be like? Do you think I’ll be able to get a bottom bunk? Do you think I’ll be able to make friends with anyone? Will I be able to call you if I need to?

The last question made me pause because I didn’t anticipate her thinking about needing to call us. I told her there would definitely be a way to call us if she needed to but then asked her why she thought she’d need to. Her response:

I don’t know. I know we’ve been apart before but we’ve always called to talk to each other every night.

This type of conversation only added to my vacillating between being anxious and giving my anxious thoughts over to God. Asking Him to give her a genuine encounter with Him, for her to know she is loved by the Most High King and that He cherishes her down to the very core of who she is. I’ve asked Him to help her make friends, to have a good camp experience, to have fun. But still my nerves and anxiety remained.

When we got to camp to drop her off I could see her nervousness starting to kick in. We got her checked in, grabbed her bag, she gave Jason, my husband, a big good bye hug and we went off to find her room. She picked her bed (bottom bunk), put her stuff down and met her leader who told us everyone was hanging out in the Rec Center until dinner.

I asked Acacia if she wanted me to walk her down to the Rec Center to make sure she could find it — wrong suggestion! Of course she didn’t want me to do that! Duh, Mom!

I felt myself hovering and smothering but I didn’t know what else to do. I wanted to make sure she was ok and for all of her strong-willed, independent, tough attitude…I could see the nervousness written all over her face. And for all of my strong-willed, independent tough attitude…the mama bird in me wasn’t ready for my baby girl to test her wings without me right by her side to pick her up if she fell.

So I asked her for the 100th time if she was ok and she huffed:

Yes Mom. Can you just go?

I felt every bit of her irritation. I know she was nervous and overwhelmed but if we’re being honest…it hurt to be brushed off like that.

Everything inside of me wanted to gather her up into a huge hug. To have her hug me hard and say she was going to miss me. I wanted to infuse every bit of my love, my strength, my courage and every prayer I have ever prayed for her into her with my arms wrapped tight around her. I wanted her to need that from me and it hurt that she didn’t.

She gave me a quick hug, a hurried Bye-I-love-you, then turned around and walked away.

I couldn’t stand there and watch her walk away. So I turned around and walked back to our van. Tears welling up in my eyes and hurt overflowing in my heart.

With every step I took that tension between us felt like it was being stretched thin until I could feel it about to snap inside me. I knew if I turned around I would see my heartstrings tenuously and weakly trembling all the way back down that road attached to my precious girl.

I finally did turn around when I got to our van and there she was, still walking all by herself. She looked so small and alone.

I cried on the way home. I went for a short walk before dinner and cried some more. I went on another walk after dinner and cried even more. Because letting go is hard and the pretty much the stupidest thing ever.

On my 2nd walk I was taking time to pray and process all my feelings. I kept thinking about our goodbye and I was asking God to help me not take it so personally, to not let it hurt so much. I had been comparing Acacia’s goodbye with Jason to mine. She had given him a big hug with a huge smile on her face. All sunshine and rainbows for him but thunderclouds and rain drops for me.

Why is it like that, God? So easy and loving with her Dad but all irritated and “you don’t get it Mom” with me? God, it makes me feel like she doesn’t even need me and I hate feeling like I don’t count.

As soon as the words crossed my lips I felt God speak to my heart:

She doesn’t need you like she needs her dad. She needs YOU for all the things YOU give her in ways that only YOU can.

Who taught her to shave her legs on the night before camp? I did.

Who is reading devotionals with her and talking to her about puberty and dating and what it means to be a young woman of God? I am.

Who has helped her be confidant, have a voice, know who she is, believe in herself and encourage her to be brave? Me, I guess? But her dad does all those things too, so…..

Yes, he gives to her all those things in a Dad’s way and you give to her as a Mom. You didn’t need one last hug to give her all your love, strength, courage & prayers because you’ve already been giving her those things for the last 11 years. And it counts. It matters.

My heart was flooded with gratitude for all of God’s wisdom and encouragement in that moment. And then He blessed me with more of it again this morning when my Mom called to give me a bit of her own insight.

I had shared with her yesterday how hard the drop off and good bye with Acacia were for me. She told me this morning as she was thinking that over she was reminded that every time Acacia spends the night at her house she’ll say, “I miss my mom” or ask if she can call me. From my mom’s perspective, Acacia wasn’t brushing me off at the camp drop off because she couldn’t get rid of me fast enough but possibly because she knew it was going to be just as hard for her as it was for me to say good bye. That in order to be able to separate from me without falling apart she had to put her thick skin on and be tough.

