Finding Freedom from Emotional Eating

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 a byproduct 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.

Release the struggle, and step into ease.

That Time Spring Hit the Colorado Rockies (And My Life)

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. 

This lingering winter seemed to be a metaphor for my own life. I had believed God for breakthrough: a serious shift in my circumstances that would allow me to quit traveling from place to place and go back home to Milwaukee to settle. I loved traveling, yes. The Holy Spirit had told me to ‘take no money, take no luggage, and go into whatever house will receive you.’ And I had obeyed. 

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. 

Are You as a Woman Really Ready to Start Your Own Business?

Rockin’ the solo-preneur lifestyle with my cat Jack in my home office in Milwaukee, WI, early 2017

I was 30 years old when I walked out of the highest-paying job I ever hoped to hold.  

In the preceding months, I had done everything I could to ensure my success. I hired a business coach. Got a business plan together. And even started getting beta clients for my new business’s first service package, so I could pitch it with testimonials. 

Of course, I was still scared out of my wits. But I was ready, right? I mean, as ready as I was going to be…

Sometimes I think it’s a blessing that God doesn’t tell us what’s going to happen in advance. Over the next three years, I learned how ready I really wasn’t to have my own business. And the business I did build was full of stress and struggle. Oh, I worked hard. So, so hard. But that’s just it: I did it all in my own strength. And I didn’t realize that while I had put the external foundation of the business into place, I hadn’t put the internal foundation there. 

Owning a business that served entrepreneurs and freelancing for many corporate clients forced me to come face-to-face with what was really going on inside me. 

Now, I tell women entrepreneurs: the external details of the business are important—what you are going to sell, who you will serve, what you will charge, etc. But if you are not truly strong enough inside (yet) to handle what you are stepping into … you will fail. 

Bottom line: you can’t do this business thing in your own strength. And God will use this situation to teach you that, like nothing else. 

So how can you ensure that you are truly ready internally to take this entrepreneurship journey with God?

You’re ready when … 

1) You’ve faced your fear of money.

Owning a business will show you, like nothing else, how terrified you are of money: both of not having enough, and of having “too much.” God had to break me of my “money fears” before I could stop putting limits on myself with my earning potential. I secretly believed that people who had a lot of money hurt other people. (NOTE: This presupposition is rampant in the artistic, social good and educational communities, which many women entrepreneurs identify with.) To be a successful entrepreneur, you have to get absolutely clear on the sufficiency of God to provide for you, and be willing to break through every block you have around money that will hold you back. 

2) You’ve faced your fear of self-promotion.

Oh sure, you want to have a business. But let’s talk about promoting your services, sharing your expertise and allowing your real, gifted self to be SEEN in the real and online worlds. Many women entrepreneurs I know describe themselves as “shy,” “not good in the spotlight,” and “wishing someone else would market the business.” I’m here to tell you, Sister. It does not work that way. God wants you to stand on your talents in HIM. He wants you to stand firm and tall and proclaim who He has made you to be, so the people who need you can find you. Very often this means confronting issues of self-worth and self-doubt that plague all of us. (It did for me!) If you are not ready to face these things, you are not ready for this business. 

3) You’ve faced your fear of success. 

Scraping by is okay. Having enough and a little extra is probably fine, too. But wild, over-the-top, runaway success that silences all the haters and causes people to stare in wonder? Um, yeah, that’s getting a little uncomfortable now, isn’t it? As Christians, we are so often taught that God is not interested in our success or happiness—yet I believe He is deeply interested in both. Yes, both of these may have to bow to His will for us to experience sorrow and loss for a season (believe me, I have been there!). But I believe far more often we fail to experience His best because we simply open to the fact that it IS possible. And (see Point #2) we’re not sure we deserve it. This entrepreneurial journey will challenge all of these thoughts. If you are not ready to accept success, don’t bother shooting for it. 

Owning a business as a woman—the kind of business that truly does good for others while honorably supporting you—is a noble goal. It IS possible to create these income streams. It IS possible to get out of the corporate rat race and experience the freedom and joy of owning your time and serving people you truly appreciate and want to help. 

But even these beautiful goals come at a price.

You will not be able to carry your sense of poverty, sense of self-loathing or self-doubt into this process. And if you try … well, I can say from my own experience that God has ways of knocking it all out of you. In the kindest (but most serious) way possible. 

