RheasOfHope

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

When you accept Christ December 16, 2017

“You mean they’re going to touch me,” I incredulously—and somewhat cynically–ask my 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.  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 and twirl my rings around my fingers. The more I will my hands to stop, the worse the wringing 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.

 

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 wringing and crying. The longer I sit—overhearing mumblings of Julie’s prayers, crying, wringing my hands to the point of pain, 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. 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. 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? I take a deep breath and reach out—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. 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. Julie, undeterred, asks if she can bring over her husband, Patrick. 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 stated 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 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 6-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.

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When you take an unintended break from writing October 3, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — rheasofhope @ 9:13 pm
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Hello, long time so see…or write…or post…or anything. I have always had this little blog in the back of my mind, and kept finding reason after reason (read: excuses) not to write. Perhaps my biggest distraction from writing is this little bundle of awesome.

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Leah Jane was born at 3:21 PM on September 11, 2015.                                 This is the photo I took of her celebrating her first birthday.

 

My little sister gave this world the smartest, funniest, cutest, and biggest troublemaking baby last September, and I’ve spent all my time in awe of this astounding little human. I want Leah Jane to know she can be herself. As part of my homework for the Body Project training (post forthcoming), wrote her a letter that I would like to share here–because it is my blog and I can do what I want:

 

Dear Leah,

Let me start off by saying this: YOU ARE WORTHY. People will attempt to convince you that you will not be worthy until you are a certain weight, until you wear designer clothing, until you can apply the perfect cat eye eyeliner, until you date the quarterback, until you get a 4.0…until, until, until. Worthiness does not have a prerequisite; though the world will do everything in its power in an endeavor to convince you otherwise. You must know, Leah, that the world is wrong.Worthiness is innate–not something you have to jostle and surrender yourself to obtain.

When the world seeks to mold you to fit their idea of worthiness–their narrow and impossible view of perfection–you sacrifice all the amazing  attributes that make you unique and loved. We do not gain worthiness by conforming to the ways of others–we lose it. Each time we strive to achieve the trivial and fleeting definition of worthiness, we give up a piece of what makes us extraordinary. Walt Disney once wrote, “The more you are like yourself–the less you are like anyone else–which makes you unique. The problem with most people is that they spend their lives trying to emulate others and so we have lots of copies but few originals.” My wish for you is to be unapologetically Leah. You will gain worthiness each time you stand up for who you really are, each time you’re your authentic self in the face of adversity, and each time you hold true to your values.

You may wonder, dear heart, what qualifies me to write this. After all, what would your aunt know about the worthiness inherent in being yourself? I have also face the pressures to conform to society’s narrow definition of worthy and beauty, and subsequently sacrificed many aspects of my life to achieve it. I want more for you, Leah. I want you to believe your worth, and to live your life in such a way that your genuine self radiates to all you meet. Know that I am here for you always, and will support you continually.

I love you to the ends of the earth and everywhere in between,

Auntie Rhea

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Another photo I took of my sweet girl for her birthday photoshoot

 

Romans 12:1-21

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

 

 

When you gather seashells April 7, 2014

“Here’s a good one!” my sister exclaims as she bends down into the gulf water and pulls out a glistening white shell with purple streaks.

 

“But it is broken. Throw it back. We don’t want that one” I reply.

 

“No, look at the swirl pattern on the top. It’s really cool looking. I’m keeping it so I can use that pattern in my ceramics glaze.” she retorts as she gingerly places the broken shell in my shoe (our make-shift shell carrier).

 

This exchange got me thinking…what makes a shell a “good” shell; a shell worthy of toting 1,000 miles back to Cincinnati? Does it need to be fully intact, or is broken still beautiful? Does it have to be all one color, or can it be multi-hued? Does it have to be smooth, or can it have ridges? As it turns out, there are a lot of snap judgments being made about each shell as I carefully bend over to examine its worthiness to be extracted from the ocean and placed in my Toms.  This immediately led me to think about my recovery; as that has been a major concern on my mind lately.  The question, “What makes a shell worthy” became, “What makes a person worthy”. Is it their fully intact-ness, or is it their brokenness that makes them worthy? Does perfection make them worthy, or can they show flaws? Again, snap judgments come into play as we deem worthiness in ourselves.

 

To our eating disorders, worthiness is very clearly spelled out: one can only be worthy if they listen to exactly what the eating disorder tells them to do; worthiness is completely hingent upon following ED’s made up and completely nonsensical rules. Neither binging nor purging, neither restricting nor over-exercising, neither self-harm nor addiction can make a person worthy…despite what our eating disorder will try to tell us. Worthiness is found in one’s character and actions, not in their ability to excel in an eating disorder or other addiction. Worthiness is found in the size of one’s heart, not in the size of their jeans. Worthiness is found in one’s ability to care for themselves as much as they care for others, not in caring for others over themselves.  Worthiness is found in one’s ability to love themselves so much that they choose to ignore ED’s constant berating remarks. Worthiness is found in recovery. Worthiness is found in living a life in which our actions, our character and our heart show that we believe that we are worthy of a life without ED.  At first ED will tell us that we are completely unworthy for not following her every whim. However, as we break away from her choke hold, we will see other qualities in ourselves that make us worthy of love, happiness and life. Because, let me tell you, we are ALL worthy of that no matter what ED tries to say.

 

What qualities and characteristics about yourself make you worthy? It can be anything from your ability to nurture others or nurturing yourself when you know you need it. Your worthiness can be something like being a very good scheduler to something like being a wonderful listener. Worthiness, however, can only be found in recovery; worthiness is never found in ED.

 

Some of my sister's numerous shells

Some of my sister’s numerous shells

Zephaniah 3:15 and 17

The Lord has taken away your punishment,
he has turned back your enemy.
The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you;
never again will you fear any harm.
The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.”