Wednesday, May 30, 2012

From Darkness to Light-The Story of My Life

I have decided to write this because my life is so rich and full of blessings that I want some way to share it, but it hasn’t always been that way and it hasn’t come easily. I realized that there are a lot of people who know me and think I’ve always been like this. They have no idea where I’ve come from, what I’ve lived through, and what a miracle it is that my life is what it is today.
WARNING: Reader discretion advised some material may not be suitable for children. Just kidding. In other words I will attempt to relate details with tact, but I’m not leaving anything out. I’m not ashamed of what I was because all that I was rescued from makes my restoration that much more fantastic.

As a kid I had the average American life. My parents went to church on holidays, managed to stay married, loved me, took care of me, gave me everything, mom stayed home dad worked. Apart from a few random weirdos no one abused me and nothing really bad happened to me. I could waste hours psychoanalyzing myself and come up with 100 things that contributed to my demise but the reality is that I made a decision and chose a path. I’ve often heard analogies about people on life’s journey coming to a fork in the road and they can pick the good path or the bad one. I’ve since come to learn that there is only one way whom is The Way, and there are a million others routes that are just different versions of self- fulfillment, some are just more socially acceptable than others. When I was about twelve I started asking (like we all do in some way or another ) what it was that made me worth anything to the rest of the world around me. I was a perfectionist and a people pleaser. If I was going to do something I would do it all out and go above and beyond, and I desperately wanted the approval and praise of my parents, teachers, and peers. I found out that this was really hard to get, especially from peers, no matter how I tried. This combined with having bullies and teasing left me with a lot of insecurities. I came to the realization that I would never be “good enough” for anyone and gave up on trying completely. Around the same time my parents started attending a church and all of a sudden there was a whole new set of rules and a way I was supposed to be, that I knew I couldn’t live up to, and wanted nothing to do with, especially when I couldn’t relate to any of the kids my age there.
I soon realized that I could easily find friends and fans the more of a rebel I became, and that boys could provide me with the affection and approval that l was desperate for. At age thirteen I started using marijuana, acid, drinking, smoking and having sexual relationships. I skipped out of school, vandalized and “borrowed” cars, drove while drinking, ran away a few times, and broke in and stole liquor from gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, and people’s houses. My sophomore year of high school I came to school with nothing in my backpack but some alcohol, found some friends, left school and did nothing but drink for two days straight. There was always someone who I crossed in all this and I got beat up a number of times. By my junior year I wanted to get out of school and home so badly that I did what I had to to graduate early and start my apprenticeship in a salon as a hairdresser. I was 17 when I started. It was a glamorous job and gave me enough money to move into my own place and get a new mustang convertible. It also gave me a fake ID thanks to the older girls I worked with. Around age 17 I had also started my only long term relationship. I dated this guy for almost two years. He was verbally abusive, would break up with me just for the weekend so he could date other girls, and by the end of the two years had given me several black eyes, some broken ribs. As soon as that relationship was over I went wild. My fake ID gave me entrance to a whole new world. I spent a lot of time in the night clubs in Milwaukee. I met a whole new crowd of friends. They were older than me , had fancy clothes, vehicles, apartments, and lots of money for expensive drugs. Some just had these things because they were drug dealers. I spent all my time off work with them at clubs and parties using expensive drugs and during the work week drank a lot. One of these friends was a full time very wealthy drug dealer who drove our group of friends around in limos and took us to Las Vegas on gambling and using trips in exchange for which we had to carry drugs through the airport on our persons in obscure places if you know what I mean. From the start of all this (13) until now(19), I had an ongoing string of shallow relationships that left me more empty and numb.
