anxiety

My Visual: What it’s like to Have an Eating Disorder.

Hey everyone! So, I wanted to do a different kind of blog post detailing a little of what my life with an eating disorder has consisted of. A friend recommended that I sketch out some of what goes on as part of a creative outlet, as well as a way to help people understand more about what this gruesome illness entails. I have made a description for each picture and hope that this post is helpful for friends who have never encountered this struggle. For those who might not be sure what the white substance is in these pictures, it’s sugar, one of the substances that I try and control most during rough cycles of anorexia and orthorexia. Every case is different, and so please just consider this one account of the thousands that exist. This is all in hopes to break the stigma around eating disorders… let’s talk about them.

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Every line that protrudes from her collarbone has a story to go behind it. Understand that eating disorders don’t happen overnight. They take years of constant frustration, guilt and an inability to cope. Personally, one of my issues stem from the fact, that I don’t like change. I have never been used to it, and it is sure to complicate my life if I let it. When change hits me, whether that is from lost friendships, financial struggle, or family conflict, I turn to the things that I am used to… as if to keep a part of the “normalcy” that once was. In this case, I turn to the gym and controlling food. The gym has always been there. The rush that I feel, the ability to just let go and feel nothing…. It’s an indescribable high. While still trying to balance an image of perfection, I’m struggling with a whirlwind of emotional conflicts that are trying to work their way out with an improper outlet. It’s like the kiddie toys at the daycare. A square can’t fit into the circle space, and a triangle can’t fit in the rectangular slot. Nothing can go in or out of that shape basket if it isn’t the right outlet, which is what the gym is in my case. Nothing ever gets resolved there. It’s just a constant. However, the constant turns into more of a problem than a safe space, and in the process my internal emotions are wreaking havoc on my physical body.

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This drawing emphasizes the gym in particular. In my personal experience with over exercising, I have narrowed down the concept of why I do what I do. One misconception is that everyone who abuses the gym, or even food, don’t actually like those things. For me, this is far from the truth. The gym wasn’t originally abused in the beginning because I loved the gym. I always have, and probably always will. I have fun there. I am active there, while also being part of a community while strengthening myself. As previously mentioned, it is used as an incorrect outlet, yes. But ultimately, I started to overuse it to try and attain superficial imperfection in order to try and hide my pain. I figured that if I looked perfect; through looks, social media and so forth, that people wouldn’t question me, my beliefs and my actions. In the realm of Christianity, what is the actual point of pretending we are perfect? If we were perfect, instead of striving to be like the “Perfect One”, who is Jesus Christ, then what was the need for a Savior? This was my conclusion when it came to finally outwardly admitting something that was so important (as well as originally shameful) for me. However, we have to remember that shame left us the moment Jesus carried and died on that cross for us. Bashfulness no longer means anything because we are all recognized to be as sinners. We are all struggling with something. In the end, the weights made me physically stronger, but I felt the same, if not worse than when I started. My boiling pot had long reached the surface and then some, overflowing on to the floor of my “clean” life.

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Percent Daily Values are based on a low calorie, low self-esteem diet that centers around unhealthy thinking and imaginary flaws that caused increased blood pressure and mental health issues. Consult your doctor should you have enough of this insanity.

With every slice of cake, every unplanned event that concerned pizzas and hamburgers, etc. I try to resist. I try and restrict. I try to control. As the gym post mentioned, I love the gym. The same goes for food. Chocolate and other sugary concoctions has always been my weakness, but I still love them just the same. This drawing gives a scenario concerning junk food, and what can go through my mind while eating it. It starts off with be being fearful that I will gain excessive weight, though as we know, this is untrue. I used to weigh myself after meals, but especially after deserts. I experience all of the “servings” listed on this label. I feel shame and guilt because I didn’t have the willpower to say “no”, and I feel as though once again, I have lost control. I am frustrated with my choices and will likely act as such by being in a bad mood, or resorting to run it off at the gym. I immediately regret the slice of cake, but try to get through it anyways. By the end, I am hopeless, because I have NOT enjoyed the cake due to the emotional turmoil, I feel 10 pounds heavier, and ultimately, disgusting. I question the reason that I ever ate it in the first place. It’s a terrible cycle of “want” and “regret”, all for the sake of perfection.

