The Love Dare: Passion, Life, Love (Guest Post by Alise Wright)

Alise on piano

 

I spent two years not touching a piano. And when playing music is where you feel the most like yourself, two years is a long time to go without feeling completely you.

 

I was told that everything I was doing was wrong in the area where I was the most passionate and the most alive. I was told that I could still attend the church, but I could have nothing to do with music. I was told that my passion was self-serving and that what was life-giving was an idol. When you receive that news, it kills passion. It sucks life away.

 

And when passion and life are missing, it can be difficult to love yourself. 

 

I went through a season where this was my existence. A season where the pain of the words that had been spoken to me drowned out the knowledge that I was doing what I had been created to do.

 

For that season, I saw my talents not as a gift from God to be used for God’s glory, but rather as something of a liability to be used for my own glorification. This was not my heart, but because someone in authority had told me that this was so, I began to believe it for myself. The lies became reality and that reality crowded out feelings of self-worth that I had.

 

We are so often afraid to allow ourselves to be identified by what we do. We worry that our value is somehow cheapened by attaching significance to the titles that we have. We worry that if we enjoy the things that we do too much, we will push God out of the picture.

 

But I have found that the more I am fully myself, the more than I fully immerse myself in the passions that God has placed in me, then I am more aware of God’s presence. When I play the piano, and play well, I am more in tune with what God desires for me. When I am fully present with my children, when I choose to be a loving wife, when I write with conviction – these things draw me closer to God.

 

As I am closer to God, I am reminded of my value. I am convinced of the greatness of God’s love for me. And as I gain that confidence, I am able to love myself. Not simply the things that I do, but who I am.

By embracing my passions, I have found life. And by finding life, I have found a deeper Love.

 

Alise is a wife, a mother of four, an eater of soup, and a lover of Oxford commas. She is the editor of Not Alone: Stories of Living with Depression with Civitas Press. You can generally find her sitting behind a keyboard of some kind: playing or teaching the piano, writing at her laptop, or texting her friends a random movie quote. You can connect with Alise on her blog, on Twitter, or on Facebook.

 

Pre-order Emily’s new book, Mom in the Mirror, at 40% off, here.

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real beauty: you are not fat (guest post by Rachel Haas)

i have a formspring. you know, one of those places where people you know and people you don’t can ask you any number of questions about any topic they wish.
and today there was a question sitting there in my inbox from that coward, anonymous. innocent words strung together to form something so much more painful.
so you’ve used pregnancy as an excuse to let yourself go, then?
 
and my blood ran cold. because in my mind’s eye, i saw fifteen-year-old me crying in the dressing room because i felt so fat every time i tried on anything. and my sister could fit into clothes that i never could, because i was curvy. 
 
and then i saw another little girl.
 
a little girl whose face i couldn’t see clearly, but that i knew better than my own all the same. and she sat there in the mall food court picking at the pile of lettuce with the dressing on the side that she called lunch and sipped at her water while she smelled the burgers and watched the other girls drinking their smoothies.
i saw my daughter’s face.
and the blood turned to ice in my veins, and some strange mother-bear anger stirred in my stomach right next to the little rolling flutters that mark my daughter’s current home.
this anger was not for me. i’m growing stronger now. words, yes, they still hurt. but this anger was not for me.
with hand on stomach and face curved toward the sky, my soul screamed
don’t you dare call my beautiful little girl fat. 
 
don’t teach my little one to count calories instead of the stars. because she has my genes, the curvy genes with rounder hips and fuller breasts. the ones that might not fit into the teenage carrot stick world into which she is being born.
{via pinterest}
and maybe there will come a day when you come to me with big eyes and slender limbs and say words like carbs and calories…too soon, too young, too early.
and i will pray for grace and i will pray to not break down until i am behind a closed door where i can weep for this world where little girls starve themselves and big girls stare in mirrors and whisper i hate you. 
and this is the letter i will read to her even before she understands the world, in which i have promised to not call myself fat anymore, and i pray that she will see her mama living in truth and not on the scale.
beauty is not size 2 defined.
beauty is health, not break-ability. beauty is dressing on your salad and chocolate for desert. beauty is forgiving eyes and kind smiles and a soft heart, and chins lifted with so much peace and warrioress pride.
because there is a Lion in Heaven that roars with rage when people talk bad about His daughters, and when people whisper lies into little girl ears that are too innocent to know better. there are millstones for people like that, and He has them in a line and waiting with rope for tying.
don’t you dare call My little girl fat.
(By Rachel Haas at Dramatic Elegance)

in which i implore women everywhere

we are the heartbeat of the home.

