Sunday, February 26, 2012

Strip Me... What Will You Find?

People Magazine does it every year...

They dedicate an issue specifically to those they name "Most Beautiful People," and while all those featured are indeed beautiful, I can't help but ask, what are the requirements?  What is People Magazine looking for when they search out the "Most Beautiful People?" As far as I can tell, I see what is on the outside as being the primary requirement.  What do I have to negate that? What do I have to keep me realistic about what is beautiful...

God's Word:

"The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." ~ 1 Samuel 16:7

This is not a post dogging on People Magazine, in fact, I am a fan of the magazine.  It seems to be the closest to mixing celebrity and reality over any other celeb focused magazine out there.  What this post is about, however, is encouraging others to think about how they portray themselves, to think about how they would define beautiful.  If you're a parent, what are you teaching your kids about true beauty? If you're a teacher, an aunt, an uncle, a grandparent, and so on and so forth.  We all have the opportunity to impact the world we live in, the people we come in contact with everyday.  So I encourage you dear reader to keep reading... stand up, and join me in helping to change the way our society views "beautiful" and the path we are setting up for future generations.  Stand with me to get the word out this week during National Eating Disorder Awareness Week for Everybody Knows Somebody.  If you don't know someone, you do now.

Hi, my name is Cristyn and I've been walking in recovery from Anorexia Nervosa for 11 years.  My struggle started at the young age of 12 and continued until I was 19.  Six and a half years hidden under a dark cloud, in a depression, thinking my true identity laid in what the scale said, how much my hip bones stuck out, and how much faster I could run when my number dropped.  Now here I am 30, passionate to fight the fight to make a difference in what future generations see as "beautiful."

Did you know?*
- Only 1 in 10 men and women seek treatment for an eating disorder.
- Up to 24 million of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder)
- Eating Disorders have the highest mortality rate of any other mental illness
- Anorexia is the third most common chronic illness in adolescents
- An estimated 10-15% of people with anorexia or bulimia are male
- The body type portrayed in advertising as the ideal is possessed naturally by only 5% of American females

Here's me all made up for a photo shoot:

And while a lot of credit goes to the make-up artist who did my make-up and the super talented photographer who captured this moment of me.... I still, at the end of the day, go home wipe off my face and what I'm left with is what I have deep down inside me.  My heart I would hope speaks much louder than my face, my clothes, my hair, and even the shoes on my feet.

Here is me au naturale:

And yes, I have this ridiculous vein that pops out of the middle of my forehead and I'm not really sure why.  I just noticed it a couple years ago and over time I've come to embrace it as part of my natural beauty and unique look.  

One of the things I'm doing this week to help represent and embrace natural beauty is take part in the campaign, Barefaced and Beautiful, Without and Within through The Renfrew Center Foundation.  I hope that you'll join me in partaking in even something small to help raise a voice for the awareness of eating disorders.  

Although I may not be the most eloquent writer/speaker and I may not have penned a book (yet), I ask that you share this with the circle of people you are in relationship with.  Family, Friends, Church Community, Co-workers, and even strangers that follow you on Twitter or FB.  Let's be a part of something great that could change the world for generations to come!  I may only be one voice in a million, but I refuse to let anyone take that from me.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Beauty...From Ashes!!

My first thought at my life 6 months ago was this...

Oh, but after a while into those 6 months that illustration seemed a tad bit dramatic and I realized it was more like this...

And the funny thing is, the second one seems more poetic.  It's as if it represents God holding my life in His hands... or at least what initially felt like my life a few months ago.  

You see, life threw me an unexpected curve ball, much like it has in the past.  I realized things were not as they had seemed but what I found was a beauty yet to be discovered.  Often times in the past when life has thrown me curve balls I've allowed myself to get angry, to wallow, to sit and ask myself "what did I do, why this when it all seemed so good?"  And not that there is anything wrong with those feelings, but for me I would stay in that darkness for longer than I needed to.  But this time was different, it just felt like it had to be.  I'm not sure if because of the life experience before, or because I was already in the midst of a self-seeking journey.  I always already in the midst of hungering at a deeper level than ever before for the love of my Heavenly Father, to know Him at a grander scale, more intimately than ever.  I realized that those I've leaned on for so long for direction and advice need not necessarily be replaced, but most definitely not my first resource in the midst of struggle.  I was using others as a quick fix for a larger problem, a way to fix the wound at a much faster pace than what God had planned.  My heart continues to hunger at a deeper level than I've ever known and I hope and pray that I will never lose that hunger.  Should it wane I pray to continue to surround myself by a magnificent cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1).  That I would not be allowed to turn my back on God, but gently reminded of the love He has always shown me.

