Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Tomorrow...

Neil's New Year (Continued)

Neil's New Year...

He has it

Resolve: Trust the Process

Trust the Process

Process, Process, Process

Reflection (Encore)

“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he...” Proverbs 23:7 Mirror, Mirror. We’re now at that reflective time of year, aren’t we? The holiday season makes us more introspective about the state of our lives. And New Year’s is the ultimate in that introspection. As one year comes to a close and another one begins, we can find ourselves wondering, “Am I any different/better now than I was a year ago? Will I be any different/better in the new year?” Thus, the New Year’s resolutions. Feel free to groan right here. Ah, yes, the ever hopeful promise/solution of the resolution. We look at ourselves with discontent, determining we have to change who we are because it isn’t good enough in some way. We see ourselves through the looking glass of subpar and believe that if/when we change, life will feel better for us in some way. And that’s not to discount making healthy choices and living in nondestructive ways. But let’s not confuse those actions with idolizing and banking on the resolution as a better, more relevant answer than God is in our lives. It isn’t and will never be. “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23 New Year’s Eve, with all of its tricky resolution traps, can leave us feeling like we’re walking through a minefield of funhouse mirrors. Only the reflection is never fun and can cut us with its jagged shards. But God wants different things for us. He wants us to feel hope, not dread, encouragement, not despair. I know; it’s a tall order, isn’t it? But, perhaps, we just need a small shift in our thinking. What if we spent some time viewing God’s resolution for us as more powerful, hopeful and lasting than our own? What if we spent time focusing on the victory of the Jeremiah 29:11 resolution, for example, instead of looking at the failure of our own imperfect and puny resolutions? “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” What if we entertained the reality that God is helping us, no matter what time of year it is? “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go: I will guide you with My eye.” Psalm 32:8 “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, This is the way, walk in it, whenever you turn to the right hand, and whenever turn to the left.’” Isaiah 30:21 What if we resolved to begin to focus, however imperfectly, on the Promise of God’s Word and desire to love and bless us, even in spite of ourselves and any broken resolutions? “Since you were precious in my sight… I have loved you…” Isaiah 43:4 > “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 “The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” Jeremiah 31:3 What if we changed the focus of our reflection from reflecting on ourselves to reflecting on God in us, “the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27)? What would THAT be like? Let’s endeavor, as imperfectly as it may be, to approach not only the new year that way, but also God and our very selves that way as well!!! Happy New Year; happy 2014 and beyond!!! Copyright © 2013 by Sheryle Cruse

Still A Future (Encore)

Don’t give up. Three little hard to live by, hard to hear words, aren’t they? As we reflect on our lives, there seems to be a lot of disappointment surfacing. There seems to be a lot of condemnation, finger pointing, berating and beating ourselves up. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, huh? There is still a future, no matter how trying or bleak things seem to be now- or even appear to be in the future. Regardless, God is still here. He’s still unchanging in His decision about you, His love for you, His plans for you… “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 It’s not hopeless for you, whatever you’ve done, wherever you’ve been. As Oscar Wilde puts it… Yep, still a future. You don’t need to have mammoth faith in these words. Just a mustard seed size of faith is needed. And you have that. Yes, you do. If you’re still breathing, you have that faith already. And yes, you do have a future!!! Celebrate it NOW!!! Copyright © 2013 by Sheryle Cruse

Keeping It Real (Resolution)

Knocking On That Door (Encore)

You feel like giving up. You feel like all of your efforts are in vain. It seems useless, pointless, hopeless. Day after day, you try to “do better,” yet convincing yourself the entire time that it’s never “good enough.” Sound familiar? For most of us out there with food, weight and body image issues, this seems to be one of the loudest statements we scream the most. It’s frustrating to feel trapped, as if there’s no open door of hope, life and future. Yes, you have knocked on a lot of doors, haven’t you? "Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7 "And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” Luke 11:9 But what about your door? The door to your heart? Are you hearing any knocking going on there? “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:20 Yes, each one of us is guilty of turning a deaf ear to that persistent knocking, aren’t we? We can get so wrapped up in our issues, plans, desires and problems that we miss the whole point to it all: Jesus! He is there, right now, waiting on each of us, loving us with a love we cannot fully fathom. But we need to respond and change our perspective about our efforts and God’s role in our lives. In our efforts and pursuits to deal with our issues and attain our desires, have we really asked Him to be a part of them? It’s probably a safe bet to say that mostly, the answer is no. God doesn’t want to frustrate us; He longs to help us with His love, with a real relationship involving us! “God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” 1 Corinthians 1:9 But we have to tire of our independent knocking. So, as we embark on a new year, filled with resolutions and new beginnings, let’s embark on opening that door, occupied by God. He’s there, waiting for our answer to His knock. Copyright © 2013 by Sheryle Cruse

Monday, December 30, 2013

It's What You See

And now, do it

The Hallway's Powerful!

Plus Size Barbie?

