Relentless

He left His Father and perfect home to come down to earth. He healed people, and He sat with those no one sat with and He forgave. He was misunderstood and judged and sentenced to death on a rugged and heavy cross. He died on that cross after a brutal beating, and He did not blame you and me. He knew what our sins would be, and He still rose again. He loves us and seeks after us. This is what I call relentless. This is Jesus. The word relentless is an adjective meaning to show intensity, strength; unrelenting (Webster dictionary.) It is persistent, constant, nonstop, endless. This is the description of God’s love for you, and for me, and no one knows us better.

God is persistent in His pursuit for the heart of His people. He is actively and tirelessly working in our world to seek and to save those who are lost. He never grows weary of being the only hope that is unshakeable.

This word, nevertheless, did not come to my mind initially today, in the context I just shared with you. I’d been making beds and putting stuffed animals in their specific spots, fluffing pillows, and listening to the enemy. He was yelling in my head about how disappointed God must be in me and my life and, without knowing God, I would have easily agreed with his lies.  It’s awful though! This kind of relentlessness God never intended for anyone and yet the enemy schemes like this in many lives.

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As I sit with and listen to others I realize this relentless emotional abuse from the enemy can be status quo.   I want more than anything, to experience God in the way He intends because He is intense about us and I’m getting there. But I can be relentless toward myself and the truth is, I can forgive others who may have been negative toward me and yet not forgive myself.  It’s a tough way to go about the day, isn’t it?  And yet many of you can identify, if you are honest with yourself and with God.

I forget that God is not disappointed in me for struggling. I forget that nothing can separate me from His love. I forget that He died for me too, knowing I was going to hurt through an eating disorder that is so controversial and depression that is so conflicting. It can be devastating and yet God does not leave.  He is anything but confused about who I am in Him.

When Jesus came to earth He was fully God and fully man. He had the same temptations we experience, but He did not sin. He knew, nevertheless, that given the same situations, we would sin. The fact is, we need to know that He has gone through pain, joy, anguish, laughter, love, and death here on this earth in order for us to trust Him…to identify with Him.  If He wouldn’t have, we would’ve said that He just doesn’t understand what we face…what we experience. Because of our sin here on earth, we need His forgiveness. It takes down the wall between Him and us and puts a wall between the enemy and us so that there is peace and life. His death on the cross is our life. Because on the third day He rose again, we serve a living and breathing God that is relentlessly seeking relationship with us.

So…when the enemy is yelling at us, what’s the plan? Go to where Jesus is. He is on the high road, and we are to join Him there. The other path leads to sin and death. But He is eternal life. “…I have called you to live ever so closely with Me, soaking in My presence, living in My peace” (Jesus Calling).  Don’t you want that? I do, but a life of turbulence can feel so much more deserved and therefore comfortable. This should not be! I need to always be on a different path as a follower of my living God, and to go wherever He leads. This is relentless living! The opposite of relentless is apathetic and lazy - letting the enemy yell in my head and agreeing.

Letting Jesus set the pace in our race is trust. God’s word goes like this, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”  Readers usually stop there, but check out the second part of these verses.

“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all you heart. I will be found by you.”

Jeremiah writes this in chapter 29.11-14. This is relentless living!

Please join me in changing the meaning of this word to what God intends for it to be: seeking the truth without end and not letting the lies that seep in through quiet alone moments.   That, my friend, is a step closer in obedience. This is purposeful living which cultivates endless hope!

Love to you,

Stacee

Celebrating Life

This past Saturday morning, I had the opportunity to be the recovery speaker at this year's Oklahoma City National Eating Disorder Association's walk. A great crowd braved some crazy Oklahoma spring weather to still show up and support the cause of providing support and raising awareness for those who struggle with eating disorders.

Here's a copy of my speech from the walk.  Thanks to everyone who was able to come out this morning and to all of our friends, family and to all of you who follow and read Speak Out Loud.... you have been a source of encouragement and hope on this journey!

