Friday, August 16, 2013

When it's NOT what you had expected

It was my first day working in the all girls cottage at Tanager Place- a Psychiatric Medical Institute for Children- PMIC. I was fresh out of treatment myself just a few months prior and was ready to come in as a treatment counselor and save some lives. I was going to love these girls and teach them everything everyone had taught me, we were going to bond and I was going to walk away feeling so good about myself because I helped someone. Ummm…yeah, all that….accept not.

I had all but 15 minutes with the staff before the girls would walk in from school. Today was my day to shadow. Get a feel for how things would run, begin to get acquainted with the girls, become familiar with the rules/structure/schedule/levels/consequences……well just EVERYTHING.

In less than an hour we had multiple tantrums. One girl was throwing juice everywhere because she was pissed due to something that happened at school. Another was throwing chairs because she didn't want to go to the scheduled recreation and then lodging herself underneath the couch so no one could get to her. The “juice thrower” escalated a bit more and began throwing DVD’s at my head because I tried to talk to her.  There was yelling, cussing, slamming doors, crying, biting, kicking, spitting, hair pulling----there were 12 girls total that we were trying to manage.

I left work that night in tears. “What on earth did I sign up for?” “I can’t do this” Total let-down from when I walked in the doors to start my shift that day.

That was 6 yrs ago and I ended up being there for 5 years.  However, in the beginning, nothing was ever what I expected it to be.

January of 2011 I was in Haiti. A baby boy on the brink of death was placed in our arms. My team loved him and cared for him and slowly nursed him back to health. I stayed behind once my team left to help care for him around the clock. He needed hourly tube feedings. I expected to fall madly, deeply in love with this boy---and I did. I didn't expect that when I left that his parents would come to the children’s home and gather him up and travel to the Dominican, cross the border illegally, without any means to feed him and make sure that he was remaining stable.

Fast forward with me to when I resigned from my position to up and move to Uganda for 4 months (last May).
I was scared to death, but so full of anticipation and excitement of what this next journey would bring. I expected to feel happy and thankful once I arrived and that I would feel that I was actually offering something to those that I was serving and working with. I already had a deep love ingrained in me from my previous trips to Uganda. But after I left my missions team and traveled up north, where I was going to spend the next 4 months, darkness covered me. I didn't want to be there. I wanted to go home. I was tired, dirty, hungry, taking cold showers and going to bed in fear every night thinking that one of these nights a creepy crawly was going to shimmy its way through my mosquito net. I PUSHED my way through those 4 months. Unmet expectations sky rocketed with every passing day.

Now, here I am in Austin, TX running Legacy House. I often get asked “Is it what you expected?” To be honest, I didn't have a whole lot of expectations because I wasn't quite sure exactly what was about to happen. But lo and behold you sure learn quickly that you DO have expectations when all of the sudden they aren't being met. I have learned that when you start thinking “I wasn't expecting to feel this way or for this girl to act this way or (fill in the blank)” that is a darn good sign that you need to figure out what you WERE expecting---proof that you already a preconceived idea of what it was going to look like.

It’s impossible to not enter into something or walk through your daily life without expectations. We all have them and we all have unmet expectations. It WILL happen. The challenge I find myself in right now is asking, “What are you going to do with these unmet expectations?” Even bigger “What are you going to let God do with these unmet expectations?”

Today if you emailed me or picked up the phone to call me and asked, “Hey, is everything what you expected it to be at Legacy House?” You would get “Hell no!” BUT that doesn't necessarily mean it is bad. 

Another key point I am learning right now:

Just because it is not going as planned or expected does NOT mean that it is BAD. But it also does not mean that it is good. It is what it is. All the time we feel like we have to put a label on it.

I am learning that MY expectations are just that—MINE. Through all the situations God had me walk through, I had a very clear expectation that I wanted to be met FOR ME. Ugh—sometimes it makes me sick with how utterly selfish and self-focused I can be. BUT in each of those periods of my life it was through the unmet expectations, the brokenness that I felt that turned me to the face of God. I NEEDED Him. I NEED him NOW.

