Observing Lent

Lent is the season of preparation for Easter, observed by most Catholics and many Christians. While I was growing up, giving something up for lent was something fun I did with my youth group… because everyone else was doing it. I never really grasped what Lent is and the significance & purpose of giving something up for 40 days.

This time is meant to be marked by intentional awareness of what is coming – Jesus’ death and the celebration of his subsequent resurrection. By giving up something you rely on, it pushes you to look towards him, to reflect & pray.

This year, the Lenten season means a lot to me. There’s been so much going on the last few months and so much that is happening this year that I feel as though I haven’t focused on my relationship with the Lord at all. Aside from the “time” excuse, something that has been choking my prayer life is is my anxiety and resulting negative behaviors — primarily revolving around my enemy;; FOOD. As I’ve mentioned several times throughout my posts – I have never had a normal, healthy relationship with food. Lately, comfort food has been the biggest obstacle to everything else that I’m trying to accomplish. Instead of doing positive things to improve my life, I just go straight to food when I’m uncomfortable, sad, anxious, angry, ashamed, lonely, etc.

So, for the next six weeks I am giving up my comfort food. For me, this means soda, sweets in general, popcorn, ice cream, pizza, bread… Etc. (Foods I really shouldn’t be eating anyway, but nonetheless…) I’m giving up all of the foods that I immediately turn to when things aren’t perfect. It’s not okay to be looking to food of all things for comfort. The only true peace comes from God, and that’s what I need to seek. These next weeks will be challenging, but I can’t wait to see the ways that He works in my life and in my heart. I want to remember how out of balance I feel today, and look forward to a freeing a peace in my heart on Easter that I haven’t felt in some time.

Happy Lent!

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NT

Thanks Mom.

This year, I’m keeping it positive. I’m tired of the negativity; both from my surroundings and from my thoughts. So for awhile my posts are going to be thank you posts. I’m going to be counting my blessings, and at the top of the list are the people who keep me motivated through this thing called life.

Up first, of course, is my Momma.

I don’t quite know how I can put into words how thankful I am for this woman that I am forever indebted to. My mom raised twins by herself for the most part. We both had our moments – but of the two of us I know I caused her more sleepless nights than my brother. I wasn’t an easy kid, and I certainly wasn’t an easy teenager. But somehow my mom managed to keep me in her prayers and say “I love you,” every day without fail. Being older and having seen people I love do some self-destructive things, or even say that they’re thinking about hurting themselves, I cannot even begin to fathom how much pain I caused my mom. She had to see the aftermath of suicide attempts and years of self-harm and bulimia. She had to see her daughter, in her house, trying to hurt herself, and trying very hard. I can’t even imagine. Honestly, I can’t even say that I would take it back because everything that I’ve gone through has made me who I am – but I certainly wouldn’t be here if she hadn’t stuck by my side all of these years. I know people who went through less than I did whose parents gave up on them. But here she was; paying for therapy, visiting me every day in hospitals, doing everything in her power to get me into an inpatient rehab program before I turned 18… she saved my life. My mom literally saved my life, and it’s not something that I acknowledge enough. Thank you Mom. For not only putting up with me, but for loving me through the most difficult days. Thank you for always being a phone call away, even at 3 am. Thank you for continuing to encourage me and for being my inspiration. Thank you for being a faithful prayer warrior.

Aside from being an angel in my life that I don’t recognize enough… I’m so thankful that we share a passion for horses, a passion that you ignited in my heart before I can even remember. Some of my fondest memories are going to barrel races with you growing up, and our traditional McDonald’s chicken nuggets afterwards. 🙂 Thank you for always doing everything you possibly can to support my passion and my dream.

The thing is, though – I know it’s not just me whose life you have impacted. You are a beautiful person inside and out. You are always there to help friends, family, strangers – you have the biggest heart. Your smile is infectious, your sincerity is noticed, and your love is unconditional.

Thank you for being you, Mom. You are such a blessing to me, and I definitely don’t say it enough. I love you.

❤N.O.

Out of the Darkness, Into the Light

Hello again! It’s been a couple of months since I posted anything, and it’s been for good reason. A lot has happened this year; changes that have had me doubting God, myself, recovery and life in general. Be forewarned, this will be a long post, but it’s been a long time coming. Before I begin, I just want to thank everyone who has reached out to me (emails, phone calls, letters, cards, texts) and prayed for me during this time in my life. Your words and prayers are more appreciated than you may ever know.

