Embracing the Fear

I would never be so bold as to say I’m brave. There are many situations/choices I have tackled with bravery or with a mindset to overcome my fear, but for each of those things there is something or someone I have approached with blind fear. Sometimes these situations are instantaneous situations that are over in a matter of minutes. Other times they are long and drawn out.

Step-parenthood is one of those things-the long and drawn out ones. More specifically, it’s one that starts off as an almost instantaneous situation (the “yes” or “I do”) and continues for the rest of your life. F-O-R-E-V-E-R.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but from my own perspective the idea of becoming a Step-parent was just surreal. I was raised on Disney movies and Lifetime TV shows and lived in a bubble of “Traditional Family Units.” I can’t recall a single movie (until Juno) where there was a step-parent that was not abusive, apathetic, a selfish home-wrecker or EVIL. Thank you, Disney, for that fabulous stereotype I will never be able to overcome at sporting events, 5th grade musicals, or a parent-teacher conference down the road. Back on point though, the idea of becoming a step-parent was just never an issue. It didn’t bother me. And I think if I am being honest it’s because I wasn’t ready to face the truth – I don’t really know what I’m doing, and that scares me.

It scares me for a lot of reasons, but there are two really big ones:

There are things in my life, as detailed on this blog, that I struggle with. There are things I have had to get help with and I am a far cry from what I believe a strong and loving woman should be. This week, for example, I’ve caught myself not once but twice walking out of the house without eating breakfast. I’ve looked in the mirror more times than I’ve smiled. I even went clothes shopping only to find that it just ‘wasn’t a good day’ for that.

I look at the picture above and I become hyper-aware that I’m not the only one looking in the mirror. I am not the only one noticing my habits. I’m not the only one that makes choices about eating breakfast or not eating breakfast in this house. It’s not just my ears that hear the “ugh these jeans don’t look very good” comments or the “Man I wish I could be ____” comments. And so for the last few weeks I’ve been walking around in this paralyzing fog of fear. I can’t be a good Step-mom with all of this crap going on in my head. I can’t lead by example if I’m not a very good example. I’ve been in Eating Disorder “rehab” before. More than once. They can’t ever know that or I might really screw them up! How can they ever respect me when it’s fairly obvious I can’t respect myself?? And on and on I go until finally today I found myself actually avoiding being around them.

And that’s when I realized something – E.D. (eating disorder voice) was winning. Satan was winning. And he was winning in a big way. He wasn’t just making my Magic Mirror show me a big butt or making me question my meal choices. He was finding a way to come between me and those I love. Those who have been entrusted to me. Entrusted to my care not only by their wonderful dad, but by their Father. Upon realizing that (not 20 minutes ago) I decided I needed to write it down so it was on paper and I could read it often.

This world is full of messages to young girls about what they are “worth”. Whether it’s based on their hair color, their ambition, their sexual prowess, the clothes they wear (or don’t wear), or the size of their jeans they are bombarded with reasons to feel unworthy. I refuse to allow my own fears to become a reason for my two Step-daughters to feel unworthy. They are worth my time. They are worth my efforts to struggle through my own crap. They are worth so much more than my desire to not fail in front of them.

I am not perfect. E.D. does win little battles sometimes. But if I pretend like I’m not afraid of those small stumbles, if I avoid opportunities to be a loving adult in their lives, then I also miss out on opportunities to teach them what they are worth. How amazing they are. How proud I am of them.

So today I’m embracing the fear for what it is. I’m acknowledging it outloud and I’m asking for God’s help in a big way. I’m a recovering anorexic. And I live in a house with 2 tween girls. I’m scared and I am worried I’m totally going to screw this up. But I can do it because I love them. And because God loves me.

And that’s about as good a starting block as any.








My World Is Changing

Sometimes God blesses us.
Sometimes He blesses us so much it’s overwhelming and awe inspiring.
My life right now is in one of those times. Please enjoy this link. I know I sure am 🙂


Brandi, Can I Ask You….?

I have come across a lot of things in my life thus far that I felt I definitely was made to do. Things that I was meant for. Things that I have mastered either all at once, or slowly over time.

