How Seeing Faith as a Gift Has Given Me Eyes of Compassion

I am currently reading a favorite book for the third time. Since it has already been heavily underlined this time around I am adding asterisks for extra emphasis. But what hit me yesterday is something altogether new; something I don’t even remember reading or thinking about before.

Isn’t God just like that keeping certain truths hidden until just the right time?

I must have read it before, but until this read through I had missed the significance. But, now- this time- God knew what my heart needed to see.

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(According to recent studies, if we were still in a university setting depression would be the #1 issue we would being dealing with. Perhaps more on that in a future post.)

Before I explain more, I will give you a little background. My husband has been an ordained minister for about fourteen years. For about half that time we ministered to college students and over the years encountered several who were severly depressed, even suicidal. 

I couldn’t understand this kind of desperation. It just didn’t seem congruent for a believer in Christ to be struggling so deeply with a lack of faith, doubt or depression. It’s not that I didn’t feel badly for them, but in my ignorance it seemed they either weren’t doing something needed to help or not believing the way they should.  Before you judge me as insensitive, I will say it myself – because I did not identify with those struggles I was not compassionate and did not see how my pride made me as equally in need of a Savior.

Now fast-forward to this year. Some of these relate to the struggles my daughter is experiencing. I know she loves Jesus, she has the head knowledge to know He loves her, she has a family who loves and supports her, she hates her struggles and is getting help for them, yet they are still there.

She would never choose it like this, but it is outside of her control. God created her perfectly according to his plan, which means the ways she struggles, the fears, the doubts, the at times mustard-seed faith is how he wanted her to be – for her good and his glory.

I believe this with all my heart – in his goodness he has left her to struggle in the ways that she is for her good and for his glory. It doesn’t make dealing with it easier, but it does give purpose and meaning and hope!

The fact I can say this with full assurance, doesn’t make me a better Christian than someone who struggles with weaker faith.  This is the light bulb realization I’ve come to see: Faith is a gift! There is nothing in us that can conjure up a strong faith.

UnknownJust “getting” this has led to greater compassion, not just for my daughter, but for others who struggle with doubting, depression or mental illness.  I see the sometimes dibilitating and desperate enslavement of it. The hopeless that pushes out truth.

Some of you may know this scenario all too well. For me, it may not be first-hand, but God is using other’s struggles to shape and change me, too. And in them I am thankful: He is helping me see where I have lacked compassion and helping me see my need of His grace and compassion. Because whether our faith is strong or weak, it is He who holds us. It is He who covers us with His perfect obedience and righteousness and views us accordingly!

For those with little, mustard-seed faith you may gain the deeper understanding of this reality. But I pray each of us, by his grace, find hope in these words of pastor Tullian Tchividjian:

“Because Jesus was strong for me, I am free to be weak. Because Jesus won for me, I am free to lose. Becaue Jesus was Someone, I am free to be no one. Because Jesus was extraordinary, I am free to be ordinary. Because Jesus succeeded for me, I am free to fail.”

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How we are like the SAEs

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The incident last weekend with the SAE’s at the University of Oklahoma has been the subject of much media coverage and debate this week. While absolutely what occurred on the bus to the fraternity party was wrong and deserving of the swift action taken by the university and the national fraternity, what has struck me is how in our condemnation of these boys we have presumed them to be much worse sinners than any of the rest of us.

I am not saying their racist behavior was not horribly offensive, because it was. I am also not saying racism is not a serious problem, because obviously it is still far too prevalent in this country. But for the purpose of this post what I want to draw attention to is how in our shock over what the boys did we seem blind to our own prejudices.

We may not have acted like they did, but in our hearts are there not those we look down upon? Perhaps for a reason other than skin color, but is it not still pride?

Do we think we are better because of what neighborhood we live in… where are kids go to school… where we vacation…what labels we wear… what positions or degrees we hold… what social circles we run in?   

Do we think because of our background: where we are from or where we are not or who are family is we deserve certain privileges others do not?  

Do we think our habits, performances, achievements, appearance or our views make us better than others who are different, not as successful, talented, attractive or intelligent? 

Truth is we take pride in believeing we are somehow more special than others who are also made in the image of God. And in our pride, we judge, exclude and dismiss.