So I’m just going to throw it out there – my relapse began months ago. Some people knew, others were oblivious. Although sometimes I doubt if my recovery was ever truly real, I question if my disorder has simply evolved throughout the years. Either way, it’s here – but I’m not denying it anymore. Addiction is a funny thing, especially when you’ve been through treatment and have pretty sound insight into why it takes hold of you the way it does. Earlier this year is when Bulimia shoved itself back into my life. In my journal the night after I threw up for the first time in nearly a year, I wrote that it “felt like coming home after being away for too long.” Self-harm made its appearance shortly after my eating disorder. While I can’t pinpoint an exact event that triggered my relapse, I know that it is mainly due to a buildup of shame I’ve held for a very long time that I’ve chosen not to deal with. As I’ve heard recently – traumatized children who don’t thoroughly and honestly deal with their pasts will grow into dysfunctional adults. Here I am, at 22, experiencing dysfunction in all of my relationships – especially with myself.

I can’t tell you exactly why I hit rock bottom, all I can tell you is that I did – and it happened on June 14, 2015. As I was sitting in the ER waiting room, completely alone after driving myself there – this is what I typed on my phone:

Sitting here in the ER, I can honestly say that I am at my lowest low I’ve been in a really long time. Rock bottom? Possibly. Panic attack. Cut wrist. How did I get here? At least I didn’t take the pills. But really, wouldn’t that have been better? Ugh.

That day, that weekend – I was ready to die. I didn’t attempt to kill myself, probably because I’ve been on the other end of the repercussions and heartbreak of someone leaving this world before they’re meant to, but I was ready. I don’t remember driving to the hospital, it’s all kind of a blur. But I know someone was looking out for me; despite my running away from Jesus, he has never left me.

I spent a week in a Behavioral Health Center after the ER staff deemed that I was a danger to myself – I couldn’t argue with that. That week was very eye-opening for me. My actions put my job, relationships, and overall livelihood at risk. I couldn’t be there again, I wouldn’t let myself get that low again. Although not yet fully committed to recovery, I knew that something had to change. I also finally understood that I really can’t do this alone, because doing recovery by myself for 8+ years obviously hasn’t gotten me anywhere. I gave my heart to Jesus that week in the hospital. Although it wasn’t the first time I’d prayed those words, it was the first time my heart was truly crying out to Him. I’m not perfect, and I certainly haven’t been 100% successful since I’ve been home – but more than ever before, I’m really trying.

Only a few people know of my experience, and honestly not many people noticed my absence that week – but those that did are the ones that matter. I keep trying to come up with some kind of way to answer people when they ask, “why?” It’s so difficult to explain because there is so much stigma around mental health, particularly when it comes to the point that people are suicidal or self-destructive. So in an attempt to help, I’m going to share something I wrote while in the hospital. It’s titled The Darkness, and it is far from my best work, and may not make a whole lot of sense, but I hope it will help others try to understand what people with any type of mental illness face everyday of their lives, particularly those who struggle with self-harm and/or an eating disorder. While this is particularly about cutting and bulimia, the idea of a complete lack of control is not unique. [Please note – I do not hear voices, but others do – I can’t speak for what they hear and what their experiences are.]

**Trigger Warning**

THE DARKNESS

He is sneaky, powerful, overwhelming

He tells me I am worthless

He creeps over me like a shadow

Until I am suffocated

He is Darkness

He puts the razor blade in my hand

He whispers in my ear…

                “It’s the only way”

He draws the blade across my skin

                “Deeper, deeper!” he yells

He says that the blood is all I need;

                Relief, sweet relief

The blood stops

He says that it’s not enough

                “You are never good enough”

He draws the blade across again

The scar will be beautiful

He tells me I will never be beautiful

But I will always have my scars

He is Darkness

He drags me to the bathroom

He throws me on the ground

He shoves his fingers down my throat

Until there’s no more food left inside of me

                “You’re too fat for food!” He screams

He tosses me on the scale

                  No matter the number, “You overweight pig”

Standing in front of the mirror

He points out every imperfection

He assures me that no one will ever love me

He is The Darkness that blinds me every single day…

But there is also light

My Lord and Savior Jesus Christ –

He is the light.

He is wonderful, loving, and merciful

He tells me I am worthy of his grace

He comes over me like a sweet song

Until I am at peace

He gently takes the razor blade out of my hand

He sweetly tells me that I am loved

               “There is hope”

He stands me in front of the mirror

And says that He doesn’t make mistakes

He reminds me that I am saved

Nothing can separate me from him

He claims that he isn’t done with me yet

Tomorrow is a new day

He calls me his daughter

                Beautiful, rescued, redeemed

He sees my scars, both inside and out

And still calls me beautiful

My scars will remind me where I’ve been

And that He is not done with me yet

He is Light

He defeats The Darkness

working-on-myselfI owe Jesus Chris my life – many times over. I’m forever grateful to my family and friends who have continued to pray for me over the years. It’s going to take a long time to get my life wholly back on track, but I’m ready to fight for my life.

