Saturday, August 30, 2008

Noah's Wife

You've heard the story in Sunday School a dozen times. In case you haven't, I can catch you up to speed pretty quickly. Turning to Genesis 6, we can see that God has gotten pretty frustrated with the people of the world because of their wicked ways. He decided to send a flood that would destroy the world. He decided to save a godly man, Noah, and his family, to re-populate the earth. So God told Noah to build an ark (a big boat) because it would rain for 40 days and 40 nights and everything that was not in the ark would be destroyed. At this point, it would be wise to note that it had never rained before. But Noah was faithful and spent the next years of his life constructing the ark exactly as God instructed. When the time came for the flood, Noah, his family, and two of every living creature got inside the ark and were saved from the rain. This was not your ordinary thunderstorm. It rained 40 days and 40 nights, but the earth remained flooded for 150 days, and they had to wait even LONGER for the water to drain and evaporate. Then, God promised never to destroy the earth again and marked his promise with the seal of the rainbow.
Sound familiar? Now, tell me what you know about Noah's wife. Done already? Thought so. She is mentioned 5 times in the story, but she is only identified as Noah's wife. However, I think there are many things that we can learn from her.
She was SPIRITUALLY strong. If she had been a wicked woman, God would have had her destroyed in the flood too! In the covenant that God made with Noah, (Genesis 9:1) God instructed Noah and his wife, as well as Noah's three sons and their wives, to "be fruitful and multiply." He wanted them to have children because God trusted that Noah and his wife would be godly examples and raise their children to serve Him. Think about that for a minute. If God wanted to start over with an entire human race, would He consider you worthy of raising the next generation? She had to have been pretty special.

She was a PHYSICALLY strong. We're not ever told in the Bible how old she was, but we have to assume that she was somewhere near Noah's age. We know that Noah was 500 when they had their three sons. today's world of advanced technology and medical experts, women who become pregnant over the age of 30 are considered high risk. So giving birth at 500, she had to have been ULTRA high risk! But she was obviously strong enough to handle it. Plus, let's think about the time spent on the ark - she had her husband, three sons, and their wives to care for. Not to mention, she had to care for two of every living creature. This was NOT a Carnival Cruise ship. I'm sure the smell on the boat was less than pleasant, labor was hard, and seasickness was inevitable...but she did it.

She was EMOTIONALLY strong. Going back to Noah's age, we know he was 500 when they had their three sons (Genesis 5:32), and he was 600 when he and his family got into the ark (Genesis 7:11). We don't know exactly how much time passed between these two verses in Scripture, but it is completely possible that it took Noah and his sons that one hundred years to construct a boat that would be big enough for their entire family as well as the animals. That's a major commitment, and it probably meant that she didn't get to spend much time with her husband. I know that if James is working a lot, whether it be his job or school, and I need some attention, I have NO PROBLEM letting him know it! He gets to hear, "James! Pay attention to me!" (Subtle, I know.) But there's no record in the Bible that she ever uttered the first complaint.

She was MENTALLY strong. Let's get real here. However long the ark-building process lasted, she probably lost any friend she ever had. Let's say that you live in Death Valley, California. (This is the place that holds the record for the hottest temperature ever recorded.) Your friend cames up to you at church and says, "God told my husband to build an igloo because it's going to snow for 40 days and 40 nights, and it's the only way we will survive." Would you think she was crazy? Chances are, you would set your cell phone to go off with an alert ring if Caller ID showed it was her number, "forget" to invite her to things, and avoid her at all costs. This is the same reaction that Noah's wife probably got from her friends. They had never seen rain, and they didn't even know what it was. I'm sure she felt pretty alone during that time, but she trusted that God was in control.
She decided to be Noah's partner in the adventure. She could have left Noah. She could have listened to her friends who said that he was crazy and started her life over on her own. Her life could have been pretty normal for those one hundred years that Noah spent building the boat instead of the hard times that she endured alone. However, she would have seriously regretted not following God's plan when the rain started and she was destroyed with the rest of the human race. Decide right now to follow God's voice, no matter how insane His plan sounds. I've heard it said that we can only live life forward, but we can only understand life backward. Trust the One who can see the backward part of it already.

