#WhatISTrue: 2018 Hungry for Hope Reflections

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This past weekend, I was blessed beyond measure with the opportunity to further my connections, my knowledge, my ambitions, and above all, my faith.

I traveled to Nashville, Tennessee for the 10th Hungry for Hope Conference hosted by the Christian nonprofit for eating disorder and body image healing, Finding Balance .

To put it lightly, the whole weekend was utterly surreal. At times, I have to keep reminding myself that it actually happened. It was like I was on my own little mountaintop in Franklin, surrounded by people who think and speak like me. It was inspiring. It was motivating. It was humbling…and I want to remember it fully. Not only do I simply want to remember this incredible experience, but I want to apply it. I want to use it, take it back home with me, and expand on it. The mission of Finding Balance is so vital—a center for Christ-Centered connection, community and healing. This summit is currently the only Christ-centered conference of its kind in the nation.

My reasons for attending this conference were multifold: 

I wanted to be a part of an event that combined my two top passions of faith and eating disorder recovery. 

I wanted to connect with other like-minded professionals and survivors.

I wanted to learn from strong faithful leaders in this field. 

I wanted to get a taste of this work and see if I really could picture myself working in the field. 

And of course I wanted to escape my busyness to find the Lord there, and receive clarity and peace from him.

It is safe to say that all of these things were manifested over the course of this weekend. 

The Lord was definitely present in that small little factory in Franklin. A few years ago, I never would have traveled all the way to another state to walk into a room full of strangers and purposely immerse myself in a subject area that was once so painfully personal. But that just goes to show how powerful God’s grace is and how capable His healing is. Never once was I triggered by listening to the difficult stories of other ED warriors or from receiving teachings about mental health treatment. Instead, I was overcome with empathy and compassion. I observed and listened from a redeemed soul as if I were already a licensed professional. I know deep down that this is indeed my mission field, and God has persistently strengthened me and brought me to a place mentally, emotionally and physically where I am ready: I am ready to serve on the other side and not just share my story, but continue it. 

I had a deep conversation with God during the worship concert Friday night led by Rita Springer. I began by asking God why I was there. There was of course an obvious excitement of having my niche of people all in one place and intriguing chance to learn more, but originally I was supposed to be on a mission trip in Nicaragua this weekend. That trip ended up being cancelled due to unpredictable civil unrest in the country, which is a tragic occurrence I am placing in the hands of the Lord. Yet even before this official cancellation, I faithfully made the decision to attend this conference after receiving a call from the Lord pulling me to an opportunity within the states. I knew God had opened up this door, but why? Why did He want me there aside from my own interests? And so, God proceeded to speak. 

God gave me several answers to my question, which was somewhat unexpected. He revealed the reasons one by one before inviting me into His Word:

I am here to be reminded of the truth.

I am here to receive His love.

I am here to be reminded of how He pursued me and how He saved me. I was reminded of how He shook me with his spirit in high school so I could carry Him with me to college—where He lit a spark inside of me to burst in flame for Him.

I am here because He planted a seed for a lifetime of growing.

“God, you found me…” I cried. “You found me amidst my confusion and darkness.”

“Of course I did,” He answered. “Now, what are you going to do with Me?”

At this moment, I honestly didn’t know how to respond to God’s question. That was the answer I hoped He would blatantly put before me. A little disappointed in my lack of spiritual discernment, I remembered a piece of advice that a keynote speaker had made that morning: “Steward the words of God,” she encouraged. In other words, go back to the truth.

Realizing I had this truthful blueprint right at my disposal, I reached into my backpack and pulled out my bible; my small travel bible I carried on-hand in college and that has been with me to Nicaragua and back. I decided to look up the verse printed on the Finding Balance bookmark that was waiting for me on the table that morning. Galatians 5:1 was the scripture, which I admittedly did not have memorized. 

Then the word of God spoke:

 

“For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm…and no longer submit to the yoke of slavery…” (Gal 5:1)

 

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I underlined this powerful verse which began my reading quest through each underlined verse in my bible through the book of Ephesians.

“What am I going to do with You, Lord?” I stuttered. “What am I going to do in response to Your reckless pursuit for me? This…this is what I will do, Lord…

I will stand FIRM in freedom. 