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This drawing represents how one must look at an eating disorder. The way that I treat food is the same way that people can treat substances such as cigarettes, or even those extreme methods, such as marijuana or cocaine. They are outlets. They are used to tone down stress; to calm down after a hectic day. They are used as measures of anger as well as tolerance levels. People addicted to cigarettes also can’t “just quit”. They can’t just “stop smoking”, though there is always an exception to that. And even if they should “just stop” smoking, that by no means guarantees that they can quit that habit for good. If they refrain from that habit, it doesn’t mean that they’re not still thinking about it constantly. Wanting to go back, to release their emotions through that cigarette. For those who truly wish to see this illness as it is, think about it as a porn addict or an alcoholic. If they could “just quit”, don’t you think that they would have by now?

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Some days, I truly feel okay. I can eat whatever, do whatever, and it doesn’t affect me. These are the good days. However, sometimes, things can go from good to bad VERY fast, and I go from nonchalant to freaked out in a matter of minutes. I don’t know how to describe it. Take a drink for instance. When I decide to have a sugary coke, all is well for the first few sips. I love the taste, it’s refreshing. however, should I drink the entire standard sized bottle, I connect that with losing control, and remember talks about empty calories and so forth. I might try to rationalize to myself over and over as to why I should be okay, but my mind might wander into “weight gain” territory, so a meal might be missed that night. All on account of a coke. It’s truly insane. The picture is meant to be over-dramatic because that’s what this disorder is. It’s an obsessive need to do the right thing and to be “good” through food and drinks, and by controlling them, you convince yourself that you are off to a good start with that goal. Wrong.

 

To say all of this is to just open up the part of my world that kept me down for so long. This is me recognizing that being open is one of the most important parts of healing. I hope that this vulnerability can help someone who is struggling to step forward with whatever they are going through.

Good Morning.

 

“Good morning.”

I sit up, look out the window. It doesn’t look good outside. It’s been storming a lot lately.

I throw on some clothes.

I go to the bathroom, brush my teeth.

I go to the kitchen. Two eggs, a packet of grits and a piece of toast. That’s what I want.

Back to the bathroom. “Does this shirt make me look bigger than normal?”

I walk back into my room. Change clothes.

I come back out to the kitchen area. “Okay. One egg, a piece of toast, and orange juice. Sounds a little less heavy.”

This is the new desire of the morning.

While the egg is frying, I go back to the bathroom mirror. Turn sideways.

This multi-patterned legging makes me look stretched out. Too wide.

Back to my room for a third change.

I quickly go back to the kitchen, where my ideal meal awaits. Toast is done, egg is finished, all that’s left is the orange juice.

“There sure is a lot of sugar in that orange juice.” I think I’ll opt for water.

Water it is. This is what I want. An egg, a dry piece of toast and a glass of water.

I look outside again. The day looks less dreary now, the rain has ceased.

Actually, it was never storming.

The storm symbolizes how I feel some days when it comes to my relationship with food. The storm is the inner turmoil that takes place when I want the control; I crave it. If I don’t feel in control, then the day starts off full of sorrow and dampened with the pain of facing the day without a release. Food is my release. When I feel in control, it is as if the rain has stopped, the clouds have disappeared, and life can continue as normal.

I’m not going to lie. This blog post was thought about years before it was even written. For those who know me… who REALLY know me. I’m struggling. I’m struggling big time. I have been for a while now. I try to be discreet majority of the time, but I’m learning that sometimes, it’s okay to be open about what plagues you. So here goes:

        Most of you might have tried to get to know me recently. Or, I’ll even say over the past year or so. And I’ve shut you out. You didn’t hear from me, I didn’t respond to your message… when you ask how I am, I usually say “fine”, or I give you a look that you simply can’t interpret as good or bad. I think I’ve gotten good at this… being so secretive about my issues, that all people can do is stare and wonder about what’s going on in my life. What’s really going on.  I say none of this for attention, as these accounts are real, my story and my struggle is real, and the attention that comes with that is not on me. I wouldn’t wish this kind of “attention” on anyone.