And this last one may not apply to you now...but it will someday. Never resent the time that your boyfriend/husband spends serving the Lord. James and I are extremely busy, so the little time that we have together is precious. We are both in school. He is over two ministries at our church - double the phone calls, double the emails, double the get the picture. James may have to prepare a lesson for Sunday morning, or he may have to let an overnight group in to stay in our facilities at midnight. From the example of Noah's wife, we can learn that our significant others just might be a modern-day Noah - a GIANT of the Christian faith. There is no such thing as being overzealous for God. Count your blessings for a godly man when he chooses to submit himself wholly to God,

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Lessons from an Unknown Servant Girl

It's a normal day, and you are at your house with your family. You and your sister are helping your mom with dinner while your dad and brothers work in the yard. Your country is at war, so supplies are tight, but your family does as much as possible to keep things positive. In the midst of cooking, two soldiers kick down your front door. You scream as they grab you. You reach for your mother, but it's too late. One of the soldiers already has you in his arms and out the door. You cry as you watch your home get smaller with distance, and you are taken away from your family. You are now a servant girl to a leader from your country's enemy... Weeks after you are taken, you discover that your master has a deadly disease. How would you react?

Well, I'm going to be really honest. If you're me, my first reaction is, "Serves you right! Take me away from my family, and see what happens to you!! Hope it hurts!" Yeah, I know... that's not the reaction you would expect from a Christian young woman. I hope that if I was genuinely put in that situation that I would behave like the girl that this very thing actually happened to did. (But that would be my first reaction. I would just have to pray really hard for the Holy Spirit to take over!)

This whole story is recorded in II Kings 5:1-19. I'll tell you the condensed version. Like many of the other amazing women in the Bible, we don't know this young girl's name, but there are several things we do know. She was an young Israelite and was taken captive by the Syrians. She was ordered to be a servant girl to a man named Naaman. We are unsure if she was actually captured by him or if she was purchased for his household in a slave market. Either way is possible.

Her actual job was to serve Naaman's wife, so she probably performed household chores, like cooking meals and cleaning, as well as bathing and dressing her mistress. From what we know about Naaman, he seemed like a decent enough guy. He was known as a great man and a brave warrior in his nation, and he was respected by his king. Then, he was struck with leprosy (a really gross contagious disease that can doesn't always go away, causes alterations in your skin and nerves, along with muscle weakness, deformities, and paralysis.) Yuck!

So here's where the amazing part comes in. This servant girl remembered in Israel that there was a prophet who healed men of leprosy in the name of God. II Kings 5:3 says, "She said to her mistress, "If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy." To cut a long story short (only if you promise to check out the whole thing on your's an awesome story!), Naaman did go to the prophet, and he was healed of his leprosy. Not only that, but II Kings 5:15, Naaman even declares faith in God! He said, "Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel." All because a young girl spoke up! We can learn a lot from her.

She was compassionate. She was felt sorry that her master had leprosy and wanted him to be healed. Where she certainly had every reason to hate this man, she desires for him to be cured from his sickness. Instead of being consumed in her own heartache of being ripped from her family, she was concerned for someone else. When was the last time that you genuinely thought of someone else before looking out for yourself? This servant girl had nothing to gain from helping her master. It's not like she would be released back to her family if she gave him this information. But this man who had taken her away from her family mattered to her because she knew that Naaman mattered to God.

She was trustworthy. The mistress related what the girl had said to her husband, then "Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said.” (II Kings 5:4) You want to know the best way to be trustworthy to people? Be real. Be genuine. Be YOURSELF. People can spot fakeness from a mile away.

She had serious faith. Even though she was in a difficult circumstance herself, she still believed that God was going to take care of her. She also believed in the power of the prophet of God - that God could empower him to heal her master. As a servant, if she had wasted her master's time and money to go to a prophet who did not help him, her life could have been in danger. But she never doubted that God could and would heal Naaman.

Her boldness led to Naaman's salvation. Instead of being bitter about her circumstance, she was a blessing to Naaman and his family by offering him a way out of a deadly disease. After seeing a miracle of God, Naaman submitted himself to the Lord and is in heaven today because she had the courage to speak up! Being brave can be hard...but wouldn't it be worth it if someone came up to you in heaven and told you that they were there because YOU chose to be bold?

She took the opportunity God gave her. We never know when or how God might use us. But we do know that there are plenty of lost people out there who need Jesus. Look past your own circumstance and take every chance you get to share with those you come in contact with that Jesus is the answer to their problem. I tell people all the time, "I can't solve your problem, but I know the one who can."

