Posts Tagged With: faith

A King Among Beggars: An Easter Story

Recently I saw my first bald eagle. I was driving home from class, winding through North Florida country- woods on my right, woods on my left, and a curve ahead. I slowed slightly while rounding the curve, and tapped the break a bit more upon glimpsing the flock of vultures partially in the road, to allow them an extra few seconds to gain some altitude. Only half paying attention to the flapping wings, I suddenly caught sight of a white head providing stark contrast to the others. I did a double take, and after a quick glance in the rear-view mirror, slowed the car to a stop with a nod in silent gratitude to the country roads that bask in solitude. I craned my neck hoping to find him, and sure enough the white headed wonder was soaring just over the tree tops.

Maybe it’s a result of growing up in a big city, or just my long standing fascination with birds of prey, but I felt humbled by this stoic, proud, fearless, unapologetic creature. He is it. The king. The lion may be king of the jungle, but the eagle is king of the skies. Every knee shall bow.

What I couldn’t resolve, though, was the question of why in the world this bald eagle appeared seemingly out of nowhere in the midst of beggars. What possible business does he have sharing air space with them, or a meal, if that’s what he was doing? It’s just unbelievable.

But the answering thought was,

“Because that’s what the best kings do.”

The best kings walk among beggars; a true Savior befriends sinners. 

Whether risen from a roadside grave, or a tomb of stone, a true King is unmistakable. He befriends vultures: the lepers, the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the cowardly, the drunks, the suicidal, the afraid, the abused, the abandoned. A true King doesn’t care what the world says of you, or what you’ve done…only your heart and your response to his outstretched hand.

As I watched the bald one circle and rise, unchained to any earthly anchor, the beggars followed suit, unashamed. I thought to the cross, to this day, to Easter. I thought of my Savior, the One unchained. The One the earth couldn’t hold. And I thought of the beggars. Because that’s all I am- a beggar.

All I am, is a beggar, with a King who unbelievably walked with beggars on Earth, so that when He rose, when He called my name, I would have the freedom to follow suit, unashamed.

 

 

Thank you, Jesus. I will follow. 

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Come, Follow Me

Sometimes the best seat in the house is the one in the corner at a rare table of family and friends, left empty, because of artificial lights and temporary highs. Sometimes winning the race means slowing down and inviting others to catch up.

 COME, FOLLOW ME

        Throughout our college years, a friend and I did a lot of line dancing. Twice a week, we’d pull on whichever cowboy boots had the least amount of horse poop on the bottoms and head out for some fun. We knew every dance to every song, even those at the highest level of difficulty. I took pride in my abilities. Knowing I was one of the  best dancers on the dance floor gave me a great sense of accomplishment.

This past summer, I was reunited with family, friends, and relatives that I hadn’t seen in years. For the first time in a half decade, I found myself once again headed out for a night of dancing. Most of the group had never line danced before. Nonetheless, we were looking forward to a fun evening. My old dancing partner joined us as well, and I reveled in the deja vu. It was a different crowd, in a different city, with different dances and songs being played, yet I felt like I was suddenly plucked through the strands of time and placed back in my old college days.

Shortly after we arrived, the local line dance instructor held a “lesson” where she went through a lower difficulty dance step by step several times before adding in the music. I quickly picked up the moves and fell in step with the music, eventually adding in an extra spin where I could which increased the level of difficulty.

One of my mother’s friends was trying to follow me by watching and copying my footwork. As she tried to copy my extra spins and other added moves, she found herself getting lost. It seemed she was having fun anyway, and with a laugh I said, “Don’t follow me!”

I was more absorbed with my appearance and achieving the highest level of difficulty in the dance than I was with being conscious of how my less experienced friends were faring. Most of my group quickly gave up, unable to keep pace with the steps. My old partner and I danced a little more, while the others gathered at a nearby table to talk and enjoy each other’s company.

It wasn’t until the night was over that I became aware of my own selfishness and became filled with regret. I lamented over what I had missed out on- the opportunity to help someone who didn’t know as much as I did about the dance.