I am learning to not bury my head, stomp my feet or cover my ears. Rather—lifting up my head and falling on my knees. I want to know what HIS expectations are and I can’t get to that place if I am still consumed with what mine are.

He is stripping me completely right now. Seriously, to threads.

didn't expect to already see girls leave, to become so attached, to feel my depression slowly creep its way back in, to not want to come back to the house after a day out, to know that this will never feel normal. I didn't expect that the amount of emotional energy that I would need to exert over and over and over again would happen over and over and over again. I didn't expect to feel so alone.

I am not saying any of this to feel pity. Oh no…I am saying this because I know WE HAVE ALL BEEN THERE. I am tempted to say that God promises that this will pass….but now I am not so sure if that is really a promise or just something that I have always heard. This struggle this year might not pass and I have felt the nudge of God reminding me of that.

He purposely shakes me up to get me down. Down on my face. Down on my knees.  Down where I no longer can hold to my expectations anymore….only to lay them down once again.

I remember when I returned home from Uganda and was on the job search.  Coming off of being in a third-world country the need for God often felt great. But every-time I come back home to America I somehow don’t need God anymore.

I prayed a prayer (a scary prayer) while I waited to see where God wanted me next.

“God, whatever it is that you have next for me, please let it be something that makes me need you”

Monday, July 1, 2013

We survived the first week!

Well, we survived the first week together! Everyone is alive, has been fed and still talking to each other…success!

It definitely does NOT feel normal yet, and I know it will take some time. Honestly, right now it feels as though I am just housing some girls for a bit and then they will leave. But they won’t actually leave. This is my new life. Overwhelming, exciting and hard. I know that I said “yes” to this, fully aware of the challenges and the sacrifices that will have to made, but it doesn’t make it any easier. However, one thing I have learned: When God leads me on a path where there is fear, doubt, stretching and crying in the night questioning if He really thinks that I can do this……He ALWAYS comes through. I wake up feeling His new mercies, there is strength when I thought I had nothing left, and He sends multiple blessings along the way. We always question God when we are the midst of pain and struggle…always wondering what the ultimate purpose is. I have been given new eyes. When I glance back on the journey I have been on, even this first week with the girls, there is a confidence in God that would never be present in my life if it wasn’t for the things I walked through in my life up to this point.

It’s like childbirth. The pain, the struggle, the pushing…..and then a beautiful blessing. The first time you don’t know what to expect. It’s new, so intense and I’m sure it feels like the pain will never end (I’m assuming here since I have never given childbirth). But then you have a second or maybe a third, and with every birthing experience you know that there will be pain. You are fully aware of the pain you will walk through and can recall your past experience to provide confidence to keep moving forward until that baby is there, melting in the calming relief of holding the blessing.

So it is with our life. With every experience I believe that God is preparing us for the next thing…and we need to be able to look back and see how we pushed out the baby before.

I am remembering all the times that I have had to PUSH in the past as I am here with 3 teenage girls (soon to be 4). I had no idea how emotional that it was going to be for me the first week that they were here. I was crying because I was so happy they were here, crying because of all the hard work leading up to this point, crying because I was lonely, crying because I wanted space…..well, you name it, I was crying about it! Want me to be honest? Ok, I was really crying because I was grieving what once was and will not be for a while. Selfish I know. Here I am, thinking about me and what I  am losing….when I have 3 teenagers who have lost so much, who haven’t had a voice in years, over 30+ placements….and all I can think about is ME.

Funny how when all of the sudden it’s not about you anymore, that all you can think about is YOU! It has been about me for 30 years. Being single and no kids you don’t have to worry or think about anyone else. I haven’t lived with anyone since 2005. I have always thought about what a HUGE adjustment it would be to get married after 30 (or more, oh God please don’t make it 40) years alone….well, yup…it’s gonna be tough. I think God is showing favor on my husband as He has me walk through this first J

My selfishness has smacked me in the face this week. It’s like I have mirrors now all over.

But the mirrors that I have are wonderful. They are 3 strong, beautiful, courageous girls. They have pushed more than I ever have or will ever have to. They have lost parents, family members, been torn down, given up on and never thought that they would make it alive to 18. There is a sober face when they talk about where they have been, but radiate and beam when they talk about where they are GOING. There is a sense of pride that has been absent for so long.