I will no longer submit to the yoke of slavery. My eating disorder enslaved me God, but YOU have set me free. I will live freely for You, Lord.”

So why else am I here?

I am here to celebrate freedom.

I am here because I can feel God here.

I am here because I am Hungry for Hope. 

I hope for a life of freedom for others.

I hope for a future for me somewhere in this field.

I hope in a GOD who heals.

I hope in HIS divine plan.

I hope for healing for others.

I am here so that my empty cup would be filled with the fullness of God.

 

At this moment I glanced up at the worship lyrics projected on the screen:

“Make me your vessel,

Make me an offering,

Make me whatever You want me to be…”

 

I kept expressing that word “want” to God. I have been telling Him that I want to work in the field of eating disorders someday. I just have been scared that my wants may not be His wants. But in that moment, God reminded me that He lives inside of me. He reminded me that I am free, and therefore free to make decisions and go after what I want. I am no longer conformed to the yoke of slavery. Because of Christ, I am free to want. And with Him within me forever, I don’t need to be afraid of wanting the wrong things.

“Lord, please let my desires match your desires, because you live inside of me. I am yours, Lord, living in a new life of freedom. I am free now … free to be whatever YOU want me to be. I’m free to choose, free to want, and free to dream. I choose YOU, Lord, each and every day. I want to make you proud and I dream of an abundant life with you. Because of you, I will NEVER return to a yoke of slavery. Even if I pursue your work in this field, God, I need not fear of falling behind bars again. I know you will take my burden, Lord. I know the challenges come after the vision, but that You are greater. I know that wherever I go, Lord, I am YOURS.”

And so, I continue this walk as He shines the lamp for my feet. Slowly but surely lighting up my path. I may be hesitant about my next steps but God is always sure. 

With this light, I have highlighted several points which I hope to take away from this incredible weekend and use in my life back home. It is my honor to share these reflections with you. My prayer is that the Lord would open your hearts to what He wants you to see, hear, and feel.

 

Hungry for Hope 2018 Takeaways:

  • This event was real. My connections were real. My encounters with God were real. My visions about future goals were real. My emotions were real. God’s truths are real. 
  • I am free to live this life in joy, in peace, and with enthusiasm. I am free to chase after my dreams.
  • Identity in Christ is the foundation of our being. Rediscovering this identity is the first step in the healing process.
  • When we re-establish our attachment to God and thus to our true self, all the other pieces will begin to re-attach
  • God is the only One who has the true power to heal. But He can use us as his vessels for healing 
  • Science and wisdom of the biological, psychological and physiological functions come from the Creator of this universe (Heb 11:2)
  • God himself is in fact a relationship in perfect union (the Trinity). He created us in His image of having a mind, a body and a spirit. We cannot neglect any one part. God wants us to be intimately connected with Him.
  • Coming into alignment with God involves you seeing yourself as worthy enough to receive His healing 
  • Sometimes behavior change is not sufficient for lasting change. We must spend time with the One who made us and who can change our hearts, and therefore our minds and our behaviors following. 
  • “What we fear determines what we trust. What we trust we glorify, and what we glorify we herald.” -Kelly Needham
  • “Hoping in the Lord is not naive, but a lifesaver. Hoping in the Lord is not weak, but brave.” -Rachel Hockett
  • Proceed with God by looking back on the truth of His word and the unforced rhythms of grace
  • The Bible does not just call us to live out of scarcity. You must first accept the fullness of God. You must first love yourself. In order for you to “deny yourself” as scripture encourages, you must first find your true sense of self. You cannot lose something you do not have. 
  • Practice discerning “description vs. prescription” when reading God’s word
  • Jesus did not come to make you nice—He came to make you NEW” -Jimmy Needham
  • Sometimes the purpose of a season is all about simply building your faith and becoming closer to God

 

“Then you will know the TRUTH, and the truth will set you FREE” ~John 8:32

 

“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for; the conviction of things not seen” ~Hebrews 11:1

Speak Up!

