For most of my life, I wouldn’t have said I had an eating disorder.
To me, “eating disorders” were things like anorexia and bulemia: big, life-altering struggles that required the intervention of doctors, therapists and pastors.
I never realized that every time I ran to the fridge for a snack when I felt sad, or cheated on my “vegetarian diet” (again), or couldn’t stop myself with just a few potato chips (cookies, cheese sticks, etc.) … I was essentially stuck in the same place as those women with “eating disorders” with more clinically acceptable eating disorders.
I was using food to cover up a craving inside that couldn’t actually be assuaged with sweets, salty, spicy or sour.
Today, many women comment to me that they wish they could eat vegan like I do now. “But I just can’t seem to give up the meat, eggs and dairy,” they quickly add. Others tell me they want to kick the sugar or the cola habit. Still others want to go gluten free, but the thought of no cookies or cinnamon rolls sends them running for cover.
If any of those describe you, I’m hear to hug you and say, “It’s okay.”
I was there, too.
The first biggest step I had to take to be free of my constant need for food, was to realize that I was in bondage in the first place.
After my powerful full-body opening in July 2017, at which time the Holy Spirit began to speak me more directly, I began to realize all the ways I was carrying trauma and hurt in body. I also began to see how that trauma was driving me to hold on to weight I no longer needed.
Because I needed to feel safe, my brain was keeping me overweight—essentially—“hiding” me under layers of fat. And the easiest way to do that was with an addiction to animal-based, processed and refined foods. Did the drive to eat every time I felt sad, or to overindulge at every opportunity, disappear overnight?
No, not in the least. Not by half.
But awareness is the beginning of freedom.
Once I knew what was going on, I could take steps to change my thinking, which changed my dominant emotional state and enabled me to finally change my behaviors around the fridge.
So if you’re reading this today, and you know that you eat according to your mood, not according to your nutritional need … first, you are not alone. And second, the fact that you have acknowledged this pattern is a HUGE step toward breaking free.
Because the truth is:
You CAN stop equating food with emotional comfort, in the deepest level of your mind.
You CAN come to a place where you no longer desire food except when your body is actually hungry.
You CAN adopt a vegetarian, vegan, raw foods or other alternative diet—once you are in a mental and emotional place where the first two points are already true.
And that’s the real issue here.
Most women I know who want to change their eating are trying to do so without first shifting their dominant thought patterns and their everyday emotions.
Adopting that new diet, losing weight or taking up more exercise simply won’t be successful if you try to “power through it” or make it “one more item on your to-do list.”
Heart change and mind change must happen first. You won’t be able to shift your thoughts or emotions overnight. It WILL require that you confess your addiction to God and ask Him to heal you. It WILL take work to discipline your mind and body. But when you learn how to do that, and learn how to relax into receiving a smaller body, fewer cravings, and healthier food … it can happen.
Many of my my friends and mentees have experienced shifts in their eating as a natural byproduct of clearing their thoughts and emotions.
That’s how it happened for me, ultimately, as well.
I didn’t totally set out to change my eating. My freedom from emotional eating patterns came as abyproduct of shift my thoughts to focus on God and His love, and learn how to live at the high, even emotional state that He desires for each of us.
Eating can be a FLOW, just like love, money and creativity.
I didn’t plan on spending five or six weeks of my spring 2018 in the mountains of Colorado. Not that I’m complaining, mind you: spring in Colorado is gorgeous. Witnessings the transformation into spring is even more of a marvel. But it wasn’t on my plan. (Hello, that’s why I call myself a “recovering control freak.” Because sometimes the control thing still peeks out.
Anyway, when I arrived in Colorado it didn’t look much like spring at all. In fact as late as April 20th, winter was still in full effect. Consider this photo from my first weekend in Colorado Springs, where I stayed with longtime friends on the Air Force Academy base:
Yeah, not much spring to be seen there. I despaired that God had brought me out of monochromatically gray Milwaukee, only to drop me into another monochromatic winter landscape. Everyone had been telling me how beautiful the sun would be. How plentiful the wild flowers. Yet I still couldn’t see it, even though May 1st was just around the corner.
But I was tired now. Sick of endless weeks on the road with no real purpose or activities to shape my day. Sick of always looking to the horizon for something—anything—to happen. Sick (if we’re being honest) of praying and seeing … absolutely nothing.
I started taking my friends’ dog, Buddy, for twice daily walks. Every day I kept my eyes peeled for the famous Colorado wildflowers, even while I prayed to Heaven for a glimpse of a single petal pushing above ground in my own life.
For awhile, it continued to look like this: sunny, but barren. The weather warmed. And yet nothing pushed above the soil.
By the time I left for Milwaukee to lay hold of the place God had given me there, the slopes of the Rockies were carpeted with God’s most beautiful flowers.
It took a lot longer than I would have wished, yes. But the season of flowering did come in God’s time.
Be patient through the late springs snows, and continue to watch daily for the first signs of color amid the grass. Your time of breakthrough will come if you do not grow weary.
I believe the real test of our faith is not what happens in seasons of victory and activity, but what we do in seasons of silence and barrenness.
Those six weeks of silence, during which I saw almost no flowers pop up on those daily walks, was one of the longest and hardest I have endured. My patience and stamina were nearly at an end. I napped a lot—because there was little else to do.
Still no flowers. Anywhere.
And yet, somehow in the absence of the physical evidence I craved, Spring came. During that time I really re-committed my life to do exactly what God wanted. I heard the call to begin speaking His Name and His Word more intentionally in my relationships. Things that had been “out of order” in my life got placed back into order—none of which would have been possible had I been distracted by other things.
God even sent me a few rainbows and beautiful sunsets to encourage me that His promises were true, and in the acceptable time, He would shift my circumstances.
There’s a funny thing about praying for God’s “acceptable time,” just as it says in Psalm 69. God’s acceptable time is very rarely ours. His time for flowering often does not match ours. We are impatient. He has infinite patience. We want to run ahead though we can only see in the moment. He sees what’s coming, and acts accordingly.
