Where is the Hope?

Stacee and girls at Lake Hefner Today, as I am writing to you, I am sitting in my dining room beside a big window where I can look out and see our pretty little purple, pink, and white flowers. They are small but so strong to withstand our Oklahoma wind. It’s a beautiful fall day and the leaves are an indescribable color somewhere in the orange family. I am choosing to ignore the weeds I see because they are just frustrating and ridiculous. However, every time I look out the weeds do seem to have moved closer to the window. Creepy! In spite of them, I look out and what I see absolutely reminds me of hope. Hope, in my life, shows most when my fight can be the most difficult. Like white chalk on black paper. Offering you substance does not come from my mind and heart alone…by far! My mind can fail me, not so much in my memory, but in remembering that I have hope. I can lose sight of the many things the Father has carried me (us)through, so recalling a few of them daily as an accountability that cannot be avoided or discounted is essential. God’s faithfulness in my life deserves to be shared because it is real. This is awesome because the enemy wants us to be hopeLESS, so let’s do this!

I have evidence of God’s hope walking around my house, eating all of our food, singing, dancing, watching vines and TV. I have hope asking me if they look okay before meeting up with friends, and I have hope sitting on their beds at night spending time with Jesus. I see hope sleeping late on Saturday mornings after a long week of school and activities. I have hope looking at me across the sanctuary at church on Sunday to smile at me because I made it to church that morning because sometimes I haven’t. I have hope encouraging me to eat so I can feel good and be fully present at an event like some of the other moms. I have hope in the imperfections of their lives because they don’t evoke the same response from them that mine have in me. My two “hopes” are full of joy and passion about life and for God. I can see hope, and it makes me speechless.

Since God alone can see the big picture of our lives, He knew part of my healing would involve two precious redheads. Our hope is not in their performance or achievements in this life, but in the truth that there is evidence of Jesus living in and through them. It’s a miracle, really. When I see them actively seeking God, I see that some of the family cycles passed on to me aren’t there anymore and that… is hope! To my knowledge, I come from three generations of women struggling with depression on my mom’s side of the family alone. My dad’s mom struggled greatly with mental illness also. Amazing women who sought relief to the best of their ability, but suffered and struggled greatly. So when I see my sweet girls thriving in this life, all I can do is thank God for the hope I see in this cycle of mental anguish releasing itself from our family. Two blog posts ago, I referred to my parents’ divorce during my senior year in high school. This year, our oldest daughter is a senior, and so many memories have been flooding my mind of my experiences during my last year at home. Can you imagine my thankfulness, that because of God, her experience does not compare with mine? That’s hope! She is okay and full of joy and hope for today and for her future, and her younger sister is following her lead.

I have written about “restricting “in my life several times, and this way of life naturally seeped in and stole my hope. For years I did not allow myself to hope because all I had to do was look at the path of destruction I was leaving, and I was instantly hopeless. If I stop and focus on the people I have lost, and the strain on my family and friends which sickness and addiction can leave, I don’t feel good at all. It’s too much to take in. My hope is not soi temporary most days, but I still have work to do here with God’s direction. So many who have eating disorder and self harm problems aren’t the unmotivated and self-absorbed, contrary to what many believe. Not at first anyway. They are often over achievers who have grown exhausted and perfectionists who’ve experienced one too many failures. Those are the more common to get sick.

Here is where I have to go straight to what God’s words to me say, or I get overwhelmed with sadness and hope starts to wash away. 1 Peter 5:8-11 serves as both a warning and a reassurance. It says, “Be self controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” (That part is viciously true... but it gets better) “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To Him be the power forever and ever. Amen.” The struggle is real! Do you want to get better? Whatever your problems may be, do you want to get better? God would never downplay that being here is hard, but His grace and mercy are strong and therein lies the hope. The enemy wants us to grovel and fail, so anything resembling this is not from God. How different would today be if you and I went to Jesus with our hurt and guilt and fear, rather than to our addictions which seek to “devour” us. Please know, friend, to deny the hope which is truly from God is to literally hand our freedom to the enemy. Hope placed in anyone or anything else is lost.