In contrast, there are also many things in this life that I feel I’m ill-equipped to handle. One of those things is becoming a step-parent. It’s a bit terrifying for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is Disney’s portrayal of the step-parent role as “evil”. After getting engaged to my fiance and staring down the barrel of overnight parenthood I even noticed I’d developed a mole on my chin that has hair growing out of it. I’m not exaggerating. It happened. I pluck it every week. I, Brandi Abel, have grown a hairy evil step-mother mole. *shudder

There are days when it seems incredibly simple. The kids are awesome and 90% of the time up to now has consisted of playing, dancing, singing, driving, entertaining, and pouring cereal. I am a master cereal pourer. Some days I even get the amounts of the milk right 🙂

However, there are always moments that remind me that things will not always be that way. I usually delude myself into imagining what those moments will be like and being able to wade through each of them smoothly as they come along. I carry these delusions around so that I don’t have a complete meltdown, but they get shattered to bits when one of the three kids starts a sentence with: “Brandi Can I …?”.

It never fails. Every time. I freeze cause I never know what’s about to be asked but I know it involves me having to be a responsible adult and not totally screw up the answer. No pressure. Those sort of questions began in the spectrum of “Brandi, can I have a coke?” and “Brandi, can we stay up until you go home?” Those questions were really easy at first because all I had to answer was “Go ask your dad, that’s a dad question”. EASY BUTTON. As I have grown to love the kids, and have an invested interest in their well being I’ve taken on more confidence in answering those easy ones on my own. And I don’t always say “NO”…but I hear there is some sort of step-parent quota for that word so I should probably work on that!

Over the course of the 2.5 years I’ve known the kids the questions have become more personal, more insightful, and sometimes downright puzzling. I’ve been asked why my sister and I don’t seem to get along very well. I’ve been asked why their parents don’t love each other anymore. I’ve been asked why the methodist church doesn’t do communion every week but our Catholic Church does. I’ve been asked to help with math homework, go get ice cream, come to birthday parties, and show up to sporting events. And after all those questions I had developed a false sense of comfort. As though I might actually be able to do this after all.

And then yesterday morning, while cleaning up the breakfast mess before the kids headed out the door with their dad, Emily asked, “Brandi, would it be ok if I asked you a question about eating disorders?”. My confidence shriveled up like a raisin and I had to catch my breath before even looking her in the eye. I managed to timidly say “Yes, what is it you would like to know?” and we proceeded to have a very surface conversation about warning signs and if there were things she could do for someone she was worried about.

After she left for school it took me awhile to recover from the shock. I’ve been very hyper-aware that I’m about to become a member in a household with two pre-teen girls who are going to have very real encounters with things like Eating Disorders. But I never had really thought either of them would ever actually talk to me about it, especially from a ‘gaining my perspective’ type of question.

I should really stop underestimating how unknown the territory of step-Brandihood is going to be. I hope God is prepared for all of my “please don’t let me screw this up” prayers to come….


I can’t remember a time in my life where my inner being didn’t shy away from this word. I’m unsure if it’s the strength in the word or the culture I was brought up in’s definition of the word that makes me so uneasy with it. I’m sure it’s probably a combination of a lot of things, but at the end of the day when I hear it something inside of me ducks for cover. It’s as though some part of that little girl is inside of me terrified of the possibility of someone or something making her feel unworthy of the word. So instead, she shies away from it and avoids that scenario altogether.

I could probably write a book on all of the ways I believe we humans have distorted that word. Rather than allow myself the indulgence of that tangent, I’d rather capitalize and expand on the thoughts that have been ringing in my head for a few weeks. What is beauty? A quick default to Wikipedia (lazy research I know) tells me that beauty is a characteristic of any noun that provides the perceptual experience of pleasure or satisfaction. It goes on in great detail about how society’s ever changing definition of pleasure or satisfaction continues to create an ever changing definition of beauty and how we perceive it. To which I say a resounding “DUH”.

It’s that ever-changing part that sends me looking for something a little more concrete. Something that has stability and has been around a lot longer than the panel of judges on America’s Next Top Model or even the great artists who depicted beauty in the early ages of man: The Bible.

Genesis 1: 26, 31 gives us a pretty simple but resounding baseline to work with. Paraphrasing:

  • God made mankind in His image
  • He said what He had made was good

As I dive deeper into the word I can find lots and lots of scripture passages that build on this concept and usually they all bring me back to the awesome conclusion that God who is so powerful my brain can’t even fathom Him, took time to think of me, formed me into being, loves all his creations, and therefore loves me and finds ME to be beautiful.  And not because He has some backward definition of the word Beautiful…simply because He made me and that alone qualifies me to be among His beautiful.

