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.

Breaking Up with Ed

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post because it is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week I have invited three friends to share their personal stories with ED. Today, I am excited to introduce you to Martha Kate and her testimony to God’s grace.

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I lived with him for twelve years. He lied, cheated, nearly killed me and still I stayed. He made me lie to my friends, my family, and literally to everyone I knew. I was in elementary school when he moved in, so young, so innocent, yet so very broken. I lived by his rules and let them control my life. He was my best friend, my enemy, my dictator, all rolled into one.

imagesThe monster I am talking about is Ed. Ed stands for my eating disorder and for over a decade he had control over my life. My Ed was what I turned to when I was sad, mad, hurt, or frankly just needed any kind of reassurance. I was too ashamed and certainly too prideful. I didn’t know how to stop doing what I was doing and frankly I didn’t want to stop.

Ed twisted the way I felt about myself and others. You see for those twelve years I lived in secret, battling an illness that not even my closest friends and family knew I faced. It consumed me, my thoughts, my behaviors, my actions. Every minute was spent focusing around Ed. Ed was my best friend, my comforter, my confidant, my supporter. But, Ed was really none of those things because deep down Ed was a liar and he was destroying each day a little bit more. I lost more than I could count to Ed: time, money, friends, grades, family, and health. And losing it all, led to a lack of joy and beauty in my life.

I spent years trying to fight Ed alone, thinking I could beat him without anyone else knowing. When that didn’t work I came back to him. Because unlike every other person and situation, Ed was who I could control or so I thought. Once again though, I was lied to because the more I believed I could control him, the more he controlled me and eventually controlled my whole life. I was terrified of not having him in my life.

For those twelve years I lived with a mask on my face. It was a dangerous mask, a deceiving mask, a mask that was so convincing that I myself was almost unaware that it was a mask and not my true self. However, three years ago I took off the mask and never put it on again. The day I took off the mask and broke up with Ed was one of the very best and very hardest days I’ve ever experienced.

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As you can see Ed stole an abundance from me but what I learned as I began to recover from the years spent with him, was that there was so much life still to be held. Because as I ran away from Ed I ran into grace. Grace covered me with what Ed couldn’t. Grace gave me the ability to mess up and still not turn back to my old ways. Grace told me I was loved not because of what I have done but because of what He did for me. Grace gave me something I have never had before…FREEDOM.

This past fall I celebrated three years of recovery. I celebrated the decision to jump off the cliff into the arms of grace and say, “It is okay that I am not okay because Jesus is better than being better.” The most beautiful part is, embracing grace doesn’t mean that I am not still a mess. However, it envelops me in all my messiness and it allows me to be my messy broken self. Because Grace is bigger than my flaws. Grace is bigger than my mistakes. Grace is bigger than my guilt. And Grace is so much bigger than my shame.

I never used to understand when people said that Jesus wrecked their lives but now I get it. He definitely wrecked mine and turned it upside down in the best way. He took everything I thought I knew about control and addiction and swept me into His arms. He told me I was loved when I felt unlovable and that I was beautiful in His image. He gave me scandalous, beautiful, amazing, grace. Today, I have the joy of working with college students and because of that. I have an opportunity to show others, specifically these students, that kind of love and grace that is scandalous and unheard of and it is because of my story of grace and the work of the gospel in my life, that I am able to do just that.

I would love to hear your story of brokenness and redemptive grace. Because when we share about the mess and the beauty of grace in our lives, that is when the gospel becomes real. My friend I pray you know there is hope in whatever situation you face. Buckle up, because if you are willing to jump, you are in for the best ride of your life.

