From the heart of a young woman

I am posting on behalf of a student. I assigned a personal narrative assignment and this student struggled with her ability to let me read material that exposed so much of her heart. When she was finally able to turn it in she said she wanted to share her words, even though it was hard, because she wanted someone else to be able to get help or find healing in her words.

I believe words have a healing power and hers have helped heal her wounds and she wants others to start the same healing process. I am posting this with her permission on the condition she remain anonymous. *All names have been changed.

Read and take in the brave words from a  young woman.

“2015 was a big year, in terms of me growing as a human being and I don’t mean physically. I mean mentally. A lot of things happened to me that I did not know could exactly happen to me. I knew they happened to people, but never thought it would happen to me.

I passed out for the first time ever, which doesn’t sound too extreme and it’s not but the reason why I passed out is what opened my eyes.

Over the past couple of years I struggled with my weight. To be honest I don’t think it was my weight but more the way my body looked. It started when I got into middle school and my friend told me everyday that I look horrible. I didn’t do my make up in the start of middle school, not did I did my hair. As she continued to bash the way I look, I started wearing make up and doing my hair. She continued, at one point I asked, “What is so wrong with me that you continue to say I look horrible?” She said, “Your body looks weird.”

You would think four years down the line I would have forgotten about it and moved on, but yet here I am writing about it. Every person at least to me has their own image of their “perfect body”. So in the start of 2013 I told myself, this was it I was going to get the body I wanted/loved. I did workout occasionally workout but I did not change anything in my lifestyle.

2014 come around and once again I told myself that this was it. I needed to get in shape. I changed what I ate, I exercised, I lost weight. In the beginning of 2014 I was a size 5, by the end of the year I was a 3. Not much of a change but there was a change.

2015 was it got worse. I was addicted to losing weight, by the end of freshman year I dropped down to a size 1. I was running everyday and eating healthier but I wasn’t losing weight fast enough.

The summer before sophomore year I cut my 2,200 calorie diet to 1,500 calorie diet.

With all the worrying how I was going to lose weight, I became anxious and unhappy. Now not only was I worrying about losing weight but I was worried about everything else. My grades became a huge part of my life.

With all this worry came with me shutting people out, laying in bed staring at a textbook all weekend long. I didn’t want to go out and I didn’t want to see people. I just wanted to be alone.

When people asked me what was wrong, I could never explain how I felt or what anxiety does to your body, the constant shaking and fidgeting all had a reason I just couldn’t explain. When you can’t explain something, people think you don’t know what you’re talking about or think you’re wrong. So instead of trying to explain it, I tried to hide it. I put on a smile I went through everyday living a lie.

It worked. People got off my back, left me alone and stopped asking me what was wrong. I was finally free of questions I couldn’t answer. But it did not change the fact that I was unhappy with everything and even more so my body.

I was getting skinnier and people were finally starting to notice. For a few months everything seem to remain stable, until one day I had softball condition and I opted out of eating that day. I had gotten through everything except the box jumps, after the first set I couldn’t stand up straight. I fell but caught myself with a fall. My coach told me to sit for a minute. I felt fine so I continued to jump up and down. I don’t remember falling, I just remember my coach was standing over me asking what I had eaten that day. Everything else is pretty foggy.

I do know I was lucky I didn’t hit my head or fall on my leg/arm. My coach actually caught me on my way down. I now ask myself what would have happened if *Linda wasn’t there. What if I did hit me head? What id I had broken my arm? With all those questions I realized that I am harming my body more than helping it. But obviously things don’t change, overnight it takes time and effort.

I wanted to have a healthy lifestyle yet I didn’t know how. I still don’t know how to fix my lifestyle. I don’t know how to control my anxiety or how to get rid of it.

How do I fix myself if I don’t know how it? Now I need to figure out how.”

Strength and Dignity

I have this problem when it comes to reading scripture. Well, I have several problems when it comes to reading scripture but I will just focus on one for now. After reading a passage or verse on my own, I often get this feeling of “Now what?” I’ll sit in bed, with my journal out, devotional in my lap, waiting to be struck with some kind of divine inspiration, and I will read a verse and think, “What’s that got to do with me?” Growing up attending Sunday School, VBS, church camp, and plenty of youth conferences I understand the importance of studying the scripture and “arming myself with God’s word.” It’s supposed to guide me through trying times, comfort me in sadness, and divulge the greatness of God’s love for me. In terms of a book review, that is setting some pretty high expectations.

