RheasOfHope

one girl's thoughts on life, mental illness, eating disorder recovery, and hope.

When you choose recovery again and again March 31, 2018

Staring in awe at the verdigrised feet of the Statue of Liberty, my stomach growls. “Not now,” ED says, “You have so much to see while you’re here. You don’t have time to waste on food.”

 

My brain–as swampy as the unseasonably warm November air in New York Harbor–can’t create a coherent thought outside of how fat I am compared to the girls posing for selfies with Lady Liberty. “Think of how many people have your fat body in the background of their photos. You’ve completely ruined their vacation memories,” ED whispers maliciously.

 

When was the last time I ate? It doesn’t matter. I have things to see and a conference to attend—I’ve never been to New York, after all. I unzip my blue fleece, and take a step forward; my knee giving way slightly due to my arthritis.  “See?” says ED, “If you weren’t so fat, you wouldn’t have these problems with your knees.” She’s right, I concede, and continue my way around the island; ED berating me every step of the way. At the literal feet of freedom, I continue to be enslaved by my eating disorder.

 

——

 

A few days later, while aimlessly tracing the intricate designs of the conference hall carpet with the heel of my stiletto, I call my friend Jenni in Texas.  I know I have to tell someone about this months-long relapse, and I know Jenni will know what to do. ED assures me that I’m fine. “Fat girls can’t have anorexia. Besides, you ate today, didn’t you? You’re fine. Quit over exaggerating, and hang up on Jenni. She’s a busy woman who doesn’t have time for whiner like you,” she hisses.

 

Ignoring ED, I tell Jenni everything. The pause before her words feels endless. Maybe I am wasting her time? Taking a deep breath, Jenni says, “You say you don’t want to be like your patients. But can’t you see, Rhea? You are them. You are just as sick as your patients. As much as you try to deny it, you are just like them and you know it. You’re a smart woman, and I know you know this.” The reality of her words hit me hard. “I know I can say this to you,” she continues, “because you are smart and strong. You know exactly what you need to do. Now do it.” Jenni is right—she always is—but what do I do now?

 

——

 

Two weeks later, curled up on my therapist’s black leather couch instead of Black Friday shopping, I hear, “I think it’s about time we looked into a higher level of care for you.” In the six years I’ve been seeing my therapist, she has never spoken these words…until now. What have I done? This can’t be happening. Not now.

 

“She’s lying,” ED quips, “She doesn’t think you’re sick and she never has. She’s testing you. She’s trying to get rid of you so she doesn’t have to see you anymore.”

 

“You can’t be serious,” I state aloud.

 

“Oh, I’m quite serious,” my therapist replies, “I’ve never seen you like this. You’ve lapsed before, but you’ve always gotten right back up and kept going. I’m not seeing that right now.”

 

Crap. What have I done? I can’t go to treatment. My jobs, my kid, my students, my life…they’d all be lost. How did I let this happen? I leave her office, head spinning, unsure of what to do next. Where do I go from here?

 

——

 

Two days later, I’m sitting by the ornately-carved gothic fireplace at school struggling through admitting my relapse to my friend. Through tears, I choke out that I need her help; that I can’t do this alone anymore. Julie takes me in her arms, and makes me feel less broken. She promises the walk me through this as long as I’m willing to come alongside her. She institutes adult lunch box buddies after school; wherein we eat lunch prior to me heading off to my second job. Both she and I hold myself accountable for completing nutrition, and examining thoughts/emotions I am feeling when I do not complete.

 

One week later, she takes me to our church’s healing prayer gathering. Instead of ED’s voice, I hear the voice of God urging me to put my ED at His feet, follow Him, and I will be free (read that story here). On February 25th, Julie and her husband Patrick baptize me into the Kingdom.

 

——

 

The buds on the trees are starting to bloom and the birds are gleefully singing. It’s late March, and I’m working the hardest I’ve ever worked on recovery.

 

            “I don’t know how you pulled this off. How you turned it around so quickly. I was certain you were going to have to go to a higher level of care to get this far in recovery. I was ready to hand you off, and see you again when you got back,” my incredulous therapist states.