The “fun” of it all was starting to wear off and I was becoming aware of the sickness of it all. I had told myself it was all just fun and I could stop all this when I wanted and when I got older I would settle down. When I tried to tone it down a little I realized I was in so deep I couldn’t help myself and trying to back off just had a whiplash effect that made everything worse. The month before it was all over so many bad things happened that it stopped me dead in my tracks. Coming back from a Las vegas trip I had taken so many drugs that I didn’t sleep for almost a week and cried and cried wanting nothing more than for the drugs to wear off. One night at a multi apartment party I went to get a tour of the penthouse apartment where a world famous kick boxer lived. Next thing I knew I was being slammed up against wall after wall by my neck and finally thrown on a bed. He all of a sudden fell over unconscious before I could be beat up anymore or raped. My relief at escaping that was overwhelming. I was taking way too many drugs at a time. The last straw was when one night I took too much again and it had something bad in it. The last thing I remember was feeling sick at a friends house in Milwaukee. When I became conscious I was sitting in my car in my driveway in Oconomowoc thirty miles away. There was vomit covering the windshield, dashboard and both front seats and floor. I was too weak to stand and had to have my roommate help me into the house. I had no idea that I had driven myself home or how I did so and was amazed to be alive. That day I was scheduled to fly to Redkens HQ in New York for training for work. I tried calling in sick but my boss told me if I didn’t make it in I was fired. I showed up for work four hours late white faced ,purple lipped and had to run to the bathroom between clients to throw up. My boss knew that I didn’t have the flu and told me we were going to have a big talk when I got back from New York. A week or so before this I had a strange encounter with someone. At a restaurant I ran into the guy who was the youth pastor at the church my parents went to. I hadn’t seen him since I was 13 when he took me aside and warned me about the direction my life was going. When he asked me how I was doing I tried to tell him I was fine, but instead I admitted to him that I was messed up. He told me that If I didn’t get away from here that I would probably destroy myself and suggested I go to this great Christian school that he knew of in Texas. I thought and laughed to myself “ Yeah, OK, you weirdo, even if I wanted to do that they’d probably never let me in,… do you know who you’re talking to”, and told him see ya later. But now I had become desperate for a way out. I called my boss from New York and confessed to him what I had really been up to. When I got back he generously offered to give me a leave of absence from work and send me to a treatment facility. I was overwhelmed with gratefulness for his concern, but somehow deep inside I knew that I was beyond the help of any person or program and that only something powerful or divine or miraculous could help me. I began to hope that God was something more than just a bunch of ideals, otherwise I was screwed. So I called up the youth pastor and told him I would go to this place if that’s what he thought would help me. It sounded crazier to me than anyone else. I would have to quit my job-(ugh!), sell my car, sub-let my apartment, pack up whatever I could and take a train to the other side of the country where I would live at this school fifty miles out in the middle-of –nowhere Texas, with a bunch of people I had never met.. But true to my usual pattern of throwing myself completely into whatever crazy thing I was gonna do, I went for it.
My train ride there was 36 hours long. A few hours into it I freaked out as the realization of what I was doing hit me. I went to the train’s bar and ordered a drink. A train attendant had been staring at me since I boarded the train. He was a huge black man with bright eyes. He finally stopped and spoke to me, “you ain’t on no regular trip, you on some sort of journey to get rid of that aching” I teared up and nodded-dumbfounded by what he had just said to me. I spent most of that day and night on the train sitting at his post talking with him. I told him my whole story and all my doubts about what I was doing. Many things he “guessed” before I told him and he spoke to me with a quiet confidence and assurance about his knowing of God and His guiding me here and comforted me in every little thing I related to him. His face was like sunshine that warmed me up. Before the trip was over I had a new peace . I still had my fake ID in my wallet. Since I was almost 20 at this time it was my access to much of my party life. I threw it out the window before we reached our destination.
I spent my first few days there holding back tears. I could probably count on one hand the number of times I had cried all of the previous years and it was something I hated. As I listened for hours a day to teaching about God and His ways it must’ve just uncorked me. I spent a lot of time crying over the next few months and to this day I do so easily and love it. What I heard there was different than anything I had been exposed to before pertaining to God. From the bible they taught that God didn’t expect me to try harder or be better or reform my SELF in any way- That any concept of laws or some level of “goodness” that I thought I was supposed to attain to, were meant to show me that I couldn’t do it in and of myself-That everything God desired for me and required of me , He Himself would do for me and through me, and that all I had to do was die-meaning that God became a man and Jesus lived a perfect life, died a brutal death and rose again to new life, and included all of humanity with him in this process , and so my old manner of life, my old self would die like Jesus, and I would be made a new creation, given a new life –His life in me.(most of this is found the books of Romans and Galatians) As I took all this in I remember thinking “wow, what a sweet deal, if this is what it’s like then , I’m In.” In that simple thought everything changed for me. I was different in every way possible. The bible uses the sharpest contrasts possible to convey the change that happens in a person when they become” saved”. They are brought from death to life, darkness to light, from enmity with God to His adopted sons , they become dead to sin and alive to God, and I experienced these intensely. It was truly like the person I had been was gone and I was someone new. Like a sponge I soaked up everything I could while I was there. My fellow classmates and teachers spent hours listening to me relate my experiences past and present. They prayed with me, accepted me as I was, and showed me how to play and laugh and have fun in an innocent way I hadn’t known before. It was strange to me to have such a closeness to people that I had absolutely nothing in common with outside of my new found love for God.