Sometimes things feel good in the moment, and in that moment, feeding my own ego felt better than slowing down to help someone else. Promoting myself felt better than lifting up my mother’s friend who was trying to follow me. Had I been more aware, I would have realized……..

Read the rest HERE at The Kingdom Life Now!

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Speak Life or Not At All

image credit: Daria Zaytseva

image credit: Daria Zaytseva

I don’t think of myself as a complainer. I certainly don’t complain any more than anyone else does. At least, I don’t think I do. Maybe even less. I used to complain a lot, the kind that stems from depression and victim playing, but I’ve come a long way. Now? I don’t really think about it. Well, over the past few weeks, I’ve read and heard things that continuously present the same message- “Don’t complain.” I’d read something in a devotional and then hear the same words later that day from a radio host through my car’s speakers. Sometimes when the same lesson repeatedly pops up and grabs our attention, I think it’s more than coincidence. I think God is trying to teach us something, trying to convict our hearts of something he wants us to learn.

 I don’t think of myself as a complainer. But it wasn’t until I started paying attention that I realized I do complain more than I thought I did.

Now, let me insert this disclaimer: Complaining and sharing disagreements in a constructive manner are not the same thing. Sharing disagreements with the person in question, on a mutual platform in order to find common ground and work out differences to find peace and share feelings is one thing, but complaining, as in whining, as in gossiping about co-workers or feeding frustration toward customers is what I’m discussing here. This is not the same as saying “no” or standing up for oneself or constructive criticism. That being said…

The Bible tells us if we seek, we will find. I think it also holds true, that what we seek, we will find. The more we complain, the worse we will feel. Giving our voice to a thought and speaking it out loud gives it more power. We can either speak negativity or speak life. What we focus on becomes our reality, grows bigger than itself

I started paying attention to the times I use my voice for negativity. Finding myself the object of misplaced blame or feeling a bit more like a dancing monkey than a person, or even the tiredness of inescapable drama or inequality are all examples in which a jury would probably agree I am justified in voicing my irritation.

Do I not trust God to be the ultimate Judge? Do I not trust Him to take care of things, to be bigger than my circumstances? It is not up to me to make all things fair, and yet I feel the need to whisper my two-cents to those in agreement. That sort of gossiping suggests self-righteousness and the neglect of His people. It suggests an idea that I’m right and they’re wrong, forgetting that “they” are His sons and daughters and recipients of Calvary’s sacrifice.

I’ve paid more attention and felt the nudge of my Father on my conscience when engaging in such non-productive speech, yet I’ve mostly ignored it. Until the final straw, when one day I realized I was complaining about someone else complaining! I was doing the very thing I disliked in someone else. I was just as bad as they were! Sure, I thought my grievance was justified whereas the other person’s was not. I thought my complaint more noble, while theirs silly. Sounds like self-righteousness to me. As the light bulb went off and I was faced with a big pill to swallow, I knew what I really needed was big ole’ dose of humility.

It’s as if God is leaving a trail of crumbs that are seeds planted in and around my heart and take root and grow until it is impossible to feign unawareness. And each time I feel the hammering of a new convicting nail in my mind, the weight on my heart will grow until I stop pushing aside and address the issue.

I pray daily that God allow me to be His hands and feet, that He use me to bring others closer to Him, that he let me reflect Jesus and be the proof of His love. And yet, when he gives me instruction on how to do just that, I ignore Him! I hear what He is saying and yet I rebel. Amazing! And by amazing I mean ridiculous.

Sometimes I feel stuck in the routine of daily life as if there is no forward motion and I ask God for help. Yet, it is highly possible that I am blocking breakthrough in my own life through my own stubbornness. It is possible that as I pray for direction and for the path to be revealed, as I pray for God to show me what’s next, God is patiently waiting for me to catch up to what He’s already showing me. Just like we must get certain grades in school before graduating, or gain experience and better weapons in a video game before one can level up, maybe the lessons God presents are like that. Maybe I have to learn to obey and master this lesson, before He can unravel the next one. Maybe obeying one instruction is what will lead to hearing more of them.

It doesn’t matter if I don’t complain more than anyone else does, or if when I do, there are “legitimate” reasons. I’m not striving to be more like everyone else, I’m striving to be more like the One who wants me to hold my tongue even on those seemingly small instances. If the words I speak do not offer help or contribute to community and life, then they are useless. 