Are you really ready to start your business? Well, you’ll never fully be ready. You might just have to take the leap. In fact, you probably will. But if you spend time really working on these three areas, you will be better positioned for success. 

I don’t regret walking out that door at age 30. I don’t miss the salary. bonus or cushy travel allowance I had—because in exchange, I was a slave in golden handcuffs. But I also, today, recognize how much I had not prepared myself internally for this new journey. 

Hard work will only get you so far. It can’t make up for the deficits you secretly believe you have inside. 

Little Paper Pieces: On the Tearing Up and Rewriting of Your Life

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!


Anyone who knows me well knows how much I hate the process of revision. Ideas tend to flow through me like freight trains, complete thoughts barreling down the track that is my early phases of writing. They’re coherent and prolific. This blog post itself is mostly a first draft, composed on-the-fly with a few stolen moments of time.

Generally after composing such a first draft, I walk away satisfied that I got my meaning across. This is probably the only real reason I write: not for the beauty of language itself, but to get something off my chest. 

And that is where things start to get messy.

Because the process of polishing my thoughts is never as straightforward or simple as the getting them down in the first place. I hate chaos, so there’s something inherently horrific to me about taking my neatly ordered ideas and tearing them up. Why un-make and re-make again what was decently adequate to start with—especially when it involves such violence?

To me, revision feels like a death: my beautiful first drafts get torn up into “little paper pieces” and scattered on the wind. Why can’t I just write it well the first time?

This is of course the purest form of creative impatience. Nothing on the planet (not even my words!) show up in the world fully formed. It must be shaped and fashioned, nurtured and evolved. Many sentences and paragraphs must die and rise again in new forms before the final product emerges.

That’s just not how the creative process works in real life. I think the same can be said for our inner stories as well.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about The Other Side of Storytelling. In this post, I explored what it now means to me to refashion my personal narrative of my own life experiences—so I can actually live with myself and move forward. Author Jean Houston has called this the process of “re-mythologizing your life.”

Just as cultures tell themselves stories to make meaning of their collective experience, so we individuals do the same. Just perhaps, more unconsciously. But as I’ve learned since I wrote the post, re-mythologizing an inner reality is much closer to the traditional process of creative revision than I imagined at the outset.

Revision is nothing more than a process of Getting Your Story Straight. To get your story straight, you must be willing to revise it, a thousand times if necessary. You must not fear the violence of ripping paper or the whine of the shredding machine. You must, in short, be willing to tear every unsatisfactory draft up into tiny paper pieces and scatter them to the wind.

Oh, the mess it makes!

Despite this mess, over the past few months, I have been blessed with so many angelic individuals coming into my life to help me “see” myself properly and retell my story at a crucial moment. Some of them are friends. Some are clients. Some occupy other capacities altogether in my heart and mind. But they all share one thing in common: 

They have, each one of them, forced me to tear up and rewrite my story—again. 

Every time I am tempted to settle for a less elegant rendition of what has happened in my life, or put up with a self-destructive turn of phrase, they pull out their red pens and call me on my bullshit. It’s editorial license of a breathtakingly destructive kind.

The funniest—and perhaps most grace-filled—part of it, is that most of these editors don’t even know they’re on the job.

They don’t know how many times I go home from being with them, feeling like my soul has been ripped up, ripped out or ripped open. They never see the tears I shed, or the long journal entries in which I force myself to reframe experiences that I have always naturally avoided, or seen in a particular, self-destructive light. Inspired by their nudges, I’ll start writing my story again, thinking this time I’ll get the final healthy version down pat. 

But it just doesn’t work that way.

There’s always another draft I need to write. And pronto.

Despite my frustration with the slowness of this process, there is hope. In my most private moments I find myself gradually being filled up with a story that (while different from the one I originally wrote) is probably far stronger. Yet in the presence of my editors, I still find myself frequently at a loss for words, or saying the wrong things, or losing my power of self-expression altogether. 

I do not have just the right turn of phrase to replace the part of my story they just redlined, or marked up with that dreaded bit of commentary: “Unclear. Rewrite!” 

Paper pieces start showering down everywhere, and no matter how fast I chase them with broom and vacuum, I can hardly keep up with the mess.

