Recovery Revisited: When The Emptiness Returns

In recovery from my eating disorder, I had to learn the right way to be empty and to achieve fullness.  I wrote about the struggle to sit in my physical fullness and the realization that nothing could fill me but God.  That time in my life was, for me, an experience that God used to show me that I needed Him. Not just to be filled with the life He had designed for me, but also to be emptied with all the things that were keeping me from that fullness.  While I was trying to empty myself of the wrong things, God was using my disorder & my recovery, to empty me of the habits, misconceptions, and circumstances that were keeping me from being able to be filled by His presence.

When I went through that time, I thought I had discovered the secret, found a way to stay emptied of the bad and filled with the good.  But as I have traveled through the last few years of life, it is obvious to me that this is an area where I am, once again, experiencing emptiness.  How can I feel at once so full and so empty simultaneously?

I have found myself feeling so very, very empty yet seemingly choking on the many things crammed in my schedule, in my life, and in my thoughts.  And, in my quest to not be ‘stuffed’, I have emptied myself.  Not of food necessarily like I once would have, but of the very things that used to bring me joy, and the fullness of God’s presence.  I wrote in the original post (referenced above):

“There is also a spiritual hunger within me…one that seeks fullness.  I need both of these.  The hunger drives me more and more into God’s Word; into fellowship with Him.  Seeking the fullness is the most worthwhile pursuit of my life.”

 

Seeking the fullness of Christ, of His presence in my life is my most worthwhile pursuit, yet I have forsaken that for the day-to-day pursuits of trying to be ‘worthwhile’ for my job, for my family, for, let’s face it- myself.

And now, I am full, yet empty.  I am drowning, yet thirst for more.  Consuming, yet hungry.  Why? Because I am full of my own empty attempts to ‘feed’ myself and my soul, bathing in the excesses of the world that promises satisfaction, yet still, and more deeply,  I remain empty of His Presence.

So now I must revisit recovery.

Just like my nutrition needs must be met daily, I must, too, meet my spiritual needs daily.  I also cannot assume that what I once needed to nourish me will still suffice today.  Our needs change, what my body needs for fuel may be different than it once was.  What my spirit needs to be filled by God’s presence may be different than it used to be.  However, I can’t go seeking physical fullness by using counterfeit nutrition, things that promise ‘no more hunger’ but lack the nutrients my body needs.  I similarly can’t go running to counterfeit spirituality to find fullness that only comes from Christ.  That said, trying new ways to experience God, seek Him, and enter His presence are all pursuits that might be the very thing that revives my wounded and weakened spirit.

 

It would be easy for me to give up, to give in, to fall into the trap of believing I can fill my empty spirit with more food, or more fitness, or more work, or more ‘good deeds’ or more sleep…or. or. or….But God created us to hunger, created us to need something more than we can provide for ourselves.   As long as we are trying to be the one that nourishes our own spirits, we will wind up eating ourselves up.  There will be nothing left.   So I am ok with feeling the emptiness for now, knowing that the fullness will come, but also knowing that, if not nurtured, and nourished, the fuel that keeps my spirit running, will eventually burn out.  This is an awareness that I did not have as I walked through recovery the first time and I am exceedingly grateful that God has allowed me to feel this empty again, so that I know that He longs to be the One that fills me again…and again…and again.  So I begin to revisit recovery of my spirit, my mind, and yes, my body, in the hope of receiving the restoration only Christ gives.

 

FAITHful Fitness Friday: You Are Wonderfully Made.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:13-14

One reason that people often say that they are not worried about having a “hot body”, they just want to “feel better about themselves.”  After all, if you Google “benefits of exercise”, you will find articles claiming that exercise can make you happier, smarter (yep!), and better than you are now.  Although I do not think it is problematic for us to use physical exercise to help us reduce a little stress, we must be careful not to base our mood on whether or not we get to exercise.  Another thing that can happen is that we tend to let our mood or opinion about ourselves be determined by what others around us are doing at the gym, (or what they look like compared to us.)

A few years ago my husband and I trained to climb a mountain in Colorado.  We prepped ourselves here in Florida for months and even did several practice hikes before we attempted our ascent of Mt. Bierstadt, a 14,000 ft mountain.  I can tell you that we were both feeling like we were accomplishing something great–physically, mentally, and spiritually.  That is until we were passed by SEVERAL groups of people including one man who was running with his dog (he actually passed us twice, once on the way up and then again as he made his running descent with his energetic doggie still keeping the pace.)

Maybe you haven’t experienced that, but have you ever joined a gym to try to improve your health?  You sign up for classes, make a plan that seems challenging yet possible for you, only to be discouraged when you can’t understand the directions in yoga or you feel like your heart rate is at is “max” only to have the lady next to you ask if you are almost finished with your warmup!!!

What is good for you does not have anything to do with others.  Your fitness goals do not have to “measure up” to anyone else’s.  At the end of that June day in Colorado….the man who ran up the mountain covered the same ground as Mark and I…and we got to enjoy more of the scenery!! (That doesn’t make his goal less valid than ours, but, in the end, we both accomplished what we set out to do, the way that was best for us!)