but more than that, sisters…

we are the heartbeat of the world.

i see a woman’s Facebook status rejoicing that she’s lost 45 pounds, and multitudes are clicking “like” and it’s triggering me to check what i’m eating, to hop back on that anorexic train to skinny-ville.

and i think we can be more. more than our weight, more than our looks, more than our jean size, because i have two chubby-faced boys staring up at me as i write and they see me as so much more.

they see me as Mama. as nurturer, as creator of love and life and they see me as HOME. they see me as soother of fears, as prayer warrior, as getter-of-, as lover-of, as hugs.

they call me always, they never stop calling me, and they smile every time i enter a room. cry, when i leave, and one day, i will stop being their world, but they will never stop being mine.

i have a 52-year-old friend who is single, and stunning, and she wants to get married but God hasn’t opened that door and so she waits. pure, and holy, she waits. and she is one of the most radiant women i know because she is more. MORE than what the world says she is. MORE than single, she is steadfast and faithful and prayerful and devoted. she reads the Bible more than anyone i know, and God is currently using her to mentor fathers of daughters. every week, her living room is full of married men, and she helps them get back on track with their families. this single lady is not letting a stereotype define her.

we aren’t just the reflection in the mirror, friends. we are the reflection in our family’s faces. we are the reflection in our friends, in the people we disciple or mentor, in the face of the fast-food server, because how we treat others and ourselves is what we look like.

so i implore you, as bearers of life, as vessels of God’s creative spirit, be careful what you say on Facebook, be careful what you write on your blogs, be careful how you talk to your neighbors and your husbands and your friends and your children.

because you are MORE.

you are the heartbeat of the world.

Holidays tough for those with eating disorders

(article by Shawn Loughlin, The Citizen)

The holidays can be a time of excess. For many there are a large number of gifts under the tree and many are welcomed into countless feasts featuring dozens of different options.

For someone with an eating disorder, however, the holidays can be the most challenging time of the year.

Emily Wierenga, author of several books and daughter of Blyth’s Ernest Dow, pastor at Living Water Christian Fellowship, has had her struggles with eating disorders (anorexia nervosa) and she confirms that the holidays were a tough time for her, but there are ways to handle the temptation and not give in to symptoms of an eating disorder.

Wierenga says the reason the holidays are such a hard time for those with eating disorders is simple. It is a very emotional time of year, coupled with the fact that there is always plenty of food around during the holidays.

“There is always a lot of food combined with a lot of emotion,” Wierenga said in an interview with The Citizen from her Alberta home. “The holidays can be joyous times, but they can also be very lonely times for some people.”

With large feasts around every corner during the holidays, Wierenga says, someone who has struggled with food before has many pitfalls they have to be aware of. She says that portion control can be a particular concern to some people, while others can go the complete other way and binge eat and purge later.

“Portion size is easy for most people to figure out,” Wierenga said, “I still struggle with it, so in buffet lines I don’t know what to put on my plate so I’ll often copy the person in front of me.”

Wierenga says that someone with an eating disorder approaches food differently, and therefore their concept of food is warped.

She says that while most people look at food as something to enjoy, those with eating disorders approach food as something that needs to be controlled.

“You’re constantly evaluating how what you eat is going to affect your body,” Wierenga said. “That’s something you need to combat and remember that food is something to enjoy.”

She says that it’s a constant mental battle that is ongoing for those with eating disorders.

She says it’s also important to remember the social aspect of eating, especially during the holidays.

She said that often meals are served with family members and friends as a way to connect and communicate with one another, so not running from the table as soon as the meal is done is important for someone who has struggled with food in the past to remember as well.

“You need to remember to stay at the table after the main course,” she said. “Meals are about conversation, they’re not about food.

“Food is a vessel for celebration and for community. You have to remember and allow yourself to enjoy the time, remember that it’s not a threat and that it helps you to build relationships.”

Wierenga says that often those struggling with eating disorders use food as a means of self-abuse. She said the way to combat those thoughts, that can come naturally to some people, is to remember that you’re valuable and that you deserve happiness.

“You need to keep telling yourself that you’re worth eating for,” she said.

When approaching the holidays, Wierenga says the best thing for someone struggling with food to do is to be aware of their own personal triggers. She said you have to go into meals having a game plan and keep your positivity high.

She says one way to stay positive and to not sink into an emotional hole is to think positive thoughts, listen to some positive music and, if you’re spiritual, to pray.