In God’s acceptable time, breakthrough did come. I got a huge tax refund—several months late—that enabled me to return to Milwaukee and pay the avalanche of bills that were coming due in June. I let go of the last of my old life and got on board with God’s program.
And yes, the wildflowers did come out. By the time Buddy and I finished our daily routine of walks, the hills were abloom with Colorado’s finest.
By the time I left for Milwaukee to lay hold of the place God had given me there, the slopes of the Rockies were carpeted with God’s most beautiful flowers.
It took a lot longer than I would have wished, yes. But the season of flowering did come in God’s time.
Be patient through the late springs snows, and continue to watch daily for the first signs of color amid the grass. Your time of breakthrough will come if you do not grow weary.
NOTE: The following is a featured post from 2016 which first appeared on my former creative blog, Scrappy Storyteller. I’m sharing this as a way of embracing my past creative self and sharing ideas she had that, well, still matter today. Enjoy!
Every year I have great plans for February. And every year, they get totally derailed.
Like it or not, for me February seems to be the month when I’m called to hibernate in my own soul, mulling things over. I feel like that bear in a cave, slowly burning off the fat of her last intellectual meal so that when she awakes, she can stretch and crawl out of her cave in search of a good trout and a handful of berries.
The reward for my hibernation, however, is rarely a sense of well-restedness. (I actually slept terribly this month.)
It’s a sense of renewed understanding and purpose.
As I explored inmy last post, there are apparently phases to this thing called the creative life. The early phases are so exciting! You watch concepts you heard and read about unfold before your very eyes.
But once the excitement and glitter are past, you’ve got a long road of hard work ahead of you.
And as it turns out, that is where our storytelling skills most come in handy.
You see, in the middle of all my intellectual machinations and internal questioning this month, it occurred to me that our storytelling skills really are so much more important than we think. And not just for the creative endeavors we might be pursuing.
They’re critical to the living of this thing called life.
This month it occurred to me—possibly for the first time ever—that the story truly must come first inany endeavor, not just in art but also in life.
So often we want to rush into action, or see change happen, without getting the story straight first.
Every day, every hour, I’m shaping a narrative inside my own head about how my life is going, whether I’m the hero of a comedy or tragedy, or how close I am to achieving my goals.
The most important story I’ve been telling all of my life isn’t one of my many specific fictional tales. It’s the story I’ve been tellingtomyself aboutmy life.
I am my own first (captive) audience. I am also perhaps my own most important audience.
And like the reader of a choose-your-own-adventure novel, I will ultimately decide how the story turns out.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting I have ultimate power over my own life, or some kind of omnipotent edge that can merely think away obstacles and fly to the moon. But Iamsuggesting that I do have the power over how I react to, respond to or view what happens to me.
That internal narrative is just as important—maybe even more so—than any external one I’ll ever write.
As I was lying awake many nights this month, thinking over many things, or letting my mind wander as I doodled in my art journal . . . I realized that the creative life really is not about being in the “right place” with the “right people” or the “right work.”
It’s about telling yourself the right story about yourself, your place, your people and your work.
This is not to say that we should never make changes to our external environment, or pursue new opportunities, or perhaps finally lay that languishing project to rest. But perhaps we’re just too quick to look around us, expecting the change to happen.
We look to the details of the story to change magically on their own, rather than asking the Storyteller to change the plot.
I am the Storyteller. So are you. If we don’t like the story . . . all we have to do is change it.
After all, isn’t that the beauty of a story? It’s not completely random? There IS a Teller out there somewhere, shaping our understand of what’s happening, and helping us to make meaning of the events as they unfold.
In the case of life, we rely on ourselves to make meaning of what’s happening to us. It’s one of the sacred tasks we’ve been given.
So I’ll ask you the question I had to ask myself:
Do you like how you’re shaping the story of your own life?
If not, you always have an opportunity to shift the narrative inside your own head, and in doing so, to transform your reality.
That’s what stories are all about, anyway: the power of transformation. The transmuting of a soul from one state of being to another—whether literally in the physical realm or figuratively in the metaphoric one.
(I didn’t tell you we’d be delving into alchemy today, now did I? Well, every good story has got to have a plot twist anyway . . .)
A story starts off in one place and must alway end up in another. If there’s no shift or movement, there has been no story.
The bottom line for us is: transformation is possible. And it starts in our own heads.
So as we enjoy this unusual extra day in February, and prepare for March (already?!), I hope you’ll remember with me that we really, truly are the story that we tell ourselves.
If we don’t like the story we’re living, the problem isn’t usually in the story. It’s all about the telling.
This is why movies go south. Novels flounder. Graphic novels fall flat.
The telling of the story just wasn’t as grand as the original idea.
Our own less-than-effective telling is why the story of our life sometimes turns out as less than we’d hoped, too.
But the problem is never the story itself.
The narrative we spin inside our own heads, about our own lives, is quite possibly the most important narrative we’ll ever write.
It’s about time we got absolutely clear on who we are, what’s happened to us, and why it matters.
Because when we get our story straight, the rest (of life) will always follow.
Recently while reading my Bible, I came across the story of a woman’s healing that really gripped me. I’ve read it before, many times, but I never saw it the way I did this time around. It gave me a brand-new way to understand emotional healing that freed me to a whole new level … and I hope it blesses you, too.
“As Jesus went, the people pressed around him. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone.” – Luke 8:42-42 (ESV)
If you’re read the Gospels, you may recognize this as the story of the woman who had “an issue of blood.” Basically, this means she was plagued with some kind of perpetual bleeding for twelve years that could not be treated effectively by the medical wisdom of that day.
This story appears in three of the four Gospels: Matthew 9:18-26, Mark 5:24-34, and Luke 8:42-48. Two of three of the writers note that this woman had spent every penny she had on physicians, but nothing seemed to help. In other words: she was desperate.
Immediately I recognized myself in this text—even though I don’t have that woman’s same physical problem, for many years, I was plagued by emotional challenges that never really seemed to improve. I also thought a lot of other women might share my discovery by recognizing themselves in this story, too.