Sometimes we think we need to exercise in order to feel better about ourselves, to be “better”.  Yes, there are benefits to exercise and we need to learn how to incorporate exercise into our routine in order to maintain good health.   However, nothing we do–the amount of exercise, the foods we eat, how much time we spend volunteering, cleaning house, or (this one’s for me) writing blogs:)…none of these things should be where we place our mood or our value of ourselves.  Our true worth only comes from God, through His Son, Jesus.

In today’s verse, we see that we are cherished creations of God.  He thought, planned, and designed us–not just our outsides, but into our innermost parts.  How might thinking about yourself (body and soul) as ALREADY wonderfully made change the way you exercise and take care of your body?


 

Recovery Revisited: Looking Back & Moving Forward

Three years ago I did a blog series called CORErecovery: Out of the Valley of Dry Bones.  I wanted to walk through, step by step, sharing my story of how my faith in God helped me recover from my eating disorder.  More than just a memoir or a diary, this series was intended to provide practical helps for people of faith who were seeking to recover.  At the time I wrote, things were going well, I felt strong physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  Every now and then, Facebook will show me one of these posts in my “memories” and I look back at it.  Sometimes I smile, or even giggle at my writing style- (still rather new back then.)  Other times I wonder how I wrote all of that- how confident I seemed, how sure, how bold.  It definitely was a time where I felt very firm and secure.  We hear people talk about being ‘on fire for Jesus’-well, that was what the blog series was for me…my fire for Jesus.

In the years since the original posts, my blog has changed focus, my life has changed dramatically, my perspective on some things has shifted, and my understanding of God and my relationship with Him has continued to develop.

My recovery, too, has changed.

From the beginning of my time recovering from the eating disorder, I have maintained that I believe that recovery is not merely something you walk through and leave behind. Rather, it is a choice to live daily in freedom from whatever was holding you in bondage.  In the early days, that meant moment by moment decisions about food, physical activities, and avoiding things that triggered negative thinking.  By the time I wrote the blog series, these things were more like habits,  I wasn’t having to focus so hard on recovery, it just was.  My life moved freely, for the most part.

Today, three years later, I still say that I have recovered from my eating disorder, but things are different now.  In recent months, there have been times when I felt like my recovery, my life in freedom, was in jeopardy.  I have doubted and been afraid.  I have wondered about relapse and how it could happen to me.  But instead of just frantically trying to escape relapse, to merely avoid doing those things that would suck me back in, I decided to stop running.

I stopped, turned around, and stared relapse right in the face.  With clenched teeth and teary eyes I looked at the very thing I feared— relapse-and I said, “Not today.”  I will not live my life running from something—eating disorders, relapse, or any of the other myriad things I fear from time to time.  I am going to live my life running toward something—my goals, my dreams, my Creator.

So instead of relapsing, I’m going to Revisit Recovery.   In this new blog series, I will revisit my old posts from CORErecovery: Out of the Valley and discuss how my experiences over the last three years, especially the last several months have changed my recovery, how I maintain it, and how I believe in and understand God’s grace and mercy over my life.

Whether you are new to recovery, are a ‘long-timer’ like me, or perhaps are just curious about what recovery is like in real life, I encourage you to join me on this new journey…

Recovery Revisited: Looking Back and Moving Forward

FAITHful Fitness: All or Nothing

Faithful Fitness Friday [Repost]-First posted 11/2/2013

Restore Your Core

 

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30

This might look like the beginning of a post about resting in fitness, but it is not.  In fact, it is a post about work—hard work.

I have been thinking about hard work lately.  Recovering from an injury to my back made all of my fitness “work” go from requiring what one would consider a normal amount of effort to requiring more than I thought I could give.  Sometimes, knowing that I could not do what I once could and even being unsure what I COULD do made me feel like just giving up.  I questioned if it was even…

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Faithful Fitness: When You Feel Like Quitting-RESIST!

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Often when I teach a Pilates class, I hear people saying things like, “Well, I can’t do this or that because I am so weak.” You know what I say to that? “All the more reason to do it!” You see, in order to build strength in our bodies, we have to actually USE our bodies. If you want stronger arm muscles, you will have to use your arm muscles! It is easy to give in to our weaknesses. It is much more difficult to RESIST! It is here, in the act of resistance, that we find and build our strength.

In physical fitness, resistance training is, “…any exercise that causes the muscles to contract against an external resistance with the expectation of increases in strength, tone, mass, and/or endurance.” (Source: eMedicineHealth.com)

One of the simplest ways to practice resistance training is to use our bodies as the “external resistance”. When we use our own bodies–even in their current “weak” states–we can make them stronger through resistance training. In our weakness, we become stronger.

In order for this to work, however, we must follow a few guidelines. In Pilates, for example, we first must be properly aligned and then engage our core strength (whatever that may be) through breathing. When our bodies are aligned and the proper core muscles recruited, we are best equipped to start building more strength.