I’m honored to be here this morning, talking with you about the gift of life. Those of you who are here, know that for some of us, living life is no small feat! I wish I could stand here this morning and say that eating disorders just aren’t a big deal, and that they are no threat to 30 million men and women who will suffer from an eating disorder in their lifetime. But you and I know that would be a lie. Anorexia and Bulimia are relentless in their efforts to take the lives of people we love. It’s tried to take mine for 27 years and it’s not okay to let this continue to happen. That’s why we are here today. To raise awareness and educate.

We live in a world that is obsessed with how we look, but being the skinniest person in the room due to eating disorder… will still kill us. Changing our weight in any way to get well and stabilize can go against the norm, and it’s scary. In a society that works so hard to stay fit, a person who struggles with an eating disorder may not ever have a future in exercising. Honestly, I feel like I do look different since coming home from treatment, and I do feel different, and people can say offensive things about these changes without even knowing they have hurt me. But I’m trying to learn that they don’t understand eating disorders and that they won’t without us teaching them. I’m trying to learn It’s not okay for me to punish myself for choosing life, no matter what the comment.

Just last year, the National Eating Disorder Association’s website posted a few truths, or facts that may surprise you, and I want to share just 3 of them.

1…Many people with eating disorders look healthy, yet may be extremely ill.

2…Eating Disorders are not choices, but serious biologically influenced illnesses.

3…Eating Disorders affect people of all genders, ages, races, body shapes, weight, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic statuses.

These are truths that you and I may know but we live in this realm of doctors, therapists, and nutritionists, so this is good information to share with those who are trying to understand and support us.

Looking out…I see people who have been fighting for their lives, just like me. Then… I see those of you who have helped us fight. Thank you. I personally want to say thank you to my family, my friends, and my team who have fought for me when I couldn’t fight another day, and who now fight alongside me.

Some of you today are here with hurting hearts because this illness has taken someone who you love. We are walking with you. Your loved one matters, and our walk means that we are learning how to help educate others for this very reason. Our hope is that you leave encouraged today.

I got too sick from the mental illness of anorexia, again, a little over 2 years ago, and this time I needed extra care. I needed to go inpatient and learn to eat and take care of myself. I was so scared to leave home, but I was more afraid to eat.

It was a Tuesday when we took my oldest daughter to college to begin her freshman semester, and the next day, I hugged my youngest daughter, and my husband took me to treatment. I went to the Laureate Hospital for Eating Disorders in Tulsa. I’ll never forget this…when we pulled into the parking lot, my husband unlocked the doors in our car, and I quickly locked them back. He unlocked them onceagain- and I locked them for the last time. I just didn’t think I was sick enough to be there.

It’s hard when you love someone so much that you need to help save their life, isn’t it? But that’s what my team and my family did. They got me the highest level of help, and I was exactly where I needed to be.

Anorexia really showed itself in my life when I went to college, although there were signs of the illness long before that time, like the fear that food would actually make me sick, rather than healthy. One day, one of my suitemates in college was studying for finals in our room all day, and she stopped counting when she got to the number 30. This number will forever be etched in my mind, for it was the amount of times I WEIGHED myself in one day - ONE DAY!

That’s not self -absorbed, that’s not narcissistic, that is a form of mental illness. In my case, that was an eating disorder. I had no idea, I just knew I didn’t want to gain one single pound even though I barely ate a thing.

My thoughts were irrational.

I had so many rules around my food that I could barely breathe, much less eat.

I have suffered from this illness for so many years since then that I honestly thought I would die from it. I began to take myself out of the picture of my family’s future. I stopped letting myself be a mom and wife, and I was numb at events that would have meant so much to me. I barely remember the event at all. I wasn’t scared to die, because I had forgotten how to live. I was exhausted.

