Thursday, February 28, 2013

My Plug for NEDAwareness

This week is NEDAwareness week (National Eating Disorder Awareness). 

You probably didn't know that. I just found out a couple of years ago.


It's interesting, today there seems to be a week/month dedicated to awareness for pretty much everything. Ignorance makes them easy to cast aside and ignore - yet isn't that the primary purpose behind many of these awareness periods? To build support and help the unknowledgeable become aware of and hopefully understand what someone else might be going through?

I thought about posting a picture of myself during my anorexic years, when I was at a weight that makes me shudder to think about today. But I think it is unnecessary. Would seeing a picture of a super-skinny me really help others understand the claws of this disease? More likely it would cause a response of pity, or questions about how could I not see how thin I was. But that is exactly the problem. I didn't see how badly I was hurting my body and the layperson (or even my parents) didn't understand how I could not.

The only way I can think to describe it is like when you stand before one of those fun house mirrors. Outsiders who are looking at you see your real size and shape, while you, looking in the mirror, see a distorted image - only in your mind it's not distorted at all. For me, ED was like a poison seeping into all aspects of my life. It affected my school, home, and spiritual lives - even before I knew what was going on. 

The hardest part is the recognition that part of the disease is self-inflicting. Notice that I said part. Recovering from ED only partially involves gaining weight (this was in my case - remember eating disorders can effect those of all shapes and sizes, it is not only the super thin that may be struggling with  an unhealthy relationship with food or distorted body image), the other part is learning to break free of the mental control ED exercises. Eating disorders are a disease.

I'm lucky. Today there are still times where I struggle with anorexic thoughts, but I'm blessed to have a solid support system that has helped me heal enough to be able to recognize those thoughts and identify them as wrong and deceiving.

I'm also scared.

There are so many women who are infected with the disease and the age in which girls seem to becoming body conscious is getting younger and younger. It would take me only a moment to list off a dozen girls I know who do/have struggled with an eating disorder. Some are doing well, while others are on a multi-year journey that never seems to end. Sometimes I catch myself (when interacting with someone with ED) just wanting to shake them and say - "I know this is hard - I KNOW, but you have to believe me....things are so much better on the other side. The first couple of pounds are the hardest, but it gets so much easier to love yourself and love life again!"  But even if I did that they probably wouldn't believe me, I know because people told me the same thing, and I told them they were wrong.

You can do something.

If you are a mother/aunt/big sister/big cousin/mentor, etc.: 

1. Watch how you talk about your body and others bodies in front of young girls (and even older ones!). You are a model for someone younger and your dissatisfaction in your own body or criticism of others can make significant imprints on a younger woman.

2. Watch how you talk about dieting - we live in a society that always has some get-thin-fast scheme. Rather, focus on emphasizing a healthy balance of eating and exercising.

3. Emphasize that true worth and beauty comes from having a relationship with Christ - there is nothing more important than a recognition that we were created in the image of God, and he makes NO mistakes.

4. Watch for warning signs - if you have a friend, daughter, cousin, sibling, etc. that begins to exhibit concerning behavior/attitudes, confront it right away - don't let things go further!

5. Pray. Pray for those you know are struggling and pray for the vulnerable women/girls in your own life. Physical illnesses are often emphasized to pray for healing for, but the truth is that we cannot forget those who are struggling mentally as well! They need just as many prayers!

And if you are struggling with an eating disorder - know that you are not alone, that you are loved for who you are - not by what your size is. Tell someone what is going on and seek help! Feel free to contact me as well (my email is under the "contact" tab). Part of my healing happened when I talked to others and learned how they had made it through and handled triggers - other times it just helped to have someone listen who really knew what it felt like.



There is another reason I didn't post that picture of me at my lowest weight - it's because it simply hurts too much. 

I'm happy where I am today and know that my experience with ED has helped shape me, but when I think about 16-year-old Julianne my heart hurts. When I think of the tears she shed of confusion,  loneliness, and loss I want to hold her in my arms and tell her that everything is going to be alright. And when I see pictures of her it is my fervent prayer that my daughters, nieces, and friends never experience what she did.




Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Bridging the Gap

A couple of weeks ago a friend asked me about bridging the age gap in sibling relationships. I started to  respond and had to stop and laugh at myself because I kept going - and going - and going! This is a topic that has become very near and dear to my heart over the last couple of years and apparently I have stored up more thoughts on the matter than I thought!