Of course, I hate the mess. And I worry that my friends and clients and others in my life will soon grow impatient with all the flotsam in my wake. Don’t they hate breathing in wood pulp? Don’t they get tired of red ink-stains on their fingers? And aren’t they going to revoke our contract when they get another horrible mid-revision draft that’s just north of complete drivel?

Then I remember, that they don’t see what’s happening in my soul. They aren’t inside my process of re-mythologizing my life. 

The paper pieces are likely invisible to everyone except me.

My mess, self-made, is also only self-seen.

So this is a thank you to all those brave souls out there who engage with me at a level I’ve never experienced before. You know who you are. You know how much you matter. 

What maybe you don’t know is just how painful (in the best of ways) your kindness is. 

I’m reminded of a quote from A Course in Miracles, which states, “Discomfort is not the final result of your perception.”

I trust wholeheartedly that this time of new perceiving of myself, and of rewriting my understanding of my life, will bear fruit in the years to come. I trust that the discomfort of my new perception, inspired by your collective kindness, will be rewarded with a great joy that I can give back to you a thousand fold. I trust that the sea of red ink you help me splash all over my internal narrative will deliver us at last a clean, fresh story that is satisfying all the way to “The End.”

I trust this, yes. 

And still , I grieve a bit every time a new draft splits into a thousand useless scraps.

Then again, maybe re-mythologizing not about getting the story “just right.” Maybe it is not about the death of the old drafts at all, but the celebration what might come in the next. And maybe—just maybe—that’s where I’ve always gone wrong with revision.

One can view the act of writing as a tearing up of the old, or as the welcoming in of something brand-new and wonderful.

Little paper pieces, I suppose, make their own kind of confetti.

What the “Touch of Jesus” Really Means for Healing

Kochi Beach, India. Photo courtesy of Glynson Bivera

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?

Creative Flow #3

“EASTER—Just before the crack” / by Lisa England / watercolor 18 February 2019

“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for a bird to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”
– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

3 Levels of Flow You as a Woman Can Create in your Life

Photo courtesy of Krizean Josh Victa

So many women ask me about the concept of FLOW. In fact, I really hadn’t thought much about it personally as a concept until I started hearing it from them.

Once I started pondering the concept, however, I realized it was a key subject of God’s teaching in my life over in three-year journey I’ve been on so far with Him. It is also a central factor in whether or not we as women feel happy, comfortable and joyful in the life that He’s given us.

To me, FLOW is a state of harmony, alignment and ease in which the people, inspiration and resources you need are simply there whenever you need them. If you need something, you ask God, and it shows up.

This seems to bear out in the lives lives of the women I’ve spoken with.

The women who’ve asked me about FLOW are tired. They are tired of struggling to get (and keep) the attention of husbands, friends and family members. They are tired of sparring with writer’s and artist’s block in their creative work, or battling constant insecurities and creative self-doubt. And they are most definitely exhausted from running the rat race or trying to make a shoestring business work.

Can you relate? I can.

Back in July of 2017, God promised me that Everything I wanted would come out of Nothing, and that Everything would “arrive” in August of 2018. For the next year I did indeed have absolutely Nothing other than a suitcase and a small Fiat 500. Many times I didn’t even know where my housing or groceries would come from next. Yet in that season I learned how to trust God for the FLOW of love, creative inspiration and money that I needed each day. And in August of 2018, He did bring me to Dubai, where my FLOW and upshifted into OverFLOW just as He said.

The thing about FLOW is that its not arbitrary. If you are seriously exhausted and feeling the lack of it in your life, take heart. This can change. But you have to be willing for it to change. That’s the first step. Sometimes we become so convinced that life can’t or won’t FLOW for us, that we actually block ourselves from receiving it.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s take a look at the three stages of FLOW—all of which apply to getting (and keeping) love, making friends with our muse so that she shows up on a regular basis, and attaining the resources we need to live comfortably and share abundantly with others.

FLOW Stage #1) Struggle

Technically this isn’t a kind of flow, but the lack thereof. So why would we talk about it? Well, it’s the form of flow most of us are familiar with. There’s a huge gush of love/money/inspiration, and then nothing. Or, try as we might, we can’t squeeze a drop of regularity out of that faucet.