        2010 started me down a wicked spiral of having an eating disorder. Several to be exact. I started out with full blown bulimia…. Imagine this type of disordered eating while trying to maintain a competitive mentality as well as physique for track and cross country. It was a gruesome year, as I was steadily falling apart and not understanding proper coping mechanisms after my father’s unemployment upsets took our house by storm, and tore up whatever pieces of trust and self-worth that I had. I was swept away in guilt, anger and revenge.

        Fast forward to college, where for the first two years, I was having the time of my life. I had all of the friends that I could possibly ever need, and I felt invincible with them at my side. I was out of the verbally abusive household and finally started to see some of the more pleasant moments in life. However, sadly, all good things must come to an end; emotions took control, and whirlwinds of chaos took precedent in a once glorious escape from reality and true  adulthood. I didn’t know what to do with this abrupt change, just as I hadn’t when my father turned our world upside-down. So I resorted to some of my own tactics… my own “coping” mechanisms to get the release that I so desperately craved after all of the emotional damage and stress.

        So fast forward to now. I am trying to rebuild what I once knew, and I’m learning how to truly love myself again. It is extremely hard… harder than one can ever imagine… I now primarily struggle with anorexia and over-exercising, and have been formally diagnosed with anxiety disorder. I suppose that many of you might have already figured some of this out. I know that everything comes to the light sooner or later, and so with that in mind, as well as the reasons for my openness, I chose to make known something that is so personal to me, something that needs deep prayer. And to let you know that I am actively fighting, though some days are harder than others. By no means does this mean that I am perfect, and trust me- I have a LONG way to go. Every single day is an absolute struggle. To wake up and not want to fully attack my body through overdoing it at the gym, while damaging my heart and my emotional well-being in the process. To not want to immediately go to the gym after a regular meal, or even to just not feel guilty about it.

What I need you to understand is this: Eating disorders are NOT just concerning looks, that doesn’t even begin to cover this debilitating illness. They concern how you wish to portray yourself in the face of others. You want to look perfect, to be perfect. It concerns having power- when every other aspect of your life is being controlled by someone else, or by circumstances that are out of your control, at least you have this. At least you have something that nobody can take away from you. This is yours. You can choose what goes into your body, when it does, and why. However, this eating disorder is not just yours. It’s your friends and family’s eating disorder as well. Your loved ones… It affects them just as much as it affects you. Because they don’t know how to help. They see you suffering, and they wish that they could take that pain away. They can’t. They can watch it tear you up limb by limb… they can listen, and hear you out as to why you do what you do… but they can’t “fix” you. They can’t strap you down, force you to eat, and stop you from going to the gym to purge in that way. They can tell you over and over again that it’s going to be okay, but will it? Will it actually, “all work out?”. And the answer that I’ve come up with is no. It will NOT just go away, the habits will NOT just cease. It takes effort. And prayer. More prayer. More action. More guidance. Trust me, I feel like I’ve done it all. I’ve taken it easy, not gone to the gym for a bit, then went regularly while maintaining an actual healthy diet. All of that helped for a while. I’ve gone to counseling on and off, and just felt like I already knew the facts that they had set before me. I have read hundreds of inspirational stories and have gained hope from them… and then shortly after, a “bad week” hits, and I am back to square one, all hope lost. Like I said, it’s never easy. This illness is one that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Nobody deserves this. It’s brutal. It shows no mercy and will consume every part of you. Some days, I am terrified to leave the house, because of social events that center around food, or because of some situation that will potentially cause me to re-route my gym plans. It would seem that the habits and mind-set that one has while struggling with are ingrained within them, chiseled bone-deep it would seem.