With the type of anorexia I have it shows itself through restricting mainly. I restrict food, drink, relationships, help, and so much more. This is why I must fight all the time…otherwise I have a life that is unnecessarily lonely and desolate rather than abundant. It’s a slippery slope, so my weeks are full of support through groups with people who are fighting as well, and appointments that help me remember why I fight.

Why do I require this help regularly? One of the main reasons, is this. When you take a bite of food, the “sensories” in your brain say, “YUM!” and possibly that you want more food. When I take a bite of food, the “sensories” in my brain SCREAM with every bite! My mind thinks I am doing the wrong thing repeatedly, and it can wear me out mentally.

As a result of this form of my illness, my heart was shrinking, my bones were unnourished, I couldn’t think, and my organs had forgotten what to do with food. Outgoing had melted into not going, and the people in my life shouldn’t have to keep worrying about me when help was available and specialized.

For the next 4 months, my fears found help and 24-hour support. The ladies who I met there around the table, are forever my allies in this battle, and I love them. None of us were brave when alone, but we did pretty great when we were together, especially during the re-feeding process. My therapist and nutritionist were smart, they cared about me, and they could see the lies I was staking my life on. The lies are loud, and they want those with eating disorders to die. So, the battle is one that must be fought and support is not only important, but essential. GOD used these amazing people to help save my life.

Treatment was vital to my life… and now is vital to my story.

Whether I have had the privilege of meeting you or maybe not just yet, if your battle is eating disorder, we are a family, and you are brave, and courageous.

Since I’ve been home, I still get scared and I struggle just like you. But the difference in being in recovery or not, is HOW we struggle. Some days I struggle better than others and some days I don’t want to fight at all. But GOD and my amazing outpatient team are helping me to fight even harder on those days. I still need help with knowing what is the Truth and what is a lie about who I see staring back at me in the mirror. I’m still getting to know her.

 STACEE AND HER YOUNGEST DAUGHTER, RYLEE

STACEE AND HER YOUNGEST DAUGHTER, RYLEE

I’m learning 3 very hard lessons about me…I am more than a number on a scale, I fail when shopping alone because I’ve learned that I do not see my body realistically, and I matter EVEN when I’m nourished. These patient conversations with professionals, have saved me from relapse up to this point. I have learned that my eyes see differently, and that the best people for me to be around are those who see me as a person who is trying to win a LIFELONG BATTLE. Please…even when you think you can’t say another helpful and encouraging word…TRY. We hear you. I promise. It’s just a messy fight, and our minds might be screaming because exposure therapy is facing what we have restricted or indulged in, repeated many times every day.

The cure to our illness? Food management!

SO…WHAT HELPS ME? Looking out and seeing the blue eyes of my daughters, and I am reminded that they deserve a mom that they can count on to not leave a legacy of starvation in our home. In 2 weeks, my youngest daughter is graduating from high school and I get to go. I’ll have to take a Boost nutritional drink, but I’ll be there! And just a couple of weeks ago, I got to go to my oldest daughter’s sorority mother/daughter brunch. She never stopped smiling and hugging on me. Mental Illness affects those that love us…. so does fighting to recover.

My husband is forever educating himself and others about what our days look like as I try to get better and continue to heal. He is my #1 advocate.

SHELBEE…She is my protective one, especially when she can tell I’m having a tough day.

RYLEE…Is my merciful one, who I can reassure, but for her the worry mostly gets less when there is proof in progress!

SO…

Whether you are the one with the eating disorder, or maybe that life is a distant memory… or maybe you are the unwavering family member or friend. Please don’t give up on us. Help us remember that we have SUFFERED ENOUGH. Because one bite, one meal, one day at a time…we are getting better and are continuing to stay in recovery. You WON’T want to miss out on the CELEBRATIONS along the way.

THANK YOU.

 

 

Sovereign and Someday

Happy New Year to you!

After Thanksgiving, Christmas, and then New Years, I sort of feel like I need just one more break to catch my breath and think through what all just happened! Ironically, this year, God gave me just that in the form of a snow day. Our city awoke to a beautiful blanket of snow that was so white it glistened. The roads were just bad enough for most of the city to be quieted. There is was, a three day weekend.