Over the last 26 weeks (6 months, 2 weeks) God's word has come alive like never before... words that I wrote years ago regarding Hope Deferred suddenly rings true once again and guides my heart back to the verse that inspired it...
"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life." ~ Proverbs 13:12

And then there is the verse that I was gently reminded of during a season that lasted a mere 10.5 months...
"An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up." ~ Proverbs 12:25

So much truth lies in that one sentence and so many others that come alive when I open God's word.  I long to be that person that brings others a kind word, a loving word... it's part of the reason I chose to become a counselor.  I realized soon into those 6 months of darkness that coming out of it couldn't take the length of time it has taken in the past.  I didn't want it to.  I have longed to see God's hand in the unexpected, to continue to believe in the unbelievable, to trust that the impossible truly is possible.  It has been in the last week where that clarity has finally shown through once again.  The beauty is finally arising from the ashes of what was, or what could have been.

For me this picture represents that... I believe that within the life of a butterfly is a lovely story yet to be told.  What once was a fuzzy and possibly not the most attractive caterpillar, is now a gorgeous, fluttery butterfly.  No longer having to inch along on so many legs, but now it is nearly weightless and able to fly to parts never reached before.  What a beautiful story of redemption! 

Beauty is arising from the ashes, and not a physical beauty, but rather an inner beauty I've kept hidden from myself and from the world for much too long.  The time has come to let that girl arise, the one that was silenced nearly 20 years ago.  I find my days spent thanking God for the journey I've walked, for the wisdom I've gained for the truth of His love for me.  

"There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off." ~ Proverbs 23:18

Monday, February 13, 2012

Some Assembly Required, Manual Not Included

"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." ~ 1 Peter 2:9

It is hard for me to wrap my mind around the idea of being "chosen."  God chose me... He chose you... He chose us.  That's a very hard truth for me to fully grasp sometimes.  I look at my life, I look at my failures, I look at the times I've disappointed the people I love and care about and still... He chose me? Really?!? Why???  For nothing more than He simply loves me, loves you, loves us.  Now that is a truth I can cling onto.  And sometimes, that's all I have, or at least it seems that way.  When the darkness of life falls on me, when the harsh truth that this world is not what God intends for Heaven strikes a chord with me, I cling to His love.

But how do we find rest in His love when all this world often does is throw busyness at us, and a million different reasons to feel unsettled or unloved?  My belief, at least from my own life is the realization that we are constantly being built, or altered, or stretched/challenged.  God does not intend to keep us the way we were when He first created us.  As we grow in love, in life, in experiences, we are changing.  We come with so many different parts.  Parts we don't notice when we first open the box that is our life and personality, some parts we burn out and have to replace with the same part but a newer model.  Sometimes as we grow we find that some parts that fit well for awhile no longer fit us, we are ready for something more advanced or more challenging.  But what doesn't come with these parts, what is not included as we form into all God has intended us to be is a manual.  Yes, we have His word and I am a firm believer that part of its purpose is to guide us through this life here on earth.  But what about the times when you can't see past your own wall of tears?  What then?  Broken hearts don't have a manual with a step by step explanation of how to become whole again.  How to survive the unexpected loss of a loved one has no A, B, C connect the dots relief.

My belief is it is a combination of things that create that manual.  First, is God's word, for there is so much healing hidden in His word.  Words that I may never have found if my heart hadn't been broken so many times, if I hadn't had that experience of losing my nephew when I least expected it.... and quite possibly if I hadn't tried to destroy my own body.  I thank God that He is using His word to repair my heart and to shout out His love for me when I don't quite understand why He chose me.  Secondly, is time.  One of the greatest things I've heard in my adult life is that "time is your best friend."  It's so true, as impatient as I can get sometimes, I look back on my life and I think "Praise God all it took was some time."  I'm in one of those moments right now, I look back on the last 6 months of my life and it's been hard, but not my hardest season of life.  It has been an opportunity filled with disappointment from man, but filled with new understanding and deeper love for my Heavenly Father.  It has been time to reflect over the years before and see where I am not trusting God and where I'm trying so hard to do the work alone, by my own strength.

I don't know where I'm headed, I know where I'd like to be, but I'm finding where I want to be and where God wants me to be doesn't always add up to "where I'm headed."  I look forward to the continued assembling of my life through the hands of the King.  I look forward to not knowing how to assemble or what the manual says.  I look forward to creating it as the Lord best sees fit.  I look forward to growing closer to the One who chose little 'ole me.