This is where most of us live, and its the baseline we’ve been taught to accept since childhood. So we have to start there.

Struggle is sort of the “default level of flow” that most of us experience in our daily reality our entire lives, if we don’t make a radical shift. We find that one friend who really loves us for who we are. We get the one great idea—and run with it for dear life. We get a little bit of extra money and cling to it like it’s a life raft on the open sea.

We sometimes think that Struggle happens to us because we’re born into poverty, or that’s all we’ve ever seen amongst other people in our lives. But Struggle isn’t a fixed state. It’s learned and it’s perpetuated. If you grow up thinking Struggle is the norm, you’ll do things that undercut your ability to step into FLOW and cause you to perpetuate Struggle–because that’s what you know.

Stepping past Struggle begins with identifying a Struggle-based mindset in your life.

The trick with Struggle is that we think it’s the natural default pattern of God’s universe. In reality, it’s not what He intended to give us. So many times in Scripture, when God refers to himself, He refers to rivers, abundance and blessing. None of those images or terms have anything to struggle. El Shaddai is sometimes translated “The God Who Is Sufficient.”

There’s nothing sufficient about Struggle!

FLOW Stage #2) Basic FLOW

Basic FLOW, plain and simple by itself, is the next stage of this progression. When you’re operating in FLOW, you’ve stepped beyond the daily struggle for “just enough” and embraced the idea that you can have a steady supply of what you need, not just little bits here and there.

Once you understand the principle of the steady supply, you must embrace it in your thinking and in your heart. God says that we must believe first in order to receive. When you believe not just in your head, but in your heart and in your body (deep down to your toes—yes, you can feel this!), this is when you will really see your outward reality begin to shift to match your inward convictions.

When I first began to shift my thinking and live from a place of FLOW, my outward reality didn’t look all that great. I didn’t have a job or a business. I was living dollar to dollar (literally) and didn’t have a home at all. Yet my needs (and even many of my wants) were supplied on a per-day basis. Whatever I needed at that time came to me naturally. Even though my circumstances wouldn’t have looked so grand to anyone else, I actually found a lot of joy and ease by relaxing into that flow!

At the right time, a new home, financial supply and other things came back to me. But until then, all my physical, emotional and spiritual needs were still met. This is FLOW.

FLOW Stage #3) OverFLOW

OverFLOW is the highest form of flow. It’s the state that happens when you’ve gotten past struggle as your baseline and truly accepted that having enough for every day is God’s will and plan for you. As you see your “enough” show up again and again and again—even when it seems to be coming “out of nowhere”—your faith is strengthened, and God is able to bless you with more than enough.

That is the definition of OverFLOW.

Now, instead of having just enough to get by, you actually havE money left over at the end of the month, love left over in the relationship, and more creative ideas than you can actually tackle at one time. You have choices: do you invest in people/resources/art you’ve always wanted? Or do you “bank” what you have? Or do you outright give it away?

Actually having these decisions to make is a clue you’re coming into a place of OverFLOW. It also means you have to start thinking in a whole new way: toward your legacy and not just for the sufficiency of your daily needs. Where do you believe God wants you to be next year, in five years or ten years? How will you steward your resources not just for yourself but for others?

OverFLOW is the beautiful, amazing, harmonious state where you not only believe for what will meet your needs now, but for that which will meet your needs later and take care of everyone else’s. It’s where you don’t have to think twice about luxuries (like ordering in your groceries, eating out at a really nice restaurant or going on vacation) because doing so won’t “rob” from your baseline needs or affect your ability to give to others.

The trick is, you don’t get to OverFLOW by wishing or hoping. You must cultivate a conviction–right now, wherever you’re at–that everything you have is supplied at the right time. You have to learn how to cultivate that faith while you’re in a place of Struggle, which brings you to FLOW, which then allows you to believe for more and more and more in OverFLOW.

Faith is a muscle. So is FLOW. It must be exercised in order to see it really grow stronger.

I would imagine there’s a 4th stage of Over-OverFLOW, and when I get there I can tell you all about it!

– – –

What about you? Which stage defines your life right now?

What are you willing to do to upshift to the next level?