We have joined hands this week, laughed and cried. We are ready to walk this road together. There will be many moans and groans from all the pushing that will have to occur….but in the end there will be the most spectacular blessing.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Will you join me?

I have recently made the huge move to Austin, TX! I was given the most incredible opportunity to be the Program Director and Foster Parent for a pilot program, Legacy House.

Legacy House provides young women transitioning out of foster care a safe home environment where they are supported physically, emotionally and spiritually, with the hope they will achieve sustainable, personal, academic, and independent living goals. These young women will work towards completing high school, moving on to college or a technical school, employment and then into safe, sustainable independent housing.
Empowering young women to unlock their own life legacies

They moved me here and I have hit the ground running since March 16th! I have been working closely with my Board Chairwomen to get this program off the ground. These past two months have been filled with developing mission, vision, logo, program goals and objectives, program manuals, website, strategic planning, meeting possible girls, becoming a licensed foster parent, setting up the home, etc. I am thrilled to be a part of structuring this new, one of a kind, unique program for young women transitioning out of foster care.

I have realized that God has called me here to care for the orphan, just like he did when I spent time in Uganda. Sometimes, they are in our own backyards. Through the years working at Tanager Place, I witnessed so many young women in foster care bounce around in the system, never experiencing permanency and ultimately walk away with no plan for the future, hopeless and without meaning. Young women in foster care have all odds against them and without someone taking their hand, believing in them and teaching them the necessary life skills they become part of the grim statistics of poverty, homelessness, sex trafficking, prostitution and incarceration.

 It was time to bridge the gap for these young women! The gap—residential foster care to independent living—is a crucial, transitional time for these young women. This is why Legacy House was created! These young women can come live in a beautiful, residential neighborhood…in a HOME! It is safe for us to say that this type of program has never been done before with this type of collaboration and support!

I signed on for this position knowing that there were no funds for salary, due to being a brand new Pilot Program. Being the Program Director and Foster Parent is more than a full-time job. Not only am I living in the home with the girls, investing in them, assisting them to achieve their goals and providing emotional support; I am also working on program development, fundraising for Legacy House, meeting partners and creating ways to sustain and grow this program. Our hope and desire is that this program will be able to be replicated many times over in the next couple of years.

I am asking you, for this first Pilot Year, if you would come on board and be a financial partner, supporting me as a full-time urban missionary for the orphan right here in Texas!

I need to raise $25,000 for my salary for this first year as I work to sustain this program. I am looking for significant anchor partners ($2000-$5000) and monthly partners ($25, $50, $100). Would you consider being a financial partner? All donations are tax-deductible

Your financial support will communicate to these very special young women that we believe in them and are for them.


·         29% of the children exiting the foster system each year are in some way being sexually exploited,

·         50% of aged out foster teens will become homeless within the first year

·         3% attain a college degree


Will you help me help them?


Visit my personal support page from the Legacy House website

·         Click on “Consider Supporting Kari”

·         Enter Credit Card Information

I hope that you decide to come with me on this wild, crazy, exciting journey! Thank you and many blessings!


Kari Hamilton   


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Invitation

A little over a year ago I was on the phone with Jan Meyers-Proett, author of Allure of Hope and Listening to Love, and among the wisest of therapists. We were digging pretty deep and I mean down in the trenches. We were dissecting some recent happenings and the conversation was revolving around my future husband. Of course, through the years I had created “lists” in my head, thoughts on who I desired him to be. But this time it was different. Jan was asking hard questions. Who are you in response to him? How do others respond to you two together? Name very specific characteristics about him. How are you together, physically, emotionally and spiritually? What words come to my mind when you think of being in his presence?

That same day after I hung up with Jan, I immediately thought of this poem. It had been 5 years the last time I had read it, but it instantly filled my mind. I dug it out of an old journal and poured over it. The longing was so deep…yes, so much of what is written in the poem is what I desire between my husband and I.
Read it. Savor it. It is a call to passion; such raw and honest emotion. It is so rightly titled, The Invitation, as I feel that this poem beckons us to live deeply, asking us to want more, to live profoundly together.