I intended to stay there for a whole year but my bills were piling up at home and I could only put them off for so long, so I came home half way through. My train ride home couldn’t have been more different from the ride there. I was bursting with the joy of my new freedom. Anything could now be fun and exciting for me. I was passing the train time in the observation car by amusing myself by sticking pencils up my nose while pretending to read a book and watching people’s reactions out of the corner of my eye while trying not to laugh.(real mature,I know) A young man sat down next to me and asked me what I was doing. We got to talking and I wasted no time telling him my whole story. He told me that he had recently started using ecstasy out at some nightclubs. Obviously I had some warnings for him. We spent most of the rest of the ride talking and just laughing a lot. A few days later he called me and told me that he really wanted to have what I did. A few weeks later he called and said he had been out using and was miserable. A few months later he called and said that he was done with it all and had started going to a young church near where he lived and was hopeful that he would have the kind of happiness that I had. I was humbled and overjoyed that Jesus’ life in me had had that kind of effect on someone.
I was nervous at first about coming back but a friend I met there who was from Canada came home with me for a few weeks to give me support in the transition. I knew beyond a doubt that I was a new person but I was kind of like an infant in my new life and my old life was-well-old. I had spent seven years establishing my previous patterns of thought and behavior. I knew that I just had to keep believing that I was dead to it and free from it. Well I was put to the test. During my first week or two back at the Salon a man who had never been to the Salon before came to me for a haircut. As I started to cut his hair he told me that he was he was the head of the Milwaukee county drug enforcement agency. Immediately I wondered if this guy knew something about me. I asked him some questions about his work and he talked very freely with me. He told me what a huge problem ecstasy and a few other similar drugs had become for them and how they were at a total loss for getting any handle on where it was all coming from. I struggled to get through the rest of his haircut without freaking out. Obviously I had some major information I could give to him and my meeting with him seemed more than coincidence. Also many of my old using friends who I cared about in a new way now had been getting really messed up and a few had landed themselves in the hospital on overdoses. It seemed like any way to help stop it all would be the most loving thing to do. I ended up calling him up and sharing my whole story with him including my time at the school I had just returned from and how God had changed my life and told him that because of this I was willing to help in any way I could. I was in for way more than I expected. I guess the way it works is that for me to become a “legitimate informant” I had to be escorted by an undercover agent to where I could make a drug purchase and after that they could move on any info I could give them as to where drugs might be located. This was way more than I was expecting. I prayed hard about what to do and got some counsel from some pastors and mentors in my life. Since all my old friends were blown away by my transformation I didn’t want becoming an “informer” to ruin whatever opportunity I had to speak to them about God if they were to find out, not to mention putting me in danger. But to let the drug dealing go on so rampantly would hurt many more people than just my friends and I had an opportunity to do something about it so I went ahead with it. The next Saturday night I met up with the undercover agent, picked out appropriate attire for him and we went the nightclub I used to hang out at. I had been gone a long time and as we walked in the door I had forgotten completely that everyone who came in had to get patted down by security. The agent I was with had two firearms on him and for a moment I thought I was busted, but the bouncers were the same ones who had been there always. They knew who I was and that I was never to get searched because this place was so successful because of all the using. Since the agent was with me they waved him through too. I quickly did what I had to and then left. After this I found myself wondering , “God do you really want me to do this?” The next thing they wanted me to do was to go out to the clubs and parties so I could get sight of drugs and then call it in to them. I knew at that point that was something I could not do and a position that was totally unwise to put myself in. Thankfully they understood. I had one opportunity to make a bust soon after that though. Just a few days after this an old friend called me up and then went unconscious on the phone. I cared particularly about him because I had introduced him to the drugs he was so out of control on and hugely involved in dealing. I went over to his house and found him half awake in a puddle of blood from his nose. He as usual had a massive store of pills in his house and I knew that if I called in on him jail might save his life. Instead I told him that I was able to inform on him right then and there but I wasn’t going to and told him how much God loved him and how his life could be transformed too and prayed for him. He ended up in jail a few weeks later anyway. A few years later I ran into someone who had seen him and I guess his life was totally turned around and he said if this person ever saw me to thank me for it. I don’t know if he’s experienced new life in Christ but obviously something stuck with him. I wondered what the point of this whole crazy experience had been since it didn’t seem to accomplish anything. After this though, I never doubted again whether or not I would continue to follow Jesus.