If sin though is not simply outward behavior, but what goes on in our hearts than our prideful thoughts condemn us in the same way the boys’ actions condemned them. We are no better off than these boys and in just as much need of grace and forgiveness.

The good news of the gospel is no sin is beyond God’s loving mercy and compassion for those who know their need of a Savior.  For those who see we can’t and don’t live up to God’s standard of perfection, we are met with Christ’s perfect life for us. He met God’s standard and his perfection is credited to us who believe. Now when God looks at us it is not our sin he sees, but Christ’s righteousness covering us. 

This free gift of grace cannot be earned and is given to sinners. But, you have to see you are a sinner. When you do: Grace. No matter who you are or what you have done.

I hope the truth of the gospel brings hope and comfort to those SAE boys and their families. And, I hope it brings hope and comfort to us, too.

Galatians 6:1-3 “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself…” ba4cbc8d2d654bfd6ceb3379abbfbb1e

Help My Unbelief

I know the Lord is nigh,
And would but cannot pray,
For Satan meets me when I try,
And frights my soul away.
And frights my soul away.

I would but can’t repent,
Though I endeavor oft;
This stony heart can ne’er relent
Till Jesus makes it soft.
Till Jesus make it soft.

Help my unbelief. Help my unbelief.
Help my unbelief.
My help must come from Thee.

I would but cannot love,
Though wooed by love divine;
No arguments have power to move
A soul as base as mine.
A soul so base as mine.

I would but cannot rest,
In God’s most holy will;
I know what He appoints is best,
And murmur at it still.
I murmur at it still.

Do the words to this song resonate with you? Is it your heart’s cry now? Have you felt this way before?

I love this song for its honesty and believe we can all relate. We all know what its like to struggle. We all doubt God’s goodness at times. We all question his presence. We all have been consumed by fear and restlessness. None of us always experience perfect peace. And frankly sometimes though we say “God is enough” it just doesn’t feel like it is. We wonder if he really loves us and if he does where is he hiding?

Lord, I believe, but help me with my unbelief.

Thankfully God is big enough to be okay with our struggles and doubts. He uses them even, to draw us to him. That is why I don’t have to pretend to him I don’t feel this way. And I don’t have to hide it from others out of fear they will think I’m not a “strong” Christian.

This may surpise you but a “strong” Christian is not someone who has it all together, performing perfectly, never doubting or falling into sin. No, a growing Christian (prefer that to “strong”) is the one who knows they are weak. The one who knows they need a Savior. The one who knows they must depend on him for all things – even the ability to believe what they say they believe.

So, yes, I do believe he is with me and I believe he works all things, even sin, for the good of his people. It’s just I still murmur and resist his holy will because what he appoints and his timing and his control is not mine. And what he calls “good” often looks alot different than what I think it should.

But his divine love will not let me go! Even in dark seasons he is near, whispering reminders of grace to help with my unbelief.redmountainmusic-helpmyunbelief

Now, Lord, help me to be still, to see and to believe. Thank you for hanging on to us even when we falter to cling tightly to you.

 

Grace Admist the Noise

While there has been silence in my writing from the house of hatton this week, our true House of Hatton has been anything but silent. It hasn’t been “noisy” like households with younger children, but the noise of chaotic activity and emotional frittering has kept me from processing. And for me writing helps process. That is why I continue blogging. It’s like my own therapy.

So this week while we had two “snow days” my husband has been on the sunny beaches of Cabo which meant I was the one primarily in charge of our 4 1/2 month puppy. This extra responsibility alone, mointoring where he is and what he is grabbing or chewing on, consumes way more time than this non-dog lover want to give. 

How cool is this Sea Lion that came up on my husband's fishing boat?!

How cool is this Sea Lion that came up on my husband’s fishing boat?!

This picture was taken about 20 lbs ago. At not even 5 mos. he is now about 50 lbs!

This picture was taken about 20 lbs ago. At not even 5 mos. he is now about 50 lbs!

I also got to shovel my driveway so we wouldn’t be too iced in to make an appointment on the second snow day. And, I (the one who can barely keep her eyes open until 9:30pm) had to stay awake until my daughter got home at night. Never mind that twice, I accidentally locked up the backdoor and didn’t hear her banging on it :)

If only my husband had a picture as evidence of me shuffling the driveway!

If only my husband had a picture as evidence of me shoveling the driveway!