Wierenga’s recently released book Chasing Silhouettes deals with helping a loved on through an eating disorder. It includes several personal stories of her struggle, interviews with members of her family and friends and a guide to help those through the dangerous world of eating disorders. It can be found on http://www.amazon.ca.

Her new book The Mom in the Mirror: Body Image, Beauty, and Life After Pregnancy will be released on Mother’s Day (Sunday, May 12, 2013). It deals with, among many other things, struggling with body image and eating disorders during and after pregnancy.

Wierenga has four children and currently in Alberta lives with her husband and family.

Here are 12 ideas to help people with eating disorders negotiate the holidays – courtesy of The Centre for Change compiled by Michael E. Berrett, PhD.

• Eat regularly and in some kind of reasonable pattern. Avoid “preparing for the last supper.” Don’t skip meals and starve in attempt to make up for what you recently ate or are about to eat. Keep a regular and moderate pattern.
Worry more about the size of your heart than the size of your hips! It is the holiday season, a great time to reflect, enjoy relationships with loved ones and most importantly a time to feel gratitude for blessings received and a time to give back through loving service to others.
• Discuss your anticipations of the holidays with your therapist, physician, dietitian or other members of your treatment team so that they can help you predict, prepare for and get through any uncomfortable family interactions without self-destructive coping attempts.
• Have a well-thought-out game plan before you go home or invite others into your home. Know “where the exits are,” where your support persons are and how you’ll know when it’s time to make a brief exit and get connected with needed support.
• Talk with loved ones about important issues: decisions, victories, challenges, fears, concerns, dreams, goals, special moments, spirituality, relationships and your feelings about them. Allow important themes to be present and allow yourself to have fun rather than rigidly focusing on food or body concerns.
• Choose, ahead of time, someone to call if you are struggling with addictive behaviours, or with negative thoughts, or difficult emotions. Call them ahead of time and let them know of your concerns, needs and the possibility of them receiving a call from you.
• If it would be a support or help to you, consider choosing one loved one to be your “reality check” with food, to either help plate up food for you or to give you a reality check on the food portions which you dish up for yourself.
• Write down your vision of where you would like your mind and heart to be during this holiday time with loved ones. Take time, several times per day, to find a quiet place to become in tune again with your vision, to remember, to nurture, and to centre yourself into those thoughts, feelings, and actions which are congruent with your vision for yourself.
• If you have personal goals for your time with loved ones during the holidays, focus the goals around what you would like to do. Make your goals about “doing something” rather than about trying to prevent something. If you have food goals, then make sure you also add personal emotional, spiritual, and relationship goals as well.
• Work on being flexible in your thoughts. Learn to be flexible in guidelines for yourself, and in expectations of yourself and others. Strive to be flexible in what you can eat during the holidays. Take a holiday from self imposed criticism, rigidity, and perfectionism.
• Stay active in your support group, or begin activity if you are currently not involved. Many support groups can be helpful. 12-step group, co-dependency group, eating disorder therapy group, neighborhood “Bunco” game group, and religious or spiritually oriented groups are examples of groups which may give real support. Isolation and withdrawal from positive support is not the right answer for getting through trying times.
• Avoid “overstressing” and “overbooking” yourself and avoid the temptation and pattern of becoming “too busy.” A lower sense of stress can decrease a felt need to go to eating disorder behaviors or other unhelpful coping strategies. Cut down on unnecessary events and obligations and leave time for relaxation, contemplation, reflection, spiritual renewal, simple service, and enjoying the small yet most important things in life. This will help you experience and enjoy a sense of gratitude and peace.

the weight of the scale (by Barbara @ My Life as an Adventure)

(Guest post by Barbara Isaac Croce at www.mylifeasanadventure.com)

This is a very hard post to write. Because I have to be real down to my toes, and then some. But here is goes.

I lost 20 pounds and kept most of them off. I dared to face the lady in the mirror. I even smiled at her without cringing. I took hundreds of women with me on this journey, and we worked with each other, speaking truth to our spirits, minds and bodies, attending to this shell we live in, and now we all stand up a bit taller, more accepting of who we are, less degraded by the media. I ought to be pleased with myself. I know my stuff. I’m successful at it.

I said it at least a thousand times: “Don’t let the scale talk to you; it plays mind games with you, it seeks to poison the very core of you. It tells you lies about who you are, what matters, what your future is, where your beauty stands.” And we all agree.

And then, I step on the scale.