The first night that I returned from school a really great lady who worked at the salon with me had a kind of welcome home get together for me. She had tried to talk to me about God a number of times in the past when I had tried to make it clear to her I was having none of that. While I was away at school I kept in touch with her. During that first year home she and her husband were my life line, my main and for a while only companions to share my new life with. That night at her in-laws house she introduced me to her nephew. A few months later I got to know him more at a home fellowship group. He was the only person I had ever met who was as passionate about God as I was and he had been rescued from the same kind of life as me. For that very reason less than a year later I married him. We spent most of our time together that most couples would have spent “dating” by praying together, talking about God and his word, and sharing our faith with others. When we started getting serious we took a month apart to sort out some of the issues our impending marriage was bringing up, after which we quickly went ahead with it, convinced that the Lord had brought us together. I was surprised at how quickly the Lord had brought marriage my way, especially because the LAST THING ON EARTH I wanted then was to be involved in any way with a guy. I had just turned 21 when we were married and Nathan had just turned 20. We were young but our love for the Lord and all we had lived through gave us some level of maturity that we may not have had otherwise. But we had a lot of growing and healing to do still. Especially me. We spent the next 2-3 years living in Madison doing a discipleship school through a place called Mad City church. It was geared towards making us radically process God’s ways with us as we learned to truthfully examine ourselves, teach us about God’s nature and character, and how to think for ourselves and discern truth. We tackled real and tough questions about our human experience and perceptions of God. I am eternally grateful for the teachers and preachers we had there, some of which were another of Nathan’s aunts and uncles.
I grew and learned so much during my time there and Nathan and I had everything going for us. Letting Jesus live in and through us has for the most part governed our interactions with each other teaching us to respectfully communicate, consider each others needs more important than our own( this one is a continual lesson), and has given us a deep and passionate connection. But there was one thing that cast a dark cloud on my new life and marriage. My greatest fear entering my marriage was that my past life would have an effect on it, especially in the area of intimacy. Unfortunately this was the case, probably because in my fear I expected it. I knew beyond a doubt that I was a new creation, but when I had this transformation I had new eyes, and looking back for the first time I saw the magnitude of how gross and terrible my promiscuity had been. Because of this I felt almost like sexuality was something that had to die along with my old self because I had no concept of it being something beautiful and sacred that God made, and so I felt dead and numb still in this one area. The other thing that contributed to this was that in all my experience before this, my main motivation for involving myself with anyone in this way, was that it was what I had to do to keep someone’s affections for any length of time. My husband had committed to love me and stay with me unconditionally til death do us part and I knew he meant it, so in this new relationship where I didn’t have to continually entice him to stay with me, I hadn’t yet for my part, learned any new motivation. Three years into our marriage I was still struggling this way and heartbroken over it. I was would go back and forth between trust and hope that God would fix me, and fear that this was an inescapable consequence of my past. Slowly though, there was some change. My husband’s ways with me were like living in a foreign land where I was having to learn a new language. Every so often I would recognize a gesture he made( like recognizing a foreign word) as being able to be sexual and loving/caring at the very same time. What an epiphany! I began to be able to understand and respond to him. Through those years I would study his face and quiz him searching for traces of frustration or dissatisfaction with me. Never once did I find any. He never showed me anything but acceptance of where I was at and patience. Many men would’ve said forget it. But my husband has Christ as the source of fulfillment in His life ,he doesn’t look to me for it. Without this I’m sure things would’ve been different. Over the next two years it got to a point where there was no more struggle, and after that things couldn’t have been more different. We’ve been married almost ten years and now I’m convinced that no one on earth enjoys each other more than we do. Sorry if that’s way more than anyone wants to know about us but if my arm got chopped off and then grew back I wouldn’t think it any more miraculous than the restoration I’ve experienced in this part of my life. OK maybe a little, but seriously, if Christians can’t talk about sex than we might as well just write ourselves off as being culturally irrelevant