Fortunately, we have a patient Father. He is willing to work with us no matter how long it takes us to get the picture and His arms remain forever open. After ignoring Him time and time again, the lesson has finally become resonant. And as I ask, “Father, forgive me?” Somehow, with abounding, undeserved grace, He does.

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” -James 1:19

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Trusting in His Promise

There are truths we can claim over our lives as believers, promises God has given us in His word. We know we are reconciled to God through Jesus’ death. We know our sins are forgiven. We know God is with us wherever we go. We can claim His strength in the midst of difficulty, provision for daily needs, comfort in hardship, wisdom in the face of challenges, rest when we are weary, and an escape when we are tempted. These promises are forever.

But what about more specific, individualized desires of our hearts? Our hearts are of utmost importance to God. Therefore, I believe He cares about what we care about. Even when our cares seem insignificant….

To read the rest of this article and to find out how God promised me that I would find love, visit The Kingdom Life Now, an online women’s magazine HERE!

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Mercy Reaching, Jesus Speaking

image via tarnmoor.com

Rising panic. I can’t get away. I feel used. I’m dirty. Disposable. There is pain. And darkness. All I see is darkness. Just hurry and get it over with…

My eyes flashed open with the clash of conflicting emotion and the pounding of my heart against my rib cage. There was relief that came with realizing it was just another nightmare. Yet the dream felt so utterly real, and my anxious mind was still reeling. The unwelcome physical sensations lingered as I fought to catch my breath.

I wish my sleeping subconscious didn’t insist on reliving that terrible and confusing night. Though there was a drastic difference between these dreams and the night they reference. In these dreams….

TO READ THE FULL ARTICLE IN THE JULY ISSUE OF THE KINGDOM LIFE NOW MAGAZINE, CLICK HERE!

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We Accept the Love We Think We Deserve

we-accept-the-love-we-think-we-deserve

There was a period of my life where I was surrounded by people who cared about me, but the pain inside kept me blinded to it. Some may have spoken a different love language,  or showed their love differently than the way I was hoping for, but for whatever reason, I couldn’t see it. I was so sure I was unlovable that even when people bent over backwards and jumped through hoops to fight for me, I’d set them up for failure by waiting for the inevitable one thing they would do to eventually disappoint me and prove me “right” that they didn’t care after all.

It could be one unreturned phone call after years of taking my calls at all hours of the day, or the volleyball game they didn’t come to after a lifetime of coaching me and practicing with me. It would be the time they left because I pushed them too hard and too far, after innumerable times standing by my side when no one else would.

I’d put people on a shaky pedestal which one day I would topple to the ground. And then at that moment with grim and rueful satisfaction I’d claim victory. “I knew they never loved me.”

It was misery of my own making, like clinging to chains in a prison cell with the door open. A prison where all interaction with others was a projection of my own inner voice. I deemed myself unlovable and unworthy so naturally I believed others must also. I figured any evidence to the contrary was a lie, a lie others told me to keep me from hurting myself. Even wrapped in a curtain of love, I was afraid the same curtain would be used at any moment to sweep across the stage and signal the end of some Tony Award winning play. The world was a stage, the scripts were full of lies, and all acts come to an end.

We really do accept the love we think we deserve.  The world would be a much less lonely place if this weren’t the case. This truth of human behavior holds us captive in a mythical world where we are barricaded from a much greater and far more powerful truth.

YOU ARE LOVED BEYOND MEASURE.

No matter how alone you feel, I guarantee you you’re really not. Many times people in our lives love us but don’t know how to show it or don’t show it in the way we need or are simply incapable of expressing it. If this is the case then it is up to us to look elsewhere to get our  needs met. Even if you still argue, ” I really am alone, I truly have no one,” it’s still not true. I promise.

There’s still Jesus.

Jesus loves you. He loves you enough that He died for You. Whether you want to believe it or not, can accept it or not, changes nothing.

Every hurt, every disappointment, every mistake was nailed to the cross with Him. And there’s not a single thing you can do to make Him love you any less.