And I love to read. I consume stories with a ravenous hunger for passion, adventure, and intrigue. I was one of those people who would stay up all night finishing the latest Harry Potter book as soon as it came out. I’m currently in the middle of reading three books, one of which I have read before but wanted to go back and read again. This is outside of the reading I do in preparation for my job. As an English teacher, I can appreciate the beauty of passages from Psalms and understand the poetic structure of Proverbs. I have a passion for language and understand the impact it can have.

I say all that so you can understand that I’m not just a product of a generation so immersed in technology that I can’t sit still for 5 minutes and focus on a text in front of me. I can and I enjoy doing so. I also really enjoy learning and love when a pastor or author takes a verse and breaks down the meaning of individual phrases. This is why Beckie and I work so well together. I benefit so much from her diligent study and research of the scripture. But more often than not, reading on my own is unfulfilling.

Now, I said this was going to be about Proverbs 31 so let me bring this full circle. Last summer, I participated in a bible study about Ruth developed by Kelly Minter. In this study, Minter theorizes that Proverbs 31 could actually be about Ruth. Currently, I’m in the middle of reading Beth Moore’s So Long Insecurity for the second time. In this book, Moore breaks down one specific part of Proverbs 31. I believe it’s only because I have read this chapter twice and participated in the study on Ruth that this verse finally struck a chord with me.

“She is clothed with strength and dignity.” Proverbs 31:25

This has become my new mantra. When I start to feel anxious, I repeat the terms “strength and dignity” over and over again. When I think about tweeting a passive aggressive message meant to jab at a follower, I repeat “strength and dignity”. When I find myself in a frustrating conversation, on the verge of a biting remark, I repeat “strength and dignity”. When I begin to feel my anxiety overwhelming me, I repeat “strength and dignity”.  Now this doesn’t always mean I make the right choice, but it helps remind me of an important part of my identity in Christ.

I am covered in strength and dignity. I have power to make the best choices because God has empowered me to do so. I don’t have to be nervous when I meet new people. I don’t have to give in to my sinful spiteful nature.Think about Ruth, if this section of Proverbs is truly about her, let’s consider what that means for defining strength and dignity. Ruth vehemently disobeys and disregards her mother-in-laws’ plead for Ruth to leave and return to her home village. She actively chooses to take on a life of hardship and pain. In accepting this, she doesn’t curl up in a ball of self-pity, wasting away thinking about all the opportunities she’s missed. She goes out and scavenges leftover grain, accepting the state-sanctioned welfare of the day. She then, on the advice of her mother-in-law (I mean, this she listens to) brazenly exposes herself in the most vulnerable way to a man that she can only hope will accept her and help her.

I don’t know about you, but if I find myself hiding at the foot of a man’s bed, waiting for him to stagger home after a party, hoping he will accept to be my husband…I’m not feeling very strong or dignified. Her position was the LEAST dignified a person could take, lowering herself to the behavior of a prostitute. And yet, through all of those impossible decisions we can go back and see the strength behind her actions. The strength she has in God. Her belief that He would be faithful, that He would provide, gave her the strength and dignity to behave in such a scandalous way. I want that. I want to constantly remind myself that God has created me to exude strength and dignity. In times when I start to believe the lie that I am not enough, that I don’t have what it takes to be successful, that I won’t be accepted with all my faults and weaknesses, that not even God could love me in my lowest moment, I cleave to strength and dignity.

It is difficult for me to personally connect with scripture. For anyone having this same problem, I encourage you to seek multiple mediums of this verse. I’m not speaking solely of reading multiple translations (although that could also be helpful), but find sermons online that preach on the verse, look for blogs where others share their views, ask a trusted counselor or friend to give you their connection, or even conduct a whole study on the verse. It took a span of three years for me to connect to one verse. But I’m really glad I stuck it out. Like so many things in this life, understanding God’s word is not easy, but it is worth it.