I grew up as the youngest of 3 with a 7 and 9.5 year gap between myself and my older brothers. Today, I know many families who have even larger age gaps between their children, but when I was younger I felt like an anomaly.

1989

I always wanted to be close to my brothers, perhaps this came more naturally to me because I am a girl or the youngest, but the reality is that it has not been an easy journey.

I'd like to preface this by saying that my brothers are truly some of the most incredible men I know. They both have solid relationships with God, are excellent husbands, and loving fathers. I highly admire and respect them and love living close enough that we get to see eachother often.

But lets backtrack a few years....

My brothers like to remind me that I was really cute and lovable - for about the first 2 years of my life. Then I apparently got annoying (although I do give them some credit in this area, when I started talking I had a hard time stopping!!). The challenging part for me was that as I grew up I never felt like I was ever able to grow out of that "little girl" role in my brother's eyes. As the years went by I found myself really desiring a closer relationship with my brothers (and my sisters-in-law).

1997

Today, my brothers and my relationships are a lot better - although they are still a never-ending work in progress! Some days I am really encouraged, and other days it feels like we've taken 10 steps back. One of my biggest prayers is that someday our sibling relationship will just come natural - rather than something that always feels like a relationship we have to be intentional about! Below are some of the things that have helped (or that I think would have helped even more) in bridging our age/gender gap - although keep in mind that I am only able to write from the younger sibling perspective!


Older Siblings

- Take some time to intentionally step out of an "authority role." Find some time to do something together with your younger siblings as friends and treat them as the young adults they are becoming. Some of my favorite memories with my brothers over the last couple of years have been the times we spent one-on-one doing something we loved or trying something new together (i.e. trying surfing [also ridiculously comical], grabbing ice cream together, going to a baseball game, etc.)

- Be interested in just talking to your younger siblings and getting to know them as they grow and change - let them know you are recognizing them getting older. This was one of the most difficult hurdles to overcome with my brothers. Nathan left for college when I was almost 9 and Todd when I was 11 - consequently as I got older they continued to treat me like I was the annoying little sister they had left behind.

- Acts of Service (see below, I can speak better about this from a younger sibling perspective)

2010

- Occasionally include them in activities you might typically just do with your same age/gendered siblings. Not all the time, but this is another way to let them know that you are recognizing that they are getting older and you enjoy their company. I remember one time when I was around 20/21 and was home from school on break. My brothers were going out for dinner with their wives and called me up and asked me to join them - I'll never forget how excited I was :)

-Words of affirmation - this is my love language, so maybe it means more to me, but the moments where my brothers and SILs have taken the time to say or write words of affirmation has meant so much. "I love you" or "I'm proud of you" mean so much coming from them - partially because I respect and admire them both so much!

Younger Siblings

- Acts of Service - this is what I believe really started to change my sibling relationships. Look for ways you can serve your siblings and their families and show that you want to be part of their lives and care about them.

- Communication - let them know how you are feeling, that you desire a relationship or want to spend more time together.

2010

- Respect - respect their space and time. This was something I needed to work on from my perspective. My desire to be close to them, especially when I was younger, could tend to come off as smothering - physically and emotionally.

- Realize that it doesn't have to be perfect all the time!

- Give it time. My brothers and I really didn't start getting closer until I hit about 19/20. They have always been my protectors and i have always known they loved me, but for us it has been a journey of all of us needing to mature. Today I wouldn't trade them in for anything :) They still take on authority positions at times - i.e. When I was thinking about quitting law school after my 1L year they sat down with me (picture 3 chairs in a triangle) and set me straight in a very brotherly fashion, but they have also become the ones I often turn to first when in need for advice or direction.

2011

One of the best parts of having older brothers? I got 2 great sisters-in-law and got to be an aunt early on!





Friday, February 22, 2013

Not in MI Anymore....

1. Cheese curds for dinner.

2. Seeing friends I don't get to see nearly enough.

3. Seeing a man I don't get to see nearly enough :)

4. Waking up to a snowstorm only to go on Facebook and find out my MI friends are complaining of the "same" storm only it's about 10 degrees warmer there and they have several inches less of snow....