Pretty awesome actually!

That concept though, awesome as it is, is not easy to embrace or accept. Especially if you don’t even know it exists. As I mentioned earlier, MY definition of beauty has been so out of touch with God’s definition that even just hearing it makes me uncomfortable. The suggestion that my name, my body, my being, be associated with that word brings up a fear in my heart that I can’t even logically explain. Almost as though waiting for someone to disagree or capitalize on an opportunity to hurt me is too painful and so I just disagree or capitalize on it myself from the get-go and take it off the table.

“Psh, I’m not beautiful, hahahahaha. What were they thinking? My name doesn’t belong in that category. My mistake I’ll move it over here and file it under short, squishy and insecure. “

Growing up my definition of beautiful was somehow separated from God’s definition. I vaguely remember the princess phase and the knowledge that my dad thought I was beautiful. I remember the first time a person removed me from that. (5th grade. Bus ride home. Ronnie Morelan) And at some point my definition of beauty became a mantra that looked something like this:

“Brandi people will not like you until you are beautiful. You will not be beautiful until you aren’t fat. ”

Freshman year of college the “non-fat” part developed into a number. That number was 125 pounds. I was convinced down to my bones that if I could just be 125 pounds I would be beautiful and people would like me and life would be awesome and I’d finally be happy again. When I reached 125 pounds, I didn’t feel any different and so I obviously wasn’t beautiful and definitely not happy. And so, the definition and beauty morphed into closer to 115 pounds. And then 110. And then 100. And then 95.

I wish with all of my being that was when my little 18 year old brain figured it out. What I failed to learn for the better part of 15 years is that when a person ties their definition of beauty to something so worldly, achieving it will be impossible. Because the truth, the real truth, is I always WAS beautiful. And not because of a size or a number or a boyfriend or a grade card or any of the other silly things I attached beauty to….

I was beautiful simply because God made me. In His image. And He creates beautiful things.

There are days this concept is tough. Really tough. Tough in the brings me to tears kind of way. Those are the days I like to picture myself standing at that bulletin board of categories. I’m staring up at my name that I have just moved over to the short, squishy and insecure category and feeling a large shadow walk up behind me. I picture a large arm reaching over me, plucking my name out of my spot, and placing it under the word beautiful while a warm voice says,

 “No my dear. Let me remind you again. You are mine. And mine, sweet Brandi, are beautiful”


So, about 7 weeks ago I took a test. It was a big test. One of those career platform type of tests. I studied for that test from July to October in intermittent spurts and some very very long weekends. On a Thursday evening, heavy into a sinus infection, I headed to Topeka, KS to stay in one of the scariest hotels I’ve ever laid eyes on and went into the test Friday morning confident that I had no idea what to expect and prayed only for survival.

At the lunch break I cried and nearly threw-up my granola bar.

At 5:30 pm when I left I cried and then drank a few too many vodka cocktails.

It was one of the hardest 8 hours of my life. And I’ve lived some seriously tough days in my 29 years.

On Tuesday, after discovering that my test results were sent to the incorrect address (yes…because that’s the life I lead…) I had to drive to Topeka, KS to pick-up my results.

I picked my mom up in Lawrence and headed to one of the government office buildings across from the capital. Coincidentally, I spent an entire internship working to fix that building 5 years ago because the facade of that building was literally falling off. But I digress…

I went up the 5 floors to pick up my results, grabbed them and headed back to the elevator. Upon reading the words “We regret to inform you that you failed the test” I sorta fell down the proverbial rabbit hole. I sat in my mom’s car and I cried. I did all the math (no…there was not a curve) and discovered I was 2 questions away from passing. Having a photographic memory, I spent the next 45 minutes on the drive replaying every question I remember being uncertain about. I spent the next few hours in a daze. And I finished the day drinking almost an entire bottle of wine by myself.

At the end of all of it with a couple of days of recovery under my belt I am certain of only one thing:

I have absolutely no idea how to reconcile the sentence “we regret to inform you that you failed the test”. I have considered writing the Kansas Board of Technical Professions and asking them to at least reconsider the way they word that, but at the end of the day the test is pass/fail and I was the latter.