The Invitation by Oriah

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon…
I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow
if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy
mine or your own and if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us to be careful to be realistic
to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true.
I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself
if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul
if you can be faithless and therefor trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day
and if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon, “yes”.

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep
in the empty moments.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Journey to Legacy House- part 1

Feb 25th 2013
Brandon Hatmaker: “Here’s the deal. We want you”
Me: “Seriously!??!?!?” (Professional response, I know)

 Rewind to October 2012:

 I just returned from spending 4 months in Uganda. I resigned from my position as a Treatment Counselor in a Psychiatric Residential Facility where I had been working just shy of 5 yrs to be able spend those 4 months in Uganda. The whole process had God’s fingerprints all over it and so obviously everything was going to fall into place when I returned…..

So not the case (it did, but just not in MY timing). One month went by, then another. No job. No clear direction. Confused. Begging God for some answers.

 It was such a battle of trying to figure out how all the pieces of the puzzle were going to fit together. I love Uganda. I had been going for the past three years and then spending 4 months there was incredible. So much of my heart was there. BUT….I loved being home too. I have such a strong desire and passion to work for the hurting here in America.

 “Wait a sec! Nashville! That’s where I am supposed to be!” This is where Exile International is based and I wanted to be close to the team to still be involved, yet get a full time counseling job. I had a few interviews, one was very promising and she was going to start calling my references. I kind of panicked and realized I was moving ahead in this and I had no peace from God to move forward. I called and told her that I just couldn’t make the move to Nashville.

 God and I had a few more conversations. I wondered if I should truly step out and fundraise full time to work in Uganda with Exile. Again, such an unsettling feeling with no clear “yes, go in this direction” from God.

 He was constantly reigning me in. Holding me back. Making me stay right where I was in my cozy little condo in Cedar Rapids, IA. I was not too happy about this.

 “God, you know I don’t belong here in IA” (insert giggles from God)

 “I want something so much bigger. I know you know this! I know you understand my desire and passion to be a part of change and movement! God, if I am not supposed to be in Uganda, please let me have a job that I am just as passionate about….the things YOU are passionate about…bring it Lord”

 Just wait, Kari

 “What am I waiting for?!?!”

November, December, January--- no job. I am filling in as a secretary (first impression specialist) at my Dad’s company. And if any of you know me, I’m sure you realize how absolutely miserable I was. Nothing against my dad’s company, but sitting at a desk and answering phones all day???? Oh I wanted to crawl out of my skin.

Then, I FINALLY get a job offer to be a Functional Family Therapist.

 Is this what God was having me wait for?

 I put on a fake smile, accepted and succumbed that this was just temporary. Surely, God still had something else up His sleeve. I even remember my facebook post that I wrote after I accepted this job, stating that I was confident that even though I am still in Cedar Rapids, IA taking this new job, that God was still going to reveal His ultimate plan.

 Don’t get me wrong, it was wonderful to be able to be fully trained and to practice a whole new level of therapeutic intervention with families. But it still didn’t feel right. I still felt stuck.

 It is now the end of January. I just returned from attending a new training for my job in Connecticut. I am home in my condo and skimming through my newsfeed on Facebook.

 Jen Hatmaker (I wish I could remember what friend of mine posted something of Jen’s about a yr ago that led me to “like” her page. If I could remember, you would get a big fat hug and thank you!) just recently posted about a position pertaining to this new program called, Legacy House, with a link to Brandon’s Blog.

 I went to check it out. With every sentence that I was reading, my heart was pounding just a little bit harder. I found myself agreeing to everything I was reading. My passion was increasing and I was remembering all the faces of girls that I had worked with in the past in the residential facility. Girls in the foster care system, some that were not, but completely broken, no hope, no safety net, no encouragement; stuck with families or shelters that continued to break them down.