The “issue of blood” doesn’t have to be physical. Think about it in terms of any ongoing physical or emotional condition you may be experiencing: migraines, fibromyalgia, gastrointestinal issues, eating disorders, negative self-talk, self-doubt, a tormenting lack of confidence: any condition that has robbed you of time, life and (of course) money going to rounds and rounds of doctors’ or therapists’ visits that never seem to heal to the real issue.
That’s what’s made this story suddenly so compelling for me: its complete hopelessness at the outset. This woman had gone out to experts, seeking solutions for a dozen years, and she’d never been able to get them.
And she’d bankrupted herself in the process.
There’s nothing more frustrating or disempowering than having a problem—any kind of physical or emotional pain—that turns into an endless prison you can never get free from. You go to “expert” after “expert,” walking away from each hopeful appointment with a progressively lighter wallet and heavier heart.
Can you relate? Does this resonate with you? It certainly does with me.
When I was struggling with the worst of my physical, emotional and spiritual pain following my divorce—which was really just the crescendo that woke me up to a lifetime of un-addressed trauma—I felt like all I did was try solutions that didn’t solve anything. I lost a ton of money in the process. And though I now walk now in total financial victory and freedom with God as my Provider, part of what He’s providing for right now is for me to pay off some residual debt associated with all those rounds of “treatment.”
In this state of poverty and hopelessness, the woman finally came to see Jesus.
“She came up behind [Jesus] and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased.” – Luke 8:44 (ESV)
Such a simple recounting of a monumental event! The Mark version says, “She felt in her body that she was healed of the disease.” Our woman friend came to see Jesus. She touched nothing more than His garment. And instantly, she was whole.
Can you imagine? Actually sensing with your physical body the moment of release from your prison of pain?
Here we have this woman, who experienced the two-thousand-years-ago version of our modern treatment marathon. The text doesn’t say what her emotional state was, but she must have been desperate, because the Matthew version records her saying to herself, “If I can just get to Jesus, and touch the hem of his garment, I will be healed.”
If that’s not desperation, I don’t know what is. Other versions record that there was a huge crowd thronging Jesus the day He passed by the woman. She had to fight with the noise and the press of bodies. I doubt she was the strongest woman there that day, especially given her health issues, and yet, somehow, her desperation gave her determination. She strong-armed her way through the crowd and made it to the place where she could just touch the hem of Jesus’ garment as He passed by.
Think about that for a second.
She must have crouched down and reached between the ankles of people at the front of the crowd, just to touch a few threads of Jesus’ garment as he passed. Maybe it had a fringe, or tassels or some other kind of embroidery at the hem. Maybe that’s all her straining fingers could manage to brush.
Yet somehow, she made contact. And that single instant of contact changed her future.
Desperation also led her to take the most efficient action. She didn’t have money this time for more treatments. She wasn’t looking for a physical or psychological explanation for her pain. She just wanted the healing. Straight-up wellness, with no more hooplah, no more ten-step plans and no more excuses.
She just wanted to be well. And it shows … in the desperate measures she took to reach the last person she thought could help her.
I think that’s fascinating, actually, because I noticed in my own healing journey that there were times when I wasn’t really ready for 100% healing. I was ready for an explanation of my pain. I was ready for a treatment plan. I was ready to “do the work.” But I wasn’t really, truly, ready to be completely RELEASED of the weight I had been carrying around. Mostly because I had no idea what life would look like on the other side of my pain.
You might say, “Lisa, that’s crazy. I just want to be free of what I’m suffering in my body, mind and heart.”
I get that. But do you want it, really? Are you fully prepared for what your life will be like when you actually get free?
Sometimes the reason pain prolongs in our lives is because we’re holding on to it. We “get” something out of remaining in the situation we’re in. For me, I “got” a sense of comfort and identity from my pain. I got a twisted sense of safety. It was all I knew.
Inside my pain, somehow, I felt in control of my circumstances. The cage was comfortable and know-able. Everything on the other side was not.
The idea of living in total victory on the other side of anxiety, shame, low self-confidence, gastrointestinal disorders, weight fluctuation and everything else sounded good, yes. But in reality I was terribly afraid of a world where I didn’t face these things. It was the only world I knew.
The rounds and rounds and rounds of treatment—whether provided by a professional or undertaken by me in the form of self-help courses, support groups and hours of experimentation—kept me busy and feeling like I was moving forward. But in reality, they weren’t fixing the issue.
Can you relate?
“And Jesus said, ‘Who was it that touched me?’ When all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.’” – Luke 8:45-46 (ESV)
So our woman friend is desperate. She goes to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment and somehow succeeds. The text says, “And Jesus perceived that power had gone out of Him.” Some of the versions also say that He looked around and asked, “Who touched Me?”
His disciples thought He was crazy—because so many people were touching Him in the throng that day. How could it possibly be clear, who had touched the hem of His garment?
This desperate woman finally abandoned all the treatment plans and went straight to the Source of physical, emotional and spiritually healing. And Jesus, the Son of God, knew immediately when she had tapped into His power.
He was busy, but not too busy to notice her need and deliver the answer she sought.
Wow. That really hit me hard.
When we abandon our reliance on “treatment plans” and go straight to the Source of healing, He will know. Instantly. He’s not too busy to notice we’ve reached out to touch the hem of His garment. And today, with “instant access” to Jesus through prayer, we don’t have to push through a crowd to do it.
Please understand, I’m not saying you quit your doctor-approved treatment or stop going to your support group. I repeat: I am not encouraging you to go cold-turkey on your healing activities. I believe 100% in many healing practices, share them here and practice then myself.
But I am asking you to examine your heart and question whether, deep down, you truly believe that Jesus can free you from everything you’re facing, to the point that you will no longer need those healing practices or treatment plans in your life at some point? And whether you’re ready to let go of that pain so your hand is empty enough to reach out and touch Him?