But there was grace this week, too. First, because of the snow days my boys’ sports were cancelled on the night I was most stressed about how to get them both to where they needed to be. There was grace in my kids helping extra with household chores. Grace in having slowed-down time at home with them. And even more grace as I’ve been faced with and thinking about the issues my daughter has been struggling through.

If you are a parent, isn’t the hardest thing when your child hurts or is struggling and you not being able to change it?

That’s where I am. I want to control what I can’t. I want to fix what is broke. I want to make right what is wrong. I want to speed a slow process of change. And the reality is, I can’t do any of it.

But this is where the grace comes in. As hard and as hopeless as things feel sometimes, I praise God for some personal experiences enabling me to identify with my daughter and know first-hand there is hope. I also praise God, as hard and as mixed up as it sounds, for her struggles (even though they make me cry). 

He is making the broken, beautiful.

I am watching it happen before my very eyes. He is growing and transforming her to see her great need and dependence on Him and there is nothing better. This is exactly what I want for all of my children – for them to know they are weak, but He is strong. And with only 1 1/2 years to go before she goes from us, I am confident what she is learning now about herself and about who God is for her will help her abide and help me to trust Him when she is even more outside of anything I can control.

Grace, He is giving her through the trials and grace He is giving me.

Grace is what I needed most this week. Actually what we all need most all the time! But sometimes with all the noise we don’t see where God enters in. We stay focused on what we lack instead of what He gives.  In our obsession with ourselves and the here and now, we too often miss seeing how He is at work for our good and His glory – all the time.

How A True Friend May Differ From Who We Call “BFF”

Judging by the 1 million+ Facebook likes the article: 11 Things You Never Thanked your Best Friend For, But Meant To received I may be the only one in the world who it didn’t sit quite right with. The topic of what makes a best friend/true friend/authentic friend has been weighing on me lately so though I typically scroll right on past most Facebook articles, this headline jumped out at me.  

FullSizeRenderI realize the writer was being light-hearted, but I couldn’t help thinking that the best friend she described was not the true friend I want for my daughter. Please know though not everything written was out of sync for me. In her “best friend” overlooking her flaws she displays the gracious and forgiving heart that characterizes a true friend.  But this “best friend” also willingly lied to cover for her, did not speak the truth in love (though contradictory was said to always say it how it is) and was in fact commended for not taking a stand against her when she disagreed or saw red flags.

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Does this mean a best friend should always go along with what we want and hold our same opinion?  If someone doesn’t cater to us, do we dismiss them as our best friend?

I think we need to reevaluate the notion of “best friend(s)” and seek out for ourselves and help our children see the value in true, authentic friends as being the best kind of friends.

First and foremost, a true friend loves and accepts us no matter what. This means like the “best friend” in the article she does not pass judgement and is forgiving; however she is also willing to be iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17) by challenging us when we are tempted or fall in to sin instead of turning a blind eye or aiding us in our sin.  Because of her love, speaking the truth and pointing us toward Christ is worth initiating hard conversations. And if we are a true friend back, we will consider and accept her rebuke instead of shunning her for going against us.

Likewise, a true friend in imaging forth God embodies the love of Christ, which is full of grace and forgiveness, but also others-focused. I am glad the “best friend” in the article was noted as a willing listener, but are we? Or, do we just want someone who listens to us without us having to listen or give back to them? Do we invest only in people who want to do what we want or do we seek to embrace others interests?

Sadly, along with social media has come an increased focus on self. And in images-1our desire for self glory, I think the concept of seeking to elevate others above ourselves has been lost. “Best friends” then too often among our kids are the ones who by association make them look or feel popular, but are not necessarily “true friends.”

Based on the teen survey I recently sent out (click here for the post with survey links), about half of all responders said they feel alone but consider their friends to be unsafe to confide in because they believe they would be judged, not taken seriously or understood. Wow!

And, over half said they don’t feel like they measure up to their friends. This makes me so sad, especially when the impression given in social media posts is: BFF! “Best friends forever” who they can’t be trasparent with!

So who cares if your “best friend” shares her favorite clothing article or pigs out with you (like the one in the article), if you can’t be transparent or don’t feel safe sharing are they really a “true friend?”