And it feels like my world is coming to an end. I forget who I am. I forget what truly matters. I forget that I am uncommonly beautiful. Wonderfully becoming.

How can these three little numbers on the scale have such power on me? My feelings take a ride on a wicked roller coaster and I wind up sick to my stomach, and I throw up from the ride. I lose all common sense, and the numbers convince me that I have no hope and I might as well dive into those cookies I have not touched in two months and I don’t really like anyway. And while I eat those cookies that I don’t like and I am not even hungry, I decide that I am going to lose these last few pounds once and for all, even if it kills me.
I have lost my mind.

And no matter how hard I try doing all the things that always worked before, the scale won’t budge for me. And I drive myself insane; I am the lady who teaches by example, you know. I not only talk the talk but I walk the walk. How am I supposed to continue if I myself can’t lose the weight?

And when the tears are gone and I lost all my anger, the answer comes in the quietness of my soul. I hear my very heart repeat it time and time again:

I teach by example; I walk the walk. That’s what works.

Real when things go well, real when things don’t go as I want. Real life with its pretenses peeled away.

Humbling, nitty-gritty life. The kind of life where it might be necessary to put the scale in solitary confinement for a while so that I can work against the power of its numbers. The kind of life where I own to and accept gracefully the lady in the mirror, even when she doesn’t match up with the one in my head. The kind of life where I don’t give myself excuses, but I don’t lie to myself either, pretending that size is where my worth comes. The kind of life that fights against the incessant need to be admired. The kind of life that is fulfilled because of the here and now, and the God who sustains.

Wonderfully becoming. That’s what I am. May I continue to teach by example, aging gracefully without hiding. Ever.

in which i boast of my weakness (guest post by anita mathias)

I have steadily gained weight since I left school which means I am now 115 pounds heavier than I was then! I have been tempted to consider my tendency to gain weight as a thorn in my (literal) flesh, a weakness. You know, bad metabolism, low thyroid, la-di-da.

Well, all somewhat true, and I could accept it as a thorn in the flesh to live with, as people accept ME or CFS—except that, in my case, there is sin involved, and sin is never, never to be accepted, but to be striven against, and conquered (I believe!).

I recently admitted the part sin had played in my weight gain and repented deeply. For me, eating chocolate or sweet treats is sin because my body simply does not need it. So I am abusing a body which is already slowed down with extra weight. Similarly, eating for pleasure when not hungry, or to medicate low spirits, stress or boredom–especially eating things not super-nutritious for my body–is abusing the body and “temple” God gave me.

Or to put it another way, it’s the sin of seeking comfort in anything except other than the Comforter. Idolatry: “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water. (Jer. 2:13).

(And since that deep repentance in mid-October, I have not bought chocolate or sugary treats, save for a magnificent Pere Noel Stollen in Luxembourg, shaped like a huge Santa Claus that ogled me!!)

Believe it or not, I only acknowledged that comfort eating or emotional eating was a weakness of mine earlier this year. I am not yet wholly free of it–it was a habit of decades after all–but do substitute raisins or popcorn for chocolate or crisps (potato chips for Indian and American readers!)

And perhaps the next step will be not to eat at all if I am not hungry, but do something else. Run, perhaps, which also gives a high and a healthy one. Garden. Pray!

* * *

This is how I am now training myself to think about food: Is what I am planning to eat a blessing or a curse to my body?

What’s a curse to my body? Sugar, chocolate, white flour, white rice, high-fat foods, or, indeed, anything eaten when I am not hungry (since I am overweight). What is a blessing to my body? Fruit, vegetables, beans, legumes, and seeds, in particular

I’ve been largely vegan for 3 weeks, following Dr. Furhman’s brilliant diet (which is fruit, vegetables, beans, soups, and salads as a main meal) but not entirely so.
* * *

Peter in Acts 10 sees a great sheet lowered from heaven with clean and unclean animals. He refuses to eat.
“Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”
14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”
15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”
For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving. 1 Tim 4:4.

No food God made is “bad.” On the other hand, many foods man has made are not good for us. Sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, which is smuggled into pretty much every processed or fast food, are deeply addictive, and according to the New York Times, toxic, and so our family is cutting out sugar and as many processed foods as possible, even making our own hummus and dressings. Yeah, hard-core!!
* * *

Alcoholics Anonymous is a brilliant organization, and much of their wisdom can be applied to self-medication with food. Realize that you cannot break this habit on your own, and that you need help.