I’ve never been good at failure. In fact, I’m a perfectionist to a fault and a people pleaser to boot. Aside from having to deal with the embarassment of having to inform my boss that I didn’t pass, I had to tell all my cheerleaders too. While doing all of that, I was simultaneously begging my eating disorder to just give me a free pass. I wasn’t that lucky, but I am pleased to report that I haven’t given in to it.

So back to this failure thing. It’s confusing. Because mathematically, socially, and by pretty much every other standard of this world we live in that is exactly what I am. Of course, I am not in the long run judged by those standards and therein lies the confusing part. If I’m not a failure in God’s eyes, then what exactly does this mean? Is it something as simple as “Brandi, you just didn’t study enough” or is it something more? Is this a lesson in learning to deal with failures? Is this a lesson in humility? Is this a test to see how well I can overcome this challenge? 

I was crying in the bathroom Tuesday night and my fiance knocked on the door. I didn’t answer because I just needed to cry and wallow in my pity and self-loathing. He was kind enough to just talk through the door, but his words struck a chord in me. He said, “Brandi, it’s ok to be sad. It’s ok to be upset. But this test has no bearing on the person you are or how much I love you.” And then he walked away and cooked dinner in an effort to help me keep E.D. at bay.

I found something familiar in his words. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard them. I’d heard them 8 months ago at a little retreat at church from my Father. He loves me. And there is nothing I can do on this earth, P.E. exam included, that will keep Him from loving me. And that’s enough to keep me going. That’s enough to make me want to try again. He has a purpose for me. Granted, I have no friggin’ idea what that is half of the time. But there is a purpose. And if He wants me to have to study my A$$ off for the next 3.5 months and take this test again…then there must be a really really good reason for it.

He knows what He’s doing. And He doesn’t believe I’m a failure.

So, I probably need to follow His lead.

Beyond the Head Nod

This morning I received an email letting me know there was another VIRTUS training module available for me to complete. VIRTUS is on going training required for me to continue to be a part of our youth ministry at church. During a slow period in my day I went ahead and opened the article so I could answer the usually easy question and move on.

At the end of the article about the long-term effects of sexual abuse there was a passage that struck a chord with me:

So if someone tells you her story, do not interrupt or immediately tell her to see a professional—although that might be a very good idea at some point. Do not ask for details. She will tell you what she wants you to know. She has chosen you for a reason. It is not important to know why, but know that you stand in the shadow of the Almighty as you hold a broken heart in your hands.”

This passage provoked a variety of emotions in me, which seems to happen more and more these days. I thought on the passage for awhile and realized that the emotions were stemming from my experiences with ‘stories’ this last year. I was blessed to be a part of a women’s retreat where I heard so many stories. Sad stories. Happy stories. Heart wrenching stories. Mysterious stories. It was an amazing experience. We shared our hurts. We shared our joys. We shared the intimacy of our ‘stories’ and through that we were able to find common ground – Jesus. One of my retreat sisters shared in her testimony that we grow closer to each other in Christ when we share our wounds.

Thinking about that in the context of the above passage brought to light how important we are to the person doing the sharing. “She has chosen you for a reason. It is not important to know why, but know that you stand in the shadow of the Almighty as you hold a broken heart in your hands.” Wow. Having spent a good portion of this year sharing some of my darkest moments, deepest wounds, and secret hopes with other people I am coming to recognize the vulnerability that comes with it and why some people avoid it for so long. It’s painful. And really flippin’ scary to place your life in the hands of others who have the power to reject you. Or make it worse.

How often do I find myself hearing someone else’s story? Even just bits and pieces. Probably more often than I’m even aware. And how often do I remember to call to mind how important the words they are speaking may be to them? How often do I listen with only half of my heart? How often do I glance at a cell phone vibrate or wonder if I’m going to be late if they don’t wrap it up soon?

We all have a story. Our Story. It’s the one thing we have that is uniquely ours. It reminds us where we came from, how we got where we are today, and where we may want to be headed. The details of that story often feel so unimportant to anyone else. It’s important that we remember that we are often being used as Jesus’ conduit. Whether the story details are hard and gruesome or a simple recount of a funny story, that person chose us to talk to. They opened up a part of themselves to share with us.

We owe it to them to listen with our full hearts. To see the vulnerability in their act of sharing. And to love, love, LOVE on them like Jesus loves on us.