Once upon a time, the Barbie doll looked like this:
Recently, a posting in a Facebook group, Plus Size Modeling, asked the question: "Should (Mattel) start making plus-sized Barbie dolls?" Accompanying the post, an artist's conception of a plus-size Barbie, was also provided. The response prompted over 40,000 "Likes" -- the equivalent of a "Yes" vote for the plus-size Barbie, along with over 4,700 comments of a "No" vote. It’s still a sticky situation, even though the doll has been around for decades. Indeed, Barbie didn’t exactly start out on the right plastic foot when it came to body image and female empowerment. In fact, in 1965, one doll even came with a bathroom scale permanently set to 110 pounds; in 1992, a talking version, Teen Talk Barbie, chirped one-liners such as, "Will we ever have enough clothes?," "I love shopping!," and "Math class is tough!" Feel free to groan here. I know that as I played with Barbie as a kid, there were many versions, many occupations, complete with accessories, pets and, of course, the famous boyfriend, Ken.
Barbie was touted as the “it girl” to be. The doll supposedly emphasized “diversity” and “possibility.” Yet that was not really reflected in her figure. It was still the impossible little waist, still the voluptuous bust line, still the long shapely legs. And, Barbie, if a real person, would be about six feet tall. That’s challenging for most of us out there to relate to. And, c’mon, no matter how you dress it up, that’s what we do with Barbie; we relate to her, aspire to be like her. Yes, she’s a toy, but a powerful and even dangerous one at that. Like a lot of little girls out there, I believed I would grow up to be and look just like her. That has not happened. Playing with Barbie dolls did affect my psyche. I thought the Barbie physique was completely attainable. Therefore, if I DIDN’T attain it, there must be something wrong with ME, NOT the doll. And yes, it played a role in the development of my eating disorder development and behaviors. Image, even if completely unrealistic image, was paramount. I shudder to think about how many hours I saturated myself with that image through Barbie play. That choice trumped hours of reading, artistic expression and learning about the real world around me. It was all Barbie vision which, by the way, does not work in that real world. You can’t solve problems by making it pink. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bitter about Barbie. I have a soft spot for her and for dolls in general. But I consider myself realistic about her influence. After all, if doll play has been around for centuries, it’s unrealistic to ban it from human nature. For whatever reason, it’s a large part of development. It’s aspirational and educational. But the caution comes in with what, exactly, we’re learning. And how does that impact who we become? Now, I know Mattel has tried to improve the Barbie image. They’ve tried to create diversity through different skin tones and hair styles, embracing African American and Latin cultures, for instance. And, in 1997, Mattel even widened the doll's waist to fit more realistic, contemporary fashions. That’s a good start. But still, the doll is not an accurate reflection of a “typical” woman. And she really cannot be; there is no such thing. Each woman is unique, complete with her own unique body. There are not cookie cutter measurements. Women aren’t busted out of plastic molds with exacting, uniform bodies. And, one of the controversies of this “plus size Barbie” issue has been a question of healthy body size, targeting the term “plus size” itself. In short, is it plus-size or obese? By promotion of body acceptance, even to that of a larger body size, are we promoting health or obesity? It’s tricky, isn’t it? I know, for me, personally, someone who’s been up and down the scale, being both under and overweight are unhealthy options. Likewise, obsessing over a “perfect” or “right weight” is just as toxic. Still, I think it would be beneficial to have a choice of dolls, representing different body shapes and sizes out there. And I know one of the arguments made for why that has not happened is money. Mattel- or any other company- will insist the dolls, contrary to the “typical” Barbie shape we’re used to, will not sell as well. Human beings, fickle as we are, will still prefer the doll deemed most physically attractive. But we have to start somewhere; throw us a bone. Humor us. Give us some options. And don’t take them away just because those options may not be flying off the shelves. Scripture assures us, indeed, of God’s “body positive” perception of each one of our bodies, regardless of size or shape: “O my dove…let me see your form…for your form is lovely.” Song of Solomon 2:14 Could we have some dolls, then, that represent that scripture? Could we, PLEASE? Copyright © 2013 by Sheryle Cruse

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Grace...

Steps To the New Year (Encore)