*Previously posted on Debunking Debacles on 4/20/2014

In Repair

I’m at a point in my life where it would be embarrassing and silly to post lyrics as a Facebook status or Tweet. If I can’t directly name my feelings then maybe I shouldn’t be blasting them on social media to the annoyance of my few followers. But there are many times when lyrics just seem to perfectly capture what I’m feeling. It’s part of why we connect to music so much. If we couldn’t attach ourselves to some part of the song, it’s unlikely we would continue to listen. It’s the same theory of falling in love with a book- some part of it resonates deep within you. Whether you relate to an experience or see yourself as one of the characters- reflection of our hearts, minds, and souls is what makes us connect to art in any form.

Over the past year, I have ventured out into the scary world of dating. “Scary” being used not only in the horror movie sense of the word (ever had a date invite himself to run errands with the host of the party – a person he met merely 30 minutes ago and then uncomfortably REFUSE to leave?) but also in sense that fear can be combined with excitement and adventure (saying yes to a date with a person you didn’t know existed until a week ago).

I’ve learned many lessons in this year but one has especially hit close in the recent months. The time for healing after a heartbreak is essential and difficult.

After my first major break up, I jumped right into the dating pool. I went out with my girlfriends on the weekends, experimented with Tinder, and became involved in my church. I was trying to make myself open to meeting new people. And I did! I had several dates that didn’t go past date one but that was okay! I was having fun and that was great.

Then I met someone who I started talking to on a regular basis and went on several datetype things with. I was totally lost on how to be myself and still capture this person’s attention. Even more so, I was still clearly rattled by some qualities of my last relationship because, when I couldn’t find my footing in this no-clear-definition dating landscape, I completely lost my cool in a most embarrassing way. It was clear my insecurity and confidence had been hit harder in my previous relationship than I thought.

After several more casual dates, I thought I had a better handle on things. Until I met someone else and I immediately gave away too much of my heart too quickly. I was so guarded with the guy earlier in the year, apparently my strategy was to behave in the exact opposite way. Surprise ending: It didn’t last long.

Both instances left me more upset than the ending of my serious relationship. How was that? I barely knew these people. Then one day, while crying out my heartbreak in the car like any sane person does, John Mayer’s “In Repair” came up on shuffle. And it dawned on me that I hadn’t take the time or care to repair the broken pieces of my heart. I let it get tossed around, trampled, and dragged through the mud only to pick it up and say “Toughen up and get back out there!”

There’s so much pressure to be together all the time. My own stubborn pride of not wanting to accept help coupled with people trying to figure out why I’m single or who to hook me up with helped me mask the real root of my problem.

As Mr. Mayer put it: “Oh it’s taking too long, I could be wrong- I could be ready. Oh but if I take my heart’s advice, I should assume it’s still unsteady. I am in repair.”

I was ready to post that to every social media venue I could think of (why? because apparently that’s what my generation does). It was what my heart was saying all along I just wasn’t listening.

I wanted to be unaffected by these men. No one wants to be the friend who can’t get past a heart break. I certainly didn’t want to be the girl crying on people’s shoulders. But it’s what I needed most. Anne Marie Miller’s book Lean on Me came at the perfect point in my life. I was very much pulling an Elsa (“conceal don’t feel- don’t let them knowww!”) when I needed to be more like Anna (“wanna build a snowman?!”). Going through this book- twice actually- broke through my prideful broken heart and opened me back up to the possibility that I have best friends for a reason. It helped me see that I need to rely and trust on those around me.

So, one night at dinner, I confessed to two of my dearest friends that I was not well. That I was heart broken and couldn’t figure out how to move past it. I sat there nervous, waiting for looks of pity, and was relieved to find love and listening ears. Just the simple act of falling into their open arms made the days better and I quickly climbed out of the funk that held me captive for months.

I’m still taking the advice of the song though. I’m in repair and that’s okay. I don’t want to rush my heart into another relationship without the proper protection and healing. It’s not a weakness. It’s not a flaw of character. It is simply where I am right now. I’m thankful for those around me for their prayers, love, and patience and now I just need to bestow some of that same grace to myself.