Friday, August 15, 2008

The B-I-B-L-E

Did anybody read the title of this post and sing out (either out loud or in their head), "Yes, that's the book for me!"

That used to be one of my favorite songs as a kid. You know..."The B-I-B-L-E. Yes, that's the book for me. I'm standing firm on the Word of God. The B-I-B-L-E!"

With childlike innocence, I had no idea that little song could be easily debated in theological circles. I just liked the spelling part.

I'm older now, and I've actually now read the book I just used to sing about. It's so much more than lyrics to a song I learned in Sunday School. It's so much more than a book. It's the Word of God. Knowing Scripture means knowing the King of Kings.

Since this book is my main resource in my relationship with Christ, I've written vows - just like the ones I made to my husband when we got married. I will not take this book lightly. I will realize the permanence of my commitment to God's Word.

2 Timothy 4:3 says, "For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear." I vow to take responsibility for the presuppositions that I bring to the text, acknowledging that my experience, background, and personal belief system will all effect how I will interpret Scripture. While presuppositions cannot be avoided, I vow to be self-critical enough to recognize that my own personal theories may not be accurate and dedicated enough to read Scripture as objectively as possible, remembering the warnings in Scripture of relying too heavily on my own desires rather than what His Word says.

2 Timothy 3:16 says, "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right." I believe God has provided two main sources of revelation of who He is. He reveals Himself through His written Word in Scripture, and He best reveals Himself through the personal example of His Son, Jesus Christ, whom we come to know through the Word. Therefore, the Bible is irreplaceable as how God reveals Himself to the world.

Psalm 119:160 says, "The very essence of your words is truth; all your just regulations will stand forever." I regard Scripture as my final Word. The Bible is set apart from any other written manuscript because the text results from dual authorship; there is a human author and a divine author. Therefore, Scripture has authority not only as a historical account from an author who was present at the time, but Scripture exists as the holy Word of God. Therefore, I vow to always use Scripture as my ultimate authority.

John 17:17 says, "Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth." I commit that His Word is truth. Therefore, I believe that Scripture contains no error, no discrepancy, and no confusion, but it is the complete and absolute truth. It is by learning His Word and putting its teachings into practice that I may become more like Jesus and less like me.

Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope." I believe God has a plan and a purpose for each of His children who are seeking after Him. We seek Him by digging into His Word to learn more about Him. I vow to follow His Word, trusting that His teachings will never lead me astray.

Isaiah 40:8 says, "The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.” Sixth, I hold to the fact that God’s Word is timeless, making it as relevant to me today as it was when it was written thousands of years ago. Scripture can be applied across time and across cultures; it has no boundaries or limitations.

John 10:35 says, "And you know that the Scriptures cannot be altered." I vow to view Scripture in its whole entirely, not just picking and choosing verses I like to gather meaning. I commit to search for the common purpose within His Word to reconcile me to Him and grow spiritually.

I vow to respect His Word and remain in awe of His presence while daily meditating in His Word. I commit to pray for continued passion to hide His Word in my heart that I might not sin against Him. As I seek Him, I submit to Him in total faith to use His Word as a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. (Psalm 119:11; 105)

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Skeleton in My Mirror

Everyone has skeletons in their closet - secret shame from your past that you don't want anyone to find out about. But this is a picture of my skeleton - except I didn't keep mine in my closet. I had to look at mine in the mirror everyday.

It started out as an attempt to become more “healthy.” After watching several older friends take on the “freshman 15” in college, I was determined it wouldn’t happen to me. At 118 pounds, I decided to make some changes.

First, I decided I needed to increase my exercise. In high school, I worked at a health and fitness center, so I typically worked out 4-5 times a week. When I would finish a shift, I would head to the cardio machines and leisurely jog on the treadmill or go to a strength-training class.

That wasn’t enough for me now. I read that it was better to work out on an empty stomach, so I began getting up at 5 a.m. to get my workout in before class. But that didn’t mean that I stopped my routine at night after work. Double the exercise meant double the results.

I started getting attention from the personal trainers and fitness managers. “Michelle, you’re in such great shape. You look amazing. It’s such a waste having you at the front desk. Why don’t you get certified to teach classes?”