My new year’s resolution is… or was (fill in the blank)… Sound familiar? Yes, it’s that time of year again. The infamous new year’s resolutions have started and/or have been broken by now. How many of us feel “what’s the point?” Adding to that already negative experience, those of us in recovery can often feel all the more hopeless pressure and failure if we “resolved” to stop a behavior which relates to our addictions, compulsions and disorders. Be honest: what did you swear you’d do or never do again? So, we’re into a brand new year. Are we already off to a disappointing start? The old adage states a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. So, what does that say about each one we take in this new year? Some steps in the recovery journey are steps of progress. But what hits us with devastation are those other steps, right? Sometimes, in recovery, the step we’re taking feels like one of failure or relapse. We may even feel like the best we can hope for is to trudge and sink our footsteps into barren cold snow. How are we to regard those kinds of steps? As hopeless? As final? As paralysis? No. they are just as much a part of progress as any victory, “good day,” or “good step.” Motivational speaker, John Maxwell, wrote a book on a wonderful concept to consider, especially in moments of failure and relapse: “Failing Forward.” Think about that. In life, unfortunately, we often will fail. Recovery is not immune from that failure reality either. But there is hope; with each failure; whether you feel it or not, you and I are moving forward, making progress. One of my favorite scriptures, encouraging me through many dark, trying steps, has been that of 2 Corinthians 3:18: “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” Recovery means going from step to step, glory to glory and even, sometimes failure to failure. But please know that God’s in control of our every step, regardless of our feelings about where we’re going. We are moving forward; God is too wonderful to allow us to be left. “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 It may be at a snail’s pace, this progress we’re seeking. But that snail; gets a bad rap. A hugely inspiring quote is from the 19th century English preacher, Charles H. Spurgeon: “By perseverance the snail reached the ark.” We need to keep that slow movement in mind. Slow movement does not mean no movement. And the end result for the snail was the goal, the ark. Did the snail have obstacles, rough terrain and dangers along the way? Probably. Did that stop the snail? No. The snail moved slowly, in small increments. As do we. “For who has despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice..”. Zechariah 4:10 Yes, progress seems slow, if it can be even seen at all. You don’t see any positive results from all of your efforts, tears and pain. You feel like you’re going nowhere, nowhere good, anyhow. But there is meaning in this tiny, gradual step each of us may be taking, whether it be in life, in recovery- or in both, at the same time. Taking these tiny steps, one by one, does have a cumulative effect. It builds upon our future and individual destinies. And yes, that applies to the new year, resolution or no resolution. We need to remember that God is our loving Father, seeing us as His children. Because of that perspective, He’s always helping and preparing us. It doesn’t matter if/when we fail or fall. He’s still our loving Father, who desires to bless His children. In fact, scripture tells us… “So if you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who keep on asking him!” Matthew 7:11 So, take that next step. Remember Jeremiah 29:11. It includes- it never excludes- you! “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” It’s all in how we look at it. How then, are we choosing to look at our recovery processes and our lives? Do we see beauty, value and potential? Or do we see ugliness, worthlessness, failure and a pointless existence? We can choose. “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.” Deuteronomy 30:19 The fact is, just because we feel a certain way, doesn’t mean that’s truly the way it is. “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” 1 Corinthians 13:11 We may feel hopeless or like a failure. But those are feelings. God’s Word, instead, is the Truth! And yes, once again, here’s what God says about us: “Since you were precious in my sight… I have loved you…” Isaiah 43:4 “I have chosen you and have not cast you away.” Isaiah 41:9 “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 Let’s see ourselves differently. We may feel we are one way, but why limit ourselves to that, especially if it’s harmful? God has more for each one of us than just our present situation, perception and condition. We’re in a brand new year right now. What kind of step are you taking today in this new start? Whatever it may be, please realize that it is one which is lovingly guided by God. Having a great step today? Wonderful! Thank God for it! Having a struggling step or a “failure” step today? Please recognize that God’s allowing it to move you to another place of victory, recovery, success and help. You will get there; you ARE getting there. Remember your journey, not just today’s step. There’s more to your life, more to God in your life than you realize! Happy New Year! Have a wonderful, healthy, grace-filled journey this next year and beyond, step by step. Copyright © 2013 by Sheryle Cruse

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Given To Appetite

Appearing in the December 2013 issue of Serene Scene Magazine, Sheryle Cruse speaks about the challenge of appetite, indulgence and recovery within the holiday setting.

HEY YOU! (Again)...

“...I am fearfully and wonderfully made…” —Psalm 139:14

Recovery Is...

Exactly

Tell 'em, Glinda!!!

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go: I will guide you with My eye.” Psalm 32:8 “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?” Jeremiah 32:27

Speak 5 Lines...

Friday, December 27, 2013

Decide Commit Succeed

This time of year is rife with resolution talk. I was surprised to see (and should not have been) that this Christmas Day, there were already diet plan ads on television. They couldn’t even wait for Christmas to be done before hopping on the “new and improved” train. Indeed, we are bombarded with diet and exercise plans, all promising we will certainly be successfully resolved, improved and victorious creatures, starting January 1st. Sigh… I recently saw this image on the internet: My mind started churning, rolodex-ing through scripture. The first one which popped up was that of James 1:6-8: “But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” That scripture is right up the fickle resolution alley, isn’t it? We may believe we’re committed and decided upon a certain goal. There’s intensity, aspirational things bought to support our new lifestyle and maybe even graph paper to record our breathtaking progress. Oooooh!! We are off and running, aren’t we? That’s January 1st. The problem is, however, we soon reach January 2nd and beyond. Motivation wanes, the stuff we bought is covered with dust and that graph paper is crumpled up. And, of course, we’re feeling absolutely fantastic about ourselves now, aren’t we? Yeah. It’s usually in this haze where this scripture makes its relevant appearance: “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice: but what I hate, that I do.” The Apostle Paul in Romans 7:15 Uh-huh. So, what are we to do with that? Scream? Cry? Stab a calendar? Well, those are options. But I think, again, scripture is a soothing elixir. Granted, through our imperfect human lens, it won’t be perfectly attained, but it can be a reality check, nevertheless. And yes, here I go again, trucking out one of my favorites, 2 Corinthians 3:18: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” Piggybacking that? The notorious Proverb fest: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 Again, it’s not lived perfectly. Forget perfectionism! But scripture can serve as a guide to empower us to make better choices. We can decide to undertake that process, instead of turning it into a one-time only unrealistic event. Let’s resolve (decide-commit-succeed) to do THAT! Copyright © 2013 by Sheryle Cruse

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Helen's Perspective...