You are never alone.
You are loved beyond measure.

Claim this as your truth. Keep saying this out loud, every single day, for as long as it takes for you to believe it!

Today, may you begin to accept the love that is freely bestowed upon you as a child of the King. May you find Him in the midst of all circumstances and even when the sky is falling and the ground is shaking, may you remember beyond any doubt that you are never, ever alone.

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Birds of the Air, Ducks in the Road

It was a coffeerough start.

I was supposed to be at work a little early, and hit snooze one too many times leaving me rushed. My Magic Bullet rebelled while blending my breakfast smoothie, allowing ground up bits of blueberry to seep out down the sides, and as soon as I sat down in my car I spilled coffee on myself.

I drove to work with frustration claiming every thought and steam blowing from my ears.

Why is life so hard sometimes?”

“I don’t even want to go to work! This means-to-an-end job I had never planned on still doing at my age…” (insert grumbling here)

I listened for an answer from above, knowing fully that my little mental tantrum had spoiled brat written all over it.

How ungrateful. How blessed I am, how wonderful a life I’ve been allowed to live, and yet this particular morning I was just insistent on throwing my sucker in the dirt and whining to the Lord about whatever I could find fault with. Though really, I just didn’t want to admit that my poor attitude was stemming from something completely within my control which was a fault all my own- that dang snooze button. I swear that thing is like an addictive drug. I’ve been pressing it my whole life and now that I’m older and trying to be more responsible, I just can’t stop.

My superficial complaints didn’t deserve any acknowledgement from God. But somehow, He was gracious enough to give me one anyway.

Driving down a busy street, my irritable inner monologue is interrupted as the corner of my eye catches the duck family stepping out into the middle of traffic, about to cross right in front of me. I slow my car to a near stop to allow two adults, and three fluffy yellow chicks safe passage, and silently will the cars coming in the other direction to slow as well.

image via thebookangel.com

image via thebookangel.com

In spite of myself, a grin cracks across my face as this little family snaps me back outside of myself and somehow manages to remind me of perspective. I’m immediately reminded of Matthew 6:25-34:

  • “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
    “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

As I watch this little duck family I realize that God knows even them, and feeds them, and for today, allows them safety. It’s a reminder to chill out, that no matter how big of a mess I may be on any particular morning, He is still sovereign, His grace is sufficient, even then.

The duck parents step out from the curb, and the babies follow, both groups in blind faith, without worry of the cars or what may happen before they reach the other side. They just put one foot in front of the other and simply go.

Jesus, when it comes to my walk and any potholes or large moving obstacles along the way, help me have the blind faith of these little ducks. Help me look forward to the other side and see only You, instead of the distractions all around. Where You go I’ll go, where You lead, I’ll follow. 

image via myra.lifewithchrist.org

image via myra.lifewithchrist.org

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Only Love Thaws a Frozen Heart

frozen_french_poster_2847     So I finally watched Disney’s Frozen, the movie that has taken the world by storm as of late, the highest grossing animated movie of all time worldwide, and one of the top ten of all time period. I loved it, but that’s not really unexpected because I admittedly am a 27 year old woman who still watches the Disney channel on a semi-regular basis, and no, I don’t have kids.

I loved the message of this movie. It is one that resonated deep within as one I know to be true because it is a story of my own life. It’s a story I’ve lived. I must say, Disney, I concur.

When asked how I recovered from an eating disorder, sometimes I fumble with my response. 3.5  years of hospitalizations, inpatient, outpatient, and individual weekly, sometimes bi-weekly therapy, or a culmination of all of the above? The heart to hearts with my therapist/surrogate best friend-mom-older sister-teacher, the picking apart of each and every semi-traumatic moment of my childhood, the educational aspects, the cognitive changes, the life skills learned…none of it feels like the right answer. Something is always missing.

Because in the end, it was love.

Yet, when you tell someone you were loved back to health, you tend to elicit odd looks and skeptical responses. When you say Jesus healed your heart and put back together your fractured soul, people aren’t quite sure what to make of that, other than maybe you overdosed one too many times and left your brain a bit addled. People want something “concrete” to hold on to, some tangible method or a “how-to” list.