5. Attempting to make cookies in an incredible man's kitchen, only to realize his only mixing bowl is a decorative wooden bowl, his cookie sheet a pizza sheet with holes in the bottom and he has literally never used the oven in the 6+ months he has been in the apartment.

Only in Minnesota!





Thursday, February 14, 2013

3 Words

Everyday 3 special words are said over and over and over again. Today tends to be a day where people stop and reflect on those words - that phrase - a little longer than normal. Sometimes I wonder if those words have lost their meaning. Sometimes I catch myself saying them out of habit rather than true sincerity.

I
LOVE
YOU

"Love" is a powerful word. It can build someone up in an instant and just as easily tear them down. It can also be used haphazardly. Think about how many times in the past day or week you've said you "love" something or someone. Did you really mean it? Today, it is just as common for someone to use "love" to describe the feelings they have for their spouse....or a dish of ice cream.

Words matter a lot to me. Have you ever studied the 5 love languages? (If you haven't I highly recommend it, there are books tailored to couples, singles, and parents) My primary love language is words of affirmation. Actions are great, but if you really care about me - I need you to tell me how you feel.

When Brandon and I started dating I was hesitant about using these words. I had started to realize that they had lost some of their meaning to me - they had simply become a normality, or even something I said at time in an attempt to convince myself of what I thought I should be feeling. I didn't want to carry those feelings into a new relationship.

So I did something a little out of the ordinary. Before we officially started "dating" I asked Brandon if he would be willing to refrain from saying this special phrase to me until any engagement. I think he thought I was a little nuts at first, but we both took some time to think and pray about it and ultimately decided that in addition to my feelings, it would be a good emotional boundary to establish in our relationship.

How have we done? 

I would be lying to you if I said it was easy, or that there has never been any temptation, but I can honestly say that I think it has been such a blessing to our relationship thus far. I mentioned earlier that my love language was words of affirmation, so this boundary has caused me to look for and give "love" in different ways than I would typically do! Consequently, quality time and acts of service have become huge components in my relationship with Brandon! We both know how much we care about each other, but it is not because of the words we say, but what we do - the conversations we have, the way in which we challenge and encourage one another, his commitment to developing a relationship with my family (my dad in particular), our willingness to spend time and money to travel to spend a weekend together, etc.

The best part is that I know someday when those words are exchanged, they will mean so much more.

In the meantime, today in the mail I got 3 roses - 3 roses that I know stand for 3 words that are preciously being saved to say.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Stepping Out

 This weekend I stepped out of my comfort zone and embraced Indian food for the second time in the past 2 months. With Brandon’s birthday just around the corner I took him out for his favorite (and previously one of my least-favorite) foods. Although the restauraunt had come recommended, we were both surprised by how delicious the food was – and I am now a convert! This may not sound like a big deal, but I have very few foods that I stay away from, with Indian historically being one of them. My disfavor can easily be summed up by the fact that I got sick after the first time I ate Indian food as well as when I was in Kenya (where many of the food has Indian inspiration and similar smells/textures).



Each time I find a new favorite food or activity I am always struck by the benefits of stepping out of my comfort zone! 



I think such a statement can easily be applied to one's faith walk as well. 



I was raised in what many would consider to be a "Christian bubble." I was blessed to be raised by parents who had a solid faith and who were committed to making sure my brother's and I came to know Christ the way they did. I went to a private Christian school from preschool through college and almost all of my friends were from school or church and were consequently raised in very similar faith-based homes as I was. 



In high school I first started hearing the term "Christian bubble" tossed around in disdain. There seemed to be a reproach by some that my life was so sheltered that I wasn't getting exposed to the "real world." Innately, I tend to disagree with this philosophy. Yes, I was sheltered, but in no way do I consider that a bad thing. In fact, I think that my upbringing allowed me opportunities to become solid in my understanding of what I believed and why I believed it before I was challenged to defend that belief.



However, as I grew older I realized that my upbringing also caused me to be naturally more comfortable in faith-focused settings - i.e. with a group of Christian friends, at church, in a classroom with classmates and teachers who shared my beliefs, etc. I think such a comfort can become a downfall. If one becomes too satisfied in their "comfort zone" there is the possibility that they will isolate themselves and refrain from sharing Christ's message to those who desperately need it around them.


Some of my best life experiences have come in moments where I have stepped out of my comfort zone - taking a favorite (but incredibly challenging) course in college, traveling to Kenya, going to law school, etc. But I don't just want to step out of my comfort zone for experiences that benefit me - but also in situations that can benefit others. 

Me being oh-so-happy to have law books to read (entering law school was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life!)

Additionally, the Bible talks of how we are called to step out of our comfort zones! In Matthew 14 Christ tells Peter to step out of the boat and walk on the water based on faith. In Exodus 6 God gives Moses the strength to speak for the Israelite slaves - something that was clearly outside of his comfort zone!

God can work in incredible ways through what we might perceive to be our weaknesses or insecurities.

Have you stepped out of your comfort zone recently?


Friday, February 8, 2013

Keen-wah


I'm not one to jump on food-fads very often. I grew up in a house where we ate in a very healthy and balanced manner and I have not significantly changed any of my eating habits over the years. Consequently when a new "great" food plan is revealed I tend to ignore it and continue on my way.

I presumed quinoa was one of those fads.

The past couple of weeks I've been working on actually trying the things I pin, rather than simply pinning. I'd found a quinoa recipe that looked good, and if you follow me on pinterest it would be pretty easy to see that I thought it was a success. I now have an entire board dedicated to quinoa. 

What is quinoa? 

- A grain that originated in South America - smaller and more circular than a grain of rice
- Gluten free (I don't need to be concerned about this, but going gluten free seems to be helping many with various health problems)
- Low in cholesterol and sodium
- A great source of protein (significantly more than rice - another similar grain)
- Quick and easy to prepare
- Versatile - can be used in baked goods, breakfast/lunch/dinner meals as either an entree or a side dish

This is the dish I made this week and fell in love with - in fact I've made it twice so far and had enough for dinner and lunch the next day.

Enjoy!


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Reflection


So far January and February have succumbed to a season of poor blogging. I was reflecting the other day on why my posts have been infrequent and a little too “fuffy” for my taste, here is what I came up with:

First, I’ve simply had writers block. I’ve found that getting through my last semester is taking a lot more concintration than I thought – mostly because it is so hard to stay focused when the end is finally near. (Plus most of my writing energy has gone into papers - but somehow I don't think my views on city funding for domestic violence shelters or the cycle of abuse displayed by teens raised in homes where domestic violence was presence would be of much interest to my readers here :) ).

Second, I have been busy living life! The last semester of law school has brought the joys of job hunting and filling out my BAR application (think hours spent recounting everything and everywhere you have been for the last decade). I’ve also had an incredibly wonderful man coming out for visits every other weekend and, not knowing what the future will bring, I’ve been spending a lot of time with my family and treasuring the moments I have watching my nieces and nephew grow.

Although this season has been busy I mentioned to a friend the other day that I feel so incredibly blessed!

I don’t know about you, but sometimes in life I find my spiritual life wandering when things seem to be going “so good” at a daily level. One of the things I love about the Psalms is that it is a book filled with clear expressions of highs and lows and reiterates that it is important to call out and praise the Lord in both the good times and the bad.

Personally, it’s easy for me to call out to the Lord when I am having a low day/season. I tend to let my stress and frustrations consume me (not a positive trait…) and consequently in those times I have a hard time thinking of anything but what is going wrong. It is not only easy to cry out to the Lord in frustration, but I also feel as though I am more willing to look for the blessings that are in my life and lean on my faith.

On the other hand, during seasons of highs and success I often find myself falling into the temptation of thinking that I can do it all on my own! What a lie. How easy is it to accomplish something and then forget to give credit to those who spent time investing in and supporting you?

"The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord."
Job 1:21

Brandon and I were talking the other day about how important it is to focus our sole purpose/goal in life being to serve God and striving to follow his plans. In recognizing such a purpose it is essential to keep God at the center of everything - our work, our relationships, our successes, etc. HE is the reason behind every accomplishment and every blessing, just as it is HE who gives us the strength to push through challenges, illness, and loss. 

"In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."
1 Thessalonians 5:18

God seeks our unconditional praise in the good times and the bad!



Sunday, February 3, 2013

Favorite Super Bowl Moment...

Dave Ramsey's tweet post-blackout....


"Super Bowl needs an envelope for their electric bill?"