When EL SHADDAI Meets FOMO: Who’s really driving our pursuit of love, creativity and money

“Yes, God is more than ready to overwhelm you with every form of grace, so that you will have more than enough of everything–every moment and in every way. He will make you overflow with abundance in every good thing you do.” — 2 Corinthians 9:8 (Passion Translation)

Ever since I began intentionally cultivating my feminine energy, goal-setting has been difficult. It’s not that goals are bad, or that people (ie: women) strong in feminine energy can’t set them and knock them out. I know that’s absolutely not true. But there’s a discontentment in modern goal-setting that fuels a certain amount of pressure, and therefore, achievement.

Did you notice that every keyword in that sentence is more associated with masculine energy than feminine? Discontentment, fuel, pressure, achievement. Masculine energy pushes for something different. Feminine energy—properly channeled—has a deep, restful relationship with the present.

Masculine energy DOES. Feminine energy IS.

While you’re busy being present, it’s a whole lot harder to try to make something different in the future. Because when you’re happy and content in God now, living each moment to the fullest, the future takes care of itself. I have seen that over and over again.

Why is it that concept scares us so much? Even me, who’s done so much work to embrace “just being?”

I’m not sure, but I suspect our pursuit of what we think we lack has more to do with FOMO (fear of missing out) than it does of really wanting what we pursue.

Have you ever noticed that while FOMO may feel compelling, it doesn’t really feel very good?

I’ve been thinking a lot about that in relationship to marriage recently. Though I’ve embraced every other aspect of my life, singleness is still something I’ve worked hard to eliminate—though unsuccessfully to date. But if you look at my life, I actually spend a lot of time alone and am completely happy and totally renewed living this kind of life.

So why, exactly, am I so eager to change this estate that I’m in? Is it because I’m really called to be married—and I sense that deep down I’m supposed to contend for that gift—or is it because I’m 35, never experienced a happy marriage, and worry that if I don’t find it, I’ll miss out on one of life’s fundamental experiences.

The reality is, every woman of God I know well right now is experiencing deep trials in her marriage. I’m praying, counseling and contending with them all for breakthrough. All the while wondering where my Boaz is and all the while wondering, in addition, why on earth I would want the trials my friends are experiencing.

Because the visions of marriage I see in my head don’t include a spouse’s spiritual problems, radical shifts of perspective that happen after marriage, children with health problems or financial difficulties. And I’m sure they didn’t for my girlfriends, either, when they married the husband they have now, all of whom love God, but are deeply flawed human beings.

Funny how saying that changes see.

When I see marriage, I see victory and triumph—not the struggle that comes along with it. Which is what I already have in my single life, just in a different form. Yet when I think about being single, I fear that deep-down, I’m selfishly just passing time for myself and missing out on the “more” God might have for me.

We’re so terribly afraid of missing out on the more. So terribly afraid of settling. And so terribly afraid that our current reality is less than God intended for us.

Or is it just me who feels that way?

Last May, in the middle of a church service invitation, God spoke to me about Isaiah 43, in which He declares that He, the “God-of-Angel-Armies” as Isaiah often calls Him, is Israel’s husband and will care for them as such. The sermon was about the Book of Acts. It had absolutely nothing to do with God as a husband or the prophet Isaiah, yet God brought that passage to my mind and asked me a question so clear and startling, I looked around to see if anyone else might have heard it.

“Am I not Enough for you?”

He asked it several times, and in doing so, brought to mind all the ways He’s cared for me, cherished me and loved me as a good husband would. Does He have skin and a body, to hold me close and pleasure me in bed? No. But in almost every other way, He’s been a far superior husband than any human man would have been. (And I can say that as a woman who’s been in a deeply broken and unsatisfying marriage!)

Yesterday I was reminded of this again, as I pondered how much I love living alone, and wondering if, in embracing this path, I am closing myself off to the relationship God might still intend to send … which is not something I want to do.

But this blog is all about receiving God’s good gifts … so I want you to know, the struggle is real! I’m not always sure where contentment ends and settling begins, or where we’re so happy with what we have that we don’t contend and believe for more.

I can’t answer that question. But I do know last night as I was praying, I heard God say, “I AM ENOUGH.”

It was as clear and forceful as the day He asked, “Am I not Enough for you?” As if, nine months later, He had quit asking the question and was answering it for me, in case I hadn’t noticed.