I can craft a “how-to” on formulating a meal plan for a person in recovery based on if they need to gain, maintain, or lose weight. I can draft a step-by-step on utilizing cognitive behavioral therapy in order to change your thoughts or dialectical behavioral therapy to combat the general inability to deal with life, and I can even pick apart all the ways the scale does not necessarily give you an accurate representation of your weight. But these things change behaviors, and even thoughts, but it takes one step further to reach the heart.

I didn’t fully recover until I had a change of heart. That is why even after the eating disorder behaviors mostly acquiesced due to the all, but not limited to, aforementioned treatment, I continued to self-destruct through the underlying borderline personality disorder. And I continued to hide under the covers in a mental fog due to the chronic depression.

When I say I recovered, it’s more like there is another step past recovery. Recovering from something means you were at one point not recovered, or rather, afflicted and struggling. And every time you say the word “recovered” you are still attached to what got you there in the first place. So yes, I feel there is another step. Where you’re healed past the point of “recovery.” You are no longer just recovered. You are free.

Free as in freedom as in it’s as if it never happened and your memories feel like they more appropriately belong to a character in a movie you once watched a long time ago and barely remember rather than a younger version of yourself. How did this happen? How do you go from having a frozen heart to being thawed and plumb cozy?

Frozen-Quote

 

Only an act of true love can thaw a frozen heart.

I propose, the ultimate and most sacrificial act of true love ever known to the world- the cross. Jesus died on the cross to thaw my frozen heart. The nails that pierced His flesh, were driven straight through my chains until they snapped. And this love is so true that it’s the all-consuming, life-altering, redemptive kind that once you are aware of, every part of you gravitates toward it naturally like growing flowers leaning into the direction of the sun.

Healing was a process. It started with the love I found in the hospital for the first time, a level of compassion and tenderness so foreign and strange as people saw me beneath the outer layers that hadn’t been peeled back in years and I felt safe enough to remove the “Keep Out” sign from my heart and dust the cobwebs from around the door. Then I learned to express love for animals and accept the unconditional love they offered. I learned how to care for something, how to support another living thing, as I slowly learned how to care for myself. It continued with my parents and learning each other’s different love languages and how to better express them to each other, the discovery of the love that was there all along without me ever having understood it before. And ultimately, when I was ready and in a position to recognize it, the transforming love of my Creator. Once I finally felt the full power of this grace-filled love there was no turning back. Ultimately, it was the love displayed at Calvary on that old wooden cross.

It was Jesus. It was always Jesus.

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From the start it was the Holy Spirit loving me from the inside of those placed in my life, those trying to fight for my very existence. It was His creation and His heart that shone in the eyes of my first horse that gave me one of the first reasons I had found for choosing to live. It’s His hand in my family that led us to find not only mutual ground, but a relationship grown from our love for each other so full it overflows. And it’s the Holy Spirit within me, that loved me from the inside out, that delivered me from my deepest darkest brokenness to one who has found her light.

It was Him, always Him.

Only an act of true love can thaw a frozen heart.

 

(And now, not because it fits with the theme of this post, but purely because I am utterly obsessed with it- the primary song from Frozen, “Let it Go.” Idina Menzel’s voice is pure genius, by the way.)

 

 

—–EDIT 5/22/14: This post was published in the May 2014 issue of The Kingdom Life Now, an online Christian women’s magazine! http://thekingdomlifenow.com/love-thaws-frozen-heart/

Categories: Mental Health and Recovery, Spirituality and Faith | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Realization that will Help you Forgive Anyone Who Ever Hurt You

“It’s the hardest thing to give away
And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those that don’t deserve

Even when the jury and the judge
Say you gotta right to hold a grudge
It’s the whisper in your ear saying ‘Set It Free’ “

-Matthew West, Forgiveness

forgiveness

When Jesus was hanging on the cross, why did he say, “Father, forgive them, they are blind fools they know not what they do.”

How could they not know what they are doing? They consciously chose to be there, to make the long walk up to the Calvary hill, to drive the nails through His flesh. How could they not know?

Maybe what Jesus meant was they didn’t know He was the Son of God, and if they knew, or rather, believed that he really was the Savior, things would have ended differently.