 I love them. So much. I never thought that I would work in residential for as long as I did. It was brutal at times. Kicked, spit on, hair pulled so hard my scalp would bleed, skin torn apart from being bit, scars due to their nails being dug in my skin. It took about a year to develop some thick skin to deal with all of it. But when you can learn to see more than their behaviors, more than their pain that is speaking…..then you can truly see their worth and what they are capable of.

 Brandon wrote about their desire to have a Resident Director come to Austin, TX to live in the home with 4 girls at a time that were transitioning out of foster care. I walked away from my computer, not sure what to do with it all!

 A couple hours had passed. I knew it was my passion, but the timing just seemed terribly off. I JUST started a new job!

 “God, I have no idea if this is at all what you have been telling me to wait for, but I’m just going to submit my info. That’s it. There are thousands of people seeing this post. Nothing is going to come of it, but thanks for letting me read about this!”

 Ha! I bet God was just having a blast with all of this. I submitted my info and then went on my merry way honestly thinking I was never going to hear anything, truly!

 Jan 31st I receive an email from Brandon stating that I was put in the top 5 and he would like to chat.

 I was shocked, totally taken back. Initially, I had no idea what to think. I honestly never thought I was going to hear anything and so I really never thought seriously about the whole thing! Could I really do this? Is this truly why God has been telling me to wait? Is Austin, TX where I am supposed to be??

 I fervently began seeking God about all of this. For the first time since returning from Uganda in October I felt the path open up before me and God telling me “yes, go….this is where I want you to walk.”

 We chatted and then I flew out to Austin for an interview….completely terrified! I don’t think I had ever been more nervous in my life. I contemplated some wise advice that was given to go take a shot before the interview to calm my nerves, but settled that starbucks might be better.

 I had a week to wait until I was going to hear back. I kid you not, EVERY DAY something happened that pointed to Austin. I would open a book and the first sentence would be about Austin, TX. My mom called and said she was reading the local paper and Austin, TX was listed as one of the top places to visit. I was flying home after training from CT and the girls sitting next to me were from Austin. I was convinced that either God was playin’ me or that He was continuing to affirm that this was His plan.

Feb 25th 2013
Brandon: “Here’s the deal, we want you”

 March 15th 2012
I packed up my condo, brought my necessary belongings and hit the road for Austin, TX!


Friday, March 22, 2013

Man's Idea or God's Idea?

Hindsight is 20/20, right? I love when I can look back at various processes and be able to so clearly see exactly what God was up to! Sometimes we have no clue until years down the road, and other times it smacks you in the face. There is so much about this journey that I am on right now that helps me make sense of certain events in the past and present. It is absolutely wild! I love how God does this…and the more we say “yes” the wilder the ride!

I love good stories. And to have good stories it most often involves some crazy drama, humor, mistakes, out of the box ideas, risk-taking, etc. My good friend Kari Gibson (, check her out!) will tell you that on every trip we take, whether it’s to Uganda, Ethiopia or Haiti…I always pray for crazy drama so that I can have a good story to tell. Most don’t like that I do that J And if I remember correctly, right after I was telling Kari G this while standing in the security line headed to Uganda, she realized that she couldn’t get through security because she was given the wrong ticket. I do believe I was shortly sent a text message with a swear word in it blaming me as she was running around the airport (sorry to “out” you , sinner) J  

God has a pretty good (actually perfect) track record of catching me, leading me and guiding me. You might want to try Him out in this area if you haven’t yet J I so want to take the time one of these days and list out every possible way that He has proved himself faithful and loving and had me wait so he could give me the absolute best.  I didn’t always believe this about God. In fact, I had so much shame in my life that I couldn’t even fathom that this all-powerful, majestic, mighty God would actually want to lower himself to meet me, cradle me, wipe my tears, sing over me and lead me to the pastures of such an overwhelming, magnitude of grace.  I couldn’t make sense of who He was and what my role as His daughter looked like. I had this deep, unsettling feeling that for me to love Jesus that I had to completely change everything about me.