Day After Aftermath (Christmas Nosferatu)

Is anyone out there feeling like this after Christmas Day?
In the name of “overdoing it,” it’s probably not too far- fetched to feel like this 1922 horror film character, Nosferatu. We can wake up on December 26th, feeling rather undead, as we nurse all kinds of hangovers, regrets and indulgences. And we’re not even at New Year’s yet. Yay. But, before we lose all hope and retire to our despair coffins, it would probably do us some good to remember and apply God’s Word, which is very much anti-undead. There is still hope, still promise and still renewal, beyond that of even New Year’s resolutions. “For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.” 2 Corinthians 4:15-16 “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.” Isaiah 40:29 Wherever we are, however merry or regretful the holidays have found us, it ain’t over yet. God’s still very much alive, in control- AND in love with us; thank God for that! So, be renewed, even it’s in the tiniest of baby steps. God wants us to have life more abundantly, after all (John 10:10). Shake off that Nosferatu then- and live!!! Copyright © 2013 by Sheryle Cruse

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Immanuel (Encore)

Of course, this Christmas season, there are nativity displays decorating churches and homes. And Who is in these nativity scenes? It’s the Baby Jesus. Baby Jesus- He’s not just another Christmas ornament, created to make our home d├ęcor prettier. You and I know the familiar passage from Luke: “But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.’ When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, ‘Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.’" Luke 2:10-15 Did you catch that last bit? Let’s see this thing that has happened that the Lord has made known to us, as noted in Luke 2:15. So, what does that mean to each one of us? Is this Baby Jesus, indeed, our Savior? Or is He just a decoration? Matthew 1:23 describes the birth of Jesus, stating that His very Name, Immanuel, literally means “God with us.” How do we feel about that? Can we believe that God is really with us? We come now to the close of another calendar year. It’s a time of “new beginnings.” Dare, then to invite God into your life now; dare to invite Him into showing you what a new beginning means to you. He’s so much more than the statue of a baby. He’s real, He’s alive- and He IS with you and for you! Therefore, dare to tap into what Immanuel means, uniquely, personally, for you! God bless you all, Merry Christmas and much love from our family to yours! Copyright © 2013 by Sheryle Cruse

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Emmanuel: Not Just For Decoration (Encore)

Christmas trees. Festive lights. Candy canes. Santa this and Santa that. We all know the cues. Everything, seemingly, screams celebration about the season. But there’s a quote out there, worth noting: “keep the main thing the main thing.” Do we? Do Christmas decorations enhance or distract from Jesus’ true meaning? There are nativity displays galore during this season. We see varying styles and sizes. And Who is in these nativity scenes? It’s Baby Jesus. Baby Jesus- He’s not just another Christmas ornament. “…and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” Matthew 1:23 We tend to forget that, as we live our busy lives, don’t we? God is with us. Is this Baby Jesus, indeed, our Savior? Or is He just a decoration? Matthew 1:23 reminds us of Jesus’ Name, Emmanuel, “God with us.” That means that as we Christmas hustle and bustle, Christmas shop and Christmas stress out about this wonderful time of year, He is right there. When we’re cheery, when we’re grumpy, He’s there. When we forget Him, when we remember Him, He’s still there. Therefore, can we believe beyond His statue’s depiction, beyond the Christmas decoration to our Savior’s Truth? Can we believe God is really with us? We come now to the close of another calendar year. It’s a time of “new beginnings.” Dare to invite God into your life; dare to invite Him into your new start! Jesus is relevant, as is. He doesn’t just want to merely decorate your life; He want to be in it and bless it! Are we keeping the “main thing the main thing?” Are we celebrating that? Remember the main celebration: Emmanuel. God is with us. It’s a celebration beyond tradition; it’s God’s loving gift for us! Copyright © 2013 by Sheryle Cruse