Consider this action…I often have to write down what is hurting me and what is keeping me from accepting hope. After I write these things, I hold the paper in my hands and lift this list up to God asking Him to take it, and then I tear the papers up and throw them away. When I hold these things inside, I get worse; so this, although simple, is a physical act to give them to the only One who can heal my heart and make room for a little more hope.

I have a final plea for you today. If you have never asked Jesus to come and live in your broken heart, would you please consider Him? If you have not, this hope (my lifeline I refer to) likely seems foreign. This does not have to be so! Jesus says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and him with Me.” (Revelations 3:20). There is no catch, no judgment no matter what your life looks like or who you are. I have been honest with you since beginning the Speak Out Loud blog, and my honesty won’t stop. But for true life and freedom to fight for our lives, Jesus is the key. Wherever you may be as you read this, in the U.S. or another country, Jesus translates the same. He died on the cross a criminal death for you and me, to pay the penalty our sin (wrong doing) deserved. That’s the truth, and His gift to us is His leadership and love in our lives and forgiveness when we do wrong. I have found that I lose everything without having a relationship with Him. I give Him my life and there is meaning beyond the next restriction or next cut. Jesus is hope.

“Jesus, I do not have to know where the people who are reading these words are spiritually, but I do care where they are. I care deeply. Things and choices and patterns of addiction, and the things we buy into, can be paralyzingly wrong and not of You. So Father, thank you for being so willing to meet each of us right where we are, without judgment, and with eager anticipation to give us the hope which is only found in You. If anyone who has looked at these words of hope at this time does not have a personal relationship with You, I pray in Jesus’ name that he/she will desire You more than anything else in life, and invite You to inhabit their heart. In Jesus name, Amen.”

The Cutting Truth

Because of God’s ongoing grace in my life, I get to write to you every week, and I love this privilege. You didn’t just stumble onto this blog, even though it may seem like it. :) With God in control, there are no coincidences. I pray for you, and truly desire to connect with you in any way God lets me. But more important, I want so badly to show you, through my experiences, that Jesus is our solution. He is the Restorer and Healer. I do not know where you are in life, but God the Father does, and I hope so much to encourage you to keep going! Having said this, what God wants me to share with you is often the things people don’t walk around sharing. It’s been over a week since I’ve posted anything because I’ve really wrestled with this one. I know I need to “go there” with you, or perhaps with someone you know, as God has consistently kept this on my mind and heart this last week. One of my biggest temptations is to isolate - to stay out of the way. To stay quiet, unless I’m in a safe place, so I don’t later regret what I said when I get home. I am not an introvert, but I have kept myself on a very tight leash and, when I have said or done things that aren’t okay (in my mind), I have often physically hurt myself. This is not something I threatened, or used as a cry for help or as a means to manipulate someone. Others haven’t known. Self-harm has been a personal thing for me, and a very wrong reaction I never thought I‘d speak of until recently, out of necessity.

I’ve hurt myself as a harsh reminder to “stop messing up” when I don’t understand what’s going on or what a person meant or said, and again, letting the enemy beat me up about it to no end. This is a learned behavior, and it is devastating to see and hear of an ever growing number of others who have adapted this as part of normal life for any reason. My self-inflicted consequences do not fit my “offenses,” but I have been in many situations where I was out of control of the consequences, and they have not fit. I didn’t know this at the time, however. I absolutely did not know. This learned reaction started when I was a young girl, but as I got older, I really believed I deserved to be at least verbally condemned for “my stupid mistakes.”

