Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Learning to Eat, A History

Remember when I told you that I’m not perfect but I wanted to share some things that have been influential in our family? I’d love to share how we eat, or more specifically our “philosophy of food,” but it wouldn’t be fair unless I share my own history. It’s a story not so many know but it is a story worthy of being shared, at least I think so.

Because there’s a history to unravel.

When I was 24 years old, I struggled with an eating disorder. It was the year after I graduated from college. I was a 24 year old girl, with no real clarity as far as careers go, who had a history of insecurity and came home from a missions trip with far too much to deal with.

I would have never explained myself as a child or adolescent that was insecure or struggled with her weight. That is until a few months ago when I read through my old diaries. I definitely had a desire to be wanted, accepted, and definitely had body insecurities. I was never skinny but average and I grew up in a home with a mother who never talked about dieting or shared her own body insecurities. 

But throughout my junior high and high school days, I spent quite a bit of time trying to gain the attention of boys the wrong way. I made a lot of mistakes and my own history prompted me to feel a panic when we found out we were having a daughter. I always wanted to fit in, be accepted, be loved, even after I became a believer in Jesus I still held on to destructive patterns and friendships because they were familiar and accepting.

The summer following my first year out of college, I boarded a plane with several young adults I didn’t know on a Summer Project trip to Toulouse, France. And for the first time in my life I felt free. All the old strongholds were missing and for 5 weeks I came into my own. God grabbed ahold of me in a way I haven't’ experienced since and I felt at home. While in college I began learning to cook, I fell in love with food and France only heightened those new enjoyments. Food became an experience, a part of our day meant to be enjoyed, it became less about stuffing my face and more about experiencing.

And then I came home.

And the months that followed were some of the darkest and hardest to work through. Transitioning back to my old life, the strongholds, the friends, the reality was extremely hard for me. Upon hitting the ground I started graduate school, moved, re-entered the country, and my stepfather was diagnosed with Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer and given 8 months to live.

And for the first time in my life, I could barely come up for air. And to keep control of something I began a pursuit to keep the weight off that I lost while walking the streets of Toulouse. I became fanatical about healthy food. I memorized calorie counts, I spent hours in the Barnes and Noble health section reading diet book after diet book, I did South Beach, I ate black bean brownies, banana ice cream, and every kind of popular low calorie treat. And then when the weight began to creep back on I began binging and purging.

As a result my body went crazy. With travel and weight loss and everything combined my cycle ceased. I began feeling tingles in my fingers and toes and I began undergoing a series of testing to figure out what on earth was going on. And as one who can hide things well, I never shared my struggle with eating with any of the doctors. Instead they diagnosed me as under too much stress…saying my body was shutting down as a result.

Sometimes I wonder if I brought my infertility on myself, with my poor choices, with the desire to keep things under control. And then I remember…the Lord, giver of life, sovereign over all things, the one who brought me out of the pit and gave me new life.

Because in the winter, when my really close friend who went to France with me, sat with me at Barnes and Noble I shared with her what I was struggling with. And through honesty and the sharing of words, the pressure and struggle began to fade. And she didn’t judge me. She just sat with tears in her eyes and prayed for me and listened. And in my life until that point I couldn’t remember that many times when someone hadn’t chastised me or made me feel bad or put me down.

And then I told my mother on one of our very frequent car trips back and forth from MN to WI from visiting my family and my step-dad. And then I met my husband.

And then God did a work. I was serving in our church alongside young, junior high girls and I began the work necessary to become a member of our church. And bless our church, part of the statement of faith states that you will “not bring unwarranted harm against your body.” And I waffled and prayed and began to loosen the hands that were holding so tightly to control. Because I wanted more than anything to be obedient and I knew I couldn’t’ make that statement given what I was doing.

And then that friend, the one who listened and loved, begged me to join her at a conference for Campus Crusade, that New Year’s. And I went. And the speaker asked…asked young, visionary students to give a year of their life to ministry and it’s as if the Lord looked me right in the eye and said “Follow me.” Because I fell to my knees and begged forgiveness because at that point in my life I wasn’t even giving the day to Him. And I felt all the stress melt away.

I won’t say recovering from those days has been easy. But I also would say the Lord did a massive healing in my heart and in my life. When Alex and I began dating, I remember knowing that I would need to share this part of my history with him. And bless his heart, when I shared on the boat one afternoon, he just looked at me and listened, and told me it would be okay…he struggled with things as well.

He accepted me and all of my story. All of my history. Knowing I was a filthy sinner that had been made clean. And that first year of marriage the need to control popped it’s ugly head up. And I fell at times back into old habits and my husband never chastised me or made me feel bad. Instead he just prayed with me and walked with me and worked with me and built me up.

And I know, that in ways I will probably never be able to perfectly articulate, that the Lord used my husband as one of the major tools in helping me get well. You see, my husband loves food, but for as long as I can remember and what seems to be his status quo, he’s eaten like the French.

All in moderation.

He’s the only person I know that doesn’t really snack throughout the day. Well except now for Elizabeth and I. He is a crazy person about balancing out his meals. If he eats pizza he needs a vegetable to go with it to balance the grease. If he snacks, it’s usually on vegetables. His major weaknesses are candy and pop.

And so on the road to healing, my husband taught me again, what I had already embraced in France. He helped me learn to eat again. Everything in moderation. All for the benefit of food being enjoyed and savored and embraced.

Because it’s all good and all been given from the one who created it all for our good and for His glory. We eat to the glory of God and savor magnificent bites of almost everything.

Savoring and enjoying with hearts of thankfulness.

And that’s the history.

How a girl opened her hands and relinquished control and embraced the good gifts from above.

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