Recently I ran across this prayer which definitely applied to me so maybe it will strike a chord with you too!

Dear Lord.

So far this year I have done well.

I haven’t gossiped, I haven’t lost my temper, I haven’t been greedy, grumpy, selfish, or overindulgent. I’m very thankful for that. But in a few minutes, Lord, I’m going to get out of bed, and from then on I’m probably going to need a lot more help.  Amen

God knows exactly what we need and when we need it. He is intentional on taking care of you and me, and it is His pleasure and joy to do so. He is sovereign. I have grown to love and respect the word sovereign.  The dictionary defines “Sovereign” as this: “supreme, absolute, unlimited, unrestricted, boundless, ultimate, total, unconditional, full.”  This is the definition of sovereign by people, and yet it still can apply to our Lord.  Let’s also look at the Bible’s truth about sovereignty in direct reference to our Father. “…I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please” Isaiah 46.9-10. This is who I want taking care of me, my days, and my year. He is definitely not intimidated by our world situation…or yours.

 stacee with her sister tracee this past christmas season

stacee with her sister tracee this past christmas season

If we actually got to sit together over our morning coffee and share our concerns about this New Year, what would you say to me?  What are your biggest concerns right now, my friend? I know that I have many concerns and, if I’m not careful, I can lose sleep over them and almost get sick over them, not to mention skip meals. My peace comes from a dear friend’s continuous reminder that God is sovereign. He is hope. This One that I speak of is our only chance of believing we should wake up in the morning and try again. And some days, that we should get up and not try at all. “Stop trying to monitor My responsibilities-things that are beyond your control” (Jesus Calling, Sarah Young, page 176).

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t ever had much success with New Year’s resolutions. I start out overwhelmed and struggle to follow through. I’ve had to learn that I may not do significantly better every year,  but I can focus on God’s help each day. My progress isn’t going to look like yours, just as yours won’t look like mine,  so no need for comparison here. I have been learning that my days are not my own. They are planned by God for His purpose. I have also been learning what they should look like and how that happens and why it even matters!

Check this out…”In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps” Proverbs 16:9. You and I can plan and fret over what’s going on in this world and even in our own hearts and homes, but God sees where He wants to take us, so we just have to chill out and take His hand.  Now, am I saying don’t have resolutions and goals? Absolutely not! That’s between you and the Lord who has your heart. But I am saying that this day…, and each day as it comes, I will need to surrender to the Lord and let Him show me the way He has for me, step by step. My plans and worries can be placed in the strong hands of my Sovereign God…as yours can too! Wow! That puts things in perspective for me!  Obedience and faith can be my response to each day, rather than freaking out about what I think is best for me day in and day out.

My friend, maybe someday I will get to sit with you, and we can share what God is doing in our lives. Or maybe we will need to first share, with transparency, how we have gotten caught up in the things of this world and need to take a step back and consider God’s plans versus our plans. (I would so love to fellowship with you.) But either way, think on this as January 2017 continues to unfold.  “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness, I say to myself, The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him” Lamentations 3.22-24.  

What does God have for you this day? Something beyond what we can conjure up for ourselves! It’s a new day! Ask Him for guidance and experience His Sovereignty! He is full and supreme and ultimate and unconditional. Hold on tight to Him because holding on to the things of the world and its plans aren’t worth us sharing as we sit together…someday.

Love To You,

Stacee

Thanks.

“God is good, He is the giver of all good things.” Isaiah 10.13

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever.” Psalm 136.1

Today was outstanding outside.  It’s fall, and still unseasonably warm for our neck of the woods, but the leaves were every shade of yellow and orange so I went for a stroll. So… oddly enough, I made a path through the foliage with my feet. The sun was more than bearable, so I welcomed the warmth on my face.