Nothing Personal

So far, I haven’t thrown the Christmas tree out the window, but I feel if one more inappropriate comment is made at a holiday party/festivity, a certain sidewalk could possibly look a bit merrier. “It’s nothing personal.” It’s a well-worn phrase, sometimes used as a dismissive slight, just to get a dig in. Unfortunately, in the context of holiday parties, this personal minefield, be it in the form of a question or comment, can wreak some extremely sensitive havoc in our lives, especially those of us who are in recovery from eating disorders. Be it a personal question or a personal comment, the impact is still destructive and can tempt the best of us to look for the nearest Christmas tree to launch out of the nearest portal. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” Proverbs 18:21 Indeed. Some people out there may think I’ve completely lost my sense of humor. Can I be honest here? I think those are often the people who find “fat jokes,” for example, extremely funny. Laughing at someone who’s struggling- hilarious. Nevertheless, as someone in recovery from eating disorders, the holidays can be a touchy and downright miserable situation to be in, when a person asks or comments about food or body image issues; it’s triggering. A few examples… Years ago, as I was in the middle of anorexia, family members applauded my weight loss. They’d only known me as overweight. So, upon seeing my radically thin frame, they commented, “You look so great, so thin! Are you dieting?” (My internal response: “No, just killing myself.” You can see how that, as an audible response MIGHT be a downer). So, I said nothing. Still, the uncomfortable words were out there. And thin praise-y comments do nothing great for someone struggling with an eating disorder. Nothing. If anything, they spur someone on further, to do something more drastic: more cutting of calories, more hours of exercise, more, more, more. So, Merry Christmas here. Another situation involved me, all eating disordered out, only this time, it was bulimia. And this time, I was gaining weight, which, to “everyone” looked like healthy progress from my once emaciated anorexic self. Again, family (wonderful family) chose to say the following: “I’m so glad you’re eating. You’re gaining weight and you look so much better.” Now, how exactly am I supposed to take that when my personal mindset sees only horrible, disgusting failure? (Again, my internal, non-audible response: “Yeah, I bet you’re happy. You just want be to be overweight again.”) What was my actual response? Silence. And looking for the nearest exit. Again, Merry Christmas. Okay, so these two examples were of a time when I was extremely pro-eating disorder. Years later, however, into my recovery, I’ve become honest and open with its reality. John 8:32 has certainly been a freeing scripture for me: “The truth shall set you free.” However, if I could offer any “outsider” some friendly party conversation advice, I’d say this: let the individual who’s challenged by the disorder mention it first. And that brings me to yet another festive situation. At a family party, someone’s spouse mentioned the buffet layout of the event. He only knew a little of my eating disorder reality. But, I guess, in his mind, it was enough information for him to make the following statement: “We don’t have to worry about you plowing through all of the food, now, do we?” (Felt like a red and green flamethrower to the gut Ho. Ho. Ho). But my external response? I laughed nervously and tried to make a quick getaway for the rest of the evening. You may be thinking things like “You’re being too sensitive,” “Get over it,” “Get a sense of humor.” And, to that, I respond this way… “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.” Romans 14:13 We never know what someone is grappling with. And the holidays amplify EVERYTHING, including our painful issues. So, perhaps, a rule of thumb would be to keep the chitchat light, kind and not personal. Please avoid talking about how much of a whale you feel you are, how your diet is going and how fattening the event’s food is. Please also refrain from specifically commenting on our body size and appearance, whether weight loss or weight gain is evident. You can say, “You look great” and leave it at that. Anything more, sets our minds reeling with self-critical, competitive, defeating thoughts which go nowhere healthy. “But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to them that are weak.” 1 Corinthians 8:9 And yes, for those of us prone to triggers, here’s some most valuable advice from the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC): “Predict high stress times and places; decide which events you will and won't attend, and plan to have some time to yourself to restore yourself and take care of your own needs. Predict which people might make you most uncomfortable and plan appropriate ways of excusing yourself from their company. Predict what people might say that would lead you to feel uncomfortable. Plan and practice responses. Predict negative thoughts that you might have during the holidays, and practice thinking differently. Carry with you a list of phone numbers of friends and crisis lines, and a list of self-soothing activities. It may be helpful to realize that the ‘picture-book’ holiday sense is not a reality for many people. Some cannot afford it, there are many single people who are not close to their families or do not have a family, and there are many families that do not fit into the dominant cultural model of ‘family.’ Do not blame yourself for family or friendship conflicts. People are not different during the holidays than any other time of the year.” For more info: NEDIC Bulletin: Vol. 7, Coping With the Holidays ; National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC) Used with permission. We have about a week to go of this holiday season. Let’s be merry, thoughtful and kind. Let’s honor the Savior by choosing to act like Him! God bless, be healthy, loved and happy, everyone! Copyright © 2013 by Sheryle Cruse

Monday, December 23, 2013

Eating Disorder Support for the Holidays...

Holidays and special occasions are often very stressful periods for individuals with food and weight problems. The emphasis on spending time with family and on celebrating with food can be very difficult. Based on past experience, and an understanding of yourself and of the people close to you, you may be able to avoid, or cope constructively with, uncomfortable situations. For example: • Predict high stress times and places; decide which events you will and won't attend, and plan to have some time to yourself to restore yourself and take care of your own needs. • Predict which people might make you most uncomfortable and plan appropriate ways of excusing yourself from their company. • If at all possible, allow yourself to enjoy a moderate amount of "special occasion foods." • Predict what people might say that would lead you to feel uncomfortable. Plan and practice responses. Ask people not to comment on your body, appearance, or eating habits. • Predict negative thoughts that you might have during the holidays, and practice thinking differently. • Carry with you a list of phone numbers of friends and crisis lines, and a list of self-soothing activities. It may be helpful to realize that the "picture-book" holiday sense is not a reality for many people. Some cannot afford it, there are many single people who are not close to their families or do not have a family, and there are many families that do not fit into the dominant cultural model of "family". Do not blame yourself for family or friendship conflicts. People are not different during the holidays than any other time of the year. Remember that you are responsible only for your own actions and for taking care of yourself. For more info: NEDIC Bulletin: Vol. 7, Coping With the Holidays