On that note I guess I’ll move on to kids. When we’d been married about 2.5 years our first child, Asa was born. Like most things in my life that had totally changed so had my view of children and a family. Nathan and I felt that God had given us understanding of the innate value of each person and so bringing each little life into this world was a privilege and responsibility far beyond whatever fulfillment we would get out of it. We’ve had confidence that we’d raise our family to shine God’s light in this world so I was surprised in a way when I had troubles. Before Asa I had a miscarriage. Then when I was 5 months pregnant with her an ultrasound showed tumors in her brain that could’ve killed her had they remained. Everyone in our discipleship community laid hands on me and prayed for me and I felt a tingling sensation from head to toe and knew that God had done something. Through prayer we got the name Asa. When we looked up the meaning it was strength or healing. A few weeks later at the next ultrasound they were gone and we knew God had healed her and spared us. Then when she was a year old I had to have emergency surgery for a tubal pregnancy. I had no idea I was pregnant so when the pregnancy lodged in my tube it burst my tube as it grew and there’s so much blood flow there you can bleed to death in 30-45 mins. I was pretty shook up after all this and the doctor wasn’t sure what effect it’d have on my ability to conceive. I grieved this loss but was hopeful. A few months later I was pregnant again. I really thought that everything would be fine and that my problems were past. It seemed so as my pregnancy continued normally for almost five months. Then one morning my teenage brother –in-law who had slept on our couch woke up and told me he dreamt I’d had the baby but it was really tiny for some reason and was in something that looked like a balloon. Right after this I started bleeding a little. Obviously I was freaked out and went to the doctor immediately. They did and ultrasound and said that everything looked fine. I saw her heartbeat and saw her moving around so I went home and had some friends pray for me. My doctors visit was reassuring and I really felt like God would answer our prayers for this child’s protection so I went about my day. Later that afternoon I was shopping with my mom. As we left the store I had intense and sudden pain and bled so much in a few minutes that I was soaked from my waist to my feet. I was rushed to Waukesha memorial on what seemed a really long and painful ambulance ride. After some tests and evaluation I delivered a very tiny dead baby girl still in the amniotic sac. I was able to hold her for a bit before I was taken to surgery to remove the placenta that wouldn’t detach. It was early the next morning when I woke up from surgery. As I realized where I was and what had happened it crushed me. I remembered the dream that my brother had the day before and realized with a terrible feeling how accurately it described what had happened. I spent the next week in heart-wrenching pain trying to process what had happened with God. I would wake up in the middle of the night feeling like some dark force was suffocating me and crushing me in my bed and spent all day praying and searching God’s word for comfort or answers to my questions. “ What was up with that dream?, were You trying to warn me?, if so to what end? To change the outcome?, But You didn’t answer my prayers, Should I have prayed more or had other people pray more? Why would you show me this terrible thing and then just have it happen like that? Were You trying to show me that You were involved because You care? Maybe You weren’t involved , maybe You just had to stay out of it for some reason, maybe it didn’t have anything to do with You, maybe it was the devil, maybe he brought this on because he hates that we want to raise children for God’s glory, if so why would You leave me so vulnerable to him, what kind of power does he have to harm me directly if any? “ I prayed like this for days. I was suffering but I knew that surely as God is who He is that He would bring me comfort and peace and I was gonna press in until it came and of course it did. Much of it came through the book of Job.