The same is true for our spiritual strength. We want to be stronger in our faith, but we often feel weakened by “external resistance”. When life places the “heavy things” on our shoulders (stress, depression, relationship or health issues), we collapse, we cannot stand. We cry out in our weakness for God to save us from these external forces. Instead, perhaps we should choose to RESIST! I do not mean avoid these heavy things, as so often that is not possible, but knowing that WITH GOD all things are possible, we can resist, push back, engage our spiritual “muscles” in order to build strength and endurance!

How does this work? Much like our Pilates steps… In order to utilize God’s strength in our lives, we must:

1) Align ourselves to His Will

2) Engage the CORE of our faith which is CHRIST

3) BREATHE in the Holy Spirit through prayer and study of God’s Word.

Yes, in our own spiritual selves we are too weak to resist the external resistances of this world, but with CHRIST as our center, we can move with His Power in us. The heavy things do not rest upon us then, but on Him as we do the same. The Power of Christ is revealed in us as we allow Him to move us to push back or resist in our weakness.

We will continue to look at physical and spiritual principles of strength in posts to come…until then, RESIST!

FAITHful Fitness Friday: Feel like giving up?

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast. 1 Peter 5:10
For some people, including me at times, exercise is pure torture! We feel weak, “out of shape”, like it will never get better. Perhaps we used to be stronger but we have had children or an injury that has prevented us from staying in our fitness routine. We get frustrated, wanting our bodies to do what we want them to…or at least do what they used to do!
But just as God has given us grace, we need to give ourselves some grace! Sometimes God calls us to suffer through something which humbles us so that we can be made stronger in Him. Just like we use our bodies’ resistance to build physical strength, we must resist the negative voice in our head that says we are not ever going to get stronger or better. It will be the resistance itself that will eventually build the strength and endurance we are seeking. Both in health and in heart.
Reading the 1 Peter 5 passage, we see how this all plays out:
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
 Be alert and of sober mind. 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 the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. (v. 6-11)
Whenever our pride gets in the way of our physical or spiritual health, we must humble ourselves before the Lord. Remember that it is God that is in control of all parts of us body and spirit. The center of the universe, of creation, of our lives, He holds us up as our physical core holds us upright. As the center all things—He carries our “weight”- those anxieties that want to throw us off-balance. If we continue to stay aware and focused on Him, we can resist..the same way focusing on the center of the body helps us persevere through physical training. When we do this, resisting and standing firm, suffering a little while, we will be made strong, firm and steadfast. Our power will start with Him and be made more in Him! Both physically and spiritually…we start with the core strength we have (our faith-just as it is)…we train through resistance, we persevere, we stay strong…we get stronger!

CORErecovery: Out of the Valley- “The Things We Keep Hidden”

“…would not God discover this? For he knows the secrets of the heart.”  Psalm 44:21

We all keep things hidden.  Painful things in our past, circumstances that hurt us, things we have done for which we feel shame.  Perhaps even today, the things we keep hidden are not buried in our memories, but they are walking around with us daily.  Maybe they are even written on our hearts or we wear them on our faces.  We speak not a word, but carry these secrets, heavy.

When we read a verse like Psalm 44:21, we can be tempted to feel discouraged.  Knowing that although we keep things hidden from those around us, there is no such thing as a secret to God.  He knows us….really knows us.  All of the hurt, the hate, the mistakes, the dirty, yucky, hard secrets…He sees them all.  But….there is hope in these verses….

Instead of feeling shame, I feel safe and comforted.  God knows everything and He loves me anyway.

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is high; I cannot attain it.  Psalm 139 1-6

God knows me.  He knows all the memories I keep hidden and all of the things of today that I hold secret.  And yet, He loves me anyway!  His love never fails, never gives up, it never runs out on me.  NEVER.  I may keep things hidden from others, but I do not need to keep things hidden from Him.  There is nothing that has been done to me, nothing that I have done, nothing that I do that can separate me from His love. (Romans 8:39)

We are free to come to the Throne of Grace and open our hearts and minds to God!  We do not have to carry those burdens of secret hurts or hangups.  Instead of separating us from Him and His love…our hidden things can bring us closer to Him.

There are times when it is ok to keep things hidden.  Maybe past sins or habits that have been addressed, an old family feud that has been dealt with and forgiven…But there are other times when God calls us to speak these secrets out to a pastor, a counselor, or friend.  Still, there are other times when we want to share, but circumstances prevent us from revealing those hidden things lest we hurt another.

I don’t know what things you have hidden and I don’t know if God has called you to share them with anyone.  Your hidden things are between you and God.  I encourage you to pray and ask for guidance as to what to just share with Him and what to reach out and share with others.

But if you have things that are hidden that you need to share and want to do this in a safe, anonymous way, let me share something with you!

 “The Things We Keep Hidden” Photo Project  is an interesting photo journal that helps others share their hidden things anonymously.  Take a look at Laura’s beautiful photo blog and read more about her project.  Perhaps you will feel like you want to submit a secret, or maybe you will find encouragement in the expression of others’ secrets.  Alcoholics Anonymous has a saying, “We are only as sick as our secrets.”  Perhaps that is true, but sometimes great healing can be found in the sharing of our secrets…with ourselves, with others, but most importantly, with our Heavenly Father.