Sunday, December 22, 2013

HOLIDAY ADVICE FOR FAMILY AND FRIENDS (EATING DISORDER RECOVERY)

For individuals struggling with an eating disorder, the holidays can evoke feelings of uncertainty and anxiety. Although the media promotes holidays as a time of celebration, for someone with an eating disorder the holidays can be a reminder of an ongoing struggle to make peace with food. Providing support during the season and ensuring that the home is a place where they will not be judged is essential to the healing process. Here are some helpful tips as to how to create a positive environment. :: When friends and/or family have not seen each other in a long time, they may be tempted to comment on changes in weight or appearance. Be a friend and help dissolve conversations or comments about food, weight, or overall appearance. You will be creating a more positive atmosphere for people to enjoy each other’s company and to remember the experience as a wonderful time. :: Perhaps sitting down to one meal as a family would help someone struggling with an eating disorder feel more comfortable, instead of “grazing” on food throughout the day. Do not forget to discuss these options with your family and welcome all input. :: Try to avoid emotionally charged discussions before or during mealtimes. The energy of a charged discussion can lead to feelings of anxiety. Often holidays are the only times people are able to catch up on experiences, political issues, sports, etc., but it is helpful to try and limit these types of electric conversations for after meals. :: Indulging is a natural part of the holiday season. People eat foods they normally wouldn’t eat and often they end the day feeling very full and sometimes very regretful. For some people it is common to make comments like, “I feel so fat” or “I shouldn’t have eaten that much.” These comments can have a devastating effect on someone struggling with an eating disorder. Do not support or encourage these types of remarks. :: Try to be a good role model for your loved one with an eating disorder. It is important for your loved one to witness your healthy eating as a way to connect with their feelings and priorities. Remember, eating disorders are about emotions and not about food. :: It is not uncommon for eating disorder symptoms to increase during the holiday season. Try to avoid getting into power struggles over food and do not ever force someone to eat. Be positive and maintain a healthy, nonjudgmental attitude toward her behavior. :: If your loved one is withdrawn or isolating herself from mealtime and other holiday activities, gently try to bring her into discussions or activities. If she rejects your efforts, do not take it personally and try to understand this behavior as part of her eating disorder. Always remember to take care of your own needs and to enjoy yourself, your family, and your friends. :: Attempt to spend time connecting with your loved one struggling with an eating disorder in non-food related ways. Set time aside to take part in an activity of her choosing. Taking walks, playing games, or watching a movie together can help decrease anxiety by taking the focus off food and eating. :: Do not forget to communicate with concerned members of the household. What feelings are emerging? Do they feel that they are handling the situation well? Seeking support and learning how to communicate feelings in a positive way is essential to understanding your role in the process of the recovery. Information compiled by the Massachusetts Eating Disorder Association, Inc. 2002 Massachusetts Eating Disorder Association (MEDA) 92 Pearl Street Newton, MA 02458 www.medainc.org

Monday, December 16, 2013

“And fit us to Heaven…”

The Christmas carol, “Away In A Manger” has always been one of my favorites since I was a child. I remember first seeing it in a songbook with drawings of the Baby Jesus. I always viewed it as a soothing lullaby. Years later, I love hearing and singing it. But recently, I was struck by one of its lyrics: “And fit us to Heaven to live with Thee there.” I paused, noting the phrasing- “And fit us to Heaven...” Are we being “fit” for eternity with God? It sounds like a big question. But I think it’s a reality check reminder of, once again, the process of our lives, as opposed to a “one-time event.” And again, I roll out one of my favorite scriptures… “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 From glory to glory… being made fit for Heaven…dependent upon Jesus… It’s not about our perfection, our unrealistic standards, our “good person” status; it’s about ongoing process, through our Savior, Jesus Christ, Who once was the little baby in a manger. Thank God for that! Copyright © 2013 by Sheryle Cruse

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Remembrance...