For anyone unfamiliar with the story Satan comes before God’s throne in heaven and God kind of brags to him about this guy Job and how he fears God and is blameless and says there’s no one like him on the earth. Satan replies that the only reason for this is because of all Job’s blessings, so he’s allowed to destroy all of Jobs wealth, kill all his children and bring disease on him, all to see whether or not he’d curse God. Job pours out his miseries to God and of course asks why, but it says that in all of this he never sinned in what he said or blamed God. Some famous lines of his are “the lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the Lord”, “shall I accept blessing and not adversity from Him”. Through all this Job’s friends try to convince him that he did some evil to deserve this and if he turns from it ,it’ll stop but Job knows this isn’t true. Finally God answers Job in a way that directs him to look on God’s greatness and goodness .Oddly enough He never lets him in on the fact that his response to his suffering would bear testimony to all of the forces of dark and Light in the heavens, and all of humanity for the rest of time. There was indeed a much greater purpose for his suffering. He proved to all beings and set an example for us that a man could and would indeed love and be faithful to God for who He is and not just what we can get from Him. Finally his suffering ceases and all his blessings are restored and a new family given to him.
There were a few very life-changing things I took away from this. The biggest thing was the assurance that when God doesn’t intervene or protect us from tragedy, it has to be because there is some much greater purpose, some greater good, either to the individual or others that would be lost if He did. Like Job, even though Satan may want to get us to be mad at God and bring harm to our lives, God had drawn some boundary lines as to what he could do and God will never let us suffer or be tested beyond what we can endure and like precious metals being purified in a fire He brings something beautiful out of it. Like Joseph who got sold as a slave, imprisoned, and then became a king, what men had intended for evil, God used for good. There are a lot of things we are vulnerable to in this life. God has given His redeemed ones power and weapons over many of these things, but just like what happened to Job, evil can hurt us through nature or disease or other peoples wills, but it can’t touch our souls without our consent and I’m convinced it uses all these other things to try to get to our innermost beings and get us to mistrust and turn away from The one and only Source of life. The reality of life is that everything can be taken away from us by any number of means and we have no right to any of it, but the one thing that can’t be taken from me or denied me is my hope and expectation of life everlasting in paradise with Love Himself. God also brought me comfort by opening my eyes to this verse, Romans 8:18” for I consider that these present sufferings are not worthy to be compared to the glory that will be revealed”(when we get to heaven). In other words, the awesomeness and ecstasies of heaven will be so enormous when we experience it, that all of the atrocities of planet earth for all time combined( if you can imagine how great the sickness and darkness of that would be) would be so small in comparison that it would be as silly as comparing an ant to an elephant for some relative size. We are so easily hit with the magnitude of all the suffering here on earth that we can’t imagine it being “small” in comparison to anything, but God says that what’s waiting for us won’t just make up for it, it’ll will overwhelm it , obliterate it! I’m glad that I know that I have that in store for me and am willing to endure whatever I have to in my short time on earth until I get there.
At the end of that difficult week my husband and I buried our baby in the old cemetery in Oconomowoc where we live. We named her Ananda, we were gonna call her Nani for short. Two months later we stood in that same spot as my best friend who had a loss similar to mine buried her baby there. I felt her pain and God gave me some intense inspiration to write a song called “Cry Like Job” based on the process of my loss. I played the song in public for the first time at the memorial service for Nathans precious brother Kyle. He was killed on his mom’s birthday in a freak car accident a few years after he got clean and gave his life to follow Jesus. He was engaged to be married in a few months and had lived with us during his time of “new life”. His loss has left a bigger hole in our lives than anything we’ve experienced yet. We all found ourselves again asking why, but then experiencing God’s comfort and reassurance. God may not protect us from pain but He definitely will heal all of our wounds and heap blessings on us. He truly holds nothing good back from us and gives us everything, Sometimes I think that the depths of our experience of ”loss “ are to the degree that we are ignorant of this. We’ve since gone on to have 3 more children and one more miscarriage. I have been pregnant 8 times. I look at it all and can say the lord has given and taken away, blessed is my lord.