So much of our physical pain has a root cause in our dis-ease of mind, emotions and spirit. As we allow Jesus to heal those root causes, many, many physical symptoms will ease or disappear completely. It happened to me, and it’s happened to many other women I know!
It might not happen instantly as it did for this woman. But by reaching out for the touch of Jesus, we ignite something powerful that will ultimately result in our healing if we submit to the process. And eventually we’ll feel the healing that’s happened deep inside.
That’s what happened to our friend, the woman. She felt that the disease (or dis-ease, as I prefer!) had gone out of her body.
Think about that.
Rarely in the Bible is it recorded that someone felt the healing. We hear that they got up and walked. Or that they could suddenly see. Or they could speak and praised God. But the feeling level is not often recorded. Not in the way it is here. As women we are so much more attuned to our feelings, and I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that this woman’s story is one of the few in Scripture where we read that she felt the healing.
Jesus felt the power go out of His body. The woman felt the healing come into hers. And it was that feeling, that sense, that encounter-from-a-distance that finally brought them face to face.
“And when the woman perceived that she was not hidden, she came trebling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. And [Jesus] said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.’” – Luke 8 :47-48 (ESV)
The Scripture records that Jesus stopped and asked who had touched him. In this environment, the woman was quickly forced to come out of hiding in the crowd and fall down at Jesus’ feet and confess what she had done. To me, the way the text is written, it suggests that the woman wanted to remain hiddden. Perhaps she was ashamed of her condition, or she was fearful He might reprimand or punish her for “stealing” a bit of His power.
Ultimately, however, she could not remain hidden. She had to ‘fess up in front of everyone. And when she does, Jesus treats her with compassion and even honor. Instead of reprimanding or embarrassing her, He blesses her for her faith.
“Go in peace, Daughter, your faith has made you whole.”
Your faith has made you whole.
Interestingly, Jesus never says, “My power made you whole.” Or “Your faith and my power, working together, made you whole.” He says, “Your faith has made you whole.”
What if the only thing standing between us and the healing we seek—for our minds, our emotions, our spirits and our bodies—is the faith to believe it’s truly possible?
What if we’re going everywhere else for answer, because deep down, we don’t really believe Jesus can provide the healing that we seek? And direct us to the exact people and resources that can help us heal?
I didn’t truly believe that for a long time. I intellectually knew Jesus as Healer. But I ran everywhere else for the treatment I needed instead of going straight to Him. This is strange, because there’s no crowd between me and Jesus, as there was for the woman. I can go directly to Him. And yet I didn’t.
I let all the other “healing stuff” stand the way–not as tools to be used by Jesus in my life, but as substitutes for Him as the Source.
As I said, today I believe wholeheartedly in many different methods of healing, and I teach them here on my blog and in my private counseling and coaching. But if it isn’t all coming from Jesus as the Source … it’s just not going to have long-term transformative effective.
This spring, even as I’ve experienced a tremendous season of shedding in my life, I’ve also taken huge leaps forward. I’ve opened my heart back up to life and to really, truly, fully living in a place beyond fear. And this story means more than ever to me now.
Despite the continual uncertainties I live with as a single expat woman in an expensive Gulf country, where I’m dependent on my employer for my visa and have a lot of needs to meet with one paycheck each month, and a lot of other challenging circumstances in my life … I have total peace.
Why? Because Jesus is my Source. It’s touching His garment in faith that delivers everything I need …. physical, emotional and spiritual.
So ask yourself today, “Where is my dependence?”
Is it in the doctors and the treatment plan? Or the next ten-step healing program? Have you gotten so caught up in healing modalities and all the things you need to “do” to heal, that you’ve forgotten to go straight to the One Who wants to heal you from the inside-out, with complete victory and no residual “side effects?”
Perhaps at the most basic level, do you really, truly believe you can be healed at all?
That’s perhaps the most powerful thing about the woman’s story. Despite everything she had been through with doctors and treatment-induced poverty, she still believed it was possible to live completely free of the condition that was literally leeching her life source–her blood–out of her.
If she didn’t, she wouldn’t have gone through all that trouble to get to Jesus.
Healing from any condition only becomes possible on the day we take the limits off. And we do that by having faith in the Only One who truly Iives beyond the limits of this world.
When you do, you may not experience instaneous healing in your body, but you will begin an amazing process of healing that will lead you, step by step into a life beyond your “label” and a calling that overpowers your “condition.”
Touch the garment of Jesus. Let Him call out to you face-to-face, and you most certainly will find more freedom in your body, mind and emotions than you ever thought possible.
I know, because it happened to me.
When I let go of all he treatment plans, and decided I did really want to live beyond my condition, and that I believed Jesus could do it … things changed. Radically. My flow of pain became a flow of healing and power.
So can yours. The flow of blood …. or negative thoughts, or gastrointestinal pain, or emotional heartache … or whatever “issue” is robbing you of your life force today …. can become a flow of health, healing and purpose beyond your wildest dreams.
Jesus is passing by today, beautiful woman. Will you reach out to Him?
“If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them. They are not a sort of prize which God could, if He chose, just hand out to anyone. They are a great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very centre of reality. If you are close to it, the spray will wet you: if you are not, you will remain dry.” – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Have you ever looked really hard for something you were sure must be available, only to give up your search? Perhaps it was a last-minute Christmas gift when all the racks are picked over. Or the perfect dress you needed—but couldn’t find—for an upcoming gala. Nothing’s worse than a search undertaken under pressure. The clock is ticking. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, it will soon be too late.
Life can feel like that sometimes. I don’t know about you, but I am often in a frantic search for purpose, significance, creative inspiration and (yes, let’s be honest) more money. I’m keeping my eyes peeled everywhere I go for that one “magic thing” I want. My search for a marriage partner was like this for many years. Can you relate?
It’s like keeping your eyes peeled for an oasis on a torturous trek through the desert.
If only we can find that thing “out there,” we’ll survive the heat.
Or so we think.