Humans are fallible, they will fail at some point in their lives. They will hurt others even if they have the best intentions. It’s become more clear to me that for most of my adult life I’ve tried to base my worth off of other’s opinions of me – particularly men. This is not uncommon, I see it play out everyday in the lives of my friends and so many others. Jesus is the only one who I can always rely on, He will never fail me. I need to find my God-given purpose in this life, I don’t need to find a person to fill that hole. One day I will meet a man who was placed on this Earth just for me, and when that happens I will be the kind of woman that a man after God’s own heart is searching for.

If you’ve made it this far – thanks for allowing me to share a little bit of my life with you. I will leave you with this verse, Ephesians 2: 8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” None of us deserve to be saved, that is what is so incredibly amazing about God’s grace. I certainly don’t deserve his grace anymore today than I did yesterday. But everyday I fall more in love with my Savior, and everyday I will strive to be the best I can be by living for Him, and expecting nothing else in return.

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-N.O.

Lessons from a Horse

I recently became a horse owner again, an unexpected and wonderful blessing. I could not be happier about it, but there is something about longing for an event, person, place or thing for so long (I had been without a horse for about 2 1/2 years) and then finally getting it; we often forget that most of these things come with their own unique challenges, difficulties or conflicts. While dreaming about barrel racing again – I had seemingly forgot about all of the hard work it will take to get my horse ready to race.

My horse, Scooby, has already found her way into my heart. She is the sweetest little girl with a big heart and a fun personality. Scooby has had an interesting life though – for the majority of her 9 years she has been running free with no authority of any kind. She has the mindset of a youngster, even though she isn’t. While riding the other day I just kept asking her and hoping that she would just stop worrying, trust me – and give me the reins instead of fighting me. I love her, and want nothing but the best for her – but I know that there are going to be lots of baby steps to take before we really go places.

I tend to pray while I ride – it’s where I am most at peace. I guess I was just asking for a little guidance for both myself & Scooby. But I usually feel guilty after I pray because I don’t do it often, and it seems I only do pray when I am asking for something… something that I want. I have tried so hard to convince myself that my life is going how God wants it to – this would mean that I both have control and at the same time I am allowing God’s will to be done.

After my session with Scooby was over I got off and was grooming her when I got to thinking… Scooby & I are alike in many ways.

I believe in a God who has loved me even before I was a twinkle in my momma’s eye; a God who longs for me to just stop worrying, trust Him – and give Him the reins instead of fighting Him. He loves me and wants nothing but the best for me.

How ironic is it that I’m asking this beautiful creature who has known me for only a short time to trust me with her life, when I can’t even release control of my own life to the One who created me? Quite ironic I think.

As I go back to the basics with Scooby so that we can work our way towards a fully trusting relationship, I’m also going to go back to the basics with Jesus so that I can work towards a complete relationship with Him.

running horse

Jesus Take the Reins

-N.O.

The Dangerous Part of Living Safely

While reading Jesus Calling (by Sarah Young) this morning, I read a sentence that made me stop for a moment; “If you live your life too safely, you will never know the thrill of seeing Me (Jesus) work through you.” I think that this can mean something to everyone, even if you don’t believe in Jesus. If we live our lives just going through the motions from one day to the other, do you think we will actually make a difference? Ever since I was little I have dreamed of changing the world, doesn’t everyone? We want to be a big deal. We want to be recognized, we want to end world hunger, we want to be the inventor that changes life as we know it, we want to do something unforgettable. We all long to leave a legacy behind that will last forever.

Well, newsflash, Eating Disorders, Addiction, Self-Harm… it’s all SAFE. We retreat to what we know in order to escape what we don’t know; such as emotions, lack of control, stress, etc. Life cannot be lived when you’re trapped in an all-consuming self-destructive cycle. However, recovery can begin your journey to a life-long adventure that will result in changed lives and a surplus of peace, joy, and love.

For me personally, I know that letting go of the safety of the familiar – and allowing Jesus to lead me, is the only way that my desire to change lives for the better will become a reality. I know this because not only have I seen it happen, I also believe that this desire was put in my heart by Jesus himself. Without His strength I wouldn’t be where I am in my recovery, and I know for a fact I wouldn’t have the confidence to share my story with others in hopes of giving them courage in their own journey.

Believe in yourself, leave the familiar behind, have a little faith, and enjoy the adventure.