  Me- adventure seeker, adrenaline junkie, risk-taker.
 Is my life going to succumb to being a just a bible study leader?
Do I just need to nail down how to have my hour quiet time in the morning?
How many girls do I need to disciple?
 This was all that was being modeled around me. Please, I get that this is all good, but there is SO MUCH MORE! I felt like I was stuffing so much of who God created me to be to fit into this so called Christian box. I hated it. I fought it. I experienced leaders in Christian ministry judge and hurt others. Where was the love? Where was the freedom?  I continued to question over and over again, “God, there has to be so much more.”

Africa 2010. This trip awakened my heart and made me feel more alive than I had ever felt before. Passion, desire and anger engulfed me as I witnessed the events around me. I began to feel the heart of God and what He truly desires of all of us. LOVE. He wants us to LOVE. To sit with the broken, wash the feet of a prostitute, giggle with an orphan, comfort the widow….to be His hands and feet. God showed me that who I was, was O.K. Who I was, was enough to be used. That my intense passion, strong-willed, adrenaline seeking self was everything that He wanted to use to bring others to himself. He wanted me to throw the rules out the window and to run with abandonment. ….every single part of me that He knitted and wove together.
 God didn’t want me to fit in some man-made idea that others had constructed and influenced regarding what it meant to live for Him. Man is full of error, God is perfect. And let me tell you. When you can get to this place, the amount of freedom that washes over you is so immense!

I was on the phone with Kari G a few days leading up to the most recent trip we took to Ethiopia/Uganda this past summer. Some events from my past had surfaced and I found myself in a place of despair and pain.  I was shaken, confused, and I thought I had moved on and dealt with all of this years ago. I was about take the biggest risk of my life with just recently quitting my job to spend 4 months with exile international in northern Uganda working with former child soldiers. So obviously, there was some spiritual attack going on as well.

7 years ago I was supposed to go on my first trip to Africa. The same thoughts that I was openly sharing with Kari were the ones that I shared 7 years ago and was told that I could not go to Africa. My thoughts were apparently too sinful and apparently no one else ever struggled in ways of thinking.  The words out of Kari’s mouth were the exact words that I know God wanted me to hear. You see, Kari didn’t know that what I was sharing with her was what got me “kicked off” the Africa trip years ago. Her response: “Kari, there is NOTHING that you can say right now that would ever make me question having you come on this trip. NEVER think that you can’t be used by God because of something you are walking through.  I want you to be on this team even MORE because of this place you are in.”

 THAT is LOVE. That is JESUS.

My favorite stories have God’s fingerprints all over them. You know the ones. Where you can’t make sense of anything, or explain why…it’s just God doing His thing. Now those are my favorite ones to tell….and more of that in my next post: Journey to the Legacy House.

My challenge to you: Are you running after and serving God through a man-constructed idea, or God’s idea?





Thursday, February 28, 2013

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week--My Story

It all started on 1/16/07. I walked into Eating Disorder Center of Denver helpless, hopeless and in a state of severe depression. I truly wanted help, but was completely terrified to give up all my control and to receive the healing that I needed.

You see, it had been a very long road up until this point. I am not going to get into the depths of the “why’s” and “how’s” of how this all developed. But will give you a glimpse of what my greatest heart’s desire was which led me down this very destructive path. What you find with most individuals that have had an eating disorder, is that it starts out meeting one need and as the addiction intensifies it begins to take on a whole new level of meaning, ultimately taking over your entire life.

I wanted to be noticed. I wanted to be heard. This is a very common desire for most of us, but mine runs so very deep. I didn’t know how to communicate that in words and what started out as a very innocent way of controlling my looks turned into a vicious never-ending cycle of addiction. It started as a way of managing fear and then turned into meeting all my needs (so I thought) in my life. I had control; oh I had so much control! When things around me were spiraling down, at least I had control of my body. If I wanted to feel empty inside, I could make that happen. If I wanted to feel full, I could make that happen. I know you always hear that it’s not about the food….it really isn’t.

