Choices! Life sure is full of them. Some are small, what to have for lunch or what shoes to wear, when others seem a bit more daunting, where to go to college, who to marry, where to live. As I have been looking back over my life I know I have not always made the right choices. Everyday I am faced with choices and I am not perfect in making the right ones. Many times I want to make the right choice but really do not know what the ‘best’ choice would be. Other times it is a simple choice and I don’t really need to seek guidance or really think about the choice. If you are anything like me, you make choices all the time and don’t even think about it as “making a choice.” There are specific choices in my life that have taken me to where I am today. Not all of those choices I am proud of, or would even care to share with people, however, this is a place where I want others to see the inside and know that God is working on me. I am going to be pretty open and honest about how specific choices lead me down one path, and how other choices brought me back. It is my prayer that I am able to help other see that they too can make choices to change their life for the good!
Many choices and decisions I made for most of my life were not really about me. I struggled for such a long time as a people-pleaser. I wanted to feel loved and accepted from everyone I came in contact with and so I said ‘YES’ to almost everything I was asked. I remember when I was in high school and I wanted to fit in so badly. I wanted to be in the ‘in’ crowd and I wanted everyone to like me. I had a LOT of insecurities and I was really good at masking them. When I was able to say ‘yes’ to someone, I felt like it was a way of being accepted. So, as a people-pleaser, and an approval addict, I ended up spending my senior year spread so thin I am not sure how I got sleep. I was involved with 4 sports (volleyball, softball, indoor/outdoor track & field, and basketball), 2 bands, 8 choirs, our schools musical, working at the Penn State Creamery and baby-sitting, singing at our church on the Sunday morning worship team as well as the youth worship band, a member of our student leadership team for our youth group, made a wedding cake for a friend (I HAD NO IDEA WHAT I WAS DOING) while managing to take extra credits in school that I did not need in order to graduate and making pretty good grades, applying to colleges and making college visits in PA, VA, MI and IL, participating in many overseas mission trips along with a handful of other commitments that are not sticking out to me at the moment.
Wow, just thinking about that and reading all the activities I was involved with makes my head spin. WHAT WAS I THINKING?? Oh, that’s right, I wanted everyone to like me, and I wanted to feel like I was loved and accepted. This pattern only got worse when I ventured half way across the country for college on the North Shore of Chicago-land. Being 600+ miles away from home seemed to make it worse for me, and I plunged full speed ahead into a lifestyle that would continue to hold me in bondage for years.
For as long as I can remember I struggled with my self image. Even today I am not very confident in what I look like. I know I am a work in progress and I am a LOT further down the road in this area, but I am also far from where I want to be. Part of the struggle with self-image for me has had to do with weight. Ugh, even typing that word makes me shudder. There is SO much I could get into about that word, and how it has tried to define my life for SO long. I do remember specific choices I made as young as 6 with food/eating and I believe many of those choices took me down a dark path for much of my life. As a people-pleaser and trying to make all the right choices to make everyone else happy, I was one miserable girl. I tried to cover up that pain for many years. When I was sad I would eat, when I was frustrated I would eat then run it off, when I was happy I would eat, and then become disgusted at myself for eating (even normal amounts and healthy food) and I would workout to make myself feel better. Nothing helped me feel better. It was not a pretty picture anymore. I felt like I was a mess, and in reality, I WAS a mess.
For 19 years of my life I was consumed with trying to be perfect. In my mind, if I was perfect then I would be accepted and loved. The only problem with that is that perfection is impossible to obtain. I continued to make poor choices as I continued to strive for perfection. I did everything I could possibly think of to become the ‘perfect girl.’ I put 150% of myself into everything I did, and yet was falling short. On the outside it looked like I was doing well. I was making good grades, I had a lot of friends, I was involved with many activities, I was serving on ministry teams at Trinity (my college) and at a local church. I was part of the college softball team, a RA (resident assistant), small group leader, holding Bible studies for my girls, a nanny/baby-sitter for 10 different families, and all the while pinned down and felt like I was nothing because I did not ‘look’ perfect. That caused the eating/exercise issues to spiral even more out of control. I was not taking very good care of my body, and as a result I ended up dealing with many health issues, and a few broken bones. I broke my foot and was in and out of casts/walking boots for 2 years before I had surgery. That slowed me down a little bit as I believe God was trying to get a message across to me, but I had become very good at ignoring the message.
After I graduated I thought I could pull myself together. I bought my first car, had a good job, and tried to keep myself busy with positive activities. The only problem is that I was still making poor choices and striving for perfection. The more I tried to look perfect on the outside, the more I was dying on the inside. Over the next few years my desire to live was less and less. In 2007 I was ready to end my own life. God was not finished with me yet and sent a friend who literally saved my life. It was the wake-up call I had been needing and longing for. I knew I could not continue making the same kind of choices I had been living with. I also knew that I could not do it on my own. For the first time in my life I finally admitted that I needed help. I knew I had many issues to work through and personally did not feel I was able to deal with them through weekly counseling sessions. I had a great counselor but even she agreed that it would take years to process many of the hard issues that had been thrown in my basket. Making the choice to reach out and get help is one of the best choices I have ever made in my life. I believe it is what brought me back to life. What gave me the courage to fight and live again.
March 6, 2008 I walked through the doors of Mercy Ministries in West Monroe, LA. For the first time in my life I felt loved and accepted just because. I did not have to prove myself to anyone. Even though I had been in church my entire life I learned what it really meant to have all that head knowledge grow into my heart. I learned how to forgive the people in my past who had hurt me, and I learned how to forgive myself. I let go of my eating disordered behaviors and learned how to make better choices. One of the counselors always reminded us that life is all about choices. For me, going to Mercy was a choice that saved my life and brought me back to a path that leads to freedom. I am forever grateful for the time I was able to spend there to regain life and freedom.
It is hard to believe it has been almost 4 years since I walked through the doors of Mercy. My life is not perfect, nor do I make perfect choices everyday. I still am working on myself and learning more each day. I am thankful I learned the power of choices. I know that without God and making good choices I could easily be back where I was. It takes hard work to come out of some of this circumstances I have been through.
I am still on the journey. I still make mistakes. I am far from perfect, but that is OK! Living each day and making the best choices I can is what I am able to do now.
Make good choices today and make a glass of lemonade!