Lately I’ve come to realize more than ever that the search for all of this is never outside of ourselves. It’s always within. The next book, the next course, the next man, even the next gathering at church—all these are good things that can become our own personal definition of a mirage because they won’t slake the thirst we feel.
What if you’re wasting your time wandering around like that, looking for something you’re never going to find outside yourself? If you are a believer, God has already provided everything you need to feel significant, purposeful, loved, creative and financially free. And what if, as a believer in Jesus, you already have all that inside you through the Holy Spirit?
It would be a shame to keep searching for the mirage, growing fainter by the moment, when you’ve got a freely-flowing fountain deep within (Psalm 36:8-9).
And yet, that’s what we do with God. We forget the Holy Spirit is always with us, ready to guide us into all truth, if we’ll just ask (John 16:13). It’s so much easier, after all, to focus on what’s in front of our faces. And if we’re being honest, searching for the answer is addictive in itself.
You can be so hooked on searching that deep down, you’ll do anything to keep yourself from really, truly finding. So what if you bought one less course, went on one less date and cancelled, yes, even that church bowling event—just so you could spend time drinking at the well that is already within you?
In my own search to assuage the pain inside and make sense of the chaos of my life, the running only stopped when I decided to stand still.
The less I did to solve my problems, the more God presented the solutions I needed.
The less I chased people or opportunities, the more God put the right ones in front of me.
The more time I spent with God, the better my experiences became in the outside world, and the more creative I began to feel.
When my inside “woke up” to the reality of the authority, power and provision God had already planted deep within me by His Spirit, my outer world began to take care of itself.
This was most evident in my search for love following my divorce, which was really a three-year journey to heal my own love wounds from childhood through adulthood, and become a clean channel, able to receive the full flow of God’s love to me and give it back to others. (Still a work in progress, but I’m happy to say I’ve come a very long way!)
In this journey, I was convinced once I had successfully created another union with healthier patterns than the last one, I would arrive at the oasis. As a girlfriend, fiancée or wife again, I would have a chance to rewrite my story and change the future for myself, my new husband and my eventual children.
But you know what?
None of those efforts worked out.
No matter how much I changed myself, refined my thoughts and behaviors or stepped outside my comfort zone to embrace healing … all of which was amazing and helpful, by the way … I still didn’t get the results I was looking for.
Then one day, I realized: there was nothing to fix. Jesus took the penalty for all my mistakes on the cross. And He would carry the wounds from my childhood if I asked, so I didn’t have to anymore. I was already loved unconditionally, accepted fully in the beloved; I just wasn’t living my life as a loved, accepted woman (Ephesians 1:6).
And the real reason none of those relationships (including my marriage, I believe) lasted?
Because God loved me so much, He did whatever it took to bring me to the point where I was dependent on Him for love, and not on another human being. Even if it meant allowing the dissolution of relationships I had cherished—even ones that are supposed to last a lifetime.
What felt like pain was really the most amazing form of “tough love” designed to bring me into greater levels of life. The day I recognized my true worth, and the level of love and acceptance God already has for me, was the day I found my freedom from the past and finally stepped beyond the limits of my own need for companionship. My three-year journey to learn how to love culminated in the reality that I was loved already. There was nothing to find, improve or create (Psalm 136:26).
Would I still love to be in an amazing partnership? Absolutely. I still pray and believe for this outcome in my future. But I don’t “need” to be in a relationship to slake the thirst inside, or to heal my past love wounds.
I am God’s amazing daughter, and I walk right now in more radical love, acceptance and provision than any human could deliver me. And I always will, from now until the end of time.
I’m not waiting for the oasis to show up on the horizon.
From the time I was small, my mother told me stories about the 70s. One of her favorites was about all the women who burned their bras.
I got the impression she didn’t think too much of idea. Especially when many of those women put their bras back ON again in the 80s and 90s to become die-hard career girls. I didn’t really have a big opinion myself, but I did secretly admire those women for saying “no” to yet another social custom designed to constrict them.
Thirty years later, I followed in their footsteps.
My path to becoming the “Real Me” (which happens to be quite hippie-like, as it turns out) didn’t happen right away. In fact, it took a break-up with a boyfriend I really cared about to help me see the truth.
I learned from him that if he had known how hippie I really was when we started dating — we never would have dated at all.
Having always presented with a rather “normal” exterior, I had no idea my hippie tendencies were incongruous with my appearance. But the more I considered his feedback, the more I realized he was absolutely right.
Right after this breakup, I got an invitation to spend five weeks in Colorado (AKA: Hippie Paradise!). I also did a 30-day fast from meat, dairy and eggs (ie: a Daniel fast) as part of a prayer challenge with a friend. And in the middle of that fast, God wanted me to release these foods from my diet, at least for awhile, by going vegan. I also decided to buzz my hair and … you guessed it … take off my bra for good.
One morning I just didn’t put one on after my shower. By noon, as per Holy Spirit instructions, both of the bras I owned were in the trash.
I did not put a bra back on again for almost seven months. The closest I get is the built-in support of my workout shirts. And I couldn’t have been happier.
Because of the time period wherein I released my bra, I’ve come to have greater peace and serenity in my body. I have also come to greater acceptance because I no longer worry about whether or how other people feel about my “lady parts.”
So what if they bounce? So what if the occasional nipple shows through my shirt? So what if my physique looks a bit “flatter” because my boobs are smaller and they no longer artificially “stand up?”
My appearance and my choices are not defined by others. God gave me these two awesome mammary glands to—hopefully someday—provide nourishment for my children.
They are part of who I am as a woman. And that’s just … that.
Please understand, I didn’t go around flaunting my figure or intentionally trying to make it obvious that I was not wearing a bra. I simply didn’t wear one. It was a point of omission that many people couldn’t seem to help noticing, however. Which is a cultural commentary in itself. Were my breasts the problem, or the society who had somehow cast them as “sinful” and “gasp-worthy” to be present in the room?
I don’t suggest that this practice is for everyone; however, I was amazed by the number of women—friends and complete strangers alike—who would come up to me and whisper in my ear that they’d like to do the same, but just didn’t *quite* have the gumption yet!