Did I just get offered to get paid to workout? Somebody pinch me, because I am dreaming. It was perfect. I paid for the certifications out of my savings account, and before I knew it, I was no longer standing behind a desk. I was up in front of the exercise classes, torching calories for hours a day. Yet, I couldn’t seem to shake the last few pounds that I wanted gone.

“Michelle, you know that working out is only 20% of weight loss. 80% is nutrition,” one of the personal trainers informed me when I shared my frustrations. Enough said. Exercise more, check. Operation: Eat Less would begin.

I began doing intensive research on the healthiest foods, the lowest in calories, and the lowest in fat grams. I developed my “Safe Foods” and made sure they were always accessible. I knew as long as I stuck to my routine, I knew exactly what was going into my body. There wouldn’t be a single calorie unaccounted for.

Operation: Eat Less included old fashioned oats and ½ cup of egg whites for breakfast. I ate a turkey sandwich on whole grain bread with lettuce and mustard only. If I had already worked out that day, I could have an apple for dessert. For a snack, I would have non-fat yogurt and carrot sticks. My dinner consisted of a chicken breast, steamed broccoli, and a sweet potato (if I hadn’t eaten the apple at lunch. Before I went to bed, I drank 8 oz. of skim milk. Oh, and I had 128 oz. of water each day. It always came out to less than 800 calories a day. (I wrote it down in my food diary each day.) I burned twice as many calories as I consumed most days. Sometimes I burned even more.
The weight fell off of me. I’m not sure how quickly it happened or when exactly it all came of. I still felt disgustingly fat each time I looked in the mirror. How was it possible that I still looked heavy in the mirror when size 0 pants had to be taken in to fit me?

I no longer saw benefits from two-a-day workouts. I wasn’t sure I could force myself to eat less. I was already starving. I asked my manager for more classes. Pretty soon, I was teaching 15 classes a week.

By this point, the compliments had stopped. They were replaced with, “Michelle, you’re so thin. Maybe you should back off a few days. Are you sure you’re eating enough?”

Instead of paying attention to their concerns, they only motivated me more. But the comments didn’t stop. I knew I was going to have to do something to prove to everyone that I didn’t have a problem – because I didn’t. I just wanted to be healthy.

I needed a mask, and I needed one fast. I entered a pageant. What person with an eating disorder or an unhealthy body image would purposely parade around on a stage in a swimsuit? It was perfect.

I was 19. I didn’t think I stood a chance. But at the end of the night, the crown went on my head – average, good student, little church nerd ME! That’s when the mixed signals started. At the same time I heard, “Michelle, I think you might be a little too skinny,” I heard, “But you look absolutely amazing on camera.”

From there, I went from bad to worse. Now, I was going to have to compete against 50 of the most beautiful girls in my state. I knew I couldn’t beat them in age or experience. They had a few years of maturity on me in the talent competition. But I could do everything in my power to rock the swimsuit competition. I just had to have the will power. If I couldn’t get rid of the weight while I was still eating, I would just stop eating altogether.

I cut out snacks first, then meals. Before long, I was skipping entire days of eating. All while keeping up my exercise class teaching schedule. Plus, I decided I needed to train for a half-marathon.

It was empowering. I knew I had something inside of me that was better than everyone else. Everyone I knew had to count on food to survive. I was super-human, I could make it without it. Sure, I would have to break down and eat something every once in a while. I just made sure it was a “negative calorie food” – foods that actually burn more calories to digest that you do from eating them. As if that wasn’t enough, I began taking multiple appetite suppressants and fat burners.

By the time the state pageant rolled around, I was at my smallest. During the swimsuit competition, my dad, who was typically my biggest fan, put the binoculars down. “I can’t look at her like that,” he told my sister. He knew I had a problem. They all did. But anytime they brought it up to me, I had an amazing excuse. I still didn’t think it was a big deal.
Backstage, the girls all fussed over how thin I was – how it was “unfair” to have to walk on stage after me. I looked in the mirror, glancing at my trouble spots, wishing my tummy would be just a little smaller.

“I bet you don’t even weigh 90 pounds,” one of the other contestants challenged.

“Sure, I do,” I said. “I weigh 102,” I said, even though the last time I had stepped on a scale was nearly six months earlier.

“Prove it,” she dared, pointing to a scale in the corner.

“I will,” I replied defiantly, swallowing hard. You would have thought I was walking to the gallows to be hung the way I was dreading stepping on that scale. What if I had gained weight? What if they actually thought I was fat?