I don’t think that’s all Jesus meant. I think it goes much deeper. He’s not just asking God to forgive the men who hung Him on the cross, He’s asking God to forgive every human and every sin and every hurt ever inflicted.

In most cases it’s not that we don’t know the difference between right and wrong, at least if we really sat down and thought about it. It’s that we are completely incapable of going through our lives without sinning, without doing wrong, without hurting people.

If we could, we’d never need a Savior to begin with.

We are all of us, fallen, sinful, broken people.

Fallen, sinful, broken people in need of Jesus.

Why is this the realization that will help you forgive anyone who ever hurt you?

I propose this because through this lens, you look at your overly critical mother, your absent father, your sibling betrayal, your thief of a friend, your teacher who embarrassed you, your boss who blamed you, that stranger who sexually assaulted you, that trusted mentor who stopped standing up for you…

And on the other side of that lens, what is left? The cross. And our desperate need for it.

Forgiving someone is not saying IT’S OKAY or IT DIDN’T MATTER. It’s saying IT DID MATTER but with the acknowledgement that humans disappoint other humans. It’s saying we cannot hold our fellow humans to the standards only Jesus can meet. It’s simply understanding that the person who hurt us needs Jesus, and He responded and died on the cross for them. He was whipped and beaten not just for our sin, but for theirs too. And once we start looking at them through Jesus’ eyes, forgiveness becomes inevitable. The anger begins to fade and a level of compassion begins to form.

We don’t forgive, because the person deserves it, we forgive, to release them to the cross. We set them free, and in turn become free ourselves. 

That person who hurt you? It wasn’t okay. But God is still at work in them, He’s not done yet. And more importantly he’s not done with you yet either.  Jesus is filling empty seats and holding open doors and mending broken hearts.

Who do you need to forgive? Do you think looking through the eyes of heaven rather than the eyes of the world can help you achieve this?

——————————————————

This song “Just Another Birthday” by Casting Crowns, is heartbreaking yet beautiful. It’s an example of pointing to the cross in the midst of brokenness and emptiness and allowing Him to fill the holes left in our hearts be fellow humans.

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A Letter to Biggest Loser Winner Rachel Frederickson

beyoutiful

Dear Rachel,

I didn’t even know who you are until yesterday, when your name blew up social media in response to the Biggest Loser finale. I don’t watch the show. I think the show stands for a lot of good, for the war on obesity in this country. But I also think the extreme approach, borderline torturous style of exercise, and inevitable shaming when a contestant is not working hard enough or losing quickly enough, isn’t the healthiest way to do it. I think it’s dangerous. I know the show has medical staff constantly present along the way, but I’m speaking of dangers mentally as well. And I’m sad that this show has been such a big source of entertainment for 15 years, because while on the surface it provides inspiration against the obesity problem and gives people at home the hope that they too can get their lives back, it points to a much larger problem- the American relationship to food, one of extremes. We have fast food establishments on every corner and eat ourselves to death. We have 24 million people in this country with eating disorders (the biggest killer of all mental illness), and 4 out of 5 women unhappy with their bodies. We have a booming diet industry with a revenue of $20 billion per year. We are killing ourselves with food, whether in one extreme or the other, while we sit on our butts on the couch and watch a TV show of other people going from one extreme to the other in a competition for $250,000.

I have been fully recovered from anorexia and bulimia for over 4 years. If I’ve learned anything from my decade long struggle and several years in and out of hospitals and rehab and therapy, it’s that our problem with food is just the visible symptom of a much larger issue, one of the heart. Eating well and exercising will make our bodies healthy, but not our minds. And I think there needs to be more TV shows addressing the underlying problem and changing the way we Americans think about food and our bodies.

That being said, obviously social media has exploded with the talk of you being anorexic, and with discussion picking apart every aspect of your journey and appearance. There are even pro-eating disorder sites with young teenagers praising you for your “sagging knees” and looking to you as their starvation thinspiration, saying they want to be just like you.