Last thought: While naturally we and our kids form deeper friendships with some over others, the whole idea of posting who our best friend(s) is can be hurtful and exclusive to others. If we are seeking to be a genuine friend – not just to our “best friends” but to all, as Scripture calls us to – it seems we would not say or do anything that makes others feel less than or not as important. Thus, my problem in proclaiming a best friend to the world via social media is we are by default making others feel unworthy.

Helping our kids wade through the ups and downs of friendships is one of the most challenging aspects of parenting.  When they hurt, we hurt.  But in the hurts we must remind them of their true identity in Christ. And use every opportunity to encourage them to be a “true friend” to others which gives them the eyes to see who is a true friend to them.

This past post on friendship was my very first blog entry: Foundation of a Friend.

Freedom From ED

My last special guest blogger for National Eating Disorder Awareness week is Victoria, a new friend and Executive Director of the Oklahoma Eating Disorder Association. As with the other posts: Giving Up the Fight: The War on Eating Disorders, Breaking Up with ED and I Had No Idea: The Secret Truths of Eating Disorders I hope her story encourages you. Whether your struggle is with food or something else, I pray you find true freedom in Christ.

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images-1I will never forget the day I overheard a couple of my “friends” say I was ugly and fat. I had been teased about my appearance before, but this hit a whole new level. As I slowly removed myself from the situation I threw their wounding comments on top of the pile of damaging things I already believed about myself. Over the years I had compiled a significant amount of negative thoughts and these last comments caused the mountain of negativity I had accumulated to collapse around me.

Like any young girl I wanted to be pretty and accepted by my peers. At that moment the burden of trying to live up to what others perceived to be beautiful was too much. The only way I saw fit to make a change, to be beautiful, was to lose weight.

From that moment on I worked harder than ever before to be “healthy.” I quickly lost weight and was praised for it. To my dismay the weight loss didn’t satisfy the longing in my heart. The control I felt over food led to an intensified focus to control other aspects of my life and obtain a “perfect appearance.”

I cowered under the power of the unrealistic expectations I had made for myself and withdrew from social situations as well as important relationships in my life. Before I knew what was happening my identity had became solely what I ate, how I exercised and what I looked like in the mirror. I had fallen so far that I didn’t know what to do, except to keep pretending I was ok and to hide my damaging behaviors.

One day, completely exhausted I broke down. Six years of living a life that from the outside seemed to be a put together, disciplined and healthy was a complete images-1facade. I was falling apart.

I realized that I couldn’t bear to continue to live in bondage. Broken and confused as to what to do I cried out to The Lord for help. This certainly couldn’t be the way God wanted me to live for the rest of my life.

For so long my shame and guilt had kept me from reaching out for help and believing I could conquer this alone. Instead the behaviors of constantly fighting for control, comparing myself to others, and worrying about my appearance became so engrained in my everyday life and ruled over my every thought. I had pushed God and everyone else out of this part of my life for so long that all I knew to do was have faith and trust that God would lead my way.

There were hard days, and easier days, but with the help of my family, close friends, counselor and a whole lot of prayer I fought back against this oppression and pressed into God. Psalm 145:18-19, “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them” became one of the main truths that kept me going through out the ups and downs of my recovery process.

Letting go and allowing The Lord to heal this part of my life was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but I wouldn’t have changed it for anything. I can now confidently proclaim that the things of this world (food, exercise and my appearance) cannot fill the desires of my heart. My heart longs for something more than what this world can offer. Something only a Christ can fill.

Through this process God has shown me a glimpse of the depths of His love, grace and healing powers. I now have the freedom to celebrate my worth and identity in Christ regardless of outward appearances.

Seeing the Lord completely transform my life has ignited a passion for cultivating positive body image, spreading eating disorder awareness, and educating others on the importance of early detection. I tell my story because I want others to know they are not alone in this battle. There is hope for healing no matter how hopeless you may feel. All you have to do is cry out for help. The Lord is listening and desires for His children to live in joyful freedom.logo

“In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39

 

DSC_5320Victoria is an energetic and fun-loving senior obtaining a Bachelor’s of Science in Dance and Arts Management and a minor in Business Entrepreneurship at Oklahoma City University. As the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Eating Disorders Association she continues to pursue her mission of spreading Eating Disorder awareness and the true meaning of health. In her free time Victoria enjoys being actively engaged at Bridgeway church, traveling, dancing, hiking and anything that involves being outside!

