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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.
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!
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.
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:
“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.
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.
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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