 Stacee and her daughters

Stacee and her daughters

As I walked, I began to think about what a blessing life is. In all of its complexity, it’s still brilliant. I thought about the medication God has provided so that, on occasion, my mind will allow me to think for just a few minutes, much like it was right then.  And for food. You know how intimidated and scared I am of food, but it is, nevertheless, a precious gift-A luxury that so many don’t get the privilege to partake of.  As I continued down the street just a little ways, my eyes welled up with tears as God began to talk with me about these blessings.  My persevering family, my home, my community found in my church, my treatment doctors and team.  I had to catch my breath as I stopped for a moment and I sat right down on the curb. It was so clear that my Father wanted me to do more than merely acknowledge His works in my life. He wanted me to truly focus on Him and thank Him for his graciousness and mercy in my life.

“Stacee! We have come so far together, you and me!” I know there are many things physically and mentally that are still so foreign to me because I’m not supposed to do them yet for medical reasons, or comprehend them up to this point since my brain still needs more nourishment, but in that moment I just didn’t care. I could feel the tears slightly dry on my cheeks as the wind crossed my face and hair, but new tears would then begin to form. Again, God put on my heart how far we’ve come…together. He is the key!”  

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4.13.

I guess that’s why without Jesus I can sometimes panic.  Do you ever get scared when you consider your future? I do!  I panic when I think of the days to come, and I guess I should.  He created us to live one day at a time. No more.  My walk was brief and slow, and the mental calm changed to heavy complication as I was on the tail-end of my time on my leafy trail - just walking through the beauty crunching under my feet. But even in the loudness in my mind that is now present once again, I can still be thankful for where I am right now.  

Music is something that really helps to break through the sadness that my mind can hold.  But God is faithful.  He gives me a song to meditate on to remind me that He is sovereign. The song I have playing in my mind since this afternoon helps me keep things in perspective as I let it become my heartbeat this season.

”I’ve been running through rain

That I thought would never end

Trying to make it on faith

In a struggle against the wind

I’ve seen the dark and the broken places

But I know in my soul

No matter how bad it gets

I’ll be alright

There’s hope in front of me

There’s a light, I still see it

There’s a hand still holding me

Even when I don’t believe it

I might be down but I’m not dead

There’s better days still up ahead

Even after all I’ve seen

There’s hope in front of me

There’s a place at the end of the storm

You finally find

Where the hurt and the tears and pain

All fall behind

You open up your eyes and up ahead

There’s a big sun shining

Right then and there you realize

You’ll be alright

You’re my hope

You’re the light, I still see it

Your hands are holding me

Even when I don’t believe it

I’ve got to believe it

I still have hope

You are me hope.”

Hope in Front of Me by Danny Gokey                                                                                                         

As your house fills up this season with food and family, stressful scenarios possibly, or with laughter and peace, take time to get alone and take a walk with Jesus. Listen to Him as you may even kick the leaves under your feet-and give thanks.

You may not realize it, and without God I don’t either, but let’s try to acknowledge and thank God for where you and I are right now. Try not to compare where you are to where another in your life might be. That’s honestly between them and God. When you look to Him, and walk with Him in the beauty of your life, especially including the trials, let the tears roll, my friend, and thank Him for how far the two of you have come! “I might get down but I’m not dead;  there’s better days still up ahead…”

Have a blessed fall day, friend! I am so thankful for you!

Stace

What If

What if now is our time? 

“While walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And He said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.” (Matthew 4:18-19)

Why am I jealous of the response these 2 brothers demonstrated when I possess the potential for the same type of obedience also?

On a scale from 1-10, (the only scale that I find to be okay to use…) where would you say your obedience level is? Do you obey God quickly when He calls to you? 

A lot of questions today!  Hang in there and “soul search” with me for just a few minutes.