They have an acronym HALT for times when alcoholics might be most tempted to have a drink—when they are hungry, angry, lonely or tired. These are also times when those who seek comfort in food might be tempted to a massive food blowout.

My struggle for health is now becoming so entwined with my spiritual life that they are becoming almost one and the same. It’s like a conversion experience—being transformed by the renewal of the mind. Cultivating new responses. Practicing a new way of living. Tuning in to how I am really feeling instead of numbing my emotions with a bar of chocolate, or a high carb numbing feast.
* * *

You know how David prayed seven times a day. Well, I have an inbuilt call to prayer now that I have given up sugar and chocolate and white carbs and am trying to stop all “comfort eating”. Cravings become a reminder to pray.

Feel the need to eat when sad or bored or stressed or angry—but not hungry? Well, I try to slow down and take the time to “eat Jesus”. Eat his flesh, drink his blood. Ask his Holy Spirit the Comforter to fill me.

And so my weakness provides a reminder and pathway for me to seek God and experience his power. And so, when I am weak, I will be strong.

(Post by Anita Mathias; read more of Anita’s work HERE)

image001

Friends,

As you might know, I have pledged to help raise support for FINDINGbalance this month. Fb is a Christian non-profit that helps people eat well and live free from eating and body image issues. I have personally benefited from the work of Fb over the years and am committed this month to help give back.

I need your help to meet my goal.

I have pledged to raise $1000 this month and if I’m able to raise this amount, it will not only be a huge blessing to Fb, but I will also receive a scholarship to their Hungry for Hope conference next May here in Nashville, which would be a huge blessing to me personally.

Will you consider giving $15, $25, $50 or any other amount of your choice TODAY to help me meet my goal?

You can do it in just a few clicks HERE.

Thank you so much for your consideration.

Emily

When I look in the mirror (Guest Post by Treat Me To A Feast)

Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”
Mark 5:19 (NIV)

I look at myself in the mirror lately; I don’t look differently. God has always been good; that will never change. That I see His Hand in the workings of my life is unmistakable. I know He’s had His Hands on me. I look at myself in the mirror lately, and I know that everything has changed. I never ever had a testimony as powerful as the one he has given me in the past two weeks. I never thought He’d give me such a reason to praise His name and proclaim His Power and Majesty, but now I’ve got my own reason to go and tell.

That doesn’t mean that I haven’t tried to live a life that quietly proclaims the Gospel, His Sovereignty over me, including my willing surrender. It is simply the act of living my life recently that drove me and my faith into a new and deeper place. I am not afraid. I don’t have time or energy to be afraid. I am faithfully fearless, and furthermore, I like it here. I did not know I’d ever be here, but that is the way of God. He knew I’d take this journey before I ever made a step. I didn’t have to seek Him in my scary place; He was already there when I arrived.

Mark 5 recounts Jesus’ casting out of legions of demons. That is not my story. Mine is a quieter tale, one where all that I’d heard and all that I’d learned about Christ came together for me just when I needed it most. Whitney Houston recorded a song written and produced by the team of Diane Warren and David Foster on her seventh and last studio album called “I didn’t know my own strength.” Though the strength was never mine, I understand the message.

I didn’t know my own strength
And I crashed down and I tumbled, but I did not crumble
I got through all the pain
I didn’t know my own strength
Survived my darkest hour, my faith kept me alive
I picked myself back up, hold my head up high
I was not built to break
I didn’t know my own strength

“My faith kept me alive…” Of course it always had, does, but I didn’t recognize this place because I’d never been here before. So, welcome to the new, stronger, tougher, fiercer me. She’s a warrior, but of the peaceful praying variety. I don’t think there’s much that can scare me now, because I have seen that my God is so much bigger than anything I face. Really. I saw it. Now I’m going to tell. I’ve got my own testimony, and it’s pretty simple. It doesn’t matter what you’re facing, you don’t face it by yourself; you never have. Despite crashing down and tumbling, even when you fall, you are not alone. He did not build us to break. Through Him, we are made strong. Because of this we know God is good.

When life gets particularly rough,
there is comfort in that
in an imperfect world,,
a perfect God loves us,
and abides with us,
through all things

(Post by Treat Me To a Feast)


~Chasing Silhouettes now only $10 at Amazon.com; also available at Amazon.ca, ChristianBook.com and Barnes and Noble.

I’m speaking at MentorCONNECT’s teleconference for mothers in June: Eventbrite - A Recovering "Mom in the Mirror": A MentorCONNECT Teleconference with Dr. Dena Cabrera and Emily Wierenga