Friday, May 27, 2011

freed by Grace

Until last year I was caught. Trapped. Buried. Under my own chains.
Expectations. Work. Guilt. Shame. Hatred toward myself.

I knew it.
I knew I needed to let go of all my anxieties, fears, and desires for control.
I knew I was constantly trying to do too much. Taking on too much. Angry at myself for not being loving.

I was buried under all the millions of photos I still wanted to edit and hours I wanted to dance. I knew what I wanted most: to live for God. Share His Word. Love Him with my whole heart, mind, soul, and strength. And love others!!!

Time was always my enemy.

And I developed a bad anxiety disorder.

Anxiety filled me as I was always anxious to get things done and angry at myself for not loving.

For a few years I used exercise to help cope with anxiety. Exercise in moderation is a really good way to help fight anxiety. I love giving all the time I exercise to God! It is my time to pray and think about His love. But... there were years where I went overboard and was addicted to exercise. Being addicted to exercise just creates more anxiety and is not going to bring lasting satisfaction and peace the way only God can. I never want to be addicted to anything from this world.

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

24 No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money."

-Matthew 6:19-24

I also went to counselors for anxiety. I never enjoyed that, and the ones I went to did not help me very much at all. They thought I had an eating disorder. The problem was really that I wanted to be a Christian dance teacher and felt extremely behind, wanting to practice during every minute I could. I was addicted to dancing and exercising. Out of wanting to please my parents and the counselors I ate as much fatty food as possible. Piece of cheesecake after piece of cheesecake... I was sick of people worrying about me, so I was determined to gain weight!!

Senior year was horrible. I put all of my devotion and energy into the yearbook as I was the editor-in-chief. I worked on it for close to 9 hours every day, at school and away from school. I was sad and anxious about the fact that this cut back on dance. And I was angry at myself for everything. I was angry at myself for not helping my family enough with chores or spending as much time with them as I wanted to. I was angry at myself for many things.

The weight of all the work was so heavy. Italic

There were also lots of good things though: I learned to let go of my exercise and dance addiction. I really really enjoyed taking photos and working on the yearbook. I really enjoyed helping teach dance classes!! I got involved with Bible studies. I was always being humbled to focus on others instead of myself. God was working in my heart. :)

But... with all the weight on my shoulders, in the midst of trying to gain weight I became addicted to food. I began emotional and stress eating really bad. I was caught in it!!! I would emotionally eat often, but even worse I would use food to get things done. I felt like I had to be crunching on food in order to do homework, edit photos, and get things done while I was anxious! I would eat bag after bag after bag of Doritos (even though I hated them), cereal, whatever I could find in the house. I was a monster.

I knew it. I was stuck. And I was buried in guilt and shame.

This would bring me to my knees day after day. I would lay down on the floor, praying

"God, HELP ME. I am sorry for turning to food again and again and again. I know You are what I need. You are my strength. Please help me God."

I was very stuck, but I was also filled with hope that I could learn to get out of it. Each day I would make new goals and try different ways to cope and get out of it. I was so stuck though. Stuck in binging while working on homework or photos and then purging later through exercise or fasting.

... I was so excited to go to college!! To get away from a lot of the stressors and start fresh! Going to college really helped a lot! I remember I would do so well during the week. I would eat extremely healthy and exercise a lot. But I would wear myself out to the point that when I came home on the weekends I would be sick and tired, my body starving. And I would usually mess up and binge again while working on stuff. Also, when midterms came around, I got really stuck in turning to food again every day. The stress of my photography job for the athletic department (I am sure I spent close to 40 hours a week working for them and editing photos), along with working on school work, taking photos for the school newspaper, dancing and assisting dance classes, and wanting to spend time with family and love others, was just way too much.

I would often get sick or have no energy. I often wondered if I always had mono because the symptoms seemed to never go away.

I am so incredibly thankful that my faith in God has been so strong my entire life. That He has been my rock. My strength through out it all. I know I couldn't have gotten through any of this with out letting Him carry me through. I knew that He was my source of Hope. I have always been so optimistic! So filled with Hope. Tomorrow is a new day! It will be better. I can get through this. God will help me. :) And... boy, did He ever help me!!!

