Sunday, August 8, 2010

new JOY

Aug 8, 2010

Almost all of the entries in here illustrate a little bit of the anxiety that gripped my life for at least seven years. Today if you were to ask me, "How are you doing today?" I would no longer say "Good," while knowing in my head that I am really an anxious mess. Instead I would boldly and truthfully tell you, "I'm doing really well!! Just really full of God's joy and peace."

How did this incredible change take place? Well, I think God had to bring me to rock bottom after rock bottom in order to keep me on my knees, begging for help. The struggle that was the most humiliating and horrifying and that made me both angry at and scared of myself, would turn into the biggest blessing in disguise I have ever been given. That struggle was emotional eating.

While I would love to dive right into talking about my struggle with emotional eating, I am going to save that for another post. First I want to briefly explain how I ended up so anxious in the first place.

Ever since I was young I have had a few deep rooted desires. One of them is to be good. To obey God's commands, never sin, and be righteous. To please my parents, follow their rules, and do well in school. While these desires may seem wonderful, they consistently brought me to tears instead of filling me with joy.

Another desire is to please people. To be a good friend, daughter, and grand-daughter. To always be kind and loving. To not hurt anyone by anything I say or do. This desire just left me feeling like a failure. A worried, stressed, horrible failure.

The desire that I've tried to run away from and hide, that has made me most angry at myself for desiring it, and that still tries to haunt me if I'm not careful is the desire to feel beautiful. I HATE that desire. But it constantly pulls at me, probably harder than any other worry.

Another desire I have is to be really good at what I do. Perfectionism. HATE it. Writing this post has caused me a great deal of stress and has even made me emotional eat for the first time in months!! (BUT I am thankful for that wonderful blessing in disguise once again, and I will tell you why soon enough.) Being a perfectionist is horrible. It causes me to get very angry at myself for spending so much time on every little thing and for always hating the results once I finally finish.

In the posts to come I will go into detail about how each of these desires really ate away at my life. My mind became a horrible, confused bundle of worries as all these desires fought against each other to win my time and focus. It took hitting rock bottom day after day, to really force me to let go of each desire. I still have to let go every day and put each of these desires, and my entire life, into God's hands instead of my own.

Giving everything to God again and again is now what fills me with incredible joy and peace. I have confidence that God used every single struggle I went through and am still going through in order to make me determined to be filled with the very opposite of anxiety and anger. To instead be filled with the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. I am constantly praying to God to fill me with fruits of the Spirit, and He really has answered my prayers in amazing ways every day!!

Today was the first day I have struggled with emotional eating again in a very very long time. Even though I have been reminded how horrible that struggle is. How absolutely humiliating it is. How angry at myself it makes me feel!! How I feel like I HAVE to give in or there is no other way to go on. How I feel like I wish I could just push a restart button and restart the day... Even though I am feeling all those feelings immensely, I am THANKFUL this happened today. I have really been filled with compassion and humility once again. This emotional eating struggle has been the biggest blessing in disguise because it has forced me to give EVERYTHING to God. It makes me realize I am a sinner, completely undeserving of God's grace. It makes His grace BEAUTIFUL and His love AMAZING. He forgives me for emotional eating and for all my sins day after day, even though I deserve to go to Hell. He saved me from that. WOW!!!! I can't even begin to fathom the depth of God's love for me. Thinking about this and realizing this is really what begins to fill me with joy. As I give God everything--all my desires and worries, each day, each minute, each breath, as I give these to God I am filled with His joy. The joy that comes from knowing God loves me, God forgives me, God died for me. The joy that comes from desiring Him. Desiring to know Him more, to love Him with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength. And the joy that comes from knowing that God is the only One who will ever satisfy me. No person, thing, passion, or desire will ever truly satisfy me but God. This is where my incredible joy comes from!! And if struggling with emotional eating reminds me of all these things, then the struggle is truly a blessing!

Another reason I am thankful I struggled with emotional eating again today is because I feel refilled with compassion and humility. This struggle has taught me to relate to everybody. All of our struggles and sins are similar. Whether we are addicted to drugs or alcohol, whether we are struggling with lust or anger, whether we are struggling with eating disorders or body image issues, whatever it is, we are all sinning just the same and we all need God to satisfy us in the ways that these worldly sins and desires can never satisfy us. It used to be hard for me to relate to certain sins and struggles, such as drug or alcohol addiction or lust, but now I can really see how equal all of our struggles are. This fills me with compassion and humility. With the desire to love others and to share God's AMAZING grace, love, and Truth with them.

I also know I must give my deepest fears and worries to God. Especially my worry about being beautiful. Struggling with emotional eating, and having more fat on my body than I ever had in the past, made me really give my body image struggle to God. Someone close to me was telling me I looked fat and pregnant, but I knew my true Father and Best Friend still loved me and thought I was beautiful, even if others didn't. It really helped me think of God as my true Father and Best Friendand to know that I already satisfy Him even if I will never satisfy my earthly friends and family. It will never satisfy me to worry so much about pleasing anyone on this earth, but it satisfies me to think about how much God loves me!!! I gave all my fears about body image to God day after day and tried to focus on the importance of inner beauty. It was incredibly scary to go to dance class and feel like I went from being the skinniest person there to the fattest person there. I had to give all my worries about what people thought about me to God day after day. It gave me joy to really find my courage and strength from Him. I also felt like I my passion for God and joy and confidence was possibly inspiring to the other girls, and that I could be a good example of someone who wasn't stick thin.