Doug Addison, the noted Christian prophet, once said that prophecies often take nine months to birth, just like a human being. (I’ve always suspected that prophetic gifting, which flows and responds to the working of the Spirit in the moment, is heavily associated with feminine energy … but that’s another topic for another day.)

Anyway, if what Doug says is true, then this is the ninth-month birthing of that word God gave me nine months ago, even if it came in the form of a question. Interestingly, last August, a lady prophet in my church spoke the same over me before I left for Dubai, saying this would be the place I came to truly understand God as my husband.

She wrote the Scripture reference “Song of Solomon 2:8-17” on a coffee sleeve and handed it me before I left the church that night, the very last night I’d ever spend with my church family at Mercy Hill.

It’s hanging on my fridge right now. I look at it every day and ponder the meaning.

And yet I still secretly wonder if I’ve missed out on God’s best by “settling” for singleness.

Which leads me to suggest …. perhaps my focus is the problem. If the God-of-Angel-Armies is my Husband, and He is also Jehovah Jireh (Provider) and El Shaddai (sometimes translated “Enough,” could there ever be FOMO?

FOMO is me distrusting my own ability to know what’s best for me, and choose it.

ENOUGH is me trusting the God who gives everything to give me what’s best from His overflowing storehouse of provision.

What if I gave myself permission to enjoy my enjoyment of singleness, not fight it or stress about it, and trust that the God-of-Angel-Armies will change the situation when, and if, He chooses? After all, not much could possibly withstand an onslaught of Angels! 🙂

It’s important to caveat, of course, that a person can just be shut down and unreceptive to love—and this is at the root of many of our relationship problems and our sense of isolation or alienation. It’s important to suss out those blockages so we can allow God to clean them out and bless us with a flood of His love, peace and provision.

But happiness in your current estate is not a blockage to more happiness. And you’ll know when you’re truly contented in your estate—with a contentment from God—because there will be absolutely no anxiety around it.

FOMO is an awfully heavy burden to carry around everywhere. It’s fueled by fear, not by a healthy belief that God has more for me. And FOMO is not, by definition ENOUGH. In fact, it’s the very definition of lack. And lack is the enemy of feminine energy because when you live in a place of lack, you cannot, by definition, enjoy the present.

That’s not what I believe, or who I am.

If the God Who is called “ENOUGH” is my God, then the present is more than I need. And if that changes, He will change it for me.

That’s the essence of feminine energy. It’s the heartbeat of receptivity. And, unlike FOMO, it feels … good.

The Water Is Within: Why Everything You’re Looking for, You Already Have

“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

The high-rises of Dubai Marina (my neighborhood), as reflected in the Arabian Gulf

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.

The fountain lies within.

The Truth and the Lies of Sexual Dysfunction

IMG-6135 (1)

“I’m sorry, young lady. You have a serious sexual dysfunction. You’re going to have to see a therapist.”

I got this diagnosis when I was 25: a newly minted wife who had been a proper virgin up until a disappointing wedding night. Fresh off a confusing honeymoon, I found myself sitting in the doctor’s office where I got the painful news.

Vaginismus, to be exact. Something I’d never even heard of. The doctor barely had, either.

Thus began one of the worst experiences of my life: therapy visits.

To be fair to the sex therapist, she tried. She really did. But at that time, I was a shut-up, locked-up volume of emotional trauma I did not even know I had. She asked some of the right questions. Others, I realize looking back, were pitiably pointless.

Either way, this multi-award-winning doctor for women’s bodies knew very little about what it was like to grow up in a Christian home where sex had been an unmentionable as a four-letter word, and my body a source of shame. So when her usual methods didn’t work, she resorted to Kegel exercises—which I didn’t really understand at the time—and forced me to watch something I had never seen before: porn.

I’m not sure which was worse: the diagnosis I’d gotten, the scratchy voice on the kegel exercise tape, or the quality of the sex romps she forced me to view.

Some of you may be shaking your head that I could have been so sheltered, in my middle 20s. It was 2009, for crying out loud! I mean, who’s even a virgin at that age anymore? Let alone so terribly …. clueless … about her own body.