There was a time in my life when I felt suffocated within my own self-perceived existence. Each day I scrambled under exhausting mental battles taking place inside my head. I felt confused, isolated, and numb even to my own feelings. Life’s direction was a mystery, and I didn’t have anyone to look up to, who had walked in my weathered shoes. I didn’t know anyone who I considered to be “like me.” Throughout my struggles, I thought I was a rare case and that my condition was such a horrid thing, and thus, something to be ashamed of. Yet despite all of this, a source of courage somehow managed to make its way through my rugged defensive walls, which then instigated the daring decision to open up about my past to others—a chance which was painful, nerve-wracking, and relieving all at the same time. I found freedom in sharing who I truly am (or once was, once upon a time.) Thus began a ripple effect of invigorating possibilities, potential, and purpose. I was finally able to come to terms with my real self, and I came to believe that I no longer had to grant control to a vicious power:

I no longer had to allow my past eating disorder diagnosis to continue to define me.

Just like the initial inkling to explore the roads of a restrictive lifestyle, true eating disorder recovery, or “stable remission,” stems from the same curious desire for a daunting, yet oddly intriguing change…

Rooted in that strong urge to constantly prove yourself, is a humming call to climb for escape. Chiseled within your heart of stone, is the determined will to survive. There comes a time when hovering logic finally clicks. Reality becomes clearer, and negative consequences become inevitable. Unless of course the will to climb overpowers the will to surrender to that tempting devious echo whipping at your ears. You see, only when we surrender to the demands of the eating disorder, do we remain buried beneath the rubble. It is when we surrender to our inner selves—our valiant soldiers for life—and to a higher power of truth and forgiveness, that we find the strength to climb. These inner soldiers will stand on defense until they die, bracing against resistance until their very last breath. Yet when these life-fighters are fueled with hope, the battle field gracefully glows…

A radiant light seeps into the shadowy tunnel, and our eyes wince at the brightness. Out of the hollows we reach our trembling hands, tearing down the faulty safety net of instability and shallow promises. The light has never been so bright…and the brightness has never felt so right.

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When speaking about stable recovery, the truthful golden thread is that you have to want it for yourself. This must be a real heart-felt desire, recognized by the very person who was victimized into accidentally tripping or adventurously nosediving in the beginning. You must first pinpoint the “why” behind taking such a leap of faith into the recovery zone. You must find the bravery to stare change face-to-face, and accept and genuinely desire not only the idea of recovery, but the actual physical, emotional, and mental state of recovery. You have to admit to yourself that you do want to get better. You must listen to your inner being that screams to you every day for freedom, and honestly ask yourself…

Are you fed up with the condition ruling your each and every day?
Why do you suppose you are in your current state?
Why do you wish to be free?
What will you gain from this decision?
Are you presently, truly happy?

Using the power of your senses and structured personality, now is the time to use your predisposed abounding determination to win back your life—the purposeful life you are meant to live.

As with any sort of anxious conception, we are the ones who ultimately give any sort of overpowering thoughts and fearful feelings any control at all. Without our own over-analyzing of these apprehensive thoughts, they remain simply meaningless thoughts—feelings which we often grant too much emphasis, and merely ideas in which we dwell to the extreme. It’s time to stand up against such fears. It’s time to join forces with that little soldier inside, and together, fight for the voice of reason. It’s time to speak up, stand tall, and march out triumphantly.

It’s time for your voice to be heard—by your eating disorder, by your family, and most importantly, by YOU.

 

The fact of the matter is, eating disorders are a deadly illness that often tends to trickle on silently—when frankly, such conditions belong right up there next to serious mental sicknesses such as alcohol abuse and drug addictions. Usually, the initial downfall is not a deliberate conscious choice to participate in harmful behavior, but it doesn’t take long for that choice to spiral into a state of lost sanity and misery—you can quickly become your own largest critic, and your own worst enemy.

Yes, eating disorders are a debilitating disease, which require scrutinizing attention and professional treatment care. It is also true that I did let the shame of this condition overpower me for nearly twelve years of my life. I had found my identity in the eating disorder and it’s nasty little lies. I thought I would be trapped behind those cold skeletal bars for life, and as a result, I was easily lured back into the tempting restrictive mindset. I was programmed to believe that what had happened to me was a terrible misfortunate circumstance that needed to be suppressed, and that it would only stir up painful memories if mentioned publicly in conversation. To escape this stabbing confrontation, I typically chose to avoid the topic altogether. But in doing so, and in strictly reserving my raw memories for my diaries, I realized that I was, in a sense, still living in secret. Slowly but surely I finally started to believe in the power behind overcoming the past through words, just as now I believe that sacred healing is indeed possible.