Holiday No

As we get closer and closer to Christmas, the anxiety levels seem to amp up. Or am I the only one feeling it? We’re inundated with Christmas spirit, family, obligations and all manner of “should’s.” Festive, isn’t it? And it’s during this time, fear, guilt, regret and resentment come hurdling toward us. A running thought is whatever we do or don’t do, “it’s not good enough.” Again, festive. So, I’ve become quite aware of an important holiday word. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? No.
Not snow. Not ho, as in ho, ho, ho. No. The holidays- let get real- are just too much. Too much food, too much lights, too much decoration, too much activities, too much expectations, too much stimulation, too much stuff. And it all demands we say “yes” to it. And, in doing so, we are anything but merry. So, this holiday, let’s give a different kind of gift- the gift of no. It, perhaps,, is not the most noble or fuzzy choice, but it’s still very much an acceptable one for each one of us. We have limits, even concerning Christmas and everything surrounding it.
God knows this already. “For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.” Psalms 103:14 It’d probably be a great idea if we remembered the same. We need to keep in mind the people pleasing thing running amuck, driving us into some kind of emotional, physical or spiritual ground. It’s okay. If no one has told you that already, please let me be the one to tell you now. It’s okay. You have permission to say no. The world will not end. I love the advice from NEDIC, advising eating disorder sufferers on how to navigate the stressful holiday season. Here are a few of their tips. I believe they work for us all: Predict high stress times and places; decide which events you will and won't attend, and plan to have some time to yourself to restore yourself and take care of your own needs. Predict which people might make you most uncomfortable and plan appropriate ways of excusing yourself from their company. Predict negative thoughts that you might have during the holidays, and practice thinking differently. Carry with you a list of phone numbers of friends and crisis lines, and a list of self-soothing activities. It may be helpful to realize that the "picture-book" holiday sense is not a reality for many people. Some cannot afford it, there are many single people who are not close to their families or do not have a family, and there are many families that do not fit into the dominant cultural model of "family." Do not blame yourself for family or friendship conflicts. People are not different during the holidays than any other time of the year. Remember that you are responsible only for your own actions and for taking care of yourself. For more info: NEDIC Bulletin: Vol. 7, Coping With the Holidays “No” is not an ungodly word. It can, however, be a way to steward your temple, your life, taking care of a precious vessel God needs very much in this world. Again, it’s okay. Say no if you need to. And remember…
God bless, have a wonderful and guilt-free holiday season! Copyright © 2013 by Sheryle Cruse

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Role of Ignorance and Want in Our Lives (CIR)

This article discusses the role ignorance and want can play, even in our addictions and vices, as well as recovery from them. It’s is featured in the December 13th issue of Christians In Recovery Magazine.

Hummingbird

I love hummingbirds. So, when I saw a beautiful photo of one recently, I zoomed in on it. And, upon closer examination, I read this little factoid right here: “Hummingbirds are continuously hours away from starving to death, and are able to store just enough energy to survive overnight.”
I immediately thought of my anorexic experiences. I recount my mindset, offered in my book, “Thin Enough: My Spiritual Journey Through the Living Death Of An Eating Disorder.” “… I knew that what I was doing was wrong, but I still kept going. I had to. Progress—just a few more pounds, then I’ll be done. So I’d continue every morning: six hours of boot camp torture on little or no food or water. I had gotten to the point now where I feared drinking water would make me fat. Every morning, my heart and pulse would pound and race. I could feel throbbing from veins that were sticking out on the backs of my knees and the crooks of my elbows. Every morning, I would stand up, shaky, dizzy already, only to then have everything go black. And then, I’d wake up, lying on the floor. Passing out was now a regular part of my day. I was scared now, not only for my health, but scared of the danger of being discovered. What if I did this in front of someone? You see, these daily blackout sessions always happened during my exercise routine at midnight. I started exercising at midnight because I could be alone for my required six-hour exercise punishment...” I didn’t know it at the time, but I had my own obsessive hummingbird thing going on. It was driven by fear- and it didn’t have to be that way. Fear had convinced me the absolute worst things in the world that could happen to me were eating and gaining weight. So, the torture game became “don’t eat- go as long, as far as you can without eating- just keep going.” But, what I didn’t know was that this was not what God wanted for me. He didn’t want to punish me; that was not His Will towards me. This, rather, was, instead: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 God never created me to be like the every frenetic hummingbird. He wanted me to have a life- and one which wasn’t running on fumes. “…I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”’ John 10:10 The fear I was experiencing, driving me to emaciation, exhaustion and misery was not of God. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7 I didn’t know that at the time. I didn’t know that fear is a spirit, distorting the truth of things; fear lies to us. It tries to convince us God doesn’t love us, God will fail us and life is a horrible, hopeless thing. All lies. God repeatedly tells us NOT to fear, in fact… “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” Isaiah 41:10 “Fear not: for I am with thee…” Isaiah 43:5 “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32 “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:18-19 “And he saith unto them, ‘Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?’ Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.” Matthew 8:26 This last scripture struck me especially hard as I looked at the words “there was a great calm.” Ever see a hummingbird? Not a lot of calm going on there. And that’s the reality check. For those of us struggling with eating disorders and obsessive/compulsive thoughts and behaviors, are we acting more like a frantic hummingbird or a peaceful child of God? Where are we falling within that spectrum? We are somewhere. So, wherever we are, how imperfectly we are, let’s first start with Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God…” From there, let’s live as His Child. Let’s cease from our hummingbird ways. Copyright © 2013 by Sheryle Cruse

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Haunted At The Holidays (Encore)