This disease truly captures the worst parts of life, mixes it all up and makes it hard to sort through what’s real, and what’s imaginary.  This illness is not imaginary, however; man, do I really wish it was. To say all of this is to say that I am human. My demons will cause me to falter like everyone else’s. The difference this time is that I choose to be transparent. I’m choosing to not accept defeat; to not intentionally let this illness get the best of me. Every day, I think that I am worse off than the day before, but then I realize that I still have a heartbeat. I am living. I have another chance by the grace of God to conquer this thing, and move on with life. Deep down, I know that I have not given up. And I won’t. I see myself now, and it’s scary. Body dysmorphia usually has me thinking that I am way bigger than I really am, which is ultimately not the case. I truly don’t see what everyone else sees. However, lately I have been able to truly see myself and my heart for what it really is; broken. My heart aches knowing that if this continues, the road to 100% recovery will be that much harder. So I’m asking whoever reads this to first of all, be in prayer for this twisted journey that I wish to get through in one piece. At the same time, I ask that you treat me no differently; I know that this will be the case; I wish for this to be common knowledge, but not a reason to be afraid to talk to me or invite me out to things on account of my struggles.

I also want you to know that no struggle is too big or small. Know that you are not alone, and that God truly meant it when He said that you cannot keep your burdens to yourself and carry them alone. I’m finally doing that, giving my burdens to my friends and family,  being honest with myself, as well as with others, and I encourage you to do the same. The church is the most populated hospital in the world. In some way, we are all broken. That truth will never change.  I hope that by sharing this, that first, it serves as accountability to myself, as I do plan to make full recovery, whatever that entails. And to also let you guys know that I am also here, praying for you, and 100% here if you need anything, or just need to chat. I love you guys, and will continue to pray for you, as I hope you will do with me.

Oils are NOT just a fad. They work.

Okay, so yes. Yes, I have hit the “essential oil” craze. Yes, I was suppperrr uber sketched out about them originally. I mean, if they work so well for so many ailments, then why are we just now hearing about them? Why do I hear so much talk about Doterra and Young Living in particular? Sounds like a scheme to me. Well, I’m a newbie at all of this oils jazz, but let me tell you; I’M HOOKED. I have waited to post any type of blog about it because I didn’t want to stay in the hype without determining whether it actually deserved my time. And truth be told, it does. Oh yes, it does. Oils are a FANTASTIC way to avoid all of the chemical filled; intestinal-tract-damaging medicines that we put into our bodies, sometimes on a weekly basis. I’m going to briefly go over what I have discovered in a matter of weeks, and JUST how much essential oils should be a part of your regimen. Now of course, the select few things that I am going to talk about today only covers a  tiny spec (like maybe .01 percent) of what each of these oils can actually do, because I am still buying oils I have never tried, and have yet to do with them all that I plan to in the near future. Nonetheless, here is my experience with just three of them.oils

 

Peppermint oil. Headaches are a part of life. Sometimes, they are unavoidable and leave you feeling icky for hours, especially with no aspirin on hand. However, I was told that peppermint actually helps eliminate your headache so that you can live life as usual without the whole day being put on pause. Sure enough, a friend of mine (who actually is the one responsible for my oil madness) gave me a drop of peppermint oil (which should have probably been diluted; oh well), and told me to rub it on each temple. After maybe 5 minutes, the headache ceased. Mind you, this is faster than aspirin by a good 25 minutes. I was shocked. Not to mention, at another point in time, I was experiencing heartburn over at her house which causes me to feel nauseous. I took a drop or two in water and the symptoms calmed down tremendously!

 

Cedarwood and Lavender. Cedar wood is one of my favorite oils so far because it has a woody tone and is amazing to just wear as-is. The smell alone is worth the buy for me, and this oil is very affordable. Though lavender is slightly costlier, it has so many versatile benefits such as aiding with sleep, reducing inflammation, and so on. This year and last, stress has caused me to break out in the ever persistent eczema, which causes my arms to become red and inflamed from the itchiness that causes me to scratch all day long. I was recently told to take a drop of cedar wood and a drop of lavender and apply it to areas that needed it. I did and I can now count the number of times that I have scratched in the past 48 hours! Considering I was scratching at least 20 times a day before, it has now gone down to about 2-3 if even. And also, who doesn’t want to smell like a woody forest all day? Cedar wood also promotes relaxation and calmness so you can see why this oil is heavily used.

 

Also, I have NOT been endorsed to promote Doterra, I am just expressing my new found love for oils, and have been slowly discovering so much of what they have to offer. I will continue to write more blogs specifically as they pertain to me, and as I use oils for more specific things but remember that if you truly are skeptical of oils like I was, just read up and THEN try them for yourself! You will see that a lot of these oils have scientific research and evidence behind them, as well as thousands of testimonials from many pleased oil users. It is not just a fad, its real, and the benefits are astounding.

Honesty and Trauma: The acceptance that we’re broken

Sometimes we do things that we don’t want to do for the sake of our lives in the long run. We make decisions that are ultimately for us, and nobody else, and then on top of it all, we have to trust that the decision that we made was the right one. Sometimes we have to face the actual facts of a matter, understanding that eventually, reality of the situation will take its foothold whether we want it to or not, and either you choose to see how things really are now, or see the trauma of it all at a later, more inconvenient point. Sometimes the force of that harsh reality will sting worse than you ever thought it would, knocking you off of your feet and placing you in a choke-hold of which you do not think you can ever escape. Sometimes that pain can bring the ultimately joy that you’ve been waiting to find all of your life- rediscovering God and the life that he had for you all along.

It’s easy to put on a mask. Pretending like your world is nothing but perfect and striving to have everyone convinced that you have it together. It will get old and if it hasn’t yet, I promise you, something will change and you will not have the ability to hold it in anymore. What will change is your desire to be seen as “perfect”. Your desire to please everyone and accommodate their needs before taking care of yourself will fade- will you fade with it? How are you truly supposed to help anyone else in their journey if you can’t face the reality that you do have rough seasons and are not flawless? In many circumstances, it is not selfish to tend to yourself but actually vital for your survival. Are you clear that as a result of trials and life as a whole, you will inevitably change? Who said that this change was a bad thing, to steer clear of and avoid? What effectiveness do we have as Christians to convey that though things are rough, they will get better if we refuse to be vulnerable, accepting that we are not perfect and that our lives will look different from what we might have thought it would look like? We have no effectiveness if we can’t be honest with ourselves or with God that we have problems that must be worked out and resolved. And that our minds and our thought processes will be altered with it. We must truly be transformed of our pride and our vain qualities- easier said than done, I get it. But let’s not use that as an excuse anymore.

I challenge everyone to accept and see their circumstances for what they are. To understand that the cliché “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle” is simply not true; we struggle daily, our walks with God were never supposed to be perfect. We were never meant to be perfect. And we weren’t meant to stay spiritually or mentally stagnant. Take that thought and run with it. Be prepared to grow; to open your mind to the plethora of change once you accept that there is broken glass that must be mended in everyone’s lives; that you aren’t alone. And that your unique circumstance is just that: something that is not permanent but that is subject to change. You just have to let that transformation and that change in. Let God in.

I won’t apologize.

I can’t apologize. To apologize would mean that I am not human; that I don’t need time. Time to breathe, time to think, time to just sit and listen to words that match my story lyric by lyric. I need that time.

I won’t apologize. I do not feel the urge. I do not feel the necessity. Everyone has their season and this is mine. I am not sorry. I am not supposed to be. If I apologize, it means that I have done something wrong. All I have done is exercise my right to be alone. To be free from the obligations of society; from having to put on the front that my life is put together when it feels like parts of my life have been placed in a bottle and dropped off into the sea, never to be found again for a thousand years. Let me find those pieces, without the distractions. I wish to be made whole again.

