Let Freedom Ring

imagesFor many, this July 4th rings of new freedom and I suspect a more resounding proclamation of our country being a “sweet land of liberty.” While I do not wish to discuss the actual Supreme Court’s controversial decision that took over Facebook this past week, I do have a concerning observation because of it.

If freedom and rights are what were being fought for and discrimination the basis for the change in the law, what has happened to the freedom to hold a differing opinion?

From what I’ve seen play out online pro-supporters are free to rejoice while those who say anything against the decision are being ridiculed…or discriminated against.  Don’t get me wrong because I know much of the minority opinion has come in the form of hurtful attack and self-righteous slander and this is wrong. But by the same token for those like myself who hold firm to the Truth of the Bible I’m not so sure freedom still rings.

There is obviously a great divide in our country, this is nothing new. But in the shift in public thinking what appears to be happening from this side of the fence is an intolerance to the Christian point of view.

For the first time in my life I am very aware that what I believe is no longer culturally accepted and many are adamantly opposed. Historically there is nothing new about this for the Christian. Throughout time believers have been called to live counter-culturally. For some this has meant persecution and death, but rarely have American Christians been called out of our comfort zones. And, therefore, generally don’t venture there.

I’ld say the majority of Christians either: Prefer their holy huddles over engaging “the sinners out there” or, they have grown so complacent in their faith that it no longer characterizes their lives or sets them apart.  Similarly, the church at large tries so hard to be culturally relevant we miss seeing how much like the world we have become.

In the changing landscape of our country, Christians and the Church are needed not to serve as the purity police, to offer up feel-good messages of morality and law, or to retreat. Christians and the Church are called to go out in love, to show compassion and to speak truth.

For it is only in hearing the truth of God’s word – about the work and worth of Christ – that hearts will ever change.  Only by seeing how glorious and full of grace Jesus was toward undeserving sinners that He will be rightly understood.

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” I Corinthians 1:18

“So Jesus said …“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32

Christians – Let Freedom Ring!

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

 

New Years Nesting Leaves No Room for Perfection

I don’t know about you but something about ushering in the New Year makes me want to clean out and freshen up. I get busy going through drawers and cabinets and files and closets- reorganizing, filing, shredding and purging.

UnknownThe first few days of this year has been just that, only a lot of rearranging going on too. You see, I just read Myquillyn Smith’s, a.k.a The Nester, book The Nesting Place and cannot stop “shopping my own house” as she calls it.

I’m obsessed now and can’t believe, considering her 40,000+ Instagram followers, that until my sweet friend gave me this book she was unfamiliar to me! Turns out I even read her sister’s blog, Chatting at the Sky, and promote the grace-in-all-things lifestyle they each write about.

Well, better late than never, I’m glad to have been introduced and this is why:

Her motto: “It Doesn’t Have To Be Perfect To Be Beautiful”

We are called to holiness, not perfection. Thank the Lord since we can never attain it!  Most of us though tend to think they are one in the same. Therefore, we strive for perfection and feel like failures when we miss the mark. Instead of our inadequacies leading us deeper to dependence on Him, we try to hide our imperfections and sin from others while secretly beating ourselves up and resolving to try harder.

As I’ve written before basing your standing and worth on a million things other than Christ is a relentless treadmill hard to step off of. But, oh, how freeing when you do!

It will affect you in every way – even in how you see your house – which I am getting back to:). But first you must see how what you believe and the depth it reaches your heart matters in every day moments.

When your identity rests securely in Christ, the opinions of others matters less. No longer will you endlessly strive to meet their approval. No longer will you stress over what someone might think. No longer will you base your worth on how you look or compare to others.

You will be free! Free to stop thinking so much about yourself, which frees you up to love others better.

This freedom plays out in our homes too. When you are free to not be perfect, your house does not have to be perfect either. As The Nester says and I agree, the most beautiful houses are truly lived and loved in homes.  They are not necessarily the ones most perfectly decorated, but the ones that invite you in as a place of hospitality, safety and rest.

Funny though how we hesitate to invite guests over because ‘Oh no’ they might see how we really live or because a certain room isn’t finished yet or we think it’s not big enough or as pretty as someone elses. Guess why this is?

Fear.

Fear of what others think and of not measuring up. Fear that robs us of contentment and joy. Fear which is the opposite of freedom. Freedom we are not finding in Christ, but an identity we are trying to secure though something else.

Back to my own freshly inspired decorating: I realized the piano no one regularly plays, taking up wall space in our living room, was the ideal spot for another couple chairs and table. Considering how frequently large groups are over for Bible studies, teenage hangouts and dinner gatherings, it dawned on me having the extra seating makes more sense.

Where the piano was. I know with the cute puppy and even cute boy its secondary to the picture:)

Where the piano was. I know with the cute puppy and even cuter boy, the piano is really secondary to this picture:)

My newly created space with not one new purchase!

My newly created space with not one new purchase!

Of course, moving that area led to another and before my family knew it I had brought items from upstairs oblivion to new prominent table space for us to enjoy. Space as conducive to sipping coffee and reading as entertaining, like we did earlier this week for a bowl game and New Years Eve.

Right there with its back exposed for all guests to see when they walk in the door!

Right there with its back exposed for all guests to see when they walk in the door!

Even though I still haven’t solved the problem of the poorly positioned piano off the entryway (which was my grandfathers and won’t be parted with) being free from the standard of perfection allowed me to be okay with it there even with guests coming.