“Boo!” Scare you? During the holiday season, Charles Dickens returns to the forefront of our thinking, through his classic work, “A Christmas Carol.” Numerous adaptations have been created on film and television over the years. We usually see at least one version at some point during this season. It’s a literary way of checking our life reflection temperature. Where are we? Can we do better? What do we need to change in our lives? And this hinges largely upon the presence of ghosts. Not just for Halloween any longer. Nope. Indeed, one of the biggest elements of “A Christmas Carol” is the interplay between the miser, Ebenezer Scrooge and the three ghosts, setting up an “intervention” with him, concerning his life choices and mistakes. Yes, these three ghosts, representing Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Future, all challenge Scrooge (and us) to examine the state of our unique, individual hearts in our daily lives. Each one of us is ultimately called to be mindful of the past, present and future, not to be overwhelmed and oppressed by any of it, but rather, to become better, more loving, more fully ourselves through revelation of our daily choices and priorities. Yes, it’s quite a challenge. Most of us fear it and run away from it, in some way, at some point. Regrets, painful mistakes, loss and personal imperfection may make us feel we’re only haunted and doomed to fail. It’s especially amplified and lonely this time of year, when self-reflection shows us things we don’t want to see. So, which ghost haunts you the most these days: Past, Present or Future? Is the past haunting you with either glory days no longer visibly felt or tragic heartaches which continue to haunt you into your current life? Is your ghost of the present taunting you with the perception-as-reality picture of discontentment, disappointment and failed potential? And how about that ghost of the future? Is it intimidating you with a bleak, impossible and/or loveless, joyless round of days to come? And now, to top it all off, add your recovery process, with all of its setbacks, failures and challenges. How haunted are you now? Are you crying, “Bah Humbug?” How scary is your ghost story? It’s not hopeless for you. These aren’t the only “spirits” at work. Wherever you are- in life, in issues, in pain, in recovery- God is a Spirit hovering over you right now. We need to go to Him, then, with our truth regarding our past, our present and our future. “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship [him] in spirit and in truth.” John 4:24 Like Ebenezer Scrooge, we need to say “yes” to what God’s Spirit has to teach each of us. God knows all about us, about our current situations, every bit of our past, present and future circumstances: “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.” Psalm 139: 7-10 We all live imperfect lives, filled with imperfect choices. God knows this and loves us the entire time. Look at this season, not as a time to be condemned or haunted by ghosts, but rather, like Scrooge, let this be a time of renewal, hope and reconciliation. The past, present and future, in God’s Hands, can be used, indeed, to bless and prosper you. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 And remember the answer to the question, “What’s it all about?” Answer: Jesus. He’s the antidote to your tormenting ghosts. Unlike the finger pointing of our failed choices, surfacing in these apparitions of past, present or future, Jesus has come to give “life more abundantly” (John 10:10) to you. Jesus is the reason for the season. We’ve all heard that expression. Most of us have seen numerous nativity displays of Baby Jesus in the manger. And even “A Charlie Brown Christmas” has the character of Linus reciting scripture (Luke 2:8-14), while stating, “that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” It can be hard to remember that good news, however as we deal with our ghosts. When we’re challenged by emotional, familial or addiction-related stress just to name a few options, complicated by our recovery challenges, it’s difficult to keep that Jesus reason as the center of the whole thing. Maybe we even think we’ll get around to truly celebrating Him when this or that issue in our lives is better or when we’re perfectly recovered. We can find ourselves waiting a lon-n-n-ng time, can’t we? Perfect recovery? There doesn’t seem to be such a thing with an imperfect human being, like you and I, at the helm. Recovery never promised it would be pain-free, neat, tidy or ghost free. It’s imperfect day by day, step by step. But isn’t that the best time, the best reason for Jesus? When we’re less than perfect, less than pulled together, less than healthy or serene? Isn’t an imperfect day the best time to reach for Someone Who truly gets it- and us? After all… “On hearing this, Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.’” Matthew 9:12 Further adding, in fact, “…I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’" Mark 2:17 Are you haunted by your ghosts? What if, during your haunting, there was help reaching for you? “For while the Law was given through Moses, grace (unearned, undeserved favor and spiritual blessing) and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John 1: 17 Could it, indeed, be God calling you to a better, condemnation-free life? It is possible. It’s not based on your strength; it’s based on His love and grace. “But He said to me, ‘My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness.’ Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest upon me! 2 Corinthians 12: 9 You’re not hopelessly haunted by ghosts. You’re loved by a real God, Who has sent Jesus to be a part of your recovery process. Please remember that in your life. You are never alone! “…and they will call him Immanuel” (which means ‘God with us’). “ Matthew 1:23 Next time you feel haunted, talk to God. You don’t need make it complicated; just share your heart and your issues. Perhaps this prayer can help you get started: “Father, I come to You, in the Name of Jesus. I ask You to help me with everything that haunts me about my life and choices. You know I have regrets and pain. But I come to You now, asking for Your Intervention in my life, practically, relevantly and daily. Thank You for loving and helping me constantly. This time of year, help me to live a new start with you, infused into my life. Show me what the Christmas season means for me. Thank You. Amen.” God bless your holiday season! Copyright © 2013 by Sheryle Cruse

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