But I’m here to say: simply not wearing a bra is easy. Just like I simply avoided meat, dairy, eggs, honey or any other animal product (for the most part) during this time.
You just decide you want to do it more than you care what people think.
It’s the releasing your concerns over other people’s expectations that is the tricky (and involved) part.
Being a bit “countercultural” for me at this point in my journey wasn’t for the sake of making a point. It was out of obedience to what I believe God has asked of me. And out of my commitment to be radically and authentically … me.
A few years ago, I could never have made any of these choices, because I was so conditioned to please everyone else and make sure I didn’t stand out too much.
All I can tell you is: my life became considerably more blessed when I took “off” all my concern over other people’s expectations. Even in my faith community my choices are considered a bit eccentric. But that’s totally okay.
I think we often believe that if we let go of social expectations, we’ll be ostracized. However, I have found the opposite to be true. In my case, people actually show me more respect—and there’s lots more to talk about.
Not to mention that most people don’t forget the woman who has a buzzed head and doesn’t wear a bra.
But hey, at least now, they remember my name.*
*NOTE: As the prompting of Holy Spirit, I have since begun wearing a bra again because of the season of life I’m stepping into here in the Middle East. However, I can feel the difference–I no longer need that garment to make me sexier or more desirable–and I trust I’ll never put “on” the old cultural baggage again when I put on that garment!
Sometimes, on the healing journey, it can feel impossible to believe that you will ever be free of what happened to you. You’re a goal-oriented woman, and you love to have a target to aim your arrows toward, or a finish line to run for. But when it comes to your emotions and healing from your past, that target, that line, always seems to move.
Some days are okay. Some days are terrible. You’ve been told it will “get better,” but what does that even look like? How will you KNOW when you’ve reached a place of freedom?
At one level, freedom is a lifelong event, and it’s entirely personal. Each day, we can make choices that take us closer to God and closer to total surrender and joy in Him, which will naturally break off the bonds that have held us back. That exact path may look different for each woman, of course. But the process is the same.
However at another level, I can testify from my own experience: you WILL know, that you know, that you know, when you become emotionally free. You WILL start waking up each day with the significant conviction that you are no longer moved by what happened to you: that your life is blank slate now, not a museum to the past.
Believe me, it’s the best feeling in the world.
“But wait,” you say. “I feel like a one-woman triage unit every day of the week, and that still doesn’t give me a lot of help.”
I totally understand. I did too, when I first started this process. Here are seven (concrete) things that you can also expect to happen when you break away from the pain of the past and allow yourself to be totally renewed. If you haven’t experienced these, don’t feel bad. Rejoice that this is what you can look forward to, and keep walking forward on your healing process.
1) You have no desire anymore to talk about “what happened.”
The biggest hallmark of emotional bondage is the fact that your pain will always come spilling out of your mouth—not matter how hard you try “not to talk about it.” Ask your girlfriends; if they are honest women, they will tell you if every coffee or wine date devolves into your personal trauma session. When I was in the worst of my pain, I instinctively looked anywhere I could to get relief. (Anywhere, that is, except to God!)
Stopping yourself from speaking when you are dying inside is not what I’m talking about. When you are in the midst of your pain, you must speak about it long and freely to whomever will listen. But the MARK of having received full healing is when your past wounds no longer define your present reality.
When you get to the place where you are truly no longer moved by what happened to you, and you rest in total peace that God has transformed your pain for good, you won’t even remember to talk about it. People will bring it up, and you’ll be thinking, “Wait, what? Oh right, that thing …” You might even be startled when people bring it up, because your former pain no holds you in a vice-grip deep in your soul.
Please note: I am not referring to activism on behalf of abuse victims, giving your personal testimony, or other types of important “speaking out;” I am referring to the obsessive need to share your pain with others in order to somehow get healing “from” their attention. The attention can’t heal you; only God can!
2) When you think of the people who wronged you, you feel only compassion.
Yes, what happened to you was terrible. Perhaps it was a collection of “somethings” that happened and there’s a parade of perpetrators a mile long: at home, at church, at school, in the community, etc. You may struggle to believe it will ever be possible not to feel the rage and grief that rise up every time their name or face flashes before your mind. But believe me, beautiful woman, it is.
You will know God has healed you emotionally when you can remember these people in your life or walk past something that triggers their memory and yet feel nothing but compassion for them—because you recognize that their own tremendous pain drove them to what they inflicted on you.
3) Your IBS, upset stomach, digestive issues and anxiety heal themselves.
Please keep in mind I am not a doctor and cannot give you medical advice. However, I can offer the laywoman’s observations: in my own life, and those of other women I watch heal emotionally from the darkest, most painful events you can think of, I have witnessed physical symptoms completely break off of those women as they reach healing.
In my own life, when I was in the worst of my emotional pain and disempowerment, I struggled with stomach pain, constipation, diarrhea, digestive issues and unstoppable anxiety. As I submitted to the healing process by opening up to God’s love, taking control of my thought patterns, shifting my diet, incorporating gentle yoga, praying daily, etc. I began to notice a drastic reduction in symptoms. Ultimately, this resulted in several miraculous healing experiences. Today, I am symptom-free … without the aid of doctors, surgery or expensive drugs.
4) You naturally stop self-medicating with TV, greasy food, social media or shopping.
Many women tell me they admire my choice to eat meat-light and wish they could do the same—but they say they can’t keep themselves from “cheating” with junk food. If staying consistent with healthier eating choices, managing your spending, limiting your TV and social media time is hard … then you can mark it down, you are still in emotional bondage.
Each of these “indulgences” is perfectly okay and enjoyable in moderation but can quickly become an excuse to get our good feelings from somewhere other than God and ourselves. Needing anything outside of ourselves, exactly who God made us to be, to feel good is by definition a form of bondage.
When you are emotionally free, you won’t “need” these things any more and/or can enjoy them in moderation. Or choose to give them up altogether and not feel deprived at all.