Taking a deep breath, I stepped on the scale, closing my eyes.

The other contestant shouted, “Ha ha! I was right! 89 pounds everyone!”

I don’t remember if I said anything to her. I just know her words kept echoing in my brain. 89 pounds. Plus, my shoes and my earrings alone weighed at least five pounds. I know 89 pounds is skinny. Maybe even too skinny. So why do I still feel fat?

All of the sudden, I knew I had a problem.

But I had gotten myself into a mess I didn’t know how to get out of. I didn’t want to disappoint my parents. I didn’t want to have to go through therapy. I didn’t want to have to leave my job or put college on hold. More than that though – I didn’t want to eat. I couldn’t bear the thought of gaining weight.

I knew there was only one way to handle this. Quit fighting, and let food and the mirror win. Just accept that I was afraid of food, and do whatever it took to cover my tracks. There were times I would go to bed hoping I wouldn’t wake up so it would be over. I had trouble sleeping. Many nights, I heard my parents and my older sister come into my room to check to make sure I was breathing.

My family did everything they could. I left the house before they were awake most mornings. I would leave the pantry door partially open so they would think I had gotten breakfast before I left. They would bring my dinner at work. I would make up an excuse about having to train a client, but I was always appreciative. I shudder to think about how much money they spent on food that I put in the trash can or gave away. I knew I was hurting them. I heard my mom’s sniffles. I saw the circles under my dad’s eyes. I felt my sister pulling away from me like she knew she had to distance herself since they were losing me.
A small detail I forgot to mention: I was still a leader in my church throughout all of this. I taught a bible study to the youth group girls. I sang in the praise team every Sunday morning and Sunday night. Yet I had completely abandoned my personal relationship with Christ. I knew the Sunday school answers. I knew the public prayers to pray. But I couldn’t force myself to be real with God because I couldn’t bring myself to think about how much I was hurting Him.

But as God tends to do, He eventually got my attention. On April 14, 2005, I took off to a park about 10 minutes away from my parent’s house to complete my last long run before my upcoming marathon. 20 miles was on the training plan, and it didn’t matter that I hadn’t had a meal in 13 days. I was super human, remember?

I made sure to cover all of my bases beforehand. I knew my parents would call to find out where I was and beg me to come home, so I purposely left my cell phone in the kitchen so they would have no way to reach me.

I made it to mile 19. My vision began to get blurry as I rounded a corner of the familiar park. This stretch of the trail was completely hidden from the road. Trying to clear my vision, I closed my eyes for a few paces. The next thing I knew, I tripped, and I was on the ground. All 84 pounds of me hit the pavement, and I literally felt every brittle bone in my body crack.

Frantically, I scanned for help, but I was all alone. I wanted to cry, but I didn’t have the energy. I couldn’t see anymore, so I tried to open my eyes. Oh my gosh. My eyes felt open, but I couldn’t see anything. What is going on? I knew I should panic. Wait a second. Michelle, why is breathing so hard? Michelle, GET UP! Can you hear me? Why aren’t you moving? This is serious! MICHELLE!

I don’t know how long I laid there and tried to move. I just knew I couldn’t get up. Wow, I thought. So this is it. It finally happened. I am going to die right here on this track. Still trying to move, I attempted to gather my final thoughts. Michelle, how did you let it get this far? How could you be so selfish? Mom will never recover. Dad will never forgive himself. And your sister is getting married in three months and her maid of honor won’t be there.

I knew that I should talk to God. I used to turn to Him for everything, and now, I didn’t know what to say. Still trying to move, I attempted to gather my final thoughts. Michelle, how did you let it get this far? How could you be so selfish? Mom will never recover. Dad will never forgive himself. And Melody’s getting married in three months. Her maid of honor won’t be there, thanks to you! What will they think when they find you like this? What if they don’t find you? What if it’s some child headed to the playground?

Bingo, I thought. Something I can ask God for.

So, for the first time in over a year, I prayed – really prayed. Not a prayer out loud at church to make everyone think that I was the perfect Christian – I was the master of those - but I went before my Savior with a genuine request.

God, I’m not asking You to live. I don’t deserve to live. I know that. But if You could, can I just get up and walk to my car? That’s all I want, Jesus. Just let me walk to my car.