This perspective helped ease the hurt in my heart and gave me permission to stop beating myself up over all the ways I’ve messed up or could’ve done better. Maybe the connection Acacia and I have is deeper than I realize. Maybe all of the battling we do is because we are so alike. Maybe God actually did give Acacia the exact Mom He knew she would need. Maybe I’m not doing such a bad job as a Mom after all.

And maybe these times and these letting go experiences are exactly what we are raising her to do. To branch out of the nest and test her wings. These moments that give her the opportunity to learn and grow and mature without us by her side but with all of our love and strength and courage and prayers inside her.

If we get this right we’ll be working ourselves right out of a job. And I want to get it right.

I don’t want to limit my kids and make them miss opportunities because it’s hard to let go. I also don’t want to keep under valuing who I am as a Mom and how important my role is every single day to prepare my kids for whatever their future holds.

I know that although our kids don’t often show it, they are thankful for what we do and how we give. Maybe they can’t see it now or know how to express it but when they’re older they’ll look back and see a distinct set of Mom fingerprints all over their hearts.

Are there other moms out there who question if what they’re doing counts for anything or really matters all that much?

We all tell ourselves it’s going to be worth it one day…when they’re older…when they graduate…when they move out.

If we want it to be worth it “one day”, we have to value the work we’re doing now. Today. It counts for something and it matters.

If you found this post encouraging, please feel free to share and I would love to hear what you think! You can also read all of my other posts by clicking here.

Memory of a Song

Have you ever come across a song that used to mean so much to you at one time? I listened to this song today (Kirk Franklin – I Am God) and it immediately took me back to 10 years ago. I could picture myself listening to this song and begging God to free me from all that was holding me bound to shame and anxiety and depression and darkness and every lie that the enemy was beating me down with. I would get a tiny glimpse of freedom but always ended up back in that place of bondage and depression. I listened to this song today with tears running down my face because I have finally started to experience genuine freedom for the first time in my life. I can listen to this song with joy overflowing from my heart because I am finally walking out of that dark pit. I am choosing to live intentionally every day in a way that keeps me moving forward and away from the pit yawning behind me. I am still a work in progress but every day God is showing me how to walk free and live loved.

If you found this post encouraging, please feel free to share and I would love to hear what you think! You can also read all of my other posts by clicking here.

Stones from My Mother

To my Mom on Mother’s Day. Thank you for always praying, loving, believing and encouraging.

Standing on the shore.

Gazing out over the stream of my life.

Watching water wrinkle and roll in many different places.

Looking inside the ripple in front of me, I see a sword shaped stone.

Reaching down, I pick it up.

Noticing the unusual shape but now also seeing a word on the stone: Prayers.

Envisioning my Mom, bowed down before the throne of the Most High God.

Waging war on her knees, on my behalf.

Fighting an unseen battle for my salvation, my protection, my choices, my struggles, my life.

Dropping the stone back into the stream, the ripple rolls on.

Glancing into another wave.

Seeing a red, heart shaped stone.

Picking it up, I see these words: Legacy of Love.

Flashing before my eyes, a picture of my Mom, my Grandma, myself, my daughters.

Intertwining before me, an unbroken circle of love from generation to generation.

Letting this stone fall into the water, I look for another.

Catching my eye is a large, brown stone.

Having a wood-like pattern, shaped like a cross.

Feeling the weight of this stone, I read these words: Foundation of Faith.

Sensing a change beneath my feet, I look down to see the grass has turned to rock.

Hearing these words sung by my Mom:

“On Christ the solid rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand.”

Tumbling heavily from my hand, the stone splashes back into the stream.

Moving further down, I see the water moving tumultuously.

Leaning over, I cautiously pull up a dark stone.

Appearing to be shaped like a storm cloud, with these words: Teenage Turmoil.

Turning the stone over in my hand, I find a rainbow on the back.

Playing in my memory are these words my Mom said to me many years ago and many times since:

“Love is a choice. Every day we choose to love. Even when it’s hard.

Especially when it’s hard.

God didn’t say it would be easy but He promised He would always be with us.”

Thinking back on how she chose to love me when I was most unlovable, I gently drop the stone.

Rippling the water rolls and waves before me.

Pondering the stones in my own stream.

Making me who I am today.

Shaping who I continue to become.

Looking up and around, I notice more streams than just my own.

Reaching into my pocket, I pull out a handful of stones.

Reading these words: Quality Time, Planting Seeds, Words of Life, Intentionally Invest, Hug More, Give Grace

Turning away from my own stream.

Walking towards the waters surrounding me.

Spotting my own daughters as they watch the ripples before them.

Pulling from my pocket, I softly drop stone after stone into the streams of their lives.

If you found this post encouraging, please feel free to share and I would love to hear what you think! You can also read all of my other posts by clicking here.