I have been “a cutter” since before cutting was as well-known and people, especially teens, used it as abusive behavior. When numbing out from not eating was not enough for me to forget or stop thinking abusive thoughts, I went further, and I have been so ashamed. This has been a tough thing for me to let God heal, and it’s been hard to forgive myself. It is, in my opinion, the epitome of self hate without actually committing suicide. When I look back on this as not too distant of a memory, I was punishing myself for failing at being here. I have endlessly apologized for being a mistake or for being a freakish accident, and I try very hard not to do that anymore. Hear me on this please… God created you and me for big things! He created us for Himself, and know that sticking with Jesus and being close to Him is no dull ride! It’s healthy discipline in the midst of amazing love.

One of the most difficult aspects of self harm to share with you is that it grieves Jesus. If you have asked Him to live in your heart, as I have, He lives in you. Our heart is His home, and I have cut, with harmful tools, words of hate on what He created for Him… not for abuse by my own hands or anyone else’s hands. When our daughters, our precious girls, were little, they would kiss my “ouchies,” and I would die on the inside because they saw their mommy’s feelings etched on the outside of her body. It’s what and how I felt, and, after I would hurt myself, I would feel vindicated, but only for a moment! The feeling did not last, and I would be devastated, as if a new result would have come from an old behavior. Didn’t happen! I just know I’ve wanted the mental pain to go away so badly I didn’t care that I cut; but my tolerance to the pain only grew and so did my problems. They grew, and God saw my anguish and said…”choose me to heal the pain my sweet girl!” “Choose me! I know what you are going through in the mind I created for good things. You can only remember the bad at this moment but, if you will just let me hold you for a moment, I will ease that pain! I am greater, and I love you, though your choices reflect you do not know and believe this!” “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus….” (Romans 8:1)

Whether you cut, or binge, or purge, or abuse yourself, or surround yourself with abusive people, abuse any substance, or have even contemplated or attempted suicide... Jesus wants you to know He loves you. His love is so great He died on a horrible cross to purchase your rescue out of the depths of sin and failure. So I am asking you to do what I will never, ever regret doing. As I have shared in other posts, I surrendered and came to the end of myself – the end of trying to understand and control my punishment with anything but love from Jesus. My views on self-punishment were wrong and complicated. The first scripture God brought to my heart after my confession of needing His help was this: “Humble yourself, therefore, under God’s mighty hand that in due time HE will lift you up. Cast all of our cares on Him because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 4:6-7) He cares and has sat with me on my cold bathroom floor so many times when I desperately wanted to cut words of hate into my body. He knew this, and He helped me see a way that would not lead to more shame. How does this happen? Crying out for God’s help, as I know the cutting won’t solve anything, and asking Him to show me what He feels about me. I humbly place myself under His authority; not under the enemy’s authority, or the “weapon in my hand’s” authority, and not under the authority of my feelings. God’s authority. Even now, when those thoughts come to my mind, I take them captive and tell them to go away, in Jesus’ name!

It takes work to get better. I do not have the energy to ask God over and over why some people recover more quickly from their addictions, behaviors and feelings. I want to choose to be thankful that I am here and am not alone in my fight. I want to know Jesus more and more. He is becoming that safe place and person I’ve longed for. I want to choose Him because I love Him beyond the hurt, the pain, the restriction and cutting. God knows how this can be accomplished, and He knows I didn’t get as sick as I’ve been in a flash. He also knows it’s been quite a journey to get to where I am now. My response today is to obey and let my Father take care of me. My good days are deliberate…no doubt…because He is helping me to consciously rely on Him for every single thing, and I would not trade this life He is giving me. Our little girls are now not so little. They are precious and merciful teenagers, and they know their Mom does not have it all together, but my utmost prayer, is that they are seeing Who does.

Although simple, maybe you and I could think of this song today. Love to you!

“Jesus loves me! this I know, For the Bible tells me so; Little ones to Him belong; They are weak, but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me, Yes, Jesus loves me, Yes, Jesus loves me, The Bible tells me so.” by Anna B. Warner