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Every time I tell my story it becomes easier. I can even tell it without crying now, which I perceive to be monumental, for this step is necessary in order to use my newly discovered strength to help others and pay it forward. As a matter of fact, opening up to my closest friends about my condition were major milestones in my personal recovery journey. It is often still emotionally difficult to discuss the topic around my closest family, who was there by my side through the darkest of years. But over time, it has even become easier to openly converse within this area ever since I began publicly writing about my story through blogging. The emotional rewards from opening up my heart have been exceedingly worthy, and I value every opportunity to share the mercy which has filled my heart to its rim.

Friends, it is finally time to break the silence. In honor of National Eating Disorder Awareness week this year, I choose to honor this year’s theme of “Just talk about it!” by using this moment to share with you words of promising hope.

I realize that many people may shy away from approaching this tragic topic, simply because they don’t know how. I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to be a trained professional to be able to make a difference in someone’s life. All you have to do is listen…

…really, truly listen.

Listen with the intention to understand, even though you may never truly be able to relate firsthand. Listen with a caring heart, and listen out of love. Encourage your loved one to talk this out, and give them the safe space to do so. Do not listen to correct or to scold; do not listen with judgmental, or even “expert” ears. Instead, educate yourself on where you can seek help and assistance when necessary, and act upon this knowledge accordingly. Simply be there, fully present with your loved one, or even perhaps, with yourself. Be patient…with others and with yourself. Be kind…to others and to yourself. True healing takes time. But the time that you spend today, truly matters.

No one is in this journey alone…no victim or helper ever has to walk these arduous trails silent.

It is time to SPEAK UP.

Speak up on behalf of your loved one struggling; your friend who once fell; your teammate who sat on the bench; your daughter who resents herself; your classmate who never came to lunch; speak up for yourself. I promise, there is always someone out there who is listening, or who would take the time to listen if you asked. Talking about our troubles is not weakness, but strength. To be able to come clean about your past, and to make peace with yourself while accepting your transformation along the way, is the bravest thing you could ever do.

Together, we must learn to simply “trust the process”…

and to “strive for progress, rather than perfection.”

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Keeping this deadly condition underneath the table only gives it more power. Little piercing glass pieces constantly being swept beneath the carpet are exactly how diseases like this spread. It is a cumulative effect which fires the bullet—nothing ever happens overnight. By ignoring small thoughts and feelings surrounding damaging behavior only fuels the satanic scheme. Put a cap on the muzzle before shaky fingers can wrap themselves around the trigger. Try to listen before you speak, and when you do speak, take note of which voice cries out first.

In situations like these, we must stand firm for what we believe to be true. Not what other people have told you to be true, but what your spirit tells you to be true. Pinned beneath the tight strangle of the eating disorder, your spirit is still fighting. Fuel this spirit with living fire, and it will ignite the whole rest of your being with the light of life. This is a different flame from the false energy that the eating disorder promises—this new flame reins forever. This invigorating flame brings hopeful heat, and displays a beautiful brightness.

It is time to unite powers of living flames, to overthrow the fiery deceiving tongue. We must stand together, hand-in-hand in advocacy and education, if we desire to make a difference in this overlooked corner. We must extend efforts by teaming up against misinformation, miscommunication, timidness, and false-accusations, and begin speaking out in truth and transparency. Knowledge and awareness are vital stepping stones to joyous victory. We all deserve a chance at life and freedom in this world. The dynamic movement of self-acceptance and transformation can start here with you.

Speaking to you today from a position of vibrant vulnerability, my conscience has never been so clear. The remarkable truth is that bold confidence and solid faith can be contagious. The spirit of hope and self-love can be unconquerable. Words of wisdom and compassion can save a life. And in my book, these humbling words of truth are words worth spreading. ❤

 

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237, or visit
http://nedawareness.org