The main word from the scripture which stands out to me, when I read this story several times, is the word “immediately.” I want to be able to say I would’ve obeyed Jesus immediately, stopped my job and earthly responsibilities like Peter and Andrew to go with Him, but would I have responded as they did? Would you be willing to do that? Honestly, He asks us to stop what is “normal” on a daily basis and follow Him. He has the best plan for you and me. He is calling us to not merely go through the motions of our day, and focus only on the task at hand, but to do what He does. Focus on those that are in our path and do so hastily. See others first.

Peter and Andrew were minding their own business, and doing their job, when Jesus was out for a walk that day. I can only imagine what it would be like to look toward the one who was approaching my workspace, and it be Jesus! He wasn’t coming to reprimand them, but to show them the best option for their lives. These two were fishermen (symbolic, huh!), but Jesus was calling them to be “fishers of men,” and to bring others to Know Him.

When Jesus is trying to get my attention, often through a sequence of events, one of the most challenging feelings I deal with is to think it’s so He can discipline me or, in my words, “get on to me.” Yes, Jesus disciplines those He loves, but He approaches us or “prods” at our hearts for other reasons also.  

 Stacee and her oldest daughter shelbee

Stacee and her oldest daughter shelbee

When our oldest daughter, Shelbee, was about 2 years old, she was going through an intense season of testing her daddy’s and my patience.  I remember one time in particular. It was a bone cold night, Doug built a fire in the fireplace, and it was bright and beautiful. This was very intriguing to a little one, naturally. Since the season was only getting colder, we knew that the best strategy was to teach Shelbee about the word “hot.” You know the drill. We would put our hand toward the fire and say, “no, no Shelbee, it’s hot!” She was so cute and would put her tiny hand by mine and say, “hot”…It’s hot, mommy…it’s hot!’ Doug and I were trying not to crack up at her absolute cuteness. We looked at each other like, “that was easy. She’s got it!” And then took her with us into another part of our house. I barely even put her down, and off she ran back to the fireplace. We ran after her, of course, and she climbed onto the brick which led to the fire, while turning around to look right at me! I ran and scooped her up, and we started the process all over again with a few time-outs and lots of deep breaths by Doug and me. 

Shelbee was merely 2 years old. A baby! She quickly learned that we did not want her by the fire, but her obedience was lacking.  It was a process to the desired behavior, and we should’ve expected this! 

I use this example because you may be a brand new Christian, having recently asked Jesus to forgive your sins and lead your life.  This requires an admittance that you do wrong and need His guidance in every area of your life, in order to live life and live it to the fullest potential.  God our Creator, intended this life for us. The bonus? Forgiveness for our wrong actions and eternity in heaven with God our Father. Some of you know this promise.  But some of you do not. So for you who are reading this post and have not heard, there you go. Surrender is peace. Maybe you are brand new at following Jesus and your learning to obey Him. Begin your relationship, as a new follower of Jesus, by obeying Him ‘immediately.” He has the best plan for you to be forgiven, and loved, and guided. Yes, you can live resisting obedience, but peace will not come. 

Many of you have been walking with our Father for many years.  You have experienced both obedience and disobedience. What if we went back to the basics and obeyed Jesus when He tells us to do something for our good and for the better of all those whom God we impact? What kind of life are you and I looking to lead, I suppose, is the real question?
We taught and disciplined Shelbee, who is now 20 years old and following Jesus with her whole life. Honestly, it’s been our understanding that if we taught our girls to obey us the first time we talked with them about something, that they would eventually do the same action with God. We love them and want the best for them.  And WHEN we fell short in teaching them, God was faithful to continue teaching them. We are so thankful for His grace as He continues to teach all four of us.
Jesus could save the world without your help and mine. He is mighty to save. But He is so very gracious to let us be a part of the process because it changes us.

Leading others to Jesus is life-changing for all who are involved, and it reminds us of what Jesus did and does for us. 

What do we want our lives to look like? Peter and Andrew were doing what they were supposed to be doing…fishing. But in the process, they were obedient to the voice of Jesus for what else He had for their lives. What if they wouldn’t have obeyed? What if you and I DO? Now is our time.