And you know what?  That piano there, squished by the dining table, didn’t take away one bit of fun or laughter we shared.

Oh, the beauty that comes when we let go of perfection… and the joy found in an imperfect loved home with imperfect, but deeply loved people!

 

The Undeserved Gift

Has anyone ever given you a gift or done something for you that you can’t repay? Was it hard to accept? Did you feel underserving? 

What about when someone does a favor for you, do you ensure the gesture is reciprocated and feel guilty if not? 

I’ve recently been on the receiving end of something like this. While it’s not the only time I have been the beneficiary of such generosity, it doesn’t matter how often – big or small – it is hard to freely accept gifts without feeling indebted. As I’ve thought about the feeling of needing/wanting to pay back the blessing just bestowed upon me, I can’t help but think of Christ – the ultimate giver whom we can never repay.

Accepting the forgiveness from the One who knew no sin yet took on all of ours at the cross so we could be declared righteous is the tenet of our Christian faith. We proclaim there is nothing we can do to earn this gift – it is His free grace. But, do we really live in light of this reality? Or, do we act as if  somehow we need to make ourselves more worthy to receive God’s love by “paying back” our failures?

Here is what I mean: Say you’ve just given in to that same old sin for the thousandth time. The one you promised God you wouldn’t do again, but now you did. You think surely He must be mad at your for constantly failing. You feel like a “bad” Christian and deeply unworthy to even be called one. Afterall, continuing in sin and not looking any different than anyone else is what deems Christians to be such hypocrits!

You determine you must clean yourself up to make up for the flaws. Maybe if you went to church more, attended Bible study or remembered to pray that would help. You could volunteer to serve a ministry or give to someone in need. Plus you vow to do everything necessary to raise “good” kids.  So you go to work making yourself and your family “better” in an effort to appease God.  While at the same time condemning youself that you don’t already have it all together and live more victoriously. 

I hope you hear my sarcasm and see the fallacy in this thinking that leads to the disconnect of how we often live and what we say we believe. The problem lies in thinking we need to do something to makeup for our sins, so we fixate on our behavior as if that is what makes us worthy. The more we focus on external behavior and appearances the further we stray from remembering who He is for us – in that while we were still sinners He died for us!

There is nothing we did to deserve this great love and nothing we can do to undo it. When we get this truth, there is great freedom. Freedom to live as broken sinners, fully forgiven and Redeemed!

This is what leads us back to the foot of the cross to praise His great name for the gift we can never repay.8ea79eb51df99d1077e7e8070ecf759f

Three Free Sins

5On Monday nights for six weeks this summer I am gathering with other women to discuss our free sins.  That’s right – Three Free Sins is the name of the book – and it is absolutely FREEING!

You are probably thinking one of two things. Either what three do I get a free pass on or why just three if all were paid for by Jesus on the cross?

The truth is as a believer you do get a free pass and not just on three. It’s unlimited forgiveness and undeserved righteousness credited to your account. There is no limit, meaning you can not exhaust Jesus’ smile upon you no matter how many times you fall into sin.

Does this mean Jesus is okay with your sin?

It means He has forgiven you and paid the price. He absorbed the cost and does not hold it against you. This means you are FREE to not be perfect. You are FREE to fail. You are FREE to stop hiding. You are FREE to take off the masks. You are FREE be broken and vulnerable and used by God just as you are. It means you are FREE to stop pretending you aren’t a sinner and see how great a Savior you have.

Practically speaking and borrowing some from the book’s author, Steve Brown, this is what FREEDOM would look like…

  • When you are confronted in your sin instead of making excuses for yourself, passing it off, blame shifting or denying you can say, “Bingo! You are right. I did that. Please forgive me.” You are FREE to confess because you are not ruled by fear of what the other person will think of you if you admit to sinning. You are FREE to confess because you know God already knows your sin and loves you anyway. Imagine in an exchange like this how much more willing the one you offended would be to forgive? Ironically instead of them thinking worse of you in your attempt to cover-up, your humble confession actually makes you more lovable!                                                                                 
  • What about when someone sins against you? When you know how deeply you need a Savior because of your sins, you are more compassionate to others in their sin. You are FREE to be a grace-giver because you know the grace you have been given.
  • When you know you are a broken sinner – a cracked-pot or Crack Pot, as we laughed about on Monday – and everyone else is too, you are FREE to stop pretending otherwise. Now when you are struggling in your marriage, having a hard time with your kids, giving into sinful temptations, dealing with depression, doubt or discontentment, you are FREE to admit it and confide in other broken, but safe sinners without fear of judgment or condemnation.
  • When you know you have unlimited forgiveness and Christ’s righteousness covering you, you are FREE in your sin to run to Him in repentance instead of trying to hide, working to clean yourself up or striving to be better. He knows the sinful inner working and motives of your heart and loves you anyway so stop thinking you have to be perfect. Rest knowing that only by His perfect life given for you are you FREE.
  • When you know this FREEDOM, you won’t have to fear what others think of you. You won’t have to do things to make yourself look better. You won’t have to worry about messing up your witness if you sin. Afterall, are we witnessing to how perfect we are or that we have a perfect Savior because we are not?

I cannot recommend this book enough! Go order it and read it on your own or start your own group discussion. Find FREEDOM in knowing this present-tense reality:

“God demonstrates His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

He came not for the righteous, but sinners. And He pours out His grace and mercy on us in that same condition. By this gospel truth, may you be FREE in your brokenness to live honestly with one another.

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