5) You reclaim “painful places” and create new memories in them.
How did I know I had fully healed from the pain of my divorce? When I sat for two hours in the very same coffee shop where I had my last private conversation with my ex-husband … and didn’t even remember that event for about two hours of sitting there. I was SO in the moment, enjoying my work, the coffee and the space, that I did not even recall that my marriage had essentially dissolved in that space. This was not an act of disrespect to my marriage or that conversation; it was a marker that I had finally move on to create new memories in that space.
That is what it truly means to reclaim a space for your own after trauma has marked it. When I came back to my hometown, Milwaukee, after nine months of traveling, I felt that my emotional “set point” had been reset, because I could walk into places that preciously were emotionally loaded from my marriage and divorce, and feel totally free to “own” them again and make new memories that aren’t mixed up with what happened before.
6) Other people’s poor choices no longer affect your joy.
This is a fairly simple one, but wow is it powerful! When you become emotionally free, you reach a place where you realize that YOU are the only person you are responsible for. Yes, you can pray for others. You can seek to be a positive influence. You can give of yourself. But at the end of the day, you are the ONLY person you can truly change.
When you relax into that space where you are no longer responsible for everyone else’s well-being, you can truly release your emotional bondage and your attachment to the idea that other people need to change … which is nothing more than a distraction from how YOU need to change.
7) You feel genuinely happy for no reason.
I know, dear heart. I know it’s hard to imagine this when you are in so much pain right now. But the day will come when all those “weights” on your heart will come lifting off, and you will float down the street, truly in love with you life, no matter what is going on in your material, lived experience.
This will be possible because you will know, that you know, that you know, that your Redeemer lives, and that you are being held by the Everlasting Arms, in the grip of the Everlasting God who never faints or grows weary. The ancient yogis spoke of BLISS, and I believe this is it: the ability to dance your way through life, amid sunshine and rain, because what is happening inside you is no longer contingent upon what is happening outside.
Reading this list and feeling like you could never scale this impossible mountain of emotional healing? Wondering how to let go of the weights that are holding you back — so you can enjoy these seven signs of emotional freedom?
Dreams. We all have them. Desires and plans and goals. But for as many dreams as we can create for ourselves, it’s funny how rarely reality matches them. Or maybe I’m the only woman on the planet who feels that way?
If I had my dream right now, I would be the supportive wife of a godly Christian husband, probably working in ministry somewhere an raising 3.25 joyful children (because statisticians seem to enjoy splitting that last one about as much as Solomon would). I would be a published author by now and a veteran of the speaking circuit, signing books while I nurse my babies and sign three new contracts a week in my private creative consulting agency.
If I had my way over the situation, I would not be living out of a suitcase and traveling house to house in glitzy Dubai, trolling job boards daily and trotting off to Oman each month to renew my tourist visa while I wait for a job to open.
But that is my current reality. And it’s also the adventure I’m chronicling on this blog.
But that’s where a little perspective shift can go a long way toward fixing our dream-induced malaise.
Because what if the dreams we’re so hyped up about now are actually getting in the way of the ones God wants to give us?
Whenever I get stuck on how much I still don’t have, I find myself in need of a serious perspective shift. If we’re being technical, I am actually not really without a home, a job, possessions or a country. It’s just that what I DO have is not exactly visible to the naked eye. Mostly because everything I have comes from God.
God is my secure and certain dwelling. Serving Him is my Number One Job. Knowing Him is my most important treasure. And He says I belong to His country, which is (according to Hebrews 11) not of this world. But it took me a long time, and the loss of everything I had, to realize these comforting facts.
It also required me prying both of my tight little fists off the dreams I had for my life.
Think about it: how often are our dreams based on an infinitesimal understand of the possible realities God could bring about?
We have barely scratched the surface on who we are, what makes us “tick,” and what it would take for us to feel truly fulfilled in our purpose. Yet we cling to the belief that we know the answers to these questions. As a result, we often resist what God wants to bring into our lives because deep inside we do not believe He could possibly know us better than we know ourselves.
Do I still hope for the husband, the children (hopefully all in one piece, thank you), the home, and the sense of deep belonging in a Christian family unit? Absolutely.
But am I also constantly amazed how God knows me so much better than I could know myself? Am I shocked almost daily at the surprises He has planned for me that I could never have known to even want?
This is why the concept of getting clear on our desires and goals—while valuable—isn’t really a fool-proof guide to our purpose.
I don’t want my dreams anymore if they keep me from receiving the amazing plans God has for me. And remaining in that place of surrender is the safest and fastest way I know to see miracles come about.
I’ll take miracles over my pre-planned ideas, thank you very much. My desires may be predictable, but God is always full of surprises.
There’s no greater dream than to receive exactly what He has planned.
That’s why, right before I went to Dubai, I started praying the Surrender Prayer of Betty Scott Stam for the first time in many years.
I’ll warn you, this powerful prayer can be a dangerous one. After all, if you tell God you’ll give up all your own desires and hopes … He just might take you up on it!
There are several different versions of this prayer floating around on the internet. I borrowed mine from this fellow blogger.
The prayer goes like this:
“Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes, all my own desires and hopes, and accept Your will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all utterly to You to be Yours forever. Fill me and seal me with Your Holy Spirit. Use me as You want, send me where You want, work out Your whole will in my life at any cost, now and forever.”
You see what I mean about how dangerous that is? But Jesus DID say that in order to find our lives, we must lose them. Recognizing that your own desires may be given by God—but might also be a stumblingblock to receiving our greatest joy and purpose—is the most effective way I know to let go of them.
Dreams are great. Plans are useful. But only God can bring the Impossible to life, in us and for us.
What more beautiful dream could there be, than seeing that?
For most of my life as a woman, I didn’t really feel like a woman.
I dressed like one. I tried to act like one. I checked the “female” gender box on forms. But deep inside I felt like all the other girls had that special something, and it had passed me by.