Apology means regret. I do not regret my decision to step back. It was imperative that I did so.  The prompt realization of what drives me-to my worst AND to my best…needed to be apprehended and stopped in its tracks. The crime of deceit in the face of my friends… my family… was starting to become too much. Was it selfish to retreat? Maybe. But don’t we all have that selfish complex? Regardless of how it is presented, we are selfish in some fashion, whether that is by taking the time of a friend in order to be reconciled by them, by our family, knowing that they’ll always be there to console you in your worst moments and so forth. My selfishness lies in the desperation for me to be at peace within myself while out of the face of the public; the year was not the best it could have been nor should have been. Some of this was of my own doing and some of it was not, which ultimately forced me to face unwanted circumstances. Circumstances that tore me up, inside and out, and forced me to wake up and regroup. So to regret doing what was best for me would be in fact lunatic, and a hypocrisy for anyone else to get upset about. We all have our ways of handling our situations. This is how I chose to do it.

Dear Social Butterfly: Take a Break.

Always wanting to surround yourself with people during the stressful times is not always a bad thing. However, I am about to explain why I decided to take it down a notch- when temporarily closing off could be a bad thing, and why I’m okay with easing up on the amount of time I spend out and about sometimes. It’s alright to want a break, even as Christians in ministry.

Over the course of a year and a half, a lot has happened in my life that I would have never expected. With that came a lot of emotional damage as well as needed time to take a breath and just… reflect. Now, mind you, I said “reflect”… not “dwell”. Don’t get me wrong, being around friends in your times of distress is a good way to talk things about and maybe hear things from a different perspective. It’s encouraged to find someone you trust (someone who is also biblically grounded if possible) to help you. However, I’ve found that personally, in my anger or frustrations of a certain event, some of my unprocessed thoughts turned more into gossip, which certainly isn’t okay. I would immediately turn to my friends, completely making an inaccurate assessment of the situation, and not always turning to scripture first- unless of course, the scripture fit in my favor for that particular event, and simply put… that’s just not how things are supposed to work, and that’s not how God intended scripture to be used. It is is used for His glorification alone and not our own.

During times of utmost despair, take a deep breath. Pray. Do not stop praying. and truly reflect. See things from the other perspective (especially God’s perspective), and don’t be quick to assume. Give yourself a few hours or a few days to process something big, and I promise you that your decisions following that time will be a lot better.

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” James 1:19-20

The past few months have been hectic. I have a big load on any given day, and 7 pm starts my “free-time” so to speak. So on certain days, I am sure to try and reserve some time for me. I don’t look at this as a selfish act; if I am burned out, how am I supposed to be effective with others? Also, I have gotten back into reading for leisure and I thoroughly enjoy it, as well as other hobbies (like coloring and painting!).

Now, when is taking time for yourself a bad thing? I have to be careful in my times of highest stress, because here’s a fact about me; I have TERRIBLE anxiety. I can’t even begin to fathom all of the things I excessively worry and think about- sometimes it’s insane. Don’t take the time you set aside to dwell on bad parts of your life as I mentioned earlier, because not only is this physically unhealthy and makes you more on edge, but we are clearly told to not let it consume our lives.

“An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” Proverbs 12:25.

     Go find that kind word. In this case, also go out and find some accountability and encouragement. I still have to remind myself to do this. It is all too easy to want to permanently retreat. But remember that the rough patch is only a season and that you are not alone. People can relate to how you’re feeling in some fashion, even when you feel like an island.

My point is this: Don’t use people as a crutch to get out of touch with yourself. Don’t be around people all the time for the sake of hoping that problems will disappear, only to later discover that your personal issues have tripled in size. Don’t gossip. Don’t be around people while also feeling like you are suffocating at the same time. Take the break. Do yourself the favor and every once in a while, reserve time for only you. But don’t abuse that time. Keep the anxiety to a minimum and remember that you are not alone in your struggle, and that your rough season will end.  Anyways, that’s all for now, folks!

The Story Unfolded: How I [really] found Jesus.

I was raised in the church. My father is a minister and preached at various churches all of my life. Of course living with a preacher as a father had its ups and downs, but I knew that he loved me and wanted the best. He made sure to equip me by making me remember many verses of the bible, full chapters even (I still have Psalm 51 ingrained in my head, 19 verses). I would go from banquet to banquet at age 6, 7 and 8, reciting these passages at various events my dad attended. I didn’t quite know why he was insisting on verse memorization so much, so for a long time, I held knowledge but did not see the reason to apply any it. Matter of fact, I wasn’t even sure where God actually fit into my life at all-I just knew that I believed in him because I was told to. I didn’t question it.

Fast forward to my last year in high school, the year 2013. I found an age appropriate bible study group through a friend (several friends) who  I ran track and cross country with, and grew to quickly love it as well as the people who attended. Within months, there started to be talk of  a mission trip coming up. I was determined to go, and so I started to sell items on Ebay in order to go on this trip. It was something new, something that I knew was “good” so to speak- but never would I guess the true impact it would cause on my life. Ever.

I reached my monetary goal and was able to go on this week-long mission trip to Tennessee. This trip consisted of being split into groups, with each group at a different site, where we either painted, rebuilt roofs, etc. Each afternoon following the work portion, there would be a service with music and a message. I was on a roof crew. We worked hard for 4 or 5 days straight and by the end of it, the roof was finished. We prayed with the owner of the house afterward and then it was time for celebration! Everyone decided to take a dip in the Tennessee River to cool off and just relax.

Something you should know right about now; I couldn’t swim. The most I had ever “swam” so to speak was in a kiddie pool or in water where I could touch the bottom. However, I considered this “swimming” and dared to try and navigate this river. I casually joked around with one of the leaders, Charlie, and said “If I start to drown, are you sure you’ll save me”? getting more and more confident that surely I would be fine (I swear I had the complex of being invincible back then…). He said that he would, and then stayed somewhat close to me as we headed over to the rock that people were jumping off of into the river. However, as we started to go, I realized that I could not touch the bottom of the river. I had just reached a bald spot, and I lost complete footing. I started to panic (Rule number one while almost drowning; DON’T panic. Whoops.). Not only that, but I started to go straight to the bottom, where I started ferociously kicking. I was able to get back up to the surface briefly, and Marcie, another leader who was still on the bank, started to see that I was truly in trouble. I mustered out “help” before I went back under (yeah; that “invincible” complex went away shortly after this episode). I heard Marcie jump in, and Charlie was quickly heading back in my direction as well. After what felt like forever, I was lifted out of the water with Marcie on one arm and Charlie on the other. I was alright. Physically, I was alright.

We got back to the church for the afternoon worship service, and I was badly shaken. When arriving to get seated, I had several hugs and a few “I’m glad you didn’t die” comments from some of my fellow mission trip friends. However, in the midst of all the halfhearted jest, one of the leaders there hugged me and asked “If you had died today, where would you have gone?”. Now, people, up until this point, I don’t think I took death too seriously. Until my lungs were flooded with water, and I had that brief fear that I was going to die, it was just a process that at some point, we would all experience. But the truth was, if  I would have died that day, I could have guessed where I would have gone.

To say all of this is to just emphasize how much that mission trip saved my life. Years and years of attending church means nothing if you don’t have true reason as to why you go. I realized that I was truly filthy and that I didn’t deserve to live, but that Jesus allowed me to. He had allowed me to take breath, but for a long time, I completely took it for granted. God sent his son that we may have ETERNAL life as well, for those who believe and follow him. I had never cried so much in my life before that day in service. Shameless, thankful tears cascaded down my face as I truly praised God, thanking him for giving me another chance. For sending his son to die for us, promising us the joy of getting to live with Him forever.

     It won’t always be a near-death experience that wakes you up, but in my case it was, and I wouldn’t change that for the world. Reality hits as soon as we realize that we deserve nothing; not this life or the next; but God loves us so much that He was willing to give his children all that they could not possibly deserve. So there is my testimony. Thanks for reading!