I don’t ever want to look at someone and assume they have an eating disorder. There is more to it than appearance. The vast majority of the time I spent sick I was at a normal weight. You can’t always look at someone and tell, and I so desperately want to give you the benefit of the doubt to slow the cracking of the break in my heart upon seeing your pictures and video of the finale. I think, maybe you really are just being healthy and trying to eat right and find a balance as you claim. And maybe you’ll gain some weight back now that the finale is over, now that you’ve secured the win for $250,000. Maybe you’ve been able to heal the mind that led you to become overweight to begin with over these past months.

I hope so.

But just in case….

I may not want to make assumptions on your mental state, but what I can say are the things concrete. I know the audience cheered, but then gasped, during your reveal. I know the looks on trainers Jillian Michaels’ and Bob Harper’s faces spoke more of horror and concern than celebration. I know your BMI is below what is considered healthy for your body. I know nutrition experts have noted physical signs of dehydration. I know people watching the finale had to look away, or shed a tear, while you were on stage. Many people say you just look sick, and that NBC should never have allowed this to happen.

If this is all due to your body desperately trying to adjust itself after such an extreme loss of weight in such a short time, then what I want to tell you will just serve as a positive reminder while you go through these changes.

But if there is more, if you have found yourself on a slippery slope, one where dieting leads to eating disorder as it does in so many cases. If you aren’t as free and happy and confident as you claim. If you feel like all your joy in life is now wrapped up in being thin, and that everything will be better if you’re skinny. If you find yourself obsessing over the weight and the reflection in the mirror. And if you think for a second, ever, that you need to lose more than you have already….. I want you to know:

“Enjoy your body, use it every way you can. Do not be afraid of it or what other people think of it. It is the greatest instrument you will ever own.”  -Baz Luhrmann

You are not a number. You are somebody, not some body. The number on the scale can never define you or the worth that is inherently yours. You are a soul and a heart and your body is only what gets you from point A to point B. Take care of it, it’s the only one you will ever get. It is a gift from God, a temple of the Holy Spirit, and the devil uses our bodies against us, makes us hate them. If we are constantly looking at ourselves, we aren’t much use out there in the world. If we shrink all our energy in, we can’t shine outward and make a difference for others. You now have a platform and with it an opportunity to be a positive influence to women and men of all ages and sizes, and with that comes great responsibility.

I’m sorry that we use your weight loss journey as our entertainment. I’m sorry that we’ve sold you the lie that if you just lose weight everything will be great, with the promise of a quarter of a million dollars and the fame that comes with being a winner of a reality show. I’m sorry that we fellow humans failed you, that something wasn’t done sooner. I’m sorry for the culture that we live in that tells you if you’re fat you should lose the weight at all costs, the same culture that celebrates thin as if it is a goddess that will teach us how not to need.

You said at the finale that you know now you can take control, and do anything you want. But control is where eating disorders thrive. It’s not about controlling your body, it’s about partnering with it. It’s about a loving relationship with your self and your own body, one where it can be honest and tell you when it’s hungry and what it needs and you can tenderly respond, helping it to grow healthy and strong. There is no master and slave, but instead a close friendship. When this relationship is working, you will have a glow on your cheeks and a light that shines from behind your eyes.

You are worth it. You are enough. You matter. Not because of your weight or what you look like, but because you, Rachel, are beautiful. You are made in the image of God, a Father who knew your name at the dawn of time, knows every hair on your head, and has all your days written in his book before a single one happens. You are loved, beyond what you can begin to fathom.

If you have slid down that dieting slope into eating disorder, there is no shame. There is no blame. There is only a need for each other, for fellow human beings that can lift you up again. You said, “You learned you can ask for help.” That’s still true. It was true at the beginning of the Biggest Loser and it’s still true now. Secrets keep you sick, but letting other people in is the first step to pulling yourself back up.

Rachel, if you are struggling, there is more help available. There is hope that you can truly find the balance you say you’re looking for, that you can truly find joy. I hope you find both. I hope you can embrace your worth because of who you are, not because of what you see in the mirror, and I hope you can look yourself in the eye in the mirror and tell yourself, “I love you.”

I think it’s obvious that a lot of people want to see you be happy, want to see you rise above the prison of food and weight, no matter the size of the bars. You can do it. I’m rooting for you. We all are.

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