In September I quite literally broke up with my eating disorder. It was such a weird and yet empowering move on my part I wasn’t quite sure what would actually happen so I just took it one day at a time. I am proud to say that while it’s not been easy, I have successfully waded through the last 6 weeks or so without ‘calling him up’ and inviting negative behavior into my life again. At first, I spent a lot of time leaning into my support system and also praying for strength to keep moving forward and not backward. As time went on, the days got easier. There were hiccups, but nothing earth shattering.

And then…I went wedding dress shopping. Cue the dun dun dunnnnnn.

I made it about 45 minutes before I got a bit too anxious and needed to head out. We had a place to be so it was fine to need to leave early. And then I sorta put it out of my head. 2 days later however, I made an appointment to go back with all of my bridesmaids. Looking back now, it’s obvious that was the trigger for the fear. Fear of what? I’m not sure. Maybe having an audience watch me try on dresses? Maybe putting on more dresses and having to order some crazy large size? Who really knows. It could have been anything. All I know now is that fear crept into my heart and created a space between myself and my strength – God. It wasn’t overnight, and to be 100% honest with you I didn’t even recognize it for what it was until yesterday at Mass. Actually, at rehearsal for Mass.

In the last two weeks I’ve been so anxious about working out. And not just my working out but my fiance working out. I’ve been so proud that I haven’t been skipping meals or counting calories, but in the back of my head snuck the following thought: “If you don’t work out and you don’t alter your diet you’re going to gain weight”. Granted, for the majority that thought is a healthy reminder. For me and those like me, that thought is a diving board. And without realizing it I totally dove. HEAD first. I was angry. Frustrated over things that don’t matter. I was anxious about everything. Uptight (more than normal…). I was basically in a word – crazy. Worse than that I couldn’t figure out what was going on with me.

Sometime yesterday afternoon our praise band leader made a very random song change and sent us a text about it. The song he picked is one that he somehow ALWAYS picks when my eating disorder is rearing it’s ugly head. It’s freaking ridiculous because it boggles my mind how he always manages to do that. Regardless, he picked it. And it was like a slap to the face.

At rehearsal I ended up leading it and I was angry. I was like “NO I am not admitting that this is still a problem. NO. No. No. No. There are bigger things going on right now and I have too much else to worry about and I’m stronger than that and I broke up with it and Just NO” And then, God decided He was bored with my stubborness and opened my ears. I sang the lyrics while simultaneously listening to them and BOOM. I’m glad my thoughts are just mine cause inside my head the only thing was “well shit….”

“I’m falling on my knees. Offering all of me. Jesus you’re all this heart is living for.”

Boom. I had stopped leaning. I’d stopped praying about it. I’d forgotten that I still needed to give Him that struggle. I didn’t want to admit it was a struggle even. And in that Satan had found a way to affect my life again. Jesus can’t be all my heart is living for if I’m caught up in anxiety over my working out/body image. DANGIT!!!!!!!!!

Before Mass started I apologized to my fiance. He’d been taking the brunt of it. He actually looked at me in surprise that I actually figured out the problem on my own. And then he told me he loved me.

God is so good at reminding us to lean into Him. Reminding us that He is bigger than anything in this world. Reminding us to stop looking at things in this world to satisfy us, to stop judging ourselves by this worlds standards, and to put Him above all else.


A Goodbye Letter

For over ten years I  have struggled, and after a long week and the nagging challenge from those that love me in the back of my mind I decided it was time to say goodbye. It took a large glass of wine, and a lot of crying, but here it is-

A break-up letter to my eating disorder:

E.D. ,                                                                                                                                                                                                       9/27/12

I’ve tried getting this point across to you for a few months now, but you don’t seem to be getting the point. And the longer we go on without having this official conversation, the more I open myself up to the opportunity to let you back into my life. Into my world. And that’s just not an option anymore. We’re over. Done. I want absolutely nothing to do with you moving forward and I would appreciate if you would respect that. I get that you’re not just going to let me go. But I don’t care. I want you out.

Our relationship has been awful. You want and need to dominate my life. You crave my attention. When you don’t get it you whine, and beg and eventually scream at me to give you my focus. You use guilt trips on me because they work. You manipulate me.