I started swing dancing in November of last year and joined Swing Dance Club in January. That was so much fun!!! It gave me a chance to exercise off a lot of the food I was eating in a really fun and relaxing way. I also met many more awesome Christian friends through swing dancing, who I enjoyed talking with and hanging out with.

Then... in February I joined Lutheran Campus Ministry (LCM). :D Here I was welcomed in with open arms and shown God's grace and love like never before. The people there inspired me so much!! They were so relaxed about time. They were focused on living and loving instead of focused on getting the things of this world done. They put their energy into welcoming others, reaching out to others, asking others "How are you doing?," witnessing and sharing God's Word with others, talking about God together, celebrating together, just simply being with people to show them love. Everything about these people inspired me to make the changes I had always wanted to make. I kept praying hard about what I needed to let go of. I knew I was always taking on way too much work... And later God showed me, He didn't want me to weigh myself down with work of any sort anymore. And not by dance or photography jobs. I eventually realized after suffering from mono, continual breakdowns from stress, after almost dying in a car crash, and after continually praying, that I just want to help people.

A deep peace came over me. I knew God did not want me to dance anymore. I knew I should not continue my photography job the next year. I knew I should go into Psychology. I don't know exactly what God has in store for me, whether it be Christian counseling or working for a church or something like that in the future, but I don't even want to know! I feel called to just take everything a day, a minute at a time. To surrender my time to God to use as He wants to. Let Him lead. And just love. Give. Listen to people. Help them. Offer advice. Help those who are suffering from anxiety, addictions, who are stuck in sin. Share God's Word. Witness! Talk about God with others. Learn more about Him so that I can grow in faith and love.

This is what I feel called to do and what I am finally doing. And it feels AMAZING.

For once in my life, I am FREE.

Free from my expectations and chains. :D

I no longer feel ugly. After struggling with body image every day since grade school, I finally feel beautiful. Beautiful in His sight!!!

I know that He loves everything about me. Every part of me. He created me beautifully in His image. I am His beloved daughter, that He loves passionately, more than anything.

I have been freed by Grace!!!

I am learning to no longer be angry at myself!

I know I will fail and sin every day. I hate that fact. But I also know that He looks at me with love. So much more love than I have ever looked at myself with. And when I tell Him "I'm sorry," He replies, "I have already forgiven you. I love you. You are so beautiful to Me."

His forgiveness frees me! It fills me with joy!

And knowing of His forgiveness is the only way I am able to change. Letting Him be my strength, letting the joy I am filled with over His love and forgiveness be my strength, is the only way I ever do change and find freedom from sins I am stuck in. I can't do anything through my own strength, but I can do anything through Christ who strengthens me!!

Last year was when I first began to understand grace. Yes, I read the Bible over and over when I was younger, and I went to church and Bible studies. But spring break of last year is around the time when it finally hit me!! I asked my friends James and Jeremy to have a Bible study, and we went through the entire book of Romans. In Romans 3, I learned again that no one is righteous.

“There is no one righteous, not even one;
11 there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throats are open graves;
their tongues practice deceit.”
“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”
14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 ruin and misery mark their ways,
17 and the way of peace they do not know.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
-Romans 3:10-18

And it says,
"This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe." -Romans 3:22

Throughout my whole life I had made false rules in my head. I had believed that if I had any sins I hadn't confessed to God before I died I would go to hell. I was always angry at myself for being so sinful. Always praying and telling God I am sorry.

I am thankful that I learned at an early age to stay in constant prayer and communication with God and to repent. I am thankful that this mindset kept me from many different kinds of sins of the body and mind. But I am not thankful that this mindset filled me with so much anger at myself. Anger, guilt, shame, and hatred toward myself. It also made salvation about works instead of grace.

But as I began to realize more and more that God's forgiveness covers me! Covers all my sins even though I keep messing up daily, that it is about believing in Him and having faith, that it is all about His grace and love and not about anything we can do to earn it, I became filled with joy!

"If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."
-Romans 10:9

"Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. 5 However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. 6 David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
7 “Blessed are those
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
8 Blessed is the one
whose sin the Lord will never count against them.

13 It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14 For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, 15 because the law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression. 16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to all those who have the faith.