If you are struggling with an Eating Disorder, please reach out for help. There is no shame, but lots of freedom to be found. If you need resources please send me a comment and I will do my best to direct you.

Giving Up the Fight: The War on Eating Disorders

If you’ve been following my blog this week you know I am drawing attention to National Eating Disorder Awareness Week through the stories of several friends. Previous posts include friend Martha Kate’s Breaking Up with ED and my own I Had No Idea: The Secret Truth of Eating Disorders.  Now today meet my dear friend Parker, who we met when she was an 18 year-old college freshman. Ever since she has been like a big sister to my daughter and close friend of mine and our family.

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I’ve sat down to write out these words several times now – each moment feeling more difficult than the one before. I tried to pinpoint the hold up on my heart, and this morning – of course while having a food-centered moment over my coconut flour pancakes – it dawned on me. How many people really know the details of my journey?

How many times was I told, “You don’t have a problem,” “It’s really not that bad,” or “It’s just a phase?”

While I’m transparent with almost every part of my life, the depths of my heart hold tight to the anguish surrounding my body. The battle for those corners of my spirit raged on, during the so called “best years of my life,” until I finally gave up the war and surrendered to the only One big enough to win it for me.

I feel like a lot of folks who in journeying an interesting road qualify their story with the phrase “I grew up in a stable and loving home,” as though an ideal setting precludes us from challenge. Well, news flash…the enemy has no favorites. Every heart has equal accessibility to trial.

The minute I turned inward for control, my heart was primed for a takeover. Between the ages of 15 and 29, my relationship with food was tumultuous at best. UnknownAs soon as I thought I’d reached a healthy balance, I would find myself staring back into the face of the enemy I’d spent so much energy willing myself away from. I would mark events in my life (college graduation, family events, our wedding, our first house) by “skinny time” or “fat time.” The memories illustrated in the photo would fade behind the noisy thoughts in my head criticizing every square inch of my body. Focused solely on myself, the shame attached to my pride only compounded the heartache.

My journey is full of marked moments of desperation. Between bottles of pills used to “balance” my food intake during college and extreme workouts that landed me in back surgery by age 23, I did everything to my body in pursuit of perfection. The breakdown? I allowed nothing for my body.

Let me pause here for a moment and ask you a question: Why should we care so much about this subject?

Personally, why does physical health matter so intensely to me?

One word answer for both questions: Freedom.

I longed for the emotional, physical, and spiritual space to love others, give radically, and live freely. My yo-yo years with nutritional and physical health have images-1taken up so much space, in my head and heart. For a while, it was centered on dropping pounds and losing inches. Ultimately, as my heart began to heal, it was about finding consistency in one area of my life to build the foundation for growth and impact in all parts of my life.

When we counsel others through eating disorders, we often hear “this will always be a part of your journey.” Or my other favorite, “this will always be your fight.” Living within that supposed truth kept me in bondage to this enemy for nearly half of my life. All I could find was temporary relief clouded by the harsh reality that this nemesis would show its face again. My story – the one that began with “this will always be your fight” – became my truth. It was my life banner, until my Creator intervened on my behalf to repaint that banner with His heart for me. In His grace, He rewrote my story. He gave me a new Heartsong.

Here are the two truths of eating disorders: They are not preventable. They are curable. We are a community within a fallen world – crippled by sin and seemingly overpowered by societal norms. We cannot control what others around us see and hear. However, we can choose who we are for our community. We can be a soft landing for a hurting soul. We can speak in transparency and love. We can call the enemy for who he is and what he is – naming the lie and claiming the truth. And more than all of those combined, we can call on a Risen Savior. Christ needs not to fight the battle for us, because by His life, death, and resurrection…the war is already won.

In His victory is our freedom. 

pswParker is a seeker of human potential, finding God’s artistry in the possibility of others. Released from performance and transformed by grace, she strives to live (and write) with authenticity and boldness – and a deep gratitude for the beauty within failure.

Parker serves as a brand and marketing strategist, committed to developing businesses with a heartbeat. When she’s not ideating with colleagues or blogging in a coffee shop, she enjoys yoga, spinning, giant glasses of sweet tea, and anything on the water. A graduate of Baylor University and UNC Kenan Flagler Business School, she lives in Mount Pleasant, SC with her husband, Thomas, and golden retriever, Jasper.