During all of this, I often became bitter about outer appearance, often thought of myself as fat and definitely not beautiful, and always kept my focus on what I know matters most: inner beauty. However, as I continued to give this struggle to God day after day, God used many different ways to open my eyes to the fact that He created me. And because of that He really does think I am beautiful on the inside AND outside. This realization surprised me and changed my perspective on outer beauty. I now understand being beautiful from the inside out is good. God really did create ALL of us beautifully, even myself. I have always easily been able to look at every other person on the planet and see how beautiful God created them, but when I look in the mirror I feel ugly. It still happens every day, but once I pray and look back at myself with Christ-like love and Christ-like forgiveness of my flaws, I can finally see a beautiful face staring back.

Although it may be humiliating and horrifying, it may make me very angry at and scared of myself, and although I do hope I never struggle with it again, I will always be very thankful that I struggled with emotional eating. It has truly been an incredible blessing in disguise. Constantly giving everything to God and constantly thinking about how AMAZING His forgiveness and love are fill with more joy, peace, compassion, humility, and love than ever before!!

Friday, August 6, 2010

thankful for yearbook?!

Aug 6, 2010

Yesterday as I was going through a box of old papers, I found the journal entry I put in here titled "typical day of senior year." While everything I wrote about in that entry might sound tough and painful, I am so incredibly thankful for everything I've ever gone through. Today I've been been thinking about how thankful I am for everything I went through during those crazy yearbook years!!

I remember coming in as the very shy and quiet, but yet very determined, little sophomore I was. I was the only person who had never been on staff before, but I was in the intro class the year before. The people in the intro class are allowed to go to the spring conventions and take part in the "Journalist in Action" competitions. Since I had won the photography competition against the people already on staff, I was given the roles of photographer and assistant photo-editor right away.

Stepping out into the big gymnasium with the words, "Don't be afraid to get in people's faces" ringing in my ears, I was freaked out. But I did it. The whole entire school was there, but I secretly pretended no one could see me! As everyone chanted class cheers as loud as they could, I put all my energy into getting close, turning my head sideways, squatting down, standing on my tiptoes, etc. in order to get the perfect photograph. The whole room was my command. I could walk anywhere--up and down the bleachers and even in the middle of the floor. I learned to love eating competitions best. I was the only person who got such a great view, as I lay on the ground with my camera up to the principal's pie-covered face. I don't think anyone else in the whole school enjoyed pep rallies as much as I did! And after making a fool of myself in front of the whole school like that, I could do anything...right?!

Friday night at the big Homecoming game, I was sore from holding a big camera and lens almost non-stop that entire week, but I was so excited and in my element!! I will never forget forcing myself to go up to Broc Bellmore, the huge star football player and Homecoming king, and asking him if I could photograph his face. Him and I stood alone in the middle of the football field. I forced myself to get right up close to his face as I could hear girls cheering at me from the bleachers, "Go Abby!!" Looking at the cover of the 2007 yearbook will always remind me of that exciting and comfort zone challenging night.

The most challenging experiences on yearbook staff probably all took place during senior year when I was the Editor-and-Chief. Every day was a challenge as the girls fought my ideas and fought me. We all agree that for a few months it was basically "Abby against the yearbook staff." I came in so excited for change and filled with new ideas, but all the girls shot every one of them down. They sat there doodling on their papers, very excited to loudly express their unwillingness to consider any of my ideas and very excited to talk about all their experiences with drugs and alcohol. I could've easily dictated that we use my ideas because I was the one in charge, but instead I was determined to make it a book by the entire staff.

As the girls continued to criticize me day after day and make every mean and rude comment that I don't even want to remember, I went along with their ideas and designs. I learned to shower the girls with positive feedback and compliments. At the same time, I was always honest and had to tell them quite often when they needed to step it up and start meeting their deadlines. A lot of that year is a crazy blur of stress and meltdowns. I constantly felt like I had the entire weight of the yearbook on my shoulders, and it never came off my shoulders until the middle of July 2009 when we finally sent in the last pages. I know somewhere in the middle of the crazy year, I gained my staffs' respect, which was really surprising. I still forget and am scared when I run into them, but they are all so nice to me. It surprises me every time!! When I was looking through that box of papers last night, I also found an award I made for one of the girls. Ha, I made everyone awards for the end of the year with very kind and sincere messages on the back. I can't even believe I did that... but I obviously learned countless valuable leadership skills through out that year, with out even realizing it at the time!

You might be sitting here thinking, "Wait, why so much stress over a stupid yearbook?!" Well, you are right. I now laugh at how much stress we all had about one stupid book, BUT at West Fargo publications are taken SERIOUSLY. I haven't thrown away a single school newspaper from all four years of high school because I like them so much! The newspaper and yearbook staffs are dedicated. It is their life. We were there until midnight many days through out the school year. Every thought that went through my mind, no matter where I was, was always about the yearbook and how it could be bettered. I was constantly missing class or late for class, and my teachers weren't happy. But if there was an awesome photo assignment, I wanted to take it. I did anything and everything for that silly book. I now don't even want to look at the thing because I have so many bad memories and emotions associated with it. Ha. But those emotions are now being replaced by thankfulness!

We incorporated many elements into our 2009 yearbook theme of "Not So Ordinary." We had a few quotes and random facts on every page, a long with a few "candids" (unposed photographs of people). Every day I had to go around the school and knock on classroom doors to interrupt a teacher and ask for a certain student (who I had often never talked to before!) Then I had to photograph them and ask them questions. I also had to constantly interview people, from random people in the cafeteria to the superintendent. I was everywhere!!!! Expect in my comfort zone...

Today I have realized how much this has helped me. I find it exciting to walk into new places or events alone. I am able to introduce myself to anyone and ask them questions about themselves. I enjoy asking my friends deep questions constantly like, "What has God been doing in your life lately?" I'm also not afraid to tell people the truth or to say what needs to be said. If I am afraid of a situation or of saying something, I pray first and mainly get all my strength from God, but I also think about all my yearbook experiences. If I could do it then, I can do it now!!