Never would I have thought that in my Christian life I would be dealing with anything like bulimia but God used my struggle with it to secure in me the most indispensable lesson that a person can ever learn about Him or themselves. Here’s how it happened. I’ll probably describe this process in detail so you can see how subtly something like this can ensnare you. When I first became a believer God had become the new and abundant source of my identity, worth, approval, and acceptance. Not that I don’t ever worry about what people think of me but when I do it’s usually overridden by His Spirit in me redirecting me towards His thoughts and feelings on whatever the issue is. My perfectionism though was something that lingered for years. As a Christian it was able to disguise itself for a long time as spiritual fervor or a desire for many other “good” or godly things. It was like a huge plant of some sort that had gotten chopped away at by my learning to find my identity in the Lord but the big old roots underneath remained and for me to become aware of how much it was still there it had to rear it’s ugly head in a way that would get my attention. Looking back at it I can see how Satan used the classic scheme for Christians of getting me overextended and busy to set this trap for me. It started not too long after our second child was born almost 5 years ago. She was a difficult baby and after she was born I had a lot of anxiety and insomnia. I was also the worship leader at Brew city church which had just gotten started and it was a lot of pressure for me. I had a close friend who was on bed-rest with a threatened pregnancy and I took care of her and her son two days a week, I worked very part time, and my husband and I had gotten really into mountain bike racing the last few years and I had gotten good at it and was looking to train and compete seriously in the upcoming season. Holy cow I must of thought I was superwoman! I was doing so much and couldn’t do it all well. I was frustrated and felt unsuccessful in every one of those things and they were mostly out of my control. Being an athlete over the years I had become increasingly disciplined about what I ate. During this crazy time I started reaching for at least something I could feel like I was doing really well at so I found myself being extra disciplined about my eating habits and started seeing the numbers on the scale drop which felt really good. I never really thought of myself as having bad self image. Like most women I’d find some things I didn’t love when I looked in the mirror but I also found lots of things I liked and tried to focus on those but when it comes to weight in our day and age, less is better. I don’t care who you are or how great you feel about yourself, typically if you step on the scale and see numbers go down you feel good, see them go up and you feel bad so I didn’t see anything wrong with being excited about weighing less. The problem came when discipline turned to deprivation and that combined with the stress in my life caused me to start binge eating. Then I felt like I had totally screwed up the one area I had been doing “so well”. I wanted relief from feeling guilty and sick to my stomach enough to make myself throw up the first time. I was surprised at how easy it was. I told myself I wouldn’t do that again but then I thought that being more “careful” would prevent it from happening again and it did just the opposite.
After 2 months of this I realized that I had developed a problem and told my family and friends what I was struggling with. I basically had to cut everything out of my life and deal with myself. All of the things I had going for me in my life as a young Christian woman were either removed or on the back burner while I was reduced to just trying to make it a week at a time without making myself puke. It was the most humbling experience of my entire life. Like I said before though God used it to secure some things in me. Through the 6 or so months that I struggled with this God really ministered to me by showing me so many things about myself. Never once did I feel ashamed when it came to where I was at in relation to Him. When I would come to Him broken about where I was at, I felt Him shower me with reassurance of His love and delight in me. Yeah I felt ashamed of my behavior and was mad at myself , but when it came to God He convinced me that His feelings towards me would never change regardless of If I walked in victory or if I failed miserably. It ‘s funny because as a Christian I knew that when it came to my eternal salvation, no matter how good I was or how well I perform as a Christian I could never earn or achieve it , that only Jesus could do that on my behalf, that my right standing before God comes only through faith in him. When it came to how I was doing in my daily life as a Christian (I guess the bible would call this sanctification), I think I mostly felt like I wasn’t measuring up to what I should be like. I knew the biblical description of what God wanted my life to be like and if my life started to look like that I ‘d feel good about myself and thought God was happier with me. if I strayed from it I’d be frustrated with myself and thought God was frustrated with me too. I knew that I couldn’t do anything of spiritual worth in my own strength and efforts. I knew I needed His power in my life to be a good Christian but the problem was that I thought that God was more after my performing well than He was after my heart being motivated by his love. I would’ve never said those things because I knew better in my head but my life had shown me what I really believed. . Colossians 2:6 says “in the same way you received the Lord Jesus, so walk in him.” I realized that living in Christ could only come by the same kind of faith that my salvation did, faith in His adequacy, and conviction that the goal of it all is to know and love Him and His heart for me. This is the soul piercing beauty of the Christian faith, what makes it different from religion of any sort, is that it’s not about measuring up to some way you’re supposed to act or be. It’s about a God who delights in and desires us so much that He was willing to send His only Son to suffer for us so that we could be made righteous, not for the sake of righteousness itself, but for the sole purpose of being intimately close to us and removing anything that would ever come between us and Him. Eph 2:8 says “by grace you have been saved – through faith”. His grace , His favor for us is what made it all happen, faith is just how we access it. Romans 5:2 says “we have obtained our introduction by faith , to this grace in which we stand”. Faith is just the introduction. Grace is the place we live and we have to spend the rest of our lives getting to know it better.
The other big thing God showed me through all of this was that I could very well be convinced that it’s not about measuring up or how well I’m doing as far as God is concerned, but I can have my own standards for myself that are apart from Him. For example if being a good mom, or wife, or evangelist or athlete or being good at my job or what kind of clothes I wear or kind of car I drive or whatever- is what I do to feel good about myself, then I ultimately have set up my own standards of goodness or success. It’s basically being righteous in my own eyes and I have to give up any sense of adequacy or attainment that I derive from those things and measure myself only by what has been given to me in Jesus death and life. This is something I still process on a regular basis. Sorry for getting all preachy on you but I’m pretty sure that what God is after in all of our lives whether we know Him already or not, is to bring us to the experience of what I just described.
So through all of this I was able to let go of the things that had led me to an eating disorder and haven’t had an issue with it since. Since we lost my brother in law 3 years ago there haven’t been any major shakeups in life but God is constantly bringing more freedom and blessings into my life and humbling me also. One thing I had dealt with in my life was sleeplessness and occasional bouts of really oppressive dark dreams. After a time of deliverance and prayer a couple of years ago I haven’t had either. Before my most recent pregnancy my doctor discovered a large mass on my ovary, Some fellow believers laid hands on me and prayed for healing. The next thing I knew it was gone and there was a baby in there instead. I’ve spent the last few years changing lots of diapers, cleaning lots of messes, doing tons of laundry, teaching home-school, feeding , feeding ,and feeding children, and in my daily life God continues to draw me to Him and work in me deeply. I’ve spent so much of my life trying to control things in and around me to protect myself from difficulty, or to bring them to what I think God wants them to be and have tried to rely on His strength to do this. I am learning to confess and let go of any motivations in my life that are not compelled by His love and my need of Him. I still get frustrated with myself for not handling some situation with my kids the way I should, or I feel like my life isn’t surrendered enough to God, or some days I feel like a failure in general, but I am learning to embrace . these as the means by which I get to experience Gods power and grace in my life.

So what is the point of me making all this known to whoever will hear it? I guess it’s to ask where are you at? Are you living life by your own standards and what is it you’re living for? Maybe you don’t believe God’s real. If not then everything I’ve described is the delusion of a crazy person who thinks god talks to and interacts with me. That is possible, but I think the state of my life would show otherwise. I don’t think a person experiences the kind of joy and freedom I have by convincing themselves of a bunch of things that aren’t true. Maybe your life is great and you think that I just want to believe all of this because I’m so messed up. That’s also possible, but I don’t care who you are or how together you have it. I’ve never met anyone who isn’t haunted by the desire for “something more” in life. God has put this in us all to draw us to Him and we all deal with it differently. Some of us think we can actually attain this “something more” and chase it down the road to success, some of us feel this as more of an ache that we either try to numb or get away from and we become a little more self destructive. No matter what kind of evidence you look for you can only know for sure that God is real when you experience Him. Jesus said that “whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses( or surrenders) his life for My sake will find it”. Just give it up. What He’s got in store for you is so much better than what you’re running after in your life anyway.
If you already know Him I would ask you this- are you convinced of His love and grace? If not that should be your number one priority in life because everything else in the Christian life flows from there. You don’t have to have had a bunch of crazy struggles like me for that to happen. You and Him have your own path to walk together and He can bring about His purposes in your life through any number of means, whether blessings or trials you can be sure of this –it’s all gonna be for your good and His glory