It wasn’t until after my divorce, as I was healing my sexual dysfunction, finding my way to emotional freedom rediscovering my creativity, that I began to wonder if this sense of alienation from my feminine self might be part of the whole problem. As I traced each challenge or “heart ache” I felt to its root, I kept coming up against that same thing:
I wanted to be joyful, open, receptive, free, magnetic and relaxed … like the women I knew who seemed most “women” to me. Yet I found myself more unhappy, shut down, closed off, chained up, stressed out and unseen. Was there a way I could “turn on” that energy flow inside me and access my womanhood, too?
I am grateful to God that He took me a long journey finding my way to my real, authentic feminine self (who, it turns out, was inside me all along). On the way to meeting her, I learned there are many ways to start tapping into that energy. Do this long enough, and It will begin to feel like the default flow in your body.
Eventually, operating in your feminine energy will feel completely normal—and you will realize you truly do feel “like a woman” now, deeply and fully within.
Here are a few of my favorite practical ways to tap into the feminine life flow that makes you uniquely you:
1. Dance, dance, dance
This is the number one go-to secret I teach all my clients: when you’re stuck up in your head and trying so hard to figure … it … out, switch on your favorite tunes and rock to the beat. You don’t have to be a great dancer, just feel the rhythm and let it move your body and soul. Nothing lifts your mood and makes you feel sensual (and sensuous) like your own private dance party.
2. Stop to smell the roses.
Tempted to race through your day on your latest mission? Stop. Wind all that anxiety and striving energy back in. Tell yourself, “It can wait a little while.” And seriously … if you like roses, go smell some. Or have a cup of tea. Or read a chapter in a novel. Whatever feels like a little relaxing luxury … start indulging in that daily. It’s like a mini miracle cure. Seriously.
3. Receive someone’s offer of help.
One of the biggest struggles for me as I began working with feminine energy was to stop always trying to save myself. Yes, you might not want to be a damsel in distress. But if no one can ever help you or see you in need of help, no one can get close to you. And emotional connection is the true gift of feminine energy. So when your friend offers to watch your kids, or your boyfriend wants to fix your car? Say yes. A thousand times yes. And then bless them with your joyful spirit.
4. Say “yes” to when your ego says “no.”
Along with Number 3 … you know when you are shutting down possibilities and saying “no” out of fear. You’re scared to go to that class with a friend because you’re afraid of what she’ll think. You don’t want to get up and say anything at the PTA conference—even though you’re a great speaker—because what if they laugh at you? Any time you feel yourself coiling up due to pride or fear, relax a bit. Unwind. And say “yes.” Whole worlds expand for me every time I do this.
5. Wear what feels good.
My life changed the day I quit wearing what I thought I should wear and started wearing what actually felt good. Look at your wardrobe and ask yourself, “What do I really feel beautiful in?” Wear those things. And only those things. Find reasons to put on your favorite jewelry or lipstick “just because.” When you start treating yourself as special, beautiful and worthy of adornment … you’ll start feeling exactly that way, too.
6. Find things to really be thankful for.
A grateful spirit makes for a radiant woman. No, really. Is your daily conversation—both with others and with yourself internally—full of gratitude? Or full of complaining? If you’re more in the latter camp, don’t fear. You can shift that narrative now by taking time every day to SAY aloud what you are thankful for or thank people or God audibly when something good happens. Honestly, you may not be able to afford fancy makeup … but a thankful, happy heart will make your face shine like no cosmetic ever could.
7. Pamper yourself.
It’s really okay to have that bath, or take the night out for yourself while a sitter watches the kids. It’s okay to have the more expensive dish you’d rather have, and carry a purse you really like. When you give yourself these small gifts, instead of saying “I have to wait until I achieve this or that impossible goal,” you are saying I am worthy right where I am, as I am. And that alone with one of the most relaxing, freeing states to be in.
8. Discover what relaxes you.
Not sure how to pamper yourself, because you’ve been living in Stress Land so long? Then take it in bits and pieces. Try a new latte today. Walk a new street tomorrow. Try on a dress you never would have considered before. As you do these things, you will begin to find new things that bring you pleasure and joy. And over time, you’ll have a whole new set of strategies for raising your mood and helping yourself feel happy.
9. Let yourself off the hook.
Things didn’t work out with him? The presentation wasn’t perfect? You blew it this time? Okay. Well, that happens. One of the ways we as women keep ourselves trapped in unhappiness is with our incessant need to batter ourselves for everything that didn’t “go perfectly.” Perfection is not your birthright; transformation is. You learned something. Now let it go. I have literally seen women shed years off their bodies by letting go of this emotional weight.
10. Swing your hips when you walk.
I know, this sounds cheesy. But really … your hips (sacral chakra area, if we’re getting technical) are the locus of your feminine, creative, reproductive energy that is your life essence. When you hold them rigid, it’s as if you’re trying to hold in the energy that is moving and alive. And how well does that work? I remember when I first discovered the freedom of letting my womb energetic center sway naturally as I walked. It gave me a whole different connection to the energy in that space. And somehow, yes, it made me finally “feel like a woman.”
11. Tell yourself you’re beautiful until you believe it.
So much of the battle for our feminine essence is in our heads. For years, I didn’t believe I was beautiful … and looking back on it, my dress, hair and makeup followed my assessment. Then I changed my thinking. I got serious about seeing myself as God sees me and speaking words of life over myself. When I began to believe I was beautiful, things really changed outwardly. Most people looking at pictures of me from five or eight years ago versus now see the marked shift. I can see it too—and I know it goes back to my decision to be beautiful. Decide what you are, and it will be so.
12. Indulge in some “girl time.”
Maybe all you need is just a good old fashioned “Ladies’ Night Out.” Get a sitter. Send your husband out with the boys. Call your best girlfriends who encourage and build you up (not those who tear you down or discourage you). No money to spare? Then just eat in at home, sharing something fun from everyone’s fridge. Got a little to invest? Go out for dinner, or just for the glass of wine and chocolate. Laugh. Get dressed up, if that’s your thing. Let all the cares go and have fun.