By the time I had entered treatment, I was going on 5 years of being in an entangled, terrorizing relationship with my eating disorder. The weeks leading up to treatment were by far the worst. I just stopped going to work because I couldn’t get out of bed. I stopped all contact with friends. I was very suicidal (and was mad at myself because I didn’t have the guts to end my life) and began cutting to release all the emotional intensity on the inside (and of course it was a cry for help). 5 years of weight loss pills (led to racing heart), laxative abuse (many years of GI problems), over-exercising, binging, purging, restricting….over and over and over again. I was what they would call “EDNOS, Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified”. I was all over the map and bouncing back and forth between bulimia and anorexia.

I remember entering treatment and being so upset with myself. I was not at my goal weight and I was set on getting there and THEN going to get help. Do you want to know what I thought success looked like? A hospital bed. Yup, I thought that if I could get sick enough to get in a hospital bed then that would be enough (Oh sweet Jesus thank you for saving me). I highly doubt that if I would have made it to a hospital bed that I would have felt satisfied. That’s the thing with this addiction and any addiction…’s never enough. Once you meet your first goal weight, then you come up with another goal weight!

I had to come face to face with my eating disorder while in treatment, and let me tell you, it was not PRETTY!! I fought hard! Oh I was hanging on to dear life to what I thought defined me. I yelled, I slammed doors, I walked out of treatment….I look back now and I can’t even recognize who that was. Can you blame me though? I have such a deep understanding of addiction ever since walking this journey. It was my life, my savior, my friend, my confident….I needed something else to come in and replace it, I couldn’t just remove it.

Things began shifting for me when I met Celeste. She was in her 40’s though she looked so much older due to many, many years enslaved to her eating disorder. She just came from the hospital when she entered the treatment facility. She had to walk with a cane because she was so weak and her bones were so brittle. I was jealous when I first saw her. She did it. She got there. But then, I started to listen to her during our process group. As she painted the picture of what it was like in the hospital, for the first time something clicked inside of me. I used to glamorize the picture of making it to the hospital bed. When Celeste spoke about it, everything changed. A veil was literally lifted from my eyes and I began to see the reality of it all. Do I really want to die from this? There has to be more for my life! I want more for my life!

Celeste and I kept in contact after I discharged, and a few months later when she left she passed away from her eating disorder. I was devastated and completely heart-broken that her eating disorder won. The same story has repeated itself with many others that I knew in treatment, most ending their life in suicide.

This will be a book if I go into what recovery looked like for me, but what I will say was that it was a long road. There were set-backs and relapses and all out fights on the floor with me shaking my fists at God not thinking that I could do this. But you know what? I did. God came in and rescued me in a million different ways….someday I will share all of those, but while I was in treatment I found God for the first time. For the first time in my life I chose God for myself, not for someone else. I decided that who I was, who God created me to be, was enough. Please hear me when I say all this. I am not saying that everything was great after this realization or that I just “prayed it away”….oh it was work. It was a constant daily battle to allow God into the depths of my heart, places that I kept hidden, ashamed of, to let Him heal.

It’s hard to completely and radically change your ways. I was ambivalent about getting better for a very long time after I left treatment. I straddled the recovery line so to speak for a couple years after. It wasn’t until I started truly taking those steps forward that I began to realize that it would be MORE work to STAY sick. Passions were forming, desires were coming to life, and purpose had a feeling. And that was worth more to me than my eating disorder.

My trip to Africa in 2010 was the final straw in my recovery. I look back on that trip and see that it brought freedom to a whole new level. Honestly, I don’t even have words for it, but something happened deep within me. My eyes were opened to what true beauty looked like in the face of the suffering.

Discharge day in treatment was called “Samina”. It comes from the Arabic word meaning “healthy”. On my Samina day I shared some reflections of my journey. There was a song that I listened to almost every day, “beauty from pain” by Superchick. Here is the chorus---

“After all this has passed, I still will remain.

After I’ve cried my last, there will be beauty from pain.

Though it won’t be today, someday I will hope again,

And there will be, Beauty from Pain”

Friends, there is most definitely beauty from pain. There is hope. I left treatment determined to not just survive, but to LIVE! During this National Eating Disorder Awareness week, may you reach out to someone you know that is struggling. Everybody knows someday. Here's to my favorite therapists who walked so much of this journey with me and believed in me every step of the way. Jan, Maira, Felicia, and Brandis…..thank you!!!!