If you talked to women I talk to frequently, it might not be so surprising. Sharing my story has given other women courage to share theirs with me, and the same threads keep coming up over and over again:

  • Born and/or raised in an extremely conservative Christian church (or Jewish or Muslim community)
  • Raised to be “pure” and a virginal until marriage
  • Struggled mightily with sex after marriage
  • Typical symptoms include physical pain, emotional trauma and difficulty with penetration
  • Ability to sense physical pleasure from intimate acts is low or non-existent

Let’s face it, if you’re raised to withhold your sexuality from everyone (even yourself) for the first 25 years of your life, it’s not going to just flip “on” like a light switch on your wedding night. At least, not if you’re a woman from such a background—whose body needs to feel emotional safe, gently-treated and emotionally close in order to begin to open up.

In these conversations, I have heard comments from other women, like, “My first year of marriage was hell.” And “I had no idea what was going on. I just cried every night.” And “My husband wanted me to enjoy myself, but I just couldn’t relax.”

If you resonate with these statements because, too … I want you to know you are not alone.

I also want you to know that the quickest way out of this dark, scary place is to take the diagnosis you’ve been given and set it on a shelf. Act like it doesn’t exist. Let it collect some dust. Forget about it. 

At least for the next few minutes…

You see, getting a diagnosis from a medical doctor did one thing for me, and one thing only. It convinced me something was wrong with my body the way God had made it.

“Your PC muscles are unnaturally tight, and they associate pain with penetration,” was the way one healthcare provider put it to me, in the simplest possible terms. And it’s true … from a doctor’s perspective, my muscles were too tight to allow vaginal intercourse.

But here’s the thing:

Being told that this was the sum total of my problem didn’t fix things. It actually kept me from finding the real cure for eight more years. 

Thanks to believing that diagnosis, I failed that round of therapy. Failed it miserably. And then failed more tries at home. The doctors talked about surgically opening my vagina—but then decided that procedure would only worsen the problem.

I tried every year after to start that therapy again, but the fear always kept me from getting too far. My body only shut itself down further. It became a demoralising cycle of sadness and frustration and isolation.

My marriage dragged on for almost eight more years until it failed, too.

It wasn’t until I decided—as a single woman again, at age 33, on her own, with no therapist—to set aside the diagnosis that I finally stumbled upon the truth:

Yes, I had physical symptoms in my body. But my body was only reacting to what was going on in my emotions and my mind. And had been, for a very long time. (In my case, since birth … but that’s another story for another day.)

Think about it.

All my life, I’d been taught to withhold myself from anything sensual or sexual. I’d been taught to cover up my body, even from myself. No one had had me do mirror work with my vagina or explore my own anatomy so that I’d actually understand how Part A went into Part B. No one talked about sex or taught me how to tap into my feminine energy so I’d be ready for sex.

At home, church and school, the female body was a problem for the male gaze … and that translated into the fact that I as a woman felt like I was the problem. Intimacy was a forbidden fruit that was frequently talked about as a source of sin and sometimes celebrated as a wonderful part of marriage.

I had been taught that if I saved myself for marriage, I would naturally enjoy superior sexual experiences because of this choice. This teaching was fundamentally a lie. Did God want me to save my sexual expressions for marriage? Yes. But shutting myself off from loving, non-sexual touch before marriage, and abstaining from studying and understanding my essence as a woman , actually hindered my ability to bless my husband within it.

In the absence of balanced teaching and a healthy relationship with my God-given sexuality, the concept of “intimacy” had been my enemy from the time I was born. No wonder it and I could not make instant friends after my marriage.

I was taught strictly to obey and achieve, holding back my emotions and physical touch, not to feel and experience and let go, surrendering myself to the pleasure of another’s warm embrace even in an innocent, platonic way.

I was dressed up and paraded as a “good girl” who knew how to look the part. But get past that down to the messiness? Let anyone see me in sweatpants (let alone less than that)? Nope. Not happening.

Even the notion of “experiencing pleasure”–the capacity for which is critical to healthy sexual relations in marriage–was suspect. Pleasure in church was associated with sin, not with healthy, natural everyday activities. Subconsciously, the teachings of my church suggested that too much enjoyment of anything, even godly things, was probably a problem.

In fact, if you’d asked me what brought me real pleasure—innocent, everyday pleasures to savor such as “the scent of flowers on a spring breeze” or a “hot cup of tea by the fire”—I don’t actually think I could have told you. I was too busy dressing up and over-achieving. And being super sure my head, rather than, my body, did all my sensing for me.