MarthaKateStainsbyMartha Kate Stainsby is an eating disorder survivor and advocate. She spends most of her time in Waco, Texas where she lives with her husband Brett and works with Baylor University students.  When not working with college women, she spends her time sharing her story of grace, through various speaking and writing opportunities in order to build awareness of eating disorders and the hope found in recovery. Find out more about Martha Kate’s journey here: http://leavingperfectionlearninggrace.com

 

I Had No Idea: The Secret Truths of Eating Disorders

  • Did you know the mortality rate associated with Eating Disorders is 12 times higher than the death rate from other causes for high school and college age females?
  • Did you know over 1/2 of all teenage girls and nearly 1/3 of teenage boys succumb to unhealthy weight control behaviors?
  • Did you know between 1995 and 2005 the prevalance of Eating Disorder doubled among both females and males?  (Can only imagine where this leaves us now!)
  • Did you know hospitalizations for Eating Disoders in children under 12 increased by 119% between 1999 and 2006?
  • Did you know studies show social media amplifies behaviors associated with Eating Disorders?
  • Did you know according to the National Eating Disorder Association that Eating Disorders in the United States are more common than Alzheimer’s?
  • Did you know 4 out of 10 people struggle or know someone struggling with an Eating Disoder; therefore, it is likely you, a friend or family member is secretly struggling?

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No idea until it touched us personally. Now I know way more than the facts. I also know  about the intense struggle, overwhelming temptations, shame, worthlessness and the roller coaster of good and bad days. And I know about the freedom that comes in lifting the veil of secrecy, even when the battle is still being fought. (For more on our personal story click here.)

Our family’s story is why this week during National Eating Disorder Awareness Week I will shine the spotlight on Eating Disorders by sharing over the next few days the personal stories written by three of my friends.

You will hear about struggles with food, but more significantly the reason why food is never really the issue. You will hear about healing and help, but more importantly the hope found only in Christ. Knowing who Christ is for us is not just the solution to eating issues, but to all of our issues. All of our struggles and all of our sin. This is because he lived the perfect sinless life required by God for us so that when God looks on us he sees us as perfect!

This is amazing. This is what justification is: making us right! This is why theology matters and gospel truth must be understood for real change.

I love how Extravagant Grace author Barbara Duguid applies justification in a very real and simple way regarding her own struggles with food when she writes about food’s powerful hold on her loosening when she finally realized that Christ ate perfectly for her!

This is what it means practically to see who Christ is for us. He succeeded where we fail. He performed so we don’t have to. He gave up his glory in heaven so we could be made right and spend eternity in his glory.

This is Grace.

I hope you will come back tomorrow to hear from Martha Kate of Leaving Perfection, Learning Grace as she tells of her struggle with ED from an early age through college. Then Parker of A Daily Heart will share tales of her disordered eating and finally Victoria, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Eating Disorders Association, will give her story.

Whether your struggle is with an Eating Disorder or something else, may the Lord use the beautiful messy stories of these women to point you to Christ.  And when (not if, but when) you encounter someone in your life struggling with ED, you will be filled with compassion because you know what it means to struggle and to need a Savior!

NEDAwareness_2015_Shareable_Diet_0 NEDAwareness_2015_Shareable_Illusions_0 NEDAwareness_2015_Shareable_Athletes_0logoIf you are struggling with ED, please reach out for help. There is no shame. Christ came not for the righteous, but the sinners. And it is in our weakness that he is strong.

 

What Haunts the Birdman Often Haunts Us Too

imagesThe last in my short series on Oscar-nominate films. Based on the number of nominations, Birdman is likely to come away a winner on Sunday night.

It was for this reason (its popularity with the Academy) and the fact I like to see as many of the Best Picture nominees as possible, I went to see this film though I knew nothing about it.

I recruited a few friends, who knew even less than I did, to go see it with me. And let me just say at least two of them probably won’t let me be in charge of picking the movie next time.

With its fragmented plot lines, an overabundance of foul language and the main character’s strange alter ego and ability to levitate, we were often left confused. Not to mention dizzy from the always changing camera angle. But, the message behind the film doesn’t escape me and for that I think it raises an issue we all must wrestle with.

Unknown-1In the show Michael Keaton (nominated for Best Actor in Leading Role) plays Riggan Thomson, a Hollywood actor once famous for his role in the super hero series, Birdman. Since that time however Thomson has lost his fame, and now feels unworthy and on the verge of suicide because of it. He is constantly haunted by the inner voice of his former Birdman character who pesters him with thoughts of who he used to be and how he isn’t measuring up to all he should be.