To this day, I don’t know if angels picked me up or if God simply gave me the strength I needed to stand. But through His grace, I stood up. I don’t remember much about the walk to my car, but I know I made it there. I sat in the driver’s seat and reached for the middle console where I usually kept my cell phone. Of course, it wasn’t there. It was on the kitchen counter, where I had accidentally left it on purpose.

Well, there goes your last hope, Michelle. The only thing you can do is sit here and wait to die. I drank some water that I had with me, and I felt it slosh around in my empty stomach.

See, Michelle. You’ve always heard that before you die, you think about what is really important to you. What did you think about? Your family and your faith. Did you think, “Gosh, I am going to look so fat in my casket. I really shouldn’t have eaten that apple almost two weeks ago. You should have ran farther!” NO, YOU DIDN’T!

All of the sudden, I wanted to live. Really live. Not count calories or starve myself. I want to hug my dad and tell my mom I love her, I realized. I want to catch Melody’s bouquet in June. I’m sorry, precious family. God, I want to talk to you, but I don’t know what to say. I turned my car on. Maybe a car running will attract more attention than a parked car.

I don’t remember having my radio on as I was driving to the park. Even f I did, I certainly didn’t have it on the contemporary Christian radio station. Literally and figuratively, I had been running from God for quite some time. People who run from God don’t listen to songs that remind them of their guilt.

Then, I heard it. God’s voice. That comforting voice that I hadn’t heard in so long. Michelle, I love you. In fact, I love you so much, that right now, when you don’t even have the words to say, I’m going to give them to you.

Then, the radio station played the song below:

“Restore Me”
- Anthony Evans

On the outside
You think I'm alright
There's a smile on my face
Everything's okay
But on the inside there's a different story
I've stumbled down this road
And I've got so for the go
I'm a broken man
On my knees again
Longing for a touch from you
I need you hand to

Restore me
I need your mercy
Take me
To the place I used to be
Use all the pain and the hurt
To do a greater work and
Restore me

I wore my mask
Running away from my past
Hiding all my scars
Thinking I'd gone too far
But he knew my pain
And He loved me just the same
He promised I'd be free
If I fell on my knees and cried

Restore me
I need your mercy
Take me
To the place I used to be
Use all the pain and the hurt
To do a greater work and
Restore me

Restore unto me the joy of my salvation
So I'll sing again the song you wrote for me
Give me a clean heart
I want a brand new start
Like the moment when I first believed

Restore me
I need your mercy
Take me
To the place I used to be
Use all the pain and the hurt
To do a greater work and
Restore me
Please, Jesus.
Give me another chance.
I want to be a new man.
Please, Jesus.

With huge tears in my eyes, I felt God’s love surround me. Does this mean you’re going to let me live, Jesus? Suddenly, I had the strength to sit up. I put my car in reverse, and I drove home. Amazed at God’s grace, I came in the door of my house. I immediately saw my mom, and I hugged her.

“Mommy, I need help.”

She nodded, tears streaming down her face. “I know.”

I sat down at the kitchen table, and my dad fixed me something to eat. I don’t remember what I ate, but I know that I didn’t write it down. I didn’t check the nutrition labels before I put it in my mouth.

That doesn’t mean it was over. Recovery was frustrating, especially at first. I remember sitting at a table having to eat a normal meal and crying harder with every bite that I put in my mouth. Each calorie that went into my body was undoing my “hard work and discipline.” I felt like a child again, reintroducing food to my body. My dad even had to give me the Heimlich maneuver on three occasions because I had forgotten how to properly chew and swallow food. I clung to Jeremiah 30:17, “’But I will restore you to health, and heal your wounds,’ declares the Lord.”

Forgiving myself is still a challenge. I can’t believe all of the time I wasted - the opportunities I missed to be an example for the Lord. I can’t believe the hurt my family went through because of my actions. Today, I still deal with the permanent damage I’ve done to my body – something that not only affects me, but my husband as well.

It’s not over – it’s like any stumbling block. Satan know my struggles. He tries to put those thoughts back in my head and to warp the mirror when I look in it. Most of the time, I am able to overcome the temptation “through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). On rare occasions, I slip, falling into old patterns of spending too much time at the gym or eating too few calories.

But “the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” is there every time I fall to pick me up (Exodus 34:6). He values me, He loves me, and I can turn to Him.