All of this fed my natural self-loathing of my body which every American girl is tempted to every day of her life.

Did I mention that unconditional love for your body makes it a whole lot easier to receive someone else loving it back?

Over those next few months, after making these startling realizations at age 33, and divorced, I decided to try the therapy again.

But this time, I did it God’s way. I asked Him to demolish any theology of sexuality that did not reflect He actually said about me and my body as a woman, and about marriage and about pleasure. I prayed for guidance to the right tools. Then I bought the dilators and yoni eggs the long-ago therapist had recommended once for the physical practice. But I only moved forward with that while totally getting quiet, sitting down with God and actually facing my tremendous inbred fear of intimacy … and my hatred of my own body.

Once I began taking each brick off the emotional and mental walls I had built up against my Real Self, the wall (miraculously) started to come down. Not easily. Not quickly. But it did come down.

One realization led to another. Which led to another. Which led to … well, another.

I discovered that as a woman, who would normally be deeply in tune with her body by God’s natural design, I had no real innate ability to feel into my body or understand what it was trying to tell me. In fact, my body and I had been at odds with each other my entire life. Yet my husband, who as a man naturally lived more in his head, had been looking to me to help him relax deeply into bodily experiences.

I started to learn what it felt like to love my skin exactly as it was. To make friends with all the parts of myself that I had previously not even understood. I learned to get comfortable dancing naked in my room, with the door shut. I took a mirror and stuck it up you-know-where and gave myself an anatomy lesson. Or two. Or five.

Above all, I asked God to unlock the deepest parts of my womanhood that had been locked up in a prison since babyhood, with the key tossed who-knows-where.

He heard my cry. He always does. And praise Him, He faithfully and gently handed me the key.

When I started the dilator work again, this time, my thoughts about myself and my emotional pain were healing first. So the physical practice was a totally different experience.

The body that previously “needed surgery” yielded naturally. No, I didn’t finish the dilator therapy overnight. But dilator by dilator, I retrained those PC muscles not to feel the pain they used to feel. By myself. Naturally. At home. Until one day, I outgrew the dilators and had to buy a genuine dildo. And I felt no pain at all.

(Some other day I’ll tell you about what it’s like putting condoms on a cucumber when the dilators don’t fit anymore. But yeah, that’s a story for another day …)

More than that, I started to feel totally relaxed and comfortable with myself as I was. I had to shed all that body shame, and truly redirect my thoughts to see how God sees me, as a woman. I began to pamper myself, to enjoy feeling beautiful, to lean into practices like yoga and chakra work that helped me get comfortable with who I was and become smarter about “hearing” my body.

That made all the difference in the world.

Now, when I look back on the frightened girl in the doctor’s office, all those years ago, I wish I could tell her to take that diagnosis and toss it right out the window. I would have bypassed the “sex therapist” and never even entertained the discussion of surgery.

Because I believe now that when it comes to our sexuality as women, most of our body’s physical responses result from what’s happening in our hearts and minds.

By telling me I had a “physical condition”—without addressing the fears, sadness, misunderstandings of God’s design for sexuality, and self-hatred in my heart—my healthcare providers encouraged me to see the problem as being outside myself. Which also means I saw the solution as being outside too.

You want to cure for your problems with body love? You want to conquer your fear, reclaim your intimacy, save your marriage? Or ensure that your first experiences with sex in marriage really are the blessed path of discovery I was once promised they would be?

Listen to what the doctor says, yes. Consider the therapist’s advice. Get prayer and counseling at your church. But above all, go deeper.

Go straight to the source.

Ask God to show you—really, truly show you—how you’re feeling about yourself, your body and your sexuality.

Then be brave enough to sit with the answers He gives you. Also brave enough to share what you learn with another woman you trust. And further more, brave enough to do whatever it takes to break down those walls.

When you begin to know yourself in this way—hard as it can be—you can truly take your first step to healing. Because healing this “sexual dysfunction” (really, the physical manifestation of an emotional wound) is an inside-out job. Your body will only be a thermometer for what’s going on in your heart and mind.

Let God heal you within, and your body will be set free.

Have a story to share? Struggling with vaginismus or wondering why you can’t seem to relax in intimacy? I love mail! Send me a note, and I’ll respond: