The Face of Change

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Well folks, buckle your seat belts because we are officially in the Christmas season!

Yep, as I type this, I’m sitting in my parents living room, with a fire going, sipping cinnamon tea, listening to Christmas music on the Sonos, and looking at the beautiful Christmas tree my mom and I decorated today.

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I don’t know about you, but I love decorating for Christmas. Growing up, I always wanted to be an elf — like legitimately. I’d hide notes and gifts for my friends in the woods. haha But there’s nothing I love more than turning on some Christmas tunes, and decking those halls!

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Oddly enough, I don’t put up a tree at my apartment in NYC, but I make up for it in Ohio, believe me! 

So we have two Christmas trees in Ohio. One tree is kind of…glitzy, with antique glass balls. Many of which my mom’s grandmother brought over from Germany.

But then our other tree, is my favorite. It’s our photo ornament tree. Every year since the 80’s, my mom has been making photo ornament sets of the growing family – one photo ornament of each person, each year. So yes – our tree is packed with ornaments. But it’s so fun to spend 15 minutes and take a trip down memory lane, seeing how we all have changed and grown over the years. Which, for someone with anorexia in her past, that trip down memory lane is not always the most enjoyable — especially when there’s photo evidence, literally documenting the transformation and timeline.

About halfway through the decorating process, the inevitable happened: I came across the photo ornament from that time during my eating disorder. And there, staring back at me, was my sick, emaciated face – dead behind the eyes, and with a smile that was desperately hanging on for dear life.

I pulled it out of the box, and I immediately lost my breath, and felt my stomach drop.

I’m going to put *this* one all the way in the back. Hide this hideous girl,” I groaned to my mom, as I hung it facing the wall, at the very bottom.

And without even missing a beat my mom goes, “I love that girl.. I love her just as much as I do now. She deserves all the love in the world.” 

And hearing her say that, with such a loving and genuine tone that can only come from a mother, my eyes swelled up, and I got a lump in my throat.

Ever since my mom’s stroke, almost two years ago now, she says what means, and means what she says. It’s a beautiful quality that has bloomed in her, during her recovery process.

Further to that, she has gained this beautiful depth to her spirit. She sees people. She feels their spirit, and has such a powerful, yet innocent, perspective, and speaks with absolute sincerity. I think she has a special connection with the Holy Spirit ever since we nearly lost her, almost two years ago.

But hearing her affirm that part of me, which still causes me so much shame and guilt, I just went over to her and hugged her. For a minute or so, we just swayed, back and forth in front of the tree, silently communicating at a soul level, love that can’t adequately be expressed through words.

My mom has always been a beautiful example of Christ’s love in my life. Time and time again, she demonstrates unconditional love. Love that transcends circumstances. That doesn’t ask for anything in return. That believes the best.

And I think I’ve come a long way in finding peace with that “dark period” of my past. But I still need to let go of the shame.

I know that God has forgiven me. I know that He has transformed my heart and rescued my spirit from the darkness that was ruling my life through the eating disorder.

Now it’s my turn to follow suit. To show that girl some grace. To love her despite her clearly visible struggles.

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After our little embrace there, in front of the tree, we returned to hanging ornaments. And wouldn’t you know, that the very next ornament I grabbed, was not a photo ornament at all, but rather a very special angel. On it, was engraved the serenity prayer – the very same prayer that I would pray every single day at inpatient treatment. It has been instrumental in my recovery. It goes:

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God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen.”

And in that moment, I realized that this was God giving me a hug, too.

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We all have a past. Every single one of us. There are trials that we’ve overcome, hurts that we’ve endured, difficult seasons of life that have tested our limits.

Reading that prayer, I was reminded that God is in control. God will use all things for good. Namely, empowering me to change. To grow. To actively participate in my recovery, and change the things I am capable of changing: through healthy decisions, surrounding myself with people and environments that are positive and life giving.

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God will take care of the rest. And everything else — just let it go.

So that’s my challenge to me and to you today. To let go of the guilt and shame that’s holding me back from letting someone in. Let go of it. It is in the past. I cannot change the fact that it happened. But what I can change, is my attitude towards that period of my life. And I can adopt my mom’s beautiful example: choosing to love her — especially when she needs it most.

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129 thoughts on “The Face of Change

    1. Oh my gosh, thank you so much Teri, yeah i am so so grateful for her. she is truly my best friend. hugs x

  1. Great thoughts! Keep sharing with your family, family is a true blessing that God gives us! I always remember the Christmas’ with my parents and family, though all gone now. Just my cat and I, so I don’t put up a tree either, though I think my cat would probably love it. God bless! Steve.

    1. Thank you so much Steve 🙂 Family truly is the greatest blessing! awww, cats are so cute 🙂 hugs xo

  2. That is so beautiful! I definitely need to let go of the shame and guilt of the past more and more. You guys have a wonderful loving family! God bless you all! P.S. We are decorating our tree tonight!

  3. What a great Mom you have and what a very cool post! This one is one of my favorites.
    And you know what? I see a lot of positive things going on in your heart. I can’t help but think that maybe God is preparing you for that “special” someone.

    1. I really do have an incredible mother. Thank you so much for that encouragement! Isn’t that an exciting thought!! Hugs and love xox

  4. You feel very fortunate to have a mother love you and support you the way she does. I can say that she is very fortunately to have a gorgeous and good hearted woman like you.

    1. Thanks so much JB. you’re right about that – I don’t take for granted for a second the love and support she has given me my entire life. Thanks for stopping by. Hugs and love xox

    1. Why thank you Ian! I appreciate you watching! Hope you’re having a great night! Hugs and love xox

    1. Thank you John! Hah I know we’re early. But it was either that or not decorate it together. I leave for nyc tomorrow! Hugs and love xox

      1. thank you again. You’re right – she is such a strong and brave woman. i look up to her so much! 🙂 hugs x

  5. Oh my goodness, I had goosebumps reading this! Sending a big hug to you and your mom. Thank you for sharing another beutiful piece of your story. Oh, and I love the idea of a photo ornament tree.

    1. Hi J! Oh gosh what a kind thing to say. I will pass along the hug! Yes! The photo ornament tree is so special 🙂 I’m about to post one of my favorite ornaments on Instagram of when I was a kid! Haha Precious memories. Thanks for stopping by! Hugs and love xox

  6. Yes, I agree- “God will use all things for good.” I have managed to discover ‘good’ after my 7-year-old was killed. But it took some time which is different for all. But it’s there with God’s help.

    1. Oh my gosh, Dawn, my heart goes out to you. Gosh my deepest prayers are with you and your family. I’m so glad you’ve found healing and peace with God’s help. I pray that you feel His loving arms around you. And that you find some comfort in knowing that your child is in Jesus’ warm and loving embrace. Oh friend. I love you so. Sending so much love and hugs and prayers.

  7. You may have experienced dark times but God always had his hand on you and would not let you go. He worked through your mother’s prayers. You are a child of the light-Jesus. I am glad you can enjoy Christmas activities with your family. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for this powerful perspective. You’re so right about that – my mom prayed so so hard for me – God would not let me go. Hallelujah God is good! Hugs and love xox

    1. Yeah – it was either decorate now or not be able to do it together because I leave today for nyc.

  8. This line right here… I was able to keep holding back the tears until I read this line:
    “Further to that, she has gained this beautiful depth to her spirit. She sees people. She feels their spirit, and has such a powerful, yet innocent, perspective, and speaks with absolute sincerity.” May every child be able to say this about their parent. May everyone who says we follow Christ show this to others. This is love at depths we often forget as humans today. Beautiful post.

    1. Aww thank you Shell. Yeah I look up to my mama so so much. I appreciate you stopping by! Hugs and love xox

  9. My dear friend,

    I am back from India now and this is the first time after this trip to read you here again.
    You have a really wonderful mother, who loves her child in all situations – all may change but this love never changes – in my thoughts I embrace you both for such great love – thank you my friend 🙂

    As you also write: we all have our past… “In this connection holy Saints said: “Every Saint has his past and every sinner his future…”

    When we think of God, then God is very close to us and when we forget Him He is at distance.

    Much love to you and your family
    With hugs from my heart
    Didi

    1. Thank you so much Didi! Oh wow I’m glad you’re back safe and sound! I hope you had an amazing trip! Yes- she is such a wonderful mom. I am grateful for her! Hugs and love xox

      1. Thanks, my dear friend 🙂 Yes, I had a wonderful trip and I want to share with you one extraordinary experience I had there – not because of me, but to share the competence of God.

        In the evening time I usually made walks around Kirpal Sagar, then I went to the Sarovar (were all symbols of all worldreligions are peacefully under one roof) to walk around there. Suddenly I became aware of a very intensive rose smell, but no roses were close by. In the next moment I looked to the night sky and felt a power drawing me upwards, with words I can hardly describe it – it was a wonderful feeling, like if my spirit was put into a higher dimenson, in this state I felt an immense peace, a peaceful eternity that was giving me a hug – I felt small and happy at the same time – it was a divine touch.

        You are the first I share this experience in public – normally I keep rather silent about those experiences – because I do not want to make my person appear important, but direct to the importance of the love of God.

        Hugs and love my friend
        Didi

      2. Oh my gosh what an incredible experience!!!! Thank you for sharing that with me. Yes! The love of God!! Hugs and love xox

  10. Caralyn, it is so true that we are lovable no matter what our behavior. We need love the most when our performance does not match the precious person we are. Your mother is wise in her response to you. The girl with the eating disorder had the same spunk as you, grabbing ahold of life despite all the challenges. This girl did not give up and grew through her pain. She deserves love and nurture because she is a part of whom you are–awesome! Hugs and much love!

    1. Thanks so much friend. You’re so right – that’s when we need it the most. Thanks for those kind words 🙂 I am so grateful for the support 🙂 Hugs and love xox

  11. My friend and I have this phrase we use on eachother, like our parting tagline: “Let’s love them back to life”
    This is what your mother and all who were there for you did. They loved you back to life, as Jesus did for us. So we must continue the train and keep loving others back to life. Thanks for sharing this post, cos I also might copy that family tradition of photo ornaments 😃

    1. Let’s love them back to life. Oh wow that is so powerful. Yes – that is what they did! Thanks Alethea 🙂 big big hugs to you, dear friend. Xox

  12. “I love that girl.. I love her just as much as I do now. She deserves all the love in the world.”

    What a beautiful example of God’s love for each one of us. He loves us as we are, while we are a mess, before we recognize our own mess, He loves us.

  13. As we get older the things we remember are the small things and those special moments because it sure isn’t about the big stuff!

  14. Caralyn, I really look forward to your posts. You share your life as if we are Family. I look forward to an invite. Ha Ha, Fat chance, but that is how warm and close they come across. The Holidays are “SO FAMILY”, and it feels good to see what it is like to be a part of it. Thanks for the peek.

    1. Oh my gosh what a kind thing to say:) hahah keep an eye out in your mailbox 😉 haha it really is! Thank you. Hugs and love xox

  15. What an amazing experience! We really enjoyed ourselves with my parents for Thanksgiving last week. The meal was great, we had several friends join us, and then it was just the four of us from 4:30 p.m. on. We spent several hours laughing, talking, sharing stories – The time flew by. I felt so full and joyful, but I also hated to leave. At the same time, I’m so grateful that my parents are only 10 miles away from me, and I needed that reminder! God is SO GOOD! Wishing you many, many blessings as the holiday season gets into full swing!

    1. Thanks Laura Beth! Yes! God was helping us decorate that tree for sure 🙂 so glad you had a wonderful thanksgiving as well!! 10 miles – that’s so AWESOME! And yes! God is Good!! Hugs and love xox

    1. Thank you so much 🙂 you’re absolutely right – a tremendous blessing indeed! Hugs and love xox

  16. “We all have a past. Every single one of us. There are trials that we’ve overcome, hurts that we’ve endured, difficult seasons of life that have tested our limits.” Wow! Can I ever identify! What an awesome article and what an awesome mother, too!!! Blessings to you, your family, and friends!

  17. Reading you, looking into your shining eyes, I remember something Mother Teresa said about prayer: “May God break my heart so completely that the whole world falls in.” It’s a beautiful way to think about its healing dimension. One more thing: all of us here, we’ve fallen into you. – tsk

  18. What a beautiful picture of the tree. What a beautiful house. And a beautiful post that made me cry. Your mom is a wise beautiful lady.

    1. Thanks so much!! Yes! I love connecting on Instagram! It’s a real time way to communicate! Hugs and love xox

  19. What’s crazy for me is reading journal entries from times of my active addiction. Recalling the mindsets I had and what I believed about myself in those times, it’s hard to believe I actually believe what I believed , lol! It’s truly amazing to see that transformation and I would argue it’s good to see it. Great post!