For over 10 years you have been my partner. Because we have such a long history I find that in my struggles I keep coming back to you because even in the abuse you are consistent. You’re easy. You’re comfortable. You make promises to me and you hold me and I mistake that comfort for love. And then, when I am “safely” back in your arms you take advantage of me and hurt me. You make me feel bad about myself. You twist my eyes so that I see what you want me to see in the mirror. You don’t want me to see what others actually see because I might begin to turn to them instead of you. So you make me feel disgusted with myself. You make me see things that aren’t there. You make me feel things that are unjustified and untrue.

And then, once you have me convinced of your untruths you turn around and make me feel bad for believing you. You blame ME for listening to you. You tell me I’m a failure because I believed you. That it’s my fault for being this way. It’s my fault for not being smart enough or strong enough to know better. So that at the end of all if it I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t and just want to quit it all.

You’re abusive. And when I fight back, you just sit and wait. You wait in your quiet way for a bad day. For a day I’m off my game. A day when someone says something hurtful, or when I’m second guessing my abilities, or when I have something major coming up. And you attack me. You sneak in small with little whispers at my insecurities and you always know the right hot button. A pair of jeans just out of the dryer that feel a little snug. A night out with friends that wasn’t a salad. A missed opportunity to exercise. And you jump on my back and just drag me down. I feel broken and bruised.

But you know what? You are evil. You are my own personal satan…you ARE satan…and I have no room for you in my life. I have things going for me. I am beautiful damnit. I am a good person. God loves me. And He created me. He has a plan for me and has had that plan for me long before you were ever a blip on the radar. And in that reality all by itself I see you for who you are. You are not what a partner should be. You are everything I should have run from as a young girl. You are everything God has been trying to pull me away from my whole life. And I am done with you. You HURT me. You are wrong for me. You are wrong for all of us. You are the opposite of love. And in that I find I want nothing more to do with you.

God loves me. God loves ME. You have spent so much time trying to convince me that my self worth is wrapped up in how I look. In how other people, other humans, see me. You have stolen so much time from me. So much worry and stress and insecurity wrapped up in something that doesn’t matter. This relationship has been the center of my world for so many years I can’t remember what life was like before you. YOU have taken too much from me and today I am stating for the first AND last time that you will take no more from me. I won’t allow it. I can’t allow it.

You don’t deserve me. And I intend to do everything in my power to ensure that no other woman or man on this planet ends up in this disgusting excuse for a relationship with you.

You are going to try to punish me for this letter. I know that. I know you just as intimately as you know me. But I promise you, try as you might….you will not succeed.

Goodbye to you.

Did You Know He Loved You

I didn’t.

I’m unsure of the why’s and how’s or even the when’s of it. But slowly, over time I’m sure, I lost my grip on my belief that I was lovable. Somewhere between believing I could be a princess or the president and getting my driver’s license, the knowledge that I was a person who could be loved was overruled by all the evidence to the contrary.

There was a moment when I decided that human beings were just creatures that would sooner hurt me than hug me, and that I didn’t need them. So I decided to strike out on my own, strong in the knowledge that all I needed was myself. I couldn’t trust anyone, and therefore I would have to handle this life on my own two feet making decisions for myself. God, unfortunately, fell into that mix of the unnecessary and slightly untrustworthy.

It’s a strange logic I used over the years. I didn’t deny His existence. I certainly couldn’t deny the small tuggings I felt in my heart at Mass or the knowledge that He was there somewhere. I knew He was active in everyone else’s life and that He loved everyone as a father loves his children. I just never actually counted myself among those children.

Looking back now, I realize how lonely that made me feel. Dependent only upon myself. Celebrating my victories and ruing my failures in the safety of my solitude. Deep and lasting friendships were impossible as those require a trust and faith in both people. 2 things I had given up very early on.

And then, for some reason or another, I signed up to go on this retreat at my church. I rolled my eyes, made every excuse not to go, and somehow still landed in the middle of this 32 hour experience with over 30 women I didn’t know. It was hard. I did a lot of listening and at one point I actually threw up my hands and said, “I have no friggin’ idea why I am here”.

And then I noticed that every time there was a prayer that said, “God loves You” the word You would ring in my ears. It actually tingled. And that tingle started to get annoying, so I continued to think “yea yea I know. God loves people”. And again, there would be this resounding “God loves you” in my head. It was weird and a bit terrifying.

As the retreat drug on through the night (we stayed in sleeping bags in the sanctuary) and then through the morning the call got louder. By the time the first part of the morning was over, it was screaming in my ears. And by what I can only assume was about 11am, there was a lightbulb that flipped on in my head.