In an effort to regain his importance and the limelight, Thomson is preparing for Opening Night of a new Broadway production in which he is both directing and starring. Through the backstage interaction between the characters, including Thomson’s daughter played by Emma Stone (nominated for Best Actress in Supporting Role), we see Thomson is not the only one struggling with wanting to be “Somebody.”

Don’t we all want to feel like we are making a difference? That we matter? That we are relevant?

This to me is the heart behind the show. But the sad commentary is both in the show and in real life, our own self-importance and pride often blinds us into falsely believing this is where our identity lies.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to make a difference, God created us with purpose, different callings, talents and passions to find enjoyment in.  But, when we tie our identity to our performances, positions, paycheck, successes, failures or anything else as a barameter of who we are, we are turning to created things and not the Creator for our worth.

When this is the case we become enslaved by our own misguided “truths” and how we think others view us according to the expectations and standards we set. And if others don’t see us in the way we think they should, we fall into the trap of needing to try harder and do more in order to secure the self-exhaltation we seek. 

In the movie this describes Riggan Thomson. His too high opinion of himself led to depression because others didn’t view him in the way he desired and felt he deserved. He had an insatiable appetite to know he was okay.Unknown-1

How different life would have been for him and other charcters in the film and maybe for us, too, though if we knew and rested in who God declares us to be. That we are more than okay, but cherished and loved and significant. So significant, in fact, that God sent his Son to the cross so that all of His children could know Him eternally.

When we grasp that our identity is secure, not based on our performance, but on his perfect love and obedience for us, we won’t have to strive to be “Somebody.” Instead we can be free of ourselves and redirect our desire to make a difference on striving to impact others, for their good and the glory of God!

Did you miss the other posts in this years Oscar series? You can view them at: Shaping Influences in “Boyhood” and Into the Woods for Happily Ever After.

Into The Woods For Happily Ever After

[CINDERELLA]: “I wish… more than anything… more than life… more than jewels… The King is giving a Festival. I wish to go to the Festival. And the ball. I wish.”

[JACK]: “I wish… more than life… more than anything… more than the moon… I wish my cow would give us some milk… or even cheese… I wish.”

[BAKER’S WIFE]: “I wish… more than life… more than riches… I wish we had a child… I wish.”

[JACK’S MOTHER]: “I wish my son were not a fool. I wish my house was not a mess. I wish the cow was full of milk. I wish the walls were full of gold. I wish a lot of things.”

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These characters and the othes from “Into The Woods” all have a common problem.

There is something they want they do not have.

Do you feel this way? Is there something you don’t have that you think would make everything right?

imagesWe all have desires. Desires are not wrong. But, how we handle them can be.

A good litmus test to determine whether your desires have become ruling idols  is given by Paul Tripp in his book Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hand as having an open hand or cleched fist.

If you are able to hold your desire in an open hand, free to let it go then your desire is in its proper place.  But you know your grip on the desire is too tight (clenched fist) if when anyone or anything interfers with keeping you from getting what your want, you turn into a witch!

This is how you see whether you have bought into the fairy tale lie of “Happily Ever After” by getting whatever it is you seek.

The irony of “Into the Woods” is it’s a fairy tale gone wrong. The end doesn’t turn out as expected. The characters do not come out of the woods with all their dreams mets and all is not right in the Kingdom.

Just like in real life! Things don’t always turn out as expected, with all our desires and dreams intact. But God’s kingdom purposes are always bigger and better than our kingdom of self.  

The brillance in the message behind “Into the Woods” can be used to examine our own hearts. For just like the Baker and Cinderella and Jack and Little Red, we have a choice in how we respond to our desires.  

  • Are we going to keep fighting, chasing our dreams and constantly striving for more?
  • Will we see how we are trying to fill the God-shaped hole in our heart with something other than Christ?  Something that can never completely fill or satisfy? 
  • When we see our desires ruling us, will we open our palm to accept God’s plan even if it means the death to that desire?
  • Even if His plan is met through dissapointments and adversity, can we find joy?

By God’s grace, yes.

But only when we embrace Him as the ultimate Treasure and believe true contentment is found in Him.

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For an additional read on ruling desires: Love is Not Roses and Wine. For additional blogs in my 2015 Oscar series: Shaping Influences in “Boyhood”