    1. Than you so much Peter for sharing that. I’m so glad you’ve found freedom in the transformation too!! Hugs and love xox

  20. Hey Caralyn: A small challenge for you, wrapped in love.
    In your post, you received a huge hug from your Mom, (I love your Mom and your Mom stories by the way), and felt good.
    Then, you felt a hug from God as you picked up the next ornament, with the Serenity Prayer, that you prayed during recovery, (I love your God stories too), and you felt good.
    NOW, how about giving yourself a big hug, and receiving the big hug from you. (I love your “you” stories too, well I admit, everything about you is easy for me to love), and you will feel good too.

    God Bless you, Caralyn.
    Luv. 😀❤️🌹😘

    1. Awww George this just made me smile, thank you. Yes! I really should give myself a hug 🙂 thanks for encouraging me to do that. You’re a great friend. Biggest of hugs to you, my dear pal 🙂 xo

  21. Yup, this made me tear up. Your mom sounds wonderful. May you have many more Christmases together decorating your trees. And the Serenity Prayer is a favorite of mine – different recovery, same meaning.

    1. Aww thank you so much. She really is such an incredible mom. I am so grateful for her in my life. Amen – there is power in prayer! Hugs and love xox

  22. this is such an awesome tradition! each year since my husband and i have been married we get each other an ornament. and now we pick on each year that suits the kids. it’s so much fun to look back and see all the ornaments!

    1. Thank you so much! Just about and hour and a half! Not bad when there were several hands helping! Hugs and love xox

  23. A mothers love is unconditional and endless ! This teared me up . You are so blessed ! And thank you for posting the Serenity Prayer that was what I needed to read right now as I’m settled in bed and ready to say my prayers . Hugs 🙂

    1. You’re so right about that. I really am – she is such a good mom. Glad the prayer struck a chord with your heart 🙂 sending big hugs! Xox

    1. Thank you Victoria – yes, dark, but that’s where God’s light can shine the brightest! God is so good! thanks for stopping by! big hugs xo

  24. wow your xmas post is beautiful sentimental touching spirit filled and and message of recovery Btw your pic at top of your page is gorgeous too

  25. As always, I loved your post, so raw and honest, gives a great new perspective on life. I ordered your journal book a few weeks ago. I haven’t cracked it open yet, mostly because I am afraid to do so. I struggled with anorexia for about 7 years all through my teen years. I went into treatment for my eating disorder and drug addiction. I truly did get freedom and healing that can only be found in Christ Jesus (it was a Christian non-profit so they taught me all about the Savior). That was over ten years ago and I haven’t really ever relapsed, at least not back in that direction. I have since in the last couple of years developed a new addiction with food, I have been struggling with overeating and eating based upon my emotions. Though your book Bloom is rooted in the issues of anorexia, I had felt for a few months now that I needed to buy it and work through it. Because the root of my overeating is the same as my root of anorexia. Unfortunately, I do not know what that root is, but I do believe I can determine it through working through your book. So thank you for being so open and raw in your honesty on here and thank you for writing your book. I will be sure to write about it on my blog as I work through it.

    I am hoping to find someone to mentor me through this as well, I have met with a few people but they are not the right fit unfortunately.

    1. Thank you so much, friend, for sharing your story. My heart and prayers and with you as you work through my book. 💛 You’re so right – the root is absolutely the same, and I know that complete and total healing and freedom is possible and in your horizon!! You’ve got this, warrior. Cheering for you as you reclaim your life. Hugs and love xox

  26. Love both the prayer and the last quote at the conclusion of this post! It really spoke to me! All of us have a past that is dead and new we are reapers of the new life in Christ that us being formed and moulded daily! May you continue to be comforted by the warm embrace of the Holy Spirit and be he give you the strength to continue to move forward in Jesus name! Blessings to you & your lovely Mom! <3 she's a gem from our Heavenly Father, I mean aren't all Mommies? Lol

    1. Thank you 🙂 I really appreciate your kind words and for all your wonderful comments this morning! You’re on a reading roll!! And yes! Moms are the best! Hugs and love xox

  27. Those are missing footprints days. 😉 Those days will forever be just between you and Him. Yet He will use them to pour through you so that others see Him! <3 Me and God have faith in you, Caralyn!

    1. You’re so right about that, Gail! Missing footprints. Thank you so much, my dear friend. Hugs and love xox

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