“He loves me”

“He loves ME”


I was so startled and taken aback by the acceptance of those thoughts in my head I started sobbing. It was like being given a hug by a close grandparent you haven’t seen in years. I was surrounded in warmth. And peace.

And for the first time in what has to have been almost 15 years, I realized that I was lovable. That I could love me. Because He loved me.

It was awesome. It still is awesome.

I’m unsure why we as humans struggle so much with this concept. Self love. What is that? Maybe it’s because we fall into the trap of using the world’s standards for love. Maybe it’s because we are hurting or because we let things get in the way of accepting God’s love for us. Maybe we’re just so angry we don’t want to love anyone, and that includes ourselves. I don’t know.

But I do know that He’s still here with us. He could have walked away from us long ago. But he persevered and stayed and struggled with us. He carries us. He guides us. He picks us up when we think we can go no more.

And that is a love that we should model our self love after.

I’m still struggling with it. I have good days where I find peace in that immediately. I have bad days where I still think about how I wish I were skinny, or more compassionate, or smarter and I get down on myself. There are even days where I partake in behaviors that are not healthy like meal skipping or negative thinking.

But so far, I’ve been able to remind myself that God loves me.

And if that’s all I have, that’s the best foundation a person could build on. It’s a truth I can embrace and lean on. It’s a beautiful gift.

Freedom in Imperfection

One thing I’ve been working on recently has been telling the difference between excellence and perfection. To call myself an anal-retentive, relentless over achieving perfectionist would be putting it lightly. That quality can be really great sometimes. It pushes a person to strive always to do their best. The problem comes when ‘their best’ isn’t good enough for the standard they hold themselves to.

Everyone has heard “nobody is perfect” and “God doesn’t expect perfection because He is perfection” and all the other versions of those phrases. Parents say it, teachers say it, coaches say it, priests and pastors all over the world say it. For some, however, especially those of us that tend to think we know better than everyone….(ahem) actually listening to those reminders is a challenge. What do you mean ‘nobody is perfect’??? What good are we if we aren’t striving for perfection? We tend to mistake acceptance of our imperfections as being content or complacent. Some of us punish ourselves as motivation to try harder, longer, faster, better, stronger.

Ah perfection. It’s a double-edged and ugly sword. Attempting to achieve perfection is almost a sin in itself as it says “I can be on the same plane as God”. On the other hand, Satan can sneak in and grab that insecure feeling of imperfection and twist it into guilt or self doubt, displeasure and even fear of who God made us. (also a sin…)

In many areas of my life and the hats I wear I struggle with perfectionism. I want to be the perfect engineer, the perfect fitness instructor, the perfect youth minister, the perfect vocalist, the perfect friend, the perfect partner, have the perfect body, the perfect diet, the perfect running pace, be the perfect female role model for the kids in my life, ….it’s a really heavy load I burden myself with. Satan tends to step in and capitalize on this opportunity too. With every expectation of perfection is an opportunity for me to fail. Another wonderful aspect of life I struggle with. I loathe failure. And when you expect perfection…guess what life hands you?

Excellence on the other hand…God expects that from us all of the time. Excellence is the most amazing gift we can give God and the people in our lives. It’s the ability to give the tasks you take on the best you have to offer. No more, no less. Striving for and achieving excellence in all the little and big things we accomplish is the most rewarding feeling on the planet.

From smiling to the surly co-worker in the elevator, to eating healthy, to standing up in front of a whole congregation and singing filled with the spirit.

A perfectionist sees everything they didn’t manage to accomplish. All the little things they failed to do right (by their standards).

A person striving for excellence has the ability to feel the peace and satisfaction in working to BE excellent and accepting the beautiful imperfections that God graced us with.

God doesn’t make us perfect. He graces us with opportunities to be humbled. To need to ask for help. To need to work on things. To be able to accept the imperfections of others. To stand in front of a bunch of people, full of acceptance of our own imperfections, and allow them to see His grace working through us. One awesome, often eye roll worthy, stumbling block at a time.

So the next time I get out of bed and set my sights on my goals, I’m going to continue to remind myself to strive for excellence. To see the beauty in my imperfections. To keep an open mind about the lessons I can learn from them.

I encourage you all to do the same. It is quite the freeing experience!!

God doesn’t call the perfect to walk this walk with Him.