 

            “Honestly, I don’t how I did it either,” I reply, “You’ve known me long enough to know I’m the most stubborn person on the face of the planet, and I was not going to let this eating disorder take my life. My stubbornness–combined with a whole lotta Jesus—is what got me here.”

 

——

 

            I have a long way to go in my recovery, and I am making progress every single day. I can, without a doubt, state that this is the strongest I’ve ever been in recovery. After 22 years spent in illness, I no longer yearn for the days I spent in my disorder. ED has nothing more to offer me. I no longer turn to her for the comfort only Jesus can provide. Eating disordered thoughts still pop up in my head—they’re not called “automatic negative thoughts” for nothing—and I now know I can choose to act in line with my values; acting opposite of what ED commands. I always thought I would have to live with at least some aspect of my ED forever; that I could never be fully recovered. And yet, here I am. I am recovering. I know I can exist without ED. I can draw my strength from the Lord.  I know I can fully recover. I know I can live.

 

 

The Parable of the Wandering Sheep—Matthew 18:12-14

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.”

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When you accept Christ December 16, 2017

“You mean they’re going to touch me,” I incredulously—and somewhat cynically–ask my best friend Julie, “You know how I feel about touching.”

 

“You’ll be fine,” she reassures, “They just put their hands on your shoulders, and say a prayer over you or with you. You can always ask them not to touch you.”

 

After experiencing an alarming relapse in eating disordered behaviors that left me feeling even more shameful and unworthy than usual, Julie thought it might be beneficial for us to attend our church’s monthly healing prayer gathering.  I tug open the heavy wooden door to the sanctuary, and gently insist she goes inside first. Though I’ve been in this sanctuary hundreds of times over the past eleven years, I still feel undeserving to enter first. She chooses our pew, takes off her coat, and sits down while I shuffle anxiously behind her. When I take off my coat, I briefly consider setting it and my purse between us—a barrier to protect myself from potential harm. I then remember: Julie is safe, she won’t hurt me, and I don’t need that wall of protection from her. I place my purse and coat to my right, with Julie on my left.

 

I tuck into myself— “crisscross applesauce:” my typical sitting position—meticulously smoothing my dress over my thighs as I wrap my arms across my chest; fingers dancing across my collar bones.  I must make myself as small as possible as a measure of protection, and so as not to impede in Julie’s pew space or have others notice my presence. A subconscious manifestation of my anxiety becomes visible as I intensely wring my hands together, dig for my collar bones, and twirl my rings around my fingers. The more I will my hands to stop, the worse the movements became. I turn to my left—towards Julie. My eating disorder reminds me that I’m at least double Julie’s weight and more than half a foot shorter. I shake the thought from my brain; willing it to be more mindful. Tears begin their migration down my cheeks; this journey is familiar to them.

 

Julie’s upturned palms are resting on her sylphlike thighs, her eyes peacefully closed, head tipped slightly back, and her extended legs are gracefully crossed at the ankles.  The juxtaposition of our body language was not lost on me…which only increases the ferocity of the hand wringing as I draw my knees closer to my chest. Noticing my tears, Julie places a tissue packet between us, pats my arm, and gently states that they’re “communal tissues.”

 

Despite the rivulets of tears, I refuse the tissues. “Using them would be a weakness! You mustn’t have needs!” my shame proclaims. I dig through my coat pockets, finding the two unused tissues I had placed in there earlier in the day for my students to use at recess. They’re reduced to shreds minutes later. The tears do not stop.

 

A woman says opening remarks, a duo sings “Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel,” and the service begins. Julie returns to her serene posture, and I to my anxiety and crying. The longer I sit—overhearing mumblings of Julie’s prayers, crying, wringing my hands to the point of pain, body checking, feeling unworthy, and avoiding eye contact—the more I feel what I can only describe as the Holy Spirit move in me. Tonight was going to be the night; the night I finally accept Christ.

 

You see, I’ve grown up in the church. I did not, however, grow up in Christ. Which, I now know, is a very big distinction. My step-grandfather–Lloyd–is a pastor, and my cousins and I grew up, essentially, as PKs (pastor’s kids). I’ve a wealth of Scripture committed to memory, live my life in accordance with Christian values, have lead many lessons on the Bible, problem-solve based on Christian principles, I firmly assert that Jesus is the son of God and He was a living sacrifice for our sins, and truly believe every word of Scripture is God-breathed and God-inspired…for everyone but me.  You see, it’s hard to accept that a perfect God could—or rather, would—love someone as broken and unworthy as me. Never mind the fact that I have scripture to prove otherwise, and that I trust that no one is beyond the love of Christ. It was hard to believe that a God of love could see past the barriers of shame and self-loathing that I built up around me to “protect” me from others. Because I had spent so many years in my eating disorder, in self-harm, and in self-loathing, I felt I was a huge slap-in-the-face to God. It is because of this unworthiness before God, that I didn’t feel I deserved His salvation…that is, until the night of December 7, 2017.

 

I feel my heart begin to soften. I must do something before shame/anxiety/Satan/eating disorder convinces me not to, before I lose my nerve, and before anything else happens. Glancing to my left, Julie remains serenely in the Word. Everyone around me is quiet. I couldn’t just blurt it out. I look around the sanctuary as if a billboard would appear telling me what to do. I almost lose my courage and conviction—what kind of Christian can’t say aloud that they want to accept Christ? I realize, however, that that is the voice of shame talking.

 

What do writers do when they don’t know what to do? They write! I reach into my cavernous purse, and locate my planner. I flip to the “notes” section and scribble in hasty cursive, “Julie, I want to accept Christ.” I lay the planner on the tissues between us. Julie remains peacefully unaware, and I sit in nervous anticipation. What if she doesn’t see my planner and I miss my opportunity? My fingers quicken their dancing around my collar bones as my shame increases. I take a deep breath and reach out, but I don’t want to touch her. I feel my touch will mar her perfection in some way, and I do it anyway.

 

Cautiously, I tap her forearm and nod my head towards my open planner. Julie inhales deeply, and touches my arm. My tears increase, and so does my anxiety and shame. Julie turns to me, and takes me in her arms. I don’t resist. I allow myself to be enveloped in her hug. It feels good to be held; as much as a vocally protest being touched. She whispers to me that she’s never walked anyone through accepting Christ, and that she would like to bring someone over to help us. I nod in approval as my tears land on her shoulders. Julie names an individual I know to be in the room, and asks if she can bring her over. Through the tears, I choke out a “no.” This person will only increase my shame and anxiety; leading me further from Christ. Julie, undeterred, asks if she can bring over her husband, Patrick. I’ve known him for over eleven years–Patrick is safe. I say yes; unaware that he is on the other side of the sanctuary.

 

Julie excuses herself and disappears, returning what seems like seconds later with Patrick. Standing behind me, Patrick pulls me into a hug; the scruff of his beard on the crown of my head. Again, I don’t resist the touch—which increases the tears yet again. He kneels behind me, calmly rubbing my back, and speaking words of reassurance. I cannot recall everything Patrick said (thanks emotion mind), but I know I accepted Christ. Patrick repeatedly states that I am worthy, that I am loved, and that I am enough—not because of anything I did, but because of what Christ did for me. I am deserving of all these things simply by my being a daughter of the King (not to be confused with my father, Mr. King). Julie, Patrick, and I pray together. I invite Christ into my heart forever. I give him my eating disorder, I lay down my depression, and I relinquish my past. I am His.

 

Instantly, I feel lighter—like God had lifted my burdens, my sins, my shame, my eating disorder, and everything else that was keeping me from him. I feel–instead of shame–a warmth; a closeness I’ve never felt before. Patrick and Julie excuse themselves to allow me some time for self-reflection. I curl back up into myself and cry. This cry is different, though. This cry is a cry of admiration for all that He has done for me while I lived in self-loathing, shame, depression, anxiety, OCD, self-harm, unworthiness, and eating disorders. This cry is a cry of humility that He waited patiently for me while I self-destructed–knowing one day His daughter would return. This cry is a cry of appreciation for His love of my brokenness. I am a daughter of the King, “I have decided to follow Jesus; no turning back, no turning back.”

 

Amazing Women

It is an honor to know, love, and be loved by these women. Kelli (Left) and Julie (Middle), you inspire me to be a better daughter of the King, “mom,” teacher, woman, and all around better person. These two are the most amazing women—Christ-focused, intelligent, funny, humble, compassionate, wonderful wives, and caring mothers who live their passions and follow where God leads them. They’ve taught me, loved me, trusted me with their kids, cried with me, showed me forgiveness, laughed with me, and helped call me out of the darkness. They’ve each played an integral role in my life over the past 5-ish years (and this week in particular as Julie and her husband Patrick aided my acceptance of Christ). I love these ladies more than words can say, and can’t wait to make more memories with them—preferably in clothes as refined as these

 

 

 

Ephesians 2: 1-10

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

 

When you discover what is louder October 17, 2014

“You don’t have to get rid of your eating disorder voice in your head. In fact, you can’t” my head popped up from my fervent note-taking at that point in my Recovery Recharge Retreat with Thom Rutledge and Julie Merryman.

Then my thoughts started swimming, “I can’t get rid of my eating disorder voice?! Why the hell am I even here if I can’t recover? Why did I pay all this money to hear Thom say I can’t get rid of my eating disorder voice?”

But, then (thankfully), Thom explained his previous statement, “You cannot get rid of the voice of the eating disorder, yes. But that doesn’t mean you can’t recover. You must make the voice of recovery louder. When you start recovery and even, sometimes, in continuing recovery, your eating disorder’s voice may be very loud in  your ear trying to get you to engage in behaviors for one reason or another. However, what you need to learn in recovery, is not how to get rid of that voice, but to make the voice of recovery louder so that it drowns out the voice of the eating disorder.”

Thom went on to explain that the brain cannot encode negative; meaning, the more we tell our brains not to focus on our eating-disordered the thoughts, the more we will think eating-disordered thoughts. The example he always uses is not to think of your left hand. Whatever you’re doing right now, don’t think of your left hand, or how it may feel different from your right hand. Don’t image it feeling like its getting lighter and lighter to the point that it’s lifting off the table. Now, don’t think of a pink elephant. How many of us, honestly, thought about our left hand or a pink elephant despite being told not to? I’m willing to bet a majority of us–myself included. This is what Thom means when he says our brains cannot encode negative. By constantly reprimanding ourselves for having eating-disordered thoughts, we are  rehearsing the exact thoughts we want to be rid of. Instead, by acknowledging the eating-disordered thought for what it is, and then replacing it with a louder, recovery-oriented thought, we are rehearsing recovery and implementing recovery-oriented thoughts over the eating-disordered thoughts. The consistent rehearsing of the recovery thoughts will help reinforce the recovery thoughts as our default thoughts, until, eventually, the eating disordered thoughts don’t even come to mind. We do not have to focus on getting rid of the eating-disordered thoughts then; we must focus on adding recovery-oriented thoughts and the eating-disordered thoughts will disappear on their own.

In thinking about what should be louder in my recovery-oriented thoughts, I came up with these:

What is louder than my eating disorder:

Life: I plan to live a life of service, love, teaching, kindness, giving and of Christ-like actions

Hope: I have hope that I can live life ED-free (side note: Hope is my favorite word ie: Cherokee tattoo on my wrist. A word of caution though, Hope is an action word, not a passive word. We can hope and hope for recovery as much as we want, but unless we put the action of recovery-oriented choices behind that hope, nothing will happen)

Writing: With ED’s chokehold loosened on my life, I have been able to rediscover my love of writing. I have been featured on NEDA’s National Eating Disorder Awareness Week’s blog roll twice and have recently learned that I have been selected for Melissa Fabello’s MarginalizED Voices Project (where I might actually be part of a published work!)

Photography: Much in the same respect as my writing, my creativity in photography has reemerged as ED has lessened. I’ve photographed weddings, babies, seniors, lots of nature scenes, cityscapes and  my cats

There are a LOT of other things I am discovering that are louder than my eating disorder voice…but, seeing as how I don’t have the time nor the energy to write them all (much like you don’t have the time, energy or desire to read them all), I decided to put my iPhone to work to speak for me.

 

Here are a few more things that are louder than eating disorders:

DREAMS FRIENDSHIP FUN happiness HEALTH HOPE
RECOVERYSELFCOMPASSON

 

LIFE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PEACE

 

Philippians 4:8-9

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

 

When it is NEDA conference time September 19, 2014

San Antonio, Texas. October 16-18, 2014. National Eating Disorders Association Conference 2014. Be there or be square.

 

Ok, so I guess I am going to be a square seeing as how I am not actually going to be there myself. However, I DO want to encourage others to attend. This year’s theme is Share. Learn. Belong. “Thinking Big: uniting families and professionals in the fight against eating disorders”. I truly think that that is the goal of the conference regardless of theme. The conference is open to  “professionals, researchers, educators, individuals in recovery and their families”, according to the NEDA website as a means to, “connect and learn from one another in a warm, welcoming environment. This year’s theme, focusing on collaboration, will highlight the wealth of knowledge that comes from sharing our experiences and expertise to advance the understanding and treatment of eating disorders.” I stand firm in my belief that by raising awareness on eating disorders, sharing stories of recovery, loss, and simply existing with an eating disorder, networking with professionals to increase best practices of care, and impart knowledge on the disease itself we can decrease the stigma; thereby making seeking treatment at any level less shameful and more respected.

But don’t let me try to convince you, NEDA has created a convenient  top 10 list (much like David Letterman on his various late  night programs):

10) “The NEDA conference changed my life–the feeling of belonging was incredible”

9) Expand your knowledge of eating disorders and deepen your recovery.

8) Busy weekend? You can swing by for a single day.

7) Families and experts come together to learn from one another.

6) Expand your circle, make new friends, build your support network.

5) Share your personal expertise with the eating disorders community.

4) “I loved the general sessions. They were interesting, informative, relevant and challenging”

3) Hear a best-selling author discuss family relationships in the digital age.

2) Earn continuing education credits on the San Antonio Riverwalk.

1) Family-friendly event with family discount packages.

 

I think there are also 10 spiritual reasons to attend…in no particular order

10) Hebrews 3:13–But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

9) John 13:34–A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

8) Romans 12:16–Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

7) Romans 14:13–Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.

6) 1 John 4:11–Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

5) 1 Peter 3:8–be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.

4) Ephesians 4:32–Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

3) 1 John 3:11–For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another

2) Ephesians 4:2– Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love

1) Proverbs 19:8–The one who gets wisdom loves life; the one who cherishes understanding will soon prosper.

 

NEDAConference_Reason9

 

When you make realizations April 25, 2014

 

For the almost two years that I have had this blog, there has always been a thought nagging in the back of my mind. I have felt I have not been completely honest with those who read my blog, and I have to get it off my chest. Although I paint a very self-assured and recovery-oriented picture through my writing, have I struggled for the past five years to actually admit/accept the fact that I, Rachel King, actually have a clinically diagnosable eating disorder, and have had for more than half of my life. I would say, “I’m sick” or “I’m doing well in recovery” or even refuse to admit I had an eating disorder at all. However, I never actually knew what I was really saying. How was I expected to recover from a disease I refused to fully accept that I had? How could I fully immerse myself in recovery if I did not first admit that I had been fully immersed in my disease? Doesn’t everyone always say, “The first step in resolving a problem in our life is to first admit we have a problem”?

I have needed to admit and accept this fact for a long time, but my eating disorder kept telling me I was stupid for thinking that. I don’t think I was ever really ready to let ED go until Easter Sunday this year, when I reflected on the eating disordered thoughts and behaviors I had engaged in over the previous few days. I can’t explain it really, it’s just like, as I sat in my garage (after having engaged in behaviors)…it’s like I finally knew, this is ED. This is exactly what ED is: lies, secrecy, self-inflicted punishment, hiding, feeling unworthy, striving for unattainable perfection, hating that I do it but not being able to stop, false control, and pain…lots of pain.

ED was suddenly and simultaneously the best and worst defense mechanism in my life. It became a way to hide from the bullying I receive from others, by bringing the bullying on myself before they could get me; ED convinced me everyone was, indeed, out to bully me. ED rationalized that if I punished myself first, the pain of others wouldn’t hurt so much, because she knew I would punish myself worse than they could imagine (ED, cutting, exercise, etc). I wanted to hide inside ED because of the perceived safety she offered me; safety I didn’t have from my bullies. I wanted to hide inside her twisted love; love I felt I didn’t have from my family and didn’t deserve from others.   I wanted to do and be everything to everyone: teacher, nurturer, protector, the smart one, planner, volunteer, problem solver, etc. I wanted to be perfect, but, at the same time, was listening to ED tell me I would never be perfect. I wanted to be loved, and turned to Ed for that love because it was the first “safe” place I found “unconditional love”. I now realize that that what ED gave me was never love. ED was manipulation, lies, and destruction. As long as I kept myself within the confines of ED, I would never find the acceptance, love, and roles in life that I wanted so desperately…because ED was taking them all. ED was there to offer me everything I was craving out of life…and then, I was in too deep, she had me in her vice grip. I would never get from her all the things I wanted that she promised. She convinced me that me not attaining what I wanted out of life was my fault because she was never “really” in my life to begin with. She blamed all my life problems on me because “there’s no way I could possibly have an eating disorder” and my pain couldn’t have been caused by her because of that. I’m here now to say it was, all of it. I listened to her lies, false promises, saying she could offer all I wanted, and so much more. But it wasn’t true, none of it. I never got anything she said she would/could offer me if I just did every single thing she said. All I got was my own personal hell. A hell in which I punished myself for every perceived wrongdoing by restricting, purging, cutting, laxatives or over exercise. A hell that I wasn’t allowed to believe I was actually in, let alone tell anyone else about. A hell I thought was never ending. Until now. I fully realize I’m in ED’s little hell, and I know I’ll stay trapped here as long as I refuse to admit she has this power over me. Every time I acknowledge her presence in my life, she gets a little bit smaller and I am able to see what recovery oriented choices look like. It’s a slow and sometimes stumbling process, but I’m ready to get out of this hell.

I encourage everyone out there reading to get out of this hell with me and take our lives back.

 

Psalm 121

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you—the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore”

 

When you find your talents November 22, 2013

“What are your talents, Miss Rachel?” my co-teacher questioned.

“Please?” I asked looking up from the tiny pink converse I had been tying.

“Your talents? What are your talents?” she reiterated.

 

I had been listening to my students share their talents as my co-teacher went around the circle during story time. When you ask two, three and four year olds about their talents the responses you get are priceless: I am good at playing outside, I am good at putting on my shoes, I am good at playing with my toys, I am good at going pee-pee on the potty…etc. Their responses seemed so automatic, so genuine. None of my ten students had to think very long when asked about his or her specific talents. I, however, took an inordinate amount of time.  What in the world is my talent? Ed chimed in, telling me I had no talent; so I should probably just listen to her and be good at an eating disorder. I decided that was NOT a talent. Finally, I decided my talent was reading. Reading aloud to my students is one area in which I do believe I have talent, and it is something I thoroughly enjoy doing.

 

My students and I had been studying the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), and the concept seemed a little over their developmental abilities: after all, students at this age are not cognitively capable of making inferences or using abstract thinking. However, we decided that this parable was worth a try. For those unfamiliar with the parable, here is a brief summation. A very wealthy master decided to give three of his servants his gold (known as talents) while he went on a long trip. To the first he gave five talents, to the second he gave two, and to the third he gave one. The first servant put his talents to good use and doubled them, as did the second servant. The third servant, however, buried his in a hole and went about his life never giving a second thought to the talent he was given. When the master returned, each servant presented his talents. The master was pleased at the first two servants for doubling the talents given to them, but was outraged at the third servant and made him give the talent he did have to the first servant.

 

So what is the moral of this parable, you may ask? Through this parable, Jesus wanted to show his disciples that it is not the amount of talent that they were given that matters, it is how they use that talent to further the kingdom of God. Both the first and the second servants doubled their talents, and it pleased the master. The third servant hid his talent. and the master was less than thrilled. In the same way as the first and second servants, we must use the talents given to us by God. Instead of focusing on having fewer talents than others—as the third servant did–we need to recognize how much good we can do with the talents we do have. Instead of burying our talents out of shame that they are not as magnificent as those around us, we need to proudly use them to the best of our ability.

 

I have found myself, all too often, hiding my talents in the hole of my eating disorder, perfectionism, anxiety, self-harm, depression, low self-esteem and whatever else I have used…rather than acknowledging that I actually have talents that can not only benefit my life and recovery, but the lives of others. By acknowledging the talents I do have, I am able to see past the veil of Ed and work towards a more recovery-oriented mindset. Concentrating on our lack of talent and flaws only gives Ed a greater foothold in our lives. Conversely, by putting the spotlight on what we do well, Ed’s power diminishes and the glory of God shines through us.

 

What are your talents? What have you been doing to hide them? How can you use your talents to further your recovery, improve your quality of life and take back your life from Ed?

The stick my co-teacher made for each student (and me) to remind us of our talents

The stick my co-teacher made for each student (and me) to remind us of our talents. My cats decided to investigate it while I was taking a photo of it; they are odd.

Matthew 25:21

His [the servant’s] master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”

 

When you think about gratitude November 6, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — rheasofhope @ 5:40 pm
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In the second grade, our teacher, Mrs. Platt, asked us to write a few sentences about gratitude. She then collected our responses, typed them on one of our school’s green-screened Macs, and made the resulting copies into Thanksgiving books for each student in the class. Given the fact that we were six and seven years old, we did not know a lot about what it meant to be grateful. In fact, had my teacher omitted our names, we would each have thought that we had written every entry. Many of us expressed gratitude for family, friends, food and a home. A remarkably large number of us included God in our entries; something that I am surprised, but pleased, we were allowed to do in our public school.

This exercise was the extent of our understanding of gratitude. It was never explained to us what being grateful actually entails. We merely thought about what we have in our life, and wrote down that we were grateful for it. Case in point, I wrote I was thankful for my cat, my parents, my toys, my cousins and my clothes. Wow, one point for originality.

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My contribution to the book

While I am still thankful for my cat (although now I have a different one than in my original writing), my mom and dad…and now my sister (I was an only child until I was nine), my cousins, my clothes, and my toys (adults have toys too, they just look like Nikon DSLR cameras and iPhones), I have come to realize that being grateful is about more than just people and things. In my precocious second-grader ways, I wrote two things that I did not really believe then, but do now, “I am thankful for being alive today” and “I am thankful for God for blessing me.” Nineteen years later, I realize how truly grateful I am to be alive and to be a recipient of God’s blessings.

After going through at least fifteen years of depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder…a broken nose and arm, a car accident, self-harm, being a first generation college student, a super annoying nail biting habit, serving in Americorps VISTA…I am alive. I have had the opportunity to experience all of those things because I am alive. While not every aspect of my life had been easy, neither has everything been difficult. And yet, through it all, I am alive. There is a purpose in my life greater than myself that has kept me alive despite everything I have been through. Because I am alive, I know that God is not done with me yet. There are still lessons to be learned, lessons to teach, mistakes to make, and who knows what else. The important thing is that I do not have to know. I must merely wake up each day grateful for the opportunity to learn God’s lessons, teach lessons, and make mistakes. Who would have ever thought I, the perfectionist, would be grateful for the ability to make mistakes?

If Mrs. Platt were still around, I would write this to be included in our book:

I am grateful for the ability to make mistakes; for in making mistakes I learn lessons, grow stronger as a person, and gain insight into who I am as an imperfect human. I am grateful that God has blessed me, or chosen not to bless me in certain situations, with everything that He sees fit; His will is not my own. I am grateful for my recovery and the support from others I have received along the way; there is something truly remarkable that dwells in the heart of those who serve others. I am grateful for the kindness of strangers, the frost on the autumn leaves, the way my cat, Rowan, is always ready for a game of fetch, and a quiet walk through the fields of my friend’s farm.  I am grateful to be alive and for the ability to experience everything it has to offer.

 

Colossians 3:15-17

 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.  Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms,hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.