Abraham did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22 This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” 23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we[b] boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we[c] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation"

-Romans 4 and 5

Yes, these truths are the simple truths of the Bible, but I still often forget them!! I often get mixed up. I often make it about me. About works. And I need to constantly be reminded and humbled. It's not about works, it's about Grace. :)

Realizing all of this frees me!!! When I am filled with guilt and shame and anger at myself, it is easy to remain caught in sin. It was easy to continue emotional and stress eating! It was easy to be selfish.

But realizing His great love and forgiveness fills me with joy and peace again and again. It gives me the ability to love Him. To love others. To know that that is what truly matters. It lets me rest in Him. In His grace and love.

And when I am filled with that joy and peace, I am able to rely on His strength. To say, "No!" to temptation, anxiety, lies, and fears.

The part in Romans that I related to most as we read it over Spring break was this...

15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Reading this filled me with so much joy and hope!! I was like "Wow!!! This is exactly how I feel caught in my horrible sinful emotional eating. I hate it. I don't want to be doing it. But I am stuck." ... And I learned that even when I was so stuck, God still had compassion on me. Still loved me. Still forgave me.

This gave me hope. It made me realize I need to forgive myself the way God forgives me. I knew I was stuck, but I was filled with faith that God would pull me out!!!

Every day I kept getting better and better, turning to food less and less. I was blessed with my friend Kelsey who I could talk to, who could keep me accountable for this sin. And at the beginning of May of last year, through God's strength, I stopped turning to food!!!

Yes, I was still tempted every day. And yes, I did give in sometimes (and I wrote about most of those time in here), but I was finally free from doing it every single day. I was finally eating when I was hungry and able to enjoy eating again!!

During the summer while it was still hardest, Matt helped me A LOT with this struggle, asking me to get to the root of why I was doing it. He also, even to today, keeps me accountable for it every day.

I still struggle with emotional eating a little bit. I am still tempted, but the temptation is rare, and giving in is even more rare. I still need to be careful every day. And tell Matt and Kelsey and others when I am tempted or when I have given in. This is what helps me not do it again!!!

There were some times this year where I messed up badly. Until December I messed up badly (and binged) about once a month. Now, I haven't binged for months. I still have occasionally used fruit or vegetables to get things done, and that is not good!! But, through God's strength I am freed from the horrible addiction and all the guilt, shame, and anger it caused.

What keeps me from doing it is knowing how much God loves me. Knowing how much my sins hurt Him horribly. Wanting so badly to love Him and not sin because of how much He loves and forgives me. Knowing of His grace is what fills me with such a strong strong desire to not do anything against Him. I also don't want to hurt my friends and family. I hate the sin so much so, that I refuse to give in. I could still use prayers. I am continually tempted, and do occasionally give in. But overall, I am SO THANKFUL for the freedom from this horrible sin I was stuck in I have found in Him.

In Christ I am set free.

Free from worrying about time.

Free from all my expectations.

Free from my anxieties, doubts, and fears.

Free from beating myself up and from anger at myself for not being loving toward others!!

It is about grace. Not anything I do. And with these realizations, I am finally able to spread and show His great love and grace with others!!

I am free from worrying about food.

Free from worrying about how I look! I am beautiful to Him no matter what I wear or weigh!!

Free from worrying what others think! He is looking at me with love and compassion. And it is what He thinks that matters.

Free from my addiction to exercise!! That is not what is most important to me at all.

I am free to run!

To dance!

To sing!

To live for Him!!!


Talk about the Bible with others! :D

Share His Word!

Spend time with people!!!


Enjoy food again!

Free from sin and death.

Free from hell.

Free from God's anger.

Free from my own anger.

Free to rest in His loving arms of grace.

Thanks God. Thank You that I am finally able to live for You and love others the way I have always wanted. I am thankful for every Bible study. For every time I get to spend loving, helping, and listening to others. For all the times I get to spend alone with You. Reading Your Word, singing, praising! For all I am learning! That I am finally out witnessing! That I am able to enjoy time with my family and friends!!!

It feels glorious.

I want to live for You always.

To live like I am dying.

To be bold and loving.

Filled with Your love and grace for others.

Because I am FREE!!!!!!

I will never forget, as we closed those Bible studies of Romans, the huge smile that came over me and the peace that came over me. Every day, as I think about His grace again and again, and relearn and read about it, the peace I feel inside grows stronger.

I remember smiling as this song came on. One of my favorite songs at the time...

I'm forgiven. :)

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